10/03/2008, 00.00
VATICAN
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Jesus, the Word of God, needs missionaries

by Bernardo Cervellera
Christianity is not a religion "of the Book", but of the person of Jesus Christ. Asia, and especially Asian young people, are waiting for him. There is a need for people to consecrate themselves to proclaiming him.
From October 5-26, the bishops of the world, together with Benedict XVI, will be at the Vatican to celebrate a synod that this year is addressing the topic "the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church". The topic might at first prompt one to think that the bishops will be talking about the Bible, about knowledge of the sacred book among the faithful, about its diffusion in the world, about translations and readings for the Mass. This is true only in part: the working guidelines given to the prelates months before the gathering talk more widely about the liturgy, about prayer, about meditation and lectio divina (reading and meditating on the Bible), which especially after Vatican Council II were spread not only among priests and religious, but also among laypeople, groups, ecclesial movements. One sometimes gets the impression that these actions remain turned in upon themselves, almost as if it were their task to make the faithful better instructed, more learned on the latest results of exegesis.

The grand affirmation of the synod (which is the synod of the Church), as reported in the guidelines, is that Christianity is not a religion "of the Book", but of a person, because the word of God is Jesus himself. The aim of the liturgy and of lectio divina its therefore to increasingly assimilate the faithful to the person of Jesus Christ, so that they may say together with St. Paul, "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20).

The experience of familiarity with Jesus, the Word of God, the joy at discovering his love for me, the gift he has made of his life, transforms in a profound way our daily habits, the life of our communities. One sign of this transformation is in increased concern over universal mission. Every vocation is born from this participation in the solicitude of Jesus to stand his salvation. "Take me into their dark places", said the Crucified One to Mother Teresa, and asked her, "will you go for me?". For this reason, the Blessed of Calcutta made the "thirst" of Jesus for souls, his desire to communicate himself to the excluded, to the abandoned, the point of departure for her order. Every missionary experiences in his own flesh the passion of Jesus for men, for their lack of hope and definitive love. It is only in order to communicate this love that one is willing to leave family, comforts, career, friends.

Much of the world does not know the hope that is Jesus Christ, and writhes about in fear and indifference, in economic and environmental crises, in violence and fundamentalism. Asia in particular is plunged into a vortex of social tension that seems insoluble, because there is a lack of men capable of connecting economy and solidarity, justice and forgiveness, identity and coexistence. More than 80% of people in Asia do not know the person of Jesus Christ, the true source of the dignity of every person and the power of a love that reconciles.

To the "thirst" of Jesus corresponds the "thirst" of the world. How many people in China are seeking dignity and truth in a society fact communism and materialism (including consumerism) have poisoned and made barren? How many young people in Japan are fleeing from the formalism and reticence of the traditional culture, only to find comfort in suicide? How many Indian tribals and pariahs see their journey toward development blocked by groups seeking to protect their own privileges?

In order to respond to these needs, we cannot simply print Bibles and send them to Asia; we cannot content ourselves with perfect, emotional liturgies, or a few moral directives added to extemporaneous aid. There is a need for people to go to Asia, to proclaim and make visible in their lives the person of Jesus Christ; there is a need for missionaries.

In his message for World Mission Day 2008, celebrated on October 19, Benedict XVI rightly reminded bishops, priests, religious, and laypeople that the missionary task of Christians does not end in their own circle, parish, or diocese, but must reach "to the farthest ends of the world".

In the month of the Rosary, let us pray to the Virgin Mary that she may raise up "laborers for his harvest", and that many young people may respond: "Here I am, send me!".

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”