Jesus Wants Us to be His Co-Missionaries

February 10, 2013: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 6:1-8
Psalms 138:1-8
First Corinthians 15:1-15
Luke 5:1-11
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We all know why Jesus came to earth. He came to redeem the fallen world, to pay the price for our sins, to lead every member of the human family back into friendship with God.

We all know that, and we don’t usually forget about it.

Nevertheless, we do sometimes forget that Jesus doesn’t want to do all the work himself. As St Augustine used to say, although God created us without us, he won’t save us without us. In other words, he has chosen to accomplish His mission of salvation with our cooperation. God has called every one of us, since the moment of our baptism, to be co-missionaries with Jesus Christ.

This is why, in today’s First Reading, the prophet Isaiah hears God ask the question: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” God wants us to participate in His mission of salvation. He gives us a chance to join Him in building up the eternal Kingdom. All we have to do is say, with Isaiah, “Here I am! Send me!”

The encounter between Jesus and His first Apostles in today’s Gospel gives us the same message. First, Jesus asks Peter to lend Him his boat, so that He can have a better podium for addressing the huge crowds. That boat was Peter’s livelihood, his life. Jesus also wants to speak to the desperate, discouraged crowds of today’s world from our boats, from the words, deeds, and example of our lives. Then, after the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus invites Peter to follow Him and become “fishers of men,” co-missionaries.

Christ’s mission is to save the world, but He is no Lone Ranger; He has chosen to depend on a volunteer army of co-missionaries — Peter, James, John, and every one of us.

This is one of the reasons that we call the Church “apostolic” when we recite the creed. The word “apostle” comes from the Greek for “to be sent out.” Jesus sent the first Twelve into the world as His co-missionaries. However, they were not the only ones; the whole Church, us included, is apostolic. Here is how the Catechism explains it:

863 The whole Church is apostolic, in that she remains, through the successors of St. Peter and the other apostles, in communion of faith and life with her origin: and in that she is “sent out” into the whole world. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways. “The Christian vocation is, of its nature, a vocation to the apostolate as well.” Indeed, we call an apostolate “every activity of the Mystical Body” that aims “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth.”

Every Catholic is called to be Christ’s co-missionaries.

However, some experience the call in a more dramatic way than others do.

Just recently, on January 2010, the call reverberated in a dramatic way in the locker rooms of Major League Baseball. One of the best 2010 prospects in the Oakland A’s minor league system was a 23-year-old outfielder named Grant Desme. In his last season, he hit 31 home runs and stole 40 bases, so it was not just coincidence that he was named the Most Valuable Player for 2009 of the Arizona Fall League. Things were looking good for his future as a Major League Baseball player — very good.

However, not quite good enough.

Grant is a life-long Catholic whose family taught him not only to value his faith as he was growing up, but also to live it. Therefore, as his baseball career accelerated, he didn’t forget about the bigger picture: “I’m doing well in baseball. But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more. It took awhile to trust that and open up to it and aim full steam toward Him … I love the game, but I’m going to aspire to higher things.” We are all called to aspire to the higher things, to be Christ’s co-missionaries.

However, it takes courage; it means making sacrifices. For Grant, the sacrifice involved saying goodbye to the money and fame that were knocking on his front door. How did he do it? Where did he find the courage? From the same place Isaiah found it, Peter found it, and Paul found it: from discovering the personal love of God: “I want to give my life completely to God out of love because of everything He’s done for me,” Grant explained. “Something like this is even very little compared to what He’s done for me.”

Why did Jesus choose to require co-missionaries to save the world? Not because the job was too much for Him; after all, as God He is all-powerful. Rather, because He knew that we needed a mission, a purpose in life that reaches behind the fleetingness of earthly life and plugs us into eternity. He knows we need a transcendent meaning, because that’s how He designed us when He created us “in His own image.” We will only find fulfillment if we accept this invitation to be active co-missionaries in the service of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

If we are not experiencing that fulfillment, it is because we aren’t fully enough engaged in that mission.

Why not? What could be holding us back?

It may simply be that we have forgotten what the core of this mission really is. St Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading: “I handed on to you,” he writes to the Corinthians, “what I also received.” That’s it. Being Christ’s co-missionaries means giving to others what God has given to us. God has given us His unconditional, self-sacrificing love through the incarnation and all the sacraments: we are to love our neighbors as He has loved us. God has given us forgiveness for our sins; we are to hold no grudges and give others a second chance. God has shown us that the path to true happiness involves obeying the moral law, which we find in the Bible and Church teaching; we are called to explain this law to those around us and encourage them to follow it too.

In this Mass, as Jesus renews His commitment to us, let’s thank Him for involving us in this great adventure of salvation history, and let’s renew our co-missionary commitment to Him, promising to give to others what He never stops giving to us.

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