Missionary Disciples

Homily for the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

INTRODUCTION – What can I do? How am I being called to serve? Lord, how am I being called to point others to You?

These are all questions that many of us often find ourselves asking, especially whenever we hear these particular readings proclaimed at Mass. Each of us knows that we are being called to come out of ourselves and embrace this invitation to serve our brothers and sisters. The thing is, we don’t always know what that looks like or how to accomplish that. It’s hard to sometimes figure that part of it out. So how do we get there? Where does this call to serve even come from?

BEING CALLED – Through the Sacrament of Baptism, all of us have received an invitation from the Lord to be witnesses to the Gospel and to bring others to an awareness of how Jesus is the One who was sent into the world to bring us salvation. The Holy Spirit, which we received when we were claimed by Christ in that first Sacrament, is the One who impels us to evangelize; He is the One who puts the desire on our hearts to make Christ present throughout the world (Evangelii gaudium 119). The Church reminds us that, as the baptized, we “must”…it doesn’t say we should, it doesn’t recommend, it doesn’t say it would be a great idea, it says we MUST…we “‘must profess before [others] the faith [we] have received from God through the Church’ and participate in the apostolic and missionary activity of the People of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, art. 1270).

In other words, we don’t have a choice. It is our responsibility to go out and make Christ present. We have been called to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. We have been set apart by the Lord to do just that! He has called us to be His sons and daughters and now we have to carry out the mission that He has entrusted to us. But in order to do that, we have to remain rooted in our relationship with the Father. We have to know Whom we are representing. We have to know Jesus…personally and intimately.

BEING ROOTED IN RELATIONSHIP – Because each of us are created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:26), we all have a desire on our hearts “to know the Lord, to deepen our relationship with God, to somehow invite Jesus Christ, who pursues us each personally, into every part of our lives.”[1] He is not a God is who far away, in some distant place in the sky; He is not a God who watches us from afar and simply observes everything that we do. He is a personal God. He wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He knows us intimately and He wants us to know Him in the same way. He wants us to seek Him, to get to know Him, to love Him, to pursue Him…because He does all those things for us.  

We can only bring Christ to others, we can only make Him known in the world, if we enter that personal relationship with Him. It means spending time with Him in personal prayer; it means reading Scripture to get to know who Jesus is and the things that He did for us while He was on earth; it means diving deeper into the teachings of the Church and seeking to understand why She teaches what She does; it means recognizing the mistakes that we have made and turning to the Lord in the Sacrament of Confession and asking for His forgiveness and for His grace to do better; it means getting involved in the life of the parish community, building relationships with others who are also seeking to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Relationship with God is what helps to strengthen us and encourage us in accomplishing this responsibility of being missionary disciples. It helps us see more clearly the gifts and talents that the Lord has given to us and to others to make that happen.

BEING GIFTED – In our Second Reading today from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, St. Paul talks about where the ability to accomplish this mission has come from. It comes from the Spirit. When Paul first arrived in Corinth, he was afraid that he wasn’t going to be able to do the work which God had entrusted to him. He was very much aware of his own weaknesses and limitations. But he trusted that the Lord would be with him, that the Lord would give him the words to speak. He believed that the Holy Spirit would give him the gifts that were needed to bring the Corinthian community to belief in Jesus.

How often have we felt like Paul? How often have we felt so inadequate to do something that the Lord might be inviting us to do? How often have we been afraid to say or do something that the Spirit may have been asking us to do? Whenever we don’t know what to say or how to do something, that’s when we rely on the Holy Spirit. He is the One who empowers us. He is the One who has gifted us with the things that we need to be those missionary disciples. He works through our limitations and weaknesses in order to show others what is possible when we have God at the center of our lives.

BEING SENT – The true Light of the World is Christ. As Christians, what we do for our brothers and sisters – our words and actions – should make that light known. Everything we are and everything we do should be a reflection of the mind and heart of the Lord. The object of our witness is Christ crucified for the salvation of all humanity. We have to remember that as Christians. We have to direct others to that reality.

We do that by carrying out the corporal works of mercy that we hear about in our First Reading: caring for the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, standing up for those who are the victims of injustice. We do that by raising our children in the faith, making sure they are taught about Jesus and His Church, and brought to relationship with Him. We do that by caring for our classmates, our coworkers, our friends. We do that by bringing the mercy and love of God to those around us – our family members, friends, neighbors. We do that by loving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt us in some way. This is how we point others to Jesus. 

CONCLUSION – This week, I invite each of us to reflect more deeply on these readings and this invitation to be missionary disciples. May our prayer seek to understand how the Lord is inviting us to go out and proclaim the Gospel. Are we aware of how the Lord is calling us? Are we staying rooted in our relationship with Him? Is there a certain gift or talent that we have that the Lord wants to utilize? Do we actively go out and point others to Jesus in how we live our lives?

Being missionary disciples, proclaiming the Gospel, telling others about Jesus is not an option for us. It is required. It is engrained in our hearts. It is who we are. This week, let’s go out and live it.  

[1] Dave Plisky, “5 Things Even Devout Catholics Can Do To Go Deeper In Discipleship” on CatholicLink. https://catholic-link.org/discipleship-catholic-growth/ Accessed February 2, 2023.

Photo: Soul devOcean. Used under Unsplash license.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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