The decision to live a life on mission is a life-altering decision. This article lays out FOCUS’s mission of spiritual multiplication as the way to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).
Optional Lectio Divina Prayer
1. Read Matthew 9:35 – 38.
2. Meditate on the words.
3. Speak to Christ about this passage.
4. Rest and listen in God’s presence.
5. Discuss together.
The most important battle you will ever fight is not in business, politics, or a military campaign. It all has to do with what role you choose to play in the struggle that has been raging since the beginning of time. It’s the battle between God and the devil, good and evil, heaven and hell — either loving God even to the point of contempt for self or loving self to the point of contempt for God.1 This is the battle happening within every human heart, regardless of whether we consciously realize it, and it has eternal consequences.
This is the crucial question many saints challenge us to face. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits and author of the renowned Spiritual Exercises, invites us to consider the real spiritual battle taking place around us at every moment. St. Ignatius’ famous “Meditation on the Two Standards” reveals the choice that every person of faith must make: For which side of the battle will I give my life?2
Put yourself in the scene. Two commanders stand on opposing battlefields, calling on soldiers to follow them. On one side, a riotous, angry crowd presses in around their general, who sits atop a chair of smoke and fire, terrifying in shape and even more horrible in demeanor. He charges his troops to scatter from the field, “not omitting any provinces, places, states, nor any persons,” and to use their “nets and chains” to entice souls away from the love of God and get them to give their lives to pleasure, possessions, power and pride.
At the other end of the battlefield stands another Commander-in-Chief, beautiful and full of love. He looks out over “all his servants and friends.” They are generous, courageous and ready to make many sacrifices to serve the Lord. Seeing the destruction and despair being spread by the rival army, Jesus, the “Lord of all the world chooses so many persons — Apostles, Disciples, etc. — and sends them through all the world, spreading his sacred doctrine.”3
It is a call to mission. Jesus sends them out to bring souls to his love. He calls for people to give their whole lives for the kingdom of God and for the love of souls — souls who, if there is no one willing to go out to them with the Gospel, will be swept away by the enemy. Our knowledge of what Christ has done for us and our love for others should propel us to action: Who will say “yes” to Christ’s call? Jesus waits under his raised standard to see who will come to Him.
This is where you come in. What will you do? Which camp will you serve? Where will you dwell? These are the questions St. Ignatius challenges us to ask. It is up to us to choose which banner and which army we will claim as our own.
Discuss: What stands out to you in this meditation? Where is the Lord directing your attention?
AN URGENT INVITATION
This meditation should awaken in us the urgency to share Christ’s love with others. As Christians, we don’t believe in reincarnation; no one gets a “do-over,” a second chance to help people in some second, third or fourth life. No, the time is now. This generation of Christians is responsible for helping this generation of souls. Today, people suffer from all kinds of poverty: material poverty and slavery, social poverty, psychological poverty and, most of all, poverty of relationships, the poverty of being unknown, unloved and forgotten. There is a particular urgency to serve those in need spiritually — to reach souls who do not know Christ and have not surrendered their lives to him, souls who may be forever separated from God unless Christians go out to them and share the Gospel.
You might be thinking, “I can see that this battle is real. But what does it have to do with me? What good could I do?” The truth is this: Jesus invites you to participate in his mission to save the world. He has people whom he specifically desires for you to encounter, accompany and love. He does not expect you to be perfectly ready, but he does invite you to give him your small and humble “yes” to his mission.
It can be tempting to sit on the sidelines, to believe that “somebody else will do it” and respond to the call in our place. But to abstain from the battle is not a neutral decision. It actually falls into the strategy of the devil’s army. He celebrates when Christians choose not to give their lives to extending Christ’s kingdom on earth — because that means there is less resistance in the world to his evil ways and fewer heralds of the Gospel, which means more souls may never come to know Christ’s love and his eternal salvation.
Discuss: What do you think of this call to enter the battle of bringing souls to Christ? Does it intimidate you or inspire you? Where do you see your place in this battle for eternity?
THE INVITATION TO MISSION
Ignatius’s powerful meditation is a clear call to action. People are dying each day, and their eternity hangs in the balance. How do we move from recognizing this call to Christ’s mission toward beginning to live it in the world? The rest of this article traces the journey from accepting Christ’s standard as your own to going out on mission for the salvation of souls. This can be broken down into three elements: the Message, the Mission and the Method Modeled by the Master.
The Message: The Gospel and Your Story
As St. Ignatius’s meditation shows, the spiritual battle is underway, and Christ and his army fight for the salvation of all souls. But though we are in the battle, we know the ending: Christ has won! His death on the cross won victory for us all, both for our eternal salvation and the sins, wounds and temptations we face every day. Choosing to follow Christ, to accept his free gift of salvation and to stand under his banner, is the first step for entering the battle. We cannot serve at his side if we do not first belong to him and his kingdom. As you begin to think about Christ’s mission, remember what God has done in your life and how he has redeemed you, healed you and made you new.
Discuss: How has the decision to follow Christ changed or shaped your life? How are you continuing to grow in placing Christ at the center of your life?
