Getting in Touch With Your “Inner Missionary”

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By Anthony Gittins

Mission work and your own ministry of adult faith formation have much in common because they both spring from the same source: our Christian life. “Mission experience” is not primarily the exotic but what is essentially Christian. To be Christian is to be called and sent to be missionary (“co-missioned”). To be missionary in reality and not just in name is quite simply to live one’s baptism fully: to be committed to it, to (pro) claim it, to ratify or confirm it in the public arena. Every baptized Christian is invested with the missionary charism that is part of baptism itself.

A Common Call
So it isn’t only the professional—or “foreign”—missionary who should become adept at crossing boundaries, respecting differences, and working for transformation of structures and self-understanding. Given the common call of baptism, each of us is obliged to pursue the same agenda, starting from wherever we happen to be. No one is exempt from the commission: “Go!” None can absolve themselves of the command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But some of us manage to modify these imperatives. Indeed our church has been guilty of creating a missionary elite, to the detriment of the missionary faithful in general. Vatican II rediscovered the missionary call of the baptized, but after four decades it is still not well enough known.

It is, therefore, critically important that we remember that all who take their baptism seriously are thereby co-missioned. Christianity is a missionary faith and a missionary religion. It is missionary faith inasmuch as it is received by those who have experienced the Missio Dei (“The Mission of God”)—God’s own dynamic, centrifugal, outreaching, embracing, reconciling, healing love. It is a missionary religion because it is offered, extended, and shared by those who, having received it, are sent (missio) to pass it on universally and without coercion. In principle, there is nothing a (foreign) missionary should know and practice that every Christian-every (home) missionary—is not also called to undertake. We are distinguished by particularities of ministry but united in a common baptism. TP


*This article is excerpted from the January 2003 issue of Today’s Parish.

Anthony Gittins

Anthony Gittins, CSSp is Professor of Mission and Culture at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.