Archive for the ‘On Evangelization and Mission’ Category

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS AND THE APOSTLES

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 11)

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS AND THE APOSTLES

July 7, 2011

Today‚s readings:
Genesis 44:18-45:5
Psalm 105:16-21
Matthew 10:7-15

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.

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PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 10)

PROCLAIMING THE KINGDOM

July 6, 2011
Today‚s reading: Matthew 10:1-7

Today‚s gospel is about the commissioning and sending on mission of the Twelve by Jesus. In the same way, Jesus commissions us in CFC-FFL and sends us off on mission. We are a missionary community.

Jesus „gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.‰ (Mt 10:1). The apostles literally did that–driving out evil spirits from physical possession of people and physically healing people from their illnesses. Today these still happen in Christian ministry, but no longer as extensively. What does happen is the spiritual reality behind the physical manifestations. Driving out unclean spirits is to bring people from out of the dominion of the evil one to a renewed and transformed life in Christ. It is a transition from darkness to light. Curing every disease and illness is the work of total human liberation–bringing people to fullness and wholeness of life as children of a loving and generous God.

Just like the Twelve (Mt 10:2-3), those whom God calls to serve Him are a motley lot, mainly ordinary folk. Just like them, we have no previous experience of Christian ministry. And as was then, some of those called still betray the Lord (Mt 10:4)–veering away from the call, disobeying Church authority, maligning other workers in the vineyard.

What basically was the work of the Twelve? They were to proclaim that „the kingdom of heaven is at hand.‰ (Mt 10:7). This is the work ofevangelization. For us in CFC-FFL, we have been given the same call. In fact, this is what our charism is all about. We are to do rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization. We are to proclaim Christ. We are to bring people to Christ and help form them into living their lives in and for Christ.

The Twelve were also instructed thus, „Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.‰ (Mt 10:5-6). Today the house of Israel corresponds to the Catholic Church, the Samaritans to our separated Protestant brethren, and the pagans to those who are non-Christians. Our work in CFC-FFL is a work of re-evangelization, basically within the Catholic Church. We are a Catholic ecclesial movement and we reach out to Catholics, especially those who are nominal, cultural or lapsed. We desire to help strengthen our Church, which today is the only institution standing against the global anti-life and anti-family forces.

Jesus called and commissioned the Twelve two millennia ago. Today Jesus still calls and commissions all those who profess to be his disciples. To be a true disciple is to be an apostle, that is, one who is sent. The Twelve faced a daunting task. Today the Catholic Church also faces a formidable task, in the face of powerful diabolical forces rampaging throughout the world. It is an all-out war for the hearts, minds and souls of people.

We in CFC-FFL are privileged to be part of God‚s work. We have been called, commissioned, and given the very strength of God. Let us go forth and continue proclaiming the kingdom of God.

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JESUS‚ MISSION, OUR MISSION

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 9)

JESUS‚ MISSION, OUR MISSION

December 4, 2010

Today‚s gospel
Matthew 9:35-10:8

„Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.‰ (Mt 9:35). Jesus‚ mission was teaching, preaching and healing.

Translating this to our own time, the mission of Jesus‚ disciples is Christian formation, proclamation of the gospel and total human liberation. In a word, it is evangelization, which is all about the good news of the kingdom of God now in our midst. We hear the good news as it is preached, we enter more deeply into the Christian life as we are formed through teachings, and we become whole Christians as we are set free from what binds us, including the dominion of Satan.

Jesus did this three-fold mission during his time on earth. Then, knowing that the work would be continued after he had won salvation for humankind and then ascended into heaven, he had previously formed his core group, the twelve apostles (Mt 10:2-4). Now he sent them out on practicum. They were to heal and drive out unclean spirits (Mt 10:1), and they were to proclaim the kingdom (Mt 10:7). They were not yet to teach, and this aspect of the mission would be given only when Jesus commissions his disciples before his ascension (Mt 28:20a). Even today, every new CFC-FFL member can be, and is expected to be, an evangelizer, can pray over people for healing and protection from evil spirits, but would not teach until much more formation is undertaken.

