Love at the centre of mission
Jesus placed a unique emphasis on God’s love for us human beings – imperfect as we are – and then stated bluntly that we have missed the narrow gate, if we do not love one another as God has continued to love us.
In 1347, Saint Catherine of Siena was born in Tuscany, Italy. Nourished by a life of contemplative prayer and mystical experience, she devoted herself to active care for the poor and the sick.
One of Catherine’s nuns wrote to her asking how she might adequately thank God for God’s unbounded mercy and love to her. Catherine replied that she would not accomplish her goal by more prayer or greater penance or by building the most magnificent church in the world.
Rather, Catherine said, this nun could show her gratitude to God by finding someone as totally unworthy of her love as she herself had been of God’s love, and by pouring mercy and love and caring upon that person as Christ had poured them out on her.
Ken Morgan, Melbourne Diocese’s Head of Parish Mission and Resourcing, says that mission is essentially the expression of love. Love compelled God to send Jesus, who in turn sent us in the same spirit.
“I have observed churches motivated to engage in mission for the sake of their own survival – If we don’t grow, we’ll die! they say. Efforts toward mission based on fear and self-preservation are in danger of being at cross-purposes with the mission of Jesus, who laid down his life as an act of love.
“Perhaps we should consider ineffectiveness in mission as a failure to love. It strikes me that our confession each week summarises our sin by saying, ‘…we have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves’. The Triune God is a community of love, extending to us and sending us as ambassadors of love.
“Strategies and techniques can be really helpful for mission. Certain structures in certain contexts are more helpful than others. But at its very essence, mission is a matter of love in three directions. If we don’t love God, love each other and love our neighbours, there is no program, technique or structure that will help.”
Loving and gracious God, we pray that our lives would be filled and overflowing with the power of your love so we can make a difference in this world and bring honour to you.
We ask for your help in reminding us that the most important things are not what we do outwardly, it’s not based on any talent or gift, but the most significant thing we can do in this life is simply to love you and to choose to love others. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.