Hi! I’m Joseph Gruber, missionary here at Saint John the Evangelist parish.
Our local bishop, Bishop Boyea, has asked us to think deeply (and act boldly) in growing and going as disciples of Jesus. If you don’t mind, I’d like to offer a brief reflection on what going looks like in our relationship with Jesus.
There’s something about the attitude of one who is going that is worth unpacking. We believe, along with St. Paul, that “we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). When we really live like we’ve died already, what fears can hold us back from love? I’ve spent too much time as a missionary trying to help people overcome their fears of rejection and the unknown, and trying to help them worry less about their pride and vanity. I’ve spent too little time asking them to stand before the cross of Christ and let His perfect love cast out their fear, and His perfect humility humble them. We go not only to someone or something, but we are often sent away from what we’ve preferred. When we go, we really have to let go of everything other than our Father’s business.
If people’s hearts are fickle, why would I want to be a people-pleaser? When I know that I’m sent by God and to God, ultimately, why would anything stop me from living like it? When I do feel that gut-check that stops me from living like I’m going to heaven, I need to remember that that is something to invite Jesus into—a place for me to continue to grow.
Part of the beauty of going out as a missionary disciple is that we don’t usually have to go far. This is the exciting thing about being Christian: when the Holy Spirit is animating an institution, everything comes to life.
- Our neighborhood becomes a place to love our literal neighbors — finally, the place where we’ve been paying money to live next to those who pay money to live next to us can be a place of encounter.
- Our workplace becomes a place to value each person as a person first, and be filled with gratitude when they aid our business.
- Our home becomes a place of vulnerability and intimacy with those God has given to us to share life with.
- Our clubs and social life become places where our shared interests are seeds for authentic friendship that can lead others to Jesus.
- Our journey of life calls us out of ourselves as young men and women to seek mentors, and as experienced men and women, to pass on our wisdom to those who follow.
When a person lives as someone going somewhere, their everyday life has all of the character of a mission trip.
Here’s another angle on going: where would Jesus spend His time in Jackson– in the safe places or the difficult ones? Our faith should propel us to accompany Jesus in places where we might be challenged. Jesus goes to those who are hurting; do we go with Him?
And this is a good place to end the reflection on going. Jesus told His followers, “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” Most people follow this with, “…and then Jesus ascended to heaven.” But that’s not the note that Matthew leaves us with. Matthew ends with the assurance that Jesus is and always will be Emmanuel, God-with-us. “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” We’re never sent except that Jesus is with us. We never face rejection alone. We never see conversion by our own doing. Jesus is going to our neighbors and those on the fringes. We follow.