By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to be missionary disciples. And every parish is called to be a center of missionary activity where missionary disciples are formed. What qualities demonstrate discipleship that we can live out individually and as part of a parish community?In his document on evangelization, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis outlines some of the characteristics embodied by those who are called to mission:
- Creativity: “I invite everyone to be bold and creative in this task of rethinking the goals, structures, styles, and methods of evangelization in their respective communities.”
- Solidarity: “The important thing is not to walk alone but to rely on each other as brothers and sisters, and especially under the leadership of the bishops, in a wise and realistic pastoral discernment.”
- New vision: We need to recognize the current needs and “abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way.’”
- Simplicity: The message has to concentrate on the essentials, “on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing, and at the same time, most necessary …. In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”
- Works of love: “Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, above and beyond their faults and failings.”
- Mercy: “Mercy is the greatest of all virtues.”
- A missionary heart: “It never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness. It realizes that it has to grow in its own understanding of the Gospel and in discerning the paths of the Spirit, and so it always does what good it can, even if in the process, its shoes get soiled by the mud of the street.”
Take a moment to consider how these hallmarks are reflected in your life:
- Some of them might already be familiar to you, and that is great news! How can you apply these qualities to specific people in your life, and to actions in your parish, so that you may grow as a missionary disciple?
- Think about the characteristics that are new to you. What would it look like to portray these qualities in everyday life? How will you and your parish benefit if you embodied these virtues as your own?
Discuss these characteristics with others in your small faith-sharing group, your family, or parish ministry team and compare notes about how you can support each other in your growth as disciples by developing these qualities.
For another way to reflect on the attitudes and behaviors of a disciple, please read A Meditation for an Evangelizer.
Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), (Vatican City, 2018, para. 34-35