May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call (Eph 1:17-18). 

The faithful are immersed into the life of Christ through baptism. This life includes the call to be living missionary disciples, which happens to be the theme of the 2017 Catechetical Sunday celebration taking place in a couple of weeks (Sunday, Sept. 17). The Mass readings from the 22nd and 23rd Sundays in Ordinary Time present basic characteristics of how to be a living missionary disciple. This is the heart of evangelization. These traits include a faithful proclamation of the word, a hopeful response to an encounter with Christ, a preservation of the heart all rooted in prayer and love.  

Faithful proclamation of the word  

Living missionary disciples are called to not only know the word of God, but to also share it with others who cross their path. Some receive the faith with charity, while others will reject it outright. Despite the interaction, the faithful are called to persist in search of truth, articulate the faith and engage in dialogue to share the message of hope.  

As we hear in the reading from the great prophet Jeremiah, this does not always end up well. He expresses his frustration to God by saying, “… you duped me” in current terms, “… you tricked me!” Jeremiah’s message of “repentance” has backfired on him. Instead of the people turning away from sin and converting back to God, they laugh at Jeremiah and consider him to be nuts. Yet, he persists, because the fire of the word of God outweighs the mockery. Eventually the people will turn their icy hearts toward God.  

Ask yourself, “Who am I called to talk to about God’s love and mercy? Am I reminding them it is never too late? When have I been mocked because of the faith? How can I respond to this rejection and invite others to a deeper faith in God?”  

Life_Giving Faith.pdf

Hope in the encounter  

The purpose of a living missionary disciple is to lead people to encounter Christ. This encounter offers hope to those who suffer because with the joy of discipleship also comes suffering and self-denial. Jesus prepares his apostles for his looming Passion. He encourages them to remain hopeful and vigilant.

Pope Francis, during his Wednesday audience on Aug. 2, encouraged the faithful to strive to be living signs of hope for the entire human family. He stated, “We must help one another in the many needs of everyday life, but also when we are in need of hope, especially in times of darkness and difficulty, hope is no easy virtue, yet when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, it is he who teaches us to trust in the Lord’s provident care and to strive constantly, in our communities, to be living signs of hope for the entire human family.”  

Ask yourself, “Who am I accompanying to Jesus? Am I a living sign of hope in my family, my workplace, my friends, my faith community and the world? Who is suffering and needs encouragement and hope?”  

Obstacles in discipleship  

We are called to be “watchmen” of the faith, guarding the truth and speaking out against falsehood. Many times the truth falls upon “hardened hearts.” When the “heart is hard,” there is an obstacle for receiving the truth. What makes one’s heart hard? Paragraph No. 1873 of The Catechism of the Catholic </span id=”14″>Church states, “The root of all sins lies in man’s
heart.” That being stated, the seven capital sins of anger, pride, greed, lust, envy, laziness or gluttony (an overconsumption of something) may be taking root (Catch. #1866). These are overcome by a balance of living a virtuous life filled with joy, humility, charity, modesty, gratitude, temperance, prudence, patience, etc. How can we soften our hearts? We can ask for forgiveness. The sacrament of reconciliation fortifies the faithful with the healing mercy of Jesus, restores graces and establishes peace. Even further, our hearts and minds are also restored back into communion with our brothers and sisters, the body of Christ.  

Love & Prayer 

Lastly, missionary disciples are sent to share the Gospel while being rooted in love and prayer. Intentional discipleship stems from a life seeped in love of God and love of neighbor. This immediately opens the door to relationship with God, whom, through prayer, we grow to know, love and serve. The more we love God, the more we want to do for others. St. John Paul II wrote, “people today trust in witnesses rather than teachers … in life and action.” All we have to do is share our stories of what God has done for us. And perhaps that one story can make a difference for another.  

We are called to model the life of Christ, serving, caring and comforting, as well as witnessing, teaching, listening and forgiving. This is evangelization which we are called to DO always in ALL WAYS! We, as living missionary disciples, are called to lead, proclaim, invite, accompany, witness, love and pray. We are people of God, servants in action and followers of Jesus: Living Missionary Disciples! May the Holy Spirit rest upon our hearts and help us to be Christ for all.  

Dow is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.