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Closing Ceremony of the Formators’ Course
(June 28, 2008)

Homily by Fr. Konrad Keler, SVD

Dear Confreres, especially Dear confreres-participants of the course for formators.

hope your experience in Steyl, Ojes and in Nemi helped you to say with deeper and stronger conviction: “Precious is the life given for mission”. These words we meditate during this centennial year. Today we can emphasize the importance of this expression together with one of the biggest missionaries in the history of the Church, St. Paul, whose jubilee year is about to begin in the basilica of St. Paul in Rome. The Holy Father Benedict XVI, at the same time will be presiding the opening ceremony of the Pauline jubilee year. This missionary remains for us always a model, an indication and a way of our missionary vocation and of our dedication for mission.

St. Paul is for us missionaries of the Divine Word an inspiration for our missionary service today. In spite of two thousand years of distance, his way of evangelizing the world seems to keep its value. His contribution to the evangelization is enormous and ,with thousands of books and articles already written, always we discover in him something new. In the second reading from his letter to Galatians we hear: “Now I want to make it quite clear to you, brothers, about the gospel that was preached by me, that it was no human message. It was not from any human being that I received it, and I was not taught it, but it came to me through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1,11-12). This conviction was so strong that he never doubted it.

I have been asking in my life what was the motivation which moved Paul to accept the invitation of Jesus Christ himself, to become his radical follower, and to be the apostle of the nations, the gentiles. It had to be deep and strong motivations which helped him pass over all the problems, difficulties, persecution and even martyrdom. I find three motivations which build up one stream.

  • Concern regarding the world. It looks like he was concerned about the world, about the historical and cultural situation. Seeing many positive things he noticed that plenty of people had lived in idolatry, not only praising false idols but living in consumerism, and artificial goods. Idolatry is any time a challenge for us missionares and even a challenge for our religious life in formation. It was his conviction that, wanting to liberate the people from idolatry, he should spread the message of Jesus Christ, which was the antidote against idolatry.
  • Evangelization was for him a mandate which he got from Christ himself. “In fact, preaching the gospel gives me nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion and I should be in trouble if I failed to do it” (1Cor 9,16). Jesus Christ called him and he did not call him for nothing. In the call there was a clear purpose, meaning. Paul received a mandate from Jesus. It was a mandate to evangelize all nations. He took it very seriously and fully dedicated himself to it.
  • Last but not least, love for Christ. Jesus Christ has loved him first. He saved Paul and gave him new live. And he could not forget what Jesus did for him. It was new life, new hope and faith. So, in gratitude for it he shares the experience of love, of the new life with others. “The love of Christ overwhelms us” (2Cor 5,14). He could not pass through all challenges, rejections, and all kinds of sufferings without love, which was the main meaning of his mission. Only love could justify his attachment to Jesus in all moments of his missionary journey.

I think this motivation is very important for missionary vocation. I am convinced you as formators should help young confreres to be concerned about the world, to love Christ who loved them, and confirm in them the conviction that through the missionary vocation they got a mandate from Christ to evangelize the whole world.

Dear Confreres, I would still like to make one remark today about Paul’s collaborators, companions of missionary trips. First of all he was very demanding. He was not able to accept a mediocrity. There is always a temptation not only for missionaries but for all people to do the minimum. Paul wanted to do more, and better. And he did not accept any compromise. The example could be Marc, close relative of Barnaba. At certain moment of the missionary activity of Paul, Marc did not fulfill the demands of Paul, so Paul excluded him from his missionary team. But later on he reaccepted him again. It could also be for us an example of how to deal with our collaborators, candidates to the religious missionary service. The missionary life is not easy, so formation time should not be time without challenges, without demands. Do not be afraid of being demanding.

Dear Confreres, in a few days you will be in your formation communities. Everyday life will be for you a challenge how to form the future missionaries. I hope you learnt and you understood a little bit more during this course what kind of missionary we need in the world today. I hope in the light of the experience of these two months you will be able to answer better the question: what does Jesus expect from us, missionaries of the Divine Word, today? These are big challenges for the Society, for your provinces, which you have to help to face and to solve. I believe you and the young confreres in formation will be able to repeat with stronger and more powerful conviction: precious is the life given for mission.

Nemi, 28.06.2008