If you’re in the Church, it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore our missionary call. This is all Pope Francis talked about during his first year of papacy: go out to the peripheries; get out of the sacristies; go and make disciples of all nations. In a way, the ground was prepared by Pope Benedict with the Year of Faith and with the Synod on the New Evangelization.
Most of us know about the universal call to holiness. That message was preached over and over again during the papacy of St. John Paul II. But did you know that there is another universal call? We all have a universal call to mission
What does that mean? First of all we have to put our missionary call in its rightful place: Our Church doesn’t have a mission; the Mission has a Church! Jesus Christ left us a Mission, out of that Mission rose the Church.
And the Mission is very clear: Go and make disciples of all nations. In his book, Divine Renovation: From a Maintenance to a Missional Parish, Fr. James Mallon says that if you study the original Greek, the great commission from Matthew 28:18-20 hinges on the verb “make,” Jesus tells us to ‘go, make, baptise and teach,” but none of those make sense outside of the context of “make disciples.” That, according to Fr. Mallon, is our Mission: make disciples. That is why we go, and who we baptize and teach.
Fr. Mallon also says, as the title of the book reflects, that we need to move away from a maintenance mode in our parishes, to a missional mode. Anyone who works in an organization that has a clear mission, or that relies on promotion understands this concept. What drives our work is our mission. This is why organizations have mission statements. We have to be missional in our approach to everything we do. And this “missionality” is not just for “missionaries”, or priests and deacons or for those in the religious life. It’s for everyone. If you are baptised, you have a universal call to holiness, yes, but also to Mission. I guess that is what St. Ignatius meant when he said that we are responsible for our own holiness and also for the holiness of others.
So, how do we do that? First I would propose a change in attitude. People who truly believe in something (saving whales, providing universal healthcare, vegetarianism or even promoting one superior race of humans, abolishing slavery – pick your belief of choice) are successful only to the degree that they make that mission their life. But if you truly believe in something you are not thinking about making that thing your mission; you live it. So the first thing we have to do is really believe in the message of Jesus Christ. But more than that; we have to have an encounter with Jesus Christ, because Christianity is not just a belief-system; it is a relationship. When you fall in love with someone, you want to tell the world. One of the reasons why the Church is not “telling the world” is that we have not fallen in love.
Once we’ve fallen in love, once we’ve come to accept and believe everything Jesus has commanded, this will drive our lives. (And volumes have been written about how we “fall in love”. It begins with an attraction. Then we want to know the beloved; we learn as much as we can about the beloved; we spend time with the beloved….
Maybe that’s where you are. Maybe you have had an encounter with Jesus Christ. Maybe you have fallen in love but you’ve bought into the idea that faith is personal and private; that it’s ok to believe it but we shouldn’t share it or “push” it on others. Maybe that attitude is comforted by the idea that we are to “preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” Let me correct you: Faith is personal but it is not private. We are meant to share it and it is meant to motivate every aspect of our lives. And, how are we to go, make, baptise and teach if we don’t use words? Actions are good, but we must use words. (I’ve written about this already in a previous post.
If that is where you are then all I would suggest is a slight shift in thinking. Begin to live intentionally. Begin to live our Mission.
Here’s what I propose. Most of us are comfortable with occasionally giving money to someone on the street. How about we find a way to let them know that we are doing what we are doing because of Jesus Christ. I agree this is may be difficult or even make you feel awkward. A simple “God bless you” after you drop the coin in the person’s cup may be the place to start.
If you are a deacon or priest (or a religious sister or brother), how about you make a point of going out in your community wearing your clerics (and your habits) and be present. Go to the coffee shop, go grocery shopping. That in itself is a witness and we don’t need a plan of evangelization in order to do that. (A note to Deacons – I am not proposing that you wear your clerics when you go out to dinner with your wife. Make it intentional. Put on your clerics and go to the coffee shop with the strict purpose of evangelising by being present in your clerics, not just for the sake of wearing clerics or pretending you are a priest.)
Did you know also that this Sunday, October 19 is World Mission Sunday? It’s a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit ourselves to the Church’s missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. It’s always celebrated on the second last Sunday in October. St. John Paul II said that World Mission Sunday is “an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world” (Redemptoris Missio 81).
This year for World Mission Sunday we are focusing on the words from Matthew 16:18 “I will build my Church”.
(Read the Pope’s message for World Mission Sunday 2014. )
Depending on where you are, there may be special intentions at Mass, a special prayer or even the homily, dedicated to this theme.
There may also be a special collection in your parish for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. This money gets distributed among the missions and missionaries of the entire world. But more importantly, on this day, we are asked to pray for missions and missionaries and we are asked to spend an hour in adoration for missions around the world. How about, when we pray for missions and missionaries, we also pray that our lives become more missional?
And tell me how it goes. What do you suggest? How will you make disciples today?