“Come, follow me. …” (Mt 4:19). “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).
“Go … and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).
These words of Jesus are like two bookends holding between them the fundamental vocation of every Christian—to be a missionary disciple. So, who is a missionary disciple?
“Disciple” refers to a learner, a pupil, somebody who takes instruction from a teacher. “Missionary” means “one who is sent.” A missionary disciple, then, is a pupil who is sent out by the teacher. Jesus has charged us with a double task: to follow, and to go.
The first step in becoming a missionary disciple, then, is to “sit at the feet” of Jesus, the teacher, and receive His grace through prayer and the sacraments. By spending time each day with the Lord who loves us, that relationship becomes stronger. As our love for Christ deepens, we naturally feel the desire to “go out” and bear witness, to share our beloved with all we meet. That is our mission, but it will only bear fruit if we continue to spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus as His disciples. So it is that discipleship feeds mission, and mission reinforces discipleship.
Fruitful missionary discipleship also requires us to continue to learn about our Faith, so that we are more comfortable talking with others about our relationship with Christ and why we choose to live a life rooted in the Gospel and Church teaching. Finally, it is essential to gather in our parishes, forming healthy Christian relationships nourished by our shared sacramental life. These friendships not only enrich us, they help sustain us when trials come.
Throughout the coming year, we will be exploring missionary discipleship and illustrating this Gospel theme through the lives of men and women from our own parishes. We will see there is no “cookie-cutter” approach to missionary discipleship, but rather a common theme of love and action. We will be reminded that this is the life worth living, a life that joyfully gives out of the fullness it has received.
Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published December 2020 Catholic Life Issue