What are we celebrating on this tenth anniversary of Comboni’s canonisation? We wish to celebrate the missionary holiness of a man who was able to open his heart to the plan of God in his life, allowing himself to be transformed into a tireless worker in building up the Kingdom among those people who became the passion of his life.We are celebrating holiness expressed through openness to the will of God, shown in the specific call to consecrate his entire life to the mission. “If I abandon the idea of consecrating myself to the foreign missions, I will be a martyr for the rest of my life to the idea that germinated in my mind at least 14 years ago, and always grew, as I discovered the loftiness of the apostolate. If I embrace the idea of the missions, I make two poor parents martyrs” (Writings, 6–7).
We give thanks for holiness when one makes oneself available and faithful to a plan that does not correspond to personal needs but agrees to enter into God’s world, making oneself into one of God’s family, learning to read history with the eyes of God, to love it as only God can, with a heart full of mercy and compassion.
We recall the holiness of Comboni which is realised only when the totality of his person is handed over and consecrated to those whom he always considered the sole beneficiaries of his love: “The happiest day in my life will be the one on which I will be able to give my life for you” (Writings, 3159).
We recognise the holiness of Comboni as a holiness that projects itself towards and is reflected in the faces of the poorest and most abandoned in whom he finds the presence of God who precedes us and waits for us in those to whom we are sent as missionaries. It is the holiness of the evangeliser who sanctifies through the proclamation and who evangelises and sanctifies himself in the encounter with the people in whom God precedes him and waits for him, to reveal his face to him.
We give thanks today for the sanctity of Comboni who knew, understood and accepted that, as missionaries, we can only reach holiness when we make common cause with the people to whom we are sent, when we do not reject the pain and suffering of those who are not important or who are simply ignored by the parameters of our contemporary society, when, in simplicity and humility, we commit ourselves to building up a humanity that is more just and respectful of the rights of all.
This is the sort of holiness that becomes commitment and pays the price in person by accepting to be there where others refuse to go because one’s life is at risk. It is a holiness that makes us go out of ourselves, as a first missionary experience that implies leaving our safe environment and all that satisfies and pleases us, that makes us risk our life by offering it totally so that others may have that life which only God can give.
We want to celebrate missionary holiness that is marked by the Cross and sacrifice, remembering that the works of God, in the experience of Comboni, are born and grow at the foot of the Cross and that the life of the missionary has nothing to do with comfort, prestige or the commodities that today seem to be the purpose of the existence of many in our world, which suffers from protagonism and self-reference.
This holiness reminds us that we are called to be converted into hidden stones in the foundation of the building, far from the temptation to wish to be seen, to occupy the front seats, to be called to be converted into hidden stones in the foundation of the building, far from the temptation to wish to be seen, to occupy the front seats, to be in the spotlight or on the front pages of the newspapers. “I already see and understand that the Cross is such a friend to me that I have for some time chosen it as my eternal and inseparable Bride” (Writings, 1710).
In a word, the holiness of Comboni challenges us and provokes us so that we may not allow ourselves to be gripped by the temptations of our time that pretend to offer us an “easy” mission permeated by a middle-class lifestyle, opposed to anything that implies radicalism, sacrifice or the unconditional offering of self.
As we contemplate Comboni, we discover in him one who directed his life towards one passion alone: the mission, and who lived out this passion within a deep relationship with God through the experience of constant prayer in which he experienced the awareness of being in the hands of God, something that gave him confidence always and in all circumstances.
We want to celebrate this holiness that is born and grows in the personal, persevering and daily encounter with the Lord who invites us to share his mission, to live his experience as a builder of the Kingdom, to make ours his lifestyle that becomes the witness of the presence of the Father in our lives.