You Are a Mission
When he declared October 2019 an Extraordinary Mission Month, Pope Francis invited us to do more than pray for vocations, important as that is. He issued a call to action in discerning, planning and implementing ways of bringing the good news of Jesus to the people.
This requires of the Body of Christ to redefine, rediscover and renew our mission, collectively and individually.
Pope Francis has given us four cornerstones on which we should build our missionary mandate.
Firstly, by a “personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive in his Church through the Eucharist, the Word of God, personal and communal prayer”. Before we can go out and evangelise, we ought to put our faith life in order, and chiefly our relationship with Jesus, whom we are called to propose to those who have yet to discover or rediscover him.
Before we can go out and evangelise, we ought to put our faith life in order, and chiefly our relationship with Jesus, whom we are called to propose to those who have yet to discover or rediscover him.
Secondly, by the testimony of faith. The pope refers to “missionary saints, martyrs and confessors of the faith, as an expression of the Church scattered throughout the world”.
We have much to draw from the witness of missionaries, especially in South Africa where almost every Catholic has known several priests and religious who came from afar to spread the Gospel.
It should strike us that at the centre of most missionaries’ stories is their service to the poor.
Thirdly, the pope calls for “missionary formation: biblical, catechetical, spiritual and theological”. It is self-evident that those who communicate the Good News should have the proper formation. But we must not be discouraged if we lack academic qualifications
It is self-evident that those who communicate the Good News should have the proper formation. But we must not be discouraged if we lack academic qualifications. Of course, we must not articulate the Gospel from a position of ignorance, but if we understand Christ’s mercy and live it with joy, we need no words to evangelise.
And that is the pope’s fourth point: “Missionary charity”.
We needn’t knock on doors to sell Catholicism, stand on soapboxes in the public forum or bang on our keyboards while on social media to shout the odds of our faith. Above everything, we evangelise by modelling Jesus: the Jesus of love, the Jesus of justice, the Jesus of mercy, the Jesus of charity, the Jesus who embraces, the Jesus who opens the path to salvation.
Pope Francis said last year: “We do not have a product to sell. [Our missionary call] has nothing to do with proselytising; we are not selling a product. We have a life to communicate: God, his divine life, his merciful love, his holiness!” That needn’t be complicated. A stretched-out hand can be more potent than a hundred books; a simple gesture can touch a heart even deeper than a stirring sermon.
That needn’t be complicated. A stretched-out hand can be more potent than a hundred books; a simple gesture can touch a heart even deeper than a stirring sermon.
This does not mean that good writings and inspiring homilies have no missionary value; quite the contrary. These can and do persuade on a rational and relational level. Even the newspaper you are reading right now can be used to evangelise.
But sometimes, just two words can do the trick. Some weeks ago we featured the faith journey of TV and radio personality Ursula Chikane, who returned to the Catholic faith after she saw two words in the guestbook of St Charles’ church in Victory Park, Johannesburg: “Welcome home.”
This is how simple evangelising can be: an open door, an open ear, an open heart. For some people and parishes, that requires a renewal.
And we must be prepared for resistance from those who want to keep the Church an exclusive club, those who expect sinners to be transformed before they approach Jesus, instead of letting Jesus transform them. But Jesus needs no bouncers. Our Lord made that clear when he repeatedly reprimanded his disciples for trying to limit access to him.
But Jesus needs no bouncers. Our Lord made that clear when he repeatedly reprimanded his disciples for trying to limit access to him.
Jesus sent his disciples into the world to spread the good news of salvation to the nations. This special month is intended to amplify that call to us today.
Pope Francis in his message for this year’s Mission Sunday says: “I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptised man and woman is a mission.”
The motto of Extraordinary Mission Month is “Baptised and sent”. Our task, this month and beyond, is to discern how we, the baptised, are to go out and spread the good news of salvation to the people.