Jesus came into the world to reveal the love and forgiveness of the Father; to be missionary means to believe that the world still needs that love and forgiveness.

It was the summer of 2006, a few months before my departure to Taiwan, when Fr. Paolo Prosperi and I were invited to meet a parish community in an enchanted part of Valle d’Aosta. Among the various kids and students the parish priest introduced us to, there was a girl studying anthropology. I was impressed by the cleverness of her gaze and her curiosity. At a certain point she asked me, “Why do you go on mission, especially to Taiwan?” “What a beautiful question!” I thought to myself, and responding with enthusiasm, I told her that in Taiwan the Catholics aren’t even one percent of the population, “think of how many people there don’t know Jesus!” She looked at me and said, “Yeah, but maybe they don’t care, maybe they don’t need him…”
I have always carried her question with me, during all my years of mission; if it is true that Taiwanese don’t need to know him, that Jesus is someone they are not interested in, then what sense does my mission have? And more: What is the sense of my priesthood and my being Christian? Because, if it’s not interesting for them, then it’s not interesting for the Kenyans in Nairobi, the Germans in Cologne, or the Chileans in Santiago either.
Unfortunately, her question is very common today, not only outside the Church and among those who accuse the Church of proselytizing; but there are also many Catholics, especially among theologians, who affirm that evangelization is not really important and that the conversion of those peoples that still don’t know God is not a priority. They say there are other priorities for mission. What is most surprising though, is that this way of thinking is also shared among missionaries.
Instead, I think of Saint Francis Xavier, of the fire that drove him around Europe inciting the intellectuals who flooded the sixteenth century universities, telling them how many people in Japan, India, and China died without knowing Christ!
I am reminded of Mei Li, a student I met immediately after arriving in Taiwan. She needed to practice her Italian so we decided to do some catechism, also to strengthen her preparation for baptism. One day, however, she interrupted the readings and said, “Enough talk about Jesus. I know what he says and I agree with him, but not about everything.” Then she began to tell me her story. When she was born, her parents were distraught when they saw another girl; she was their third daughter. Because her parents didn’t know what to do with another girl, she was “handed over” to her relatives. Mei Li grew up with a heart full of resentment, the resentment that comes from being rejected, abandoned. When she was fourteen her biological father died, but she didn’t shed a tear for him because he hadn’t wanted her. Whenever her mother called she would speak in monosyllables, waiting for the conversation to finish. “You see” she continued, “that’s why I don’t agree with Jesus when he says we need to forgive everyone, even our enemies; I will never forgive my parents.”
How is it possible to live without forgiveness? How is it possible to carry within yourself such a heavy weight? Forgiveness is one of the highest forms of love, but only if you have received forgiveness are you able to forgive, and only if you have experienced being a son or daughter are you able to love. Christ came into the world for this, to tell us that we have a Father who loves us and forgives us, every time we ask him to do so.
In 1988, Fr. Giussani said, “Without the presence of Christ and the Church in the world, in a breath the world would be in ruin.” This is the reason why we are missionaries; because without Christ man is less man, unable to love, unable to forgive. In reality, there is only one mission, the one of Jesus. We are asked (and every Christian is asked!) to place our lives in his hands to be instruments of that compassionate gaze upon the world, which was first of all, a compassionate gaze upon us.

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