On Being Pastoral, Biblical Missionary Oblates
Some time ago a group of us found ourselves newly appreciating the marvelous ministry carried out by the late Ubald Duscheneau OMI (Fr. Duck) through his unique Pastoral Biblical Theology course which sought above all to connect faith with life, and his students with God’s love.
I was inspired to come up with my own version of what could be called a biblical theology of mission for us to consider as Oblates and associates, written up as follows:
- Go out to the whole world (Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19)
Like the apostles, all the baptized are “missioned”, sent out. We are reminded, and “missioned” at the end of every Eucharistic celebration, which in that sense never really ends – it is meant to be lived out during the week: “The mass is ended – go in peace to love and serve our God in one another.”
- Proclaim the Good News to all creation (Mk 16:15; Lk 4:18)
We are not only sent, but we have a message to proclaim, and that message is “Good News” to all cultures and peoples. We are to proclaim good news especially to those who suffer from negative forces in their lives, to proclaim freedom to captives and the addicted; to give sight to those who are spiritually blind and do not understand what life is all about; to let the oppressed (systemically in our country the Indigenous peoples) go free from injustice; to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven has already begun for those who believe.
- Make disciples of the Paschal Mystery (Mt 28:19; Lk 24:46)
God is looking for icons, mirrors, of God’s goodness, mercy, love and justice. Jesus is the enfleshment of God’s compassion and revolutionary liberating love among us. Jesus wants disciples, followers, people who will witness to his suffering in their lives by following his pattern of Passion, Death, Resurrection, Appearances, Ascension and Pentecost (the Paschal Mystery, the “mysterion” of God’s powerful powerlessness). We are to embody this in our lives and invite others to join us in following this “Suffering Servant” who is also “Kyrios,” or Risen Lord.
- Baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mk 16:16; Mt 28:19)
God is family, relationship, a divine dance or perichoresis, oneness, total communication in love. By being joined to Jesus through baptism and discipleship, we are invited into intimate, joyful, life-giving communion with this Triune God who fills us with the Spirit of Jesus and who transforms us into an image of God. We are to help others understand and become immersed into God’s very own self, a God who is both awesomely transcendent and tantalizingly imminent. This implies within it the whole sacramental life of the Church through which we touch God in faith, and God touches us.
- Teach them to observe all the commandments (Mt 24:20)
Jesus boils the whole Old Testament down to two commandments – “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:28-34) St. Paul dares to refine that even further by boiling all of the Law and the Prophets and the teachings of Jesus down to one sentence – “You must love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14). To do this is to love God, for in Jesus’ own words, what we do to the least of these, we do to him.
- Preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Lk 24:47)
True religion (religare), involves change, putting on our highest mind, turning around, “metanoia”, coming back to God and to our true selves. Many people, through life’s hurts, have lost their faith in a loving God and have placed their faith in false gods that entrap, addict and eventually destroy them. In the process, rather than believe, forgive and move on, they survive, act out and hurt others. We are to announce that in Jesus Christ they are already forgiven, and can now receive that forgiveness and be set free from anger and resentment, shock and shame; sadness and grief; guilt and fear by turning around, coming back, repenting and confessing in humble honesty, sorrow and contrition. Truly, we experience salvation (wholeness, freedom, peace, justice and joy) through the forgiveness of our sins (Lk 1:77).
- Signs associated with believers (Mk 16:17-18)
They will …
– cast out demons (help free people from their character defects and addictions)
– have the gift of tongues (communicate their pain positively with love and thus speak a new language of forgiveness and reconciliation)
– pick up snakes and be unharmed by poison (be able to deal with thorny, difficult situations and relationships in their lives with courage and without harm)
– heal the sick (help others, including their own families, experience well-ness and healing from division and dysfunction)
Veteran missionary Vincent Donavan, in his book Christianity Re-discovered reminds us of the radicalness of being a missionary disciple, which I believe could have been written by St. Eugene himself: “A missionary is essentially a social martyr, cut off from his roots, his stock, his blood, his land, his background, his culture. He is destined to walk forever a stranger in a strange land. He must be stripped as naked as a human being can be, down to the very texture of his being, divesting himself of his culture, so that he can be a naked instrument of the gospel to the cultures of the world” (pp. 193-4).
May these elements of a biblical theology of mission empower us to be pastoral, biblical missionary Oblates and associates in the spirit of St. Eugene, and in the light of the ideal held out to us by Vincent Donavan.
By +Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, OMI