by Father Mark Goldasich
You gotta love the kid who knocked on a retired gentleman’s door, selling picture postcards for 20 cents apiece.
“What are you going to do with the money?” asked the homeowner.
“I’m going to raise one million dollars to help feed hungry people,” answered the kid with determination.
The retired guy laughed and said, “A million bucks? Wow! Do you expect to raise it all by yourself?”
“Oh, no, sir,” replied the little guy seriously. “There’s another little boy on the next block helping me!” (Adapted from an entry in “A Treasury of Quips, Quotes & Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers” by Anthony Castle.)
I’ve told that story many times and still get a kick — and a challenge — out of it. How many times do we act like that retired guy? Because we’re aware of both the enormity of the poverty in the world and the cost to fix it, our tendency is to either become paralyzed and do nothing or else laugh at the paltry efforts of those who are working on a solution.
What the little kid teaches us is that we can all do something, no matter how seemingly small. And many people, working toward a common goal, can make a huge impact.
I’ve always liked the fact that World Mission Sunday, celebrated this weekend, falls during Respect Life Month. It’s a reminder of just how far-reaching our definition of life goes. Wherever people are hungry or thirsty, without shelter or medical care, victims of racism or warfare, illiterate or uncatechized, the church is called to be there — to give them the respect and the practical help that they both need and deserve. Because “hungry bellies have no ears,” as an English proverb says, missionaries are often there first and foremost with help for the body, powerfully preaching the Gospel through these loving acts of service.
Most Americans don’t have an inkling of the harsh life lived by the vast majority of Earth’s inhabitants. World Mission Sunday is meant to be the beginning of a deeper awareness and understanding. Keeping the needs of the world before our eyes throughout the year is this special Sunday’s ultimate goal.
How can that be done?
Many parishes in the archdiocese host a missionary at some point during the year. The next time one comes to your parish, pay attention to the message, even if the speaker is hard to understand. My parishioners have opened their homes to a visiting missionary. That experience has been enlightening and delightful for the hosts and the guest. Maybe you can host the next missionary to your parish.
We have a good number of foreign-born priests working the archdiocese. Perhaps one of them could be invited to a youth group or RCIA class to speak about how Catholics in his country practice the faith.
Consider sponsoring a child through Children International or the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. It’s a humbling but comforting experience to realize that my donations are making a positive difference in the lives of the family I sponsor in the Philippines.
There’s also nothing like going on a mission trip — not only to witness the needs of the poor firsthand, but also to meet the incredibly dedicated people who work with them. Look for opportunities like this; you’ll never be the same.
These are but a few of the many small ways that we can celebrate World Mission Sunday year-round. Get a head start by saying this “Prayer for Unknown Friends” from Catholic Relief Services:
“Heavenly Father, welcome into your embrace our friends overseas whose names we do not know, but whose terrible plight we rush to remedy.
“Bless the suffering people who struggle and sacrifice on behalf of their families. Grant them sustenance, shelter and opportunity.
“For this we give you thanks. Amen.”
Be generous with your Mission Sunday donation. May it turn “unknown friends” into our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ.