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.(19Go therefore and make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and
of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching 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
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
=Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel )– apostolic exhortation OF HIS HOLINESS POPE