This series on missionary discipleship started back in December, so let’s review quickly what we have been talking about and where we’ve come.
We began by noting that Jesus calls us to be His disciples, that is, to “sit at His feet” lovingly and to learn from Him. Once we have been fortified by His grace and His Gospel, He calls us to be His missionaries, to go out and share what we have come to know and love. That missionary thrust can take many forms. So far, we have focused on three: loving our neighbor in need; inviting others to experience the joy of following Christ; and bearing witness to the hope of the resurrection.
Along the way, we have reminded ourselves that a missionary can bear fruit only if he or she remains a faithful disciple, continually nourished by Jesus’ grace through prayer and the sacraments. He has told us clearly that He is the vine and we are the branches, and “without Me you can do nothing.”
Today, I want to focus on how a missionary disciple’s home is the Church, the Body of Christ, and his or her immediate “family” in the Church is the parish. Recognizing the principle that our first responsibility is always toward our own families, we can extend that spiritually to our parish family. It is in the heart of that family that we are bathed in baptism, fed by the Eucharist, cleansed by confession, confirmed in the Faith and in our vocation and accompanied from this life to the next. It is there that we find strength and support—human, social and spiritual. What a gift!
It follows that a missionary disciple is called by Christ to serve the parish family. Each person needs to discern their particular path(s) of service, seeking and respecting the guidance of their pastor. The first and most important service is that of thoughtfulness and hospitality, attentiveness to the new face at Mass, to the family that just joined, to the struggling person in need of prayer, a greeting or a kind word. Perhaps you feel a call to visit the homebound, to bring them holy Communion (attentive to legitimate health precautions). In and through the parish, we belong to one another, and there is service in contributing to that belonging by involvement in devotions, small group faith formation, clubs, committees and social events.
There are many other ways to serve in your parish as well. Perhaps catechists are needed for religious education of the youth, or RCIA team members to instruct non-Catholics who want to know more about the Faith. Or you may feel called to assist with social ministry to the poor, the hungry and the homeless, or to help with pro-life initiatives. What are your gifts, your passions, your areas of expertise? Explore the options, talk to your pastor.
Most of all, as we emerge from this pandemic’s isolation, serve your parish by making your way back, if you’ve been away, by cherishing it, praying for it, supporting it and showing appreciation to your pastor. Look around, see the faces of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Give thanks that you belong to this family in Jesus Christ!
Chris Ruff, Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published in the May/June 2021 Catholic Life Issue