Call, response, mission

Al Cariño
July 13, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

Government to government transactions are ordinarily conducted through an ambassador. As such, an ambassador has only one mission - to promote his country's interests, never his own. Thus, when sensitive issues are being deliberated upon, he is mandated to consult with his government and act accordingly. If he can not agree with its stand, he is duty-bound to resign.

Viewed thus, it can be said that Jesus was the Father's ambassador to fallen humankind when out of love for them He sent His only Son on a `mission' for their redemption. Jesus was fully aware of this. Thus He openly told those who listened to Him that He had come only to do His Father's will. To help Him out in this mission, Jesus handpicked twelve apostles to be His collaborators.

In the gospel (Mk. 6:7-13), we see Jesus giving detailed instructions to the apostles before sending them out on their first mission: "Take nothing for the journey except a staff -- no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra tunic." The apostles were to go as poor and simple men, i.e., to be totally dependent on God's providence and the people's hospitality. To take only a staff and a pair of sandals implied that they were to expect a long journey and painful feet.

Though given authority over evil spirits, their mission was however limited to preaching repentance. This was also the content of the initial preaching of Jesus: "Repent, for the Reign of God is at hand." Thus they were sent "merely" to prepare the people for Jesus' coming and the proclamation of His message. Later, Jesus entrusted His entire mission to His apostles when before His Ascension He said, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:18-19).

Before the apostles left, Jesus made one point clear: "If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them." In effect, to reject the messenger was also to reject the Father's ambassador, His offer of love and membership in His Kingdom.

From this we can see that the apostle has, to a large extent, the same function as a government's ambassador. He is called and sent, not to proclaim his own person and message, but the person and message of Jesus. If he ceases to do this, he ceases to be an apostle, an ambassador.

More specifically, to be an apostle of Jesus means "to be sent" by Him on a mission, to be His ambassador. This sending proceeds from a response to an invitation of Jesus. Thus we see the following pattern which is true for all vocations and states of life - married or single: - call of Jesus; - response of the one called; and - mission which is to proclaim Jesus' person and message.

How did the apostles fare in their initial mission? As Mark said, "They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them." Very successful indeed! They needed this experience for the greater mission that lie ahead.

Many of us are inclined to think that only bishops, priests and religious are called to mission. But the Decree on the Laity of Vatican II is quite clear when it said, "Incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through confirmation, the laity are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself" (No. 3). Thus by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, we are all called to be apostles, ambassadors, of Christ, and as such we are to proclaim and bear witness to Him and His message to the extent that we are able. In our day, we are to do this by word and example before the people we are directly contact with - our families, our peers, our co-workers and those in our immediate community. For as the same Decree further says, "The very testimony of their Christian life and good works done in supernatural spirit, have the power to draw men to belief and to God (No. 6)."

Jesus is no longer with us as He now sits at the right hand of the Father. But His mission must go on till He returns in glory - through us and under the guidance of His Spirit. We are thus to be Jesus' hands, ears, nose, eyes, tongue, feet, heart, mind, etc. In other words, our time, talent and treasure must be at the service of God's Word. Finally, we are to use all our faculties along with the technological advances that have made our world a global village.

Obviously, to be Christ's apostle, to be His ambassador, much is required of us. But we are not to worry. For God who is never outdone in generosity will provide whatever we need so that we can live up to our noble calling.