Saturday, October 26, 2013

CARITAS CHRISTI URGET NOS: Vocation as a sign of Hope Rooted in Faith: Presented by Bishop Maurice Makumba of Diocese of Nakuru

CARITAS CHRISTI URGET NOS! (2 Cor. 5: 14) “Vocation as a Sign of Hope Rooted in Faith” Introduction: The Harvest if Great! Last Friday, we heard the categorical words of the Lord from the gospel: And after these things the Lord appointed other seventy men and sent them out in twos ahead of him into every town and place where he intended to go. “The harvest is great,” he said to them, “but the workers are few. Pray then the Lord of the harvest to send workers for the harvest…” (Luke 10: 1-10). This for me summarizes all I have to say about the relationship between vocation, faith and hope; and I would even add charity – the other theological virtue. When the gospel says: “…the Lord appointed seventy others…;” it actually means, to talk about vocation is to acknowledge God’s initiative in the whole process of the relationship between the human person and God. And this is how it always was even from the very beginning with the creation of Adam and Eve. It was God’s love and goodness that desired to share his life particularly with the human person and this is why to give them life he breathed his spirit into them; a sign that we move by the strength of the spirit of God and we have God’s life in us. The consequence of this is that we will always have God’s as our point of reference. The refusal to have God as our point of reference is what leads man astray and into sin – this in effect is a futile attempt to transfer this reference to some other or to have ourselves as the point of reference. This search for autonomy, this human hubris, this pride, which was brought about by the devil’s deception, is what constituted original sin. The fundamental tragedy of sin is that the human person aspires to become God without God, when he can actually become God with God in Jesus Christ. By breathing his spirit into Adam and Eve, God had actually given them an opportunity to be like him because they moved with his spirit and it was by it that they were kept alive. In Christ Jesus, this opportunity to be like God is brought even closer by a God who descends to our level so that we may ascend to his level. As Christ himself says: “And when I am lifted from the earth, I will draw all things to myself” (John 12: 32); chief among them the human person. This in fact accurately outlines Jesus’ core mission and why he came. “Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God something to be seized. Instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and accepting the state of man” (Philip. 2: 6-7). He humbled himself, became obedient to the Father and died on the Cross for human salvation. He did all this in order to lift us and take us up with him. This is also the mission of the Church in the world today – the body of those who have been sent forth to bring in the harvest. Hence Porta Fidei affirms: “While “Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26)” (Porta Fidei, no. 6). How could the Church do this without distinctly Christian vocations? The essentials of any Christian vocation are contained in this action by Jesus; particularly faith, obedience and humility. It would be impossible to meaningfully talk about any vocation without taking into account this essential foundation of the relationship between God and the human person. Man was meant for God and that is why our aspirations ultimately find fulfilment only in him. This can only be achieved through Jesus as the only way to the Father because he has taught us how to do it – completely undoing deception of the devil. When therefore he elects the seventy others, they are supposed to go ahead of him into every town and place where he intended to go. The seventy two are responding to the intention of Jesus and not to their own intention. It is therefore clear that that the mission is not theirs but Jesus’. My dear brothers and sisters, this is such an important element of discipleship that none worth the name Christian should ever forget – let alone those who have received specific vocations for missionary work. The greatness of the harvest does not admit of any form of pride on the part of those who are sent nor does it give any room for presumption. This is why Jesus immediately adds: “Pray then the Lord of the harvest to send workers for the harvest.” The sending is the Lord’s, the harvest is the Lord’s and the workers’ are the Lord’s. We are the Lord’s! Everything revolves around the Lord because he is the point of departure and the point of arrival. Urged on by the love of Christ we are moved to evangelize (2 Cor 5:14). “Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new.” (Porta Fidei, no. 7). Outside Jesus and without faith in Jesus, there can be no hope for a life with God. “Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17)” (Porta Fidei, no. 6). Our involvement in vocation promotion puts our own vocation in focus because we are not promoting or animating something external to us; but rather that which is rooted in us and is part of us. As transmitters of the faith we need to lead by example; transmitting the faith not just by word of mouth but by deed as well. This is why all Christian vocations are a gift of faith and are a sign of hope for a life with God. The reason why Jesus chose seventy others was to have them participate in gathering in the harvest – that is, to bring back humanity to here he belongs, to a life of communion with God in Jesus. Marriage, consecrated life, priesthood and other forms of Christian life are all geared towards restoring our friendship with God. “In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy” (Porta Fidei, no. 7). Vocations: A Celebration of the Year of Faith As Benedict XVI pointed out on announcing the Year of Faith: "What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for true life, life without end." The Church has received a divine command from the risen Lord that is unmistakable: “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 behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt. 28: 19-20). I believe this is the correct context within which to live the Year of Faith and are driven by the vigour for the New Evangelization. We are invited to a renewed experience of the Faith. There is “need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 3). We must deliberately “set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives life, and life in abundance.” