Matthew 28:16-20 (Ascension, year A)
|source: commons.wikimedia.org, Fat Les, RanZag|
Similar to Sherlock, many of us today are often bored and lacking in vigor because we have no sense of mission in our lives. It seems that this boredom tends to manifest itself in two main ways which I will call “busy bored” and “lifeless bored”. Being “busy bored” is very common, I know I often fall into this category myself. Many times we are running around doing many things. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. How, you ask, could someone who is busy be bored? Boredom sets in because underneath all the business we can feel a general unease and disquiet because we lack a unified goal and direction in our life. We work hard, but what are we working for? We do many things, but why ultimately do we do them? To avoid facing these questions we can just throw ourselves into more activity. These questions struck me pretty hard when I was studying engineering at university. I worked hard and I enjoyed my studies - at least most of the time! Within all my busy-ness, however, a kind of boredom and uneasiness sunk in. What was the ultimate purpose of all this work? I often thought, “there must be more to life than this”. I lacked a sense of mission. The second kind of boredom, “lifeless bored” is what Sherlock suffers from when he is without a case. If you have ever read the books, you will know that when he becomes bored, Sherlock begins to take drugs as an escape from the boredom. Similarly, many people in our culture get into some harmful and questionable activities in order to escape their boredom: drinking, drugs, gossip and prying into other people’s lives, and throwing whole days away playing video games. In our country we are blessed with so many opportunities and resources yet we are often bored. Like Sherlock, for so many of us our lives lack vigour and excitement because we lack a sense of purpose.
We all desire to be part of some great mission. This desire is a part of our DNA. Think about this for a moment. Who is one living person who you greatly admire for all the good that he or she does in the world? Try to picture this person in your mind. Now, imagine that one day this person contacted you to arrange a meeting. At this meeting, this individual presented to you a bold new plan for changing the world in some positive way. This mission is going to be very challenging and will encounter much resistance. Next, this person you admire surprises you by telling you that they have been watching you for some time and think that you have what it takes to be part of this mission. They offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a member of a team that will be working to bring about real change in the world. If this happened to you, how would you feel? Excited and full of energy? Nervous and afraid? Special and worthwhile? Certainly, we would have strong feelings and this is for just a human being! How would you feel if it was Jesus, someone you admire above all? Maybe it seems unbelievable that He would personally choose us in this way. Each and every one of us desires to be part of some great quest or undertaking.
In reality, Jesus does send us out on the greatest mission. This mission involves nothing less than the transformation of the world. Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus when Jesus returns to His Father. He has not, however, left us idle. Jesus hands on to His followers the mission that He Himself initiated in what is often called the great commission:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
In a word, the great commission calls us to evangelize. Recently, Pope Francis released an incredible document called the Joy of the Gospel in which he strongly reminds us all of this mission. He explains that all followers of Jesus, all disciples, must be missionary disciples. Each of us is meant to go and spread the good news that God has reconciled the world to Himself through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is our salvation. Pope Francis reminds us that we need to be explicit with this message. We need to draw all people to a relationship with Jesus because in this the human heart finds its deepest joy. There is also a clear social dimension to evangelization. As Pope Francis said: “Mission is at once passion for Jesus and passion for His people”. We are called to impact society, in particular, we must care for the poor. All of us are called to participate in this radical mission, whether we are married, priests, religious or single. Whatever our “day job” is, our ultimate job is to make disciples of all nations and build up the Kingdom of God. Jesus send us out on the greatest and most challenging mission imaginable.
We need to ensure that we personally accept this mission of Jesus. As Catholics, we unfortunately can go our whole lives without embracing this commission of Jesus. When this happens, we end up serving the predominant mission of our society: getting by, keeping busy and trying to live a good life. Personally, I went for a long time without ever really embracing the mission Jesus has given us. I finally did this when I had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Cologne at the end of my time in university. I remember clearly the prayer vigil during at which Pope Benedict addressed a crowd of over one million young people late into the night. That evening, he challenged the youth to embrace the radical mission that Jesus has left us all: to go and make disciples of all nations and change the world in doing so. He invited us to be part of a revolution of holiness, which is the only kind of revolution that can bring about true change in the world. That night I felt as though the Pope was speaking straight to me and I wanted more than anything to be part of this mission. In my heart, I embraced this mission from Jesus. I think the World Youth Days have been one of the most transformative series of events in the recent history of the Church. At them countless individuals - both young and old - have personally accepted Jesus’ mission. It is impossible to forget images from the most recent World Youth Day in Brazil where Pope Francis addressed 2 million young people gathered at Copacabana beach with the image of Christ the Redeemer in the background. There again, the Pope echoed the the great commission: go and make disciples of all nations! It is crucial that we personally accept this invitation.
Whenever I watch the show Sherlock, it is sad to see Sherlock Holmes when he is bored. It seems like such a waste of talent. If we are honest, we must admit with sadness that the Church is filled with far too many bored Catholics. This is an incredible waste. We have been given an incredible mission that gives purpose and energy to our lives. Today ask yourself a simply question: have I personally accepted this mission from Jesus? We need to realize that if we are bored as Catholics, we are doing something terribly wrong!