Ordinary Time 13, Year C
- Him only shall you serve (Dt. 6:13)
According to St. Vincent de Paul—if I may repeat what I said last week—a missionary of virtue is one who, among other things, shows through his bodily and spiritual sacrifices that God alone is really deserving of service and is to be preferred above all earthly advantages and pleasures.
That God and the things of God are the missionary’s top priority is a point, of course, that St. Vincent makes elsewhere also. He asks, for example, an all too enterprising superior to be concerned more with advancing the kingdom of Jesus Christ than with enlarging the community’s material possessions (cf. III, 532 at ). But the saint is even more explicit and quite specific in the Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission about the absolute primacy of God’s claim on those he calls and chooses to send out. Article 2 of chapter II of this foundational document reads:
- Christ said: Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice, and
- all these things which you need will be given to you as well.
- That is the basis for each of us having the following set of
- priorities: matters involving our relationship with God are more
- important than temporal affairs; spiritual health is more
- important than physical; God’s glory is more important than human
- approval. Each one should. moreover. be determined to prefer,
- like St. Paul, to do without necessities, to be slandered or
- tortured, or even killed, rather than lose Christ’s love. In
- ractice, then, we should not worry too much about temporal
- affairs. We ought to have confidence in God that he will look
- after us since we know for certain that as long as we are
- grounded in that sort of love and trust we will be always under
- the protection of God in heaven, we will remain unaffected by
- evil and never lack what we need even when everything we possess
- seems headed for disaster.
I do not doubt it that all this Vincentian emphasis that the chosen and sent get their priorities straight is simply the Vincentian way of saying “yes” to Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me.”
And it is a “yes” that understands that the way one takes to follow Jesus is the way of sweetness, gentleness, humility and forgiveness, and not of quick temper, harshness, vindictiveness and violence.
The Vincentian “yes” also accepts the way to be one of poverty and discomfort. This “yes” recognizes that seldom is one virtuous enough to be able to carry the burden of plenty and of apostolic virtue, and is wary about the danger that the first may ruin the second (cf. II, 470 at ).
The Vincentian “yes” understands as well that, while one must love one’s relatives, one must avoid overattachment to them (CR II, 9).
And, of course, the Vincentian “yes” upholds that love is above all rules and must be the point of reference of all rules (X, 595 at ). Such a “yes” firmly believes that in its being addressed to the poor, it is likewise being addressed to God.
Unless a Vincentian missionary’s “yes” is such, I humbly submit, he or she falls short of revealing that God alone truly deserves to be served and ought to be preferred over and above everything and everybody else.