Missionary Discipleship and the Call to Get Involved

Too often, the reality that we cannot personally save the world prevents us from becoming fully engaged in it. I've had countless conversations with people daunted by the poverty and suffering that they have seen around the world or even in their own communities. We ask ourselves, "How do I even begin to solve this?" While the question comes from a place of compassion and discernment, it is ultimately the wrong one to ask. The answer, of course, is that I can't. I can't "solve" all of the poverty and suffering in the world, but it is also not my role to do so.

What if we instead asked, "How am I called to get involved in this?"

I find this question more helpful because it gives us a path to discerning our role in the world without retreating into a sense of insignificance. Of course, it is more challenging for the same reason. It is one thing to say that I am powerless to end human suffering, but another to claim complete powerlessness in the face of it. After all, who among us has never experienced the power of a loving face or compassionate hand in the midst of distress?

Madame Samson runs a feeding program for children in her Port-au-Prince neighborhood.
This is the very power of the Gospel.  When Jesus began his public ministry, he declared: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free..." (Luke 4:18). And he did so by becoming deeply involved in the world around him, in the lives of those most in need, and by inviting everyone that he encountered to do likewise. As Pope Francis points out in the The Joy of the Gospel, "The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples, 'You will be blessed if you do this.'"

Most of us have a sense that there are things wrong with this world.  People are suffering in needless ways, people are in conflict, people hunger and thirst, people are oppressed and wrongfully imprisoned, people are subjected to punishment absent mercy or balance. But we also know that these statements also very much describe the world in which Jesus and his disciples ministered with complete engagement. For this reason, Pope Francis urges Catholics to "try a little harder to take the first step and become involved." He compels us to become "a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice."

Embracing this notion that we are all missionary disciples is where I believe that Gospel comes alive. Full discipleship seeks always to expand and go forth. It is a discipleship that invites us to ask time and time again: "How am I called to get involved?"

Kevin Foy works in mission education for Maryknoll in the Pacific Northwest.