Churches dot the landscape in rural, northern Thailand. There are many, more than I expected. Here they reach out to the indigenous people, respectfully, the hill tribes. Amidst people who have less, a church is mission in action. The Word of God is lively in the traditional sense of mission. Coming back into urban, modern cities especially in developed countries, a church represents a place of worship. Amidst people who have more, there is the luxury to debate if religion is passe.
“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” (Today’s Gospel)
I grew up in the 60’s in Singapore, then an island nation who had less. Going to CK Tang in Orchard Road was a once-a-year treat, the bus fare was otherwise better used for more pressing essentials. We lived in an estate where fronts doors were welcomingly opened, a sign of community inter-dependence, perhaps a lived experience of today’s second reading, “Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ.” Mission, in the sense of this article, was both knowingly and unknowingly expressed.
Six decades on, urbanization may suggest that mission is over for some, at least it’s not required at our doorsteps. As the world evolved, we as people in the one body of this world, do as well, not just outwardly but inwardly in values too. Are we happy, at ease, and at peace today?
Evangelization accompanies mission. Six decades on, Christ is more known today than he was yesterday, at least in terms of linear knowledge. Evangelization to convert non-believers to believers, non-Christian to Christians is much at pace in rural areas but has slowed among urbanites. Mission in its purest form is not about conversion. Mission is about each part caring for the other parts in our one body, with love as the oxygen reaching to all parts sustaining spiritual life.
Today in urban areas, there are many people who despite outward displays of comfort, actually have less. People are not at peace inwardly. Emotionally, and deeper inward, spiritually, today’s world is holding us captive and making us blind. Our mission has evolved and today it is to carry this oxygen to set these down-trodden free. Evolution requires new tools, new ways, and new expressions to set alight the Word of God in our midst. We as laity are best positioned for this mission simply because we live in the midst of this one body and we have been anointed and given the Spirit of the Lord and sent to bring good news to the spiritually poor.
We celebrate Word of God Sunday. Let us contemplate the decades of evolution we have lived through. Consider this, “Which is a growing mission? To go out and evangelize non-believers or to reach out to Christians who have been disconnected and are struggling to reclaim their faith?” Everything is always evolving. In that swirl, we as laity must continue to make mission relevant in the situation and environment we find ourselves in.
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time