What is Our Real Mission?
I am a lay person involved in ministry, aware of the role of the laity in the temporal domain. This self-description sometimes clarifies the idea of mission for me and at others totally confuses it.
What and where and how and for and to whom is our mission, the mission for which Jesus sends us out?
Our Mission is in the Temporal Domain
Since Vatican II the role of the laity has been described frequently. Pope John Paul II in his 1988 apostolic exhortation Christefidelis Laici states that the role of the laity is in the temporal domain — the world. Politics, economics, social and cultural affairs; all these and more are our evangelising field. In my mission, I see all that with family eyes, trying to make them “family-friendly”.
John Paul II, in presenting the tasks of the family in the Church, also refers to the temporal domain, before sharing in the mission and life of the Church. But what exactly is that mission and where is the locus for ministry and evangelisation?
Pope Francis in his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium tells us the New Evangelisation is aimed at three areas.
3 Areas of Evangelisation
Firstly, ordinary pastoral ministry is “animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts” of the regular faithful towards their spiritual growth.
Secondly, it is for those baptised who lack a meaningful relationship with the Church for a variety of reasons.
Thirdly, he writes, “evangelisation is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or have rejected him”.
The pope explained: “Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel and appear as people who wish to share their joy, point to a horizon of beauty and invite others to a delicious banquet.”
They may be seeking him but will only respond to our attractiveness. Therein lies the challenge for me. Are our families cared for and supported in their need to be examples of the experience of joy?
World Day of the Poor, November 19
Pope Francis has newly initiated the World Day of the Poor, to be observed on November 19, the Sunday before the feast of Christ the King.
In the latest Family Matters magazine a summary of his message is partnered with a reflection activity on “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
Over half of our population in South Africa — and that means the different types of families — are reported to be living below the breadline. Poverty is an enormous world problem but spiritual poverty can also be an empty-headed focus on externals, building and refurbishing structures, rather than building up people and families.
As laity we can throw money at the building projects or even poverty alleviation projects, compensating for lack of attention to the neighbours in our homes and street.
We Are All Accountability Partners
Is this a cry from the heart? The premise of the recently published Australian report on child sexual abuse in the Church is that the Church is behaving ostrich-like, burying its head in the sand and choosing to ignore two issues: one is that the abuse is real; the other is that priests are not considered ordinary people like the rest of us, and are somehow put on a pedestal.
Are we all, the laity included, genuinely holding one another to account? I’m asking because I believe there is much that is wrong with the way we in our families conduct ourselves too. Can there be joy if we are preaching one thing and living another?
Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia asks, “Where are our children?” Do we as parents know where they are and what they are up to? Do we as pastors and ministers know and don’t care, or do we know and care but are frustrated in our efforts?
A very special song for me is Jacques Brel’s “If We Only Have Love”. It’s not one I have heard in church — although Brel was a Catholic — but it captures the sentiments of Pope Francis very well, even though it was written some 50 years earlier.
The song and the words can be downloaded and meditated upon as a missionary activity. “If we only have love, then tomorrow will dawn and the days of our years will rise on that morn,” Brel sings.
“If we only have love we can melt all the guns and can give the new world to our daughters and sons.”
“If we only have love with the little we are, we’ll have conquered all time, all space, the sun and the stars.”
Learning from Francis of Assisi
Is that what our true mission is and are we well on the road to addressing that, or are we building empty edifices to dead idols?
If, as Pope Francis begins in Amoris Laetitia, “the joy of the Church is the joy of families”, we might learn from St Francis of Assisi.
When Jesus told him to “Go and rebuild my church”, Francis initially thought he was asked to fix a building—but, no, it was the people who needed to be reformed, to reignited with that love, and to experience his joy.
We in Marfam want to see it as our mission, and we need help in that. Visit www.marfam.org.za or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join in our mission.
And the full lyrics of the Jacques Brel song are at www.bit.ly/2xtyjIw