BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa



A twelve-year-old girl wrote: “When I was asked to write about a missionary I knew, a few people crossed my mind, such as Mother Teresa, then I stopped and thought, ‘I can’t write about one of these great people because I don’t know them. It’s true I’ve heard their names and read and been told about them, but I don’t know what they’re like.’ The person I think is a missionary, and a good one is my mother. This may sound peculiar but sure you don’t have to be ordained to be a missionary. My mum’s mission is to be a housewife and a mother to me and my family. My mum has never been selfish and put herself first before her family. I have never been starved or been without her endless love. Just like the famous missionaries, my mother has needed a lot of courage. She could easily have gone off to bingo and left me, but she didn’t. She made the supreme sacrifice of thinking about me before herself. I am very lucky to have a missionary mother.” She remembers a mother who taught her how to be a missionary.

Ralph Bunche a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize says, “If you want to get across an idea, wrap it in a person.” Jesus wrapped his ideas of peace in these 72 persons and sent them out to be missionaries of peace. He says to them, “Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs amid wolves” (Luke 10:3). He was drawing their attention to the fact that they will live in a world surrounded by wolves (violent people), and he instructed them to be meek and live like lambs and not to be agents of violence, trouble, and conflicts. He gave them specific instructions and mandated them to teach, proclaim the good news, and be peace ambassadors by spreading peace wherever they find themselves and be detached from material possessions. He says to them, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road” (Luke 10:4). He asked them to eat what their hosts provide which means they must not make excessive and unnecessary demands (Luke 10:7). They are to be a blessing and not a burden to their hosts. Thus, he was advising them to live radically, renounce their worldly ambitions, and trust in God’s presence and providence, even in tough times.

Any missionary of peace has to heal broken families, unite divided communities, preach the message of peace, reconcile, and heal people who are wounded and traumatized by conflicts. This explains why Jesus instructed those he sent to, “Heal the sick…and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:9). He also prepared the minds of missionaries of peace about how they will be received in some quarters with warm hospitality and in other situations with bitter hostility. He says, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Luke 10:5-6). By these instructions, he was warning them against perpetrating a culture of revenge, and any form of forceful conversion. They are simply to dust their feet and leave wherever they are rejected. Their mission is to banish what Petrarch, an Italian scholar and poet calls “the five great enemies to peace – avarice (greed), ambition, envy, anger, and pride…” These enemies of pride are the foundation on which most conflicts thrive.

Alert 2022!, a global report on conflicts published by Escola de Cultura de Pau analyses issues of armed conflicts, security, and peacebuilding. It reported 32 armed conflicts in 2021 (15 in Africa, 9 in Asia, 5 in the Middle East, 2 in Europe, and 1 in America). These conflicts are characterised by violence against civilians (especially women and girls), attacks on medical workers and hospital infrastructure, sexual exploitation, displacement of people, and an exponential rise in the number of refugees. In recent years, peace in Nigeria has been disturbed by criminal banditry, insurgency, ethnic militia, violent separatist agitations, farmer-herder conflicts, illegal oil bunkering, armed robbery, ritual killing, kidnapping, political violence, and religious bigotry. In short, we are surrounded by animosity, bloodshed, armed confrontations, abductions, and ethnoreligious conflicts. According to a 2022 report by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) over 60,000 lives were lost within 10 years in various conflicts in the different regions of Nigeria.

The people of Israel experienced the consequences of violence when they were forcefully seized by the Babylonians and taken to exile. They lacked peace as they lived in anxiety during the days of exile. They prayed fervently and longed for a return to their homeland. The prophet Isaiah expresses the joy and peace of the people of Israel after they returned from exile in Babylon. They were happy to reconnect with their main city, Jerusalem, which the prophet describes as a mother: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13). When they returned Yahweh granted them prosperity and peace. For thus says the Lord “Behold, I will extend prosperity to her like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing stream” (Isaiah 66:12). There are many people today who are going through a similar experience as the people of Israel. Families who have been displaced by unrest and violence can easily relate to the pains of the people of Israel and the joy of returning to their homeland. In a world full of troubles, violence, and conflicts Jesus wants his followers and by extension, all God’s friends to be missionaries of peace.

We cannot be missionaries of peace unless we are at peace with ourselves. This is why St. Gregory of Nyssa says, “The definition of peace is that there should be harmony between two opposing factions. And so, when the civil war in our nature has been brought to an end and we are at peace within ourselves, we may become peace. Then we shall be true to the name of Christ that we bear.” Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be children of God.” St. Paul summarises the mission of those who proclaim the good news as ‘imitating Christ.’ He describes this imitation of Christ as bearing the mark of Christ. He says, “From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Therefore, to bear the mark of Christ is to be a missionary of peace. Missionaries of peace are urgently needed but there is an acute shortage of people who are willing, ready, and able to be agents of peace. All followers of Jesus are called to be missionaries of peace and harmony in every given society. By sending out the 72 others into the field of evangelization, Jesus shows that missionaries of peace must not only be ordained ministers but anyone who is ready and willing to share in the peace mission. How committed are we to proclaiming and living a peaceful life?
Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20; 14th Sunday of Year C.

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