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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

Mission in Ghana 2016

 

 

Mission in Ghana, 2016
Fr. Sebastian, M.C.

Chair of St. Peter, 22 February 2016

“Follow me” (Jn 21:22)

Three of our Brothers from Nigeria, Bro. Augustine Marie M.C., Bro. Owen Camillus M.C. and Bro. Peter Paul M.C. made their vows for one year in St. Joseph’s parish church, Pankrono, Kumasi, Ghana, on Sunday 7th February 2016. Prior to the profession event, the entire Yesu Fié community of thirteen Brothers made their eight-day retreat, preached by Fr. John Karondukadavil MSFS, whom you all know by now, as practically all the members of our Society had retreat with him. Our heart-felt thanks go to Fr. John, not only for his untiring work, but for his inspiring, thought-provoking and very challenging preaching based on the M.C. spirit and M.C. charism lived by St. Teresa of Kolkata M.C., our foundress and our Mother! It was the fifth eight-day retreat he preached to our Brothers since he came to our Society on 8th September 2015. In addition, he also preached a four-day retreat to the students in Rome and had the days of prayer and seminars to our junior Brothers in India. Practically all the members have made retreat with him

God sees the need and he hears the cry of our soul and understands the yearning and longing of our hearts for him “Like a deer that yearns for running streams, my soul is yearning for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life…” (Ps 42:1 ff.). “My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water…” (Ps 63:1).

The profession Mass was presided over by his Excellency Most Rev. Peter Sarpong Akwasi, archbishop emeritus of Kumasi archdiocese. The holy Mass began at 9.30 a.m. and finished by 1.15 p.m. Needless to say that the holy Mass was very solemn. The archbishop emeritus brought with him his own group of liturgical dancers. Even during his very inspiring and challenging homily, his group danced, after which he continued with his homily for another twenty minutes or more.

It is worth recalling here as far as possible, some of the points of the bishop’s homily. The Brothers who participated in the holy Mass of the profession can compliment and add any important points, which I might have left out unintentionally. What I try to reproduce is what struck me most, which were not all that he might have said. What I remember, you may not remember, what you remember I may not remember; but together we can reproduce something more beautiful for God and can be helpful and beneficial to all.

The bishop spoke of the meaning, the importance and the significance of the call. The readings of the fifth Sunday in ordinary time, year C, were very much appropriate for the occasion. The first reading was the call of the prophet Isaiah (ch.6:1-2a, 3-8): “Here I am, send me”. The call of Isaiah is described by the prophet in a very dramatic way. It is absolutely vital that we read again very prayerfully the above mentioned chapter of Isaiah and try to compare with oneself, one’s call and mission. What did God do with Isaiah before sending him to preach and proclaim the Word of God?

God made Isaiah go through a frightening experience – the divine human encounter and its consequences, preparing him interiorly purified and disposed to carry out the divine mission. Isaiah then hears the voice of the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah was now ready and was purified: “Here I am, send me”.

In the second reading St. Paul, who was once a persecutor of the Church, becomes the preacher of Jesus Christ crucified, died and rose.

In the Gospel of the day we see the vocation of the first pope and his partners. Here too Peter did not feel worthy any longer, even to be close to Jesus, but fell at his feet and said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (cf. 5:1-11).

We couldn’t have more appropriate readings, chosen by divine providence for the occasion of the first religious profession of these three Brothers, who like Isaiah, Peter and Paul, are called by Jesus Christ. These Brothers, too, must feel deeply the need of interior purification and cleansing in order to be the companions of Jesus and to do the work of God, especially to give whole-hearted free service to the poorest of the poor. The purer we are, the more transparent we become and will be able to make present the holiness of God.

Brothers, please go back and read again and again these passages, which you and I have heard today, when you feel discouraged, tired and lonely, when you have lost all your enthusiasm and joy, read them, meditate on them. Let these texts of the Bible be a patrimony to you, a light to rekindle the flickering flames of joy and enthusiasm. Please do not live like half-dead religious, but be ready to do the work of God with joy and enthusiasm.

For me the most important thing for a religious is not the three vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, but the word “Follow me”. You are, we are called to follow Jesus. What does this word mean? What does this “following of Jesus” consist in?

One of the last words Jesus said to St. Peter, according to the Gospel of John, was the word “Follow me” (Jn 21:22). This was the last chapter of the Gospel of John.

By now Peter saw many things, not only the best part of Jesus’ life, as a miracle worker, the acclamations he received, but he had the Holy Thursday-Good Friday experience of hopelessness, despair and the powerlessness of Jesus. Here Peter saw the all-powerful God, becoming all powerless. On Pentecost Sunday more understanding of the “Mysterium fidei” will take place. Peter and his companions and all the Christians will be given the gift and the grace to understand the inseparability of the Cross from the life of every Christian. From now on Christians will be marked with the sign of the cross, which is our means of salvation. Suppress the cross from our lives and everything else will crumble.

