Charity is the soul of Mission
“In the world there is enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed” (Ghandi). They are the words of a non-Christian, in tune with the austere teaching of Jesus concerning the use of material goods and the danger of riches. The evangelist Mark leads the catechumen and the disciple in the gradual discovery of the “good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1,1), subsequently revealing his identity through the miracles and teaching. In the central part of his Gospel, Mark inserts the most exacting requirements of Christian morality, which he groups together around three themes: the conditions to follow Christ (the renunciation of self, the taking up of the cross: 8,32-38); the demands of family life (marriage indissolubility, love and respect for the children: 10,2-16); the use of material goods (the danger of riches, the reward to those who give up material possessions: 10,17-31).
The three themes are spelled out by the three announcements of the passion and resurrection (8,31; 9,31; 10,32-34) and are inserted between the two miracles of Jesus who opens the eyes of two blind people: the blind man of Bethsaida (8,22-25) and the one of Jericho (10,46-52). Particularly meaningful are the words which Jesus says to the latter blind man: “Go, your faith has saved you”. The cured man becomes his disciple and follows him. In today Gospel Mark says that to follow the path of Christian morality – and, therefore, of salvation! – “is impossible with men, but not with God” (v. 27). All is possible to God who opens our eyes to see the path to be followed and, through faith, gives us the strength to follow it.
Christ invites us to put in the first place people not material possessions. He is for the poor but against poverty; he does not propose poverty but communion; goods make sense only if are signs of and instruments for meeting other people, by our sharing. Jesus does not condemn riches in an absolute way, does not praise misery and hunger, but teaches how to use goods: with honesty, justice and charity. The Master looks at the young man of the Gospel, “who had great possessions” (v. 22) and was a faithful observer of the commandments (v. 20), loves him (v. 21) and invites him to go beyond the observance of the law, to make a radical change: to enter, that is, in the logic of charity and sharing of the goods with the poor. In this way one can assert his real freedom concerning things, which are also nice and good, by not becoming dependant or slaves of them. Only in this way life is lived in gratuitousness: like a gift that we share with others. When we follow Christ, we can discover the richness and joy of the Treasure (v. 21).
The wise man (I reading) discovers that the Wisdom which comes from God is worth more than riches, more than health and beauty (v. 9-10). The “living and active” (II reading) word of God, which plumbs the depths of the meaning of things and of the human heart (v. 12), leads us to understand that for Christianity the main virtue is not poverty, not even the giving up of everything, but charity, understood as oblation of self and of our own possessions for a service of love to others. That’s why charity is the soul of Mission: love motivates us to mission and to solidarity. Charity is a sign and instrument of communion among the Churches, in our exchange of gifts. (*)
The words of Jesus to the rich young man have a special ring during the month of October, the mission month: Go, give it to the poor, come and follow me… Mission is to go, always a going out of self, it is to rejoice in the finding of the Treasure which fills our life, it is to feel the urgency of sharing such an experience, it is to discover that the other is more important than our house, it is to share our spiritual and material goods with the people most in need… This is the mission which gives full meaning to life and new flavour to the human family. Great missionary figures give witness to this, figures that the calendar remembers in the month of October: Francis of Assisi, Daniel Comboni, John XXIII, Theresa of Avila, the holy martyrs of Canada, Laura Montoya, Antonio Maria Claret…
The Pope’s words
(*) “Missionary zeal has always been a sign of the vitality of our Churches (cf. RMi 2)… I therefore ask all Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for an increase in the Church's passion for her mission to spread the Kingdom of God and to support missionaries and Christian communities involved in mission, in the front line, often in situations of hostility and persecution. At the same time I ask everyone, as a credible sign of communion among the Churches, to offer financial assistance, especially in these times of crisis affecting all humanity, to enable the young local Churches to illuminate the nations with the Gospel of charity”.
Message for World Mission Sunday 2009
In the missionaries’ footsteps
- 4-25/10: Celebration of the Second African Synod in Rome.
- 11/10: Bl. John XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, 1881-1963), the “good Pope”, who convened (1959) and ushered Vatican Council II on 11 October 1962.
- 12/10 Memorial of 4966 martyrs and confessors (+483) during the persecution of the Vandals of the Arian king Huneric in Northern Africa.
- 12/10: Feast of Our Lady of “Aparecida”, patroness of Brazil, particularly dear to the Afro-Brazilians.
- 12/10: Memorial of Simon Kimbangu (+1951), founder of the Kimbanguist Independent Church in Congo.
- 15/10: St. Theresa of Jesus (Avila, 1515-1582), a reformer of the Carmel and founder of new monasteries; a doctor of the Church for her deep mystical experience about the mystery of God.
- 16/10: St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), from the French monastery of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, where she had special apparitions of the Sacred Heart, whose feast she also promoted.
- 16/10: Bl. Augustine Thevarparampil (1891-1973), a priest from India, known by the popular name of “Kunjachan” (the small priest). He baptized over 5000 “dalits” (untouchables), the lowest in the Indian cast system.
- 16/10: World Food Day, organised by ONU-FAO (1945). Theme chosen for 2009: “Achieving food security in times of crisis”.
- 17/10: St. Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, condemned by the emperor Trajan ad bestias in Rome (+107).
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”