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, no. 2). Christ’s command to go and evangelize is therefore true today as it was then. The harvest is still as plentiful and great as it was then. Throughout the ages “evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize…” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). The Church cannot afford to be reckless in the proclamation of the gospel because, as I have already mentioned, she is only doing it on behalf of Christ. This “divine mission, which was committed by Christ to the apostles, is destined to last until the end of the world (Mt. 28: 20), since the Gospel, which they were charged to hand on, is, for the Church, the principle of all its life for all time.” (Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium, 20). Hence, in announcing the Year of Faith, Benedict XVI said: “The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22)” (Porta Fidei, no. 1). Vocations are for the purpose of ushering us into the door of faith that leads us into a life of communion with God. Such a celebration as this of the Year of Faith is always an occasion to make “an authentic and sincere profession of the same faith.” This authenticity and sincerity of faith should always be the mark of our identity. The Holy Father with Seminarians, Novices and Young People During this year of faith, one of the memorable moments was the Holy Father’s encounters with seminarians, novices and young people. During that meeting, in one of his homilies, he said: “Dear Brothers and Sisters, Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting you, and today our joy is even greater, because we have gathered for the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day. You are seminarians, novices, young people on a vocational journey, from every part of the world. You represent the Church’s youth! If the Church is the Bride of Christ, you in a certain sense represent the moment of betrothal, the Spring of vocation, the season of discovery, assessment, formation. And it is a very beautiful season, in which foundations are laid for the future. Thank you for coming!" ( Children are always a source of hope, a sign that there is a tomorrow. When the Holy Father therefore referred to the seminarians and novices the Church’s youth, he saw in them the future of the Church. In them he saw the hope of the continued proclamation of God’s message of love in Christ. So, even though what Blessed John Paul II says in Pastores Dabo Vobis was meant for priests, it actually applies to all those involved in missionary work in the wider sense: “Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations’ (Mt. 28: 19) and ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ (Lk. 22: 19; cf. I Cor. 11: 24)” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 2). This certainly requires the formation of people who carry on this mandate while conscious of the times in which we find ourselves. Thus, Blessed John Paul II continues: “Today, however, the Church feels called to re-live with a renewed commitment all that the Master did with his Apostles, urged on as she is by the deep and rapid transformations in the societies and culture of our age, by the multiplicity and diversity of contexts in which she announces the Gospel and witnesses to it…” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, no. 2). Vocation Promotion in the Light of Africae Munus We are blessed to live in the times of the Second Synod for Africa. What is even more pressing is for us to be part and parcel of the implementation of its spirit and resolve. What the Holy Father says at the beginning of his Post-Synodal Exhortation is significant. He notes that “Africa’s Commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ is a precious treasure which I entrust at the beginning of the third millennium to the bishops, priests, permanent deacons, consecrated persons, catechists and lay faithful of that beloved continent and its neighbouring islands. Through this mission, Africa is led to explore its Christian vocation more deeply; it is called, in the name of Jesus, to live reconciliation between individuals and communities and to promote peace and justice in truth for all” (Africae Munus, no. 1). This is what he calls Africa’s commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is indicative that he places the task of Africa’s commitment on the shoulders of all the African and all those involved in the continent’s missionary work. The Holy Father is drawing out attention to the fact that just as the Lord called the seventy, he is inviting each one of us to participate actively and fruitfully in his harvest in Africa; with special reference to the areas that were of grave concern to the synod, namely reconciliation, justice and peace. It is time for Africa to “stand up, pick up its mat and walk.” The Church needs to offer to the continent the message of Jesus, which heals, sets free and reconciles. The Church needs to give hope to the continent. The formation of missionaries for present day Africa needs to respond to this renewed commitment by Africa to the Lord Jesus; the commitment of bringing Africa to a deeper experience of its treasured Christian faith. This will certainly bring about an encounter between the gospel message and African culture(s). “By discerning which cultural elements and traditions are contrary to the Gospel, they will be able to separate the good seed from the weeds (cf. Mt. 13: 26). While remaining true to itself, in total fidelity to the Gospel message and the Church’s tradition, Christianity will thus adopt the face of the countless cultures and people among whom it has found a welcome and taken root” (Africae Munus, no. 37). All those involved in formation have to be acutely aware of this call on Africa. There