"Every day is Mission Day." Mission Sunday Refection

Mission Sunday Reflection, October 19, 2014
St. Isabella, San Rafael, CA

Good morning (afternoon), my name is Kris East and I am a missionary with Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. It is great to be here with you today and I would like to sincerely thank Fr. Mark for allowing me to share a reflection with you on Mission Sunday.

You know, every Sunday is Mission Sunday…actually, every day is Mission Day! As Disciples of Christ, God’s mission is the driving force behind everything we do and it defines us as Christians doing the work of the mission. If we are “doers” of God’s mission, we probably want to know what is God’s mission, and that begs the question…who is God?

1 John 4:16 tells us that God is LOVE! God’s mission is now and always has been to love…to be in relationship with us…God’s very own creation. When we realize that we have first been loved by God, the natural response is to return that love. Most people have their first experience of love from their parents. They loved us and we loved them in return. So knowing that God loved us into being, how do we return that love to God? As Pope Francis reminds us:

“For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”

In sharing God’s love, we can experience the joy of being in relationship with God by being in relationship with one another.

What happens when people do not have a sense of ever having been loved? Some years back, there was a Maryknoll priest named Pete who went to live in Peru to try to help get some kids get off of the streets and keep them out of the gangs. These kids were basically “throw-away” kids meaning they came from homes besieged by poverty, drug abuse, domestic abuse, alcoholism or even the kids of other gang members. They had either left home in an act of self-defense or had been thrown out by relatives. They were living on the streets, committing crimes, sniffing glue and doing other drugs. When Pete first started gathering the kids he offered them a warm meal and gradually got volunteers to help them with reading and math. One morning he celebrated Mass with them and at the beginning asked them to raise their hand if they believed that God loved them. What do you think happened? How many hands do you think went up? Actually, no hands went up. Pete knew he had a lot of work to do.

Over time and after befriending them and giving them a safe place to hang out, regular nutrition, getting them back into school things began to change. But, Fr. Pete always started Mass with the same question, “Who believes that God loves them? Raise your hand if you know God loves you.” Over time, it went from no hands going up to every hand going up! And, their enthusiasm grew so that eventually they would all shout “YES” when Fr. Pete asked again, “Does God love you?”

This is what is mission is: Believing that God loves you. And then sharing that love with others. And especially to those who need the love the most. People who have been told that they are not unlovable.

There are people all over the world and maybe living right next door to you that have never experienced the depth and strength of God’s love. But because we know that God loves us, we are in the perfect position to let them know how much they are loved! Remember the parable of the sheep and goats that Jesus tells us in Matthew 25? What we are being called to do as his missionary disciples, especially the hunger, thirsty, homeless, sick?

Pope Francis speaks about joy and God’s mission is nearly everything he writes and says, and when he does, he stresses that our call to living out God’s mission is to first care for those who are vulnerable, oppressed, poor, those not accepted by the prevailing culture. He says this counter-cultural way of living is the source of true joy!

I’m sure most if not all of you have experienced personally that joy is contagious! Think back to someone you knew that announced an impending marriage, or the birth of a child, or the first grandchild or any happy life event. Did you find yourself catching their joy as though it was floating through the air as they were sharing?

That joy is what Jesus was talking about in the Gospel when it records the disciples coming back after being sent ahead two-by-two to the villages to announce the Good News. Jesus admits to them before they leave that not all will go perfectly as planned and that some people may reject their message. But at the end of that reading, we hear of the disciples returning filled with joy and rejoicing! Why is that? The disciples were given an experience of God’s love from Jesus with the possibility of being able to share it with others. The love we receive from God creates a well-spring within us that overflows to others.

This is what sets Christians apart. This is the joy that caused the early Church described in the book of Acts to grow and flourish as quickly as it did in a time when there were no formal parish programs or even dedicated church buildings, no T.V., no Internet, no Facebook or Twitter. How did the Good News of God’s love spread so fast? By ordinary people gossiping the Gospel, living their lives with hope and joy in a time when life wasn’t so hopeful; caring for the widows and the orphans, sharing things in common. People noticed how they lived and they wanted a piece of it.

That joy is what Pope Francis is talking about in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. That joy is what Jesus is talking about in Scripture! We as missionary disciples of Jesus are called to be: salt and leaven, light in the darkness, hope and love in a world of turmoil and violence. We are the face of God’s love and joy in the world. That’s why we are Christians. That’s why we are here at Mass today.

So I have a challenge for you: Perhaps you’ve heard that 99% of accidents happen within 50 miles of home. Well, 99% of mission happens within 50 miles of home or even in your own home. Ground zero for mission is your school, your workplace, your neighborhood. Think of one concrete way in this next week that you can do mission. Think of how you can demonstrate God’s love and joy to another person. If you can go out and do mission in some way this coming week, you can return next Sunday filled with the same joy that the early disciples felt when they came back rejoicing! Now get out there and share the Good News!

Kris East is a Mission Promoter with the Maryknoll and Fathers