What Is a Missionary Disciple?

At the National Catholic Teachers Association convention next year, I will be speaking on prayer. The organizers asked me to rework my talk’s title and description to reflect the theme “missionary disciples.” In doing research, I discovered that Pope Francis used this term in his encyclical “The Joy of the Gospel,” and this year our United States Bishops Conference issued a document called “Living as Missionary Disciples.”

The Gospel for the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 8, ties in with this theme. It recounts the parable of Jesus about the landowner who expects his workers to produce fruit. Jesus expects us to bear fruit in the form of new members of his Church. Before returning to heaven, he gave his disciples what is known as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, . . . baptizing them . . . and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” We are the disciples of Jesus. He sends us on this mission to bring other people to know him and love him as we do. A disciple is a learner, an apprentice. We practice living according to the teachings of Jesus.

How do we act as missionary disciples? We needn’t travel and found churches like St. Paul or preach on street corners. However, when we have a chance to talk about or explain our faith, we can grab it in our zeal to share what we have. By our very example of Christian living, we can attract others to Jesus. Our vibrant worship at the Eucharist; our concern for the needy; our respect for people of all nations, races, and religions; our protection of life and creation; and our integrity in the workplace speak volumes. My goal in writing books and giving talks about the Catholic faith is to ignite in others a passion for Jesus Christ. Most likely we won’t know until we reach heaven the far-reaching influence we have had.

Invitation is another strategy of missionary disciples. Why not invite a relative or neighbor to the RCIA sessions, to Mass with you, or to another parish event? My mother returned to the church after her best friend encouraged her to go to confession to Father Garrity—because he wouldn’t yell at her! Let’s hope that at the end of time, when Christ asks us, his people, for the fruit we produced, we can show him a rich harvest.

Do you know a good story about how a person was brought into the Church?

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