Once we decide to be Christians we need to search, as the believers of all times, the originality of Jesus and listen to the newness of his call: This is the meaning of being a follower. The first Christian generations asked: Who are we following? Who are we risking our lives for? That concern is reflected in the accounts of each one of the gospels… a constant search and not too little doubt. They did not want to lose sight of whom they were following. Likewise, we do not want to lose sight of whom we are following.
It is difficult to believe that Elisha, in the Old Testament, immediately leaves everything behind to go with Elijah on a prophetic mission. Not all of us who follow Jesus are capable of responding in that manner. Jesus does not ask that we become, overnight, heroes or perfect people. He understands our cowardice and shortcomings. He asks that we do not set conditions when we decide to follow Him. This is why it is true that "to be Christian is not to have faith, but to gradually becoming a believer."
When we consider the mission to which we have been sent as disciples…the account of the first 72 missionaries is like a breath of fresh air, Luke 10, 1 -12.17-20. In a society that is often insensitive, exploiting, and misleading, it is encouraging to know that there are people who approach others with an attitude of respect and tenderness, and help them to recognize that "the Kingdom of God is close to them."
The task remains enormous, one has to be on the way, without fear, without calculations, with only a message of peace (shalom= life). The lives of the messengers are what makes this great message credible.
Half way through this jubilee of Mercy, the Word read on Sundays takes us by the hand toward that which is central to our Christian life: Our vocation and our mission is Mercy. The Samaritan who stops and postpones his plans and concerns for another time to cure and lift up the man who had been assaulted on the road, is a model of a true disciple. It is not a religious practice, nor the fulfillment of the mandates of the law which makes for a true life, but that which the Bible calls Mercy: The only truly human reaction to the suffering of others. This impulse, from our heart, when it becomes a source of inspiration and action, is what makes us human. When we let ourselves be guided by Mercy, our own plans fall apart, we must make ours those of others and let us be led to paths never imagined. Precisely because with Mercy all is game…
Do not miss the opportunity to meet people, groups, or communities that revive, through their actions and lives, the unbelievable but powerful gesture of the Samaritan. Let yourself be educated by them, you too have been called to make it a reality, do not be afraid. You are part of a church that wants to respond to this mission. We have been called to be a Samaritan church.
Be open to this spirit that moved Jesus’ disciples: To follow Him alone. Persuade yourself that He is who has sent you. Share the mission with others, do not go alone…you do not need to look far to find people left on the roadsides.
Father Flores is director of migrant ministry for the Diocese of Rochester.