Uphold Your Mission O Lord, and Bless Our Efforts!
Readings: (1st: Exodus 17, 8-13; Ps: 120; 2nd: 2Tim 3, 14-4, 2; Gos: Lk 18, 1-8)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news (Rom10, 15)! Today, the 29th Sunday of ordinary time (Year C), and 3rd Sunday of October is World Mission Sunday! It is a special Sunday set aside by the Church for the public and annual renewal of our commitment to missionary activities. Mission Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 as the day of prayer and propaganda of mission. Therefore, Christ who opened wide his arms on the cross, and the Holy Mother Church, the visible sign of Christ on earth ask us to join our hands and hearts in continual prayer for the success of missionary activities. They encourage us never to lose heart in order that Missio dei (God’s mission) may be sustained, and all peoples come to know the salvation of our Lord and God.
In today’s first reading, God showed the Israelites that he is the one in charge of their lives and circumstances. As long as Moses’ hands were lifted up to God in prayers, the Israelites gained victory. This reading is indeed very suitable for today’s Mission Sunday celebration. This is because the Lord is our Rock in mission! He is the one like the stones that supported Moses’ arms for victory, who supplies the strength we need in His mission. “He is the one who trains our arms for battle” in mission (Ps 18, 34). Without him we cannot stand the heat, cutting and rough edges of mission. Therefore, as collaborators in God’s mission, we must continually remain steadfast in the Lord who strengthens us if we must remain afloat in the wide and at times, very turbulent sea of mission. We must ask him to continually supply us the strength to pray, and the wisdom that comes through his word which are the tools we need so much if we must succeed in mission. We must ask Him to supply us the strength to work and love those to whom we bring the good news in mission. Above all, we must constantly remind ourselves in mission that: “Cura omnia potest (careful effort, of course with the help of God, accomplishes everything).” Mission as Missio or Opus dei (Mission or Work of God), belongs to God and we ourselves are mere instruments. Therefore, for an absolute success in it, whether ad-extra or ad-intra, we must rely on the help that comes from God as the Psalmist encourages us to say today: “Our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Like Moses also, we must say to God: “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Ex 33, 15).
In the second reading, Paul reminds us of the demands of our duty and the need to be dedicated to our call in the mission of Christ. Most importantly, he places before us one of the most important tools we require to successfully accomplish mission – The Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures. He reminds of the need to be steadfast in preaching the truth as it was handed over to us undiluted and uncompromised. Hence, as a very important instrument, and at the same time the core of mission, scriptures must be readily at hand. It must however, be used not for selfish objectives, not for scaring people away or for imparting fear, not for exploiting people, and not for enslaving them. Rather, it is must be employed in such a manner that it will make those who hear us holy and thus, liberated from all forms of slavery. This reading therefore says to us directly or indirectly: “Memento semper finis (always keep the goal in mind). Which goal? The goal in question here is that of mission and that of the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures. Thus, Paul reminds of this goal: “All scripture is inspired by God and can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.” It is quite sad to note that some who parade themselves today as missionaries have lost sight of this very important purpose of the Word of God as an invaluable instrument for achieving success in mission. One therefore wonders what business a person who is completely ignorant of the scriptures or even a quack in the word of God has in the mission of God. The Word of God is, and should be our primary business in mission, and as such, must be well prepared and delivered, “ not simply for sordid money” as is common today, or for self aggrandizement, but for strengthening and guiding the people’s lives, and teaching them to be holy. It is only through it that we like Paul, can become all things to all those we encounter in mission. Without it, a missionary is reduced to a mere social worker or a representative of an NGO. It must be preached in and out of season and with our lifestyles especially, in Missions of Presence where we are prohibited to verbally proclaim it. The word of God is what makes the difference because it is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 4, 17). It is the “active ingredient” in mission, and that which keeps the “potency” of mission high and alive as the letter to the Hebrews tells us: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than a double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (4, 12).
In today’s gospel, Jesus casts a great light on another important tool and dimension of mission, upon which all our missionary exploits and endeavors must be anchored. Luke tells us that: “He (Jesus) taught them how to pray and never to lose heart.” Of what use is a missionary who cannot pray, how would such a person succeed if he is not connected to the Lord and Master of the mission Himself? A missionary’s life must be synonymous with prayers. He must pray and preach in and out of season. He must first conquer in his closet before stepping out to proclaim the word which he bears. This is why Paul asks us to: Pray in the spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and request…pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph 6, 17-19). The only way we can remain in touch with Jesus Christ, the Lord of the mission is through prayer. It is through it that we derive the strength we need for our daily exploits in mission.
This Sunday therefore, we must earnestly pray to the Lord of the mission for the strength to persevere in our mission activities. In a special way, we must commend into his hands our brothers and sisters who are engaged in extremely difficult missions all over the world and, most especially those involved in “Missions of Presence.” May they find the strength to carry on in spite of all odds. We also pray for Christians all over the world, that the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the first missionaries may spur and encourage us to succeed in our various missions. Amen!
Peace be with you all!!