By Andrea Tornielli
“Where many saw only a sinner, a blasphemer, a tax collector, an evildoer or even a traitor, Jesus was able to see apostles. Such is the beauty that his gaze invites us to proclaim, a gaze that transforms and brings out the best in others.” These words, which become flesh in the witness borne by so many Christians in every part of the world, are key to understanding mission as proposed by Francis on his third and final day in Thailand. The Pope offered this view of mission while speaking to priests, religious, seminarians and catechists in St. Peter's Parish of Wat Roman in the village of Tha Kham, not far from Bangkok.
Jesus’ gaze is one that “shatters all determinisms, fatalisms and standards.” Because, as the Pope said shortly afterwards to Thai bishops gathered in the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, “the mission, even prior to things to be done or projects to be implemented, demands the cultivation of a gaze and a sense of smell. The mission calls for a paternal and maternal concern, because the sheep is only lost when the shepherd gives it up for lost, and not before”.
The consequence of this positive gaze is inculturation, which is typical of Christian mission and capable of giving value to everything that is valuable in the cultures and traditions of different peoples. “The Lord – the Pope told the religious - did not call us and send us forth into the world to impose obligations on people, or lay heavier burdens than those they already have, which are many, but rather to share joy, a beautiful, new and surprising horizon”. We must not "be afraid to continue inculturating the Gospel. We need to seek new ways of transmitting the word, ways that are capable of mobilizing and awakening a desire to know the Lord” letting “the Gospel be stripped of fine but foreign garb; to let it “sing” with the native music of this land and inspire the hearts of our brothers and sisters with the same beauty that set our own hearts on fire.”