Our mission comes from Christ himself. To live it to the full we must remain in contact with Him. It is not any relationship or an occasional one, but the giving of oneself in a trusting manner to Someone who loves us without boundaries, an unfailing and transforming experience
Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me” (Jn 15:5)
1. A basic experience
The reports of almost all the provinces and delegations have underlined, in the first phase of the Ratio Missionis, a limited spirituality among us and a marked tendency to grow even weaker in the future. This deficiency in such an essential dimension of our life is worrying. It is hardly surprising that Fr. Teresino Serra has warned us against a way of working without God, or, what looks like it, a very superficial spiritual life .
We have to know what is going on, find out what is lacking, so that we may change ourselves and live a genuine spiritual life. The phase of discernment invites us to get nearer to the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to allow us to be filled by his mystery in order to discover, starting from him, that it is possible to renew our life and our mission.
The deep and close experience of God as his Abba was the source of Jesus’ life, wisdom and mission. Without it, it is impossible to understand why he acted in a certain way and did the things he did . When people came in contact with Jesus, they were surprised and asked themselves where his words, his gestures, his courage and his freedom were coming from. It was springing from the loving experience of his union and intimacy with his Abba. By this relationship Jesus shows us who his Father is and identifies himself with Him.
What about us? Where do all our life and experiences spring from? Our mission comes from Christ himself. To live it to the full we must remain in contact with Him. It is not any relationship or an occasional one, but the giving of oneself in a trusting manner to Someone who loves us without boundaries, an unfailing and transforming experience. A personal relationship capable of assimilating the style of Christ. In this way we acquire the important discernment attitude of great attention to God and to his project, an attitude that makes us aware that that not we but the Lord is at the centre of ourselves . It is evident, then, that this personal encounter with Christ is not “just one” of the aims of evangelisation, but the main one, without which all the rest cannot stand up . For this reason, without a deep and unfailing encounter with Christ our life and our mission become empty.
Comboni was a person open to this transforming encounter. The all-embracing love of Comboni for the people of Africa had its origin and nourishment from the very love of Christ who offered his life for all on the cross . The experience of this compassionate love of Christ is what moved Comboni to meet his African brothers and sisters .
Comboni allows himself to be transformed by this love. It is by starting from this deep experience with Jesus Christ that Comboni arranges his life, his time, his abilities and draws up a plan for the regeneration of Africa. Comboni’s passion for Africa is a way of sharing in the radical love that Jesus has for all people and in particular for the poor. The mission that springs up from such experience inevitably adopts a style that shows an unlimited empathy towards others: “I spare no efforts, nor journeys, nor my life to succeed in the enterprise. I will die with Africa on my lips” . Comboni challenges us to discover and deepen this basic experience. By our relationship with Christ, we too can take up his innermost attitudes and are encouraged to action . A journey in which every Comboni Missionary is called to be a contemplative in action.
A missionary who lives this basic experience in an inadequate way, will make an unconvincing announcement of Christ . This is how Comboni puts it: “The missionary who lacks a strong awareness of God and a lively interest in his glory and the good of souls, is without the right attitude for his ministry and will end by finding himself in a kind of emptiness and intolerable isolation” .
People are asking for evangelisers who can speak to them of a God whom they have first encountered and are familiar with . We are called to be witnesses to this experience of God in us and to know how to pass it on to others. We are like experienced travellers who can show to others the right direction because we have passed through that situation before. Today it is not sufficient “to talk about” Christ, but we have to reflect him in our life if we want our words not to sound hollow. If we missionaries are expected to be “experts” in something, it is precisely in this experience of ongoing contact with God, so that we may be able to say with the apostles: “That which we have heard, that which we have looked upon, that which we have contemplated and our hands have touched, we proclaim also to you” (1 Jn 1:1) .
2. An essential experience
Missionaries today, as always, are called to enter into complex and sometimes drastic situations. To chose to live in “frontier situations”, in the midst of war, injustice and hunger, is always difficult and requires a personal sacrifice that is above average. For this we need an interior life that is steadfast and well-grounded on the rock if we wish to respond with guarantees that are adequate to our evangelising commitment. Only the house built on Christ will stand up to storms and difficulties (see Mt 7:24-27).
Only starting from a personal and ongoing relationship with Christ and his Word we may build a steady interior life and our missionary activity come out enriched. But this constant relationship is made possible by the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. It is this same Spirit that helps us to say: “Abba, Father!” and makes us children (see Rm 8:15). In the end, it is a matter of letting ourselves be moulded, like the vase of clay in the hands of the potter, by the Lord himself.
In contemplating Jesus, we make his attitudes our very own (see Phil 2:5f), we learn ever better to liken our life and mission to his own. In contemplating Jesus, we gradually let ourselves be transformed and our behaviour become more like his. In so doing, we discover in Christ that merciful face of God which comes near to the least ones in order to offer them a gratuitous and liberating love. A love which creates gestures of acceptance and forgiveness and heals all the wounds that dehumanise people.
By this necessary experience, we missionaries put into practice what we announce. We acquire a special way of looking at the situations around us: God is already present in them – including those apparently negative –, and discover that the time we are living in is kairos, because the Spirit is flowing through it. Let us learn to have, for the people and the world, that same fondness that God has for them, for He loves the world so much as to give his Son so that we may all have eternal life (see Jn 3:16). By hanging around with Jesus, we missionaries learn to become brothers of all without exclusion, to judge or condemn no one, and to accept and forgive everyone (see Lc 6:37) .
3. An exercise to help in our sharing
* Starting from your own experience, what are the attitudes of Jesus which have sustained you in your missionary life?
* How do prayer and listening to God’s Word influence your personal and community life and your missionary commitment?
Share with your confreres the way you pray.