“For every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13-14)
Today is World Mission Sunday; it is a day the Church has set aside to reflect deeply on the mandate of Christ which we have just heard in today’s Gospel passage: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15). Today is a day to ask ourselves sincerely whether or not we have been living up to our calling as missionaries for Christ. Since last year, how many people have I preached the gospel to?
Last Sunday, we read the story of James and John who approached Jesus with a special request, to sit, one at His right and one at His left in Heaven. Jesus asked them, “Are you able to drink the chalice that I drink, or to be baptised with the baptism with which I am baptised?” They said: “We are able.” James and John were prepared to do whatever it takes, (even it means giving up their very lives) to merit those seats in heaven. Am I willing to give up my pride or inconvenience myself just so that I can preach the gospel to the people around me?
As much as World Mission Sunday provides an opportunity for us to pray for and support missionaries all over our world financially, it is also a reminder to us that the work of evangelisation is not only for the ordained ministers and consecrated men and women. As a Christian, you too have a mandate to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” This brings us to our lessons today:
1. Preach the Gospel: Use Words If Necessary.
You may be wondering: “But how am I to preach when I do not know what to say? How do I preach when I am not trained for it? How do I preach when I did not attend the seminary or receive any form of training on preaching? What am I to say when I am not an expert in the Bible or in Theology?” Isaiah answers these questions in today’s first reading when he says:
“Thus says the Lord: Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:1-2) Simply put, the preaching that God desires is that we keep justice, do righteousness, observe the Sabbath and refrain from doing any evil. This preaching does not require words but it is powerful.
Think of the many lives that would be positively affected if only you decide from today to practice honesty and integrity. Think of how many would be touched if you resolve from this day to put a smile on every face you meet, to make their lives better by your kindness. You don’t need to be ordained or become a pastor before you can shine a light, do righteousness, or be kind to others.
Our country today is filled with preachers but because they only use words and fail to practice what they preach, because they have turned the very act of preaching into a business enterprise (with emphasis on seed sowing and prosperity messages), things are getting worse every day. We are tired of hearing preachers who are more concerned about their stomachs than about the salvation of souls. We are tired of hearing preachers who twist the Scriptures to suit their own personal desires while milking their flocks dry. We need missionaries today who will preach not simply with words but with the good example of their very lives.
2. If I Don’t Preach, No One Else Will.
The call to be missionaries has never been more urgent than now. Things are getting worse every day. It has become so bad that anyone who dares to stand up for what is right becomes the subject of attack and hatred. This was exactly what the early disciples faced. While they were going about preaching the gospel in a society that was so deeply in love with evil, the powers that be in the land tried to silence their voices.
Peter and John were brought before the council and were warned never to preach in the name of Christ anymore but despite the threats to their life, Peter boldly spoke up: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20). Peter was prepared to offend those in authority because he was convinced that all power belongs to God. He was ready to disobey all human laws and regulations just to obey the divine mandate: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel…”
Dear friends, just as people were against the apostles for preaching, people would be against you for preaching the gospel especially with your good deeds and righteous living. Do not be discouraged. Do not give up when the attacks begin to come physically or even spiritually. You may even find yourself entirely “alone” in that those you may be looking up to would become sources of discouragement. You would begin to ask yourself if it is even worth it trying to live in the light.
In times of such great discouragement, do not think too much of what you are suffering, rather consider the fact that there are many who will perish if you fail to shine your light. This is exactly what St. Paul is saying in today’s second reading: “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” No wonder St. Paul would say: “Woe is me (a curse be on me) if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16).
We need to tell ourselves this basic truth: “If I don’t preach the gospel, no one else will.” Never assume there would be preachers, God wants to use you. Never say, “Who am I to preach? After all, I am not even perfect.” God does not call the perfect, He calls the willing. You may have a past like St. Paul but you are not useless to God yet. You are his chosen instrument. Just say “Yes” to that call you feel inside you.
3. You Cannot Give What You Don’t Have.
In his message for World Mission Sunday 2021, Pope Francis began by saying: “Once we experience the power of God’s love, and recognize his fatherly presence in our personal and community life, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard.” This is so true as far as mission is concerned. The only reason why you develop cold feet when it comes to sharing your faith with others is that you are yet to encounter Christ personally – it is because you still do not know God. Yes, this is just the truth; you cannot give what you do not have.
You cannot tell people about Jesus if you have not seen or heard from Jesus. You cannot share a faith that you are yet to be convinced about. You cannot take anyone out of the darkness if you are still very much engrossed in the darkness. You cannot inspire one to be saintly when you are living a double life. In other words, the first step to missionary activity is not to go out but to draw nearer to God.
As we read in today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gave this great mandate towards the end of his public ministry. Jesus only asked the disciples to go out to the whole world after they had spent three years with him. When Jesus called the disciples, the first thing He said was: “Follow Me.” Jesus did not begin with “Go ye into the whole world.” We need to follow Jesus first before we can attempt to go into the world. We need to be men and women of prayer who study God’s word daily before we can ever attempt to talk to anyone about Jesus. If we must preach to others, we must first preach to ourselves. We must take out the logs from our eyes before we can ever attempt to remove the specks in others’ eyes.
4. Miracles Are Signs, Not Goals of Missionary Work.
In our Gospel passage today, we hear Jesus assuring the disciples: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name, they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18). Miracles are signs, they are not the essence of missionary work. Miracles are pointers that Jesus is present with the preacher and he/she is not alone as Mark tells us: “They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mark 16:20)
Mark understood clearly that every miracle the disciple worked was not to prove that these disciples were powerful but to prove that Jesus was with them. As signs, miracles happen to confirm the message, they do not take the place of the message and their absence does not make the message void. The fact that the preacher does not work any miracle should not make him feel inferior or powerless. The preacher’s duty is simply to proclaim the message. Whether or not miracles happen is entirely left to God.
Time has come for us men and women of God to realize that Jesus sent us to preach not to work miracles. Some ministers today have landed themselves in trouble in a bid to satisfy their congregation with at least one miracle or the other during church services forgetting that their primary duty is to preach. The time has come for us Christians to realize that the church is a place to worship God, not a miracle centre. Yes, miracles can happen anywhere, even in the market, in the street, in your bedroom. Stop running after so-called “powerful” men/women of God. Pray, have faith, and let God do His work at His own time and pace.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, come and dwell within me always that my life may bring glory to you always. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 56:1-6, Ps. 96:1-10, Romans 10:9-18 & Mark 16:15-20)