By Sister Mary Ellen Kempken, MM
As we celebrate World Mission Day 2014, I recall the words of Dan Schutte’s song, Here I Am, Lord. In that song we hear God tell us: “I have heard my people cry… I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright.” Then God asks, “Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?” In the refrain we are given the chance to answer by responding, “Here I am, Lord…I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”
In these days the news is filled with the suffering of people facing the Ebola crisis in West Africa, with the terror and cry of people living amidst violence in the Middle East, with the concerns of people experiencing drought, floods or huge storms nearing their homelands. All these people look to someone to make their darkness bright. World Mission Day reminds us that we are all called and sent to share God’s light with our brothers and sisters throughout the whole world. They are looking for some Good News. If we are disciples of Jesus, then we do have Good News to share and we are all in effect, missionary disciples no matter where we are.
As a missioner in Bolivia, I remember one day watching families affected by the flooding of the Beni River in the northern Amazon region of the country. I realized that Jesus addressed not only learned scribes but crowds of people just like these families. It occurred to me, watching the mothers and children, that God knows each of us and that the Good News God would want us to have would never be a complicated message. The crowds in Galilee in the time of Jesus and ordinary people in Bolivia, in Tanzania, in Taiwan or in the Bronx today could begin to find hope by hearing from Jesus the Good News that they are loved by God.
The Good News is that God is Love and God holds each person like a loving parent. Each of us is made in God’s image and likeness and is therefore made to love and hold all people in our hearts, too. Jesus even pointed out who especially needs that love: the hungry and homeless, the ill and imprisoned, the prodigal son and the lost sheep. He said: Be merciful. Forgive. Rejoice. Just love. Not easy but not complicated. God is Love. Our life is all about love. And those families along the Beni River and many others throughout the world today should be able to find hope in that Good News: people can and will reach out to help one another through times of crisis.
As Pope Francis says in his message for World Mission Day 2014, ”the disciples were given an experience of God’s love, but also the possibility of sharing that love.”
This is not new. This is the core of our Christian belief. Teresa of Avila used the image of each of us being the hands and feet of Christ. And that was because love isn’t just a nice sentiment. It requires doing something. Each of us has so many gifts to share. And these many gifts can be a sign of God’s love for the person receiving the gift we share.
Some of us will share the gift of our prayers. And we know that prayer can bring about wonderful things. Some of us will share our gifts by directly reaching out and listening to, speaking with, and touching the persons who are suffering. Others will share the gift of themselves as they take the time to learn what others need and to network with other people and with those in the situation, advocating for the changes that must happen if our world is to be able to meet the needs we are seeing.
On this World Mission Day, I invite everyone to listen to God’s questions for today: “Who will bear my light to those suffering from violence, fear, illness, hunger, homelessness, isolation or rejection? Whom shall I send?”
May we all help one another to answer: “Here I am, Lord. I will go. I will hold your people in my heart.”