We are in the midst of the Apostles Fast, which is surely the least popular or observed fast in the Orthodox Church. It’s not that we don’t love the Apostles, but that summer can be an especially undisciplined and travel-heavy time of year.
Whether you are in the midst of traveling and find that locating lenten food is too much, or you’re home and fasting faithfully, however this season is shaping up for you food-wise, remember that every fast is truly as much about almsgiving and prayer as much as it’s about food.
At this year’s Ancient Faith Ministries Podcasting and Writing Conference, I was riveted by Nathan Hoppe‘s presentation on Missions. He is an Orthodox Missionary to Albania, and an excellent speaker, and his presentation reminded me that the alms we give are not only for the hungry: we should be feeding and clothing and supporting those good souls who volunteer to spread Orthodoxy to the far corners of the world, those who answer Christ’s Great Commission.
As much as we love the Orthodox lives we build in our homes, truly the Lord calls us out of our homes. The last thing He said to us on earth was:
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. † (Matthew 28: 18-20)
His final call to us is to go and to ‘make disciples of all the nations’. What are we doing to answer that call? How are we honoring the apostles, who actually set out on foot, literally walking to the nations and preaching the good news of Christ’s resurrection? How are we we making disciples and baptizing nations?
The Assembly of Bishops recently released a report about the parishes in the United States who care about local mission work — who reach out to tell the people in their area about Holy Orthodoxy.
But what about the far reaches of the world? What about the 40% or so of human beings on this earth who have never heard the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has trampled down death by death? Did God entrust this proclamation to just one kind of Christian, or did He call every one of us to spread the good news of His gospel?
Orthodox missionaries are out in the world. The churches in the United States have sent out 20 missionaries (that’s 20 missionaries for a church with more than 60 bishops – a remarkably small number, considering the gravity of Christ’s last words to us and compared to the number of missionaries sent out by other types of Christians.)
On this holy Apostles’ fast, let us remember the great journeys undertaken by our Holy Apostles, who set out on foot to spread the word of Christ’s gospel, despite the indifference, rejection and persecution they knew they would face. Let us celebrate their mission work by becoming partners in the mission work of the many people associated with OCMC, who take their families into strange lands to live among the people, to be the Body of Christ incarnate for them.
If your parish hasn’t adopted a missionary, adopt one. Commit to a monthly gift that will significantly support a family. Pay the rent or the heating bill for a family that is answering Christ’s call to spread His Holy Gospel, becoming a partner in this holy and important work. If your family can help, look over the various missionaries supported by the OCMC, and select one to sponsor. Mark this fast with a gift, and be ready to repeat that gift on a monthly basis.
If we don’t support our missionaries, and if we don’t send many more missionaries, then we will have failed to answer Christ’s call. When we are called to account for our lives, let us not say that we have managed to ignore Christ’s most urgent call, but rather that we have done what we could to bring more souls to our lord and Savior.