Papal Intention 2005 January
Pope's Missionary Intention for January 2005
For vocations in mission lands: may the Lord continue to call holy and selfless men and women eager to proclaim the Gospel.
(Archbishop Robert Sarah, Secretary, Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples)
Today, as in the past, mission is difficult and complex, and demands the courage and light of the Spirit. We often experience the dramatic situation of the first Christian community which witnessed unbelieving and hostile forces "gathered together against the Lord and his Anointed" (Acts 4:26). Now, as then, we must pray that God will grant us boldness in preaching the Gospel; we must ponder the mysterious ways of the Spirit and allow ourselves to be led by him into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13)â€ (RM n.87)
A Christian, a missionary is called essentially to be a courageous and audacious witness in order to prolong the life, words and works of Jesus. He makes Jesus present. By proclaiming the Gospel he reproduces in his own life, the life of Jesus and the Most Holy Trinityâ€™s plan of love and salvation.
If we watch Jesus and listen to Him we hear him say that he came into the world â€œto bear witness to the truthâ€ (Jn 18,37). In fact he came to bear witness to the truth with his words, his teaching and his works. A Christian or missionary presence which fails to bear witness has little impact. In fact the Apostles always presented themselves as follows: â€œThis is the Jesus God has raised up and we are his witnessesâ€ (Acts 2,32). This is what Jesus wanted: â€œYou will be my witnesses in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earthâ€ (Acts 1,8). Jesus sends us to bear witness. However to bear effective witness our testimony must be accompanied by works of holiness because â€œa missionary is really such only if he commits himself to the way of holiness: "Holiness must be called a fundamental presupposition and an irreplaceable condition for everyone in fulfilling the mission of salvation in the Church.â€ (RM n.90).
A Christian or missionary presence not accompanied by authentic witness of holiness is worthless indeed even counter productive. The testimony we are called to give is witness of who we are. We bear witness by living the life of Christ who lives in us. Such was the witness given by St Paul who said: â€œI have been crucified with Christ; I live but it is not I who lives but Christ who lives in meâ€ (Gal 2,19-20); such is the witness of the Holy Spirit for whom we are a temple. We succeed in being missionaries in one place or another when despite our human cladding, our human qualities and defects, people are able to discover the authentic Guest who lives in the depths of our being.
â€œHe who has seen me has seen the Fatherâ€ (Jn 14,9). The missionary or the Christian renders visible Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit living in him. A Christian who fails to render visible the Holy Spirit living in his soul, who fails to radiate the life of Christ which he bears within him, will lack the courage and audacity to bear witness to the life of God which lives in him and especially under adverse or hostile circumstances will fail to bear witness to the truth.
In practical terms, he fails to give Christ to others; he is like leaven which is ineffective, which fails to act. His presence in the world fails to change and transform hearts, he fails to make others want to be disciples of Jesus, he fails to build up the Kingdom of God.
Our testimony must be light which warms and illuminates, or like leaven which transforms the dough. Let us read again the Lordâ€™s parable: the Kingdom of God is like leaven (Mt 13,33), leaven which affects the dough, which has the power to transform and act. We are called to be bearers of this fermentation: it is the Kingdom, Godâ€™s grace, Godâ€™s life within us.
Unless the Kingdom of God is within us (Lk 17,20), our witness will be exterior, intellectual and theoretical testimony but never authentically Christian. In other words: for our witness to be authentically Christ it must be spiritual, we must be bearers of the life of God within us, we must be Saints (cfr Rev. Marie-EugÃ©ne of the Child Jesus).
This is why, before going on mission a person must receive the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said to his apostles â€œGo and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you and know that I am with you always, until the end of the worldâ€ (Mt 28,19-20), he had already given this warning: â€œbut wait for the fulfilment of the Fatherâ€™s promise...you will be baptised with the Holy Spiritâ€ (cfr. Acts 1,4-5). On that day of Pentecost the apostles became truly Apostles, capable of bearing witness to the truth received from Christ and taught by the Holy Spirit. They become authentic apostles filled with the Holy Spirit acting not on their own initiative but prompted by the Spirit; on that day the Apostles became Saints. It is the Holy Spirit who calls holy apostles and holy missionaries to bear witness to the Gospel of Christ.
+ Robert Sarah