What an opportunity to celebrate the Joy of Mission. I don’t often dedicate my reflection to a particular saint on Sunday; however, this week is cause for exception. Our First Missionary St Joseph Freinademetz, SVD is a cause for not only mention but celebration of the Joy of Mission.
For me St Joseph is a model for a missionary and the joy that can come from serving in the Missions. I’d like to use his dedicated life to mission through the lens of the Gospel this week of the Beatitudes. When we see through this lens it is here that we find joy and enthusiasm to be Joyful and Dynamic Missionary Disciples. One can only know and experience the joy of mission by truly entering into the lives and context of those we encounter through inculturation. St. paul in his letter to the Corinthians says:
I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22b&23
This was a favorite scripture of St Joseph as he learned two dialects of Chinese and even wore the local clothing. He truly lived inculturation and embraced the culture and life of those he served.
Let’s turn our gaze to the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus encounters his disciples and. For a Jewish audience this mountain experience and teaching is seen much like that of Moses the Law Giver. God had spoken to Moses and given him the law Jesus the new Moses speak and teaches teaches them on the mountain the new way of living for He is the New Covenant. His teaching counts as blessed the opposite of the worldly values. The Beatitudes are counter cultural then and now.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Blessed are they who mourn, Blessed are the meek, Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, Blessed are the merciful, Blessed are the clean of heart, Blessed are the peacemakers, Blessed are they who are persecuted for the righteousness, Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you because of me
Blessedness and joy come to those who are on the peripheries who experience injustice, poverty, rejection and persecution. Through their suffering they are united to God in a special way whereby God transforms and raises their plight and redirects them into a place of Blessedness, Justice and ultimately Joy through union with Christ in the fullness of His Kingdom. It is here that the Joy of Mission is experienced both by the one who is sent and those that receive. The proclamation of The Kingdom of Heaven is the mission of the church and of each baptized member.
As I reflect back on 30 years of priestly missionary life as a Divine Word Missionary great moments of joy have filled my heart this week. From youth and young adult ministry amongst the Otomi native peoples of Mexico, where a young person shared with me that because of my missionary vocation she encountered Christ, to Saint Leo University where I felt that God had placed me “inside joy”. The joy of mission took me to Quilombo communities of Brazil where I can recall sitting looking over a village where we had planted fruit trees to improve the nutritional health of the descendants of escaped slaves, and afterwards teaching and singing simple Gospel songs together.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven is the Joy of Mission!