Missionaries in Our Families
( appeared in The Examiner Vol 168 No 43 Oct 28 to Nov 03 2017)
Fr.M.A.Leo Anand SJ
On this mission Sunday we gratefully think of all those self-transcended persons-starting from St. Thomas the Apostle, who toiled for our faith from far of countries without whom we wouldn’t have known Christ . And now the time has come when we are sending out missionaries to countries which once up on a time had sent missionaries to our land. We also feel that we need to do more in terms of evangelization in our own context; not in terms of religious conversion but spreading the fragrance of the Gospel- that is to live and witness the kingdom values. The Church is missionary by nature and Pope Francis in his message on the world mission day underlines the mission at the heart of the Christian Faith. To support mission is not only sharing our material wealth but the wealth of the gospel itself which has influenced and nourished us. Jesus proclaimed the good news as he began his public ministry. The same message of Jesus is proclaimed in and through our lives in terms of faith taking its concrete actions in our life situations. It all starts from a personal witnessing to the gospel. We always think that being a mission is to evangelize someone else. Personal transformation and witnessing is the first step to be a missionary. The world today teaches us to be more self-centred. Jesus always went about doing good to others. To transcend oneself is the primary step to be a missionary in our personal lives.
Secondly, people think and has been so, that to become a missionary means to become a priest or a religious and to be sent to a foreign land. What about being a missionary in a family? There is enough and more space in the domestic church- the family, to be evangelised by the witness of its own members. In fact, priests and religious come from families, they receive the call when they are in the families and they respond to it as members of a family. Being a part of a Christian family invites us to respond to imitate Jesus who grew up in a family, to be like Mary who surrendered herself to the plan of God and lived in a family. In today’s context, were there are more threats to the family life it is necessary that each one in a family learns to become a missionary in his or her own family.
In the early church to be a witness to the gospel means to become a martyr. Later religious life and apostolic spiritualities has given shape to the mode of evangelization. These always presupposed personal conversion and belief in the gospel before proclaiming it. To be a missionary is a call to everyone to live out the faith genuinely according to his or her own state of life. To highlight the need of the hour, we need missionaries in our own families who will be visible and tangible examples of faith, hope and love, from whom we can learn the value of sacrifice, from whom we could learn how to forgive when the secular society is busy with imparting hatred, division and propagating a culture of death. It is a call to live out our Christian vocation within our realms of lives whether be it families, consecrated life or in our society at large. Even a toddler is a missionary who smiles and befriends a stranger and becomes a witness of happiness. A school going child becomes a missionary in learning the basic lessons of faith from the parents. A teenager is a missionary who now learns to take responsibility of one’s own faith. A youth is a missionary who on seeing the life situations can take a stand for Christ. Parents are missionaries who can witness more tangibly to their children in terms of faith, love and sacrifice. Adults and Grandparents become an enduring missionary who are a sign of hope, patience and accomplishment. Celibates becomes a missionary by the undivided heart with which they are bonded to the Lord and always available for his work. Am I aware of the mission entrusted to me? Our families are the mission land which needs more of evangelization from each of us. Our roles denote a purpose for which we are sent forth in to our own families. When we begin to realize our faith responsibilities we become apostles and missionaries, personally and collectively starting our mission within ourselves, within our families and spreading our parishes and communities, our larger societies and localities with peace and joy of the gospel. It is to realize and remind ourselves of this call we celebrate the mission Sunday. It is not by preaching in vast geography and travel that we become missionaries but by witnessing personally.