Discussion/Devotional THought of the Day:
27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in me. Colossians 1:27-29 (TEV)
In the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II, summing up a line of development that had begun with Leo XIII’s new engagement with modernity, taught that the Church does not have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Church does; rather, the Church is a mission, and everything the Church does is ordered to that mission, which is the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of the world to Christ. 43 Evangelical Catholicism is that form of twenty-first-century Catholicism that has fully embraced John Paul’s teaching on the nature of the Church-as-mission and that declares itself and its people to be in permanent mission. 44 And as such, it is the form of Catholicism that will complete the deep reform of the Catholic Church that has been underway since 1878.
In an evangelical Catholic perspective, mission measures everything; or, in the language of management theory, Evangelical Catholicism is mission-driven. Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission. Even contemplative vocations that really are cloistered, from both the world and the rest of the Church, are mission-oriented. For the consecrated life, as John Paul II taught in the 1996 apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, is the spiritual engine of the Church. Here the energies of evangelism are refined and shared in a great exchange of gifts by which the entire Church, as the Bride of Christ, strives for union with her divine Spouse. 45 Thus the mission of the Church in-the-world is ordered to the coming of the Lord in glory and the New Life of the New Jerusalem.
If mission measures everything in Evangelical Catholicism, it also measures everyone, for as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught, “each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith.” 46 In an evangelical Catholic perspective, every Catholic is a missionary, an evangelist, a baptized disciple commissioned by the Lord to take the Gospel to every nation, calling all to be baptized in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thus does Evangelical Catholicism respond to the challenges posed by evangelical Protestantism (in which sharing the friendship of the Lord Jesus is understood to be everyone’s responsibility) and clericalized Catholicism (in which mission is something reserved for the ordained). (1)
I think that believers in Christ are greatly confused by two words – Church – and Mission.
You might say, “Pastor Dt – we know about church – it’s not the building, its the people that gather together to worship God.”
That’s aa good start – but it is deeper than that – the word for church is ekklessia – “those called”, and defines us by what we are into, not just the call itself. We are called to be in a relationship with God, a relationship that is much like a dance, where He guides us through life, and He directs how we interact with others, and indeed, where He goes – we follow. So church is not just “the people” but its the people of God, walking, dancing, living in Him.
That life then, is the mission. As Wiegel asserts above, it also defines us, not in the sense of being a characteristic of our lives; rather mission is our life together. It is inviolate part of our calling, for mission is at the very heart of our relationship with God – from His sending (the word apostle is used regarding Him) Christ on the mission to save us, to the “Great Commission”, to the very revealed will of God – that none would be condemned, but that all would be transformed.
I love, absolutely love, Wiegel’s description then – of the gathering of the church above, “Even in the sacred liturgy— that part of the Church’s life that seems to be a step back from the world, or better, a step into the real world that is the Kingdom of God in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb— the Church is being equipped by sacramental grace for mission.” For how can we encounter God’s grace, poured out through word and sacrament, and then enter a world that is dark and bleary and without hope – but filled with narcissistic emptiness? Are we that hardened to the plight of people without God? Are we that unaware of what life is like, without dancing with God?
Do we take our own salvation so much for granted, that we do not desire the world to know?
Last January, I went on a “mission trip” sort of, a chance to go to China and preach in a church there, for a friend. A chance to visit others, who teach English, and share their love of God with those who ask why they have such hope. It was amazing to see a hall that through which a million people would pass each day – as they cleared customs from Hong Kong to Mainland China. But there, as odd as it seems, the work seemed easier, people desiring to know about God, wanting to learn, asking the hard questions about their faith, and desiring to learn how to give others the hope they only recently encountered. O how I wish we could bring that attitude here… I thought. WHat would do it?
I think Wiegel’s words give us the clue, it’s not another seminar on apologetics, it’s not another program/class on evangelism.
It’s standing at a baptistry or baptismal font, and knowing the Lord who cleansed us there, who opened our eyes – who guaranteed our lives with Him.
It’s kneeling at an altar, wondering why God decided to bless us with an invitation to feast with Him, to feed us the very Body and Blood of Christ.
It’s staying there, crying, as we realize we can pour everything we are, our pains, our sorrows, our hurts…. as He revives and renews our trust in Him…..
Then, as we leave there…. looking at our neighbor, hearing the pain in their voice. Seeing the anxiety building in the young mom at the market, visiting our friends in the hospital….
Seeing them, not as numbers to get to church, but as people to bring to that altar, to that font, so they can know the rest and peace… that we celebrate and rejoice in.
We are those called, we are those led on a mission…. it is who we are,…. already… in Christ.
(1)Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (pp. 85-86). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
- The Necessity of Teaching People Worship and the Liturgy: Evangelical Catholic IX (justifiedandsinner.com)
- Now available: “Evangelical Catholicism” by George Weigel (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Mission, the New Evangelization and the Gospel of Life (respectlifechicago.wordpress.com)