The harvest is great;
the laborers are few.
Pray the Lord of the harvest
to send forth more laborers…
These words from Luke’s Gospel about the sending out of the seventy-two disciples are often invoked in prayers for more priestly vocations.
Yet they speak of a wider sense of mission for all followers of Jesus.
When I first came to Honduras, Sor Inez, a Spanish Franciscan sister, brought me to Mass at the chapel of San Martín de Porres in Santa Rosa de Copán.
At the end of Mass she asked Padre Fausto to let me introduce myself.
I mentioned that I was a lay missionary.
Padre Fausto wisely noted that we are all called to be missionaries, to spread the Good News to all the people. Being a missionary is not limited to a person who leaves his or her home country.
In fact, the Latin American Bishops conference, at its meeting in Aparecida, Brazil, a month before I arrived here in Honduras, called all Christians to be “disciples and missionaries.”
What does it mean to be a missionary?
It means, first of all, putting aside my agenda to live and witness to the Reign of God.
It means, I believe, a radical “letting go” – “take nothing for your journey.” This is quite a challenge for us who return from a visit to the US with two full suitcases (of books, chocolate, and more).
It means, I believe, a mission of peace, greeting wherever we enter with the message of peace and reconciliation.
It means accepting the hospitality of the poor.
Above all, I believe it means accompanying the poor and being, with them, Good News.
In the opening prayer for today’s feast of St. Luke, we recall that the Lord “chose Saint Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love for the poor,” The Spanish uses the word “predilección” – preference – in place of “love” found in the English.
Our mission, as Luke recalls (4:18) is to be “Good News for the poor.”
A missionary is thus one whose life, whose choices, are ruled by God’s preferential love for the poor, or as Gustavo Gutiérrez explained in a recent interview, a preferential love for “ ‘those who don’t count, who have no social weight,’ those who are marginalized or forgotten.”
That’s a challenge for all of us – not just for those of us who live in a foreign land.