Missioning Disciples Globally
If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, #48
In Stage One, the New Evangelization focuses on awakening the faith of the already baptized, giving both opportunities to enkindle hearts with the flame of faith, and opportunities to live more fully into the baptism the faithful have received. It is a year of hearts both burning in love for Christ and breaking for the suffering of others. It is a year to focus on Christ’s Sacred Heart,[ii] loving all while also loving individually. Baptism created kinship relationships, and those kinship relationships were then the focus of years two and three.
In Stage Two, the pastoral plan for the New Evangelization turns to the domestic church, the role of marriage and family as signs of Christ’s loving, forgiving presence. Missionary discipleship depends on the daily nurturing and challenge of living life in Christ at home. This apprenticeship in the domestic church builds the capacity for agape love, and for living that love through justice and mercy. It lays the foundation for the deep concern for the little ones, the anawim, as they are called in the Scriptures, who are close to Christ’s heart. “I came to throw fire upon the earth, and what is my desire? Oh that it were even now kindled!”[i] Jesus’ vision stretches across all the earth, and so in this final year, the focus is on sending forth disciples globally. This comes as it does, as the last focus area for the diocesan pastoral plan for the New Evangelization, because it is the fruit of the work that has gone before it. A brief summary of each of the prior years will lay the foundation for the focus of Year Five: the global mission.
Stage Three extends the locus of the New Evangelization to the attitudes and actions of the parish. For disciples to continue to mature, they must have apprentice opportunities outside those provided by the domestic church. Parishes are the places committed to providing the invitation to and preparation for missionary discipleship. They are the first training ground, providing opportunities to practice love of neighbor across boundaries and to reflect on how Christ is alive now. If this difficult work of adjusting long-held and perhaps dearly-held practices is not done, it will not be possible to birth disciples equipped for a global mission.
Stage Four invites ever-growing disciples to extend compassion and justice to those they encounter outside of their homes and parishes. Now maturing members of the Body of Christ are equipped to speak of the source of their hope, and the joyful meaning of life in Christ. Now maturing disciples invite others to “come and see” and are equipped to enter into respectful dialogue with those who believe differently.
Each of these movements precedes the focus of Stage Five: the sending forth of maturing missionary disciples across even greater boundaries and barriers. This part of the New Evangelization presumes that the following beliefs and practices have taken root:
- An ever-deepening personal relationship with Jesus Christ that results in a call to join Christ in crossing the boundaries of culture, nation, and politics, to live out His merciful care for the poor;
- An appropriation of the effects of baptism, especially the kinship with all other baptized people across the world, and the responsibility to be in a relationship to them through the Body of Christ, the Church;
- A sense of being called to embrace more concretely the marks of the Church as one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic;
- A call from God to go out to all the world to proclaim the Good News in word and deed;
- An embrace of Catholic Social Teaching and jubilee justice, with a passion for the dignity of all God’s beloved creation, especially humankind and a clear vision that God has provided enough for all of humanity to live in dignity across the globe;
Stage Five seeks to focus on Christ’s love for all the world, Christ’s redemption of all of creation, and Christ’s call to set the world ablaze with His love. It is characterized by reaching across geopolitical and national divides, embracing cultures different from the dominant culture from which the disciple comes, and using the power of modern technology to build God’s kingdom of mercy and compassion. This is where mature disciples seek to become advocates for various populations: refugees, immigrants, the unborn, the differently abled, victims of human trafficking and the sex trade, orphans, and those for whom famine has meant certain starvation, disease, and early death. Jesus said He came to set captives free [iii] and Stage Five seeks to focus on the various ways mature disciples engage this work, far and wide. A sense of the urgency of this work for the Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven and as a measure of eternal judgment.
Stage Five also seeks to capture the power of the wired world, the Internet and social media. These are tools of the New Evangelization, tools that make possible information that increases awareness, images that soften and enlarge the heart, and communication that can help build relationships. The fruit of Stage Five: the earth ablaze with the love of Christ, the poor being cared for with Jesus’ compassion, and God’s Kingdom breaking forth in joy, experienced in and through the work of the parishes of the Diocese of Richmond. How shall we begin?
[i] Luke 12:49 Weymouth New Testament. Accessed from BibleHub
[ii] New Advent online Accessed 9-11-13.
[iii] Luke 4:18