The main missionary event of course is you, and most significantly us together: the church, the Body of Christ living here and now in the streets of our town, responding to the signs of the times, and the joys and sorrows of our neighbours, day in and day out.
Mission precedes church because it is God’s mission made confrontingly visible in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s why we say the mission has a church. It’s not the Church’s mission, and yet the whole point and imperative of the Church is to pursue that mission with the same passion and conviction of Jesus, always in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Our conversations reveal our understanding. Our conversations about mission often turn immediately to the great work of organisations and agencies like CatholicCare Social Services, St Vincent de Paul Society and Stella Maris, or to those who go to ‘the missions.’
Amazing as these agencies and people are, they are not the main missionary event. The main agents of God’s mission here and now on the streets of Newcastle, the Hunter and the Manning are you and me, and as already indicated, us together as church.
Every time you reveal the love of God in simple loving acts of kindness, gratitude, generosity, patience, compassion and humility, and the huge loving acts of forgiveness, justice and standing in God’s truth, you are pursuing the mission of God. We are our own best kept secret, even from ourselves. Your story is the best story we have to tell. God’s mission has many faces and an indispensable one is yours!
I have no doubt that the main missionary event in this local church of Maitland-Newcastle is extraordinarily alive and active. However, our conversations suggest that our appreciation of this truth is not at the forefront of our awareness and understanding. Why, I wonder?
The mission imperative is fundamental. It is an expression of faith which emerges from encounter with Christ. We proclaim and celebrate the mystery of God in Christ most poignantly in the liturgy. There we encounter the dying-rising mystery of Christ. There we learn the steps of self-emptying love, so we know how to be missionary in the ordinary events and encounters of our everyday lives. This is why the Church says that it is from the liturgy that we put on the true Christian spirit and the real nature of the Church. It is in the liturgical posture of encounter: of listening and responding, celebrating and offering ourselves to be changed through, with, and in Christ, that we become living words of God, sacramental people, missionary disciples.
The liturgy ends with a blessing and dismissal:
Go forth the Mass is ended.
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
Go in peace, glorifying the Lord with your life.
Go in peace
to which we respond … Thanks be to God.
Thanks be to God for sending us out to announce the Gospel! How lucky are we to be so loved and trusted with nothing less than God’s mission for the life of the world! We are blessed for mission.
What can we do to sharpen and deepen our personal and communal awareness that we are sent from the liturgy as missionary disciples and a missionary community, an essential face of this church of Maitland-Newcastle’s engagement in the mission of God?
Over long years I have learnt that my full conscious and active participation in both the liturgy and God’s mission is dependent on more than my participation in the liturgy. It takes me the whole week to reflect on the meaning and implication of what Christ reveals in the liturgy as a whole, and the readings in particular.
We call this process Mystagogical Reflection because it focuses our attention on our encounter with the mystery of Christ in the liturgy, and on what Christ reveals there. It invites us to explore the meaning of this revelation through the living tradition of our faith community. It invites us to connect this meaning to life and mission now, and to hear God’s perpetual invitation to personal and communal conversion. Usually, I arrive at Saturday afternoon feeling like there is still more for me to receive from the previous Sunday’s liturgy. What a testimony to the rich feast our liturgy is.
Theologically, we say the liturgy, particularly eucharist, makes the Church. Liturgy makes the Church for mission. It makes you, me and all of us together for mission. We gather to be sent. And what a Spirit-filled powerhouse we are.
What or who do you think about when we talk about mission? Do you think about yourself? Your family? Your friends and colleagues? Your community? Would you tell your story as a story of mission? How do we raise our awareness of ourselves and each other as part of the essential face of God’s mission here and now? I recommend Mystagogical Reflection.
To learn more about Mystagogical Reflection and how to participate during November and Advent please read this Liturgy Matters.
As I continue to reflect on the gospel from last Sunday (Mk 12:38-44), I know there is a scribe lurking in me looking for opportunities to get out. But what I want, with all my heart, is to set free the ’poor widow’ that is also within. My journey of Mystagogical Reflection this week has a long way to go. I live in hope! God’s mission is in need of the poor widow inside us all.