The Mission Fields

On Sunday, July 20, 1969 at 3:17 EST, two men first set foot on the surface of the moon.  Neil Armstrong famously took that “giant leap
for mankind,” followed shortly by his partner, Buzz Aldrin.  The third member of their crew, Michael Collins, orbited above them in the
command module.  After landing, Aldrin opened a tiny package he’d brought with him from his church back home and consumed what wasinside.  He read the Scripture, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me will bring forth much fruit” (John 15:5).  The package he’d brought with him had contained a tiny silver chalice, a vial of wine, and a communion wafer.  As Aldrin later wrote, “In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup…the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there were the communion elements.”  While Aldrin’s bread and wine weren’t the Catholic communion of Christ’s Body and Blood, his faith in God’s word and his reverence for the idea of communion with God in that historic moment reflect our human need to connect with our Creator.  In his own way, Buzz Aldrin was bringing a sense of the Church to the new world of the moon.

But the Lord’s Church exists in community.  Jesus taught us to “love
one another” as He loves us (John 13:34-35).  He wants us to bring the
Good News of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  In St. Matthew’s
Gospel, Jesus spoke to His disciples about this very thing:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”(Matthew
28:19-20).  This is called “The Great Commission.”  From the days of
the Apostles, the Catholic Church has sent out missionaries to every
corner of the world.  Many of Christ’s Twelve were martyred for their
faith in foreign lands including India, Russia, and Armenia.  In the
centuries that followed, the Church and Her religious orders ventured
to wherever there were people.  St. Augustine of Canterbury took the
Gospel to England and St. Patrick traveled to Ireland.  St. Francis
Xavier preached and taught throughout Asia and Fr. Matteo Ricci took
Catholicism to 16th century China.  In our own country, Blessed
Junipero Serra established the churches along California’s famous
“mission trail.”  From Her beginning, the work of the Church has been
to pour out the love of Christ to a lost and hurting world. In that
pouring out, we make connections with one another and create
relationships.  Love exists in relationship, not in a vacuum.
Sometimes our missionaries met a martyr’s death.  Even today, being
Catholic in many of the world’s countries can bring about repression,
persecution and death.  Despite the dangers, the “Great Commission” of
Christ goes on.

We are all called to be examples of Christ to the people in our lives.  God doesn’t lead most of us to the foreign mission fields, but rather
to the neighborhoods and communities in which we live and work.
Living our faith in our own country today can be difficult.  If we
stand up for our beliefs as Catholic Christians we can experience the
“little martyrdoms” of losing face and losing friends.  It takes
courage in our culture to say:  “I believe in the Real Presence of
Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.  I believe in celibacy for single
people and in chastity for all people.  I believe that marriage is a
sacrament of God and that it is created by Him to join one man and one
woman together in a lifelong commitment of love and mutual respect.  I
believe in the sanctity of human life from conception until natural
death.  I believe abortion is murder.  I believe that artificial
contraception is inherently evil.”  These beliefs are counter-cultural
in the same way that Jesus is counter-cultural.  We see our Catholic
faith being attacked, ridiculed and marginalized in the media every
day.  The world just doesn’t “get” Catholicism.  And I think this
means we’re doing something right.

So when you’re feeling discouraged by all the attacks on Christianity,
get into your fighting stance:  in a pew, on your knees, before our
Lord and Savior.  Pray that you’ll have the heart and courage to be a
worthy servant in today’s mission fields of work and community and
social media.  Pray also that our Bishops will have the courage of the
Apostles to fearlessly proclaim the Gospel of Christ and to shepherd
His flock as He would have them do.  And love.  Love one another and
care for one another:  the poor, the immigrants, the sick, the widow
and orphan, the imprisoned, the unborn and the lonely.  When we love
as Christ loves, we unleash the power of God’s grace which can soften
the hardest of hearts.  Every lost soul is a mission field.

“In this world, you will have trouble.  But take courage, I have
conquered the world.”  —(John 16:33)

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