It is through your life of gospel witness
lived in community with others
that God desires to manifest
care and compassionate love
to those who are separated and estranged,
not only from their neighbors,
but also from their own uniqueness;
to those who suffer
from want, neglect, and injustice:
the poor, the weak, and the oppressed
of this world.
They too are called
the love of God with the world
through their own giftedness.
I am deeply grateful to be associated with a community that can embrace the transforming and formational nature of mission. My experience of the Xaverian Brothers is not one of a community that wishes to perform as “functional” missionaries. They aren’t seeking to convert droves of non-believers or turn students into agents of productivity or hold their vows as a symbol of their superiority and separateness. No, they seek mutually transformative and meaningful relationships.
They embrace a narrative of mission that is, therefore, transcendent: mission as a way of being as much as it is a way of doing. They are seeking relationships of love, relationships that embrace the messiness of life and the sordid tensions that can arise out of difference and encounter. I think of something that Brother Larry Etabo said in a recent interview posted to the website: “Our differences, or the differences that I meet from other people, makes me, or gives me that opportunity to break myself so that I can also dissolve to them, so that they can also dissolve to me. And in that, you see, we can really mingle and find another kind of nature.” The Xaverian mission is one of dynamic mutuality that is open to mystery, not a mission that seeks to impose its own designs. For as much as the Brothers wish to help others, they too hope to be transformed through those relationships.
It seems to be a bit of a paradox to say that through a common mission Xaverians seek to discover their own uniqueness. But I’ll suggest the image of the “grand orchestra,” which Pope Francis recently used to describe the Church, “full of variety: we are not all the same and we don’t all need to be the same…each of us brings something different to the Church, what God has given us, enriching others.” What is common is our striving to be who God has given us to be. And through the “mingling” that Brother Larry described above, we come to experience something beautiful and harmonious, something akin to those ancient aspirations for the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God. Perhaps these ancient images are tired and cliché, yes, but they represent a transcendent aspiration of all humankind: salvation. And even with all its obscurity and mystery, salvation cannot be for the self alone. Like the Bodhisattva who does not attain nirvana until he helps all sentient beings attain nirvana, our salvation, and thus our mission, must be a collective witness.
May we continue to live out our love and hope this Advent season. God bless.
1. Remember a time when you learned something about yourself through an interaction with someone else. How did that “mingling” transform your nature? Did you allow it to transform you?
2. If you have 20 minutes, watch this beautiful video “Overview,” about the cognitive shift that astronauts can have after seeing Earth from space. How is the “overview effect” similar and different from your sense of being in common mission?