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Bringing joy is the purpose of every Christian mission

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Fr. Luigi Maria Epicoco - published on 12/21/22

All true missionaries carry Jesus hidden in their own experience. They know that only Jesus can effect change and fill others' lives with joy.

Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.

What is a mission? Today’s Gospel answers this question. The scene recounted in the Gospel passage describes for us Mary’s journey from her own home to that of her cousin Elizabeth. It was about three or four days of strenuous walking, and yet Mary travels that distance quickly and without faltering: “Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.”

When she arrives at Elizabeth’s house, a first sense of that journey/mission is revealed: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” Mary enters the house and her mere presence and greeting floods the house and the people in it with joy.

Bringing joy is the purpose of every Christian mission. But not just any joy: the joy that comes from introducing Jesus’ presence into other people’s lives. It’s significant that Jesus is hidden in Mary’s womb as in a tabernacle, yet that seemingly conspicuous absence of Jesus does not prevent a revolution of joy from taking place.

All true missionaries carry Jesus hidden in their own experience. They know that only Jesus can effect change and fill others’ lives with joy. They don’t trust their own works, but rather Christ’s mysterious work through them. Just as Elizabeth sees Mary and not Jesus, so we see the missionaries and not Jesus.

Yet, the hidden protagonist is revealed by the fruits the missionaries bear:

“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’”


Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

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