Sometimes an encounter with someone, a conversation, makes a lasting impact on us. As I reflected on today’s Gospel, it brought to mind one of those moments in my life as a priest. I was speaking with a man about his spiritual life. He was saying that he didn’t think there had been many serious sins in his life, but that there was one he had always regretted – that caused him sorrow. And then he said something very deep – one of the most beautiful moments I have experienced in my life as a priest – and I think it came from the Holy Spirit. He said, “What hurts me the most is that all that time I was away from the Church and the Sacraments – all that time I was away from daily prayer – I don’t really recall missing God. I don’t recall feeling the necessity for Him in my life.”
Maybe the connection to today’s readings isn’t immediately apparent. But let me explain… Today’s gospel is about being sent – about mission. “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1: 1-11). Each of us is a missionary in this world. Each of us has been sent, in the very same way that Jesus sent his disciples, to bring the good news to those God has placed in our lives.
3 possible scenarios:
1-Maybe we feel this sense of mission once in a while– we want to bring light and goodness into the world when we feel tin the mood. But perhaps, like the man I was speaking with, if we are very honest we will admit that we haven’t always felt the need for God in our lives. Maybe as we get a little lazy in our prayer life, or attend confession a little less often, we don’t really MISS God the way we should.
2-Or maybe we’ve taken this mission as OUR OWN. We’ve got a plan, and we don’t want anyone or anything to change it – not even God. Maybe we think things are just fine as they are, and we are not really open to the ways He might want to stretch us and call us further.
3-Maybe we have started to feel the mission as a BURDEN that is heavy on our shoulders. Maybe we are trying to carry it all ourselves without God. Maybe we aren’t missing the essential part of entrusting to Him all we are and do.
Our souls need God just as our bodies need food and drink. Without Him, our souls will eventually get sick. Any doctor knows that when a patient looses his appetite (when he is no longer hungry), he is seriously ill. It is the same for our souls. When we stop being hungry for God, it is a sign that our souls are really sick – in danger. We need only take a quick look at the world around us, to see that there are many souls who are gravely ill. There are many souls who need God, but don’t recognize that need. There are many souls who no longer hunger for God. Brothers and sisters of Saint Mark, a world like ours is in desperate need of true disciples in desperate need of true missionaries.
A true disciple will miss Our Lord when he is absent. Our hearts should be like those of Mary and Joseph in the last of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Jesus was missing…they searched everywhere for Him…among their relatives and friends and throughout Jerusalem, until they finally found Him in the temple. And a true missionary will take this one step further. A true missionary – having found Jesus – will be unable to rest until others have found Him as well. A true missionary will have a hunger not only for God, but for souls. They will have an almost desperate desire to share what they have received. As the philosophers of ages past would say, "amor diffusivum sui" - love is meant to be shared. By its nature, love wants to EXPAND!)
But as we reflect on this gospel, and on that conversation I mentioned at the beginning, maybe we can say something deeper about being a true missionary. Maybe in today’s world, the first task of a missionary is to help others to recognize their NEED for God. Imagine if we were able to really do that. Imagine if in our lives, just once, we were able to show someone that the hunger and thirst in their soul was a hunger and thirst for God. Imagine how dramatically that would change their life – and maybe the lives of their family members and friends. Imagine the impact on our world of a missionary like that!
We need to have that kind of impact in the world today brothers and sisters. We need to be like St Peter and the Apostles. We read in Acts 2: 37 “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, my brothers?”. When this question – what are we to do? – is the response to our efforts at evangelization – then we know that we have done a good job. Because with this question, lives begin to change, sin is left behind, the hunger for divine life is recognized. With this question, what has been missing is found - God is found.
St Rose of Lima prayed, "My Lord, you have wounded me with your love, please don't heal this wound, because only your presence heals me... Don't heal this wound, I would rather prefer to continue to be wounded, and always to thirsts for you. I prefer to miss you, because to miss you is the engine that moves me over and over to want to look to you and go towards an encounter with you".