Looking at Jesus on the cross, whom we choose to follow, we come to understand the meaning of the vow of obedience as Jesus became obedient unto death, death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:6-11). Your obedience is a martyrdom. Your obedience does not consist in obeying and observing a few rules, but becoming obedient unto death like Jesus. With Jesus, you too, are called to climb the mount of Calvary, where you have to practice all the three vows whole-heartedly and freely. You are not led to the cross by your superiors but by Jesus with your consent in order to save the world. Jesus is in need of intimate friends to join him in redeeming the world. Obey Jesus cheerfully through your superiors, who can be like Pilate who made Jesus to be scourged, and unjustly condemned to death. You can have superiors who may put nails on your hands without reason. You can have companions who can put a crown of thorns on your head, like the Roman soldiers as they did to Jesus to amuse themselves. You can be spat up on your face by the crowd without any sense and many other sufferings that were inflicted upon him. What we have to learn from Jesus, through prayer and contemplation is the way he accepted all these and more. He did not react, he did not defend, he did not retaliate, and he did not work miracles to show his power, but deliberately accepted them. In them Jesus saw his Father’s will. He was not concentrating on his sufferings, not even on all the injustices done to him, but how best he could fulfil his Father’s will to redeem the world, to save you and me. We are called to follow Jesus. Here we see the heroism of the love of the Master you are called to follow. Follow him in obedience, follow him in chastity; your dealings with girls, with women should be upright. Do not give occasion to scandalize people. You have to be utterly sincere with yourself. Today’s world is becoming more and more crazy…even allowing man to marry a man, woman to marry a woman. For us chastity has to be absolute. There is no middle way. Be honest. Do not play games. You are not forced to make vows. You have to follow Jesus through the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative.

Shortly you will be examined again before the Church. Look at Jesus again on the cross. Please do not look at other religious Orders or Congregations. You are following Jesus on the cross. See his poverty. He took our human form. He did not come into the world to become rich, to have a lot of money, to collect a lot of things. He just had a piece of cloth to cover his nakedness. That is all. You did not become a religious to become rich with money and material things, or to collect money or things to help your families. Day by day you learn to become more and more poor, like Jesus, obedient like Jesus, chaste and poor like Jesus. It is a life-long process of self-emptying, which will not be done enough until our last breath.

When you were born, you were born into a small family of your own. You were God’s gift to your family and your parents loved you, took care of you. When you were baptized you were born into a bigger family of the Church. The Church is our mother. Like our mother who fed us with her milk. The Church began to feed us through the sacraments, through the word of God, through her preaching and teaching. The Church became your larger family, your big Mother!

When you join a religious order or congregation and decide to make vows in that religious congregation, you have a new family which becomes your first family. Like a boy and a girl who when decide to get married, they start their own family, which becomes the first family and their first priority. You are like that. Like a young couple who does not get married to help their own respective family, you do not become religious or a priest to help your own families. From now on your first family is the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative. You have to live in this family, not to take advantage, but serve Jesus in the poorest of the poor. You have to practice the vow of whole-hearted free service to the poorest of the poor very faithfully, perseveringly and obediently.

So, Brothers, it is a challenge for you and you have decide to deny yourself, take up the cross every day and follow Jesus. Do not forget the words of Jesus. Jesus uses the word ”IF”. If you want to be a follower of me, then you have to deny your interests, your will, your very self and take up the cross. Your cross here is your M.C. contemplative vocation.

The Church is in prayer with you and for you, so that you may have the strength to follow Jesus today, tomorrow and forever with joy, with enthusiasm.

Let us remember that, when we die and go home to God, we take nothing with us, except what we were and how we lived. Read again the gospel of Mathew, chapter 25:31-46, and you will have the answer. These are passages which are to be read periodically with proper examination of conscience: “As long as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me”.

“Anything we do for anyone, Christ counts as done to him. So never hesitate to do good to others, whether they deserve it or not. God will never forget” (MC-LMC Prayer Book, VI Station of the Cross).

One of the newly professed Brothers, in the name of the community of Yesu Fié and in the name of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Contemplative, expressed heart-felt gratitude first and foremost to God, and then to the archbishop, priest concelebrants, men and women religious, the parish priest and the parishioners, the choir and all.

Bro. Peter M.C. had prepared a group of 12 lay people, men and women, who decided to start a group of Lay Missionaries of Charity (LMC). The archbishop emeritus so kindly blessed the crucifixes and gave them to the LMC aspirants. This is the first group of LMCs begun in the noble land of Ghana. Bro. Peter M.C. intends to start groups in other parishes slowly. He wants to accompany them all through their formation, to instruct and guide them, help them to grow in holiness and increase in number.  They must study thoroughly the Statutes and Way of Life of the Lay Missionaries of Charity at least for two years before pronouncing the four vows according to the LMC Statutes and Way of Life. They also received applauses and hearty congratulations.

Our heart-felt gratitude goes to all those who have sustained us by their fervent prayers and generous sacrifices. May the good Lord bless and reward them in abundance.

We now wait eagerly for the canonization of Bl. Teresa of Kolkata M.C. Pope Francis has not officially announced the date or place yet. His representative who went to Nazareth, in Israel, for the world day of the sick, on the feast of our Lady of Lourdes, officially said that Bl. Teresa M.C. will be canonized on Sunday, 4th September 2016. He also said that the next world day of the sick will be celebrated in Kolkata, India, to pay homage to St. Teresa of Kolkata. Whatever be the case, we all should have her spirit, her love and dedication for Jesus in the poor, her love for Jesus in the Eucharist. To this end let us pray.

Love and prayers.

God bless you.