The Mission of God
December 3rd Readings Reflection: Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
Today’s Gospel passage contains a theme that is at the center of who we are at Missio Dei (which means Mission of God). Jesus saw the people, who were “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” Having pity on them, He sent His Twelve Apostles — the first priests and bishops of His Church — out into the world to proclaim the Gospel and perform miracles.
Today, the priests, bishops, and Pope of the Catholic Church continue to fulfill Christ’s command to do this. We the faithful must pray very much for our priests, who endure worse temptations than any other humans because of the great importance of their calling. We must also pray that God may “send out laborers for his harvest,” that is, pray that good, holy men will answer His call to the priesthood.
However, we the faithful also have another role in this missio Dei. By virtue of our Baptisms, we “are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people” (1 Pt 2:9a DRB). We belong to the universal priesthood through our Baptisms. This is very different from the priesthood of the Sacrament of Holy Orders; we cannot offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, but we can offer our prayers to God, since we possess His grace within our souls. This grace enables us to live out Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbour, and in this way spread the Gospel through our lives.
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” There are so very many souls to win for Christ, but so few people try to spread the Gospel. As Catholics, we must exercise our universal priesthood by praying for those who do not belong to Christ’s sheepfold and by living our lives as witnesses to the Gospel. As St. Therese showed, this can often feel very uneventful and ordinary, but a simple kind word or deed rarely goes unnoticed by others.
Today, the Church commemorates the feast of St. Francis Xavier who, along with St. Therese, is the patron saint of missionaries. As a missionary priest, he converted countless souls, ministering to the sick and vulnerable in the villages he visited and treating all with true Christian charity. May St. Francis Xavier intercede for us, that we may live our lives in such a way that all around us are drawn to Christ by the example of our love.
St. Francis Xavier, ora pro nobis!