Reflections on mission for October

Fr. Denis Carter has prepared reflections on Columban mission, adapted from the experiences of Columban Missionaries on assignments around the world. There is one reflection for each week of October.

Week 1: Mission in Weakness

Are you weak enough to be a missionary?  Hardly a question one expects to find in a vocations’ brochure.  Yet mission today needs people who have a real sense of their own limitations and feel the need for God’s empowering Spirit.

Faced with the global challenges of structural injustice, environmental destruction and increasing tension between peoples of different cultures and religions, one can easily lose heart and say, “How can I possibly change the situation?”  The Spirit, however, is the principal agent of mission.  Our task is to discern what the Spirit is doing in our world and offer ourselves as channels of the Spirit’s transforming activity.

To engage in mission in the way of Jesus means loving even those who do not deserve our love, forgiving when it is humanly impossible to forgive, hoping when we see no grounds for hope.  Responding to these gospel imperatives is beyond human strength.  But the Spirit can make us effective instruments in the hands of God who is bringing about the new creation.

Tom O’Reilly (Pakistan, Ireland, Britain)

Reflect: How important is prayer and contemplation in allowing the Spirit to work through us?

Week 2: Listening and Learning

I set out on mission to the Philippines in 1967 believing I was bringing God to the Filipino people. That changed the day I went to say mass for villagers celebrating a fiesta in honour of their patron saint. I arrived early and the church was empty. As I waited, I noticed that people nearby were already busy making preparations for visitors and that many were at the basketball court and the cock pit. I realised that God wasn’t in the little empty church but among the people, in their homes, with them while they were fishing or in their rice fields, with them in the cock pit and in the basketball court. God was with them when they struggled to survive in the midst of poverty.

Mission for me is being led by the same Spirit which took Jesus out among the people to listen and learn from the word of God that lives among the people. Going on mission is not about bringing God to people but of going to meet God, which is very much a listening and learning experience.

Ray Collier (Philippines, Britain)

Reflect: Use the long quote above to reflect on where you find God in your own lives

Week 3: Right relationships

Every day we come into contact with the victims of globalisation. We meet asylum seekers caught in the crossfire of forces whose origins are in many cases global. We meet the unemployed from factories, from mines, from City offices, all closed as a result of global consolidation and merger. We meet the victims of child labour from countries who can compete in global markets only because they must exploit their weakest citizens. We feel everyday to some degree the ongoing devastation of the planet.

We shall walk in the Spirit of justice by which we shall exert every energy to create a social order, local and global, based on right relationship with our life systems. Thomas Aquinas wrote that in order to change the world we must change the images through which we perceive the world. To the extent that we can dream about and build a different world order which is just, equal, compassionate, and non-violent, we shall be salt and leaven and so change the world.

Frank Regan (Peru, Britain)

Reflect: In what ways can Christians be “salt” and “leaven” in today’s world?

Week 4: Christian comfort

The world economic system today is particularly embarrassing for Christians. The 1.5 billion followers of Christ, ‘who had no place to lay his head’, now control two-thirds of the Earth’s resources and, on average, are three times better off than their non-Christian neighbours.

Fortunately, there are signs that attitudes are beginning to change. During the past two decades some Christians in the ‘developed’ world are beginning to respond to the challenge of their brothers and sisters in the ‘developing’ countries. They are becoming more aware of the legacy of colonialism. This formed the basis of much of the West’s wealth while it often impoverished Third World countries. They now feel challenged to work for a new, more just, international economic order which will redistribute the world’s resources in order to ensure that every person in the world has enough of the world’s goods to live a decent human life.

Sean McDonagh (Philippines, Ireland

Reflect: What challenges does the affluence of Christians present to us?

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