Today, the mission of Jesus, which became the mission of the apostles, is also the very mission of all his disciples, and thus is our very mission in CFC-FFL.

What are some aspects important to know?

First, Jesus went to all the towns and villages (Mt 9:35). The gospel and the fullness of Christian life are intended by God for all people. Jesus died for all, and all are God‚s children. Thus everyone should have an opportunity to hear the gospel and hopefully turn to Jesus. For us in CFC-FFL, we look to not only having a nice comfortable or easily manageable ministry, but we deliberately and aggressively go into the whole world, looking for and seizing opportunities to do our work whenever the Lord gives these. This is what gives rise to our rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization.

Second, we must be mindful of the situation of people in the world, and not just go about minding our own business or looking to our own welfare. The reality is that many people are „troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.‰ (Mt 9:36b). This is the very situation in the world today. People are troubled with all the things that are wrong in the world. Many are miserable and lonely, feeling or actually abandoned by those who should love and care for them–spouses (broken marriages), children (rebellious children or those who just dump their old parents in nursing homes), government (officials stealing funds that could be spent to alleviate poverty), society (Christians who go their own way unmindful of those in need), even the Church (pastors neglecting or even being the ones who abuse members of the flock).

Third, „at the sight of the crowds, (Jesus‚) heart was moved with pity for them‰ (Mt 9:36a). Seeing what is wrong in the world and the resultant misery of people, and knowing that Jesus already came to set us free and to experience the fullness of God‚s love, we should be spurred to action. In whatever way we can, going out of our comfort zones, giving of our own resources, we should look to help the poor, fight corruption in government, do whatever good we can, and most especially bring people to Christ.

Fourth, we must know that when our Lord sends us on mission, that we go with his authority (Mt 10:1). This is authority to act in his name, and to do the work that he did. We must be mindful that we are stepping into the very sandals of Jesus. And we must know that we already share in his victory over the enemy.

Fifth, we must know who the enemy truly is. It is Satan and his demons. We could be so focused on what is wrong in the world, and try to address these, but fail to realize that behind everything that is wrong is a diabolical enemy totally opposed to God‚s plan and ever trying to thwart God‚s intent for the life of the world. This is sometimes the problem with those who seek to solve social ills, but do not do so with spiritual weapons. For us, just as it was with the disciples, we are to drive out unclean spirits and cure every disease and illness (Mt 10:1). This can be literal as well as figurative. For us it means that we come against the dominion of Satan and bring people into the kingdom of God, while also working to address the physical, mental, emotional and psychological needs of people.

Sixth, in the call to the twelve apostles (Mt 10:2-4), we should see that God uses anyone, even, or perhaps especially, those who are simple and are not highly placed in society or the Church. The apostles were fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot. Even one who eventually betrayed Jesus. This call to ordinary people to become extraordinary instruments of God should be a great joy to us, knowing that God can use us, if only we will say our yes to His call. But the call will be challenging. We will need to be constantly dependent upon God and His grace, His mercy, His wisdom. We must purify our motives. We must never be selfish. We must not seek power or position. We must not fall into sinful pride, especially as God uses us in the power of His Spirit. Otherwise, we too, like Judas, might end up betraying Jesus and his cause.

Seventh, we are to give ourselves totally to this work, as we see the reality of what this mission is really all about. We realize what a great privilege Jesus has given us in doing his very own divine work. We realize that we have been given a great responsibility, where what happens to the very souls of God‚s children has been entrusted to us. We realize how God has made Himself totally dependent upon us to accomplish His purpose in the world. We realize how Jesus has given himself for us, even when we were sinners, even when we were the ones who sent him to the cross. It cost us nothing, but it cost God His very life. Thus, „without cost (we) have received; without cost (we) are to give.‰ (Mt 10:8b). As Jesus gave his very life, we are also to give our lives freely for the cause.

