"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Delightful, Vulnerable, Indifferent: Three Traits Of Evangelizers


James Tissot/Jacques Joseph Tissot 1836-1902 French


Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out—Mark 6:7-13.

F
irst is the word delightful which is also rendered delectable. It is used often to describe food as being delicious. It is from the Latin “delectare” which means to charm. The overbearing persons—with ruthless desire to succeed—are those who are too caught up in themselves and lose their sense of humor myself included. When I am too immersed in petty argumentation—refuting or debunking others, I would then miss out on the gift of God’s presence in the other person. In that case I would not be a delight or a charm to others, I would be toxic to them for I would just be caught up in myself unable to see and listen. Jesus would not choose toxic people to be sent on mission but he would choose disciples who would be a delight to others. First of all delight is beyond one's control. There is an element of surprise because it is about the other and not about the self. A person who has the attitude of finding delight in everything is someone who is not closed in on oneself. St Augustine of Hippo uses a deeply profound phrase in Latin “incurvatus in se” which means turned or curved inward on oneself. It is St Augustine’s definition of sin whereby sin occurs when someone’s cause of pleasure is only for self-delight or self-gratification. When something is desired for one’s self-delight or self-gratification the action turns into vice. In the gospel reading, Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out two by two giving them authority over unclean spirits. The apostles become the delight of others and who are empowered to drive away negativity and inspire or exude Christian joy. Pope Francis says in Evagelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), I quote, "An evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow... And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ'" (EG 10).

Why do you think would Jesus send his men two by two? Because he wants his men to be guarded from that tendency to be curved inward on oneself “in curvatus in se.” In the previous Jesuit General Congregation 36 (Dec 1, No 9), I quote,
The Jesuit community is a concrete space in which we live as friends in the Lord. This life together is always at the service of mission, but because these fraternal bonds proclaim the Gospel, it is itself a mission.
It is not just an accident. When we go for the experiments as Jesuit novices we go two by two. It is an equally important aspect just as the mission destination. Why? Because Jesus knows us too well specially the near possibility of developing vices instead of virtues. We need someone to share positive experiences with and as a result we take delight. When we are giving feedback it is also the positive feedback and not just the negative.

The second word is vulnerable. In the gospel of Matthew Jesus instructs the Twelve, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Mt 10:16). Sheep is an image of vulnerability, sensibility, tactfulness, adroitness and delicateness in dealing with others or with unavoidable difficulties. But there is more than meets the eye beyond the vulnerable sheep image. Let us not think that the quality of the sheep is just about weakness. No, it is about tenderness. We need to learn tenderness by being delicate and to be delicate means to be vulnerable as sheep. I remember those detective movies that I watched wherein the protagonist disguises as somebody else to get inside a guarded territory. The vulnerable sheep takes on an "insider's" strength and power. For Pope Francis, he calls it fortitude. To be sent like sheep in the midst of wolves is to establish a relationship most especially with those who will reject us—the impure and the outcast. On February 14, 2021, Pope Francis delivered an Angelus reflection about Jesus being the great transgressor when he touched a leper. The pope said,
To touch with love means to establish a relationship, to enter into communion, to become involved in the life of another person… even to the point of sharing their wounds... With that gesture, Jesus reveals that God… who is not indifferent, does not keep himself at a ‘safe distance.’ Rather, he draws near out of compassion and touches our life to heal it with tenderness. It is God’s style: nearness, compassion, and tenderness. God’s transgression. He is a great transgressor in this sense.
The image of the sheep is a transgressor, an insider which could enter the most hardened of hearts—changing the hearts of stones into hearts of flesh. That is possible only through nearness, tenderness and vulnerability like sheep in the midst of wolves.

Third and last word, indifferent. Indifference is an Ignatian virtue that is very important in the mission. We are to be detached in order to keep on moving, we are supposed to be lightfast through detachment. When we are indifferent to the material possessions and even to the praises that we get from the people we encounter in the mission area, we become more obedient, more attuned with the Spirit, and less resisting. To be sent means a continuous sending and cannot afford to be attached. We are taught in the seminary or novitiate through mutationes and the experiments the value of indifference. There is a natural tendency that when we stay too long in a mission area vices also start to develop. When I was first missioned after my ordination, I spent six years in the parish and I realized then the wisdom behind the reshuffling of mission assignments. I was no longer growing and I felt I was getting more attached to the place and to the people. When we stay too long in one place and with the same type of people it becomes much more difficult to be missioned elsewhere or to minister to others who maybe are not in our contact list. Indifference works both ends, indifference to the praises of the people that we choose to minister to and also to people's rejections. It is good to surround ourselves with critics because these are the people that you will be most thankful for in the end. Hopefully it will not be too late the hero. When we are indifferent to both praises and rejections we can easily shake off the dust from our feet and move on. The instructions for evangelizers are shaped by the urgency and mobility of the Kingdom as if there is no time and space to lose. Jesus summons the Twelve to travel lightfast by wearing sandals or the bare essentials rather than to go on the journey barefooted. This is the Ignatian ideal of "tantum quantum"—for as long as these material goods are needed in the apostolate then we ought to use these without being attached. The apostles are to rely for their provisions on the welcome they receive, and if they are unwelcome, they should not waste time on those who reject them. Again, there is that sense of urgency and mobility in the instructions given by Jesus. There is no idleness lest we fall prey into the hands of the enemy. As one proverb says, "Idleness is the root of all evil." We cannot sit back complacently, but "as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Mt 10:16). Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ

