I have been speaking a lot recently about ‘missionary disciples’, the term given to us by Pope Francis to describe what the Christian life is supposed to look like. It may make us a little uncomfortable. Perhaps we have images of standing in the middle of the mall or on a street corner calling people to repentance, or going door to door to get converts.
While this is not what Pope Francis, nor the Church, has in mind in regards to ‘missionary disciples’, we are called to share our faith and to proclaim the Gospel by the way we live our lives. The Holy Father and this weekend’s liturgy are teaching us that being Catholic is more than just showing up; it is about living our identity.
In this morning’s Collect, a reference was made to our baptism when we ‘received adoption’ by God. Baptism wasn’t just a ritual to bring us into the club, it was an encounter with Jesus Christ that changed our very identity. Our souls were configured to Christ; we became sons and daughters of God.
To discover who we are, to live a life that flourishes we need to seek God and live according to our identity. The spiritual writers in our tradition refer to this as the false self v. true self; living how the world expects us or as we think we should versus living according to our identity.
Prayer is necessary. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Christian life and prayer are inseparable. Why? Prayer connects us to God, to our inner selves.
To live our identity as a child of God, we must love.
One of the greatest struggles in the Christian life is when we spend a lot of energy on what we do and don’t do, debating whether this action is sinful or not. We end up sounding more like the Pharisees than the children of God.
St. Paul gives us the key today: The commandments can be summed up by this saying, he says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is part of the ‘Greatest Commandment’ (which we will hear in a few weeks): “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind (AND) you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
To understand what is being taught here, we need to remember St. John’s simple statement in his First Letter: God is Love.
Love is part of God’s identity; as a daughter or son of God, love is part of our identity.
The Lord is telling us today in the reading from Ezekiel and Matthew that love comes with responsibility.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium wrote “…if we have received the love which restores meaning in our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?...We have to reach out to others and seek their good.”
This is how we grow in love, by engaging others.
Sometimes, Jesus tells us today, that means correction. However, that correction must be from a place of love so that it doesn’t become accusing or condemning.
Jesus also emphasizes the need for patience and love. The purpose in correction is to help the other become more loving, to help them strengthen their relationship with God, the one who is love.
By the Way, Jesus is not presenting or condoning a three strike, you’re out policy here, “Treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector” does not mean treat them like the rest of society does, with disdain and disrespect. Rather, he is telling us to treat them as He would treat a Gentile and tax collector: with love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness.
If then the person refuses, we are to treat them with love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness…
Being a Christian can be tough. Without a loving relationship with Christ it is impossible.
Being a Christian means being another Christ to others in all that we do.
That is the mission of the disciples of Christ; we are not meant to be spectators. We are meant to share Christ’s love and invite others into relationship with that love.
We are meant to be other Christ’s in all that we do. To do so we must nurture our relationship with Christ and allow His love to transform us.