October is the month dedicated to mission or ‘the missions’. People have many different understandings of ‘mission’. For some, especially in the Church, mission is about helping people in Third World countries or marginalised people in our own society. For others, mission is still seen as the work of Christian zealots who want to indoctrinate others in their beliefs. In our secular society corporations and businesses have ‘mission statements’.
A brief word about mission from a contemporary Christian perspective. Mission belongs to God, it is God’s initiative at all times; mission does not belong to the Church but the Church participates in it. We, the people of God, don’t always listen or discern where God is leading us but we can see the thread of God’s initiative through the history of the Church. It is always clear looking back.
We try to tell God what is the best way forward; God listens to us but does something else. A brief look at the Acts of the Apostles is very heartening for people who participate in God’s mission. We read that the initiative of the Holy Spirit inspired Sts Peter and Paul to bring pagans into the Church.
The Christian Jews did not receive the ‘Good News’ without struggle when God made it clear that all people were called and equal. They knew they were the chosen people of God and brought up not to associate with pagans; it wasn’t fair of God to expect them to associate with pagans. But God’s generosity to share divine life was bigger and better than fairness so the whole world was invited to belong to what St Paul called ‘the Body of Christ’. And so it has come to pass.
Geographical Church mission is completed, but mission is like a kaleidoscope of activities and outlooks. God does take us on quantum leaps of understanding that destroy our mindsets. We are in a quantum leap now at this historical moment in the life of the Church. The Church is always trying to catch up with the Holy Spirit who hurries along on mission. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that excitement?
Fr Gary Walker editor of The Far East