Are You Ready To Be A Disciple of Christ?: A Mission For Every Baptized Person
Pope Francis, in his monthly prayer intentions and discernment (as posted in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network channel), recently appealed to all Catholics throughout the world to include in their prayer intentions the mission of evangelization for this month of October. According to Pope Francis, “every baptized person” is assigned by our Lord Jesus Christ with a duty of evangelization. Likewise, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that evangelization should not be regarded as “proselytism” since the mission’s focus is more of “encounters between people” and their testimonies regarding their love for Jesus, their knowledge about Him and His teachings which can be shared to others, just like how Pope Francis phrased it: “I know Jesus, and I’d like you to know Him too”.
This mission of evangelization dates back during Jesus’ time when He asked His diciples to go out and spread the Good News, based on the Scriptures. Thus, this call from the current Church hierarchy on the subject simply reiterates and reminds us of our duties and responsibilities as followers of Christ. Our Lord Jesus wants us to evangelize so everyone would know that He is present in all of us and that as our Lord and Savior, He wants us to know that salvation is possible and available for everyone even those who have sinned against Him but have repented and are willing to be saved.
We live in a rampantly secural world fascinated by high technology and new gadgets, some of us have learned to adopt certain liberated ideologies and opinions clamoring for human rights and freedom of choice, and so oftentimes, God’s teachings are placed in the back burner or being “canceled”, so to speak. We have heard and seen that there are people encountering difficulties from every aspects of life (economic, financial, spiritual, physical, among others), and so the need to lend a helping hand to them. As such, the said call and reminder from the Holy Father relative to our duties is but timely and is deemed necessary because of what is happening to our present world. In so doing, Pope Francis posed this query: Are we ready to be missionary disciples of Jesus?
Responding positively to this call remains a fundamental challenge of evangelization for everyone at this point in time, particularly with the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of us are beset with problems, struggling with hardships in life, and working very hard to have a good life. Even those in the religious vocations, the priests and nuns, are also facing difficulties in making this mission a success. So, how much more for us lay people? With the precarious condition that some of us are in, it would not be easy to bring people to Christ through evangelization. We can’t do it alone. We need some support system, from our family and friends. We need the grace from God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the inspiration from the Blessed Mother to keep us going and not falter in our Christian duties and ultimately in our quest for holiness. This mission is actually a difficult task for every Christian as not everyone has that much of luxury of time, talent and treasure (3Ts)to undertake such mission. It would require our strong commitment and renewed investment of our 3T’s with the assistance of all concerned stakeholders. I sometimes encounter this problem as there is never enough time for everything, after the hard day’s work, the errands and attending to personal and household needs! Normally, we prefer our comfort zones, keeping up with the latest updates in social media on politics, technology, music, novelties and even gossips over the significant and important tasks that are more pleasing to God.
When Pope Francis visited the Philippines in 2015, he addressed the Filipinos to serve as “outstanding missionaries of the faith” specifically in Asia. The Holy Father stated that Filipinos should continue working together for a common goal to achieve a “world of justice, integrity and peace”, starting from their circle of influence in their respective families and communities. As mentioned by the Holy Father, teaching/spreading the good news is “both a special blessing and a vocation.”
As we all know, Filipino Catholics are found in almost all parts of the globe and they are known for their fervent love of God and pious devotions. Thus, it is not surprising if Filipinos are called faith missionaries and are utilized as instruments of the evangelization. We see Filipinos actively visible and involved in parish communities abroad participating in church related activities. Some of us have served as religion teachers, catechists, lectors and are even responsible for providing liturgical music for the Holy Mass. We also introduce and share with the international community our culture and traditions and our unique way of expressing our faith, particularly our devotions to the Blessed Mother.
In the United States, Filipino Americans are the second Asian immigrants in the U.S. based on the study conducted by Pew Research Center. There are approximately 3.4 million (excluding the one million estimate for undocumented) Filipinos who are residing in the U.S. Out of the total Filipino Americans, Filipino Catholics account for a measly 2.6% of the U.S. Catholics. While there are only few Filipino Catholics in the U.S., the Filipino Apostolate however is widely dispersed in all parts of the U.S. and is one of the active faith-based organizations in the country. In the tri-State area alone (NYC, New Jersey and Connecticut), there are many religious affiliations and church based organizations where Filipinos are actively involved with and these are some ways of effectively spreading their faith culture to others.
One Filipino saint who has been canonized on October 21, 2012 and who took the mission of evangelization was St. Pedro Calungsod. At a young age, it must have been hard for St. Pedro to leave his country, gave up his teen-age life and instead teach religion to young boys and girls. He gave up himself wholeheartedly for God, sharing his knowledge and wisdom to others. St. Pedro was an ordinary layman, who left his home country to go abroad (Marianas Islands) when he was 14 years of age to teach Catechism and continue spreading the Good news. He was an epitome of a true young man, a man of dignity, fortitude, and with a strong conviction to respond to God’s call, a call to love and serve, particularly to those deprived of Catholic religious education.
Being a former religious education teacher/catechist, I was encouraged to echo this call of evangelization from the Holy Father. While it is relatively easy to deal with young students and teach them about God, there is an accompanying responsibility to it. I am fortunate to be given such an opportunity to be involved in this mission and I am so grateful. It was a fulfilling experience and so far, it is one of the greatest achievements of my life! And this mission of evangelization (spreading God’s word ) is still and will remain a commitment from my side through my web place and through the Filipino Catholic monthly newsletter/magazine.
Evangelization could be in so many ways. Bible studies and sharing of experiences, praying the Holy Rosary with our families during this pandemic, gathering them via Messenger, Zoom or other MS apps, or even simple gestures of kindness to others are just some few examples, and all these would help in one way or another in the effort of the Church to imbibe the teachings of Jesus Christ to others especially those in need.
We humbly pray to our Blessed Mother, to intercede for us, and to lead us all in our desire to respond to God’s command of evangelization, to grant us the courage to be a disciple of Christ, and effectively and properly communicate the joy of faith and the Good News, in line with the Gospel and His teachings. Amen.