VATICAN – The Pope to the Comboni Missionaries: the mission is based on the words of Jesus: “Without me you can do nothing”
Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – The mission of the Church depends totally – in its source, its dynamism and its very fruits – “on union with Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit”. This is what Pope Francis repeated in his address on Saturday June 18 to the participants of the 19th General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries, whom he received at the Vatican, in the hall of the Consistory. “Jesus himself said it clearly to those he had chosen as apostles: ‘Without me you can do nothing’, the Pontiff remarked at the beginning of his speech. Jesus did not say: ‘you can do little”, no, he said: “you can’t do anything”…. “We can do a lot of things: initiatives, programs, campaigns… a lot of things; but if we are not in Him, and if His Spirit does not pass through us, all that we do is nothing in His eyes, that is to say, it is worth nothing for the Kingdom of God” , explained the Pope.
The papal intervention, emphasizing the total dependence of any apostolic mission on the active grace of Christ, also endorsed the motto which is at the heart of the Comboni Chapter: “I am the vine, you are the branches”. Rooted in Christ with Comboni”. It is not our work, but it is the love of Christ which acts through us”. This is the secret of the Christian life, and in particular of the mission, everywhere, in Europe as in Africa and on the other continents”, remarked the Bishop of Rome. The missionary is the disciple who is so united to his Master and Lord that his hands, his mind, his heart are “channels” of the love of Christ. The missionary is that, he is not someone who proselytizes”.
Thinking of the upcoming feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so dear to the missionary spirituality of Saint Daniel Comboni, Pope Francis pointed out that it is precisely the proximity to the mystery of the Heart of Christ that forms and shapes the concrete forms of any authentic apostolic work. Some great missionary saints, like Comboni and Mother Frances Cabrini, the Pope remarked, lived their mission feeling animated and “driven” by the Heart of Christ, that is, by the love of Christ. And this “push” allowed them to go out and go beyond: not only beyond the limits and the geographical borders, but above all beyond their own personal limits”. The fact of remaining grafted in the heart of Christ, and not good intentions, can impel us to mission and to the proclamation of the Gospel not as an act of duty, but as a miracle of grace: “The prompting of the Holy Spirit – continued the Pontiff – is the one that brings us out of ourselves, of our closures, of our self-reference “. And it is curious – the Pope noted in passing – that the most ugly temptation that we religious have in life is self-reference”: a “spirituality of the mirror” which becomes an indulgent self-contemplation, so that “we stop going beyond and always return to our sick heart”. We all have a sick heart, and the grace of God saves us, but without the grace of God kaputt, everyone!”
The essential feature of the heart of Christ, continued Pope Francis, is mercy, compassion, tenderness. It should not be forgotten: the style of God, already in the Old Testament, is this. Closeness, compassion and tenderness. There is no organization, no: there is closeness, compassion, tenderness”. These traits can, by grace, become connotations specific to any authentic missionary adventure, attested not only by individual missionaries, but as a community of apostolic life: “Jesus – the Pontiff recalled – said this to his friends: “By the way you love one another, it will be recognized that you are my disciples”; and the Acts of the Apostles confirm it, when they tell that the first community of Jerusalem enjoyed the esteem of all the people because we saw how it lived: in love. And very often, I say this with bitterness – I speak in general, not about you because I don’t know you – very often, we find that certain religious communities are a real hell, a hell of jealousies, of power struggles.. And where is the love? It’s curious, these religious communities have rules, they have a system of life…, but love is lacking. There is so much envy, jealousy, power struggles, and they lose the best, which is the testimony of love, which is what attracts people: the love between us, that we don’t pull each other not on it but that we are still moving forward”.
Even when communities and ecclesial aggregations find themselves dealing with institutional matters together – as the General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries is also called to do – the Pope suggested that “everything be done in docility to the Spirit, so that necessary planning, projects, initiatives, everything responds to the requirements of evangelization, and I also mean the style of evangelization: which is joyful, gentle, courageous, patient, full of mercy, hungry and thirsty for justice, peaceful, in short: the style of the Beatitudes. It matters. Even the rule of life, formation, ministries, the management of goods must be established on the basis of this fundamental criterion”.
The 19th General Chapter of the Comboni Missionaries is being held until June 30 in Rome, at the General House of the Institute, with the participation of 69 capitulars, plus four observers. At the end of his address to the Comboni Missionaries participating in the General Chapter, Pope Francis wished to reread extensive extracts from paragraph 24 of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “The evangelizing community experiences that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has preceded in love […]. The evangelizing community prepares itself to “accompany”. She accompanies humanity in all its processes, however hard and prolonged they may be. She knows long waits and apostolic patience. Evangelism has a lot of patience, […]. He takes care of the grain and does not lose peace because of the tares […]. The disciple knows how to offer his whole life and play it until martyrdom as a testimony of Jesus Christ, his dream is not to have many enemies, but rather that the Word be welcomed and manifest its liberating and renewing power. Finally, the evangelizing community, joyful, always knows how to “celebrate”. She celebrates and celebrates every small victory, every step forward in evangelization. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 6/20/2022)