Mission Sunday 2018 has come and gone. The theme of this year’s observance of Mission Sunday set by Pope Francis was: “Together with young people, let us bring the Gospel to all.”
World Mission Sunday, usually on the penultimate Sunday in October, is our chance to show love and solidarity to our church family overseas. We customarily support missionaries in spreading the Good News through our prayers and donations. We are all aware that we are expected to pray for the world church family and donate generously to support our mission stations the world over.
However, we often fail to get the bigger picture and fully comprehend what Mission Sunday entails for those of us residing in non-mission stations. Mission Sunday has a wider meaning that goes beyond donations and prayer support. It is a call to reflect on what our individual Christian mission is all about. A few pertinent questions worth reflecting on would be: Do I perceive my life as a mission? If so, does it give direction to my life? Does the ‘mission’ directing my life proclaim Jesus Christ?
Mission Sunday homily at my rural parish church this year exhorted us to transmit the faith to the far ends of the earth, to move out of our comfort zones and break new ground. While this exhortation may have appealed to a few of the New Gen parishioners, it left me feeling disconnected and ‘out of the loop.’ Well past my prime, and in no position to venture into far away lands ‘breaking new ground,’ I mulled over how best I could transmit my faith and proclaim Christ in my ordinary everyday activities. I was then reminded of the farewell message given years ago by our school principal: “As you venture into new territory, remember that your actions and reactions may be the only gospel your new set of friends and associates are exposed to; make sure you witness Christ in every situation.” This flashback brought home to me the profound meaning of being a missionary. We can all function as missionaries in our everyday lives without preaching or teaching – just living a life of integrity, kindness and compassion.
We are all ‘missionaries’ in our own right, and in our own locales. Perhaps we are oblivious to what “Christian mission” is all about. I see it as an unending opportunity to witness Christ’s love everyday, in every situation and in every context. In practice, it is a tough call, and a tall order, but walking in His way has never been and is never going to be easy. As Matthew 16:24 says:“If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me.” These three directives of forgetting self, carrying your cross and following Him do not constitute a “cakewalk.” This verse seems like a dare Jesus throws at his disciples. To accept this challenge and give it your best on a daily basis is, in my definition, living the Christian mission.
The instruction to “forget yourself” translates to being ‘other person’ focussed in all our dealings. This would be mandatory in the Christian walk. A situation where ‘WE’ decrease and ‘HE’ increases, is a typical example of ‘forgetting self.’ The second part of the instruction to “carry your cross” clearly indicates that Christian life is not a bed of roses, but a series of trials and upheavals. Our readiness to accept whatever God sends our way with equanimity is the mark of our Christian commitment. The last part of Jesus’ instruction “follow me” is the most challenging. Following Jesus would mandate an imitation of the Master. And that would inevitably involve renouncing the standards of this world; in other words, taking a stand opposed to the values of this world. In real terms, taking a stand opposed to worldly values and accepted model behaviour is akin to Christ’s life. In short, practising Christian discipleship in our daily walk is what living the Christian mission all is about. While missionaries spread the gospel in far away lands, we can also strive to be missionaries in our own little spaces. The words of the hymn “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love” sums it up succinctly.
The Christmas season of feasting and merry making offers us a fresh opportunity to proclaim Christ to those around us and live our Christian mission… by our love, by our love.