Sister Joyce Lehman • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, Jesus commissions his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations …” This call to evangelize has reverberated among Christians since that time. Each of us recognizes that there are places and people who have not yet had the opportunity of that personal encounter with Jesus Christ that changes our lives.
Most of us fulfill this commissioning within the sphere of family, neighborhood community, workplace and civic responsibilities. Today, our country, founded on Christian principles, is struggling to allow the Good News of Jesus to influence the moral fabric of our society. No doubt most of us have unique opportunities in our daily lives to be missionaries.
Some among us, however, hear the Spirit nudging them to literally go to another country. There they preach the Good News, first by action and then by words when necessary, as cautioned by St. Francis of Assisi.
It takes knowing that one is irrevocably loved by Jesus and others to be able to love in such a way as to leave home and family and all that is familiar and enter into another culture, another way of life, another view of the world. And missionaries do this knowing that they are not bringing God to a Godless people, but rather recognizing that God has already been at work well before their arrival. Missionaries are on the alert to where God has been at work and, using the goodness already there, proclaim Christ Jesus and the redeeming and liberating message of His Good News.
Those among our Sisters who have been called to be missionaries to another country return to our community and to their families with their relationship with Jesus deepened and enriched by the people they are serving. By opening their hearts to God already present in the people, they see in new and different ways the wonders that God can work among ordinary human beings, themselves included. And those of our Sisters who themselves come from those other cultures and lands give us the richness of their traditions, their history, their unique depth of faith in Jesus Christ.
They also challenge us to be alert to how others who come to visit or who immigrate to the United States to live among us, bring the Word of God fresh and new to us who may have grown comfortable or complacent in our practice of the faith. Jesus who welcomed those who were at the margins of society in his time: the poor, the widowed, the lepers, the publicans, tax collectors and sinners, now calls us to be his welcoming arms, open to those who seek freedom from oppression, from poverty, from violence and war, from persecution for their faith, or freedom to seek a better life for their families. They are missionaries to us, compelling us to hear the Good News in new and different ways, urging us to deepen our relationship with the One, who with the shedding of His Blood, redeemed and freed us all.
We are grateful for our Sisters who have answered God’s call to evangelize, and to be evangelized, as missionaries in Chile and Guatemala. We recognize that through them Precious Blood spirituality has been further spread and further enriched by their ministry and commitment to God’s people.
We all need to cultivate and nurture our missionary spirits with prayer and good acts; we all need to proclaim boldly through witness and word the Good News that Jesus lived and died to reveal to us.