A life consumed by the fire of the love of God, spent in the service of others and announcing the Gospel. This is the missionary’s “call”, whose irresistible drive “compels” them to give their life to Christ, to set it on fire, let the love of God consume it. These are the words Pope Francis has pronounced this morning, in the Homily to the morning mass at St. Martha’s House. The Pope has commented the day’s reading of the Acts of the Apostles that recounts Paul’s dismissal of Paul from the community of Miletus.
“Paul knows and says that he is not going to see this community again, the presbyters of Ephesus he sent for and who are now around him. It is time to go to Jerusalem, where the Spirit leads him, the same Spirit whom he recognizes the absolute lordship over his life, which has always pushed him to announce the Gospel message, facing problems and pains.” This passage – Pope Francis has said – describes vocation and “evokes the lives of the missionaries”, today’s and of all times.
“The Holy Spirit compelled them to go: a vocation!” And when we go to cemeteries and see the tombstones of the missionaries of the past, “many of whom died young, less than 40 years of age, because they were not prepared to cope with local diseases.” “They gave their young lives, they ‘burned’ life, far from their homeland, family, and from their loved ones,” but they said – the Pope goes on – “I left everything. What I did was worth it!” The Holy Father recalled the missionary experience of St Francis Xavier, narrated by the Spanish poet of the last century José María Pemán, on a page that reminds St. Paul: “I only know that the Holy Spirit, from town to town, testifies that chains and affliction lie ahead of me.”
“This is what dwells in the heart of every apostle,” the Holy Father has said. “The fire that consumed St. Paul’s heart is the same fire that is burning in the hearts of the many young men and women who left their country, family, and went to other continents to announce the message of Jesus Christ.”
“The missionaries depart without knowing what expects them,” the Pontiff has added. “They know that their life will not be easy, but they go ahead.” A virtue of the missionary is “obedience.”
The missionaries, these “heroes of evangelization of our time”: “I think it is fair that we thank the Lord for their testimony,” Pope Francis has said. “It is right that we rejoice to have these missionaries who are true witnesses”, who have given their lives for the love of Christ, and many of whom remained nameless, “they departed as martyrs, offering their life for the Gospel”. “These missionaries are our glory. The glory of our Church.”
The Holy Father has concluded the homily with a prayer, which is also an invitation to the today’s young people to let the fire of the Holy Spirit “compel them to go further, to consume their life for noble causes”: “I would like to say to the young men and women of nowadays who don’t feel at ease – (who say) ‘But I’m not that happy with this consumerist and narcissistic culture ….’ ‘But look at the horizon! Look who is there, look at our missionaries!’ Pray to the Holy Spirit who compels them to go far away, to consume or burn up their lives. It is a rather hard word but it is worth it to really live our lives. However, we need to live it in a good way, to ‘consume’ it in service, in evangelizing and journeying forward. This is the joy of announcing the Gospel.”