True joy is born out of love. Only when we dare to live by love we allow God to be born in us turning our heart into his crib. Only when we believe in the mystery of Jesus we are truly happy. Happiness comes out of a heart that, a little at the time, has gone and has been falling in love with God. To acknowledge that God exists is to be certain that we never walk alone and the joy to know that he walks with us and daily transforms our lives. The journey is not as simple as the words we use, it is demanding. It demands an effort on our part, that we start walking, that we move out of ourselves and, like Mary and Joseph, we walk to the Galilee of our hearts looking for the best place to be reborn with Jesus. Because Jesus is alive and comes to us.
Like Mary, we harbor many fears, anxieties and uncertainties but, inspired by her example we repeat our Yes each day. Accepting to be a mother, Mary gave up all her plans in order to do the will of God. Even though it was not part of her plan to be the one chosen by God, she accepted. Like Mary, let us entrust our lives to God’s hands.
St. Joseph inspires us to accept God’s project for us despite the difficulties and challenges. It was not easy for Joseph to understand that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. He reached the point of wanting to leave her secretly, but after hearing the angel he gave himself completely. The family of Nazareth teaches us to live in community. Mary and Joseph, as community, knew how to live the incarnation in their own lives. It is not easy to follow God’s will in community, but they understood that, when God calls, touching our hearts, our life will never be the same. Our Yes opens the door to many more marvels, not only in our own lives but also in the lives of others. In prayer they found the courage they needed to accomplish their mission joyfully and confidently. In moments of prayer we open the doors of our hearts and homes so that God may come and daily he may tell us which path we must follow. Prayer is the basis of community and through it we consecrate our lives to the Lord. Let us live this Christmas, remembering what José Tolentino Mendonça said: “We are the crib, it is within us that Jesus is born.” Let us prepare our hearts and lives to be the home where Jesus will be born.
We, the members of the Comboni Lay Missionaries group of Bologna, have decided on “Outings” to meet the parish communities, to reflect and share on the New Styles of Life.
To share the Head: in order to understand the phenomena that engulf us.
To share the Heart: in order to support the necessity of change both internally and externally.
To share Hands: in order to stimulate activities that any local or parish group can enact.
We feel it is important to start a missionary journey that will help to question a life style which is increasingly consumeristic and individualistic, which fosters more and more social, local and worldwide inequities, besides brutally damaging our common home: the Earth.
The dramatic situation of our planet, mistreated and wounded, and the tragic life conditions of its inhabitants cannot leave us indifferent. This is a cry echoing with increasing strength in our ears and that is present here and now.
It is futile to deny that our current styles of life have produced, and continue to produce, a series of wounds in the environment, in increasing poverty, in miserable situations the world over.
Our choices, our simple daily activities, have planetary repercussions, from what we use and consume, from what we buy, from what we utilize and waste. The world has become one single home where we are all interdependent and responsible for its care. Laudato sii itself encourages us to go beyond individualism and look for alternate styles of life.
Basing ourselves on these premises that guide our will, our faith and our commitment, on Sunday, November 19, on the occasion of the World Day for the Poor, we met at the parish of Christ the King in Bologna to share with the parishioners both a community meal with the “poor” of the city and a time of reflection and sharing on the themes of the New Styles of Life. It was our first “Outing.”
Together with the parishioners we joined Head, Heart, Hands, emotions, reflections and, above all, the desire to commit ourselves and build something “good.”
This shows how important it is to get together to weave relationships that will lead away from the loneliness of impotence, from urban loneliness evermore deprived of gestures of conviviality and “humanity.” One little step at the time, we want to start this missionary journey, without any concern for quantity (Many people? Only a few?), but rather for quality and, above all, for every single person who wants to walk with us, because together we grow, we walk, we share, we create and change. Mission invites us to “Go out,” to be witnesses, but never alone, with Others.
We will keep it up in 2018, trying to meet with other parishes, to build alternative ways born out of solidarity, of getting together, of conviviality that will help the networking of ideas, activities, and groups in a commitment to justice.
As Gandhi used to say: “You be the change you want to see in the world.”
Once again this year, World Mission Day gathers us around the person of Jesus, “the very first and greatest evangelizer” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7), who continually sends us forth to proclaim the Gospel of the love of God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Day invites us to reflect anew on the mission at the heart of the Christian faith. The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away. So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?
