Jesus proclaimed and lived the Good News that God loves us into fullness of life. He loved us to his death. He passes this great mission on to each of us.
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Matt 25
Christianity isn't just about having a great relationship with God. If we are to follow Jesus, then we become brother and sister to all humanity and stewards of God's creation.
Jesus' outreach was extraordinary in his short life. He reached out to the poor and dispossessed, those who were outcast from their community. His outreach extended to those considered insignificant by the standards of his culture - the widow and child.
While much of his outreach consisted in healings and bringing people back into communion with their community, we would be very mistaken to think that Jesus' mission consisted solely in making the world a better place. The actions of Jesus included turning over the money-changers tables in the Temple in Jerusalem, of riding into Jerusalem in the symbolic manner of a Jewish King and of forgiving sins - not just healing physical ills.
His defining act of dying on the cross and rising to new life epitomises his mission, which was to restore humanity to a full relationship with our loving God. He broke through all barriers, even the darkest aspects of humanity and the final darkness of death, to prove that the light of the resurrection is stronger.
To understand the mission of Jesus, we need to listen to his words.
At the beginning of his public ministry, in Luke's account, Jesus stands up and reads: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor ... to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." He ends in the middle of a verse without reading, "and the day of vengeance of our God'.
Nor does Jesus read more of Isaiah's oracle concerning comfort for mourners and cloaking the faint of spirit with praise, perhaps because further on Isaiah would repeat the claim that Israel shall have for itself the wealth of the nations, while all those others end up with nothing but God's vengeance heaped upon them.
Such was - and is - the conventional messianic dream of oppressed people. When we take over, we will be on top. The creeps who have oppressed us will be on the first track out.
Jesus sought to bring people to fullness of life in God. His many stories, parables and teachings all express the heart of our life is to live in "the kingdom of God." He went to great lengths to describe this kingdom and the conditions for co-operating with it.
The defining statement of his mission is summed up by the following quote:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your will and all your strength and love your neighbour as yourself."
Jesus offers a share in his mission today. His mission is to us, just as it was to the community he worked and served in 2000 years ago.
If we need healing, support, belonging and community, meaning and spirituality - then Jesus has something to say to us.
If we wish to support people, care for others and care for our needy world in all its suffering and environmental damage, then Jesus has something to offer us: he wishes us to be his disciples - to follow him in his mission.
Do unto to others what I have done unto you. If we believe that God has loved us into life and loves us despite the times we fail and let ourselves and others down, then we are called to do the same. St Francis' prayer asks: "Make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred let me sow love." We are called to heal and support others, to love them as we have been loved. At the heart of our mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ, the one who offers fullness of life and to live the kingdom he spoke about in our own lives. God's kingdom is one of love and truth and forginess and equality, centred in the life of the Holy Spirit. We try to live this community in Church, the people of God.