Bangkok, Thailand (CNA) - Thailand’s first Christian missionaries set out feeling the absence of the Thai people from their lives and wanted to share everything they knew about God’s love, Pope Francis told the country’s Catholics during Mass on Thursday.
The missionaries ended up learning more fully the plan of God, and found the Thai people to be their unknown family, he reflected.
“By hearing the Lord’s word and responding to its demands, they came to realize that they were part of a family much larger than any based on blood lines, cultures, regions or ethnic groups,” the pope said Nov. 21.
“Impelled by the power of the Spirit, their bags filled with the hope brought by the good news of the Gospel, they set out in search of family members they did not yet know. They set out to seek their faces.”
The pope’s homily during Mass at the National Stadium in Bangkok reflected on Jesus’ question in the Gospel of Matthew, “Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?” and also Jesus’ answer: “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister, and mother.”
“The Gospel is an invitation and a freely bestowed right for all those who want to hear it,” the pope said.
The pope’s visit falls as Catholics in the country celebrate the 350th anniversary of the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam, the country now known as Thailand. The country’s small Catholic community makes up less than 0.5% of the population, which is predominantly Buddhist.
Pope Francis reflected on the spiritual state of Thailand’s first missionaries.
“Their hearts had to be opened to a new way of thinking capable of overcoming the ‘adjectives’ that create division; this enabled them to discover the many Thai ‘mothers and brethren’ who were still absent from their Sunday table,” he said. “Not only to share with them everything that they themselves could offer, but also to receive what they needed to grow in their own faith and understanding of the Scriptures.”
The meeting of Christian missionaries and the Thai people enriched both, he said.
“Without that encounter, Christianity would have lacked your face. It would have lacked the songs and dances that portray the Thai smile, so typical of your lands,” Pope Francis continued. “The missionaries came to understand more fully the Father’s loving plan, which is not limited to a select few or a specific culture, but is greater than all our human calculations and predictions.”