Mission and the transformative power of the Gospel of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life
1. The Church’s mission, directed to all men and women of good will, is based on the transformative power of the Gospel. The Gospel is Good News filled with contagious joy, for it contains and offers new life: the life of the Risen Christ who, by bestowing his life-giving Spirit, becomes for us the Way, the Truth and the Life (cf. Jn 14:6). He is the Way who invites us to follow him with confidence and courage. In following Jesus as our Way, we experience Truth and receive his Life, which is fullness of communion with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. That life sets us free from every kind of selfishness, and is a source of creativity in love.
2. God the Father desires this existential transformation of his sons and daughters, a transformation that finds expression in worship in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4:23-24), through a life guided by the Holy Spirit in imitation of Jesus the Son to the glory of God the Father. “The glory of God is the living man” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses IV, 20, 7). The preaching of the Gospel thus becomes a vital and effective word that accomplishes what it proclaims (cf. Is 55:10-11): Jesus Christ, who constantly takes flesh in every human situation (cf. Jn 1:14).
Mission and the kairos of Christ
3. The Church’s mission, then, is not to spread a religious ideology, much less to propose a lofty ethical teaching. Many movements throughout the world inspire high ideals or ways to live a meaningful life. Through the mission of the Church, Jesus Christ himself continues to evangelize and act; her mission thus makes present in history the kairos, the favourable time of salvation. Through the proclamation of the Gospel, the risen Jesus becomes our contemporary, so that those who welcome him with faith and love can experience the transforming power of his Spirit, who makes humanity and creation fruitful, even as the rain does with the earth. “His resurrection is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world. Where all seems to be dead, signs of the resurrection suddenly spring up. It is an irresistible force” (Evangelii Gaudium, 276).
4. Let us never forget that “being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1). The Gospel is a Person who continually offers himself and constantly invites those who receive him with humble and religious faith to share his life by an effective participation in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. Through Baptism, the Gospel becomes a source of new life, freed of the dominion of sin, enlightened and transformed by the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, it becomes a fortifying anointing that, through the same Spirit, points out new ways and strategies for witness and accompaniment. Through the Eucharist, it becomes food for new life, a “medicine of immortality” (Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Ephesios, 20, 2).
5. The world vitally needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Church, Christ continues his mission as the Good Samaritan, caring for the bleeding wounds of humanity, and as Good Shepherd, constantly seeking out those who wander along winding paths that lead nowhere. Thank God, many significant experiences continue to testify to the transformative power of the Gospel. I think of the gesture of the Dinka student who, at the cost of his own life, protected a student from the enemy Nuer tribe who was about to be killed. I think of that Eucharistic celebration in Kitgum, in northern Uganda, where, after brutal massacres by a rebel group, a missionary made the people repeat the words of Jesus on the cross: “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” as an expression of the desperate cry of the brothers and sisters of the crucified Lord. For the people, that celebration was an immense source of consolation and courage. We can think too of countless testimonies to how the Gospel helps to overcome narrowness, conflict, racism, tribalism, and to promote everywhere, and among all, reconciliation, fraternity, and sharing.
Mission inspires a spirituality of constant exodus, pilgrimage, and exile
6. The Church’s mission is enlivened by a spirituality of constant exodus. We are challenged “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20). The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice. The Church’s mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of Heaven.
7. Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom. A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, his crucified and glorious Body. That is why we should prefer “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (ibid., 49).
Young people, the hope of mission
8. Young people are the hope of mission. The person of Jesus Christ and the Good News he proclaimed continue to attract many young people. They seek ways to put themselves with courage and enthusiasm at the service of humanity. “There are many young people who offer their solidarity in the face of the evils of the world and engage in various forms of militancy and volunteering… How beautiful it is to see that young people are ‘street preachers’, joyfully bringing Jesus to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth!” (ibid., 106). The next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, to be held in 2018 on the theme Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, represents a providential opportunity to involve young people in the shared missionary responsibility that needs their rich imagination and creativity.
The service of the Pontifical Mission Societies
9. The Pontifical Mission Societies are a precious means of awakening in every Christian community a desire to reach beyond its own confines and security in order to proclaim the Gospel to all. In them, thanks to a profound missionary spirituality, nurtured daily, and a constant commitment to raising missionary awareness and enthusiasm, young people, adults, families, priests, bishops and men and women religious work to develop a missionary heart in everyone. World Mission Day, promoted by the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, is a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.
