In today’s First Reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear God’s desire to “gather the nations” and to send people out “to the nations.” In this we see, even in the Old Testament, a missionary effort to bring more people into God’s family. In Christianity, some of our most famous saints were missionaries. All endured great struggle and some even gave their lives to spread the Gospel to people who had not heard of Jesus.
Today’s homily examines three of these great Christian missionaries: St. Isaac Jogues, a French Jesuit priest who was martyred in New York in 1646 bringing the faith the the native people there; St. Junipero Serra, just canonized last year by Pope Francis and known as the “Apostle to California” for his efforts to bring the faith to the native people there in the 18th century; and finally, a saint hopefully familiar to those of us in Kansas, St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, whose most desired goal was to come to Kansas and bring the Gospel to the native peoples right here in what is now my parishes, a dream that was only fulfilled in when the saint was 71 years old.
We can indeed marvel at the great love of God that drove each of these missionaries, but there is another, even more beautiful reason motivating their lives; they believed that the salvation of souls was at stake. Today we tend to easily fall into the heresy of “indifferentism” which says that it doesn’t matter if someone is baptized or not, or is one is a “good Catholic” or a “bad Catholic.” We tend to think that just about everyone goes to heaven. Jesus tells us something much different in the Gospel today.
All the great missionaries in Church history did what they did because they knew that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for thousands of people to go to heaven if someone didn’t go teach them about Jesus and ensure they were baptized. Countless missionaries have died as martyrs because they believed it was that important to bring the good news of salvation to the whole world. How important is the faith to you? Would you be willing to sacrifice yourself so that others might receive this gift? The truth is, if you have been baptized, you are a missionary. You have a mission and Jesus is sending you. What will you do with your mission?