Jesus begins his mission in Capernaum. His preaching and his healings soon make him known everywhere. People come in in bulk to see it. Jesus has enough work to do in Capernaum for the rest of his life. However, after a whole night spent in prayer, he emerges fully certain that his mission is to carry his message everywhere.
He chooses the life of the itinerant preacher: “Let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring villages, so that there too, I may proclaim the good news; for that is why I have come” (Mk 1:38). Jesus is always on the way, but never alone. He has no fixed plan, he allows the Spirit to guide him, and his little community follows him with confidence.
Over the centuries, the Churches of Christ have become more sedentary. They organized themselves into parishes, founded monasteries, built schools and hospitals, encouraged the arts and created a legal system. These institutions have done incredible good and often changed societies for the better. However, these Churches have thus become powerful, too powerful, and power corrupts. They think they are “the perfect society” no longer needing change, even though the world changes dramatically around them. The Churches thus look more and more like the past times’ fossils.
The Second Vatican Council wanted to give Catholics a different image of the Church, that of the "people of God on pilgrimage," a community which started, it is true, from the past but whose gaze is turned towards the future, and which is always on the way like Jesus with his disciples. “He called the disciples and sent them on a mission.”
What is this mission? To heal the sick, drive out evil spirits, announce the Good News to the Poor and the coming of the God’s Kingdom into the world. This is what Saint Luke says, and this is surely, what the Church did, imitating what Jesus had done, at the time when Luke wrote his Gospel.
The mission of the Church – the disciples of Christ by baptism – is, certainly, to make Jesus known, to announce his Gospel, to work to bring about his Kingdom, and thus to transform the world, the today societies so similar to that of Jesus’ time, of Saint Luke’s time, despite a very different social context.
Compassion can then become one of the first words in the common language of this people on the move, because compassion "is revealed as the expression of a common experience of God and of man which is beyond words and patterns of thought” (Christian Chessel).
Under what conditions? To take nothing for the road, only a stick, to put on sandals to defend yourself from snakes, but no bread, no bag, no coins in the belt, not even a spare tunic.
Conditions that explain the other Jesus’ warning. He said to them, when you find hospitality in a house, stay there until you leave (Mk 6, 7-10). Hospitality, like settling down, has dangers. When we are warmly received, we are tempted to rejoice in the welcome, of being celebrated, we become complacent, we refuse to give testimony if this is a challenge. Hospitality too however is a challenge. Because there is only reciprocal hospitality. The word “host”, by the way, designates the person who welcomes and the one who is welcomed. The one who welcomes is, in a way, welcomed by the one he welcomes. Hospitality is an act of trust that commits, because we do not know in advance who is the host and hospitality cannot be limited to tribal, social or national affiliation. There is also the risk of being rejected. In this case, no false sweetness should inhibit indignant protest: Jesus himself invited not to carry away the dust of that place, but to shake it off from his feet.
Indeed, Christ’s disciples in history have preached repentance, cast out many demons and healed many sick people, and so the name of Jesus has spread everywhere, even reaching the murderous tyrants’ ears moving them often not to repentance, but to futile remorse or even to the horrors of a violent reaction.
On the synodal journey she has now embarked on, the Church therefore has set out on a long and difficult journey, and no one knows where the Spirit will lead her. To be on the way, the Church must begin with a first step, with the question of what is the call that the Spirit and the world address to her. Also knowing, as an Akan proverb from Ghana says, that “Wisdom is like a Baobab tree, a man alone cannot embrace it.”
Thus the Synod’s preparatory documents indicate that the companions of this common path can only be all those whom we meet on the road, without leaving anyone on the margins, especially not the poor of any kind. Christ did not choose whom to welcome; he was interested in the life of all he met. The Church, therefore, must open her ears and know how to listen to all.
However, the desire for communion and participation in walking together leads not only to listening but also to responding to the cries of those we meet, of those who are rejected, and of our Earth, this tormented and suffering common home. This attitude implies a change of structures, of organization, of relational style, of the priorities to choose: it asks a synodal conversion from the perspective of an integral ecology.
There is no global ecological approach that does not imply a renewal of our way of life: a more relational way of life with God, with creation, with humanity. A new sensibility that “restores the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God" (LS 210). A new sensibility, which makes us capable of facing new and unforeseeable situations, and "facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning" (LS 210).
This requires a personal transformation in terms of strong motivations generating new habits and a more responsible lifestyle that is aware of everyone's dignity. Listening and openness to oneself, to the other, to the Earth, to God then become “dialogue”. A dialogue that cannot be limited to the exchange of ideas, but assumes the operational dimension of “working together”. "To walk together", to listen to each other, to understand each other, to dialogue with an open heart bring to "acting together". Knowing that “Those who are truthful walk together; those who are hypocrites also walk together, but do not have the same objectives.”
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