ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS AND THE APOSTLES
July 7, 2011
We in CFC-FFL are called to be an evangelistic and missionary community. The mission of Jesus is the same mission he passed on to the Twelve, and now to all of his disciples. In the same way that Jesus commissioned the Twelve, so too are we commissioned. In this we do the very work of God.
Jesus told the Twelve, „As you go, make this proclamation: ŒThe kingdom of heaven is at hand.‚‰ (Mt 10:7). When Jesus proclaimed his mission, he said, „To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.‰ (Lk 4:43). The mission of Jesus is the very mission he gave to the Twelve.
Jesus further told the Twelve, „Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.‰ (Mt 10:8a). When Jesus was asked if he was the messiah, he replied, „Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised‰ (Mt 11:4-5a). The works of Jesus are the very works he instructed the Twelve to do.
When we do the work of evangelization and mission, we are doing the very work of Jesus and the very work of the apostles. As such, we are to heed Jesus‚ instructions on how we are to do this work.
Jesus said, „Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.‰ (Mt 10:8b). Jesus gave his all in order to save us, and requires no payment but our acceptance of his free gift. As such, the great apostle Paul offered „the gospel free of charge‰ (1 Cor 9:18). This is why our evangelistic programs, such as the CLS, are free of charge. Even our formation courses for members, part of our continuing evangelistic work, are free. If we „charge‰ fees, it is simply to cover expenses. We are not here to make money like a secular corporation. Whatever money comes in, we fully spend to continue with our work. The great majority of our workers are not paid. A few do get salaries, but only as a way of supporting themselves and their families as they have chosen to serve the community full-time. There are no monetary dividends for members, but only the dividend of eternal life.
Jesus then instructs something very challenging. „Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick.‰ (Mt 10:9-10a). So when we go on mission are we to have no money at all in our pockets? Are we not even to have a backpack? Are we going to walk barefoot?
Jesus is talking about principles of going on mission. After all, according to Mark, the apostles were to have a walking stick and wear sandals, but take nothing else (Mk 6:8-9). Jesus does not give contradictory instructions. Rather, he emphasizes his point in different ways in different settings or with different audiences.
What Jesus is requiring is (1) a total dependence on God for food and shelter and whatever we will be needing. Thus when we go on mission, we do not have to spend for anything because those who invite us will provide us our shelter, meals, transport, and other needs. As Jesus said, „The laborer deserves his keep.‰ (Mt 10:10b). Further, (2) because of the urgency of the mission and the single-mindedness required of missionaries, we are to avoid any attachment to material possessions. For us, when we go on mission, we are to be focused on the work. We are not there to see sights, or to go shopping, or to have a relaxing time (though God might provide for these as well).
„As you enter a house, wish it peace.‰ (Mt 10:12). We are disciples of the Prince of Peace. We bring the peace of Christ to all. What is peace? It is being in right relationship with others. We help bring people back to Christ, or deepen their relationship with Christ. We help renew the family, and bring peace into the home and in family relationships. We bring peace to communities as evangelized persons become instruments of God‚s grace in their day-to-day environments.
„Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words–go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.‰ (Mt 10:14). God‚s gift is free, and people are free to accept or not. When people do not accept the gospel message, we simply move on. If a parish priest refuses to allow us to do our work, we move on to the next parish. We are not to be dejected or angry or discouraged. We are simply to persevere, knowing that the harvest is abundant. We are to simply do our work, and leave the results to God.
In fact, when untoward things happen, we are to know that God is still in control, that God loves us and has an eternal plan for us, and that God intends to use us for His glory as He has already made Himself dependent upon His disciples to do His work.
Not many will experience greater hardships than what befell Joseph. He was „sold as a slave‰ (Ps 105:17b) by his very own brothers, and the Egyptians „shackled his feet with chains; collared his neck in iron‰ (Ps 105:18). He was separated from his family for so long, especially from his father Jacob who loved him best. But it was for a purpose, according to the plan of God. As Joseph himself realized, „It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.‰ (Gen 45:5b). Joseph did not whine and complain about his lost years. He said God sent him ahead of his brothers. In the seemingly unrelated and tragic events of his life, he realized God had sent him on mission.
How about our lives? Are you suffering from cancer, have a broken marriage, have a child that has gone astray, gone bankrupt, separated from your family due to overseas work, are not sure where to get the next meal, serving a prison sentence, been betrayed by loved ones, are maligned by brethren, opposed by clerics? If you try to live for God, then God will take care of you, and accomplish His eternal plan for you. You may not see it in the trial of the moment, as Joseph did not, but trust that your life and future are in the hands of the Savior, who now sends you forth to make his salvation known to others.
The ups and downs of life go on. Joseph, from his lowest points of life, rose to great heights. He became „the equal of Pharaoh‰ (Gen 44:18b) and Pharaoh „made him lord over his palace, ruler over all his possessions.‰ (Ps 105:21). Jacob and his clan had grown prosperous, but then God „called down a famine on the land, destroyed the grain that sustained them.‰ (Ps 105:16). Because of Joseph, the whole clan moved to Egypt, were favored by Pharaoh, and again prospered there. Many generations later, with a new pharaoh who knew nothing of Joseph, they were enslaved. From soaring to the heights they were now down in the depths. Of course we know that they would soar once again as God‚s favored people Israel. But that is another story.
What is important for us is to know who we are called to be and what we are commissioned to do. We in CFC-FFL are evangelizers and missionaries. In this work we will encounter great challenges and suffering. But we do it for Jesus who already went before us. Now we are privileged to carry on his work.
Whatever happens, whether we are up or seemingly down, we simply carry on, with trust in Jesus and joy in our hearts.