Why would a Francis Xavier or a Joseph Vaz travel as far as they did, renouncing every comfort and honour? Despite the distance of time, their life journey, or even that of a missionary in contemporary India, is so evocative of the efforts put in by the early church leaders. At that time, there were no appropriate church buildings, trained clergymen, schools, parishes, or even literature. The New Testament had still not been put together, so, the apostles had to draw lessons from the Jewish books, discover in them a sign of Christ, and teach accordingly. The untiring apostles would be on their beat, nurturing the communities that they had set up in love.

In the First Reading (Acts 14: 20-26), Paul and Barnabas travelled far and wide, strategized, and most importantly, persevered. They kept in touch with the neo-converts, either by meeting or writing to them; they prayed intensely and planned carefully; they appointed leaders (the future church hierarchy), exchanged views, and exhorted everyone to keep the faith even in the face of trials and tribulations. This Sunday marks their return journey from the last mission station (Derbe). Francis Xavier did likewise in Goa, in South India and in the Far East; Joseph Vaz in Goa, Kanara and Sri Lanka; and even today every missionary treads a tough path in the service of our Lord and Saviour.

Unlike the past, today we are blessed with print and digital technology, especially our cell phones and social media; we have speedy transport systems, vast bodies of knowledge, human and material resources. But, come to think of it, how well do we make use of them to spread our faith? How well do we spend our time, physically and virtually, feeding our souls with spiritual food? It is high time we tamed such technology lest we should be overpowered by it; it is high time we became a beacon of hope to the other, fulfilling Our Lord’s mandate.

Meanwhile, it is very sad that some of us have become slaves to a brave, new world of our own making. We have moved away from our Creator and seem lost in our petty creations. The world that God has presented us with stands physically degraded and morally defiled. In these circumstances, we have no option but to wait for a new earth. As the Second Reading (Rev 21: 1-5) says, by and by, the heavenly Jerusalem will come down and God will dwell in our midst (Emmanuel); and, marvel of marvels, suffering and death shall be no more. God’s children will delight in Him for the tone that He sets is called Love.

When will St John’s beautiful vision come true? This will happen only after the Judgement and the final victory over the forces of evil thought to reside in the sea (Rev 20: 11-15)! Then will come a new heaven and a new earth – a new spiritual and material universe. In a way, they have been realised in the Risen Body of Christ. Even if by its power the Resurrection has not totally eliminated evil, it has no doubt changed the world for the better, thanks to the Lord’s commandment of Love. His is an old commandment made new: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ has been tweaked to ‘Love your neighbour as I have loved you’. That makes all the difference!

Finally, Christ’s Second Coming will be the golden key to our understanding of the mystery of Salvation. We have to bide our time. We cannot go where the Master has gone, do what He has done, endure what He has endured; but we can try and love one another as He has loved us, and by our love show others we are Christians. This is not a boast meant to exclude but a magnet meant to attract them to the fold. It is a interior movement of the mind and heart, marked by prayer and fasting, blessing and self-entrusting to God. Needless to say, there will be heartaches,  failures, but there will also be consolations and successes. To serve God, we must be ready, to borrow a stanza from ‘Sound of Music’, to ‘climb every mountain, search high and low, follow every byway, every path we know…’

After all, that is our vocation and our mission. How fondly we remember our catechism book, which said, ‘Why has God made me?’; and then that delightful response in unison: ‘God has made us to know Him, love Him, serve Him, and be happy with Him for ever’! We are indeed a privileged lot – so, let’s proclaim the Good News from the rooftops. Let’s not hide the light under a bushel – let’s put it on a lampstand, that all may see. Let’s make known His mighty deeds and the glorious splendour of His reign, just as the first Christians did – freely, frankly, fearlessly, and in love!