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Colleges and Universities have maps at the entrance that show the whole plan of the campus and in order to facilitate better, they often say, ‘You are here,’ with a red circle. The Philosophy department of a college had a similar map and it read, ‘You are here, but why?’

As we continue to celebrate 200 years of the birth of our Founder, it is worth reflecting on the question why we are here in the SMA today.

Owning and rediscovering our charism

First and foremost we are all disciples of Christ. Through our life of witness and announcing we are called to make disciples of Christ. We all share, starting from the Founder, a common gift, a mandate and a special charism in the SMA. It is vital for us to grow in our awareness of the SMA charism today in order to own it more and rediscover it in different contexts in the changing world.

We are all invited to take sections of our Constitutions and Laws – especially Chapter One - for meditation and sharing. Likewise we would do well to meditatively read the Message from GA13.  It is also valuable to use selected passages from the writings of the Founder for meditation. In view of that, we are making all the writings of the Founder available not only as printed books, but also as electronic books. This is the time to grow in our corporate identity. This is the time to recognize that we are part of a big  missionary family that started the mission over a century and a half ago. 

Dynamic tension

The fundamental danger any group can face is that of becoming irrelevant. Only the groups that keep themselves relevant can thrive. Pope Francis speaks of the importance of having an ‘incomplete head,’ a head that still searches for more and is open to receive new ideas.

Missionaries are at the cutting edge of the Church and we live a number of dynamic tensions: between announcing Christ and interreligious dialogue; bringing development and identifying oneself with the people; the need for self-sufficiency whilst trusting in Providence. There is a tension between tradition and relevance, loyalty and creativity, teaching and learning. It is important that missionaries welcome this dynamic tension and listen to inspirations coming from it.

At the service of a higher civilization

Survival of the fittest is the rule in what is often termed the “developed world”. The disparities inherent in the economic system of capitalism that underpins the “developed world” are not incidental or accidental but systemic. Missionaries are called to respond to such disparities by speaking the truth to those in power. We do this in collaboration with other religious bodies and like-minded individuals and groups through our different JPIC initiatives.

In spite of the prevalence of evil we see in the media, it is important that we open our eyes to the fast evolution of our society, to the positive signs that the Kingdom of God is among us and that our daily prayer “thy kingdom come” is being answered.

Many gospel values are recognized today as part of our civilization. Irrespective of religious prejudices, the human society at large cries for human rights. Leaders lose impunity very fast in one country after another. The society demands accountability and transparency and tells leaders loud and clear that they are servants. 

Yes, the kingdom of God is growing like a mustard seed. We, SMA missionaries are at the service of this kingdom, at the service of these positive aspects of our civilization. We promote them through our commitment to the most abandoned and through protecting the vulnerable. We do this not only by ministering to the most abandoned but by allowing ourselves to be ministered to by the most abandoned. This can be an uncomfortable place from which to minister, to let go the power that inevitably is ours simply by our status in society. But this is the call that Pope Francis constantly urges us to follow. Missionaries today need to be witnesses more than teachers.

Mission and reconciliation

A key component of the mission of Jesus Christ is that of reconciliation at different levels. God is both the bridge-builder and the bridge itself. Every missionary is also a bridge and a bridge-builder. The bleeding world is longing for the children of peace to promote healing and reconciliation. Every disciple of Christ is a channel of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation.

We need to be well equipped in every way to face the challenges today. In many situations religious leaders are so deeply immersed in sectarian mindsets that they are blind to the degradation of the society. No conflict should cause permanent division. Reconciliation and unity should be the ultimate aim together with truth and justice. This must be lived out within the family of the SMA as well as outside. Truth telling and the giving and receiving of forgiveness are the bedrock on which reconciliation is built. Only reconciliation through the mind of Christ can have lasting effect.

Our spiritual resources help us to discern clearly, even where everything looks muddy. The world is offering us intellectual resources to acquire conflict resolution skills. Such skills need to be part of our initial and ongoing formation today.

More than ever, we need to promote ecumenism and interreligious dialogue today. This of course becomes hugely difficult and challenging in an environment where ‘the other’ wishes our total destruction or conquest. Dialogue does not mean we forego protecting ourselves and our people or that we pretend that acts of despicable evil are anything other than they are. But hatred of the other will simply prolong animosities into succeeding generations.  Our humanity needs to outshine all our differences.   Only then can we be truly relevant. Only then can we be truly missionary.

As we close this year of marking the bi-centenary of the birth of our Founder, let each of us make a renewed commitment to the mission God has entrusted to the SMA. It is not our personal mission but the collective mission of the SMA family. May each of us strive to be missionaries from the bottom of our hearts. We call on Our Lady, and the Servant of God, Melchior de Marion Brésillac, to intercede for us.

Rome, 2 December 2014

Fachtna O'Driscoll, Antonio Porcellato, Francis Rozario, Francois Gnonhossou. 

General Council