Today we hear of yet another of the missionary adventures of St. Paul.
Remember, to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus means that we are also missionaries. Why? Because the Lord Jesus gives us something of great importance that he insists that we share with others. The gift that the Lord Jesus gives us is his own divine life, and the divine life he gives us is given in all its fullness in the Church.
Those who enter into a relationship with the Lord Jesus receive the great gift of his divine life, and will either reach out to others to share what they have received, or they risk losing what the Lord Jesus has given. It is through our missionary efforts, our willingness to share what Christ the Lord has given us that the love of God in Christ goes out from us, from his Church and into the world.
In today’s scripture from Acts of the Apostles, two disciples and friends of St. Paul, Priscilla and Aquila by name, encounter a man named Apollos, a man who knows of Christ and even, it seems, believes in him, but does not know Christ as the Apostles knew him.
In other words, Apollos faith in Christ must be brought into all its fullness and this can only happen if he enters into relationship with Christ in his Church. Priscilla and Aquila invite Apollos to know Christ in the Church. Apollos knows about Christ. He comes to share a relationship with Christ in its fullest expression in the Church. To invite people to know Christ in his Church- this is our mission- the primary mission of the Church is to introduce people to the Lord Jesus. The Church is meant to grow by means of our personal introduction of others to Christ.
We can offer this introduction in many ways, but we must be committed to making the introduction or we are not fulfilling the mission that Christ has given us. It is because of our resistance to fulfilling the mission that Christ has given us that causes the Church to falter and fail. The most terrifying threat the Church faces is not persecution from hostile worldly powers, but resistance from Christians when it comes to doing what Christ the Lord asks his Church to believe and do.
Christians are expected by Christ to be missionary disciples. If we are not, and the Church is faltering and failing all around us, then the problem is not merely one of administration or business plans. The problem is the absence of faith in Christ. The problem is that we are not doing what Christ wants his Church to do.
In his Gospel, Christ speaks of his relationship with God, a relationship with God that is unlike anything else a creature can fully comprehend. And yet, Christ wants us to share in his own relationship with God- he is willing to give us the kind of relationship that is uniquely his own.
He shares his relationship by accepting a human nature, and in doing so effecting a “marvelous exchange”- making all of human experience potential routes of access to his divine presence. Then he grants us through his resurrection an immortal life, transforming death from merely an end to a new beginning. We participate in all this in the Sacraments of the Church, for the Sacraments are not merely customary rituals or an expression of community values, but a participation in, an encounter with, a relationship with God in Christ.
In the Sacraments we do not just receive symbols, but the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus himself and through the Sacraments, Christ gives to us his own unique relationship with God.
Intentionally forgetting that the Sacraments are about God, about Christ, reduces them to mere customs and soon they become banalities. The reduction of the Sacraments to mere customs is really a kind of sacrilege.
The Sacraments are not our creations that we make into whatever we want them to be. The Sacraments are created by Christ to be the privileged means by which we share in his relationship with God.