I once heard a pastor encourage all parishioners to get involved in a ministry. Not the first step, I think. Not at all. We are believers first; we have an initial response to the invitation to faith. From there, we grow into being disciples. And our mission is no less than the proclamation of the Gospel.
Don’t be put off by the adjective “missionary.” Not all are called to the missionary apostolate as it has been traditionally understood in Catholicism. It is actually something wider and deeper, if that makes you tremble. Our mission is the proclamation of Christ. Just that. Just because of our baptism. And just by being the best possible baptized person in the context of our life, work, play, etc.. The Aparecida bishops explain it carefully:
134. As disciples and missionaries, we are called to intensify our response of faith and to proclaim that Christ has redeemed all the sins and evils of humankind,
- All the harshness of the paradox can be heard in Jesus’ seemingly desperate cry of pain on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not the cry of anguish of a man without hope, but the prayer of the Son who offers his life to the Father in love, for the salvation of all.(NMI 25-26)
135. Responding to his call requires entering into the dynamic of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:29-37), who gives us the imperative of becoming neighbors, especially to those who suffer, and bringing about a society where no one is excluded, following the practice of Jesus who eats with publicans and sinners (cf. Lk 5:29-32), who welcomes the little ones and children (cf. Mk 10:13-16), who heals lepers (cf. Mk 1:40-45), who forgives and frees the sinful woman (cf. Lk 7:36-49; Jn 8:1-11), and who talks with the Samaritan woman (cf. Jn 4:1-26).
Timely teaching for us norteamericanos, wouldn’t you say?
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.