As I read the Bible passage from John 20:19-31, I thought about my consecration of life, my offering of life for a people. As I live my consecration in times of pandemonium.
“I send you”
Once again, I feel sent, offered, given to a special people. As a missionary, I now live on the African continent, namely in Angola. I have always had the dream of knowing Africa by touching the origin of my history. I love my people, I love to touch the life of each of the people that the Risen Lord presents to us as a community.
However, we are living in a difficult time that will remain in the history of humanity. A time that will mark the life of humanity. The Covid-19 pandemic came from one hour to another and changed what was thought to be unimaginable change. We will be the witnesses of the world that was and the world that will come from this pandemic.
Angola is a sub-Saharan African country, rich in nature, beauty and traditions. Here lives a fighting and joyful people, but a country that does not take care of its children. As I write, twice they knock on our door. Certainly, during this day the number of requests for food will grow. Several times we have to leave our tasks to attend to them.
And who are these who interrupt us? They are the poor, my brothers, to whom I have been sent, or rather, we have been sent. Those we knew through the TV documentaries, in the news reports, those who, many of us, are filled with emotion and even weep when we see them. Today I touch them, talk to them, smell them, see their hunger, listen to their lamentations and contemplate their smile of gratitude.
The greatest fear is hunger
Here, and in many parts of poor countries, they are not confined to their homes, because many of them do not have a home; they are not exactly worried about what to eat, they just don’t want to be left to starve; they even suffer from anxiety, but they do not fill themselves with chocolates; they do not care about fast food to eat something different. They don’t buy masks, they don’t use alcohol gel, they don’t wash their hands several times a day, they are not afraid of contracting the coronavirus, they are only afraid of hunger, because they know hunger and Covid-19 still don’t know it.
Many have even lost hope of having a small meal in the day or of finding someone who can help them satisfy their hunger and be a channel of hope. Here I find the fulfilment of Christ’s Resurrection in my life: “I send you”. In Pope Francis’ homily on Mercy Sunday, he told us: “Last Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of the Master, today we are witnessing the Resurrection of the disciple”. In other words, it is mine, our resurrection, it is our sending and our touching of the wounds, the wounds of the one who rose first and lets himself be touched by the body of the poor. I cannot be indifferent.
Hope to Resurrect
To be resurrected here in Angola is to give back the “HOPE” to those who, like me, are also living this time of pandemic. Those who knock on our door are not simply poor, they are men and women, young people and children who need to find a look and a smile of hope. Christ sent us to them too.
I cannot stay confined to my home, looking at and worshipping my deaths, anxieties, fears. I need to get out, not a home leave. But to leave the center. Behold the Christ who says to us, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, I send you”. “There is more joy in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35). This phrase is real. When we speak of giving, we think of material goods, but man does not live by bread alone. We need to give ourselves. Even in quarantine we can give ourselves, offer ourselves, heal wounds.
Only the poor know how to share
Perhaps our door is the last hope for many children and elderly people. I know I can’t go out, but I can look even from a distance; I can share my chocolate with a child; I can deliver some rice, cornmeal, macaroni, etc. It’s little, but only the poor know how to share.
Last night around 8pm, a child knocked on our door. One of the missionaries asked why he came at that time. She answered: “at home we have no food and we cannot sleep hungry”. We can’t let the pandemic harden us, centralize us. Christ has risen, we need to give Hope back to those who no longer have it.
We must stay at home, obey the rules of social distancing, wear masks and gel alcohol. But we do not need to close our eyes and heart to those Christ sends us today. Shalom!
“Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, I send you.”
Benivalda Carvalho, Shalom Responsible in Angola
Translation: Sérgio Godoy Jr.
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