|By Fr. Brendan McGuire
Pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, San Jose and Vicar General for special projects, Diocese of San Jose. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Are All Missionaries
Sunday, May 28, 2016
The day that Pope Francis was elected Pope three years ago, he wrote a very brief letter to his fellow Bishops in Argentina since they were ready to gather for their National Bishops Assembly:
“I am sending you these few lines of greeting and please excuse myself from being able to attend your gathering. I have taken a new recent appointment…we need all to be missionaries in our world. We must come out of ourselves; to go to all the existential peripheries and grow in boldness …a church that does not go out of itself sooner or later will become sick in its own stifling, anemic atmosphere of its own enclosure. It is true that in a church that goes out something can happen like a man who goes out into the street might get involved in an accident. Yes. That is true. But I would much rather a church that is injured than sick.”
Strong words from a newly-appointed Pope but ones that he has truly lived by over these last years. It is all about mission; we are called to be missionaries. What does paradigmatic and programmatic mission mean? Programmatic means that we must set our heart on it and to do things by getting organized into programs that make sense. A mission trip to Nicaragua, Mexico or downtown San Jose is programmatic mission, and we have many successful programs.
The paradigmatic mission is a different type. It means that we need to be of the same mind in our own lives. In other words, we must find it in our own hearts to always go where no one else is willing to go. Pope Francis calls it “existential peripheries”– the outskirts of society or family.
It is not enough for us to only be church to each other. The Pope said that is the basic level of being church. We are called to be church with a mission. True disciples go forth from the table out to the peripheries of our families and our extended families and be Christian to them; not to sell them the gospel; not to scold them about why they are out on the periphery of society but to do exactly what Jesus said today, which is to minister to them where they are now.
We go forward not only as a community of missionaries, but to be individual missionaries in our own lives; in the periphery of our own family; to reach out to that one family member which no one else talks to. To reach out to that one person who has offended us.
That is the mandate of the Gospel; to have compassion, pity and to bring healing. In today’s reading and in the Gospel, Jesus and the Prophet Elijah reached out to the widow. The widow was considered scorned; on the periphery. The scriptures and the Gospels of Jesus have set forth an example for us. We must be missionaries to the existential peripheries of our society. That is who we are; we are Catholic missionaries in the name of Jesus.