Ordinary Time 05, Year B

Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business (Mt. 22, 5)

Last Jan. 25, a friend and I took advantage of a convocation of missionaries to visit with friends and colleagues of old. We have not seen some of them for over 20 years.

The missionaries were in a conference when we arrive. Later on, during lunch, we were informed of the topic of the conference. Apparently, it was proposed to them that a certain portion of the property of the missionaries, near or around a big church and a school of theology, be developed so that the property's use be maximized. The maximum use of the property was identified as the putting up there of a town center. The shopping center or mall would be built and managed professionally by a company engaged in this kind of business.

I am not really sure about this, but it appears that all that the missionaries would have to do is lease their property for some 25 years and then simply stay calm while they wait for the periodic payments that the company would make. At the end of the 25 years, not only would the full use of the property revert to the missionaries but they would also become the owners of the buildings built by the company. I think a similar arrangement already exists between the missionaries, on the one hand, and a company known as SM, on the other hand, owners of many malls throughout the Philippines, because in a property of the missionaries where there used to be a minor seminary is now found a mall.

The proposed mall, according to its proponents, would cater especially to families with larger than usual income because of family members working overseas and so earning more. Was it suggested perhaps that the proposed project would be a way whereby the missionaries could become "all things to all, to save at least some?" To save perhaps those who need or want to consume and buy or sell more and more things? In fact, according a missionary's explanation, whether the missionaries like it or not, the mall will be built, if not on their property, then in someone else's, who will then gain what the missionaries will lose. And the income deriving from the leasing of the property, would it not help to finish the construction of the church and to maintain and expand other missionary works?

I don't know, needless to say, the details of the proposed project, but thinking of St. Vincent de Paul, I must admit that the saint put on the Pauline attitude of becoming all things to all people to win everyone for Christ (CR, II, 12, 8). But I cannot help remember as well the admonition St. Vincent gave to a seemingly enterprising missionary. The admonition says:

In God’s name, Monsieur, we must worry more about
enlarging the kingdom of God than adding to our own
possessions. Let us be about God’s business and he will
look after ours; let us honor his poverty, if not by a thorough
imitation, then at least by our moderation.
The good God always looks after our affairs when
we see to his.

One thing, I believe, that missionaries should be about is that of becoming poor to the poor--they are not few in the Philippines--and long-suffering to those who can lament with Job, saying, "I have been assigned months of misery, and troubled nights have been allotted to me." It's because the missionary vocation partakes of the vocation of the Evangelizer of the Poor, who became so poor to enrich us through his poverty that he had nowhere to rest his head (2 Cor. 8:9; Lk. 9:58). This Evangelizer is reported to have gone "into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee." How to live today what is said of Jesus and preach it, using words if necessary, this should be, I submit, the topic of missionary convocations and conferences, where surely I would be delighted to see old friends and colleagues. And please allow me to add that among the demons that need driving, I believe, is the demon that consumerism is.