In today’s Gospel, Saint Luke presents Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” As Jesus proceeds on his missionary path, he invites others to follow him. Then we hear of many excuses for either delaying or even rejecting the call. Honestly, we are often reluctant to fully follow Jesus as his missionary disciples.
From my more than five decades of mission in Asia (Philippines and Bangladesh) I have often searched for the “Why” of mission. I am sure you have also sincerely asked yourself: What is my mission and how do I fulfill it; what does Jesus want of me?
I have discovered a creative, comprehensive expression of the reasons for engaging in mission in the documents of the Asian bishops (FABC) during their Fifth Plenary Assembly in 1990. They enunciated five core motives that can respond to the question: “Why evangelize?”
1. “We evangelize, first of all from a deep sense of gratitude to God, the Father ‘who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing’ (Eph 1:3)…. Mission is above all else an overflow of this life from grateful hearts transformed by the grace of God. That is why it is so important for us Christians to have a deep faith-experience of the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39)…. Without a personal experience of this love received as gift and mercy, no sense of mission can flourish.”
2. “But mission is also a mandate. We evangelize because we are sent into the whole world to make disciples of all nations. The one who sends us is Jesus…. He sends us on a mission which is part of the epiphany of God’s plan to bring all things together under Christ as head (Eph 1:9-10). We cannot fulfill this mission apart from him (Jn 15:4-5).” All Christians strive to take Christ’s mission command to heart!
3. “We evangelize also because we believe in the Lord Jesus. We have received the gift of faith. We have become Christians…. Unfortunately for many Catholics, faith is only something to be received and celebrated. They do not feel it is something to be shared. The missionary nature of the gift of faith must be inculcated in all Christians.”
4. “We evangelize also because we have been incorporated by baptism into the Church, which is missionary by its very nature…. The Church exists in order to evangelize…. Each member, by virtue of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation has received the right and duty to the apostolate from the Lord himself.”
5. “And, finally, we evangelize because the Gospel is leaven for liberation and for the transformation of society.” Our world “needs the values of the Kingdom and of Christ in order to bring about human development, justice, peace and harmony with God, among peoples and with all creation.”
Let us frequently reflect on these “core motives” of our call to mission, responding to Jesus’ words: “Follow me.”
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
Prayer for 4th Sunday
Is it not enough, Lord, for me to follow you?
must I also leave so much
and so many behind?
I would follow you, Lord,
to the ends of the earth
except I know where you are heading:
to Jerusalem, to Calvary and to the Cross.
I would follow you, Lord, but let me first say goodbye
to my past and to the people I hold dear.
Help me, Lord, to come before you
with open hands, heart and mind
that I might receive your grace
and love your presence and
contemplate your teachings
that I might also feed the multitudes
with fragments of your wisdom
Let me follow in your Way, Lord Jesus,
mindful of the Cross yet knowing
though I stumble and fall many times
you will raise me up again,
and after my mission on earth has ended
you will lead me to the fullness of life
in your kingdom with all the saints
and all my family and friends
together with you in glory Forever.
By Fr. Joseph Veneroso. M.M.