This reflection from the writings of a former Superior General Richard McCullen CM certainly fit in with the thoughts of Pope Francis.
An address to young people at a gathering in Benagalbon, Spain, on 23 July 1990. Excerpted from Deep Down Things: Selected writings by Richard McCullen CM (New York, 1995).
The character of Jonah would hardly figure among the ten most interesting characters of the Old Testament. It could be said that he probably never existed. The story of Jonah is just a story, but a story with a point to it. Jonah received a missionary vocation from God and he tried to avoid it. Instead of going to the country for which he received a vocation, he tried to go somewhere else. What happened? He was shipwrecked.
Then, the story goes, he was swallowed by a whale, and after three days he was thrown up on a seashore, alive. Jonah got the message and straightaway set out for the city of Nineveh, the city to which God from the very beginning had intended him to go as a missionary. jonah_03.jpg
It would seem that Jonah at first did not want to be a missionary, and the reason seems strange to us. He did not want a pagan people to share in the privilege of the Israelite faith. He was like a Christian who says, “charity begins at home and then lets it end there. Jonah was a little like the elder son in Our Lord’s parable of the Prodigal Son, and we know that the love of the elder son in that parable was narrow and selfish.
To be a missionary one must have a strong love in one’s heart for Jesus Christ and His Church. It was his personal love for Jesus Christ and His Church that pushed St. Paul to go from country to country sometimes at great personal risk to proclaim that Christ had come, that Christ had died, that Christ had risen, and that Christ would come again. Today, as always, it will be true that, unless the love of Christ overwhelms the heart of the contemporary Christian, missions will remain an optional extra for those who like that sort of thing.
I once heard a man say that the first question each of us will be asked by Jesus Christ after our deaths will be: “And where are the others?” We don’t go to heaven alone. Every Christian is a missionary: some in mission lands, others in the wide circle of national life, others in the narrower circle of parish life, and others again in the inner circle of family life. Every Christian is a Public Relations Officer for Jesus Christ. It is hard to realize this in a country where almost everyone at least bears the name Christian. Jesus Christ does continue to count on each of us Christians setting out every day from that little independent island that is one’s self, and touching down on the shores of other peoples’ lives with His gifts of understanding, compassion and support, and with the gift of faith in Jesus Christ and His Church.
One half of the world does not know how the other half lives. Whoever first made that statement was exaggerating. We scarcely know how the family in the next block lives, much less half the world. Yet it is one definition of a Christian that he is one who is interested, not in how half the world lives, but in how the whole world lives. “Go, make disciples of all nations. ” (Mt 28:19). That was the final message given by Jesus Christ to His friends before He ascended into heaven. If He asked us to do it, then it must be possible.