Through our baptism and participation in the Mass, we encounter Jesus Christ who calls us to go out and make a difference in the world with every fibre of our being. No exceptions.
Catholic mission can sometimes be confused with the name of the same-titled charitable organisation which forms Australians for missions and funds missions. We may associate mission with religious and lay people who go to disadvantaged countries, spreading the Good News through word and deed. Mission can be that thing that other Catholics do, the really holy ones.
Yet the whole church, every single member, is called to mission. We exist to serve the mission of God. We are given this privileged role in Baptism, to continue Jesus’ mission in the world. And each Eucharist sends us forth on mission. Lay person and ordained. No exceptions.
While living this mission may look very different from person to person, it always involves sharing our life in Christ through what we say and what we do.
So, in the first instance, we need to know Jesus Christ, to encounter him and learn about him, and love him. We need to be convinced that he is good news, and to be energised to live as his disciples.
Many Catholics are terrific at serving God’s mission through their actions, through acts of kindness, charitable support or justice initiatives. This is how they spread the Good News.
But what about through our words? There can sometimes be the excuse given, attributed to St Francis of Assisi, to preach often and use words if necessary. There seems to be an aversion to speak about God, especially in a society that celebrates tolerance. Sharing our faith may seem to be offensive to some or make them feel like we are ramming religion down their throat.
However, a recent study, Faith and Belief in Australia, conducted by McCrindle Research found that:
More than half of Australians (52%) are open, to some extent, to changing their religious views given the right circumstances and evidence. Younger generations are more likely than older generations to be open to changing their current religious views (20% Gen Z, 19% Gen Y, 12% Gen X, 4% Baby Boomers, and 6% Builders say they are extremely/significantly open). Conversations with people are the biggest prompt for Australians to think about spiritual or religious things (31% concur).
In addition, almost one in four Australians who are not Christian, are “warm” towards Christianity.
Given a non-judgmental approach, there is a good chance someone will be quite open to a conversation about faith. Otherwise, we can leave people ignorant of the very One who motivates us in our service, the very One whom can offer fullness of life.
This call to be on mission extends to our parishes. How do our parishes both form us as missionary disciples, and offer an environment where people experience this life in Jesus Christ in meaningful and sustaining ways?
May we continue to renew our parishes for God’s mission and equip ourselves with the language and skills we need to ensure that we share the good news with those we encounter in our lives.
Richard McMahon is the Director of Pastoral Planning & Implementation for the Diocese of Parramatta.