On the First Easter Sunday, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He astonished them with the reality of His Triumph over death, calmed them with His Peace, and directly informed them that they were going on a mission.
And this makes sense. They are the Apostles, they have a Church to build. Of course the Apostles have been sent on a mission. It’s in their name, apostolos, which is Greek for ‘one who is sent’.
The Apostles were sent to teach, make disciples, and baptize, bringing to all the life of grace regained by Jesus on the cross, that was lost with the Fall of Original Sin, in order to restore the relationship between God and man. They handed down this mission, and the grace to carry it out, through Apostolic Succession and Holy Orders, but you need not be a successor of the Apostles (Bishop) or priest in order to receive a mission from God.
Everyone has been sent on a mission by God. We all have particular missions specifically ordained for us by God, but we all also have that universal mission to love. In ecclesiastical terms, these missions are more popularly known as vocations, a calling. Yet, if we believe the words of Scripture in the first chapter of Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you,” we can understand that God knew our vocations before we were born, created us for a specific purpose, and finally sent us on a mission to fulfill that purpose.
To help us participate in this mission with our free will, God allows us to freely choose. He never merely uses us against our will, but instead allows us to know his plan in some mysterious way so that we may choose it for ourselves and make His goals our own. This participation is enabled through discernment and is manifested by what many have deemed “answering one’s call”.
However, if God knows our purpose for our entire life and merely calls us to come to know it for ourselves, it would be equally correct to say that God is sending us to complete this purpose. He sent us on our missions, some specific mission for each of us, to somehow, as light, leaven, and salt of the earth, bring God to the world so that God may be known, praised, glorified, and loved in this life and in the next.
The idea of all of us being sent on a mission is a fitting description of what God has done and we see it beautifully exemplified and revealed by Jesus Himself. Many times in the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the One Who sent Him. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” (Matthew 10:40). “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).
Jesus was sent by God to fulfill His mission. His mission was multifaceted, to teach us using words and deeds, to institute the Church and it’s sacramental mission, and to make atonement for the offense of sin. (All of this is beautifully encapsulated in the “Will” of the Father that Jesus must do). Christ came to show us how to complete our missions.
Christ’s life is an ocean of Truth, so I imagine many more lessons can be fished out, but by observing what He said and did, we can agree that to carry on our missions well, we need to remember certain things such as: We should (1) speak to the Father often, praying in solitude and in groups, (2) seek the Father’s Will in all things, and (3) keep the two greatest commandments, Love of God and Love of Neighbor.
The Church has articulated this last lesson of keeping the two greatest commandments as a vocation itself. In the fifth chapter of the Vatican II document, Lumen Gentium, we find the Universal Call to Holiness. This call to holiness can be seen as a call to love as holiness is the turning away from selfish sin and toward God and others for God’s sake.
Lumen Gentium explains, “For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law, rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means. It is charity which guides us to our final game at end.” In the language of the Church, ‘charity’, or caritas, is love. Love is the means of attaining holiness. Love is the Universal Vocation, which means, Love is everyone’s mission.
In fact, Love is everyone’s primary mission. Sometimes we get caught up with other things (like money, work, or school) and seem to love others on the side as we focus on these other things. First, Love God and your neighbor, and then do everything else.
Furthermore, this mission is more than just items we check off of a “to-do list”. It is a mode of being. It is not our mission to do holy, but to be holy. To not just do loving things, but to be loving. We can form our wills to desire holy things by doing holy things, doing loving things can shape us to be loving, but only through God’s grace can we truly be loving and be holy.
We cannot earn holiness, because we cannot earn grace. However, we can put ourselves in the right place to receive the grace we need to carry out our missions. We can do this by 1) frequenting the Sacraments; 2) Prayer; and 3) Practicing devotions with sacramentals, which can include blessings, venerating relics, wearing a sacpular, visits to sanctuaries, and the stations of the cross. Sacramentals do not confer grace directly, but “they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it” (CCC 1674).
Through the Sacraments, Prayer, and Sacramentals we can put ourselves where God wants us. These tools will furthermore strengthen and nourish us as we continue with our missions. By seeking to love and be holy through these tools, we can best imitate Jesus, who is God’s Word, and thus not return back to Him empty, but full (Isaiah 55:11).