By Malachy Oleru, M.Afr
My final journey to Beira was safe, except for my luggage that arrived 48 hours late and a somewhat clumsy and inconsiderate air ticket booking from Raptim. Cheap things are not always cheap! The services of Kenya Airways leave much to be desired too, but that is a topic for another day. The presence at the airport, of the Missionaries of Africa led by Boris, was gratifying. For me, a new mission has started in Mozambique after a 25 year spell elsewhere.
I started my language learning about a week ago and still wonder why at my age, I have to be saddled, beside English and French, with the learning in Africa, of another colonial language – Portuguese! But Missionary life is “For better, for worse”, right? So nothing will becloud the hopes of this nascent divine mission to the “African world”.
Homily under a car park.
My ordination anniversary date, August 8, came up within two weeks of my arrival. The Delegation insists on a celebration, at least to water the seeds of my new mission. 25 years is not a joke, they said. It is akin to what a diocesan priest at home called “Priesthood with hard labour”. Hear! Hear!! And before I could say ‘Obrigado’, Boris Yabre, with M.Afr students at home was up and doing. Rafael Gasimba ‘sailed’ from Dombe land with the stagiaire. Frank Mbala Kalala and Florent Sibiri Sawadogo with another C.A.T. ‘flew’ in from Sussundenga. Fidel Salazar del Muro and ‘senior apostle’ stagiaire Olivier, ‘astral-travelled’ from Centro de Nazaré, just less than five minutes’ drive away! Friends, brothers and sisters from the other mothers, made the day at the Delegation House as Julian Kasiya and Pierre Kabwe Lukusa from Tete Mission, could only participate – electronically.
Anointed, (literally and metaphorically) to preside over the Eucharistic celebration, the car park of the house was the best temporary house of God. The students did a good job of cleaning. Being the memorial feast of the great preacher of the Word, St Dominic, the readings were taken from the references for the day. My reflection was on Luke 9:57-62.
Three calls, three men, one mission: “follow me”,
The rule of three does not always elicit a Trinitarian response. “I will follow you wherever you go”, appears generous, spontaneous, and immediate but also simplistic, if not frivolous. It sounds like playing to the gallery, not counting the cost, bordering on presumption. Jesus, the ‘Novice Master’ ‘remembers’ St Ignatius of Loyola’s discernment of the Spirit (Go on, argue for anachronism!): “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. Jesus brings the dreamer to the reality of the mission. It is not for the feeble-minded, not for dreamers (even if sometimes we dream at the General Chapters!). You must count the cost. You must become aware of the challenges. You must evaluate what you are leaving behind. You must be ready for sacrifices. There is no guarantee for easy life and assurance for security: “Certified for martyrdom, do you agree?”
Even when the initiative comes from the Master (it always does), “Follow Me”, the response is hesitant, like coming from one who is not ready, who is more worried about family duties than concerned for the mission. A natural realist, his response is to first go and do his natural duty: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”. Yes, there is a duty to perform and the best way to avoid responsibility is to say “I have responsibilities”! And Jesus’ response is simple: “Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God”. You are not the saviour, not even of your family, for it is not your duty that saves. You have your path to follow. Be detached from the accidentals of life to re-focus on the essentials. Remain resolute and vigilant.
The third encounter and dialogue in vocation discernment is like the first. The attachment is not as serious as the first. He only needs to “…first say farewell to those at home”. “No one who puts his hands to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”, was again Jesus’ response. Mission is about being resolute and ‘staying fit’ for the kingdom of God.
Conclusion: indefectible, not infallible.
Grace is mine to say that in more than 25 years, I have journeyed with Jesus through these three stages of call-response paradigms. I delayed for five years, my missionary vocation to attend to family and personal needs. Then, when I thought I was ready, I also thought that I could shift those family responsibilities to my brother in USA. Well, he got murdered a year before my Missionary oath, and I said ‘zut alors!’ – whatever that meant. Then I understood that I must follow Jesus ‘naked’; re-engineer my assurances and security packages to fit into his plan so that “no one takes this honour on himself…” Ever since I did, passing through thick and thin of the mission, I have been sustained by this word of the Master in response to Peter’s prevarications: “Anyone who left father, mother, sister, brother… on account of my word, shall receive a hundred fold…and in addition, eternal life”. I have, believe me; for God lives in an eternal now, and I am satisfied. And I know that if I have not stayed infallible, I have remained graciously indefectible.