Jesus’s command to his disciples was not simply to carry out pastoral care to those who had already heard the Good News. Rather, it was to spread the Good News to every corner of the world.
For those of us in metro Detroit, we have an inspiring new charter for how to do this. In his Pentecost pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron charges the local Church—each parish and Catholic school, each family and individual member—to commit to this mission to “unleash the Gospel.”
So what do we do now?
The “Foundational Conviction” of Unleash the Gospel is the place to start. Here we read that “the Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit is resolved to obey the Holy Spirit and be made by him a band of joyful missionary disciples” (UTG, no. 3).
Band: Jesus does not intend us to be “lone rangers.” Rather, we are called to be in communion with each other.
God is not alone. He is a communion of persons. Being made in God’s image, we must imitate him, for “it is not good for man to be alone.” The family is the paradigm; a person comes into the world only through the “coming together” of two other people, a mother and a father.
We are hardwired for community. It is the responsibility of each parish—and each member of the parish—to help create this community. This can be done through smaller groups where each individual can know others and be known by them. Parishioners who have gone through RCIA, Alpha, or a Bible study love the community. We must be intentional about inviting each member of our parish to be a part of such a “band.”
Joyful: While we must remember that following Jesus involves taking up our cross, we should also remember that Jesus’ burden is light.
A study of most any saint reveals there is an overriding characteristic of joy in his or her life. This joy is not a New Age approach to suffering, where we try to remove anything that brings us down. Rather, the joy of the saints comes from a confidence that Jesus has won the victory.
To be joyful requires us to see every part of our lives as redeemed in the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: his cross is more powerful than my weakness. Do I show the joy of being claimed by Christ to those in the world?
Missionary: Bl. John Henry Newman has a wonderful prayer that contains these words: “God has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.” Each of us is essential in God’s plan.
As Guidepost 5 of Unleash the Gospel states, there are “no bystanders.” This means each of us must have an outward focus.
The first step in this process is praying for a new openness to hearing God’s prompting. Then praying for a boldness to obey! We will make mistakes and we will be uncomfortable at first. But the salvation of others is worth it! This is an area where we must be a “band,” encouraging and challenging each other.
Disciples: “Unleashing the Gospel” only makes sense if Jesus is worth laying down our lives for. If he is God—as he claims to be so often in the Gospel—then the only logical response is to claim him as Lord and to commit ourselves to making him known.
Jesus calls us to be his co-workers in this mission of making new disciples. Jesus called his disciples to be close to him and so be prepared to be sent out. We can only be a joyful missionary band if first we are disciples. This means being close to Jesus—daily prayer, growing in virtue, frequent reception of the Sacraments—so that we can be formed according to his Sacred Heart and unleash the Gospel in the portion of the vineyard we have been tasked with.
If we succeed in the ambitious plan of Unleash the Gospel, it will mean that those outside the Church will recognize us first and foremost as a band of joyful missionary disciples. How beautiful that will be!