Monday, February 25, 2019
One Sunday after mass, in one of the parish in Juba, I met a friend after many years. We grow together in Juba… we shared the first tense years of bombing of Juba. We embraced each other with sincere and honest passionate love… we missed each other for long… we call back to our memories numbers of experiences… we cleared the doubts of whether we were dead or out of the country like many other friends. During our sharing he said to me “Despite of all we still live and work…”

This awoke in my mind when St. Paul says we carry this treasure in earthen ware so that the power of God may be revealed. He then continues to say that we experience all types of hardship but never distressed or despair; we are pursued and knocked down but still have some in us... (2 Cor. 4: 7-9 ff).

In our country as well as in the world we live in moments of uncertainties. There is a lot of wrath and hatred harboured in our hearts. Lack of sensitivity towards children, victims of violence and conflict, mothers, old people dominates some of us.

Despite of all these we still live and work… as my friend said. Moreover, God through Jesus Christ assumed our human condition. What a contradiction and a consoling and prophetic sign.

Despite of all we still live and work… Christianity does not announce the death of God, but humanity, benevolence, life and above all the loving mercy of God. This is what we spend most of our life for… to announce the Kingdom of a God of Life to the people we serve in this country. Again and again we are reminded of the invitation of our founder who invites us to strive to develop the essential attitude by keeping our eyes always fixed on Jesus Christ, loving him tenderly… This is the foundation of our vocation and life. Without which our self-donation will mean nothing. Fr. Isaac Martin has always reminded me that we are to communicate/announce Jesus to the people... and Fr. Achilles reminded me... what we need is adhesion to Jesus through FAITH.

Despite of all we still live and work… The provincial assembly was the expression of this and after we returned to our missions to continue to consume our lives for this purpose and to give hope to the people we serve. The situation of the people we have in front of us in our missions will never permit is to be idle or indifferent. What we hear in their voices and read in their body language will seduce us to re-commit ourselves entirely to announce the Kingdom of God with more vigour and audacity. They will help us to reaffirm our faith and common missionary vocation. They will not allow what St. John the evangelist wrote to be true: “He came to his own and his own people did not accept him (Jn 1:11).” We want to continue to deepen our being his witnesses and to speak boldly about Him by renewing or adhesion to Jesus. And to do that we are invited to remain in Him, to be his branches in order to bear fruits in plenty (Jn 15:4-5).

Despite of all we still live and work... The entrance of God into the world happened at the margin of the official history, out of the city, in the middle of the dark night and in the stable. In the main cities and to the rulers it was not known (Mt 2: 3). Almost no one was aware. Only to the poor shepherds who walked up to the stable (Lk 2: 8). Our country is part of this world. Last year in September, a peace deal was signed among the different opposition parties and the ruling party. Despite of the weakness detected it still offers an opportunity and hope to start a new era. The different commissions are working on how to implement the peace agreement. And it is my hope that this God who entered the world at the margin of the official history will intervene and bring everlasting reconciliation and peace to our country.

Yes, in this country despite of all we still live and work and are called to sow and cultivate the seeds of reconciliation and love. In it we are call to offer witness that a common fraternity among people of different continents, cultures and creeds is possible (CA 18: 5). In fact, the gospel we proclaim reveals to us that another world is possible. The same Chapter Acts reminds us that Interculturality is the great richness we possess and we are to proclaim it with great joy. We have spent time to reflect on it and still throughout the year we will continue to reflect and proclaim it. And doing this we also continue journeying among the people we serve and love as pilgrims.

Finally, the different activities (Annual Spiritual retreat, Workshop of the Secretariat of Mission, Meeting of Over 45, Meeting of Local Bursars, Visit of Superior General and Course of Introduction to South Sudan) of this year will refresh us and empower us to continue journeying as pilgrims with our people proclaiming to them the gospel of life. Once more I also invite each one of us to be proactive in vocation promotion. Each one of us has a role to play in the formation of the future comboni missionaries as stated in our Rule of life (RoL 86, 86.1). God will we will be blessed by the first profession of Novice James Komakech Kenyi this year in May in Lusaka. The province has been deprived of this for sometimes. We continue to thank God for the number of candidates in Basic formation and those who continue to aspire to join the Institute. They demand commitment from us to accompany them. Let do it with joy and generosity.

We want to continue journeying among the people of our world as pilgrims, in communion with the Church, for the accomplishment of the Mission that Jesus entrusts us today: “I have come so that they may have life, and have life in abundance” (Jn 10:10) CA 2015 – No. 6.

FR. Okot Ochermoi Louis Tony,
Provincial Superior of the Comboni Missionaries in South Sudan