The WORD in Other Words by Fr Wilfredo Saniel SVD (Philippines) for Thursday Week 4 in Ordinary Time
My first mission assignment was in a far-flung isolated barrio in Northern Philippines. Arriving hungry and very tired from a 20-hour journey across dusty and bumpy roads, I was met with news of a massacre. The confrere who took me there asked if I was still willing to do mission work there. I said “yes” even though I wanted to say “no‘.
My predecessor had warned me that the convent and parish church could be stoned when people don‘t agree to my decisions. The first few days painted a horrible missionary life for me: cut off due to non-existent communication facilities, strange food, conflicts between people of different cultures. There I realized I only had God with me.
The gospel may be about missionary life but more profoundly, it is about faith-relationship with God. In my first mission assignment, I carried out my mission of bringing God/God‘s love to people not through projects but by establishing better relationships with people.
The farmers and fisherfolks brought me the best — rice. shrimps, crabs and eels. Never had I imagined fine dining in such a poor place. If I needed money, I borrowed from the nearby sari—sari store. During barrio masses, I visited their homes and anointed the sick. During conflicts, I acted as a referee. At parish church masses, I extended my hands and initiated a move for reconciliation.
I may not have driven out a demon but I am sure of one thing—the people became open to healing past wounds. With God with me and with my faith in him, it turned out to be a happy and fulfilling mission. Mission is about relationships—about developing a deeper faith relationship with God, and bringing God and His love to His people.