Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
1. Who are the poorest of the poor? They are the unwanted, the unloved, the ignored, the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the leper, and the alcoholic in our midst.
To live out such a calling every Missionary of Charity must have a life focused on the Eucharist. We see Christ in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread, while we see Him in the poor under the distressing disguise of poverty. The Eucharist and the poor are nothing more than the same love of God. To be able to see and love Jesus in the poor, we must be one with Christ through a life of deep prayer. That is why the sisters start their day with Mass and meditation. And they finish it with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Communion with Christ gives us our strength, our joy, and our love. (26-27)
2. In the beginning of our congregation, we used to have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament once a week. At our last general meeting or convocation, there was a unanimous consensus on the part of all the sisters that there should be daily adoration. We now have an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament every day. Upon returning home, we spend an hour alone worshipping Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I believe that this has been the greatest gift to our congregation. It is something that has worked important changes in our lives. It has brought us closer together and made us more understanding. It has helped us to know our poor better. It has fostered a greater tenderness and love in us. We owe it all to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We cannot be co-workers or Missionaries of Charity without an intense life of prayer. (51)
3. Christ made Himself the Bread of Life. He wanted to give Himself to us in a very special way—in a simple, tangible way—because it is hard for human beings to love God whom they cannot see. He made Himself the Bread of Life to satisfy our love for God, our hunger for God. We have been created for greater things. We have been created in God’s image and likeness. We have been created to love and to be loved.
Jesus put a condition on His self-giving: “If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will have no life in you. You will be unable to love or to give.” The condition is very simple and clear, even a child is able to eat bread. Bread is the simplest food for people everywhere, and it is usually the cheapest. Well, then, Christ became the Bread of Life.
But it seems that this act of self-giving wasn’t enough for Him. He wanted to give something more. He wanted to pass on to us the opportunity to give of ourselves to Him, so we could turn our love for Him into living deeds after eating the Bread of Life. To accomplish that, He became the hungry one, the naked one, stripped of all earthly goods and comforts. Christ says: “For I was hungry and you gave Me to eat. I was homeless and you offered Me shelter. I was illiterate and you taught Me to read. I was alone and you kept Me company. You gave Me your understanding and your love.”
Christ made this kind of total self-giving a condition for life. He will judge us at the hour of our death. We will be judged by what we have done, by what we have been, to the poor. He says to us: “I was hungry and you did not feed Me. I hungered for bread, for justice, and for human dignity; yet you passed Me by! I was naked and stripped of every necessity, denied justice and even the simple recognition that I am just like you, created by the same loving God to love and to be loved. But I was left for dead, alone and dejected. I was thrown out into the streets, unwanted, unloved, and ignored.
The lepers, the blind, the invalid, and the handicapped are asking if you notice them, if you recognise them in your midst. This is the reason why I am speaking to you. You need to become aware of these people and their needs. Do you know them? (2-3)
4. To be able to do something beautiful for God, we need Jesus. Jesus became the Bread of Life so that you and I, and even a small child, can receive Him and have life. In a special way we need the Bread of Life to know the poor, to love them, and serve them. Each one of us needs to encounter Jesus. Without Him, we can do nothing. We need the Bread of Life to live. Jesus said very clearly, “If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will not have eternal life.”
This is the most wonderful surprise for all of us. To satisfy our love for God, Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life. Let’s marvel at God’s hunger for us. He makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the dying one. In that way He gives us the opportunity to feed Him, to clothe Him, and to aid Him through our service to the poorest of the poor.
Here a beautiful standard for judgment presents itself. We have to become increasingly aware that the poor are the hope of humanity, for we will be judged by how we have treated the poor. We will have to face this reality when we are summoned before the throne of God: “I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless. And whatever you did to the least of My brethren, you did to Me.” (49-50)
5. Christ will not deceive us. That is why our lives must be woven around the Eucharist. The Christ who gives of Himself to us under the appearance of bread and the Christ who is hidden under the distressing disguise of the poor, is the same Christ. Because of this, we missionaries are not simply social workers. A Christian cannot say, “I am a social worker.” It isn’t just doing a little social work. If we Christian men and women believe that we are feeding a hungry Christ and clothing a naked Christ, we are contemplatives from the very center of our homes, our lives, and our world. That is why I define our Missionaries of Charity as contemplatives in the heart of the world twenty-four hours a day.
Christ has not deceived us. He has made this a condition for our future life in heaven. “Come, blessed of My Father, for I was hungry, I was naked, homeless. . .and you did it unto Me.” (6)
6. When Jesus came into the world, He loved it so much that He gave His life for it. He wanted to satisfy our hunger for God. And what did He do? He made Himself the Bread of Life. He became small, fragile, and defenseless for us. Bits of bread can be so small that even a baby can chew it, even a dying person can eat it. He became the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for God, our hunger for love.
