Paul is coming to the end of his first missionary journey. He and Barnabas are returning to Antioch - going back to the community that had sent them to proclaim the Gospel in distant lands.
Mission has always been part of the work of the Church. It has not always been done sensitively. It is only recently that people have begun to recognise that often they were imposing a culture rather than bringing Good News.
This remains a danger. With the use of mass media, powerful countries - and their “evangelists” - have the ability to impose their ideas and values on others. Sometimes, their methods are subtle. Sometimes, they are like a sledge-hammer to crack a nut.
The history of missionary work - and the reputations of some of those who are involved in TV evangelism - have given mission and evangelisation a bad name. We have become frightened of speaking about our Faith in case we are accused of ramming it down people’s throats. We are also a little suspicious of those who do speak openly about their Faith and the conviction that God loves them.
This is understandable - but sad too.
St Matthew has Jesus describing the Kingdom as a treasure buried in a field - and the wonderful thing about this treasure is that in sharing it we don’t lose it ourselves. Quite the opposite. The more we share it, the more we seem to have ourselves.
It is as if, the deeper we have to dig to have something to offer - the more we find. This is not surprising - as its source is the infinite love of God - which is inexhaustible.
Our missionary work may take us no further than the shops or our workplaces - but we can take our treasure with us and share it with others. We don’t need to ram anything down anybody’s throats. People may have responded to Paul’s preaching - but they were far more impressed by his character. He stayed in people’s homes living and working alongside them. They saw how he stood up to imprisonment and flogging because of his faith - and saw that this faith was not just the words he spoke - but the life he lived. This was how he accomplished his mission and how people came to believe in the Good News he preached.
We can be missionaries in the same way - attracting people to the Good News by our actions. Then we can gain the confidence to tell people where our strength and love come from.
We will have to overcome prejudice - and will probably come up against ridicule.
What we have to consider is how great the treasure is that has been entrusted to us - not to keep but to share. We must remember too that no amount of hostility can ever take it away from us.
What does it
mean for me?
© 2011, Wellspring