The basics behind nuclear engineering is that fission—the splitting of the nucleus of an atom into nuclei of lighter, smaller atoms—releases energy.
Critical mass is the smallest amount of material needed for a sustained nuclear chain reaction.
In many church traditions, worship services are called the Mass. The English word Mass comes from the Latin word missa, which means to be “sent”. The word has been used for over fifteen hundred years, and comes from the end of the celebration of the Eucharist (which would be the celebration of Communion in many non-liturgical churches) where the priest would say in Latin, “Ite, missa est”.
The literal translation is, “Go, it has been sent”.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote this, “In antiquity, missa simply meant ‘dismissal.’ However it has come to imply a ‘mission.’ These few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the church…taking the dismissal as a starting point.”
Instead of seeing the words as a conclusion to the celebration, Pope Benedict saw them as a beginning. He even approved new phrases for the dismissal at Mass including, “Ite ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum” (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord) and “Ite in pace, glorificando vita vestra Dominum” (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life).
Both of these focus on the missionary character of the Mass and how we are meant to go out in the world, sustained by the Eucharist we have received.
As followers of Jesus, our mission on earth is wrapped up in one four-letter word: Love. Because we called to love God with every fiber of our being—heart, soul, mind, and strength—we are driven to love our neighbors.
Jesus taught us that our neighbors aren’t just the people who we look like, talk like, or live near us. Instead, they’re people that are different. Who come from different communities, cultures, and religious groups all over the globe.
There’s a good chance we’ll have very little in common with our “neighbors” the way Jesus defines them. But none of this matters in light of Christ’s last word to his disciples: “Go.”
Jesus told his disciples to go. To get up off their butts, and share his love to a broken and hurting world. Because mission is ultimately at the heart of the gospel.
But that call to “go” can—and should—look different for each of us. Some of us might find ourselves going overseas. Others of us won’t go any farther than the next street over.
Interestingly enough, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the neighbor in need was right next to him. He was an injured man laying on the side of the road.
Often, mission work is as simple as giving someone a bandage. Whether it’s a physical, spiritual, or emotional bandage. Most of the time there’s no exotic, overseas journey. It’s just one person stopping to help someone else.
What is your critical mass?
What is the smallest push that it would take to get you started in a sustainable chain reaction of reaching out with Jesus’ love to those around you?
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Luke 10:36-37 NLT
Today, this weekend, don’t simply consider the question, “What is your critical mass?”. Start somewhere, with someone, and go and do the same. Share God’s love.