As Christians we are invited to participate in God’s mission. The mission entrusted to us by God, in the words of Pope Francis, is, like St. Joseph, to be the protector. “Joseph is a protector, because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by God’s will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping.”
The vocation of being a protector, says Pope Francis, “Is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.” We are to be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
As a member of a missionary Society, I believe that his words carry a special message, as the vocation of the missionary Church is to discern the presence of Christ within all expressions of human life and to give that presence visible and tangible expression.
As Christians on a missionary pilgrimage, we are called to fan the sparks of hope enkindled by Christ living among us in sometimes yet unknown ways, into a fire in human hearts.
This is a vocation to be humble in our humanity, as it is the Christian call to be fully human.
Pope Francis notes that we should not allow despair to destroy the spirit of goodness in the human heart. He calls on us “not to be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” and to build “sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.” He reminds us of the responsibility to “be protectors of God’s gifts!”
It is a challenging description of the missionary vocation of the Church to be a bearer of the light of hope amidst darkness and amplifies the call to “protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.”
Father Kevin O’Neill
Missionary Society of St. Columban