One of my good friends is training right now in Minnesota to be a missionary on college campuses with Saint Paul's Outreach. Live video of FOCUS missionaries getting their college campus assignments fill my Facebook feed. Two of my little sisters are giving their entire summers to mission work with grade school and high school kids.
My heart is so full for them.
Two summers ago, mission work was on my heart big-time. I had spent the summer with high school kids doing mission work, and my heart was so full. A good friend of mine, who had been a FOCUS missionary asked me if I'd be interested in applying for missionary work on college campuses, and I was excited to start looking down that path.
But then God shut those doors - He was calling me to a different mission field. Not on college campuses, but within marriage and family life.
So I adventured on a crazy-beautiful journey of intentional dating, and married an incredible man. And now, four short months into marriage, my mission work today looks incredibly different than a missionary on a college campus. Or a missionary overseas, bringing Christ to someone for perhaps the first time.
This weekend, the Catholic Church celebrates her birthday with the feast of Pentecost. I love how the first reading tells the story of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples in the upper room. They had gone up into that hidden place out of fear, and God called them out of fear with a courageous call to mission work.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4).
The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they were called to action. They go out and preach to those gathered, and each person present hears the disciples speaking in their own language. Then the disciples take the message of the Gospels and spread it to all ends of the earth.
But that mission call given to the disciples on Pentecost isn't something that happened thousands of years ago and doesn't affect us today. Instead, we are also called to mission work, no matter where we are at in our lives.
Mission work overseas may not be where God wants you. Mission work on college campuses may not be your call, either. But regardless of where God is asking you to serve, you're called to spread the love of Christ to people in your life. As Christians, inspired by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we're called to participate in the mission work of the Church.
The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their baptism and confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself "according to the measure of Christ's bestowal". (Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI, 1964).
Regardless of your vocation, your location, or your occupation, you're called to mission work. That could be ministering to your family members (sometimes the hardest people to love!). Or maybe mission work for you looks like giving up your time on a weeknight to volunteer with a local organization. Perhaps He's calling you to pour into your co-worker who is feeling lonely in a new city.
Christ leaves His Church the sacraments - especially the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith - to fill us and energize us for our mission. Then, lay people are called to be salt and light of the earth. Pope Paul VI writes that we are literally to be "a witness and a living instrument o the mission of the Church itself."
Whoa. That's a big mission.
Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church. (Lumen Gentium, Pope Paul VI, 1964).
So as you celebrate the feast day of Pentecost, don't be afraid to ask Christ where your mission field is. And then, filled with courage and the Eucharist, become a living instrument of His plan for the salvation of the World. Be not afraid!
Be generous in answering Jesus’ call inviting you to put out into the deep and become His witnesses, discovering the trust He puts in you to devise a future together with Him. Above all, to fulfill this mission the Church is entrusting to you requires that you cultivate a genuine life of prayer nourished by the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. (Saint Pope John Paul II)