There is a very well kept secret in the church today that I think needs to be shared with you all: every Christian is called to be a missioner. That is right, each one of you sitting here right now, myself included, is called to be a missioner. God has called all of us by our baptisms to bring the love of Jesus to the world around us.
But what in the world does that mean? We all understand that the church has had missioners for many years. People who would go to the far ends of the world: places like Africa or South America. And this is still taking place today. But what this sometimes keeps us from recognizing is that all of us are called to the mission field: it might be far and distant, but it might be right in your home, your work place, or in your state. All people are called to be missioners.
That is why I think the church invites us today to reflect on two of the churches first missioners: Peter and Paul.
We know that Peter was our first pope. His mission field was mainly in Jerusalem and then in Rome where he went to die. For Paul, his mission field was basically the entire known world at the time. But both were missioners, and both knew they were missioners. In fact, their very beings moved towards mission. They shine to us as examples reminding each of us that we too, no matter where we are, are called to be missioners.
But what does it take to be a missioner today? I would simply highlight three basic things. These are what I call the three missionary loves.
First, it takes what I call a teenage missionary love. I know this sounds weird, but I think this is necessary. It is the love that we all probably felt in some way when we were young and met the right person. We were infatuated. And we would do anything for this person. We wouldn’t even necessarily think through the consequences. We would just follow and go wherever this person went.
Peter and Paul had this love for Christ. When they could finally accept that he was their savior nothing could stop them. They were like crazy teenagers willing to follow wherever he called them to go.
The same must be true for us. We oftentimes become hardened by love and stop believing in its power to motivate us. That’s what’s so neat about teenagers. They haven’t been hardened yet. They still believe. To be missioners we still have to be willing to follow Christ with that teenage love.
The second missionary love is what I like to call the parental missionary love. This is the kind of love where one pours themselves out in service and care to the mission of Jesus. It is the kind of love that parents must sacrifice for the children. We all know how life changed instantly as soon as that first baby is born. From that moment on they pour out their lives in caring and sacrificing for them. More than their kids will ever know. And they put their hearts on the line to be let down and hurt so bad. But they do it out of love.
One of my good friends and his wife just had a very scary experience with their son. He was playing basketball in a gym and somehow hit his head. Hours later he was going in and out of consciousness. He was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a bleed inside of his skull. It did not look good. Emergency surgery took place. Hours passed while the parents waited. Everything was on the line. They hearts were being poured out. Somehow, Gabriel their son, made it through.
To be missioners we have to be willing to pour hour hearts out in service and love for others. Peter and Paul did this. They talked about it today in the readings. They poured their hearts out in service of the Good News. They did so that all people might know the love of Christ.
The final missionary love I think we need is the grandparent missionary love. This would be the love that slowly lets go as they prepare themselves for the end of life. For the elderly see many things. They see much death. They see loved ones come and go. And they see their own time coming to an end. Yet they face all of this with tremendous courage. With a confidence that can only be given from God. For they can let it all go knowing that in the end all things, including their lives, are God’s.
Peter and Paul had this love, too. They willingly walked towards death and imprisonment. They left their missions in the hands of others. They were willing to let things go. They knew that it was all in the hands of God.
This is important for us too. For unless we are willing to let go of comfort, success, money, and having the answers, we can never be missioners. We will never be able to go where God wants us to go.
Right now God is calling each person in this church to leave and enter his or her own mission field. If we are to be faithful just as Peter and Paul, then we should try to embrace these three missionary loves: the teenage love, the love of a parent, and the love of a grandparent. If we can do these things, God will reward us abundantly.
For the last 75 years the Glenmary Home Missioners has been trying to live these three missionary loves.
First of all, we have tried to embrace the teenage missionary love. For we have had members get up and leave everything they knew to serve in a land that is foreign to them. We go areas in the south and southeast that are pretty much non-Catholic and even non-Christian. In the areas where we serve the Catholic population is less than 1 percent. Still more, the number of unchurched people is around 50 percent. The areas are filled with poverty, broken homes, drug addictions, and poor education. It is not a place where people are flocking to go. But for us Glenmarians, we here the call, and we leave with that teenage love in our heart.
Also, we try to embrace that parental missionary love. We do so in creating faith communities or families. Basically we go into an area and begin advertising in the local paper that the Catholic community is going to be in the area. We gather what few Catholics are there together, and we start having mass in a person’s home or in our rectory. We reach out to the poor, we work with local churches, and we go door to door. And as the group grows, we then move into a store front and make that into our church. The hope in the future is to finally build a church to worship in. All the while we pour ourselves out into the people, sacrificing how we can, but receiving so much in return.
Finally, we practice the love of a grandparent. When our work seems to be done, we either accept a new assignment and move to a different mission area, or we simply hand the entire mission over to the diocese and move on to a new area. This is one of the more challenging aspects of our ministry. For we pour our hearts into these missions. We bleed and sweat and cry into these missions. But ultimately it is not ours. Ultimately it is God’s.
The missionary life is amazing. But it is not just Glenmarians who are called to live this life. It is all of us. We may go to rural America. But you all have your own mission land, too.
So I close with simply asking that you would support our ministry in any way that you are able. Please pray for us. If you are able, you can support us economically during this Mass’s second collection. Thank you very much. Peace.