Comments

  1. Delighted to read the unfolding of vulnerability and affirming and appreciating the reality of
    holy indifference... Thanks!πŸ˜‡ GBU! MK

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  2. Thank you po, Fr. JM for the reminder that we, evangelizers, must not be cranky especially in front of the people whom we are serving.

    Truly, being serene, that is to smile, is the hardest thing to do when you are faced with some difficulties and struggles in life. Yet, it challenges us to go beyond our own feelings and sentiments of the moment in order to give much more joy and share the true meaning of our vocation to those who are maybe facing "REAL DIFFICULTIES" in life. No offense meant, but many times we, religious, are so full of ourselves and closed in our convents (especially this pandemic) that we cannot see the real suffering of the people outside. We struggle with our relationship with our brothers or sisters in the convent with some childish whims but people our struggling and even dying of hunger, without shelter and alone, without anyone to turn to... We don't experience hunger and maybe literally cold nights because we have everything prepared for us... Food on the table... Soft mattress and warm blankets... Nice and cozy house... Yet we are still uncontented, insensitive and selfish...

    We must be the first witness of true joy because we are called to be with the Lord fulltime. Isn't it like that? As we become close to one person, we can even feel and hear his heartbeat. He hears my heart yet I failed to hear His... I guess I have to spend more time to really listen to the Agony of His Heart so as to fulfil His mission, my mission - to bring love and Joy to all especially to those who are most needy.

    God bless you always...

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    1. Thanks so much for your great sincerity and humility in becoming more and more the evangelizer that Jesus would all of us to be. And like you I also continually strive to be worthy of being a spokesperson of our Lord through my actions and words. GBU! πŸ˜‡

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    2. Let us pray then for each other, Fr. JM, so we can grow everyday in faith and in love with Christ... And that we may be able to become true witnesses and bearer of His love to others in our words and actions...
      Thank you very much! God bless!

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    3. BTW, sharing with you the link of the Homily of Pope Francis from the 26th WORLD DAY FOR CONSECRATED LIFE... Your Homily mirrors Pope's Homily... :')

      https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/homilies/2022/documents/20220202_omelia-vitaconsacrata.html

      God Bless... Keep safe always..

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    4. Thank you for directing me to the Holy Father's homily. Very powerful message and I am so challenged! GBU! πŸ˜‚

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    5. Me too... I am challenged also... Indeed, Pope touched the reality of our life...

      Thanks again, Fr. JM
      Hope we can spread much joy to others...

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  3. After reading this sharing from the day you have posted, I keep on reflecting and checking on myself as an evangelizer in my own little way especially during this pandemic. Since then, every time I go out and meet people, I am inspired to give delight to others by smiling and simply having "dialogue of life" (being vulnerable..as they share their story, I also share mine)...I like what you say... Be detached from praises and rejections...Then I remember what my mother told me, when the poor gives, received it with joy...appreciate it... never reject it...When they offer help, accept it.. just like the other day...a help to carry the bag of heavy vegetables to convent gate...I accept... and amazingly I get to know the story.. Beautiful experience of dialogue of life...My joy is to share God's presence as we share... Making beautiful connections to other people's lives but detached! : ) ... My little way of gratitude to God especially on this natal day of mine... Another chance to dialogue when I went to buy buko for buko pandan... hehehe.. Delectable not only to taste but to hearts who shared stories while waiting as they prepare the buko.... I'm happy to share...Thanks for allowing me to share.. Thanks for the inspiration, Fr. JM. GBU! 0:)

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    1. May God bless you on your natal day! And your special treat of a refreshing buko beverage! I stopped drinking softdrinks back in 2016 when I was missioned in a rural parish and substituted it with buko juice! Buko brings back so much delight for me! Thank you for your sharing! GBU!

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  4. Truly the Lord has blessed my natal day with my delights... the chirping of my favorites yellow bird and blue bird early in the morning... morning shower of rain... greetings especially of my family and community, songs ,calls..etc...And with my community we enjoyed the buko pandan... We drank also the extra buko juice during dinner... and I remember you... And I thought I can give you some...hehehe...Well, I drank a glass for you : ) ... Next time if I see you...I know what to serve...Thanks for sharing your story! GBU!

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