As a sports fan, I am particularly moved when a player gets to play for his or her hometown team. When a young person grows up idolizing players on the local squad and then they join that team, it can be a powerful expression of realized dreams and hometown pride.
Where we are matters.
In the gospel this Sunday, we hear Jesus’ Great Commission of his disciples. He tells them to “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.Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This is the mission of the Church. This is what we, the Church, are supposed to do with our lives. This is why the Church exists.
With an important command like this, you would expect to be proclaimed from a mountain top or in the temple in Jerusalem. But Jesus gives it to his disciples in Galilee. This region is literally the middle of nowhere. If it wasn’t for Jesus and the disciples, we wouldn’t even know it’s name. So why does Jesus give this important command in Galilee?
Galilee is where many of the disciples are from. It is their home region. Galilee is where Jesus’ ministry began. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus’ saving work began in Galilee and ended in Galilee.
When we think of missionary work, we usually think of going to a far off land in the middle of jungle or desert and speaking to groups of indigenous people who have never heard the name Jesus. The reality is that most of us are called to be missionaries to our own hometowns. We are called to minister and reach out and love the very people we live next to, whom we have known, and who know us.
While some of us are called to go away to move to make the road our home and our ministry territory, the truth us that most of us are called to grow where we’re planted. To water the gardens that surround us.
St. Therese of Liseux desperately wanted to the join the missionaries from her holy order who were being sent from France to Asia. She wanted nothing more than to “go and make disciples.” St. Therese never left the convent or France after she joined. Though selected to be a missionary her poor health kept her in France. She led a hidden life of prayer for the remainder of her life. At her death at 24, she is said to have told those around her God granted all of her desires.
Despite never going out on mission, St. Therese is the Patroness of Missions and Missionaries. She was a missionary where she was. She watered the gardens around her (she is also patroness of gardens and gardening). The Church could’ve have chosen any number of missionaries who traveled the globe to spread the gospel, but they chose a woman who never left her convent.
We are called to fulfill this Great Commission and we are called to do it right where we are.
Live It: Jesus says love your neighbors as yourself. Who are my neighbors? How about the people who live next to you? You know, you’re actual neighbors. Whether you are in a house, an apartment, or a dorm, reach out to your neighbors, learn their names if you don’t know them and find a way to grow in friendship. After this past year, it might just be the best way to follow Jesus’s command. Be the gospel right where you are.