As you have probably seen in the bulletin or on signs in church, this is a “summer of mission” here at St. Francis. There are different groups from our parish going to different places: to St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia; to Guatemala to visit our sister parish there; to Honduras for a Habitat for Humanity build; to Cuba with the Franciscan Mission Union; and here in Raleigh itself, to different outreach and services sites in the city.
What do we mean by mission? Maybe we think of going off to a foreign land to “convert” the natives to Christianity. I remember a story told at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, about a visit by the bishop there years ago and how at mass one day, he said to the volunteers, “I hope you don’t think you’re bringing God to the people you serve here.” The volunteers held their breath. What could this mean? The bishop went on to say, “You’re not bringing God to these people – God is already here.” An important point: we don’t “bring” people to God, but by our presence and by the way we are among people, we reflect something of God’s goodness.
Another point; as important as our mission trips are as a way of introducing the people of our parish to people of different cultures, “mission” does not always mean going to a foreign land. The root meaning of mission is “to be sent,” and that could mean being sent to an inner city soup kitchen, to a poor country in Central America, or it could mean something far less dramatic: caring quietly for an aging parent or sick child; praying for someone or something; doing something in our everyday lives that might be small and humble and unnoticed, but doing it out of a sense of rightness and goodness and a belief in the gospel.
The root meaning of the word “mass” comes from the same root as the word mission. We end mass by saying “go in peace.” The mass, then, is not self-contained, not “I did it on Sunday” and that’s it. The mass continues, as Fr. Steve K. often says, in the parking lot, at home, on the job, on the exit ramp from Leesville Road to 540, and every place beyond. “Go in peace” to all those places. That’s what we are all called to do.
Blessings on your week!