Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.” John 6:44
What makes a missionary a missionary? This question stirred within me as I reflected on our two readings for today’s Mass. My recollections from my seminary studies are that a missionary is someone who is “sent.” Who does the sending and to what purpose? These questions are also important to our understanding of being a missionary. Using these questions, I reflected more profoundly upon the readings for today’s Mass.
Jesus is clearly calling himself a missionary. He is being “sent” by his God to identify those who are drawn to God so that they may eternal life. That is the definition of a missionary we received at school. Jesus is sent by God to bring people eternal life. Jesus knows who he is, who sent him and for what purpose. This was a new insight for me.
We look to Jesus the Missionary to better understand the true nature of being a missionary. This can be our starting point as we reflect upon the second reading for today’s Mass: St. Philip being as a Missionary Disciple.
Pope Francis introduced us to the term, “Missionary Disciple,” in his first Apostolic Exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He says: “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’” (Joy of the Gospel, #120) I believe that this new understanding of who we are as followers of Jesus enables us to re-read the Scriptures using this new lens of “Missionary Disciples.”
What Philip, Peter, James and the rest of the Disciples of Jesus did after the Resurrection was clearly remarkable. The experience of the Resurrected Jesus transformed them into Missionary Disciples. They became fearless as they stood before the religious and political leaders of their day, proclaiming truth, justice, forgiveness, love of neighbor, in short, the Gospel as proclaimed by the Crucified Jesus. Missionary Disciples are empowered to do what the Resurrected Jesus did for his frightened followers: to open their minds to the Scriptures and give them the Living Bread of Eternal Life for the journey. Once the Missionary Disciples of Jesus began on their missionary journey, there was no turning back.
Let us be inspired by the Missionary Jesus and his Missionary Disciples, who were once timid and afraid. Let us be courageous and become Missionary Disciples in today’s world!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.