Emmitsburg Council of Churches

From A to Z-Apostolic to Zeal

Father John J. Lombardi

We need missionaries today! And remember: You're either a missionary or a mission field.

I recall when I was in India recently, our host Fr Sunil, described a priest friend: "He's got the missionary spirit." I was curious what he meant, inquired, and Fr Sunil replied "Zeal-the priest has eagerness for others." Do you have zealousness for God, His Church and saving souls? Actually, when I think about it, Fr Sunil himself had a missionary-and apostolic-- spirit: He travelled from his home to Orissa state to help persecuted Christians and documented it with pictures; every week he went to many places to celebrate Mass; he was an editor of a Catholic newspaper in Calcutta; he enthusiastically showed us around Calcutta and India-Bengal State; he was a consulter to the bishop; and he drove a motorcycle in Calcutta to his many appointments--what didn't he do?

When I was younger I thought being a missionary was for "someone else". When I got older I became one-as a priest, and then I travelled overseas a few times and really enjoyed it, but didn't much think of it as being a missionary. Then I learned about other missionaries-in books and evangelical magazines and so forth, and I gradually learned we weren't that much different. Dr Thomas Powell, president of Mt St Mary's University likes to ask, rhetorically: "whose job is recruiting here at Mt St Mary's?" And the mantric response from our leadership meetings is: Everyone's!" That's true of being a missionary and member of our Catholic Faith-it's all our job to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus as the Savior and invite folks to His Church. To do this we just gotta get out of our minds two clouding illusions: it's someone else's job; and you gotta wear a mosquito-hat on your head while in jungles and go to Bible college or dress in white shirt and black tie to be a missionary. In this Sunday's Gospel (St. Jn. 4:5-42) Our Lord Jesus "missions from Heaven" to evangelize the woman of Samaria. Jesus is out to save souls. Are you?

Vatican Council II (1962-1965) called all men and women to holiness and to spread the Gospel-it's not just for priests and sisters anymore. Where do we need missionaries? To our cities-often blighted by exile, drugs, poor policies of r parents and families. To suburbs and exurbs-to the malls strip malls to proclaim amidst the loneliness Jesus is Lord! We need missionaries to our workplaces and government and churches to remind everyone that the Catholic Church is on a Mission. Unlike other religions and spiritualities which do not "proselytize," our Religion seeks adherents. Where is the zeal of Catholics and Christians as we see Mormons training each and every youth to become a missionary? Do we nurture apostolic zeal when we view Muslims in madrasses avidly teaching and learning their faith? We need the devotion like that of Hare Krishna devotees-remember them?-- at airports or street corners with a drum and rosary beads witnessing their faith -but ourselves to spread the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ. We can use some of the Jehovah's Witnesses missioning spirit door to door with zealousness. A Missionary is out to save souls -do you really believe other's souls are "on the line" like Jesus did? I just read of a British atheist-journalist who emulated Christina missionaries to third world countries, helping AIDS victims, because he saw their chastity programs as a real lasting solution to that dark problem. Perhaps many Christians are embarrassed by their Religion's solvents to deep issues, and, meanwhile, it takes an atheist to remind them!

We need missionaries in the scientific fields. Just this past week our President overturned a previous ban on federal experimentation of embryonic stem cells Many have applauded this a "liberation of science"-from a stern hold by religious-or "backward" peoples. Along with this scientific issue, others from contraception to "family reproduction rights" to evolution and abortion, many today have tied these issues together and implied that if you don't support them the way they want you are an enemy of science. For example, if you don't support the killing of babies (thru abortion) or the giving out of condoms in schools (contraception) or a-theistic evolution then you are a "dinosaur" in scientific endeavors. Thus we need missionaries in the scientific field to inspire and instigate and bring Truth, to be apostolic (which means to be sent forth) -and proclaim the dignity of the human being no matter how small or anonymous.

As Dinesh D'Souza, Indian Catholic convert, says it, it was Christians-mainly Catholics-that preserved and promoted science centuries ago-from Newton to Kepler to Gregor Mendel--and who have helped science advance even today. The question today is do we want a "Frankenstein" abuse of science-thru stem cell manipulation of babies, more toxins to enslave men and women in abortion and barnyard contraception, a form of godlessness, "divorce from Divinity" thru moral relativism or an "anything goes mentality"--or rather do we want and mission for the personalism and supernaturalism based on God's eternal laws? We need a resurgence of scientific missionaries to bring God back into the picture and thus truly advance the dignity of mankind

We need to missionaries today to "Stay On Message"-that Jesus Christ is Lord and that He doesn't straightjacket people but, rather, straightens them up into true human beings and to live in solidarity with others. We need creative people like Pope John Paul II who advanced World Youth Days with engaging music and evangelization techniques to call all kinds of people to true human fulfillment. In our "flattened" earth and culture of stifling speech we need missionaries with boldness, like the guy I heard a pro-life rally recently, who kept yelling-"Jesus Christ is Lord!".

What hurts evangelization?: Relativism-which says that every religion is the same; consumerism-which conditions you so you can't get away from the plasma TV and creature comforts to go save souls. Sloth: it's someone else's job or the feeling-thought--"Everyone else is not doing it-spreading the word-so why should I?" ….

Remember: You're either a missionary or a missonfield!

Lent: "The Light is On"-Is Archdiocese of Baltimore program of Divine Mercy--Each Wednesday night of Lent from 7 to 8.30pm in all diocesan churches confessions are heard-don't stay away from His Love and Healing!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi