The story of St. Philip Neri, who earned the title “Apostle of Rome” in the sixteenth century, is an example of the missionary zeal demanded today. Philip came to Rome in the early 1500’s as an immigrant from Florence and a layman. When he arrived, he was horrified by the physical and moral devastation of the city. Rome had been sacked in 1527 by mutinous soldiers and mercenaries led by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, leaving much of the city in ruins. The Gospel wasn’t being preached, and many priests and cardinals were living in open defiance of Christ’s moral teachings. Philip prayed to God to learn what he might do.
Though he had the desire to go to India following the example of St. Francis Xavier, he had been asked by his spiritual director to focus his attention on re-evangelizing those around him. Philip’s spiritual director declared, “Rome is to be your India!” This was quite a task for one man. But Philip, relying on God’s help, started — first as a layman, then as a priest — to convert Rome, one person at a time, with a joy-filled attitude. He would cheerfully go to street corners and say, “Friends, when are we going to start doing good?” His impact was enormous and, when he died in 1595, much of Rome had been reconverted. God brought enormous joy to the lives of many through him, and all he did was to remain a faithful laborer in God’s harvest.
The same God who spoke with Philip almost five hundred years ago challenges each one of us to be that kind of laborer, be it in our parish and our families, our workplace…it’s all our mission field! Every Christian is called to be a laborer in this rich harvest of the Lord. Each person has his or her own unique role to play. We all have a share in our own work which may be volunteering for works of charity in the parish apostolate or drawing people closer to God by our good example. Our talents and gifts must be invested in this harvest. As a matter of fact, that’s what is expected from our Baptismal call. Sure, it is not going to be an easy task in this world, we shall encounter a lot of challenges because we are being sent as lambs among wolves, but we don’t need to be afraid because God provides whatever we need to be successful.
Christ is sending us out daily and it happens at the end of each Mass. We are being sent to go in peace and evangelize the world by our words and actions. Christ sending the Twelve in pairs reminds us that we need to collaborate in this mission with one another. It’s not a one man show. Part of our mission is that of bringing peace and healing to all. Christ didn’t send His disciples to go and convert all to Christianity or preach religious superiority, but to take the message of peaceful coexistence with one another and whoever rejects that peace, rejects God outrightly. We are called to be messengers and harbingers of peace in words and action.
But are we at peace first? Is the world outside at peace? There are many moral issues in this world that hinder the path of peace. For instance, abortion. Although our nation recently made a good decision, we still have a lot to do to create a culture of life. It’s been said that there cannot be peace in the world if there is no peace in the womb. There cannot be peace between nations if there is no peace between a mother and her own child. In 1994, at the National Prayer Breakfast, St. Mother Teresa asked, “If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell people not to kill one another?” Indeed, it is a valid question to reflect upon.
On the other side, we are also called to offer spiritual healing, especially for those who have lost faith and hope in God’s care for them. We are called to heal the brokenhearted and our troubled world through our outreach. To do that we need to first heal our own wounds, and we are healed when we are open to God and willing to embrace his plans for us and also have the conviction that he lives and cares for us. Once we are healed and are at peace, we are able to bring that same peace and healing into the lives of others.. That’s how we become a joyous laborer. Pondering what is happening in many parts of the world, we may wonder if God cares for us. I am certain that God has not abandoned us, He is always there for us, but first we must labor together as a people to restore peace and healing in our families and in our community. May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts.