How Can We be Missionary Disciples?

In the Gospel reading of John for this feast of Pentecost, Jesus appeared to the disciples and said: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. After saying this be breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Just as the disciples received the Holy Spirit and were being sent out from the locked room, so to we have been given a mandate to share the Good News. Today, we should have been celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation, when our young people would have received a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that they, in their lives and sphere of influence, have the courage to live the life of Christ.

Fr Pat Collins, a Vincentian priest, wrote “It is my belief that a profound change is currently taking place in the Catholic Church, one which many clergy and lay people are not yet aware of. It is a striking fact, that although the word evangelise and evangelisation were not mentioned even once at Vatican I, they are mentioned 49 times at Vatican II. Ever since then, Popes have repeatedly stressed the need for Catholics to engage in evangelisation.”

Our present Pope Francis first letter was Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel). He coined the phrase “missionary disciples” to describe all of us who are baptised.

How can we be missionary disciples?

This is what Pope Francis said to some seminarians: “We need to realise that the spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.” This means we need to be open and led by the Spirit. We prepare for mission by prayer. Let the Spirit guide us in our life of prayer. Let us trust absolutely in where the Spirit wants to lead us.

At the moment we are in lockdown. There is a little easing of restrictions, but I feel that the locked Church of St Thomas of Canterbury is a metaphor for the disciples locked away in the Upper Room. So for us let this be a time when we allow Jesus to come and breathe on us and fill us anew with the Spirit so that when the time comes we may like the disciples emerging changed and transformers to be missionary disciples.

I like Pope Francis words “An evangeliser must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral!” … And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ.

Father of light, from whom every good comes, send your spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds. Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in worship beyond the power of speech, for without your Spirit man can never raise his voice in words of peace or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest