22 October 2006: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 10, 35-45: World Mission Sunday and the Morning Offering
When I am in the middle of work, I find myself wishing that things will be over, so that I can spend some time to rest. Even when I was in college or in the seminary, I catch myself daydreaming inside the classroom or listening to a priest preaching. Or, I find myself planning the things to do after class or mass, thinking that if I get some tasks accomplished, or some readings done, or my research finished, things will be better. On the other hand, sometimes I look back at the past, replaying the good memories of yesterday, hoping to experience it once more. Either way, we forget to live in the present moment. Living in the present moment is very much part of our Christian faith. And it also tells us of our mission. Often the Lord calls us to do the work here and now, right at this moment --- not next week, not next year.
I have a story in history. At a Jesuit seminary in France in 1844, a lot of Jesuit scholastics (seminarians) were scheduled to head for missionary work in India, and the vision delighted them. Out of their excitement, they could not get enough of it. They talked about India, wondered about it and researched about it. They engaged in wishful thinking, overly anxious to get somewhere else. Their superiors were not exactly pleased, because in their excitement, they were neglecting many things, including their studies in Theology. So Fr. Gautrelet S.J., the superior took hold of the situation and gave them a talk. He made this talk on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the great Jesuit missionary to India and the Far East. Fr. Gautrelet said, “Right now, your mission is not India. Right now, your mission is in the classroom, in your studies. Right at this very moment, the Lord calls you to do your present tasks.”
Out of this experience came what we call today as the Morning Offering*, the prayer we say the first time we wake up. The Jesuit seminarians themselves put them together out of their learning. If one still recites the Morning Offering, one can see that it is colored with a missionary receptivity. It is not a prayer of inward strength or about our own needs. It directs the praying individual outwards for a purpose: “for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins and union of all Christians.” The prayer is not about me, but about others. In the Morning Offering, we become conscious that we are not praying alone, but in union with those who pray and participate at Mass, those who are sick, those who are at meetings, those who pick up their kids, and those who stand vigil at a sickbed. It is also in union with the intentions of the Church and the pope. Every year, the Church gives out two types of intentions: for missionary work and the concerns of the universal Church. In other words, the Morning Offering helps us realize that we are not alone, or that we purely live for ourselves. We pray together with all those who pray in the world. We pray together with the same intentions for others and the world of today. In fact, that is the Apostleship of Prayer. Its members pray for the intentions of the present world. And since the beginning, they promoted the Morning Offering --- helping us see the present moment as a gift.
Second, it tells us that missionary activity is doing our present tasks with the awareness that one does it with God, and for God. When we say, “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day,” I am telling myself to be aware of the present day, that this day is an opportunity for holiness, that this day is going to happen always with God around. There is no day that is empty and boring and lifeless and useless, even if the day is painful, hurtful and challenging.
Third, the Morning Offering tells us that the present moment is more important. A Sanskrit Proverb illustrates it well: “Look to this day, for yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day.”
Therefore, if we think of mission, we just don’t mean those who are on missionary activity in other countries. We remind ourselves that in Baptism we are all been given a mission in life. And one’s mission in life is about service. If one says that his mission is to be rich or to be popular, this is not a mission. A mission is about what I can do for others, so that I may promote the Gospel of Christ in the manner that fits my vocation and personality. For parents, for example, you fulfill your mission by holding your children close to your heart today. Or, teaching your children how to pray at this stage in their life. For students, your mission is clear: to study now --- as Fr. Gautrelet SJ said to his Jesuit scholastics centuries earlier. And when semestral break comes, your mission remains plain and simple: rest, allowing your body to repair itself for the next hurdle.
Our mission is fulfilled by doing it now, here, at present, at this moment. And so, as we celebrate World Mission Sunday, and reflect on our mission, perhaps we can answer one question: What is your mission as you attend mass at this instant? Your mission is to respond and sing and put your full attention to it, right at this moment, here, now, presently. If we don’t, we contribute to making the mass boring and lifeless. You are not concerned of the present moment, and soon the opportunity to be in union with God and with others will be gone.
Let me end, with what Ida Scott Taylor said, “One day at a time --- this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.” I hope that as we put our mind at hand, focusing and savoring this present moment, this mass will be worth remembering.
*"O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for the intentions of your Sacred Heart, the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins and union of all Christians. I offer for all the intentions of the Apostleship of Prayer and the intentions recommended this month by the Holy Father (intention is mentioned here). Amen."