It is appropriate that, on the eve of the Feast of St Thérèse (Patroness of Missions), the readings this Sunday reflect on the theme of mission. In the Gospel account from St Mark, we hear how John questions Jesus about the man who was driving out demons in his name. Jesus reacts:
‘You must not stop him; no one who works a miracle in my name could soon afterwards speak evil of me’
and says firmly that whoever is not against him is for him. There is a parallel here with the first reading from the Book of Numbers, where Moses reacts hastily to Joshua and rebukes him when told of the two elders who were also prophesying
‘If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all’.
In the time of Jesus, prophets were those who spoke out in God’s name, showing the people the way to the Lord. Missionaries are modern day prophets, giving witness to God by their word and example. Jesus set out the criteria for being a true missionary. Just as he placed himself on the side of the weak and vulnerable, the missionary is invited to do likewise – welcoming ‘the little ones’ and serving them. It is the small and often invisible things we do for others which distinguish us as missionaries of Christ. Living our faith in the spirit of Jesus is about putting others and their needs first:
‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, then in truth I tell you, he will most certainly not lose his reward”.
The missionary reaches out in service of others. Our mission is to love, a journey that begins in our own hearts. We become missionaries when, having experienced God’s love, revealed in the life and words of Jesus, we sense a duty to share this gift of faith with others. Here we look to the example of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. Although she never actually went on mission herself – spending most of her life in the enclosed Carmelite convent – she had a special love of the missions. Through her life of prayer and service to God, she interceded in total confidence and love for the multitude of those who do not know Christ, bringing them to him.
October is mission month. We remember in prayer and thank God for our missionaries and for the people among whom they work. We remember that it is through the little things that we can build the kingdom of God. As Pope Benedict XVI says in his message for Mission Sunday
‘Faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared. It is a talent received so that it may bear fruit. It is a light that must never be hidden’.
(P M 2012)