God’s Mission For All People
by Fr. Joe
God’s Mission for All People
Missionary action and ministry flow from our responsible stewardship to bring about God’s mission of life, fullness and justice for all people. This weekend our mission witness and appeal will be preached by the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier’s representative Rev. Peter Raposo, sfx. Their missionary work to preach the gospel and give care at Christian mission stations and parishes also includes working among people of other faiths, marginalized tribal peoples and most especially the poor.
Since the Vatican Council, an understanding of missionary activity has broadened. A foundational missionary stance includes a greater effort to grow in appreciation for and in dialogue with a diversity of faiths and cultures that often need to work together for the common good. The Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes) and Pope Benedict XIV in Verbum Domini affirm the need to learn as well as to teach through engagement with culture.
An interesting example of discerning how God is experienced in other faiths and cultures is given by Rev. John Sivalon, MM, the former general superior of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. Reflecting on a non-Western contemplation of God he writes, “Picture an African herder who stands watching over his cattle graze. He leans gently on his walking stick listening to the birds, feeling the breeze, and hearing the rustling of the leaves. In this very mundane and apparently boring activity the herder can hardly avoid the sense of something bigger around him. If asked he may never be able to put words to it, but he lives it every day with the profound declaration that Mungo Yupo, “God is here.” Becoming aware of the presence of God in those moments of solitude allows him to proclaim this presence and be nourished by it even in the midst of suffering, disease and death. In all my years of experience in Tanzania, in the face of some terrible tragedies, I never heard an African ask how God could allow these terrible things to happen. I only heard them declare, and not in the fatalistic way, “God is with us.”
Missionary Rev D. Venne shares an example from his experience in Bangladesh of the importance of dialogue in continually broadening our understanding of God, “Very early on, I was privileged to work with an elderly Muslim (he was 90 years old). Somehow we were talking about the love of God for people, and I ventured to remark that God loves all those who do good. He quickly came back, “Poppycock. Allah loves all people the same.” He put me in my place, as I quickly remembered how often St. Paul had said the same thing. Such an experience makes me more aware that persons of other faiths are not devoid of concepts of God similar to ours and that indeed we have to search for God’s will together.” (All quotes are from – God’s Mission And Postmodern Culture, John Sivalon, MM.)
While we may not have the opportunity to learn firsthand in the mission field, we can become more attentive listeners in our own lives. Reflect on in prayer: “How can l listen to God who nourishes me in the midst of boring activities as well as suffering? What can I do to be more appreciative of how others experience and serve God? How will I imitate the good I find in their example?”
Next week’s Second Collection will be an opportunity for us to participate in the work of the missions. God’s mission is advanced with our efforts each day when we work to bring life, fullness and justice to all people encountered and those touched by the gifts we give.