I was of course at Priest Days this past week and we had
a speaker with us from Catholic Leadership Institute (CLI). That is the company through which I participated in Good Leaders, Good Shepherds, a two year program which I completed three years ago. The crux was how to help people in our parishes become not just disciples of the Lord Jesus, but missionary disciples.
The idea of being a missionary disciple was highlighted by Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel. Being a missionary disciple goes beyond simply following the Lord Jesus. A person who is a missionary disciple is someone who is on fire with their faith and love of Jesus Christ and His Church and is willing to be a missionary to those around them. That is, they are willing to share their faith in God and the Church with others. We are all called, after all, to go out and make disciples of all nations. This is the responsibility not just of priests and religious, but of every Catholic, of every Christian, down to the one who thinks of themselves as least worthy or capable of doing so.
This concept is meant to filter out into every aspect of our Catholic lives. We are called to encourage one another to receive the Sacraments. If you know of someone who hasn't gone to confession in a while, for example, invite them to come with you and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Offer to drive them to church to help give that extra incentive. Interestingly, in CLI’s statistical analysis they have discovered there is a direct correlation to those who have a deep relationship with the Lord Jesus and those who go regularly to receive the Sacrament of Confession. It is not just about the Sacrament of Confession, but about all of the Sacramental life of the Church and about spreading the love and mercy of the Lord Jesus. Sharing that with everyone around us.
It has become very common in our faith to simply leave each other to ourselves. We keep our faith to ourselves. But this is not what Jesus taught us at all. He modeled for the disciples, most especially the apostles, a way of living that ate, drank, slept and breathed God! He modeled for them how to be missionary disciples. How to go out into the country and proclaim the message of the kingdom of God. He taught the twelve apostles so well, formed them so well, that they spread the faith after his death to Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, northern Africa, Asia Minor, Arabia, Greece, Philippi, Thessolonica, Spain, and India, to name a few places. There were also other disciples that accompanied the apostles and helped them in their ministry.
We all know the struggles we have as we see members of our families and parishes leave the Church. It can be discouraging and disheartening to be sure. But if we want to win people back we must work for the salvation of souls. One of the many things that our speaker asked us as priests, was how often we talk about the realities of heaven and hell. How often do any of us talk about it? Jesus was very clear that hell exists. In the reading for Mass on Tuesday we heard Jesus say to us:
"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and
the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14).
Those are words that should stir us not to fear and paralysis, but to motivation and zeal for the salvation of souls. Eternal life in heaven is worth everything and the love of God should compel us towards it! What are we willing to sacrifice to make it there and to bring with us as many souls as possible? Are we willing to become missionary disciples who are on fire with the love of God and spread that love, that peace, that gift to others? Or will we seek to hoard it for ourselves?
In the peace of Christ,