Feb. 4 - We are called to be missionaries in the modern world

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.

The Word

In the history of Christianity, it would be hard to argue that there is a more ardent, steadfast and faith-filled preacher than St. Paul. As he embarked on his arduous and challenging missionary journeys throughout the Roman world, he defined what today we call evangelization. After his conversion on the Road to Damascus, the proclamation of the Gospel was his call, and he lived it out every moment of the rest of his life.

While Paul’s letters are primarily theological and pastoral as he addresses issues and questions that have arisen in the various churches that he established, he offers insight into himself on various occasions. As his letters to the Corinthians constitute a significant part of the body of his work, we can glean some understanding of Paul and his mission.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that he tried to become like one of them, that he bore their struggles while he lived with them, and that is primary purpose among them was the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul proclaims the Gospel, not as a professional prophet or apostle, but by the very conviction of the call that he had received.

The Gospel passage takes us to the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He has left the synagogue and goes to the house of Peter where the crowds press him until late in the evening. He healed many who were ill, and he expelled many demons.

Then, after a long night, Jesus chooses to leave Capernaum and move on to other towns to proclaim the Gospel. Unlike the other preachers and rabbis of his time, who settled into communities and were a steady presence in the synagogue precincts, Jesus was an itinerant rabbi. He moved from village to village, broadening his audience while inaugurating the Kingdom of God in their midst.

The style of Jesus’ ministry – that of an itinerant preacher – becomes the model for the apostles. Paul travels as extensively as he does because Jesus traveled from village to village.

Christianity, then, becomes a religion of the marketplace. The call to spread the Gospel has been with the missionary activity of the Church from the very beginning, and remains with us today.

Each of us are called to be missionaries in our own marketplace. While there are those who still respond to the call to leave our homelands to serve the Gospel in distant places, much of the luster of that seems to have waned over the past several decades. This is an unfortunate truth as the Gospel needs to be proclaimed anew in every place and at every time. Nonetheless, each of us, in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and even within our own families, carries the responsibility to bear witness to the Gospel through the integrity of our lives and with the clarity of our speaking.

What many of us seem to lack is the general enthusiasm for being a missionary. We feel ill-prepared to speak too boldly as the challenges of the world and the pushback from others may be overwhelming or too confrontational.

Our own struggle can, however, work to our advantage and the proclamation of the Gospel. By reading and attending faith formation sessions, through a developed and faithful prayer life, and regular participation in the Sacraments, we can gain the strength and boldness we need to bear witness to the faith as missionary disciples.

We are not promised that it will be easy. What the Lord does promise us is the reward for our labors.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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In the history of Christianity, it would be hard to argue that there is a more ardent, steadfast and faith-filled preacher than St. Paul. As he embarked on his arduous and challenging missionary journeys throughout the Roman world, he defined what today we call evangelization. After his conversion on the Road to Damascus, the proclamation of the Gospel was his call, and he lived it out every moment of the rest of his life.

While Paul’s letters are primarily theological and pastoral as he addresses issues and questions that have arisen in the various churches that he established, he offers insight into himself on various occasions. As his letters to the Corinthians constitute a significant part of the body of his work, we can glean some understanding of Paul and his mission.

Paul reminds the Corinthians that he tried to become like one of them, that he bore their struggles while he lived with them, and that is primary purpose among them was the proclamation of the Gospel. Paul proclaims the Gospel, not as a professional prophet or apostle, but by the very conviction of the call that he had received.

The Gospel passage takes us to the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He has left the synagogue and goes to the house of Peter where the crowds press him until late in the evening. He healed many who were ill, and he expelled many demons.

Then, after a long night, Jesus chooses to leave Capernaum and move on to other towns to proclaim the Gospel. Unlike the other preachers and rabbis of his time, who settled into communities and were a steady presence in the synagogue precincts, Jesus was an itinerant rabbi. He moved from village to village, broadening his audience while inaugurating the Kingdom of God in their midst.

The style of Jesus’ ministry – that of an itinerant preacher – becomes the model for the apostles. Paul travels as extensively as he does because Jesus traveled from village to village.

Christianity, then, becomes a religion of the marketplace. The call to spread the Gospel has been with the missionary activity of the Church from the very beginning, and remains with us today.

Each of us are called to be missionaries in our own marketplace. While there are those who still respond to the call to leave our homelands to serve the Gospel in distant places, much of the luster of that seems to have waned over the past several decades. This is an unfortunate truth as the Gospel needs to be proclaimed anew in every place and at every time. Nonetheless, each of us, in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and even within our own families, carries the responsibility to bear witness to the Gospel through the integrity of our lives and with the clarity of our speaking.

What many of us seem to lack is the general enthusiasm for being a missionary. We feel ill-prepared to speak too boldly as the challenges of the world and the pushback from others may be overwhelming or too confrontational.

Our own struggle can, however, work to our advantage and the proclamation of the Gospel. By reading and attending faith formation sessions, through a developed and faithful prayer life, and regular participation in the Sacraments, we can gain the strength and boldness we need to bear witness to the faith as missionary disciples.

We are not promised that it will be easy. What the Lord does promise us is the reward for our labors.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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