Finally, we are to pray for more evangelizers and missionaries. Jesus says, „The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.‰ (Mt 9:37-38). The harvest is indeed abundant, because Jesus won salvation for all. Further, people who are now in darkness are desperately seeking for the light. They are desperately seeking to be set free of their afflictions and their bondages. The grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit have been made available, and what are just needed are the workers to bring in the harvest.

For us in CFC-FFL, as we have said time and again, every member is to be an evangelizer, in the day-to-day environments of their lives. Every member should be open to becoming a missionary. Every member should be eager to do whatever service is needed. At the very least, and this is something anyone can do, every member should be praying for more laborers, including vocations to the priesthood and to religious life. And of course, every member should fully support the life and mission of the community with their time, talent and treasure.

One more thing: we as CFC-FFL, a Catholic new ecclesial movement, are to focus on re-evangelization of Catholics. While we might have a bit of opportunity to re-evangelize our separated brethren (non-Catholic Christians) or to evangelize pagans (non-Christians), our focus is on helping renew and strengthen the Catholic Church. „Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.‰ (Mt 10:5-6). Jesus wanted to first renew the people covenanted with God, knowing that from there, they could then bring the good news to the whole world. In the same way, the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus, founded on Pentecost, with the popes having an unbroken line of succession from Peter as the head of the Church.

Today, the Catholic Church is practically the only institution that stands in the way of the all-out assault of the anti-life, anti-family, homosexualist forces that seek to establish the dominion of the evil one on the world. The antidote is the renewal of faith, family and life. This is our work in CFC-FFL. We are an evangelistic and missionary community, working to help renew the family and to defend life. We are to do our share in renewing and strengthening the Catholic Church of which we are an integral part.

Postscript: Matthew 9:35, about the mission of Jesus, is practically the same as Matthew 4:23. Before Matthew 4:23, there is the call to the first disciples (Mt 4:18-22). After Matthew 9:35, there is the sending off on mission of these disciples (Mt 10:1-8). In between are the stories of Jesus teaching (Mt 5 to 7) and then healing (Mt 8 and 9).

It could be shown schematically as follows:

  • The call to the apostles
  • Statement of Jesus‚ mission
  • Jesus doing his mission with the apostles learning
  • Statement of Jesus‚ mission
  • The sending of the apostles

In the same way, God calls us, gives us our mission, shows us the way to do the mission (through other people), reiterates our mission, then sends us off.

Let us realize that indeed our life and mission in CFC-FFL is God‚s call to us. Let us understand what CFC-FFL is and what the mission entails. Let us live our lives faithfully in community, striving to learn what this new life is about and giving of ourselves in loving service. Let us keep going back to the reality of who we are as CFC-FFL and why God has called us, and thus keeping ourselves on the right track according to God‚s call. Then let us go off into the world to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus to all, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION (Part 8) and FISHERS OF MEN (Part 2)

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL 

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 8)

FISHERS OF MEN (Part 2)


November 30, 2010

Today‚s readings
Romans 10:9-18
Psalm 19:2-5
Matthew 4:18-22

At the very start of a new year (Church‚s liturgical year), as we prepare for the coming of Jesus, the Savior of the world, the readings today impress upon us what is our mission as CFC-FFL. In one word, our mission is „evangelization.‰ We are an evangelistic and missionary community. We exist to evangelize.

What is the relation of evangelization to Jesus‚ own mission, for his coming into the world?

Jesus would go on to win for us our salvation on the cross. God would then have accomplished everything that was needed for us to be restored to a relationship with the Father, thereby enabling us to make it to heaven, our eternal home. There was nothing more to be added to Jesus‚ sacrificial offering. But for people to actually experience that salvation, they had to respond. They had to repent of their sins and turn to Jesus in faith, accepting what he had done for them. As Paul said, „if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.‰ (Rom 10:9).

