Living the Mystery of Christ, “the One who was sent”
An essential characteristic of missionary spirituality is intimate communion with Christ. We cannot understand or carry out the mission unless we refer it to Christ as the one who was sent to evangelize. St. Paul describes Christ’s attitude: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of (human beings). And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:5-8).
Seems like we’ve just read and heard this at Mass recently. Communion with Jesus is one way of putting it. I usually refer to it as imitation of the Lord. With respect to Saint Paul, it’s about more than having the mind of Christ. It’s about having the walk, the gaze, the listening, the labor, the gesture, and everything our flawed person can muster. Imitation means Matthew 5:10-12–basic preaching from the Lord–and the cross.
The mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption is thus described as a total self-emptying which leads Christ to experience fully the human condition and to accept totally the Father’s plan. This is an emptying of self which is permeated by love and expresses love. The mission follows this same path and leads to the foot of the cross.
Vatican II is cited:
The missionary is required to “renounce himself and everything that up to this point he considered as his own, and to make himself everything to everyone.”(Ad Gentes 24)
It’s a curious thing: by overcoming attachment, even those who renounce family for the Reign of God, we find we can become a sister or brother to any and all we meet:
This he does by a poverty which sets him free for the Gospel, overcoming attachment to the people and things about him, so that he may become a brother to those to whom he is sent and thus bring them Christ the Savior. This is the goal of missionary spirituality: “To the weak I became weak…; I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel…” (1 Cor 9:22-23).
Institutions are sometimes fearful of becoming all things to all people. But it’s an apostolic truth that we must be so.
It is precisely because he is “sent” that the missionary experiences the consoling presence of Christ, who is with him at every moment of life – “Do not be afraid…for I am with you” (Acts 18:9-10) – and who awaits him in the heart of every person.
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