The Dignity in Mission


Why didn’t Jesus hold on to the keys? Why would he give them to Peter? Here is the Son of God, the very author of the heavens, giving away the keys of the kingdom. These keys of power, able to bind and loose, bearing eternal consequences, pass from the hands of God to the hands of a rural fisherman. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Jesus to keep that authority for himself? Why entrust it to our frail humanity? What was he up to? “How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!”

Over and over again the New Testament affirms our dignity as adopted sons and daughters. Saint Paul speaks of our ability to be frank, confident and bold with God. He insists that we put off timidity, that we abandon slavish anxiety. As God’s children, we speak to him as our Father (it would be insulting to speak to him otherwise). But with this new position comes new responsibility. As proof of our adoption we are included in God’s work. We have been brought to a spiritual maturity. It would not be right for him to call us his children but entrust us with nothing. Otherwise, it would just be words.

God gives each of us a mission, a purpose to be accomplished. Peter is a very clear example of what is true for all of us (though often more mysteriously): God includes us in the work of salvation. But this is no cause for boasting: “who has given the Lord anything that he may be repaid?” Being included in God’s work does not mean that he needs us, rather it is a sign of his love and election. Our mission is a favor he grants us. He wants us to have the dignity of cooperating with him. Our mission does not originate with us (often we even resist it) nor is it accomplished by our own strength: “for from him and through him and for him are all things.” In our mission, we are wrapped up in his loving efforts. Through our mission, we are given a concrete way to return his love.

God’s assignments are usually not extravagant. Most likely our mission is right in front of us, to be discovered among our family, friends and employment. We might also look among the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. For example, is God calling you to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, or visit the sick and imprisoned? Is he asking you to instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, or pray for the living and dead? Whatever God’s call for you, whatever your mission, within it lies your dignity as his child.