So in light of our annual Life Teen Summer Staff and Friends mission trip to Mexico which is coming up January 3rd through the 11th, the question, “Are mission trips worth the risk?” has been coming up frequently. I have been praying about this question a lot lately and trying to determine what is the proper response. I think the underlying question here though would be, is spreading the Gospel message and the love of Christ worth the risk of losing ones life for? After much prayer and thought, I must answer that with a resounding yes.
In my prayer and reflection I thought about the lives of the early saints, of the disciples and the apostles and asked what would there response be, “Is spreading the Gospel worth risking one’s life for?” The response that I received struck me, “It has been and always will be.” When I think about this question and the lives of the Saints two specific examples come to mind. The first is from the book of Acts chapter 9, where Saul has his conversion and becomes Paul. In verse 10 we learn of the disciple Ananias who the Lord spoke to in a vision and told him to go to Saul and lay hands on him to regain his sight. Now Ananias had heard of Saul and the evil that he had done to Christians, such as, having St Stephen stoned to death. I can only imagine what Ananias’ friends and family said to him when he told them that he was about to go lay hands on Saul and pray with him because the Lord told him to do it in a dream. I’m sure they were telling him what the prudent thing to do was. Yet despite his own knowledge, his own fear, and what people were probably telling him, he followed the Lord even in the face of danger, again believing that the Lords work was more important than his own life. Where would the Church be if Ananias would have listened to the critics or maybe that voice that said it’s too dangerous? Would Paul still be blind, would the Church be lacking one of the greatest missionaries of all time?
The other example is also from the book of Acts. In chapter 4, we see Peter, who had just healed a man, get arrested with John and thrown into custody. They were now standing trial before the council and elders, the same group of people that had Jesus crucified. They ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard. “ (Acts 4:19-20) Peter and John in the face of death felt that preaching the Gospel and the name of Jesus was more important than their own lives.
We could look at various lives of the Saints and I’m confident we would find the same message; a group who held the Gospel and the spreading of its message higher than life itself. If the Gospel message and the Lords work was worth risking ones life for then, why isn’t it today as well? Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” (Luke 9:24) The problem today is that too many of us, myself included, are attached to this earthly life and are trying to save their lives. Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “(Matthew 10:37-38) His words are even stronger in Luke, where he says if anyone does not hate his own life they cannot be his disciple. He goes on to state, “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) These are pretty strong words, how much are we truly living in to them? The time is now to detach from the things of this world and truly be disciples.
I’m beginning to understand more and more what St. Paul meant when he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) For us Christians death simply means being united with our true love, the one who is love! Do you mean to tell me I love this earthly life where there is sickness, pain and suffering and often times a lack of love more than that? Granted we can experience heaven on earth, such as in the mass, but earth is not our home and will never compare to our eternal home in heaven. I’m not saying we need to be reckless Christian Rambo’s seeking out martyrdom so we can quickly get to heaven, because Christ desires to use us here on earth, but as Pope John Paul II echoed throughout his pontificate, “BE NOT AFRAID”. We cannot let fear of death or danger impede our discernment from where we think Christ may be leading us, especially when it comes to mission and the proclamation of God’s word.
I am convinced that spreading the Gospel and sharing Christ’s love is worth risking one’s life for. Somewhere in the mix we have forgotten this very important message, we are called to be followers of Christ not just believers, for Satan was also a believer. Which means we must be willing to follow Christ all the way to Calvary and be willing to carry our cross and to lay down our life for His service if need be. I pray that as a Church we can elevate the Gospel and the urgency and importance of spreading it’s message to the level it was in the early Church and where the Martyrs believed it to be, more important than life itself!
All for Love