In our society what is the style of work that is convenient for those who commit themselves to Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation? (JPIC)
Our founder, Daniel Comboni, in his flourished nineteenth-century language said (W-N° 2701) that "The Missionary to Africa will often have to reflect that he works in the undertaking certainly of highest merit, but one that is, nonetheless, hard and difficult. He will have to understand that he is a stone hidden under the hearth, which will perhaps never come to light." And he explains that of the affection and esteem a priest receives in certain environments, the missionary should never expect them. His words remain valid and prophetic but times have changed and now they have different resonances. Living among the poor, you are welcomed with open arms by those to whom you do good, even "getting dirty and tired", sharing a frugal meal in fraternity, singing with joy in the heart being freed from frippery, in lands that seem far away but has become dear for your heart, all are signs of esteem and affection, they are human values, they are "rewards".
Seen from afar, when one has never soiled his hands there, working in certain new missionary spaces, like the United Nations or international organizations, can make one think of prestige, comfort and luster: the missionary at the service of the Gospel, of the Church, of the poor sees nothing there but cold corridors, empty of faith and often of humanity, where he is only a number and his word and presence count for nothing. Being a presence of the Gospel among bureaucrats, people who believe themselves to be important, calls for capacity for silence and humility. It happens, like the other day, when during an assembly, the internal camera focuses on a pretty, photogenic girl, the latest arrival, to whom the speaker gives the floor, interested only in the image, overlooking the topic and experience. Such a set of life experiences invites you to return to be or to become for the first time a hidden stone under the hearth: only then you live with peace and certainty of serving the Kingdom even with your memories emerging full of nostalgia.
Visibility is a requirement of the Gospel in today's society, but it is also a temptation pushing to blatant signs that perhaps will reach to the newspaper front page or to give provocative interviews. Of course, there is the need for advocacy and protest, but flaunting slogans and proclamations are easy. Harder is to be hidden stones, keeping a low profile in order to open breaches first in the consciences and only later in public opinion.
Christmas - says a Message to the Comboni Missionaries - is a mystery to keep always present in our life as a source of inspiration. Like Jesus, the missionary has to go "through a process of incarnation that involves becoming little" here and now, because we live in time and space. Here and now is where and when God makes himself present: between this people and this culture, in this concrete situation, where we live our "moments of joy and sadness, of hope and disappointment, of peace and war", resisting the temptation to look elsewhere for "the place of God". "Although birth is more joyful than death", Comboni writes in his nineteenth-century language, in the cave of Bethlehem "I was nevertheless more moved than on Calvary, at the thought of the condescension of a God who humbled himself to the point of being born in this manger" (W-N°111).
The 2019, is coming full of hope such as all new things, and invites to become stones hidden under the hearth to be the presence of the hidden God who from the heart of history, is building a New World, his Kingdom.