Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mission: Impossible

Mission:  Impossible

This is not a review of the film starring new dad Tom Cruise.  I find that I can’t write much about it that wouldn’t spoil the suspense of those who are planning to watch it.  It was entertaining stuff, genuinely Hollywood in every stunt and close-up, so go ahead and watch it.

It was while watching the movie yesterday that I had some reflections regarding people who go on mission, because I entered the movie house carrying some questions that my friends and I had been asking of God the past week.

Honestly, none of us have been commissioned to single-handedly save the world.  We are not highly-trained secret agents who can slide down skyscrapers while sharp-shooting enemy guards.  Our respective missions seem possible compared to what Tom Cruise, Keri Russell, and the other IMF agents had to go through in the film.  Yet, at some point we had felt the seeming impossibility of our tasks.  

I was struck by the second to the last sentence that was included in every summary of an Impossible Mission Force (IMF) agent’s mission:  “Your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to--”, and it goes on to state in clear and unequivocal terms what the mission is, so that the agent can make a quick decision of whether or not to accept it.  Then, true to the top-secret nature of each mission they are called to do, the last sentence always says, “This message will self-destruct in five seconds”.

In this regard, I can say that IMF agents and God’s servants are given the same option, for we have all been called by something like– “Your mission, should you wish to accept it, is to lead the Music Ministry”.  IMF agents are not given so much time as we’ve had to discern, though.  They are even given less time to complain, procrastinate, or quit.  Once they’ve accepted the mission, they go at it with all their might, until they’ve completed what they’ve agreed to do.  They no longer ask, “Why me?”  At least, not in the movie.  

They know the costs of being IMF agents.  They can’t hold down normal relationships because in doing so, they put their lovedones’ safety at risk.  From the time of Superman, to Spiderman, to Ethan (Hunt), the leading ladies have always been favorite hostages of villains.  In order to hurt the heroes, their enemies go straight to the heart, and always hurt their particular beloved.  It makes sense, and so heroes have had to make tough choices, since time immemorial.  This is nothing new (but MI3 makes a big deal about this… ‘nuff said.).

Though not all missionaries or servants are called to give up special relationships, there are other costs of discipleship.  Persecution, frustration, and exhaustion are just some of the hardships that they go through. St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians presented one of the strangest resumes of all time:

23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.  (2 Co 11:23-30)

Yet, I dare say this – neither St. Paul nor I, nor any who consider themselves as servants of God, were forced into this.  We chose to stay and fulfill our mission.  Sometimes we have to be reminded of Scripture in order to stop complaining and being tempted to take back our commitment.  We knew there would be consequences.  We should be able to handle them more maturely.  Perhaps because I had been so confused lately, of consequences of my previous service (not the present one), I was reminded through a movie of what mission is all about.

Furthermore, and this should take away all arguments to the contrary, His followers should take the example of Jesus in today’s Gospel, from John 10.  He said:

17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. 8 This command I have received from my Father."

Friends, brothers and sisters, like St. Paul and like our Lord Jesus, we chose to accept our mission.  We were not forced into this.  Let us act with freedom and with gratitude for being called into our service.  Let us pray for one another, but keep fighting the good fight of faith.  For with the Lord, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).

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