12/22/2017, 11.28
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PIME Missionary: Cambodia like Nazareth, 'skin to skin' between man and God

by Luca Bolelli

The Christmas letter from missionary Fr. Luca Bolelli, in Cambodia for 10 years. Jesus chose to come into the world in a village, "his school of humanity". The daily life that "lays bare". Living "skin to skin", including death, "learning from one another, helping us to be more human".

Kdol Leu (AsiaNews) - "Kdol Leu is like Nazareth. Schools of humanity, in which God wanted to 'learn' to live like a man". A village life that "strikes you", forcing you to deal even "with your own limitations". But it is in such a village life that Jesus chose to come into the world: "he learned in a village to live as a man, to teach us men to live like God". Below is the Christmas letter from PIME missionary Fr. Luca Bolelli, who has been in Cambodia for 10 years.

Living in Kdol Leu exposes you. Because even here, as in all the other villages of the world, one lives skin to skin. The houses, often one attached to the other, have thin wooden walls, and hold no secrets. We know everything about everyone, and even more. Something that for us, modern lovers of privacy, is really unbearable. But, to tell the truth, it also has its positive aspects. I've seen them many times now: I think of Aunt Srey, after the umpteenth breakdown of her husband, was encircled by her neighbors to help her bear the weight of her suffering; I think of Long and Thida, a young couple struggling with the typical crises of the early years, saved by the attention and wise advice of the elderly; I think of grandmother Ieng, 104, in her always open house, constantly monitored by neighbours and relatives. And I also think of little Chhgui, who grew up on the street, but who always finds a meal and a roof to sleep under.

Not even my life, in the end, escapes this law of the village. My house is in fact open to the four winds, and there is practically no movement that can escape my neighbors eyes. Just as, the village being along one street, there is no way I can somewhere without falling under the "radar" of some curious look, even at apparently dead moments of the day.

But it is above all everyday life that strikes me. Now, for example, we are preparing for Christmas: with teenagers who come every night to rehearse for the Nativity and the dances, and whose natural intemperance risks blowing everything up... especially with my lack of patience . Then there are the meetings with the adults, who arrive tired from the rice fields and have to put up with my usual sermon on the importance of helping the community and each doing their own part. They look at me with a benevolent smile that however hides much intolerance. Fortunately, there are also those who dare to tell me things to my face. Not many because the Cambodian culture does not favour it, but there are. Like Vet, Srey Phoan and some others who, given my lack of a wife to do so, remind me, always graciously, that I, "heroic disinterested missionary", may instead be so selfish! (In this regard, I recently read this quote from Pythagoras: "If you do not have a friend who will correct your defects, pay an enemy to do you this service").

I therefore feel my limits have been laid bare. This is always a great evil, but at the same time also a great good, because it is the beginning of healing. We know each other for what we really are, relationships gain in authenticity, we are forced to take off our masks and let our true face breathe.

At Kdol Leu, everything is then lived skin to skin, even death: you die at home, surrounded by family and neighbors. Like Uncle Veng a few days ago. We accompanied him in his last weeks of life, gathering every evening to pray and keep him company. Until the last breath, under the eyes of everyone, including grandchildren. Death when you know it in this way, closely, paradoxically makes you less afraid.

I imagine all these dynamics even in Nazareth. And then I can almost guess the reason why Jesus chose to be born and grow up in a village. For thirty years the village was his school of humanity. Not a city, where he would find more learned teachers, but a suburban village, with ordinary people. These people were somehow his masters. He could certainly have done without them, He, God omnipotent and omniscient ...! Why did he waste all that time in a country hole?!? Honestly, for we who are always busy, those thirty long years spent by Jesus in the anonymity of Nazareth seem to be a great waste of time. Just like an exercise in marketing, if we had asked in time, we would of course have given him some sage suggestion. For example, to be born in a period a bit 'more "social": how many people he could have reached all over the world in one shot with a simple video posted on You Tube!

Instead he preferred the "skin to skin" contact. This choice of his often comes to mind even when, at the wheel of the car, I run from one part of Cambodia to another, quickly bypassing many people who instead, walking like Jesus, I could meet and get to know. To know a person,  know them well, we need to know how to waste time with them. Jesus wasted a lot of time with the inhabitants of Nazareth. He met them in close quarters, without masks, in their truth. He could have done without it, he did not.

Kdol Leu like Nazareth. Schools of humanity, in which God wanted to "learn" to live like a man. He has chosen to become a man to the end, covering all our growth path, step by step, without discounts and without shortcuts, as is asked of each of us. There is no corner of our being men that he has not experienced, has not explored.

He learned in a village to live like a man, to teach us men to live like God. He opened new paths in our flesh and made us able to follow them, becoming in this same our flesh, authentic sons of God and brothers. Living skin to skin, learning from each other, helping us to be more humane. Skin to skin, stamping our feet, not without pain: but then learning to heal with forgiveness.

And in the end, our humanity, Jesus, did not take it off like a worn dress, but took it with him, his real skin, in an eternal embrace between man and God.

Merry Christmas to all!

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