Raising Consciousness of God's Love
I identify not only as a disciple, but as a missionary disciple, a term that on its face is contrary to the current, not unwarranted wariness of the exertion of one set of beliefs on a diversely populated world. But it is this very notion of missionary discipleship that, at least for Christian people, offers a much-needed response to the frictions inherent within a rapidly changing, globalized society. A missioner, conscious of having experienced something of God’s love, is sent forth as an agent of change in the world. Simply put, our role is to participate in raising consciousness of that love, so that it might disrupt and transform reality towards it. This mission in essence has remained constant throughout the history of God’s relationship with creation. In this and every age, however, we humans must continually reassess how we participate in the mission, in response to God’s love unfolding in our midst.
We remain, for instance, agents of conversion, but conversion we come to understand is not a “convincing” or winning to a side, an adherence to a system of precepts and traditions. Instead, conversion is a change, impossible to plan or control, that draws people closer to God, in ways often beyond our understanding. Christians experience this conversion in Christ, as both the actual Incarnation of God and as the paradigm for understanding and action. We affirm and proclaim this, even invite others to experience it, but hold this belief simultaneously with the acknowledgment that God transcends our own experience of God. God’s love operates in relationship with individuals, cultures, and contexts in ways as diverse and varied as creation itself. God drew me in through the Catholic Church, but this is also the context in which I was formed - just as my Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu neighbors as a child all had their own contexts for experiencing God. Each being on earth seeks God’s love, and God responds according to our individual gifts, limitations, and experiences.
Moreover, conversion is not something we enact on or even ignite in the world, but something that we participate in with God and others. The missioner is sent forth to the world not only to change it, but to be changed, again and again, through new and deeper encounters with others, self, and all creation. Raising consciousness of God’s love in the world necessitates allowing and inviting the world to constantly and repeatedly raise it in ourselves. Participating in this mission, then, brings with it a level of uncertainty and fear: it is not a mission of having all the answers, it is not a mission of control and order. But the one certainty inherent to it, that we are both embraced and propelled by the love of God in Christ, provides the strength and courage to be agents of conversion in this way.
We do so not out of anxiety or a need to justify ourselves to a skeptical world, but out of appreciation for human dependence on one another and all creation, and conviction in the need for God’s love to reshape us and the world around us in new, unfolding, and uncertain ways. We live in times which cry desperately for witnesses to this message, who strive to offer glimpses - though broken and incomplete - of the world as God imagines and wishes it for us.
Kevin Foy is a minister of the Maryknoll Society's US Mission Education Apostolate