is need to strike a balance between the treasured traditions of the Church and the changing circumstances of our time. We are therefore faced with the challenge of being true witnesses to the Gospel by forming young men and women who can respond to the demands of our time and are capable of evangelising the African world of today; people ready to respond to the needs of the Church in the twenty-first century. The tremendous advancement experienced in science and technology and the continued interaction between cultures today call for a constant affirmation of the stable character of truth so that a plurality of cultures is not mistaken for a plurality of truths and tolerance is not confused with relativism. Moreover, there is need for an objective standard of values which will delineate the possibilities and limits of progress, particularly in human sciences. This is the only way seminaries can live up to their call in the Church. This is the only way we can talk about being committed to the call we have received to go out and preach the gospel to all nations. Evidently, this is why the celebration of our faith this year has been a momentous experience for all of us. It has given us occasion to re-think who we are and who we are meant to become. There is need to renew ourselves and to renew our zeal for the Gospel even if Africa still has a relatively young Christianity. Vocations for a New Evangelization in Africa Africa in her commitment to the Lord Jesus is faced with the need to recommit herself to “…evangelization, to the mission ad gentes, and to the new evangelization, so that the features of the African continent will increasingly be modeled on the ever timely teaching of Christ, the true ‘light of the world’ and the authentic ‘salt of the earth’” (Africae Munus, no. 159). Benedict XVI continues to stress that “The mission ad gentes calls for commitment on the part of all Africa’s Christians” (Africae Munus, no. 162) so that every part of the African society is touched by the Gospel message of Christ. The need for the Church to renew herself affects all Christians and is the responsibility of every member of the body of Christ’s faithful. Thus we can say with the Council: “In the present state of things which gives rise to a new situation for mankind, the Church, the salt of the earth and the light of the world (cf. Mt. 5: 13-14) is even more urgently called upon to save and renew every creature, so that all things might be restored in Christ, and so that in him men might form one family and one people of God” (Vatican Council II, Ad Gentes Divinitus, 1). This is true to the Church in Africa as it is to any other place. Evangelization can be new in its ardour, methods and expression. In former times we have talked a lot about inculturation – that is, adapting the message to speak to the people of a given place and time. This is what is needed for contemporary culture with all its challenges. In his Apostolic Letter at the close of the Great Jubilee of 2000, John Paul II wrote: “Now is the time for each local Church to assess its fervour and find fresh enthusiasm for its spiritual and pastoral responsibilities, by reflecting on what the Spirit has been saying to the People of God in this special year of grace, and indeed in the longer span of time from the Second Vatican Council to the Great Jubilee” (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 3). Then he continues: “Now we must look ahead, we must "put out into the deep", trusting in Christ's words: Duc in altum! What we have done this year cannot justify a sense of complacency, and still less should it lead us to relax our commitment. On the contrary, the experiences we have had should inspire in us new energy, and impel us to invest in concrete initiatives the enthusiasm which we have felt. Jesus himself warns us: "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Lk 9:62). In the cause of the Kingdom there is no time for looking back, even less for settling into laziness. Much awaits us, and for this reason we must set about drawing up an effective post-Jubilee pastoral plan” (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 15). Hence the need for continuous evangelization. Benedict XVI in Africae Munus invites us to explore our Christian vocation more deeply and to live the reconciliation between individuals and communities and to promote peace and justice in truth for all. Evidently, for us in Africa in this Year of Faith, New Evangelization cannot ignore the critical areas of reconciliation, justice and peace. This will continue to be our endeavour. In conclusion, let us then listen once more to what the Holy Father Francis said to the seminarians, novices and young people during their pilgrimage in Rome: “Dear seminarians, dear novices, dear young people discerning your vocations: “evangelization is done on one’s knees”, as one of you said to me the other day. Always be men and women of prayer! Without a constant relationship with God, the mission becomes a job. The risk of activism, of relying too much on structures, is an ever-present danger. If we look towards Jesus, we see that prior to any important decision or event he recollected himself in intense and prolonged prayer. Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and pressing duties. And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love. Herein lies the secret of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord! Jesus sends his followers out with no “purse, no bag, no sandals” (Lk. 10: 4). The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross. Caritas Christi urget nos! Dear friends, with great confidence I entrust you to the intercession of Mary Most Holy. She is the Mother who helps us to take life decisions freely and without fear. May she help you to bear witness to the joy of God’s consolation, to conform yourselves to the logic of love of the Cross, to grow in ever deeper union with the Lord. Then your lives will be rich and fruitful! Amen.” ( Given to Kava Members at Dimesse Sisters On Tuesday, October 22, 2013 By Rt. Rev. Maurice Muhatia Makumba Bishop of Nakuru

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