“You will be my witnesses.” – Read Acts of the Apostles 1: 6–8
“Missionary” and “apostle” are terms that come from Latin and Greek, respectively, and they mean “sent” and “envoy”. We think that these words evoke far distant lands and poor people and are the concern of missionaries or other people that go or stay somewhere else—but do not concern us. Mission, instead, is the task of each one of us.
We always ask ourselves “when” the kingdom of God will come. Jesus only tells us “how” it comes. The Apostles, before Jesus’ Ascension, questioned Him for the last time: “Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” From Jesus’ answer, the Christian community is born: “It is not for you to know times and dates that the Father has decided by His own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem… and indeed to the ends of the earth.”
Birth refers to nature: the plant follows the nature of the seed from which it comes. By the power of the Holy spirit, the nature of the Church consists in being witness to her Lord. The kingdom comes when, “baptized in the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1: 5; Luke 3: 16), the disciples keep on doing and teaching everything He Himself “had done and taught from the beginning” (Acts 1: 1). To be His witnesses (martyrs, in Greek!) means to remember Him, to take Him to heart, acting and speaking as He did.
Each one of us has the same vocation and mission of Jesus: the vocation to be sons and daughters, which is fulfilled in the mission of becoming brothers and sisters. Every believer is a recipient of Jesus’ mission, the Son who loves him like the Father.
According to the measure of experiencing His love, he becomes active: he is able to love as he is loved and makes himself His wit- ness on behalf of others so that they may have the same experience. This is what Jesus told the man who was freed from the legion of demons: “Go back home and report all that God has done for you” (Luke 8: 39).
The one who was once possessed is now the first apostle: he is sent to give testimony to the brethren of what has happened to him.
Mission, first of all, concerns myself, my lifestyle. The love of the Son frees me from evil; once free, I am sent by Him: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20: 21). I am sent first to those who are near: “Go back home.” The apostles’ witness starts from Jerusalem; mine starts from where I am.
I take charge for the society in which I am living, in order to embrace all in the end, until the extreme corners of the earth. In our multicultural and global world, the farthest away are usually the nearest whom we neglect: those whom we push to the margin, beyond the limits of a viable life. Uprooted from their own environment and discarded by us, they are the poorest of all.
Our vocation and mission would have to be re-visited in the light of the Lord “who is always with us” (Mt 28: 20) with the face of all the faceless people who live among us. Hungry, thirsty, immigrants and the naked, sick and those in prison, the millions of poor Christs of this world: they are the Lord. What we do to the least of them will judge and save us, not them. They are sent to our door like Lazarus; they are calling us to bridge the abysmal gap that we have dug between them and us so that, from them, salvation may reach us. Mission is the fundamental dimension of our life.
We always need to be evangelized, and by the very ones we would like to evangelize. Then, once evangelized, we turn towards the others, near and far. Only going to the brethren, we ourselves become children of God. Mission implements our vocation: “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me,” says Jesus identifying Himself with His envoys (Mt 10: 40). The mission towards our brethren makes us like Him, the Son.