As if that were not enough, He Himself took on our human condition. He became hungry. He became naked. He became the poor one dying in our streets, so that we could satisfy our hunger for human love by loving Him. This is not something which is imaginary. It is not something out of the ordinary. God comes to us in human love so that we can love Him with our hearts. He wants us to love Him in those who are hungry, in those who are naked, in those who are homeless. This is what you and I are called to do. We must learn to pray steadfastly of this call.
The work that each one of you carries out on your families for those you love is an expression of your love for God. Love starts at home. For your love to be real, it cannot waver at home. (91)
7. Jesus loved us, and He still loves us. He loved and still loves the lepers, the destitute who are dying, the alcoholics, the unwanted, and the unloved. He loves them deeply. He died for them, and He doesn’t stop saying: “Love one another as I have loved you. As the Father loves Me, love one another. I have loved you as My Father loves me.”
The Father loved Jesus and gave Him to us. Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life, so that we could eat of Him and have life. He wants to satisfy our hunger for love and for God.
As if that were not enough, Jesus became the hungry one, so that you and I could satisfy His hunger, cover His nakedness, and offer Him shelter. He said, “You did it to Me. I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless.” The forgotten man in the street, the one we picked up in the streets of Calcutta, was Jesus bearing that man’s appearance. It was Jesus who was hungry. I will never forget the man who was half eaten by worms when we found him. He was tenderly carried to the Home for Dying Destitute. On the way, he murmured, “I have lived like an animal, but now I am going to die loved and surrounded with care.” That is how he died and went home to God. That was Jesus under the disguise of the poor. (39-40)
8. Jesus is the Bread of Life that the church offers me. Only through Him, in Him, and with him can I live. He said, “If you do not eat My flesh and drink My blood, you will have no life within you.” I know that He made Himself the Bread of Life in order to satisfy my hunger for Him and for His love. He, in turn, made Himself the hungry one to satisfy my hunger for Him through my love and service. He gives me the opportunity to feed Him by feeding those who are hungry, to clothe Him by clothing those who are naked, to heal Him by caring for those who are sick, and to offer Him shelter by housing those who are homeless and unwanted. This vision is what makes a Missionary of Charity a contemplative in the heart of the world.
Since we can touch Jesus in the poor, we can be in His presence twenty-four hours a day. He says, “And you did it unto Me. I was hungry. I was naked. I was homeless. . .and you did it unto Me.” Jesus in Eucharist and Jesus in the poor, under the appearance of bread and under the appearance of the poor, makes us contemplatives in the heart of the world.
We are entirely at the disposal of the church. We profess a deep, personal love for the Holy Father. We surrender ourselves completely to be united with him as carriers of God’s love. Pray for us that we don’t spoil the work God has called us to. (16-17)
9. Each time we receive Holy Communion we are filled with Jesus and we must, like our Lady, leave in haste and search out that run away child and bring him home. We must bring him to where there is love, joy, peace—to the place where God is with us.(23-24)
10. Our Lady’s call was to accept Jesus into her life by responding to God, “Do unto me according to your word.” She submitted to being the Lord’s handmaid. She immediately went to share Jesus with St John the Baptist and his mother. Today the same Jesus, the living Jesus transformed into the Bread of Life, still comes to us. When He comes to us we too, just like Mary, must go in haste to give Him to others.
He became the Bread of Life to satisfy our hunger for God, but that was not enough for Him. He became the hungry one, the naked one, and the homeless one. That way we, in turn, can satisfy His great love for us. He is still saying, “You did it to Me.” We can be with Him twenty-four hours a day. (25)
11. The reason why the vocation of the Missionaries of Charity Brothers and sisters and their co-workers is so beautiful is that it is a vocation for everyone. All of us have been given the opportunity to be completely possessed by Jesus. The work He has entrusted to you and me is nothing more than putting our love for Him into action. What you do, I cannot do. What I do, you cannot do. But, together, you and I can do something beautiful for God.
That is why Jesus made Himself the Bread of Life, to satisfy our hunger for God and for His love. I believe that was not enough for Him. Jesus made Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the destitute one who is dying. He said, “I was hungry, naked, sick, homeless. . ,and you did it to Me.” That is why I say that the Brothers and Sisters of Charity are not simply social workers. They are contemplatives in the heart of the world because they are in contact with the body of Christ twenty-four hours a day.
The truth applies to each of you also: in your homes and in every aspect of your lives. Jesus is still saying, “I was hungry.” In your homes you have a staving Christ, a naked Christ, a homeless Christ. Are you capable of recognizing Him in your own homes? Do you realize that He is right there in your midst?
How many times does a child run away from home because there is no one there to love him! How often it is that the elderly in the family are not at home. Instead, they are in nursing homes because no one has the time for them. The poor are right in your own homes. Are you aware of that? (21)