Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
So says the Lord Jesus to his disciples, right before he is taken up before their eyes. This instruction is so big, so huge, so infinite that nothing and nobody is excluded. Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature: every place, every time.
This is the constant for us priests. The whole priest “thing” launched with that word: go. So, we go. We go far more than we stay. We go everywhere, we go whenever; and we go when and where we are told to go, not when or where we choose to go.
Fr. McCabe, whose missionary experiences are now well known to you, has taken this charge to its most complete meaning. For Fr. McDonell, it may seem to be less the case. But why has he been here? Because his bishop said, go. And now why is he leaving us? Because his bishop said, go.
Now, it may seem to you that after nine years, I have lost familiarity with the sound of that word, go. But it was that word that brought me here in the first place – then took me away, across the Atlantic and back, then back here again. So, my staying here, even this long, is because I was told to go.
That’s the first part. The second part, about proclaiming the Gospel, is astonishingly universal: to every creature? Really? Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of God, crucified, died, raised, and ascended: that is the Good News. There is no creature who has some other message coming, nor anyone for whom some other news is the good. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
What response does this news call for? Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, as Jesus himself never tired of explaining. It is such a magnificent offer that no one should be left out, but Jesus knows that some will opt out. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.
Every creature on earth, in every place and at every time, needs that good news and the opportunity to make that response. To make that happen requires a lot of go-ing. For those who are sent, it makes the importance of going all the more clear. That we understand the only two possible outcomes is one of the main reasons we are willing and ready to go.
So this week you see it: the Church in motion. The Apostles heard the word, and they went. Ever since, souls called to preach have heard the word, and gone. It seems random, unpredictable, unsettling, and upsetting, but this is the life of the Church, who, as our Holy Father has reminded us, does not have a mission, but is a mission. It is a big world, and there are many, many souls in need of hearing the Good News. Some of them are here, some in Detroit, some in a location to be named (by Maryknoll) later.
I don’t know about you, but I am sad that they are going. I enjoyed their company and their help and their friendship and support. But even when they came, I knew it was so that one day they could go. And their willingness to go makes me glad.
So thank Frs. McCabe and McDonell for everything they did for you, including their continued willingness to go. Wish them well, and promise your prayers. But don’t take too long about it; if they are going to Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature, they had better get going. Godspeed!Monsignor Smith