“HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE MOUNTAINS, ARE THE FEET OF THE MESSENGER ANNOUNCING PEACE, OF THE MESSENGER OF GOOD NEWS, WHO PROCLAIMS SALVATION…”
First Reading: Acts 16:11-15
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 149:1-6,9
Gospel Reading: John 15:26-16:4
Amidst the uncertainties, rejection, prejudice, cultural differences and stresses, foreignness, and other challenges that might come with being a missionary, there exist many consolations, joys, blessings, and rewards. As a missionary, I can say that my greatest joy comes from the certainty of being continually loved and inspired by God who called me to work “ad extra.” Other joys that I’ve experienced are hospitality, getting positive feedback and encouragements (which never stops coming) from the people of God in relation to the exercise of the ministry, getting to know myself better, learning how to live, thrive, and find joy in the situations around me. Indeed, “how beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of Good News, who proclaims salvation…” (Is. 52:7)
In the first reading, we hear of the experience of Paul’s “Missio ad extra” after the Macedonian vision that begged him: “Come across to Macedonia and help us.” (Acts. 16:9). This was the first time the gospel was preached in what we would call today the continent of Europe. It was a very significant moment in the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem. According to our reading, a group of women was among the first to hear Paul’s preaching of the gospel on the European mainland, and one of them, a woman called Lydia, a dealer in expensive purple cloth. This woman, not only adhered to the words of Paul and his companions but after receiving baptism, she welcomed them into her home. In other words, having received the gift of the gospel from Paul, she immediately offered him a gift in return – hospitality. Indeed, “how beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of the messenger announcing peace, of the messenger of Good News, who proclaims salvation…” (Is. 52:7)
Here, we see the joys of mission (as highlighted earlier) experienced by St. Paul and his companions. The Holy Spirit empowered Paul to witness in Philippi, fulfilling the promise of Christ as we hear in today’s Gospel: “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness, and you too will be witnesses. Thus, when we allow the Spirit to witness through us, we too will receive the gospel back from others in one shape or form.
Inasmuch as the missionary enterprise is full of temptations, culture shock, struggles, challenges, and other uncertainties, etc., it is also a time to be living witnesses to the Gospel by collaborating with the grace of the Holy Spirit. As Christ was misunderstood, persecuted, and even killed, so will missionaries experience misunderstandings, rejections, persecutions, and even death. Nevertheless, the missionary is called to bear witness in the fullest sense in the face of all these. He is called to be a “martyr”. The reality of Christ is so decisive for humanity and, at the same time, so foreign to the common way of thinking, that everyone who aligns with Christ is almost inevitably marginalized and, at times, is even eliminated. The history of Christian martyrs clearly shows this reality.
Interestingly, this missionary call is applied to every baptized. “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples” cf. Mt28:19 (Evangelii Gaudium #120). Therefore, today, the Church needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the “Macedonian call” to either work “ad intra” or leave their home, family, country, language, and local Church, and to be sent forth to the nations (ad gentes – ad extra), to a world not yet transformed by the Gospel and Sacraments of Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, we must endure the challenges with patience. Trials serve to advance us in virtue, in order to be continually sanctified. Our Lord’s promises will sustain us as well. The Advocate will strengthen and enlighten us that our ‘faith may not be shaken’ (as Jesus said in today’s gospel reading) in embracing the “Macedonian Call.” It is when we persevere till the end, that our “missionary feet” would be eternally beautified on the “heavenly mountains.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com