The Mission: Making Disciples
After coming to stand under Christ’s banner, the next step for entering his mission is to receive the call. Like the invitation found in St. Ignatius’s meditation, Jesus gave his disciples a very specific command in his last moments on earth. Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I will be with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:18 – 20).
This is the mission Jesus entrusted to the Church, and he invites all of us who are baptized to participate in this work of evangelization and missionary discipleship (CCC 831). It’s not reserved for priests and religious or biblical scholars and missionaries. If we have truly encountered Christ, how can we not share him with world?: “it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.”4 To the degree that we respond to this call, souls will be saved; to the degree that we fail to respond, souls will be lost. Our underperformance in evangelization costs the eternal life of souls.
Discuss: What do you think of the fact that you could play a role in inviting others to choose the standard of Christ and receive eternal life with him? What does it mean to you that Christ would entrust you with such a mission?
The Method Modeled by the Master: The “Little Way of Evangelization”
Once you have chosen the side of Christ and received the call to participate in the Church’s mission to reach the world, how do you begin to go out and live that reality? We only need to look to what Jesus himself did throughout his earthly life.
First, he preached to the masses (Mt 4:17). Then, he called twelve men to follow him and become “fishers of men,” spending three years with them, living with them, teaching them, and showing them how to preach, heal and lead as he did (Mt 4:19, 5:1ff). Then, he sent them out to preach the Gospel themselves. Finally, before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave them their final mission, one that would encompass the rest of their lives: to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).
This is the Method Modeled by the Master, which he invites us to imitate in our lives today. Consider one person pursuing a deep, personal relationship with Jesus and desiring for others to know him. They start intentionally investing in three to five others, following Jesus’ example, forming not just disciples who desire to know Jesus but missionary disciples who desire to make him known to others. As they grow together, each of these missionary disciples begin investing in friends of their own — two, three or more, a small number so that deep friendships can be maintained and each person can be known, loved, and cared for — who eventually go on to do the same, forming more and more missionary disciples with each new cycle of growth.
The effects begin slowly: for example, one missionary disciple becomes four, and four becomes thirteen. But for illustration purposes, if all continued to go ideally well, after seven cycles, the total number reaches nearly 1,000, and after 13 cycles, more than 500,000. At this rate, the entire world could be reached in just 22 cycles — that’s within one lifetime of the original disciple! While human weakness and failure will always be present along the way, this model, while purely mathematical, still beautifully illustrates the potential effect one person can have in changing the world!
You don’t have to be a talented speaker, a social media guru with thousands of followers or the most charismatic person in your community to become a missionary disciple. You need only to invest in a few, winning them to Christ, building them up as faithful disciples and sending them out to do the same. Think of this as the “Little Way of Evangelization”: Just as St. Thérèse of Lisieux was able to accomplish great holiness through prayer and little acts of great love, investing deeply in a few can bear tremendous fruit as you participate in the Church’s mission of making disciples of all nations. By this method, many will be rescued from the Kingdom of the evil one and brought into the Kingdom of God.
Discuss: Do you think it’s possible to reach the world in this way in your lifetime? Why do you think it is important for evangelization to occur through relationships and deep, personal investment?
The Cost of Battle
It’s clear that the rewards of this battle are great, but they are not without cost. Jesus himself tells us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” To follow Jesus as missionary disciples will mean making sacrifices — like denying ourselves certain comforts and personal control — so we can pour out our lives for the conversion of others. We will experience suffering in a new way as we contend with rejection, discouragement and disappointment. We will have to rearrange our schedules to make more time to love others, to grow in our own formation and to spend time in prayer. But when we prioritize mission in our lives, we make an eternal impact. As St. Catherine of Siena once said, “If you become who you are meant to be, you will set the world on fire!”
Now, considering everything that has been discussed in this article, are you willing to move forward? Will you take the next step? Will you accept this High Call to make disciples?
Discuss: Will you accept Jesus’ call to make disciples by committing to investing deeply in a few and teaching them to do the same?
If you desire to move forward in the journey of becoming a missionary disciple, set up a consistent time to begin meeting for regular training in mission. Use this time to begin walking together intentionally on mission, even as you continue to share life together and grow in the habits you have been forming.
As you enter more deeply into a life lived on mission, revisit this article frequently! The High Call is not a one-time event. After you commit to living out this mission, take this article to prayer or discuss it again regularly to rekindle your conviction and be reminded of Jesus’ call to you.
Missionary Disciple: This is a disciple of Christ who not only embraces Christ’s salvation, but also his mission, and who is willing to make the sacrifices necessary to help others become disciples.
The Method Modeled by the Master: Jesus evangelized the world by investing in a few whom he trained to do the same. In so doing, he imparted both faithfulness and fruitfulness that transformed the ancient world.
“The Little Way of Evangelization”: By imitating Christ, investing deeply in a few and training them to do the same, spiritual multiplication can reach the whole world for Christ today.
1. St. Augustine, City of God, XVI.28.
2. St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Meditation on the Two Standards,” in The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, accessed March 5, 2020, https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/seil/seil22.htm.
4. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, accessed March 5, 2020, Vatican.va, 24.