Sent by God

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  John 17:18

Parenting, in its most basic sense, is simply a matter of nurturing the formation of children until they are old enough to be sent out into the world.  We see a similar aspect of parenting in the formation of Jesus’ followers as they mature from disciples to apostles.  At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus calls the disciples to “Come.”  At the end of His ministry, He tells them to “Go.”  The Lord invites us as well to come to Him, initially, in order to learn His ways.  But His ultimate goal is to send us as apostles into the world.

Until the day of Pentecost, the disciples saw themselves primarily as followers of Christ.  They learned, from the words and ways of Jesus, what the spiritual life should look like.  After the baptism of the Holy Spirit however, these same disciples became apostles, sent by Christ to do His bidding in the world.  Led by the direct impulse of the Holy Spirit, Philip went to Ethiopia, James to Galicia, Thomas to India, John to Ephesus and Peter to Rome.  They served the Lord each according to their own initiatives, confident that the Holy Spirit was orchestrating their various ministries according to the over-all purposes of God.

The disciples of St. Ignatius as well, after being trained in the discernment of spirits, were sent out to all parts of the world.  Led by the prompting of God, they trusted the Holy Spirit to deploy them as needed.  We too, are to recognize signs of our own maturing—from disciples who first come to follow Jesus, to apostles who are now sent by the Spirit of Christ to do His bidding in the world.   Such maturing is the anticipated fruit of all discipleship.

As disciples, we follow Jesus according to external means.  We study the Lord’s teachings and learn His ways through the example of others.  As apostles, however, we are sent according to the Spirit of Christ that prompts us from within.  Though we never stop learning from outside sources, we are called, as we mature, to walk more and more confidently according to the mysterious action of God who deploys us from within.

The Christian life invites us to live each day in accordance with the active grace of God’s creative Spirit.  Like water that comes into the tree through its roots, the confidence to serve God’s will comes to us from below.  It is a grace that we receive by submitting, as best we can, to the Lord’s immediate will in our lives.  And this we renew each day, and each hour, by simply giving back to God all that we have received.  Those who live according to this continual exchange experience life in the Spirit as something that is always fresh, its directives are new every morning.

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1Jn 2:27