Being an Epiphany for Others
In the last article in this series we looked at the third dimension of the consecrated life covered in John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, the dimension of mission. It was noted how Miles Jesu’s charism of being an epiphany in the world echoes the Church’s own vision for institutes of consecrated life, that each institute of consecrated life have at the essence of their mission the call to proclaim the gospel ad gentes, to all people (VC, 77). As “Sons and Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady of the Epiphany,” our mission is inherently linked to this universal mission of the Church, to proclaim the gospel to all people. We fulfill this mission by going into the world, through our secular occupations, and by manifesting Christ to others by our example.
As was also noted in the previous article, the Church’s universal mission of bringing the gospel to all people is further specified by the situation of our world today. Benedict XVI has made clear in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the Church cannot and will not abandon the world in its present course of globalization, although the global economy and global politics are often directed without any reference to God. The Church continuously proposes ways in which the world can reach its fulfillment, even as its pursues its present goals, in a way that truly benefits all of humanity in Christ. The Church herself “has an authentic secular dimension, inherent to her inner nature and mission, which is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Word Incarnate, and which is realized in different forms through her members.” (Paul VI, Talk to the Members of Secular Institutes, 2 February 1972)
In communion with the whole Church, the members of Miles Jesu wish to bear witness to this authentic secular dimension of the Church, especially as it is manifested in the vocation of the laity. “The term secular must be understood in light of the act of God the creator and redeemer, who had handed over the world to men and women, so that they may participate in the work of creation, free creation from the influence of sin and sanctify themselves...” (Propositio, 4)
Bringing the gospel to all nations, for members of Miles Jesu, means growing in sanctity by serving those people we come into contact with in our work, our studies – the places where we come into contact with the men and women of today’s secularized world. It is not necessary today to go to foreign lands to find people who have never heard the gospel. Today’s world is often dominated by false media messages which many people believe without questioning. This is just as true in the United States as it is throughout Europe, in China, and in Africa too. It is mainly through our example that others will have an opportunity to see the difference that faith in Jesus Christ makes. Like the wise men who sought the “newborn king of the Jews,” (Mt. 2:2) many people are searching for God, whether they realize it or not. Our mission in Miles Jesu is to be an “epiphany” to those people who have not found him yet, to reflect the true face of God to them in our own quiet way. For this reason we need to be aware both of the thinking and background of the people we work, study, and live with, and of what Jesus taught and what the Church teaches about the questions that the people of today’s world have. The world is very hungry for people who can reflect the true face of God, full of mercy and forgiveness, goodness and love. For many who do not have any faith, or whose faith is weak, it will only be through another layperson who reflects this that they will have a chance to find him.
Rather than lessening the secular witness, or the degree to which a member of Miles Jesu engages in temporal affairs, the dimensions of consecration and communion should strengthen a Miles Jesu member’s mission to manifest Christ in the world through his example. It is by their consecration and by their communion with the whole body of Christ that Miles Jesu members bear “splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.” (VC, 33)
A Miles Jesu member’s secular job is one of the main instruments through which they live this dimension of mission in the consecrated life. It is an important part of the way we live the consecrated life. It is a way in which we imitate Christ, who came “not to be served but to serve.” (Mt. 20:28)
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