What is Catholic Mission?
How do you become a missionary?
In Hollywood examples, a “Mission” implies a person or people are sent some place. They are sent by an authority who issues the instructions of what to do. It is safe to say that the word "mission" in popular culture denotes a challenging task. Some people might speak of their own challenging tasks using the word “mission” in common conversations: “I am on a mission to find a good deal.” “I am on a mission to find a job.” But what does the word “Mission” mean when it’s not on the movie screen or in casual conversation? What kind challenging tasks, what kind of authority or important purpose are we talking about when speak of being a mission-ary?
These questions are more interesting than you might imagine because of significant changes in how the Catholic Church understands mission that have occurred over the last fifty years. Yet still, mission remains the heart and source of Christian life and the Church. We used to speak of sending missionaries to foreign lands to "win the world" for Jesus. That made mission more like a military campaign. But was that Jesus' method and mission when he was among us?
Jesus’ mission embodied God's presence and relationship with the world in and through his teachings, but, more importantly, through his actions of being with people. Jesus of Nazareth talked with, ate with, learned from, and showed the presence of God in unexpected people and places. One of the important ways the Church’s understanding of mission has changed is the teaching that God’s presence and saving work precedes the Church. Meaning, God is not absent from those faraway lands until missionaries arrive. God is already there. God is everywhere. In this, the Second Vatican Council re-imagined mission. The Church is not the sender, but the one also being sent to help people realize God’s presence. So, rather than mission being the work of the church. It is the church. The Church is mission by its very nature. It is also who you are by virtue of your baptism into the Christian community. The Church and each of us are sent into the world to help heal it, and others are being sent to help and heal us.
MISSIO offers themed-quizzes in MissioBot to examine your religious knowledge - and this blog by James Nagle, PhD to reflect on questions of faith.