Headline: God’s Transformation AgendaPosted on: 2014-11-17
Of missionary enterprise
Last Sunday the Catholic Church all over the world celebrated Mission Sunday. On that occasion, all the faithful are invited to evaluate their role in the discharge of the mission of Jesus Christ as he proclaimed it at Nazareth (Lk. 4: 18-19) and as he handed it down in the Great Mandate. (Mt 28:19). On Mission Sunday all offerings and contributions in all Catholic Churches are sent whole and entire to the appropriate office in the Vatican from where they are then applied all over the world for the sole purpose of evangelization. Besides, Christians are admonished to use their time, treasure talent to promote the Gospel and build God’s kingdom wherever they find themselves. Jesus Christ came to transform the world and turn the hearts of men and women to God. He called followers to help him accomplish his objective. According to Rev. Sr. Anne Falola, OLA, who trains and animates missionaries for the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Mission Sunday celebrates our Catholicity and the universal solidarity of the Church. It is an invitation and an opportunity to show who we really are - missionaries who witness to Christ to the ends of the earth, beyond our immediate environment, given that our contribution is distributed throughout the entire world. This is in order because we too have been beneficiaries of such benevolent outreaches from others until now.
Of missionaries with passion
Indeed if the great mandate in Matthew’s gospel could often be interpreted to address only the apostles of Christ, the episode of St. Luke’s gospel (Lk. 10:1-16) surely leaves no one in doubt that the work of mission is actually meant for all followers of Christ. Jesus appointed seventy two of his disciples and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was yet to go. He told them “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few”. Those words of Jesus are worth reflecting upon for a fresh understanding of where we each stand in God’s “transformation agenda”. According to Adam Lum in Hitchhikers Guide to Missions, “A missionary is a prepared disciple whom God sends into the world with his resources to make disciples for His kingdom. According to her, there are six Biblical images of mission namely; a witness (Acts 1:8), an evangelist (Lk. 2:10-11) a pioneer (Heb. 12:2), a herald (1Tim. 2: 7) an ambassador (2Cor 5:20) and a servant (1Cor. 4:1). Her conclusions show that an authentic missionary must be driven by passion for the work of God and must be multitalented, able to carry out different missionary functions. In a multidimensional world as this, missionaries have to be as versatile as possible.
Giving unto God what belongs to God
Yet, further challenges exist for the modern day missionary. The space reserved for religion and the word of God is shrinking fast in people’s lives. Concern for economic pursuit and gains ensure that near total attention is given to the things of this world. When that is not the case, more and more people now yield to a dangerous religious fevour which pushes them to a destructive religious fanaticism. Just think of many young people even in the Western world who are joining insurgencies and murderous sectarian movements! The Catholic perspective of Missions is to enable the proposition, not the imposition of the gospel of Christ to millions in the world who are yet to hear it since “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17) not by threatening. The gospel reading of Mission Sunday rightly admonished: “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God”. Even in the work of mission the freedom of the human being must be recognized and respected. Given that human freedom is a gift of God himself. Not that this makes the job of the missionary any easier. Jesus spoke of laborers in the plentiful harvest. Are there other types of people in the harvest? In any crowd of people there can be varieties of interests. In the harvest of the Lord there can be bystanders, complainers, traders, robbers and even opportunists. In missionary enterprise today regrettably, not all are laborers. It is the desire of the Church that all Christians make every platform of their existence an opportunity for mission.
Between Esther and Mordechai.
It is also needful to be missionary to one’s own people. Christian politicians and others in authority today have a great lessons to learn for example, from Queen Esther and the elder Mordechai when the Jews got into trouble with King Ahasuerus through the treachery of Haman (Es.3-8). Mordechai put on sackcloth and pleaded with the queen to use her position to get her people out of trouble. Esther’s initial response was defensive. She would not approach the king for there was an edict forbidding anyone to do so unless invited. Mordechai retorted in words that every leader must keep close to his heart “Do not suppose that because you are in the king’s palace, you alone of all the Jews will escape. If you remain silent now relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows - perhaps you have come to the throne for just a time as this” (Es. 4: 13-14). His words touched Esther’s deeply, such that she decided to stake her life. She asked all her people to pray and fast and with determination said: “Then I will go to the king even if it is against the law, If I die for this, let it be” (Es. 4: 16). That was good news for her people and God gave Israel victory through her courageous sacrifice. Would that all our leaders turn missionary in that wise!
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