Group reflections continued. Yesterday the French-speaking delegates visited the SMA General Archives. The English-speakers had visited it last Thursday.
Jean-Marie Guillaume, former Superior General, presented the Renaissance village project in Togo, which welcomes ex-prisoners and seeks to aid their reintegration into Togolese society. He spoke about SMA involvement in prison ministry and the promotion of justice and peace.
Augustin Houessinon, an SMA from Benin Republic, presented a report on Saint Joseph’s Workshop, a rehabilitation centre for street children and young girls in Cotonou. He also presented the SMA mission among the Pygmies of Central African Republic: our involvement in seeking the civil recognition of pygmies, their quest for education, health care and their integration into society. In speaking about the Boko Haram / government clashes in Nigeria earlier this week Fr Augustin reminded us that one of the challenges of mission in Africa today is reconciliation and peace.
Each day we gather daily for the Eucharistic celebration. Here is an edited version of the homily given by Father Jean-Pierre Frey, Superior of Strasbourg District (France).
"The risen Christ is the new Adam and the new man ... and this is the man that the Apostles preached ... and it's always the same Christ, the new Adam, who guides and governs the mission: go out to the whole world and be my witnesses! The letter to the Hebrews tells us that in the past and in many different ways our God has spoken through the prophets ... but ... it failed ... at last He sent his Son ... That Son, John calls the Word but not the Word became man as in Genesis "let us create man in our image," but the Word became flesh ... for John the "flesh" refers to the lowest human category, a category that was born of the first sin.
Since that time man is subject to desires, his ego impulses and interests, with exceptions of course. And Jesus came to free man from his errors through his death – and through death in all forms – to bring the man to the Father, that he may be born from above, and in the Spirit ... so that Eros love becomes Agape love, which is not an ordinary love but the enlightened love of the Father in His Son who came to be the servant of his sisters and brothers ... Because Eros is a selfish love and agape leads us towards others. John tells us: "It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is of no use. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63).
The references to this life according to Jesus are the Beatitudes, which opposes our submission to human desires. What Jesus calls us to are compassion, gentleness, poverty, resisting temptations, thirsting for justice. This is the new man that we are called to be. After this General Assembly we should be witnesses as missionaries and, as Pope Francis gives the example speaking to the priests of Rome, be pastors not managers, go and mingle with your flock and have the smell of the sheep about you.
The old Judeo-Christian culture is disintegrating in the modern world. Self-interest and injustice are the ways of the world. And it is in this context that we are sent not to save a cult or a church or a dogmatic or institute but to save man by agape.
This is why the Word became flesh ... to mix with humanity and to bring us to the Father so that every woman and man is born from above. Frankly speaking we struggled these days to find the substance of the mission and I believe we discovered new paths and have started using them in the new planning. Because in new world – the new evangelization – "let us go!” as Jesus says in Mark. And John tells us live differently to be reborn from above.
And let us remember the words of Paul: If I am all that is good, it is useless if I do not have agape - if I have everything I want but if I do not have agape – even if I have the most beautiful texts of the SMA General Assembly – if I do not have agape (in other words if I am not a true Son of the Father and a true servant like Christ) then I am only a Tam Tam (drum) resounding in the bush but it will not help to grow yam or rice.
The true missionary should be a son and servant in the Spirit. The road may be long ... but it's worth it!