A new missionary visited a small village in a remote jungle, and, in his rudimentary skill in the native language, began preaching the Gospel. “Jesus will give you eternal life!” said the missionary. “Bawana!” shouted the natives. “You must not worship other gods!” said the missionary. “Bawana!” shouted the natives. “You must not murder or commit adultery or lie!” said the missionary. “Bawana!” shouted the natives, even more enthusiastically. Buoyed by their energetic response, the missionary felt ready to evangelize the world. He asked the chief how to get to the next village, to share the Gospel with them too. The chief replied, “You go down road one thousand paces. Turn right. Climb over wall made of rocks. Run across field. Many bulls in field. You run fast, but be careful not step in bull bawana.”
Think of missionaries for a moment. They are sent to remote corners of the world, with the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel and saving souls. They are often in dangerous situations, and certainly they endure the harshness of feeling alone in their faith when they are surrounded by so many non-believers. They are carrying on the work of Saint Paul, who expanded the Church through the Roman Empire and to Persia and India. They follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick in the 5th Century, Pope Gregory the Great, and the Augustinians, Franciscans, and Dominicans.
The Catholic Church has been a missionary church from the very beginning. Jesus’ Great Commission told the apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, go and baptize, go and preach the Gospel. Jesus said, “Go”, and like true apostles, they went and they did as He instructed. Their work, and the work of all missionaries, not just expanded the Church. Their work saved souls. While it’s easy to think of missionaries in stereotypical terms, we are all called to be missionaries. We are all called to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the jungle which God sends us.
Maybe your jungle is your neighborhood. After all, the apostles first evangelized the Jews in their own communities before spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles. Maybe you have a neighbor who is elderly and alone, who simply needs someone to spend time with them and pray with them. Maybe there’s a family who is struggling through a job loss or serious illness, who needs not just a helping hand, but the encouraging words of Christ. Or what about the family that seems nice enough, but who has no spiritual life at all. Are you being sent to bring Christ to the natives in your neighborhood?
Perhaps your jungle is your job. Maybe there are people where you work who need the light of Christ in their lives, like the coworker who attributes miracles in their life to “good luck” or “good fortune”, who needs reminded that miracles come from God. What about the one who mocks and derides people of faith. And the one who goes to strip clubs while on business trips. Or the one who is close to committing adultery with another coworker. What about the one who is taking advantage of their expense account. Do you have the courage to speak God’s truth to the natives at work?
Or maybe your jungle is your family. There’s that relative who professes to be “spiritual but not religious”. And the one who brags about being saved, but who’s heart hasn’t been changed because they live their lives as if there are no consequences for the sins they routinely commit. Or the relative who is a casual Catholic. Or the one who left the Church completely. Sometimes the hardest natives to speak to are the ones you’ve known your whole life.
Brothers, we are living in hostile lands right now, today. We are surrounded by people who are not unlike the natives in remote jungles. Many are people who take “judge not lest ye be judged” completely out of context, and yell “BAWANA!” whenever we try to point out their sin. But make no mistake, that is precisely what we are called to do. Saint Paul tells us in 2 Timothy: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
Brothers, we are all called to be missionaries. We are all called to be evangelical Catholics. We are all called to go. Where is God sending you today? Who’s soul will you save tomorrow?