La Horquetta parish priest Fr Dwight Merrick reflects on the meaning of missionary discipleship. October was declared by Pope Francis the Church’s Extraordinary Missionary Month.
Thirty years ago, I took a pamphlet from a Jehovah’s Witness trying not to offend them. I tried to read it at home and was immediately stopped. A voice in my head asked me how I could make time for this pamphlet when I had not made time for the books I bought with my own money and wanted to read?
That was the last time I took such a pamphlet. Life today is simple—not easy but simple. If it is not going to help me become like Jesus, it is not worthy of my time or effort.
So how much does it cost to become a disciple? Fr Thomas ‘Tom’ Forrest CSsR exclaimed “everything!”. Not 50 per cent, or 80 per cent but 100 per cent! Everything about us needs to belong to Jesus, if we are going to become His disciple.
Fr Tom lamented that one of the mistakes the Church was making, he felt, was ordaining priests who were not yet disciples and hoping that they became disciples somehow. This he explained was hopeless and thus his suggestion was that the Church needed to help men become disciples and then ordain them priests.
My own fear is that there is so much pressure for Churchmen to be all things to all men inclusive of religious differences, that the focused lifestyle described above as discipleship is condemned today as narrow-mindedness. It reminds me a bit of the saying that a specialist is one who knows more and more about less and less.
I must confess that I do want to become a specialist on Christianity and especially Christian spirituality. I believe that I am called to know more and more and become more and more like Jesus as my priority, and I don’t need to be an expert on everything out there.
Since my early years, I have always thought that when people come to a priest, they should meet someone who is trying to be an expert on God revealed through Jesus and not of all things spiritual. That makes life simple — just Jesus!
Looking in the wrong place
Now on to the topic of the ‘mission’. What is the mission of the Church? Has it changed over time? Is it the product of exhaustive discussions and resolutions as with Church Assemblies and Synods? Are we free to redefine the mission of the Church? The great commission has become the great omission as one person said.
What caused the early Church to spread like wildfire especially amidst a hostile environment of persecutions and martyrdom? Surely it was the fire of the Spirit propelling believers to not only keep the faith but to share it widely with their testimonies of how real the Lord is and how wonderful His works.
Preaching and teaching were accompanied by signs and wonders and the presence of the Lord was personal and communal. With the many problems facing the Church today, maybe we are like the person who lost a coin in a dark area but then proceeded to look for it under the streetlight. Asked why he was looking under the light and not where he lost it, he responded that the light was better here and not there.
Maybe a source of our problems as Church stems from our apparent departure from the true mission of the Church. It would be interesting to know how many parishes including my own, budget or otherwise spend a sizeable portion of their income and resources on evangelisation. It would be equally interesting to know how many Catholics are taught and trained to evangelise others.
If we do not teach children, youth and adults how to evangelise, then how are we as Church fulfilling the great commission?
What would happen if Catholics became so excited about their faith that they started sharing it with others? Suppose it became normal for Catholic children to learn how to evangelise their friends, their parents and anyone who would listen to their story of Jesus.
Who knows, we just might see the Church spring to life; new people, set on fire with love for the Lord and a zeal for the Christian life.
What would it cost to become a Church like that? Whatever it takes! A Church on mission driven by enthusiastic disciples seems just what we need today.