Persistent Faith for the Mission
“Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
Today is quite a unique Sunday because it is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C), and it also happens to be the 2019 World Mission Sunday.
As such, even though we shall reflect on the readings in the bulletin, our reflection shall be within the context of our celebration of the World Mission Sunday. Coincidentally, in our second reading today, St. Paul writing to Timothy succinctly summarizes the whole message of the World Mission Sunday when he says we must preach the word of God in season and out of season.
1. To Believe is to Trust and Obey God.
Last Sunday, from the example of Naaman and the Ten Lepers who were cured by Jesus, we learnt that Faith demands total trust and obedience to God’s instructions. It is not enough to say “I believe” if like ten lepers I refuse to go and show myself to the priest. Naaman complained about Elisha’s instruction to bathe in the Jordan river but thanks to the little maid who spoke sense into him.
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, we are called to act like that little maid speaking sense to those who complain about the difficulty of keeping God’s commandments and those who have buried their heads in sin. When we speak about the missions, we tend to think of ordained priests and religious travelling to distant places to preach but in truth, all of us, so long as we interact with other human beings daily are called to preach. Mark tells us that obedience to this universal call of Jesus made great miracles happen because “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mark 16:15-20). Naaman’s cure is an example of what we can do for people when we spread the word of God.
2. To Believe is to Never Give Up on God.
Today, we are shown another dimension of Faith from the parable of the widow and the unjust judge: PERSISTENCE. Jesus ends this parable by saying: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you. He will vindicate them speedily.” (Luke 18:7-8).
Faith demands obedience to God; it also demands persistence; the deliberate refusal to give up on God. As Luke says, Jesus taught this parable “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1). There are times we pray so hard only to hear a very loud “No” from God. Instead of what we asked for, we see the very opposite. Jesus is teaching us today that even when we get a “No” we should still go back and ask for the same thing and continue asking until we hear a “Yes.” Do not lose heart on God.
We can apply this lesson to the mission. Just as faith demands persistent asking, converting souls for Christ demands persistent evangelization. Marketers understand this principle very well. They know that they are most likely to get a “No” after the first few encounters with a client, but they never stop talking to the client. They keep asking until the client changes his/her mind and offers to give their product or company a test. Too often, the client becomes hooked for life. If we give up on preaching to people, we lose them forever. St. Paul asks: “How are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent? … How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” (Romans 10:13-14).
3. To Believe is to Keep the Hand of Prayer Raised.
Our first reading today from the book of Exodus reminds us of the battle of Israel against Amalek at Rephidim. Like other nations that tried to hinder the Israelites on their way to possess the Promised Land, the Amalekites proved very tough and stubborn. No matter how experienced and strong the Israelite soldiers were, the Amalekites seemed unsurmountable. However, so long as the hand of Moses remained raised in prayer, victory was sure for Israel. This teaches us the importance of consistent prayer.
Always remember that your success is neither by your power, nor your intelligence, your money nor connection, but by the GRACE OF GOD. The fact that things are going smoothly for you does not mean you should relax your prayer life. It always surprises me that people are willing to do all-night-prayer asking for a visa, the fruit of the womb, job opportunity etc. but no one does all-night-prayer of thanksgiving to God. We tend to drop our hands when our prayers are granted, we stop coming to church, we sink into immorality, we throw caution to the wind and this is when the Amalekites in our lives begin to pick up strength again. When the Israelites discovered what was happening, they had to support Moses’ hand permanently for the rest of the day. Prayer demands persistence but it also requires consistency. Never stop praying.
As people sent on the mission, we are to apply the principle of persistence in preaching to souls, but we must add another element: consistent prayers for the conversion of hardened hearts (the Amalekite type). The truth is that no matter how eloquent and convincing we are, without the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of men and women, our preaching will be fruitless. Secondly, we never know what we are going to face when we set out to preach. Satan recognizes prayer warriors. When the disciples could not cast out a demon, they shamefully asked Jesus why they got disgraced. In response, Jesus said: “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Mark 9:29). Preaching to others begins with an active prayer life lest the hunter becomes the hunted.
4. Go Forth, the Mass is Ended.
As we celebrate World Mission Sunday today, it is important to remind us again of the meaning of the words we hear at the end of each mass every day. Unlike any other church on earth, the Catholic Church always ends the mass with a command to “Go…” This does not simply mean “leave the church.” It means: “Go and preach, go and tell about Christ on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere, go and announce the Gospel by your life, go and proclaim the Good News, go and evangelize.” Every time we attend Mass, we are sent on a mission. Even though today is World Mission Sunday, the truth is that for the Catholic Church, every single day is a mission day. As Monsignor J. K. Aniagwu noted: “The Church of Christ cannot be other than missionary, always responding to the mandate that she received from her Divine Founder.” (P.M.S. Pamphlet).
Dear friends, we must begin to ask ourselves how well we have been performing this assignment we are given at every Mass we attend. Between the last mass you attended and this one, how many souls did you minister to?
How many people did you preach to? If the most honest answer is none, it means we failed to grasp the full impact of that mass we attended. As you hear God’s word at mass, make sure you repeat what you have heard to someone. As soon as the mass ends, tell someone what you have learnt. Preach the Gospel. It is the essence of our Christian life. Preach, not just with words but with your exemplary life. Leave no one out, preach to all and to the whole creation.