Therefore, „everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.‰ (Rom 10:13). But for that to happen, some things need to happen first. „But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?‰ (Rom 10:14-15a). This is the process of evangelization. Evangelizers are sent, they proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus, people hear, by the grace of God they believe, they call on the name of the Lord, and thus they are saved.

This process of evangelization is how God planned it from the very start. Thus, after having won salvation on the cross for all humankind, after appearing to people over forty days, Jesus called his disciples before ascending into heaven, and gave them the commission to „go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.‰ (Mk 16:15). In this way, Jesus started the process of evangelization, by sending forth the evangelizers.

Now Jesus, at the very start of his public ministry, had already known how salvation was to be brought to the ends of the earth. It was to be done by his disciples. It would be he who would win salvation on the cross, but it would be they who would proclaim that salvation to others.

Thus, at the very start, he put his core team together. These were the apostles (meaning „those who are sent‰). He started by calling two sets of brothers–Peter and Andrew, and James and John (Mt 4:18-22). Jesus told them, „Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.‰ (Mt 4:19). Then he trained them for three years, finally sending them forth to evangelize the world.

This call is not just for the apostles, not just for the disciples on the mountain when Jesus ascended into heaven, but to all who profess to follow him. This call is very much relevant for today. In fact, it is just as urgent today as it was then.

How do we respond to Jesus‚ call to become fishers of men?

First, we need to see that Jesus calls ordinary people. In this case, he called four fishermen. They were not learned scribes, or Mosaic law-abiding Pharisees, or theologians, or Bible scholars, or renowned personages; they were simple fishermen. This is great news for us. God calls everyone to become an evangelizer, and we, whatever our situation in life, are among those called. Jesus then goes on to form us and train us. As the saying goes, Jesus does not call the qualified, but qualifies those who are called.

Second, we need to respond to Jesus‚ call with joy at the great privilege of doing his work. What a privilege indeed it is to be an instrument of salvation for others! Now if what we are called to do is divine work, then we must be willing to commit our whole lives to our mission. Peter and Andrew abandoned their fishing, what they had known all their lives, to follow Jesus to an unknown future. James and John even left their father and the family that they had lived with all their lives. Jesus and his work are worth giving our total commitment to.

Third, we look to rapid, massive and worldwide evangelization, as this is according to Jesus‚ commission. The early Church, established at Pentecost and led by Peter, understood this, and so they evangelized rapidly and massively, and did mission to the ends of the known civilized world at that time. What is important is for the whole world to hear the good news and be given the opportunity to respond and thus be saved. We must do our share such that our „voice has gone forth to all the earth, and (our) words to the ends of the world.‰ (Rom 10:18). God‚s very creation silently (Ps 19:4) proclaims the glory of God (Ps 19:2), doing this day in and day out (Ps 19:3). We too are called to proclaim the glory of God, manifested in the saving work of Jesus, but we are to do this not silently but loudly, persistently every day of our lives. We must work such that our „report goes forth through all the earth, (our) message, to the ends of the world.‰ (Ps 19:5).

Fourth, we must never be discouraged if we have challenges and setbacks in our work of evangelization. Our experience has already been that „not everyone has heeded the good news‰ (Rom 10:16a). Jesus never said it would be easy. He went to the cross; we too will experience our own crosses. But we simply need to persevere, knowing that „faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.‰ (Rom 10:17). Our task is to obey, and the fruit is up to God.

Fifth, whatever the result of our work (whether a big harvest or not), we must rest secure in the knowledge that we are pleasing to God in our response. „As it is written, ŒHow beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!‚‰ (Rom 10:15b).

God raised CFC-FFL to be an evangelistic and missionary community. Every CFC-FFL member is to be an evangelizer. What a great privilege, and responsibility, this is.

So go and fish!

 

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