October is traditionally a time for remembering the Church’s Mission. For a comparatively small country, Ireland has an enormous missionary footprint across hundreds of cultures in all corners of the world. The work of the missionary, which was once almost exclusively the preserve of priests and sisters who dedicated themselves to this task, is now shared by many lay missionaries who spend a few weeks, a year or even a lifetime bringing the good news of Christ’s gospel to those who thirst to hear it.
However, we would be missing the point somewhat if during this ‘mission month’ we only turned our prayers and thoughts to those who exercise this special ministry abroad. The truth is in fact that every single one of us, by virtue of our baptism is called to be a missionary.
In the Gospels, Jesus commissions his disciples to go forth and to baptize the world- literally to immerse all peoples in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He commissions us to do likewise on the day of our christening and seals that invitation on the day of our confirmation. Here we very clearly receive the Lord’s personal invitation to live a life of service, a kind of service which puts our own interests aside and places the other -especially others in whatever kind of need -at the very heart of our lives and of our work.
Therefore, even before considering the particular vocations of teaching or ordained ministry the truth is that through baptism, every one of us in our own little faith community here in Paris is called to share in the mission of Jesus. We are invited to follow in the footsteps of the one who came ‘not to be served but to serve’. To participate in that life of serving and self-giving; of praying and doing; of loving and leading; of healing and teaching, of reconciling and of giving life and freedom to all the people of God.
Seen in this way, our call to be Christians is never a call to maintaining the status quo. Seen in this way, this mission month is not simply an opportunity to call to mind the achievements of Jesus and his first disciples or indeed to recall our own country’s wonderful missionary tradition. It must also be in some sense a Kairos moment, a special time of opportunity to remind ourselves of our own baptismal calling.
Saint Pope John Paul II when he was in Knock, Co Mayo more than 30 years ago said ‘Every generation with its own mentality and characteristics is like a new generation to be won for Christ’. He assured us then that just as those first disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee Jesus received a special call from Jesus to become ‘fishers of people’ and to be ‘servants of the Word’, there is absolutely no doubt that he utters that very same call again and again to each generation.
During this month of October then, let each of us try to be bearers of his ‘good news’ in our homes, our community, our places of work, our sports fields our social contexts and all the other situations of our daily lives. If we can lighten another’s burden even for an instant or allow a tiny spark of the Gospel to shine through our own lives into someone else’s darkness we are truly Christ’s missionaries, following in the great Christian missionary tradition of all of those who have gone before us.