EVERY CHRISTIAN IS A MISSIONARY
Epiphany - January 7
The gospel of the Epiphany in all three years of the Sunday cycle is a reading from the Gospel according to Matthew, 2:1-12. We are presented here with a model of our calling to believe in Jesus and to be his missionaries.
The pagan astrologers were attracted by the light of a heavenly body. To the Magi it was a symbol of kingship. They were called by means of a star, an instrument of revelation available to them through their religion, and they came to find "the infant king of the Jews" (Mt 2:2).
The Magi undertook a long journey, following a sign from heaven, to pay homage to a king. During the journey, they behaved like missionaries. They shared their search with Herod and the Jewish priests, and brought them the news of the birth of their Messiah. Herod and the priests were also called to recognise the Holy One of God, through the witness of the Magi and also through the Jewish prophets, such as Micah (Mi 5:1).
The Magi brought the most precious things they possessed as gifts worthy of a great King. They found instead a humble baby with his poor mother. Having found him, the remarkable thing is that they believed in him as the infant king of the Jews. But they did not remain for ever on their knees doing him homage. They returned as missionaries to their countries to tell what they had seen.
Here is a program of faith and of mission that holds good for each of us. We are called as Christians to share our baptismal faith in Christ with others, not only in the Church but also outside the Christian community. Faith calls us and requires us to be missionaries. In fact, every Christian is a missionary, because of his or her baptism.
We Franciscans are instructed by St Francis how we "can live spiritually among the Saracens and nonbelievers." The passive way that we can all follow is not to engage in arguments or disputes but to be subject to them "for God's sake" and to acknowledge that we are Christians. The active way, if we are allowed to follow it, is to announce the Word of God to them, when we "see that it pleases the Lord", in order that they may believe in the Blessed Trinity, and "be baptized and become Christians" (cf. Rule of 1221, Chapter XVI).
The SFO Rule reflects this instruction of St Francis, in Article 6, where the Secular Franciscans are reminded that they have been made living members of the Church through baptism, and have been united more intimately with the Church by their profession. "Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words."
One important aspect of our mission, then, if we are free to do it, is to proclaim in words that the Kingdom of God has arrived in Jesus, the humble baby of Mary and the Son of God. We have the Good News, but we must present it in modern-day language and to the people of our times, in their own language.
But to walk in faith means a lot more than to proclaim an orthodox creed. Since words alone are not enough to convince anyone of the truth, we must express our faith in actions as well as in words. So, another important aspect of our mission is to live in Christian community and brotherhood. We need to love one another as Jesus loved his brothers and sisters. This is the acid-test of our message, as we proclaim that Jesus has freed us from all that hinders us from loving ourselves properly, and others and God. The truth that Jesus is our Saviour is confirmed by our capacity to love one another as he loved his friends.
But our fraternal love must not stop at those who share the same faith with us. Jesus revealed himself to the pagans as well as to the Jews. He was sent to everyone, not only to those who felt themselves attracted to him and entered into a life in common with him. So, a third aspect of our Christian mission is to serve others without exception, in everyday life, and to help spread the Kingdom of God.
So, our Christian mission involves the development of peoples in the social and economic fields as well as teaching and preaching, life in common and public prayer together, especially the Eucharist.
The three essential aspects of the mission entrusted to us by God - that is, proclaiming the word, living in common, and serving others - are so intertwined that our words and our actions must go together and confirm each other. Otherwise, no one can believe us.
Let us live with faith, and with such a genuine love that it reveals Jesus. Let us make ourselves instruments for showing the Lord to everybody. In the darkness of today's society, let us become guiding stars for those who are searching for God.