My first mission was to Ethiopia in 1974. It was a difficult place as the then marxist government had taken over and it was almost impossible to preach the gospel. My job was to teach in a public school as a means of doing youth work. All schools in Ethiopia were on strike for all but 7 weeks in 2 years; I taught class for 7 weeks in those 2 years. The Orthodox Church called us heretics and the Lutheran Church did not like us. We had a congregation of 3 Catholics.
I went to Ethiopia to preach the gospel and, in my youthful enthusiasm, to change the world. But I could do very little. I wanted God to be my helper, to help me change the world. God did not seem to be listening to me.
It was only 2 years later during a retreat preached by the late Brian Hearne, my fellow Spiritan, that I realized that it was not my mission but God’s. I was asking God to help me, instead of realizing that God was asking me to be an instrument of His mission.
It’s the Spirit of the Lord that calls us to be instruments of God’s presence in the world. That took a weight off my shoulders.
Pope John XXIII, when asked how he slept a night when he was responsible for a billion Catholics, just smiled and said, “I’m not responsible for the church; the Holy Spirit is.”
The Holy Spirit is upon us to preach the gospel, to be God’s presence in our world. At baptism and confirmation, we are anointed, (the word ‘Christian’ means anointed) chosen to be the good news.
God has no mouth to speak the truth, to speak words of comfort to the suffering; no hands to help the poor; no ears to listen to the worries or suffering of others. We are God’s instruments, but only instruments.
In the Latin Mass, it finished with the words Ita Missa Est. (“Go and be the mission, be Christ to the world.”)
The final procession at the Mass has the cross of Christ in front leading us to be with him in his mission.
The only gospel that most people will read is other people living the Gospel. That is our calling.
May the Spirit fill us with the joy of that calling.
Image: jstein_nca Pixabay.com – St Peter’s Basilica