September 2, 2023
P. Bernardo Ibarra, IVE
The Incarnation shook the foundations of the entire universe, and continues to do so, because it is a person: Our Divine Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus gives meaning to today, as he gave meaning to yesterday and will give meaning to tomorrow. Without God Incarnate, life is not worth living.
When one is convinced of this, then he becomes a missionary, because he cannot bear to see man live without the One who makes all things new. What good is it for man to live without Jesus Christ? Our beloved Founder always instilled this in us from the first days of our Congregation: “we want to be founded on Christ… no one can lay any other foundation”. Jesus Christ is “Our Way” … the reason for our life.
By God’s grace, I have experienced this reality once again in our missions, where our missionaries give meaning to the lives of thousands of people, because they give them Christ. I have experienced this in two places that, apparently opposed, have the same reason for being: Jesus Christ.
In the northern Great Plains is our Dallas mission, embedded in them like a precious pearl in the bosom of the mountain. And in the East of the noble continent of Africa, our emblematic mission in Tanzania shines like the sun at dawn. It would be easy to say that they are two completely different worlds that are radically opposed, but I assure you that they are not, because beyond the accidental there is, at the center of them, Jesus Christ and the “concern for man”, “not the abstract man but the real man, the concrete, historical man. It is about every man because each one has been included in the mystery of redemption, with each one Christ has united himself forever” (John Paul the Great, Redemptor Hominis). These missions are witnesses that “the Son of God by the Incarnation has united himself in a certain way with every man” (Gaudium et Spes), hence the need to enlighten man with Christ in order to bring him to his fullness. Facing those American or Mexican faces, and looking closely at those others to whom the night has given its color, one understands that what matters is to give them Christ. The rest ends up being rubbish, for everything is rubbish when compared to Christ, because Christ is what they are waiting for, Christ is what they are looking for, Christ is what they long for… even if they do not know it. It is necessary to produce this admirable encounter between the Christ hidden in man with the Christ that is born from the mouth of the missionary.
When I saw and heard the joy of Latinos who never tire of coping with life, or when I encountered the cordiality and nobility of the American soul ready for the greatest generosity, or the simplicity and integrity of the Tanzanian heart that knows how to deeply enjoy the ordinary, Chesterton’s words bloomed in my mind: “Man is a statue of God walking in the garden of the world” (Orthodoxy).
Therefore, the missionary is the one who sees the Incarnate Word in man, sees him in seed, as in a finite non and strives to finish sculpting and bringing to its maximum splendor the image of the Incarnate God that the Trinity molded there when it sent the angel to greet the Virgin. What else can we do than to finish the work that the Virgin began with her yes? It is our reason for being: “to prolong the Incarnation”.
In our magnificent mission in Tanzania, whether in Kangeme or in Ushetu, in our homes and in our very sacrificial apostolates, or even on the roads that the drought leaves dusty, I saw this hidden God walking around. It was enough to smile at those faces that looked at you with curiosity, to make them smile, which was nothing but a spark of the God who wants to become incarnate in them.
Or there, in our giant parish in Dallas, with its many activities, groups and apostolates, and with its well-attended Masses, it was the Incarnate Word who, in the hearts of those men of American cultures, rose again from the table to wash the feet of his disciples. It was enough to insinuate it to them, and without further ado, they helped in the works, thus letting them see the God who wants to make them “like another humanity of his own” (St. Elizabeth of the Trinity).
After this journey, from Dallas to Ushetu, and now returning to the lands of the Great Pope, I am even more convinced of what Ven. Fulton Sheen once said: “The Incarnation is not something that happened… the Incarnation is happening”.
Bernardo Ibarra, IVE
September 2, 2023