04 Feb Mission, Commission or Omission
We live in a Church today that seems to be struggling to perceive, “What is its mission?”. We have forgotten our missionary calling and become largely content with maintaining our church and institutions and serving ourselves. Most Catholics in my opinion, understand mission as something that a few chosen people carry out and most parishes, crippled by a culture of maintenance, focus at best on meeting the needs of the parishioners.
So, what is the mission of the Church? The mission of the Church is the Great Commission that Jesus speaks about in Mathew 28:19-20.(19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age”). Unfortunately the great commission has become the great omission.
Jesus gave his Church four tasks: Go, Make, Baptize and Teach. It is around the “making of disciples” that all the other missionary aspects of the Church revolve: the going, the baptizing and the teaching.
To be a disciple is to be a learner. To be engaged in a lifelong process of learning from and about Jesus the Master and Jesus the Teacher. This learning process is not haphazard, but intentional and disciplined. “To Evangelize” means to announce good news. What is this Good News? To simplify the message into one word: JESUS. In JESUS we have the very embodiment of God’s salvation presence, love, mercy and life. To receive is not only to hear these wonderful truths, to know about them, but to come to know Him – to not just believe, but to love Him and to be in love with Him.
The difficult truth for us as pastors, leaders and people who care about our church, is that so many of our people have never come to know Jesus personally. Therefore we have no hunger for Him. We still have the shadow of duty and fear as a religious motivation hanging over us. Perfect love has not been discovered(1John 4.18). Many who are no longer held in the clutches of duty, guilt or fear walk away, rejecting a hollow version of the real thing.
We must labour to create spaces for people, to come to know Jesus as the living Lord and rediscover our identity and place the heart of the Lord’s mandate for His Church, at the heart of everything we do. Only then will every parish be a community of growing, maturing believers committed to a lifelong process of disciplined learning, discovering their God-given talents, prepared to serve and eventually feel sent by God.
This Church of disciples must “go” and “make disciples” of all nations and of all peoples. They must go out to the fringes of society to the poor, the rich, the vulnerable and those who hide in their gated communities; Proclaiming Christ to those who do not know Him, Preaching, Catechesis, Conferring Baptism and other Sacraments. “Good News proclaimed by the witness of life, sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the Word of life.” There is no true evangelization if the Name, Teaching, Life, Promises, Kingdom and the Mystery of JESUS, Son of God are not proclaimed(EN-22).
Fr. James Mallon in his book “Divine Renovation“, highlights several of the areas mentioned above as well as St Pope John Paul II words, which say that, Proclamation of Christ is essential to evangelizing activity. Evangelization is a moral obligation and must involve all the members of the people of God. Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep Him for themselves, they must proclaim Him, (NMI 40) as a personal relationship with Christ is the key to complete fulfillment. The goal of evangelization is to bring people to JESUS CHRIST, so they can then be filled with the HOLY SPIRIT and come to know GOD THE FATHER. Looking at the condition of our planet, it seems very clear to me, about the price we have paid and continue to pay by not evangelizing.
People are able to evangelize, only when they have been evangelized and allow themselves to be evangelized, renewed spiritually through a personal encounter and lived communion with Jesus Christ. Sherry Weddell in her book on “Fruitful Discipleship” mentions 5 stages that a person needs to go through to reach the level of Intentional Discipleship. They are:- 1) Initial Trust 2) Spiritual Curiosity 3) Spiritual Openness 4) Spiritual Seeking 5) Intentional Discipleship. Have we in our journey “of” or “towards” discipleship, recognized them or are we stuck in one stage or perhaps we are still to get on the road to Discipleship. Discipleship is a lifelong journey and once begun, needs to be intentional, if it has to be effective. May the Holy Spirit give us the grace to embrace this calling to be Missionary Disciples (EG 120), continuously highlighted by Pope Francis and help us to open our hearts this year, to be transformed internally and externally, which can only truly happen, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as our relationship with Jesus deepens.
The Call to Missionary Discipleship may well have reached a critical stage, where the future our church and world, may well depend on the degree and effectiveness of the Missionary Disciples present and their Transformational actions. These Missionary Disciples directed by the Holy Spirit, I believe will be part of Gods answer, to give Hope, Healing and Happiness to people, especially to the last, the least and the lost.
EN=EVANGELII NUNTIANDI(In proclaiming the Gospel )-APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI
Fr. Vinay K – Asst. Parish Priest- St Anthony’s Church, Malwani