A reflection by Fr. Russ Sampson, S.F.M., on Mission Sunday: Isaiah 53.10-11 and Mark 10.35-45
The mandate given by Jesus to his disciples is to be at the service of the Reign of God, characterized by justice, love, and peace.
On World Mission Sunday, the Church launches us with the Prophet Isaiah’s reminder of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53.10-11) and the Gospel call to serve (Mark 10.35-45).
All of us who have been united with Christ in baptism are summoned to mission. We may not realize that to be in mission is one of the implications of our baptism. We are called to be like Jesus and make his message present in our lives as his companions. Pope Francis says in his Mission Sunday message: “The desire to follow Jesus closely…responds to his call to take up the cross and follow him, to imitate his dedication to the Father and his service and love, to lose our life so as to gain it. Since Christ’s entire existence had a missionary character, so too, all those who follow him closely must possess this missionary quality.”
Serving in a cross-cultural situation can be a real eye opener. Two examples from my missionary life highlight for me part of the essence of Mission Sunday. One realization that dawned on me was the fact that mission is a two-way street. From 1987 to 1990 I was blessed with the opportunity to work on Canouan, Mayreau, and Union Islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies. On the island of Mayreau there was a lay minister who had served for many years and was known as Tantie Dora. During one of my visits to Mayreau, Tantie Dora and I were speaking about the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. Tantie Dora told me that there is a difference between joy and happiness. She said happiness for many people comes from what you own or possess, and depends heavily on everything going well in your life. She said that true joy, the fruit of the Spirit as spoken of in Galatians 5.22, does not depend on what you have in your life. Instead, joy depends on whom you have in your life: if you believe God is with you, then you will always have joy.
At that moment, this woman was ministering to me. She was the missionary. She believed that the risen Christ was alive and present in her life and in the world. Her story was a wake-up call for me, reminding me of how God works in the ordinary circumstances of life.
I also had the privilege of serving in Guyana, South America, with Sisters Cecil Turner, Doris MacDonell, Joan Missiaen, and Mary Gauthier of Our Lady’s Missionaries. They moved around with a very low profile and were in contact with the vulnerable and the helpless in the city of New Amsterdam and environs. That to me was a profound witness to mission.
To whom do we direct our mission? I suggest we spend time reflecting on the following persons:
- The little ones
- The sick and dying
- The vulnerable ones
- Those who are powerless
- The forgotten ones
- Those who cannot repay you
- The outsider
The mission given to the Church is determined by what is happening in the world and in our society at any given time. Consider the times we are living in today. Once we agree that we are missionaries by our baptism, the implications are far-reaching. It is in the ordinariness that we serve God. The venue for our work is in our homes, at work, and at play where we are called to be another Christ.
You can use one of the following points for reflection on your life as a follower of Christ:
- Mission is where I am (at work, at home, at play)
- All who have heard the Good News are missionaries
- To whom is my ministry directed?
- Mission is a two-way street
- The Gospel is spoken the loudest in the way I live