The voice crying out in the wilderness “prepare the way of the Lord!”
I love John the Baptist. He’s my role model. I guess we can say that John the Baptist was the first proclaimer. Maybe we can say that he was the first missionary.
Ever since I came to work at Salt + Light Media, and especially after all our partnerships with the Pontifical Mission Societies
and Les Oeuvres Pontificales Missionaires
, I think about missionaries a lot.
You may remember that six years ago, in 2013, Pope Francis published his first Apostolic Exhortation. An exhortation is not like an encyclical or a letter. This one is more like a book! It’s 274 pages! It’s called Evangelii Gaudium
(The Joy of the Gospel
). And he writes about a lot of things, all in the context of the joy of the Gospel and the joy with which we should always share the Gospel.
In it he writes, “I am a mission on this earth” (EG 273). I remember reading that for the first time six years ago. It really struck me. It’s more than simply saying that I am called to be a missionary or that I have a mission. I AM
a mission. And Pope Francis doesn’t mean that he alone is mission; he means that all of us are mission. We are the mission of the Father: The Church is the mission of God.
And who better to say that about than John the Baptist?
John was mission. On the day he was born, his father, Zechariah, regained his voice (remember he had lost it because he doubted the angel) and prayed a beautiful canticle, the Canticle of Zechariah:
“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:68-79).
From the day he was born, John had a mission and he became that mission: to prepare the way. Even before Jesus himself was proclaiming the Good News, John was proclaiming the Good News.
I’ve actually been thinking a lot more about mission since World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I had just been ordained a permanent deacon and that event was all about mission: Go be missionaries. The theme was from Matthew 28:19: “Go make disciples of all nations.”
That passage has been my favourite since my first World Youth Day in 2002
. In fact, that whole section, from verse 18 to 20, is my favourite:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Everything we need to know about what we have to do as Christians is there:
Go, baptize, teach, and remember.
In 2013 I also traveled to the Missionary Congress of the Americas in Maracaibo, Venezuela (listen to our special SLHour we did from there and watch some of the videos we made
). It’s a congress that takes place every 5 years to promote missions and encourage missionaries from the whole continent, from Canada down to Argentina, including the Caribbean. There were some 4000 participants, mostly missionaries, 400 priests, and 70 bishops – it was a great gathering, and the motto was very simple: “Share your faith”.
We returned to the Missionary Congress of the Americas last year (watch I Am Mission
, the film we made about that experience). It was in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. The theme was “America on a Mission: The Gospel is Joy”. So you see how everything comes together?
And you see how it’s hard for me not to be thinking about how we share our faith, or rather, how we don’t share our faith?
This first week of Advent, perhaps those are good questions to ask yourself: How do you share the faith? How do you not share the faith?
Come back next week
and we will see what it means to share our faith.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]