Thursday, October 1, 2015
Pope Francis has expressed gratitude and appreciation for the work of Comboni missionaries and reminded them to take their witness of faith into the peripheries of society. The Pope’s words of encouragement came as he addressed the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus gathered for their General Chapter which takes place every six years. During the Chapter participants are involved in a process of discernment that calls them to be deep in communion with the Holy Spirit in order to take steps forward in the fulfilment of their vocation. In the picture: Fr. Enrique Sánchez González presented the Comboni delegates to the Chapter.
In his discourse Pope Francis described their mission as “servants and messengers of the Gospel” as a gift. He said that at the foundation of their particular vocation is their personal relationship with Christ which is rooted in Baptism, confirmed in Confirmation and for some, strengthened by Ordination.
The Pope described the missionaries as servants of God-who-speaks; of God who wishes to speak to the men and women of today, just as Jesus spoke to the men and women of his time. He said that the grace of Christ is at the heart of their mission making it authentic: “believing in Him one can transmit the Word of God that animates, sustains and fertilizes the commitment of the missionary”.
“That’s why, dear brothers, we must always nourish ourselves with the Word of God, so that we may be his faithful echo” he said. And he pointed out that in God’s Word there is the wisdom that comes from above and that allows us to find the right language, the right attitude and the right instruments to respond to the challenges of a changing humanity.
Pope Francis said that as Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus “you contribute with joy to the mission of the Church bringing the witness of Saint Daniele Comboni”. He encouraged the missionaries to imitate the merciful and meek Jesus and to live their service with a humble heart taking care of those who are most abandoned.
“Never cease asking the Sacred Heart for meekness, which is a daughter of charity, and is patient, kind, hopeful and bears all” the Pope said. That Sacred Heart, the Pope continued, “pushes you into the peripheries of society to bring witness of the perseverance of patient and faithful love”.
Pope Francis expressed his hope that the contemplation of Jesus’ wounded Heart may always renew the missionaries’ passion for the men and women of our time. A passion that is expressed in solidarity, especially towards the weakest, and in promoting justice, peace and the respect for the dignity of each person.
He concluded his address with the hope that the reflections of General Chapter may enlighten the work of the Institute and its vision for the years to come and help the members always stay in touch with their great patrimony of spirituality and missionary activity. Recalling the fact that many Comboni missionaries have given their lives as they witnessed the faith, Pope Francis invoked the protection of Our Lady, mother of the Church upon them all. [from Vatican Radio].
I greet you cordially, starting with the Superior General. This audience takes place in the context of your General Chapter and gives me the opportunity to express to you and to the entire Institute the Church’s gratitude for your generous service to the Gospel.
You are called, and are!, Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. I would like to reflect with you on these words which are your name and your identity.
Missionaries. You are servants and messengers of the Gospel, especially for those who do not know it or have forgotten it. At the origin of your mission there is a gift: the free initiative of the love of God who has made to you a dual calling: to be with Him and to go to evangelize (cf. Mk 3:14). Underlying everything there is the personal relationship with Christ, rooted in Baptism and, for some, strengthened by ordination, so that we can say with the Apostle Paul: “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ” (Gal 2:20). This living with Christ determines all our being and our acting; and it is experienced and fanned especially in prayer, in remaining with the Lord, in worship, in a heart to heart dialogue with him.
It is in this space of prayer that we find the true “treasure” (Lk 12:34) to be offered to the brothers and sisters through evangelization. The missionary, indeed, makes himself the servant of the God-who-speaks, who wants to speak to the men and women of today, as Jesus spoke to those of his time and conquered the hearts of the people who came to hear him from everywhere (cf. Mk 1:45), and were astonished when they heard him (cf. Mk 6.2). This affiliation of the mission ad gentes with the Word of God does not fall much in the order of “doing” as in that of ‘‘being”. The mission, to be authentic, must refer to and place at the centre the grace of Christ that flows from the Cross: one who believes in Him can also transmit the Word of God that enlivens, supports and makes fruitful the commitment of a missionary. Therefore, dear brothers, we must always feed on the Word of God, to be its faithful echo, receive it with the joy of the Spirit, internalize it and make it flesh of our flesh like Mary (cf. Lk 2:19). In the Word of God there is the wisdom that comes from above, and that allows us to find suitable languages, attitudes and tools to meet the challenges of a changing humanity.
As Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, you contribute with joy to the Church’s mission, bearing witness to the charism of St. Daniel Comboni, who found a strategic point in the merciful love of the Heart of Jesus for the helpless humanity.
In this Heart is the source of mercy which saves and generates hope. Therefore, as persons consecrated to God for the mission, you are called to imitate the meek and merciful Lord, to live your service with a humble heart, by taking care of the most abandoned of our times. Do not stop to ask from the Sacred Heart that meekness which, as daughter of charity, is patient, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13,4-7).
It is the tenderness of the gaze of Jesus when he looked at Peter on the night of Holy Thursday (cf. Lk 22:61), or when he invited Thomas, who was doubting, to put his hand in his pierced Heart (cf. Jn 20:27). There, from that heart, we learn the tenderness needed to deal with the apostolic action even in difficult and hostile contexts.
That Heart who has so loved people is urging you to go out to the outskirts of society to witness the perseverance of a patient and faithful love. From the contemplation of the wounded Heart of Jesus may the passion for the people of our time be always renewed in you, a passion that is expressed by a gratuitous love through a solidarity commitment, especially towards the weakest and neediest. So that you will be able to continue to promote justice and peace, respect and dignity of every person.
Dear brothers, I hope that the in-depth reflection on the themes of the Chapter, to which you have dedicated these days, illuminates the path of your Institute in the coming years, helping you discover more and better your great heritage of spirituality and missionary activity. So you can continue with confidence your appreciated collaboration in the mission of the Church. May the example of so many confreres who have given their lives to the cause of the Gospel, willing even to the supreme witness of blood, be an inspiration and encouragement for you. They are fertile seed in the spreading of the Kingdom and protectors of your apostolic commitment. It is common knowledge that the history of the Comboni Institute is marked by an unbroken chain of martyrs, which comes down to our days. They are fertile seed in the spreading of the Kingdom and protectors of your apostolic commitment.
I invoke upon you and all the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church and mother of the missionaries.
And now, before imparting my blessing, I want to say something that is not written here, but which is something that is in my heart: I always, always, had a great admiration for you – and I wish to express it – for the work you do, for the risks you face. I have always felt this great admiration. Thank you!