‘Ite, missa est’

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT’S “Go forth, the Mass is ended” in Latin. With these words, we are reminded that all of us who attend Mass are being sent forth the way Christ sent his apostles to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16,15)

May it be that we are always aware of this mandate Christ is giving us. We are being sent to go as far and as widely as possible to proclaim the Gospel. We are being sent to make Christ known and loved by as many people as possible, because Christ is actually everything to us.

To be sent by Christ to proclaim him in all corners of the world is for us to be a missionary. But we need to make some drastic updating of our understanding of what a missionary is. We should not get stuck with the common textbook idea that a missionary is usually a priest or nun who goes to a far-away place, and literally starts a settlement there.

While this concept of a missionary is still valid—it will always be—it now cries to be expanded to reflect its true character, especially given today’s fast-moving and more complicated world.

We have to understand that everyone, by virtue of his sheer humanity and much more, his Christianity, is called to be a missionary, and that he does not need to go to distant lands because his immediate environment already needs a more effective, down-to-earth evangelization.

Yes, even the ordinary guy in an office, the farmer, the businessman, the politician, the entertainers, artists and athletes, are called to be missionaries. That’s simply because as persons with a prominently social dimension in our life, we have to be responsible for one another.

And the biggest responsibility we can have for the others would be their moral and spiritual welfare, much more than just their economic or social wellbeing. It is this responsibility that we have to learn how to be more serious about and more competent in fulfilling. This is the current situation and challenge to all of us.

And so, we have to reconcile ourselves with the reality that we actually have to be missionaries right where we are. In fact, I would say that to go to the deserts of Africa or the forests and rivers of Brazil could be far easier to do, since in these places we only have to contend more with physical and material difficulties.

The people in these isolated areas may exhibit primitive violent attitudes, but their minds and hearts can easily be converted by simple and elemental gestures of goodness and, of course, the grace of God. This has always been the experience of missionaries who went to these places.

It’s rather in the paved jungles of the big cities inhabited by very sophisticated people immersed in very worldly things where the more demanding kind of missionary work is needed.

In these places, the people tend to be so confined to their own world, already made beautiful and comfortable by the new technologies, such that any talk about spiritual and supernatural realities, especially about prayer, sacrifice and the need for the sacraments, could easily fall on deaf ears.

These urban dwellers may not openly profess atheism or agnosticism. They can even show many acts of piety, and can even show off some good work. And this is the more difficult part, precisely because with that condition they can think they are already ok insofar as religion is concerned.

We need to sharpen our sense of our missionary identity to face the tremendous challenge we have today to make Christ known and loved.

Email: roycimagala@gmail.com