“The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that “he has loved us first” (1 Jn 4:19) and that he alone “gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life.” (Evangelii Gaudium)
Earlier this year I had the good fortune of travelling to Timor Leste and visiting our four Brothers who are working in the Diocese of Baucau, some 3 hours’ drive east from the capital of Dili. In the midst of the Timorese people, three Aussies and one Brazilian are working alongside Australian Loreto Sisters, Lay people and local Religious, gently yet purposefully assisting with the rebuilding of the nation’s dignity and wellbeing, after centuries of foreign occupation and oppression.
The joy and energy with which Brothers Tony, Peter, Michael and Lecio are going about their ministry of educating and forming young people is truly inspiring. Their ability to grasp the local Tetum has clearly helped to forge close relationships and build confidence and trust among their Timorese students, who show an enthusiasm to be involved in future Marist projects.
Probably what inspired me most was the quiet sense of purpose with which the Brothers experience themselves making a small contribution to God’s mission in the Church in Timor Leste, and the joy that emanates from doing some good, despite the obstacles and challenges. Each Brother could have been engaged in a significant and meaningful ministry in their home country, yet here they were responding to the needs of the young in this developing nation - and doing so gladly!
The call to brotherhood means putting aside any notion of being a ‘lone ranger’ or some kind of rock star. That strong bond of fraternity given to our early Brothers by St Marcellin, through the practice of prayer and community life, nurtured by the simple virtues of humility, simplicity and modesty, not only grounds and sustains our human and religious lives; it energizes and enlivens them. Like any Marist community, the Brothers in Timor Leste witness being brothers to each other, before they are brothers to others.
Pope Francis’ quote from Evangelii Gaudium reminds me that when we allow God to take the initiative, our lives can become a living witness of God’s love, enabling us to become even more effective sowers of hope, sharing that love with others, enabling it to flourish wherever it is sown; whether it be Baucau, Santa Teresa, Marist College Bendigo, Heidelberg West, Aleppo in Syria, the John Berne School at Lewisham or the countless other places Marists are present.
Consecrated Life has always been an adventure of the heart, for men and women who fall in love with God in a radical, restless way, desiring to go to the margins of society and give one’s whole life to bringing hope, equality and justice for our sisters and brothers in need. In this Year of Consecrated Life, I thank God for those faithful Religious who, like our Brothers in Timor Leste, continue to witness to this adventurous way of living the Gospel. May our present generation of young people come to know the joy and adventure that flows from giving one’s life for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel!
Brother Greg McDonald, fms