“Who is a missionary?” I asked my class, not too long ago.
They came up with a variety of answers: someone who preaches in a foreign country, someone who has very little, someone who doesn’t make money, and the list continued.
It was difficult for them to wrap it all up neatly. Several wanted to insist that you had to leave the country. I think it was because it fit their idea of a missionary better. Flying to a foreign country steeped in poverty seems far more missionary-esque than serving on a college campus.
“FOCUS sends people to college campus and calls them missionaries. Are they?”
“Do they get paid?”
“They fundraise their salary.”
Many were on board with that. But for them, there had to be some type of leaving happening–going to a new place, even if they would begrudgingly accept work in the United States.
“What does a missionary do?” I asked.
“Preach the Gospel.”
“So who could be a missionary?”
They discussed for a while. One said, “You?”
“Am I a missionary?”
The whole issue of pay came up again, some saying that would disqualify me from missionary status.
Am I a missionary?
It is what I desire to be. Honestly, it depends on the day, I think, if I would actually count as a missionary or not. Sometimes I come to work and it is a job, something I do for pay and something I find myself gritting my teeth to push through. Other times, I come with zeal for their souls, with a burning desire to preach the Gospel to them in a radical way, a way that will make them desire to know the person of Jesus Christ.
So often I wish I were in a different time or place, living a true missionary life. But I think that is because I lack the fortitude to live missionary zeal in a “normal” job. When I was in Honduras for the week long mission trips in college, it seemed so intense as I walked along the coast to different villages which are inaccessible by car. A priest accompanied us and we were able to offer the sacraments to people who see a priest only a couple of times each year.
Now I am surrounded by people who have the sacraments readily available and they choose to not go. Mass is a bore to so many. Learning about the doctrines of the Church should be an easy ‘A’, they claim. While I know each person thirsts for the Lord, most of my students don’t know they are thirsting for Him. Unlike the Honduran man who told us when we arrived belatedly, “We have been waiting. We have been thirsting for the Eucharist.”
No, perhaps I am in the most intensely missionary territory I have ever been. The struggle is to remind myself that I am a missionary and to live it faithfully. Anyone can do a job, but the call to be a missionary is less common and possibly less desirable.
Ad Gentes 2
The pilgrim Church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin, in accordance with the decree of God the Father.
We are all called to be missionaries. It isn’t the unique call of teachers, though I am perhaps called to preach the Gospel in one of the most explicit ways. The entire world needs the Gospel preached to them and the most ordinary places might be the ones that are the easiest to overlook. From the vantage point of my students, my life doesn’t look all that radical or missionary-esque. After all, I get paid to do what I do. Yet to embrace the missionary life, to be in the world and not of it, is something we are all called to uniquely do.
By our nature, we are pilgrims. We aren’t home yet. All of us are journeying to the Promised Land and we know neither the day nor the hour of our arrival there. Let us joyfully make this pilgrimage together, proclaiming to all we encounter the reason for our hope. Easter is the perfect time to boldly share the Good News: He suffered, He died, and He rose from the dead. Even more wonderful, our conqueror wants to be in union with us for all eternity.
Come, let us worship the Lord and cry aloud to the God who saves us! May we be filled with missionary zeal regardless of how ordinary our lives may look. Let us embrace the call to be pilgrim missionaries, journeying together to our true home.