14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection by Christina Bax
In last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus called his disciples to “follow me.” In this Sunday’s passage he is sending them out on mission. I’ve always struggled with the call to mission, largely because I tend to think of missionaries in a rather limited sense. The first image that comes to mind is someone who has sold all they have, moved halfway around the world, and is working to care for the poor and promote the faith. While this is an important and valiant way to live out Jesus’s call to mission, it is a call I have never really identified with, and leaves very little room for carrying out this sense of mission in my current life circumstances. However, I have come to learn that being sent out in Jesus’s name can have a number of different expressions and is a constant task of any disciple seeking to follow Jesus.
I think the challenge and invitation in today’s Gospel is to figure out how we are called to mission in our own concrete circumstances, with our individual God-given gifts and talents. First, what is mission about? It is about being a witness to Christ through the way you live your life and the way you live in the world. But what does that look like day-to-day for those of us who have not sold all of our belongings and moved half way around the world?
I think there’s both an inward and outward piece to everyday mission (or an individual and communal sense). First, if we are going to be a witness to Christ, we need to know who Jesus is, and what he did and said. This means spending some time in prayer, and encountering Christ in the Scriptures and the Sacraments (especially in the Eucharist, in which we come face to face with Jesus, taking his body and blood into our own so we might become more like him)! Witnessing to Christ in the everyday means trying to find God in all things—to seek God’s will, to see Christ in everyone, to make choices in light of our faith. It means approaching life through the lens of faith by recognizing all things as gifts from God, and by seeking to place our hope and trust in Christ amidst life’s trials and sufferings. We act and think differently when we seek to imitate Christ and when we do we make Christ manifest in the world.
Yet there is also an outward and communal dynamic to witnessing to Christ. Christ’s greatest commandment is to love God with our whole heart and one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:37-40). We do this when we participate in charitable causes and work for justice, but also when we encounter each person in our lives with respect and compassion—from family to coworkers to political opponents to the other drivers on the street. We witness Christ’s love and values when we live in right relationship with our possessions, technology, the earth’s resources, and material goods. Our choices and actions as consumers, political participants, and employees have the potential to not only witness to Christ in our own lives, but also make Christ’s presence and saving action manifest in the world.
All together, these tasks of “everyday mission” can seem a bit overwhelming. Perhaps you can pick just one that you’d like to focus on this week, whether it’s an area of great challenge or an area to which you bring unique strengths. I’m reminded of a favorite prayer of St. Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.”
How will you be Christ’s hands and feet in the world this week?