04/14/2018, 10.50
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Missionary of mercy: I am an instrument of God in Bangladesh

by Anna Chiara Filice

Fr. Jyoti Francis Costa is one of the two missionaries chosen by the Vatican in his country. Over the past two years he has preached the love of God in the parishes, in the dioceses and in pilgrimage centers. "I saw the joy in the faces of the faithful who come to know that God is merciful". "God forgives us and welcomes us as we are".

Rome (AsiaNews) - "I am nothing but an instrument in God’s hands, a channel to show the world His mercy", Fr. Jyoti Francis Costa, tells AsiaNews. We met the assistant to the general secretary of the Bengali Episcopal Conference (Cbcb) in Rome, where he participated in the meeting convoked by Pope Francis with the Missionaries of Mercy.  The Pope created this body of priests during the Extraordinary Jubilee of 2016 to "absolve even the most serious sins". Fr Costa is one of the two missionaries chosen for Bangladesh.

Reflecting on his delicate assignment he states: "I am superior to none. I am there to listen, console the anxieties, welcome the faithful who want to be reconciled with God. I have no merit, it is the love of God that converts hearts ".

The priest is incardinated in the archdiocese of Dhaka, but thanks to the assignment he has been able to visit "parishes, dioceses and pilgrimage centers. Here the local Churches have organized masses, meetings, seminars and retreats ". In particular, he recounts, "I went on several occasions to the dioceses of Barisal [in the south of the country, ed] and Sylhet [to the east]. Some meetings have been dedicated to religious and consecrated persons, others to all the local faithful and neighboring parishes ".

With the papal mandate, since 2016 he has been able "to preach to thousands of people the teachings of the Gospel and the mercy of the Lord. Moreover, thanks to the special faculties granted us by the pope, I have been able to confess to many faithful and absolve the sins reserved for the Apostolic See. I have listened to many personal stories and experiences ".

During these meetings, continues Fr. Costa, "I could see the joy in the faces of those who came to know that God is merciful, that He expects nothing in return but that people should come to Him and be reconciled with Him". The reason for this contentment "probably derives from the fact that the faithful had never before heard the message of God's mercy. He does not care what sin is committed: He forgives and welcomes us as we are, with our defects and merits. What matters is that we are human beings ".

In turn, he argues, "the Missionaries of Mercy's task is to be loving, merciful, good hearers, generous, patient with anyone approaching, listening to their stories and not judging. The repentant person must never feel rejected or abandoned by the love of God ". Our ministry, he admits, "is really an important work and we are the first to be available to help, to make people understand that in us they can find the support they seek".

In this way, "people feel the touch of God, who are loved and welcomed. And this generates in them a transformation: the awareness that their life has value and meaning and they have a new reason to live. They understand that their life is a gift from God and they try to nourish it in a new way, like good Christians. In them there is a conversion of hearts and minds, which they share first of all with the families, the relatives, those with whom they live every day. Also in us missionaries a conversion takes place: we learn to be more patient, to dedicate more time to people who seek the love of God ".

Speaking of families, "my long experience as secretary of the Bishops' Conference Commission for Families has made me notice the same thing: when there are tensions and divisions in couples, what helps most is to know that God welcomes them with open arms. . Spouses begin to speak and share difficulties, and gradually reconcile. And later I am able to help other couples in crisis ".

Pope Francis "encourages us in our task, he wants us to share our experiences in every part of the world and encourage other religious to do the same, to become missionaries in their own contexts. He made us think about one aspect: when a penitent comes to us to confess his sins, it is as if he were naked before God. At that moment he must not feel the vergona for the fait accompli. We must understand it and be even more compassionate, because he has already acted in the love of the Lord who made him convert ".

It is "an interior conversion, not the Christian faith", he stresses. During these years he was able to meet many people, "but above all they are Christians, not faithful of other religions. At the same time, I happened to meet people who were affected by what I was preaching and they told me that they had reported the lessons learned to other acquaintances. Among these, I believe that there are not only Christians".

In any case, he admits, in his lengthy experience of social work, which started as a young boy when he coordinated the group of young Catholics of Cbcb, "what I transmit are my Christian values, my culture, my faith. Indirectly, this is what the people I meet learn from me ". Although he would like to clarify when he talks about his relationship with the population (mostly Muslim), "I prefer to use the term evangelize, not evangelization, in the sense that the first goal is not to convert people. First of all, we want to transmit values, to teach people to be good people ".

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