POPE’S MISSION INTENTION - APRIL 2009
Missionary Intention:Christians as Signs of Hope to the Poor. That Christians who work in areas where conditions are desperate for the poor, the weak, women and children, may be signs of hope due to their courageous witness to the Gospel of solidarity and love.
I recently visited Bishop Paul Verryn at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg. The complex was thronged with refugees, many from Zimbabwe. These desperate men, women and children all seek the basic human dignity and security that most of us take for granted. The Bishop speaks movingly of the vulnerability of women crossing the Zambezi with babies on their backs and running a gauntlet of murder, rape and theft from gangs of thugs. Xenophobia here in South Africa has added to their plight and often filled their lives with fear.
Catholics are also present and working among the desperate from neighboring countries. Religious sisters are frequently the unsung heroines on the frontlines of the ministry to the most abandoned, both immigrants and local people - people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans, battered women and abused children. It is thanks to such witnesses that the caritas that Pope Benedict wrote so movingly about in his encyclical God is Love, is made flesh and that our Christian faith continues to be seen by others as truly patterned on the life of Jesus.
It is often the simple fact of the presence of Christians, religious and lay, in these places that gives hope. The people they serve have no choice but to be where they are, but those who serve them choose it and that choice both gives hope and is a potent sign that hope itself is not dead.
Whenever there is an appeal for the work done by those who serve the poor and marginalized, it is striking how often they first ask us to pray for them before requesting material aid. The prayer of the Church is indispensable for this kind of ministry and those who exercise it know it. There are perhaps no more deserving recipients of our intercessions.
Christ Chatteris, S.J.
This reflection originally appeared in The Southern Cross of South Africa (www.scross.co.za). Note: At the beginning of each month we will present a brief reflection on a) the General Intention of the Pope for this month and b) his mission intention. Traditionally these intentions become the concluding part of the Morning or Daily Offering Prayer, recited daily by members of the Apostleship of Prayer (AOP).