“A new missionary age – Education and hope”
Mark uses a language that frightens us, but which is also accompanied by a message of salvation and hope. It is what is called the ‘apocalyptic’ language, rich of imageries and words, which the evangelists use to express the destruction of Jerusalem and, in perspective, the last events of human history. The immediate context in which the first Christian communities lived, was marked by internal tensions and by external persecutions, which generated fear, disorientation and a lot of questions: How long will this trial last? How to remain faithful? Who will be saved at the end?
Mark and the other evangelists, in line with the apostolic proclamation, wish to give to the community a message of hope and consolation, centred on the closeness of the Master (Gospel): His absence is only temporary. He will come again, He send s his protecting angels and, after the initial dispersion, there will be a huge gathering (v. 26-27). Already the prophet Daniel foresaw this (I Reading) when he said that, after a hard period of distress, the people will find salvation (v. 1).
This Sunday’s readings offer to our consideration various figures who react in various ways in the context of the work of salvation. First of all Jesus Christ, the high priest and sanctifier of the new Covenant (II Reading), the only Saviour of all the peoples. There follow then those who collaborate with God’s plan and accompany the elects and the brethren in the faith. Daniel has a special praise for “those who have instructed many in virtue” (v. 3). Mark speaks of angels who will gather the elects “from the four winds” (v. 27). “The salvation of the brethren from defection from their faith and their dispersion does not happen through a prodigious intervention of the Lord, but from the mediation of angels, namely the disciples who, during the trial, have kept themselves steady in their faith. They are the angels entrusted to bring the brethren back to the unity of the Church” (F. Armellini).
This is the missionary role of those who accompany others on the journey to meet up with Christ. The mission journey is hard and stretches over long periods of time among the various peoples. The harvest is ever abundant, but the workers are few (Mt 9:37). Jesus himself, nevertheless, invites us to raise our heads and to look at the harvest with hope: “Look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest” (Jn 4:35).
The Lord Jesus strengthens our hope, assures us that “He is near, at the very gates” (v. 29): to every person He offers his salvation. He invites his friends to become the announcers of such a proclamation. John Paul II, in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio (1990), strongly remarks that “the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion... This mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service” (n. 1). Aware of the vastness and urgency of this mission, the Pope invites us to raise our hearts in hope “in this new springtime of Christianity” (n. 2), as he sees “the dawn of a new missionary age”. It will be a fruitful season, on condition, though, that the Christians, missionaries and young Churches respond “with generosity and holiness to the appeals and challenges of our time” (n. 92).
The prophet Daniel (I Reading), though in the midst of a scenario of anguish never seen before (v. 1), opens up horizons of brightness and light reserved to those who are wise and “those who turn many to righteousness” (v. 3). Such are certainly the educators: those who in various ways help others to tread the right paths, be they parents, teachers, catechists, writers, social communication operators… Benedict XVI very often links the theme of education to the theme of hope. (*) For him the education emergency, today proclaimed by religious and civil movements, needs suitable personnel, open spaces in people and institutions, exacting methods, well planned strategies, creative projections for the future, hope in God and man, horizons of universality in tune with the mission… Education emergency is, indeed, synonymous to missionary urgency for the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Pope’s words
(*) “The soul of education, as of the whole of life, can only be a dependable hope. Today, our hope is threatened on many sides and we even risk becoming, like the ancient pagans, people «having no hope and without God in the world», as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians of Ephesus (Eph 2: 12). What may be the deepest difficulty for a true educational endeavour consists precisely in this: the fact that at the root of the crisis of education lies a crisis of trust in life. I cannot finish this Letter, therefore, without a warm invitation to place our hope in God. He alone is the hope that withstands every disappointment; his love alone cannot be destroyed by death; his justice and mercy alone can heal injustices and recompense the suffering experienced. Hope that is addressed to God is never hope for oneself alone, it is always also hope for others; it does not isolate us but renders us supportive in goodness and encourages us to educate one another in truth and in love”.
Letter to the diocese and city of Rome, 21 January 2008
In the steps of Missionaries
- 15/11: St. Albert the Great (Cologne, Germany +1280), a German Dominican and bishop, a man of peace, doctor of the Church and patron of students of natural sciences, who was able to bring together scientific and theological studies.
- 15/11: St. Joseph Pignatelli (1737-1811), an Italian Jesuit priest who, by the sanctity of his life and his ability, dedicated himself to the re-establishment of the almost extinct Company of Jesus after its suppressions, the French revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
- 15/11: Bl. Mary of the Passion (Helen) of Chappotin de Neuville (1839-1904), a French nun who worked as a missionary in India and founded the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.
- 16/11: International Day of Tolerance, instituted by UNO-UNESCO in 1995.
- 17/11: Sts. Rocco González, Alfonso Rodríguez and Juan del Castillo, Jesuit martyrs in the “Reductions” of Paraguay (+1628), killed for their commitment to the defence and the development of the indigenous people. The famous film Mission has reproduced their heroic deeds.
- 17/11: Anniversary of the inauguration of the Suez Canal (Egypt, 1869), a new way of commercial and cultural communication among peoples.
- 18/11: St. Philippine Rose Duchesne (1769-1852), a French nun, missionary in the USA, where she founded a number of schools. She died in Missouri.
- 20/11: International Day for the Rights of Children, established by UNO in 1989.
- 21/11: Presentation of Mary in the Temple. – (Today or on another day): Day “Pro Orantibus”, for the enclosed religious of contemplative life.
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”