Mission Possible

Antonio, P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

Once a month I stay overnight in the mountains to teach and to celebrate mass. It was in these mission forays that I learned the art of motorcycle riding, Philippine style. It means sharing one motorcycle with the driver and two or three other passengers. I admire the skills of our drivers on those bad roads. Once, we came down the mountain with a live pig tied and squealing behind me for two hours. From time to time we had to stop and pour water on the pig to keep it cool and alive.

Missionary work has always fascinated me. It could be because I grew up and studied under the Missionary Oblates. Some of the mission stories I enjoyed were of Dr. Albert Sweitzer in the steaming jungles of Africa, Dr. Tom Dooley among the mountain tribes of Laos, the Oblates in freezing Eskimo land, Charles de Foucauld in the Sahara desert, and the Maryknollers in the mountains of South America. Their adventures were as interesting to me as a James Bond movie or a Ludlum thriller.

"Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19). The disciples received this commission today, Ascension Sunday. Together with this command is the assurance, "I am with you always until the end of this world" (Mt. 28:20). There is no need to fear. God is with His church. This trust in the Lord's presence was what sustained many missionaries. The Episcopal seal of our first Archbishop of Cotabato, Gerard Mongeau, who came to the Philippines in 1939 as leader of the first Oblates, contains the words, "Dominus mecum, non timeo." The Lord is with me, I am not afraid. His contemporary, Bishop McSorley of Jolo had the motto, "Deus providebit." God will provide. They were great missionaries.

There is no need to be afraid. It is with this trust that the new Holy Father, Benedict XVI, took over the mantle of leadership. In his inaugural homily on April 24, he repeated the words spoken by Pope John Paul II at his own inauguration in 1978, "Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!"

No mission is impossible. The challenges of the mission vary from age to age. St. Paul's missionary journeys by land and sea are easier today, with fast cars and fast boats. Miss ionaries have braved jungles, deserts, snow, oceans, and all kinds of hardships buoyed by the words, "I am with you always." With the means of transportation and technology available to us, the geographical and physical challenges may be easier to surmount, however, there is still the heart and min d and soul to touch and enlighten. As some father lamented, we may have reached the moon but still find it difficult to reach our teen-age son. We can communicate to business associates around the world in nanoseconds but cannot communicate to our daughter. There is still so much to accomplish.

This is mission possible: to proclaim justice, to defend life in all its stages, to work for peace, to build communities, to care for the defenseless, to advocate for an ecologically sound planet, to proclaim the good news about life in Jesus Christ and membership in God's family. Every baptized person is part of this missionary endeavor. Let us especially honor today the often unrecognized and silent missionaries, our mothers who introduced us to God and who taught us our prayers and catechism. "Happy Mother's Day".

We are assured that in this missionary adventure, God is with us. All the saints are with us. Let us be inspired by these words from the inaugural homily of Benedict XVI, "I too can say with renewed conviction: I am not alone. I do not have to carry alone what in truth I could never carry alone. All the Saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me. And your prayers, my dear friends, your indulgence, your love, your faith and your hope accompany me."