Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time – Mt 10:7-15
Today’s Gospel continues where yesterday’s left off: Jesus is sending His disciples out to begin the work of proclaiming the Good News. In Redemptoris Missio, Pope Saint John Paul the Second calls this text from Matthew 10, Christ’s “missionary discourse,” and it is here, he says, that Jesus “teaches them the paths of mission [the way to evangelize]: poverty, meekness, acceptance of suffering and persecution, the desire for justice and peace, charity – in other words, the Beatitudes, lived out in the apostolic life” (91). What the Pope is saying, then, is that Jesus is telling His disciples that they need to be saints; to really bring the Good News to others, to really give a convincing testimony, the missionary must be a saint; he must be holy. In fact, the title of this section in his encyclical is “The true missionary is a saint.”
As missionaries (and remember that all Christians are missionaries), we can’t give what we don’t have: if we weren’t not holy, or not living out the truths that we profess, we won’t give a convincing witness. If we are holy, though, we give a great testimony to the truth of our faith.
We can consider just three things to see how we are advancing on the way to holiness: first, our examination of conscience, second, our obedience, and thirdly, our life of prayer. So the examination of conscience, obedience, and prayer.
The first, the examination of conscience, is the way we make sure that we’re still moving forward on the path to holiness. We pick something we need to work against, and we keep working, and checking ourselves every day to see if we’re improving and, if we’re not, to see why. The particular examination is the motor for our spiritual lives; if we don’t do it, or don’t take the time to do it well, we’ll never get anywhere. We can ask ourselves: how well are we practicing the daily examination of conscience?
Secondly, we need to be obedient, just as Christ “became obedient unto death.” Our world praises freedom, or what it thinks is freedom. We’re told to do what we want, to be our own bosses, and not to listen to others. However, this is pure foolishness; we need to follow Christ, and Christ wants us to follow Him, since He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The only way to be sure if we’re on the right path is to talk honestly and openly to our superiors and our spiritual directors, since they are the people God has put into our lives to guide us. We can ask ourselves: do we really give spiritual direction the importance it needs? Are we really open and honest? Do we obey out of love for God, or for some other reason?
Lastly, we can think of our life of prayer. This point is so important that the Pope himself mentions it, as he writes: “The missionary must be a ‘contemplative in action.’ He finds answers to problems in the light of God’s word and in personal and community prayer. My contact with representatives of the non-Christian spiritual traditions, particularly those of Asia, has confirmed me in the view that the future of mission depends to a great extent on contemplation. Unless the missionary is a contemplative he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way.” Unless we give time to Christ in prayer and adoration, we won’t know Him, and if we don’t know Him, we won’t be able to proclaim Him well. We can ask ourselves: do we really take the time to prepare our meditations? Do we try our best to pray without ceasing? If not, what keeps us from really benefitting from our time of prayer?
There have been no exceptions to this rule: the true missionary is a saint. This is possible even in the midst of difficult conditions and challenging situations. Saint Jean de Brebeuf, one of the North American Martyrs, wrote to his superior general to say that, in spite of all the many difficulties, “all who are here are zealously striving towards perfection.” When this happens, everything else falls into place, and we come to share God’s vision of the world and of the salvation of souls. It was this holiness that enabled that same martyr saint to tell his superior, after baptizing a dying baby, “For this one single occasion I would travel all the way from France; I would cross the great ocean to win one little soul for Our Lord!” One soul was worth all the trouble, because it was a soul Christ died for.
Through the intercession of Mary, Star of Evangelization, and all the great missionary saints, let us ask for the grace to be holy missionaries who offer a convincing witness of the Gospel and thus lead others to Christ.