Def Con 5: Corona and the Mission
“So when He heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place that he was.” (John 11: 6) The Corona has changed all of our worlds. Three weeks ago, we were all on a different path, and suddenly have found ourselves caught up within a Category 5 tornado, trying to reestablish some sense of normalcy while ourselves, our loved ones, our whole world is still whirling and changing around us. And us with it. Somehow, what mattered last month seems to matter less today. New priorities have emerged.
Evelyn and I are similarly struggling with all that. And with how it relates to the mission, and with how as missionaries we can help. Next Holy Week will mark the first Holy Week in 15 years that we have not been “on mission.” For some of our fellow missionaries, even longer.
In the midst of this quiet time with Jesus, on Saturday afternoon, I finally got the chance to listen to a podcast with a very creative and faithful young Catholic man named Alex Cortes for Our American Network. He only posted it recently, within the Corona storm, and I myself hadn’t yet gotten a chance to hear it. I assumed it was more or less similar to the many other podcasts and interviews I’d done on The Missionary. It wasn’t.
In the long, relaxed interview in my living room, Alex had drawn out of me background and detail I’d never opened up on before. Then he carefully edited down a nearly 90 minute interview and created a story with a theme; a kind of second audio book, by Alex Cortes, on the heart of a missionary. Alex tells the story of a simple Catholic guy who falls away from the faith, who the Lord finds and retrieves from a far pasture, and becomes a missionary. This is the hidden story of The Missionary of Wall Street, and I’ve always wondered if anyone had realized it. Alex had, and drew it out in vivid detail.
And then, somewhat presciently, Alex focuses on what is now very relevant to the present Corona Crisis, what I sometimes refer to as “The Def Con 5” moment: the only two instances in The Missionary of Wall Street where the missionary goes to “Def Con 5”—the “H___” word. This is something us street missionaries rarely do, because we don’t think the best way to get someone into reconciliation with the Lord is by scaring them; we prefer to “love them in.” But we do on very rare occasions do this, and those stories become the centerpiece of Alex’s version. In both instances, the missionary believes the person he is talking to may soon be dead or killed; he feels strongly a call from the Lord to go to “Red Alert” and declare an emergency to shock the soul whose time is short into action. To go to Him.
Later that night, Evelyn and I were doing our evening reflection on the next day’s Gospel passage, John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus. One of the longest in the Sunday Mass cycle. Yet, within the story, I found myself riveted on verses 5-6: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard he was ill, He remained for two days in the place that he was.” What? If he loved them so much, why I did he not drop everything and run to them? Because, for Jesus, this was his “Def Con 5” moment.
He was nearing the end of His ministry. The cross loomed just weeks away. Yet, it wasn’t clear that His followers understood what He was talking about. The Jewish people had only a very fuzzy notion of the afterlife, and in fact, most did not believe in it at all. God rewarded good behavior with riches and prestige on earth. Sinners were left blind or crippled. So this idea that somehow He would “raise us from the dead” to the eternal Kingdom was very abstract. They didn’t get it. And time was running short. Jesus went to Def Con 5. Because He loved them.
This was the only way of proving to them the urgency of believing in Him. Let Lazarus die. Then literally raise him up from the dead.
This is the heart of the missionary story. Now more than ever, it is time to turn to God. He has not abandoned us. We are not alone. We do not need to be afraid. He loves us. He wants us home. And whether the Corona gets us or something else does, we will be there soon. We need to prepare our souls for that. We need to get focused. It’s Def Con 5.
A missionary March 29, 2020