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.