Mission at the heart of Christian faith

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | October 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
Deacon Mickey Friesen

Deacon Mickey Friesen

Being the Church of the little flock of Jesus

Anyone who has ever traveled or studied abroad knows something of what it is like to be in the minority. It can be difficult to navigate the differences of language, culture and customs. What is normal at home all of a sudden becomes abnormal. You become the one who looks and acts different from all the others. Being in the minority can make you seem strange to the majority.

This experience must also be true for those who live as a religious minority. Living in a country where Christianity is still the majority, I can take certain things for granted. When you are part of a religious minority, you must find ways to carve out your religious life in the midst of the predominant culture.

Christianity began as a minority. It might be good to remember how Jesus sent the apostles to the nations to proclaim the Gospel. They went into foreign lands proclaiming the kingdom of God, but always lived in the minority. Jesus called them the “little flock” and said, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32). The first missionaries were sent forth as a minority to give witness to the Gospel by their words and deeds and placing their trust in God to guide them.

Like the early Church, there are Christians today who live out their faith as the minority. The only power they have is that of their living witness to Jesus’ way. There are those in the little flock today who suffer discrimination or violence for their faith like the early martyrs. They know that there are consequences for practicing Christianity. They know the cost of discipleship and what it means to carry the cross each day.

On World Mission Sunday, we celebrate the missionary impulse of the Church and support the little flocks of Jesus today. Pope Francis, in his World Mission Day message, said, “The Church is missionary by nature; if it were not, it would no longer be the Church of Christ, but an association of many others that would soon end with the end of its purpose and disappear.” Like those early disciples who encountered Jesus and responded to his call to the ends of the earth with trust and hope, mission churches living in the minority give us a glimpse into the dynamism of faith that can inspire all of us who follow Christ.

For example, consider the mission church in a place like the Diocese of Vijayapuram in southern India. It is a little flock on many levels. Christians make up a very small minority in India. They rarely can affect political and cultural life. Catholics can face discrimination and even violence from the majority. In Vijayapuram, Roman Catholics live as a minority among the Christians living there. Their members primarily come from the lowest caste of Indian society called “Dalits” or “tribals” or “untouchables.” As a minority church, they are growing faith and encouraging each other by forming small Christian communities in neighborhoods and villages, a little flock within the church of the minority.

Pope Francis is calling all of us to adopt the missionary spirit of the little flock. He says, “The Church’s mission is enlivened by a spirituality of constant exodus. We are challenged to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel.” The Lord is pleased to hand over the mission of his kingdom to us. Let us not be afraid to enter the mission of the minority — the little flock — ready to give and to follow where the Lord leads and to trust in his care for us. May God’s mission be the heart of our faith.

Deacon Friesen is director of the Center for Mission in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Tags: ,

Category: World Mission Sunday