The Church has as its patrons of Missions, two Saints whose lives, at first glance, are diametrically opposite each other. They are St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, also known as the Little Flower, and St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit Saint.
St. Theresa was a cloistered Carmelite nun, who never left the four walls of the Convent from the time she joined it, at the age of 15, until she died at the age of 24. Francis Xavier, however, was a Saint who literally rushed through the Asian Continent, anxious to preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.
By choosing these two Saints, the Church wants to give us a message that Mission is not a place. Also, Mission is done not merely through active preaching, but also through active prayer. Mission is activity, surely, but mission is also silence. In other words, Mission is where you are, Mission is what you do. Every disciple of Jesus is called to Mission. Every disciple of Jesus is, in fact, a missionary.
This fact is brought out powerfully in the first reading of today when Amos, who was a herdsman and a tender of sycamore trees, is called by God to be a prophet and a missionary. He has no experience of mission work. He has no special qualifications. He has no special education or training. Yet, when God calls, and sends, Amos goes. He does not let threats, intimidation, or any other kind of hindrances come in the way of the mission entrusted to him by God.
This is also the case with the disciples whom Jesus sends in the Gospel text of today. They, too, have no special gifts or talents. They, too, are inexperienced in what the Mission will demand of them. They, too, are raw. Yet, they are called, and sent, and they go.
First, the disciples are sent with the authority of Jesus. They will bear in mind that it is his mission, not theirs. They must proclaim his message, not theirs. It is a mission or commission they receive from the Lord and they must be faithful to it and to him. The content of the Mission on which they are sent is dual. It is to say and to do. It is to preach and to heal. It consists of word and of action. This is an indication that Mission is not merely a spiritual enterprise but extremely practical. It touches, and must touch, every aspect of the life of those to whom the missioner is sent. It also means that they must do what they say and that there must always be a synchrony between their words and actions. Even as they go, Jesus provides them with a strategy. This strategy may be summed up in one word: Detachment. They are to be detached from material possessions, they are to be detached from family ties, and they are to be detached from a particular place. They are also to be detached from the outcome of Mission. The disciples follow the instructions of Jesus to the letter and so are able to do Mission. They are able to do what Jesus has commanded them to do.
The main reason why they are able to do this is explicated by the second reading of today in which the Ephesians are reminded about the foundation of their lives. Grace upon grace has been poured out on those who have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world. It is God who accomplishes all things, in and through the actions and words of the disciples. God’s plan is that the Gospel, the good news of salvation, be preached throughout the world to everyone who is willing to listen. It is an inclusive plan; no one is excluded.
This mission that Jesus inaugurated and sent his disciples out on two thousand years ago is a mission that continues even today. It continues to be an all inclusive mission, a mission that includes both word and action. It is still a mission to proclaim the good news that God is, even now in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. Mission shows this reconciliation in action. Every follower of Christ, every disciple, is called to engage in this mission. It is not done merely by those who are called to the priesthood or religious life. It is not done merely in the villages or “mission stations”, but is done by all and in every place. Whenever and wherever an enhancing word is spoken and a loving action is performed, whenever and wherever reconciliation is wrought and wounds are healed, whenever and wherever love replaces fear, hope replaces despair, truth replaces untruth, light replaces darkness, and life replaces death, then is Mission done again and again and the Mission of Jesus continues.
Even as the Mission continues, the missioner must always keep in mind that detachment from the outcome of mission is an absolute requirement. The Mission is the mission of Jesus and he will, in his own way, and in his own time, ensure that it meets with success.