Emmir Nogueira: It’s a matter of heart


The more I pray and meditate on the mission, the more I see it is a matter of the heart.  Only God knows why. Perhaps my personal story has influenced me a bit. I have lived in mission in Asia, Africa, at a time when, as a child, the nuns and priests encouraged us to offer sacrifices, prayers and alms for the missions. At that time, they called us “Crosses of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” and invited us to receive a wide yellow ribbon, the colour of the Vatican, because we were animated by a spirit of authentic parrhesia that led us to the most difficult sacrifices in our infantile mentality (walking with stones in our shoes, stay long periods on our knees and – the most difficult of all! – giving up for a week snacks to bring “luck” in favor of the missions in Asia and Africa).

I remember that the ribbon had a printed image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced and surmounted by the crown of thorns. There was also something written in Latin: we were in the pre-conciliar era and Latin was the language used for everything in the Church. On Thursday we had half an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and we had received, as usual, news about the missions we had helped. Naturally, we all dreamed of being missionaries (the college was just for girls), preferably in the most dangerous place, so that we could become martyrs, as it was convenient and, in one way or another, appropriate for every baptized person.

Sometimes I am tempted to think that this story of mine makes me believe that mission is an issue, first of all, of heart. In other times, less nostalgic, I see that, in fact, if the mission is not, first of all, a matter of heart, it is not a mission. It will not come from grace, it will not be generated by the Spirit, it will not bear the fruits gathered from the authentically proclaimed Gospel. It will be part of that temptation of which the Holy Father speaks, a temptation to “reduce Christianity to a purely human wisdom” (Redemptoris Missio, 11).

We know that “every baptized person is a missionary“. We know that the Church is essentially missionary. But do we know that “I” am a missionary? I have a deep conviction and conscience that my faith is not of my possession, but of Jesus’ who entrusted it to me?

That it does not come “from me“, nor is it “inherited” from my parents, but it is pure grace, whose author is Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit? What is the value of this grace to arouse in me a great praise to God and the spiritual worship of the concrete offer of life – entirely, with all that I am, all I know and all I have – so that the world can believe in Jesus?


We need a yellow ribbon on the chest, on the heart!

Perhaps this ribbon would be, for us, a shield against certain ideas that, without us noticing it, invaded us. Ideas such as: “Since the salvation of Christ is within the reach of all men, we do not need to evangelize“; or “Since all men of good will can come to the knowledge of the truth, why evangelize? There’s no need!“; or “The mission of evangelization belongs to priests, nuns, consecrated persons in the Community of Life, celibates …“.

The yellow ribbon, the colour of the Vatican and the Heart of Jesus open to all men, can serve to remind us of the heat of the fire of the Spirit that urges us to leave us – in the first place – to be a “Living Gospel“, who preaches with their own life; but also “Gospel-Announcement“, which converts through the proclamation of the Word, without which there is no conversion, in a timely and inappropriate manner, without fear of being despised, misunderstood, demoralized.

The ribbon of childhood may have reminded us that evangelizing is more a compulsion than love, a moral duty.


A true love for Jesus Christ

I would, if possible, hand it over to the hands of Jesus and into the hands of the Holy Father so that, in the words addressed to the youth of Tor Vergata, he would send them on a mission, in a prayer of the whole Church to awaken in the young, consecrated, celibate, in families, priests, new communities (see RM, 91), a true love for Jesus Christ, a true loving awareness that everything created and all that was given, serves the union of mankind, humanity with Christ, a true zeal for souls, a true new parrhesia for this third millennium.


«… but you gave me a body … so I said: “Here I am … God, to do your will”»

So, I would see millions of young people giving at least one year of their life for the mission – as I already see hundreds of them doing various programs for this purpose all over the world – I would see unmarried by choice, but also by circumstances, discovering a new meaning of their lives and line up to be “enlisted” to be sent on a mission; I would see families willing to distribute their goods in favor of evangelization; I would see the children, as before, struggling to carry in their hearts with pride the yellow ribbon of fire, sacrifice, prayer and the awareness of their responsibility in the Church. I would see interminable rows of martyrs, perhaps not with blood, but certainly through oblation of life, with “sacrifice of praise“, as “living hosts” (cf. Rom 12: 1), knowing that the vocation to holiness is closely linked to the vocation universal to the mission, not only willing but eager to give their lives out of love for Jesus and the Church, saying, as Jesus missionary in entering the world: «You have not accepted sacrifices of bulls or goats … but you gave me a body … so I said: “Here I am … God, to do your will” »(Heb 10, 5 ff).


The Missionary Church of the third millennium

Therefore, God would make it clearer more quickly “for the mission … the story of salvation” and our stones in our shoe, our fifteen minutes on our knees for the missions, our half-hours of adoration, still in the pre-council Church, they would find echo and the realization in the Missionary Church of the third millennium the understanding of the essential: the mission must be born first of all in the heart, since it is about loving the understanding of God’s Will, of the love for Jesus Christ, for men, for the Gospel, for the Church. A much deeper issue than a yellow ribbon on the heart: a question of a heart outside of oneself, lost in love, offered in the heart and hands of God and of all men, of all.

Translation: Jhoanna Climacosa 

Revision: Gabriela Gois


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