The threefold mission of the Church

by Glory Enyinnaya

In this era where snazzy consultants draft elaborate mission and vision statements for individuals and corporations, the question “what is the mission of the Church?” is worth pondering. For who is the Church, except you and I? Successfully fulfilling God’s plan for your life is heavily dependent on understanding what that plan encompasses. I ask again “what is the mission of the Church?”

That question can best be answered by reflecting on Christ’s commissioning of His first ambassadors – the 12 Apostles. The Scriptures say that “He summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows:  ‘And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise these dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’”

That passage seems to suggest a threefold apostolate – proclaiming the Gospel, administering the sacraments and performing works of charity.

The first mission of the Church is proclaiming the Gospel. No Christian is exempt from this cardinal duty of evangelization. “What will I say?” addresses the question of content. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. You may speak about your own personal experience of God, or expound on some doctrine or principle of Scripture, as you are led. The more intense your prayer life is, the richer and more convincing will be your message. “Who will I speak to?” addresses the question of audience. Everyone and anyone who is human needs an encounter with God in order to be truly and fully alive. Wherever there are people, you have a mission field – schools, market places, offices, clubs and societies. “How will I reach this multitude?” addresses the question of medium. You don’t need a soapbox; sometimes the witness of your personal life lived quietly and courageously in line with your religious values is enough to stir the heart of an onlooker. In this Information Age, however, you would be remiss in your duty if you failed to take advantage of the Internet to spread the good news. In this regard, your only limits are your imagination, your talent and your personal commitment. Let’s infiltrate Twitter and Facebook with Christ’s perspective on the myriad of issues that confront our world today.

The second mission of the Church is administering the sacraments. A sacrament is an outward sign which conveys inward grace to the soul. The primary administrators of the sacraments are priests; nevertheless, we can assist by speaking to our family and friends about their importance. There are seven sacraments in the Catholic Church, each of which corresponds to a particular epoch in the life of man. Baptism erases original sin and brings new life to you; Confirmation confers the Holy Spirit on you with His seven gifts; the Eucharist incorporates you into the body of Christ; Confession reconciles you to God, after you fall as you inevitably will; the Holy Orders turns a man into a priest (ipso Christi “another Christ”); Matrimony unites a full grown man and woman together for companionship and to bring the gift of children into the world and Anointing of the Sick prepares you to meet your Maker, Judge and Final Destiny. How much richer and more fulfilling life is when lived in unity with the Sacraments.

The final mission of the Church is to perform works of charity. Charity may be physical or spiritual. Physical works of charity include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and visiting the captives in prison. Spiritual works of charity include counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, forgiving injustices, praying for the living and the dead. While often neglected, Christ makes it clear that the performance of these works of charity will be the litmus test by which our eternal destiny will be decided. The sheep will be the merciful and the goats the unmerciful. ‘’For whatsoever you do to the least of your brethren, you do to me.’’ Remember this the next time you’re tempted to shoo away that street kid or afflicted beggar who approaches you in traffic. Your eternal destiny may very well ride on your response to Christ-in-disguise.

There you have it – the threefold mission of the Church. What are you waiting for? Let’s put it into practice!

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