Carrying out our mission with Mary, Mother of Evangelization
10. Dear brothers and sisters, in carrying out our mission, let us draw inspiration from Mary, Mother of Evangelization. Moved by the Spirit, she welcomed the Word of life in the depths of her humble faith. May the Virgin Mother help us to say our own “yes”, conscious of the urgent need to make the Good News of Jesus resound in our time. May she obtain for us renewed zeal in bringing to everyone the Good News of the life that is victorious over death. May she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity needed to discover new ways to bring the gift of salvation to every man and woman.
From the Vatican, 4 June 2017
Solemnity of Pentecost
On July 16 in the community of Viseu, in the parish of Rio de Loba, together with her family and friends we celebrated the missioning of our CLM Neuza Francisco. She will soon leave for our mission of Arequipa, Peru. We share with you her feelings, following this great day of celebration.
I talk about a Yes which has nothing easy about it, but means availability, a Yes which is full of commitment and love. It is a “Yes” given from the humble condition I am in, and from what I have within me. It is a Yes full of perseverance, in the certainty that “God does not choose the most able, but enables those he chooses.” (Msgr. António Couto).
This Yes that I am telling you about involves leaving everything, family, friends, and the comforts of a life that for me it had no meaning. It is an attitude of detachment, because only through it we get to experience a personal relationship with Christ, without the dependency and the securities created in the course of a lifetime. I trust in the call that he gives me to be happy here of wherever he will lead me by the hand. It is the certainty of journeying more and more within my very self, to know myself, to be able to touch others, in a relationship which is only possible with the conviction that, walk wherever you walk, God leads me by the hand.
Today I have this deep trust that Comboni walks with me in God’s dream for us and that I, too, am also one of the thousand lives for mission.
Today, He calls me once more to leave my boat at the shore and with him look for other seas. I go, I follow, but I am not going alone. I take along the prayers of all those whose paths I crossed and sowed in me small seeds of a deep love that germinated, and continues to do so, here within my heart. I go, but I do not go alone. I take with me all the hearts I met on my journey and taught me how to love more and more. I take with me all those whose life’s history intertwined with mine and helped me to get to know a merciful and compassionate God.
I hold in me the hugs given along a fruitful and fertile journey, I hold the outstretched hands that, despite the many falls, always helped me get up. I go, but I do not go alone. And, like my grandmother often used to say, I “go with God.”
At this time I am called to Peru. I feel that once more He invites me to love, to share, to be, to offer myself, to trust, so that together with the people to which I am called, we may be one. He calls me to go to the poorest and most abandoned in the outskirts of Arequipa. He calls me to be me and to let the treasure I carry within me bear fruit with others. I embrace the mission of Arequipa, like someone embraces a dream, experienced since forever. It is a dream to which I have given myself, and continue to give myself every day. I am not talking of utopia or of something unreal, but rather of the dream of being totally connected to the reality I have embraced.
I go, not because I want to save the world, but because I, too, want to be part of the open wounds of the world, wounds made of flesh and bone people who in a faraway world carry within themselves fragments of God. I want to be with them, I want to see the face of God in humanity looking for a meaning, with my feet on the ground and my hands filled with nothing. I want to see God in the spontaneous smiles of those who do not know love, but live daily to give praise.
I walk in the confidence, commitment and joy of knowing that I am following Christ, I bring Christ and will always meet Christ. I walk and every step I take, I take it freely in the knowledge that I will always be in his merciful arms where I will take shelter at sundown, and He will be my hope who will make me get up at each new sunrise.
I leave in the name of a community, in the name of the Church, in the name of Jesus Christ, to announce the Gospel of Love. And in this deep growth in myself, in God and in others I ask you: Pray for me.
Our meeting has brought forth the realities of our missionary vocation to the group.
We have discussed topics like communication, vocation, economics, formation and much more. Through these discussions we have found where we have met our goals, areas that we need to improve and the challenges we face in doing so.
Much like St. Daniel Comboni we have all found some difficulties in expanding the Kingdom of God. With the charism of our founder and intercessor, we find the strength to carry on in our mission and find the path to do so.
Like the palm tree bearing the coconuts fruit, it is not easy to share the sweet taste of salvation but we find the strength to climb, through our faith and our community.
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