Miguel Chavez’s enthusiasm permeated the room as he spoke about “Joy: How are we called to be Missionary Disciples,” at the Theology on the Rocks West’s Oct. 11 meeting at the Double Tree by Hilton in Westlake. About three dozen people attended the program.
Chavez is director of the Diocese of Cleveland’s Office of Missionary Discipleship.
He offered his definition of a missionary disciple, telling the attendees that “missionary disciple are roving storytellers who captivate hearts to Christ by telling the greatest love story in the history of the world.”
A roving storyteller goes where others don’t – “in the muck,” Chavez said, and captivates hearts. “You can’t conceal the joy behind this great news,” he said, referring to Jesus dying to redeem us.
"That posture of joy draws others in,” he said, making them curious about what we have. “And when we emulate Christ, that’s living a life of holiness.” We are all called to holiness and are saints in the making, explained.
He mentioned a woman he saw one day on East Ninth Street near the diocesan offices. She was smiling and joyful. “It made me wonder what she had that I didn’t have. She was captivating, curious and drawing people in.” Chavez said when others describe us as missionary disciples, people should see us like that woman: joyful.
“We see things differently with a posture of joy. Missionaries shouldn’t miss an opportunity to share the good news and we should embrace play,” he said.
Chavez shared the example of his 3-year-old son, who was fascinated while staring out the window at a bush. He wasn’t sure what attracted his son’s attention; all he saw was an overgrown bush, but the child was gleeful. Then he noticed a bright red cardinal in the bush.
“My 3-year-old saw things differently with his posture of joy,” he said. “Missionary disciples get glimpses of grace and use the opportunity to share the story, to tell others about that amazing story.” He said we must use compassion, empathy and a joyful heart to take advantage of the opportunities the Holy Spirit lays before us.
“We have to be courageous. We’re sowers of seed. We don’t need to be concerned about if the seeds grow or about the harvest. Our job is to sow the seeds. Be courageous; share your story and what you’re about,” Chavez said.
“It’s a sacred surrender. Let go of unneeded things,” he added.
Chavez said he likes to start each day with a simple prayer: “Lord, I’m yours.” He recommended that attendees adopt this practice, also.
In addition, he emphasized the importance of taking time for what he called the profound work of play, noting that children playing at a playground are joyful and immersed in the activity. It’s curious, captivating and contagious to those who watch them. “It’s a posture of joy. Imagine if our churches were like that.”
He said we must always be on the move, “like a spreading fire ready to encompass and concern whatever it encounters. As saints in the making, can we imagine the world without Christ?” he asked.
Our task is not easy, Chavez said, noting the discerning movement of the Holy Spirit involves all who use their talents to reach out to those on the peripheries, where people look for more. It’s like the Great Commission in the Bible, he explained. Christ is with us and we need to always draw people into that relationship.
Someone once asked him if he could describe kerygma – the proclamation or preaching – in less than five minutes. Rising to the challenge, he gave this answer:
- Love creates.
- Sin breaks.
- Jesus renews/redeems us.
- We return to love.
"That sums it all up,” Chavez said. “Prayer and discernment are a daily thing. They go hand in hand.” He said we discern our gifts, become engaged and courageously share them and the good news.
Chavez encouraged the group to read Scripture daily and to be courageous enough to share it. “The story you develop is for everyone else.”
Theology on the Rocks West is a monthly discussion series designed to bring together Catholic adults in western Cuyahoga and Lorain counties over age 40 in a casual atmosphere to explore their faith.
Father Damian Ference, the diocesan vicar for evangelization, will speak at the group’s Nov. 8 program. Registration details will be available soon. Cost is $15, which includes light appetizers and a cash bar.