January 2,

The spirit of the missionary

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you …  He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,”‘ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” Jn 1,19-28

This gospel passage, which appears to refer only to John the Baptist, is actually considered the “magna carta” of every missionary, of every believer and even of the Church itself. The Church was founded to evangelize and if the Church does not evangelize, it is not a Church; and every christian who does not feel missionary is a christian wearing his slippers. So the things should proceed in light of the “mandate”: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 1615). Unfortunately, nowadays, we do not feel the urgency of the “mandate” of evangelization, and the Church itself seems to fight a war of position, rather than being embarked on the mission. The dialogue better than a frank announcement of the “good new” is searched with the people who are not christian. The mission is most often interpreted as a struggle against the social injustices, better than the announcement of the total salvation of the man. Conversely, when the mandate is lived in fullness and courage, we are supported by the power of the grace which accompanies it: the Lord does an extraordinary work with common people, like Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The missionary is also subject to many temptations: the first lies in the fact that the world tends to turn into myths living persons who have become extraordinary because of the God’s grace. It is accepted with difficulty that a man can shine with reflected light: it is preferred to credit every merit to the person, transforming him into an idol, rather than go back to the God’s grace. At this point the second temptation takes over: the missionary risks to believe that the work done by him has been implemented on his own and not by the Lord. He ends, thus, to become a witness to himself, forgetting that it is the Lord who sends and gives the Spirit, and who allows to humble people to do great things. The end result is the use of the mission to his own  advantage: sects are born and sometimes even personal wealth. It is a temptation against which John the Baptist has to fight in the today’s gospel: “Who are you?”, “I am not the Messiah”, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert”. Here it is what a missionary is: a voice, an instrument played by the Holy Spirit.

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