The Roles of Lay Missionaries

07-10-2021Weekly ReflectionFr. James Aboyi, V.C.

In our first reading today, Amos told Amaziah that he is not a prophet but an ordinary man sent by God to preach the truth to the people. In other words, he considered himself as a lay person sent to preach the word of God. We often think of missionaries as priests and religious sisters who are sent to faraway countries. In a way, that is true. However, the 2nd Vatican Council document on the Missionary Life of the Church (Ad Gentes) states that “the Church is missionary by nature.” This means that we are all missionaries by virtue of our Baptism.

In our first reading today, Amos told Amaziah that he is not a prophet but an ordinary man sent by God to preach the truth to the people. In other words, he considered himself as a lay person sent to preach the word of God. We often think of missionaries as priests and religious sisters who are sent to faraway countries. In a way, that is true. However, the 2nd Vatican Council document on the Missionary Life of the Church (Ad Gentes) states that “the Church is missionary by nature.” This means that we are all missionaries by virtue of our Baptism.

In the Gospel today, Jesus sent out his disciples with a set of very tough instructions. He told them to travel light, physically and spiritually. He says: “Do not take anything with you, no money bag, no second sandals…” if you translate the instruction to our own time, it may say, “do not take any credit cards, no cell phone, no ipad,” etc. He, however, gave them a big gift to present to the people they visit: the power to heal and to cast out demons.

We may ask, “Why did Jesus tell his disciples not to take anything with them, but to beg for everything?” He wanted them to learn to rely on God and the generosity of the people they were sent to serve rather than relying on themselves. When we are sent as missionaries, we must leave behind the pride of relying on our own abilities, personal security, and even to leave behind the feeling of unworthiness. The missionary life is not really about us. It is about God and his people. Therefore, we are not to take any credit for our ministries, we are only instruments of God sent to heal the broken world. We are like a vehicle that carries the owner to different places and receives no reward.

From the time of Jesus Christ to our own time, the Church has adopted different missionary strategies to meet the needs of the time. One of the biggest growing needs of our time is how to reach out to the increasing number of “dropped out” Catholics in our communities. The last three Popes have all emphasized the importance of the “New Evangelization.” This is generally aimed at reaching out to fellow Christians who have stopped practicing their faith. The Church recognizes the indispensable role of the lay people in evangelization. While ordained ministers are called to primarily lead the community during liturgical services, lay people are called to lead the Church in bringing the light of Christ to their neighborhood, their places of work and to society. This is not necessarily about converting everyone into the Catholic Church, but mostly about letting the light of Christ in us transform the world around us. Parents are called to bring the light of Christ to their families. Catholic politicians are called to transform the political world. Catholic lawyers are called to transform the legal system. Catholic teachers are called to bring the light of Christ to their students. Everyone is called to bring the light of Christ to their vocation.

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