Our Columban missionaries in Chile and Peru, like many other people, are locked down in this time of the coronavirus. They report that the situation in both countries is dire. It is always the poor, in particular, who suffer most in times like this. The Gospel of Jesus urges us not to look away from such appalling conditions but to reach out to these people. Love of neighbour, care for the sick, compassion for everyone has been the Christian message for centuries.
It was while I was visiting the Columbans in Lima and Santiago that I first heard the words “missionary disciples”.I knew that all of us Christians are disciples of Jesus. We follow his way of life and follow the promptings of his Spirit in our daily lives. I also knew that, in recent times, all Christians have been called to mission but to have the two words put together was new for me. Now I hear it being used by Pope Francis, which is not surprising, since, for most of his life, he had been part of the discussions in Latin America about the role of the Church today.
In his Mission Message at Pentecost this year, the Pope once again calls us to get up out of our chairs and go out on mission. For readers of The Far East magazine one sentence particularly would not be new but it is encouraging. He describes World Mission Day in October as “an occasion for reaffirming how prayer, reflection, and the material help of your offerings are so many opportunities to participate actively in the mission of Jesus in his Church.” The interesting question for me is what about the rest of the year. Do we not have other opportunities for being missionary disciples?
For most of us, I think the difficulty is that we do not see ourselves as God sees us. We tend to understand who and what we are within a society and a culture where we do not talk about God very much. This is a bit strange since we all live in God - the universe is in God. To not think of the one who brought us into life and continues to create us seems to be a major lack of self-understanding. However, once we start to understand that God really is the good shepherd that leads us through life, once we appreciate that God shares all of our sorrows and joys, then we can see ourselves in a new light.
The new light may highlight certain aspects of who I am but what about the word “missionary”? As always the first place to look is at Jesus. He understood that he was on mission.
He had been sent by the Father. He then sends out the disciples. Everyone seems to be on mission, which means that we too are probably on mission!
How did Jesus understand what his mission was? The Gospels tell us that he went around saying “The Kingdom of God is close at hand”. Then when he taught us how to pray, he encouraged us to say, “May your kingdom come”. What does he mean by the word “Kingdom”? The Kingdom is a world where God is King, where Love is King. It is God’s dream that our world would be healed; that it would be full of peace and joy.
What this means to me is that anyone who works for and promotes love, peace and joy are sharing in the mission of Jesus. They are working, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring about the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the doctors and nurses who have been working with those with coronavirus are working for the Kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit is helping them. We do not normally talk in this way but when we understand that the Holy Spirit continues to hover over the chaos of the world, as the Bible says in its opening line, and then the light comes on. Then we can understand what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew “Whatever you did to the least of my children that you did to me”.
If you visited the sick with the virus, comforted the distressed whose family members had died or whatever you did to promote love, peace and joy, you did it to me! Truly when we get out of our chairs to help someone else, we are being missionary disciples of Jesus. We are involved in a bigger project than we imagined. We are involved in God’s life and love as the Trinity.
Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania