Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mission and Vocation in the Light of Faith

For our monthly recollection preached by Fr. Joachim ABOA, October 18th -19th, 2013
Dear brothers, Rev. Deacon Morris and Fathers Paul and Stanislas, I have the duty and pleasure of meeting you this time for our monthly recollection of October 2013. Among us, are our seminarians, the young people on a vocational journey, living with their senior brothers who are already ordained ministers of the church: a deacon and three priests. For you seminarians who come from every part of this country, you represent the church’s youth, the youth of the Don Orione community/the Sons of Divine Providence. You are also at the same time the seed and the fruit of the larger Orionine pastoral work in Kenya. Therefore, this is a season of discovery, assessment and formation. Let me assure you that this is a very beautiful and challenging period during which the human, intellectual, moral, spiritual and theological foundations are laid for the future. Thank you for joining this community!!!

            This coming Sunday, October 20th, 2013, the whole church will celebrate the World Mission Sunday 2013 in this Year of Faith. Coincidentally, from October 20th, 2013 up to December 8th, 2014, the Orionine Family will celebrate its Orionine Missionary Year to commemorate the departure of the first missionaries sent by Don Orione from Genoa in Italy to Brazil. It is in line with these two great events of the World Mission Sunday and the Orionine Missionary Year that I have chosen this theme for our recollection: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28, 19-20). This short passage from the gospel of Matthew speaks to us of mission. As we continue reflecting on the theme of our recollection, i will explore with you three main subtitles:
·         1. Understanding JESUS and its mission He  entrusted to us in the Church,
·         2. Knowing the demands and implications of this mission in discerning your vocation,
·         3. Being a missionary of JESUS today.

I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save.

I who made the stars and night
I will make the darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

I the Lord of snow and rain
I have borne my people's pain
I have wept for love of them
They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone
Fill their hearts with love alone
I will speak my word to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.
I will hold your people in my heart...

Understanding JESUS and its mission He entrusted to us in the Church.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt.28, 19-20). These words talk about mission. But where does mission originate? The answer is simple: it comes from a call, the Lord Jesus Christ’s call which was originally made to the Apostles and disciples of his time and is still re-echoed in the Catholic Church today.
The Catholic Church is the one true church divinely instituted and founded by Jesus Christ himself, the only Son of God, made man by the will of God the Father and through the action of the Holy Spirit. He was sent by the Father our salvation. During his earthly life, Jesus’ mission/ministry, as witnessed throughout his public life, was to bring salvation to mankind through his various preachings and acts of mercy and miracles (Luke 4, 16-21). Christ reveals himself throughout his earthly life as the Saviour sent by the Father for the salvation of the world. His very name, ‘JESUS’, expresses this mission. It actually means “God saves” (Lk.1:31, Mt.1:21)... Christ defines his saving mission as a service whose highest expression will be the sacrifice of his life on the cross for mankind (Mk.10:45; Mt.20:28). The following passage from the Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by Saint Luis Marie de Montfort gives us a wonderful summary of the Christological faith of the Church: “Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of everything... He is the only teacher from whom we must learn; the only Lord on whom we should depend; the only Head we should be united and the only model that we should imitate. He is the only physician that can heal us; the only shepherd that can feed us; the only Way that can lead us; the only Truth that we can believe; the only life that can animate us. He alone is everything to us and he alone can satisfy all our desires... Each one of the faithful who is not united to him is like a branch broken from the stem of the vine. It falls and withers and is fit only to be burnt. If we live in Jesus and Jesus lives in us, we need no fear of damnation.
Neither angels in heaven nor men on earth, nor devils in hell, no creature whatever can harm us, for no creature can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. Through him, with him and in him, we can do all things and render all honour and glory to the father in the unity of the Holy Spirit; we can become perfect and be for our neighbour a fragrance of eternal life.”(n.61).
By her very nature, the Church is itself missionary and has to continue the work of Jesus Christ and make his name known and loved as the only Saviour and Mediator given to mankind (Ac. 4, 12; 1Tm 2:56; Rom 3:24). Today the Catholic Church defines its mission as spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity (Jn. 13:14).
We believe that the Church is apostolic because she has been sent to carry the Gospel to the whole world. The mission Jesus entrusted to his Apostles continues its way in history: « Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And I am with you always, until the end of the age. » (Mt 28:19-20). This is exactly what Jesus has told us to do, He invites all of us to go forward and meet others, he sends us and asks us to move in order to share with them the joy and peace of the Gospel (Pope Francis)
Furthermore, in his message for the 2013 World Mission Sunday, the Pope emphasises that “missionary work belongs to every baptized person and all Christian is up to these to witness Christ before the nations... Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his "witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel. I invite Bishops, Priests, Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils, and each person and group responsible in the Church to give a prominent position to this missionary dimension in formation and pastoral programmes, in the understanding that their apostolic commitment is not complete unless it aims at bearing witness to Christ before the nations and before all peoples.” (Message of Pope Francis for WORLD MISSION DAY 2013).

Knowing the demands and implications of this mission in discerning your vocation
Among us, the priests have responded to this missionary mandate of the Lord Jesus and are carrying out various missionary activities you already know: celebrating the Holy Eucharist, preaching the word of God, visiting the sick people and anointing them when needed, catechism, spiritual direction, teaching and charity works. They must continue all these activities in a spirit of continuous and faithful service for the glory of God and the good of all their brothers and sisters.
As for the rest who are still seminarians, now is the time of your preparation for any official ministerial pastoral activity in the future if the Master of the vineyard and your formators and superiors judge you worthy. So how should you prepare yourselves? What are the demands and implications of the mission in discerning your own vocation? Here are some five points I would like you to ponder:

·         1. Discern your own vocation (Jer.1:4-5; Isaiah 49: 1-2): The mission as we have realised comes from the Lord Jesus himself who calls people. When He calls them, He does so with a view of sending them out on a mission (Mt.10:5-15; Lk.9:1-6; Mk.6:7-13). It is good that you have a right discernment of your vocation as an ongoing process and check your motivations for joining the Sons of Divine Providence Community. A few essential questions that you need to ask yourself honestly and sincerely are: how do I perceive my vocation? Is it a gift from God I am responding to by joining this community? Or do I perceive it as a profession I want to pursue to achieve my personal agenda in life? An authentic and proper discernment of your vocation will lead you to perceive it in the light of Faith. As a result, one experiences inner joy when he responds positively to God’s call. Faith, as Pope Francis defines it, is “God’s precious gift which opens our mind to know and love him. He wants to enter into relationship with us and allow us to participate in his own life in order to make our life more meaningful, better and more beautiful. God loves us! Faith, however, needs to be accepted, it needs our personal response, the courage to entrust ourselves to God, to live his love and be grateful for his infinite mercy. It is a gift, not reserved for a few but offered with generosity. Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared. If we want to keep it only to ourselves, we will become isolated, sterile and sick Christians (Message of Pope Francis for WORLD MISSION DAY 2013).
Our vocation, your vocation, is thus a free gift from God that we must not keep to ourselves but share it with our brothers and sisters to whom the Lord sends us to proclaim his goodness and salvation to mankind: "Those who have truly encountered Christ, cannot keep him to themselves, they must proclaim him” notes Fr Flavio Peloso FDP 
superior general of the Don Orione Congregation in his appeal made during the Mission Conference at Ariccia (Rome), from 20 to 23 November 2011 on the theme " All on mission. As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you”.

·         2. Be a ‘man of God’: After discerning one’s vocation in the light of Faith, one realises his new identity as a ‘Man of God’ and must therefore live accordingly by maintain an intimate continuous relationship with God through the reading of the Scriptures, meditation, personal prayer, active participation in the Eucharist and the use of the sacrament of Penance. For Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in his letter to Seminarians on October 18th, 2010, ‘anyone who wishes to become a priest must be first and foremost a “man of God”, to use the expression of Saint Paul (1 Tim 6:11). For us God is not some abstract hypothesis;... God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. In the face of Jesus Christ we see the face of God. In his words we hear God himself speaking to us. It follows that the most important thing in our path towards priesthood and during the whole of our priestly lives is our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. The priest is not the leader of a sort of association whose membership he tries to maintain and expand. He is God’s messenger to his people. He wants to lead them to God and in this way to foster authentic communion between all men and women. That is why it is so important, dear friends, that you learn to live in constant intimacy with God. When the Lord tells us to “pray constantly”, he is obviously not asking us to recite endless prayers, but urging us never to lose our inner closeness to God. Praying means growing in this intimacy. So it is important that our day should begin and end with prayer; that we listen to God as the Scriptures are read; that we share with him our desires and our hopes, our joys and our troubles, our failures and our thanks for all his blessings, and thus keep him ever before us as the point of reference for our lives. In this way we grow aware of our failings and learn to improve, but we also come to appreciate all the beauty and goodness which we daily take for granted and so we grow in gratitude. With gratitude comes joy for the fact that God is close to us and that we can serve him.
Making use of the sacrament of Penance is also important. ‘It teaches me to see myself as God sees me, and it forces me to be honest with myself. It leads me to humility’(Pope Benedict XVI) because God forgives my sins. And ‘by letting myself be forgiven, I learn to forgive others. In recognizing my own weakness, I grow more tolerant and understanding of the failings of my neighbour’ (Pope Benedict XVI). This will surely make us strive after holiness daily as Don Orione requires of his Sons in his appeals. On March 3, 1914, after starting in Brazil, he turned to the seminarians still in training: "I need holy sons! The mission promises very well, but I need saints! How often, in the past days, I thought of you, my children and loved ones! In my mind I saw one by one, to find those I could send! At least I need to discover some of you and send him very soon, but I need saints! It matters little to me, That You're small, rather, blackberries you can easily learn the language, but I need That whoever goes, holiness carries with him. Who of you feels like going? Here, my dear ones, this is the time to show your true love of God: your true devotion to Our Blessed Lady: your sincere, tender and true love, as sons of our beloved Congregation, Which is, after the Holy Church of Rome, and our true moral mother " (Writings 2, 76-78). While in Argentina, on August 2nd, 1935, he wrote: "I need personnel: when I think of you, I see all, one by one, and I 'search among you and almost calling you by your names, for you may come to help me to spread the Congregation among these peoples longer available where there is great need for priests who are full of love of God and of souls, and ready to sacrifice themselves together with Our Lord, to give life of Faith, or to cause it to Increase it in many people. " (Letters (A Priceless Treasure) II, 143.

·         3. Be a man of study: The time of being a seminarian is a very beautiful and challenging period during which the human, intellectual, moral, spiritual and theological foundations are laid for the future through study. Therefore study is very important in your training as Pope Benedict XVI stresses it: ‘Above all, your time in the seminary is also a time of study. The Christian faith has an essentially rational and intellectual dimension. Were it to lack that dimension, it would not be itself. Paul speaks of a “standard of teaching” to which we were entrusted in Baptism (Rom 6:17). All of you know the words of Saint Peter which the medieval theologians saw as the justification for a rational and scientific theology: “Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an ‘accounting’ (logos) for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15). Learning how to make such a defence is one of the primary responsibilities of your years in the seminary. I can only plead with you: Be committed to your studies! Take advantage of your years of study! You will not regret it. Certainly, the subjects which you are studying can often seem far removed from the practice of the Christian life and the pastoral ministry. Yet it is completely mistaken to start questioning their practical value by asking: Will this be helpful to me in the future? Will it be practically or pastorally useful? The point is not simply to learn evidently useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people’s questions, which on the surface change from one generation to another yet ultimately remain the same. For this reason it is important to move beyond the changing questions of the moment in order to grasp the real questions, and so to understand how the answers are real answers. It is important to have a thorough knowledge of sacred Scripture as a whole, in its unity as the Old and the New Testaments: the shaping of texts, their literary characteristics, the process by which they came to form the canon of sacred books, their dynamic inner unity, a unity which may not be immediately apparent but which in fact gives the individual texts their full meaning. It is important to be familiar with the Fathers and the great Councils in which the Church appropriated, through faith-filled reflection, the essential statements of Scripture. I could easily go on. What we call dogmatic theology is the understanding of the individual contents of the faith in their unity, indeed, in their ultimate simplicity: each single element is, in the end, only an unfolding of our faith in the one God who has revealed himself to us and continues to do so. I do not need to point out the importance of knowing the essential issues of moral theology and Catholic social teaching. The importance nowadays of ecumenical theology, and of knowledge of the different Christian communities, is obvious; as is the need for a basic introduction to the great religions, to say nothing of philosophy: the understanding of that human process of questioning and searching to which faith seeks to respond. But you should also learn to understand and – dare I say it – to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications: a society without law would be a society without rights. Law is the condition of love. I will not go on with this list, but I simply say once more: love the study of theology and carry it out in the clear realization that theology is anchored in the living community of the Church, which, with her authority, is not the antithesis of theological science but its presupposition. Cut off from the believing Church, theology would cease to be itself and instead it would become a medley of different disciplines lacking inner unity’.

·           4. Attain human maturity: A seminarian must accept to grow towards attaining human, moral, physical, psychological as well as spiritual maturity. One should not keep on saying that ‘it is my nature, so I cannot do anything about it’.  In his letter to Seminarians, Pope Benedict XVI argues that ‘It is important for the priest, who is called to accompany others through the journey of life up to the threshold of death, to have the right balance of heart and mind, reason and feeling, body and soul, and to be humanly integrated’. This requires of the seminarians to start living according to the theological virtues: they come from God and lead to God (faith, hope, charity) and the cardinal virtues: The cardinal virtues are human virtues, acquired by education and good actions (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance). Paul’s words to the Philippians must guide us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8).
A proper understanding of the church’s rule of celibacy and its integration into our daily sexual life is also needed: “This also involves the integration of sexuality into the whole personality. Sexuality is a gift of the Creator yet it is also a task which relates to a person’s growth towards human maturity. When it is not integrated within the person, sexuality becomes banal and destructive. Today we can see many examples of this in our society. Recently we have seen with great dismay that some priests disfigured their ministry by sexually abusing children and young people. Instead of guiding people to greater human maturity and setting them an example, their abusive behaviour caused great damage for which we feel profound shame and regret. As a result of all this, many people, perhaps even some of you, might ask whether it is good to become a priest; whether the choice of celibacy makes any sense as a truly human way of life. Yet even the most reprehensible abuse cannot discredit the priestly mission, which remains great and pure. Thank God, all of us know exemplary priests, men shaped by their faith, who bear witness that one can attain to an authentic, pure and mature humanity in this state and specifically in the life of celibacy. Admittedly, what has happened should make us all the more watchful and attentive, precisely in order to examine ourselves earnestly, before God, as we make our way towards priesthood, so as to understand whether this is his will for me. It is the responsibility of your confessor and your superiors to accompany you and help you along this path of discernment. It is an essential part of your journey to practise the fundamental human virtues, with your gaze fixed on the God who has revealed himself in Christ, and to let yourselves be purified by him ever anew’ notes Pope Benedict XVI.
In Africae Munus, ‘The Synod Fathers gave particular attention to seminarians. Without neglecting theological and spiritual formation, which are obviously primary, they emphasized the importance of the psychological and human growth of each candidate. Future priests must develop a correct understanding of their own culture while not being locked within their own ethnic and cultural limits.[174] They must become ever more deeply rooted in Gospel values so as to strengthen their commitment in faithfulness and devotion to Christ. The fruitfulness of their future mission will greatly depend on their profound union with Christ, on the quality of their life of prayer and their interior life, and on the human, spiritual and moral values assimilated during their time of formation. May all seminarians become men of God who seek and practise “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Tim 6:11).

·         5. Learn to live in community: Future priests must learn how to live harmoniously and peacefully in community. “Seminarians must learn to live in community in such a way that the common life may later lead to an authentic experience of the priesthood as close priestly fraternity.” In selecting candidates, careful discernment and quality guidance must be ensured, so that those admitted to the priesthood will be true disciples of Christ and authentic servants of the Church (Africae Munus).

Being a disciple/missionary of JESUS today(Luke 10:1-9): how do I live my Christian faith today? How do I witness to the Gospel of Jesus?  Am I a disciple / missionary of Jesus through my words, my Christian life and witness?
Dear seminarians, be apostles of the young people of your own generation by inviting them to follow Christ in the priestly life. Do not be afraid! The prayer of many people accompanies and sustains you (cf. Mt 9:37-38).
Dear priests, remember that your witness to living together in peace, over ethnic and racial lines, can touch hearts.[160] The call to holiness bids us become pastors according to the heart of God,[161]feeding our flock with justice (cf. Ez 34:16). To yield to the temptation of becoming political leaders[162] or social agents would be to betray your priestly mission and to do a disservice to society, which expects of you prophetic words and deeds. As Saint Cyprian put it in his own day: “Those who bear the honour of the divine priesthood… should lend their ministry only to the service of the altar and give their time to prayer alone”.[163] By devoting yourselves to those whom the Lord entrusts to you for their formation in Christian virtues and their growth in holiness, you not only win them to the cause of Christ but also make them protagonists of a renewed African society. Given the complex situations that you encounter, I ask you to deepen your life of prayer and your ongoing intellectual and spiritual formation. Become ever more familiar with sacred Scripture, the word of God which you daily meditate upon and explain to the faithful. Grow in your knowledge of the Catechism, the documents of the magisterium and the Church’s social doctrine.

+ iCREDO: MY MISSION & SPIRITUALITY "C.H.A.O.S." (Luke 10, 1-9): To BE a DISCIPLE / MISSIONARY of JESUS is to put one's personal ambitions to CHAOS in order to LIVE according to his Spirit of "C.H.A.O.S" (Contentment, Humility, Acceptance, Obedience, Service & Simplicity...). Saint Luke, pray for us.

Pope John Paul II - Prayer for Responses to God's Call 
1. Let us pray for the young people, to whom the Lord extends His invitation to follow Him more closely, that they may not be drawn away by the things of this world, but may open their hearts to the loving voice that is calling them. Let us pray that they may feel capable of dedicating themselves for their whole lives, "with undivided heart," to Christ, the Church, and souls. Let us pray that they may believe that grace gives them the strength to make this gift, and that they may see the beauty and greatness of priestly, religious, and missionary life.
2. Let us pray for families, that they may succeed in creating a Christian environment favorable to the important religious choices of their children. And at the same time with all our hearts let us thank the Lord that in these recent years, in many parts of the world, many young and not so young people are responding in growing numbers to the divine call.

3. Let us pray that all priests and religious may be an example and an encouragement to those who have been called, by their availability and humble readiness,…to accept the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to transmit to others the fruits of love and peace, to give them that certainty of faith from which derive the profound understanding of meaning of human existence and the capacity to introduce moral order into the life of individuals and of the human setting.

[in "L’Osservatore Romano", 1-14-80]

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