Sunday, February 27, 2005

Prodigal Missionaries

Two full-grown men in a huddle of kids
And they're tryin' to help them to believe
What is too good to be real
Yet is more real than the air they breathe...
~ Rich Mullins, What Susan Said
OK, so it was just me and it was a handful of high-school kids, but the sentiment is still there. We were covering the missionary activities of the early Church in Scripture--specifically, St. Peter's vision of the unclean animals in the sheet and Cornelius' vision.

If there's anything that should bring me humility, it's teaching. But, as a teacher by trade, I can tell you that that's not always the case. I guess because I'm much more confident of--and much less committed to, if I'm honest--my abilities to teach folks how to speak Spanish than I am of my ability to convey eternal truths to them and have the enthusiasm, the belief in what "is more real than the air they breathe" rub off on them, to "stick." I grew up with a natural awareness of the fact that Apostolicity, which we confess of our Church at every Divine Liturgy, necessarily means mission. Necessarily means letting the grace of God transform us on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis so that we can be epistles to be read of all men. I'd love nothing more than to see them understand the same.

Here, though, are a couple of pitfalls: wanting their committment, their enthusiasm to be recognizable, i.e., like mine; and gauging my "success" on whether or not there's a response. Now, luckily, I was with four great boys, so the worry of their paying attention wasn't really an issue. But there's a tension there--a tension I will undoubtedly feel multiplied upon becoming a father--to pass on as a tradition, a paradosis of understanding not only that God sends us out in mission to tell a story, but also in understanding that there's a story to tell, that they are a part of that story! That the story of God's love and desire for us to return to Him--illustrated so brilliantly in today's liturgical theme of the Prodigal Son, my favorite parable--very much includes them, giving them the impetus truly to be a witness of how that story can, does and will change them.

The story is for those around them here, for those who are anywhere they choose to go, even unto the uttermost bounds of the earth (here we went over stuff from OCMC, IOCC and Project Mexico and St. Innocent's Orthodox Orphanage and it made me "homesick" for the missions emphasis I would love to see more of in the Church and saw constantly as an evangelical). Not done in a "convert your neighbor and God will love you" sort of way, but as a natural effect of your life being trasfigured by the Lord. We should be thus regardless of where we are--whether in Ft. Worth, TX or Kenya--but let us be thus, O Lord. Let us be prodigals of the Absolute who bring others into the journey Home along with them.


Christina said...

Thanks for including Project Mexico as a link. My husband and I met while being long term volunteers with Project Mexico and we just love them and the boys so much (and we miss them a lot)! I'm always excited to see Project Mexico mentioned! Thanks again!

Fr. David said...

My pleasure, and thanks for posting! My wife and I are looking into doing short-term work, if possible (our lives are about to be rocked w/the entrance of a li'l one!), and Project Mexico seems like the most convenient place.