“God’s Mission and the Call to Missionary Discipleship” by Fr. Robert Manansala, OFM

Every Christian, by virtue of baptism, is a missionary or is called to be a missionary.

Today’s Gospel periscope contains some of the principles of missiology and the demands of missionary discipleship. From the beginning, it is very clear that Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God is intended for all peoples and for all places.

In the Book of Genesis, according to the Greek version (Septuagint), seventy-two is the number of people in the whole world (Gen 10). Therefore, the appointment of the seventy-two other disciples in the Gospel passage is symbolic.

Christ’s mission, which is God’s mission (“Missio Dei”), is as wide as the world. There will always be a need for more workers in this huge field of the mission. In fact, even for the produce that is already ripe for harvest, there are not enough workers.

The injunction to pray for more laborers is a summons to the reality that the mission is God’s. It is also a reminder that prayer is the first posture of the missionary. It is God who directs the mission and sends workers for the mission. The “abundance” or the “scarcity” of missionary laborers is linked to the disciples’ prayerful supplication before the Master of the harvest.

Although mission involves different forms of missionary activities and endeavors, prayer is the first missionary disposition. Mission is a divine-human cooperation and this is shown particularly in the missionary’s life and ministry grounded in God in prayer. Indeed, prayer is a necessary component of mission.

The shift in the metaphor from harvesters or laborers to “lambs among wolves” highlights the difficulties and dangers the disciples are expected to encounter along the missionary way. The disciples must expect what the Lord Jesus himself had experienced.

The Gospel also focuses on how the disciples must behave as they participate in God’s mission. They are to travel light and without attachments in any forms that can bog them down in their primary missionary pursuit. They must have a sense of urgency and should not allow any distractions by other concerns, including familial and social amenities. They must be heralds of God’s peace. They must accept with gratitude and joy any hospitality and acceptance accorded them. However, they must also be ready for any forms of rejection and be prepared to move to another place where the message of the God’s Kingdom may be welcomed.

The primary message of the missionary disciple is the Lord’s own message: “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” God’s Kingdom can be described as “the reign of God dynamically active in human history through Jesus Christ, the purpose of which is the redemption of His people from sin and from demonic powers, and the final establishment of the new heavens and the new earth” (Anthony Hoekema). This missionary message has to be proclaimed whether it is accepted or rejected.

Every Christian, by virtue of baptism, is a missionary or is called to be a missionary. In whatever forms of mission we find ourselves engaged in, it is important to keep in mind the above basic principles of doing mission and of missionary discipleship.

as published on July 7, 2013, Parish Bulletin
About Fr. Robert and his reflections