THE COST OF A MISSIONARY
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, World Mission Sunday.
This Sunday (21st October) we celebrate the World Mission Sunday. And today’s Gospel (Mark 10, 35 – 45) is part of the effort of Jesus to instruct and train his missionaries: “He chose 12 to be with him and to send them (cf. Mc. 3, 13-15). One day, one Mission Sunday, in a year is clearly not enough; we call the whole month of October the “Missionary Month” but also a full month is not enough. We are rightly aware of the teachings of the Popes and of the Ecumenical Council (Vatican 2) that tell us that the church is by its nature, missionary. So as long as she exists, in fact every day of our life, we are Christians, that is to say apostles, missionaries of Christ.
We all have to become and act as missionaries today and always; you may ask: “but how?” Pope Francis, in his message addressed mainly to young people for this Mission Sunday 2018, invites us to keep asking ourselves: “What would Christ do if He were in my place?” This gives inspiration to our daily mission: the example of Jesus, the first missionary sent by God (Cf. Hebrews 12. 2); and we have always the opportunity to perform this duty. There are however "technicalities" we must acquire to act as a missionaries. The FIRST one is a spirit of prayer; through it I feel that Christ is in me and I am in Him, while keeping in mind his promise “I am with you till the end of time.”(cf. Math. 28, 20). As part of his person, now I become his visibility (presence), my actions and words become expression of His mission. The SECOND one is nearness to the Word of the Lord Jesus. His word in the Gospel is part of the effort to prepare his missionaries; the 12 understood too little or nothing. Look at the two brothers James and John, they think primarily about material gains, how to secure a place of honour and power, while Jesus was born in a stable, was a poor son of a carpenter, with no human resources, without a place to lay his head at night (cf. Lc. 9, 57-62) who tells one of his would-be followers to go first to sell everything, give the money to the poor in order to become a real Disciple (cf. Mt. 19,21); he could have asked him to bring the money to Him for the common fund… Inspired by these words of Christ, we missionaries who are active among the poor, may conclude that poverty is a blessing for the mission and we can experience it when we see that people are open to listen and to help someone who is in need, who is not able to communicate well in the local language …. who has no powerful means. Look at Jesus at the well: he needed water and he had no bucket to collect it; but such poverty opened and favoured a dialogue that brought about the conversion of a woman and of an entire Samaritan village. In my past activity here in Sierra Leone, I experienced how the message became clear and acceptable when it was not mixed with personal interests. In a village that I visited, I spoke about a school and a bridge to be built with the help of the Missionaries. The people immediately started arguing in Temne (their language that I partly understood) about the possible personal benefits for the chief, for the Catholics and others... I learned the lesson, so I began to explain the importance of Jesus message and example that, if accepted, can bring also material benefits besides the spiritual ones. Jesus brings real salvation, if we accept him and convert to a different mentality: His own. So the cost that we have to pay as missionary disciples is to live a life of joyous closeness to Jesus and to the people. This does not cost anything in money. Unless we have other agendas, we can embrace gladly our call to mission. Reflecting on the fact that today very few accept the call of Jesus, which is a call for everyone, we must admit that we, too, make the same material calculations of the 12; and the material proposals, which are so abundant today through many various social media, are very alluring. The 'tablet' in my pocket is colourful but empty. I will never be happy with it, I can only desire unattainable things through it. But living and training to prepare for the mission has a cost; the cost of travelling, eating, clothing, medicines: we need to care for these necessities. The word of Jesus for us is clear: “Seek the kingdom of God first and the rest will be given to you” (cf. Matth. 6, 25 – 34). We know that our needs are always provided by the Master of the vineyard. This fact increases our joy because we experience continually the presence of the generous Father, who provides for us. Put plenty in the Mission Sunday Collection. God will bless you with plentifully.