“That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demon. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And in the morning, a great while before the day, Jesus rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. Simon and those who were with him pursued him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” And He said to them, ‘Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.’ And he went throughout all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” – Mark 1: 32-38
“We have been sent to proclaim the Lord’s life, death, and resurrection, until He comes, so that all those who believe in him may be saved. Sharing the hopes and joys, the sorrows and trials of the people, especially those of the poor, we readily offer to join efforts with all who are striving to transformation the world according to God’s plan” – Constitutions, 46.
Our missionary communities are given an admirable opportunity every three years: to be reborn! It is true, that given the characteristics of each of our local community, we do not usually make radical changes. There are always individuals who remain longer in a community while others may change more frequently.
However, the greater or lesser mobility of those of us who form the community, which is true, is that in the beginning of a new triennium, it is an opportunity for us: to be reborn as a missionary community. In that triennial start, we set the odometer to zero. We try to overcome the law of the custom of “it has always been done this way” and we are committed to a genuine “community conversion.”
In order to promote this new Community beginning, we propose a reflection in four steps: 1) Communities configured for the mission; (2) Communities configured in the context; (3) Communities in the process of transformation; 4) From the ego-system to a community eco-system.
1. Communities Configured by the Mission
From the title of our last Chapter Document reference is made to the charismatic identity that we want to configure: Missionarii sumus! It doesn’t deal with a simple name, or a title with which we are recognized in a civil registry. “Missionarii sumus” refers to this report that must be an account of our life, of our existence. We are missionaries with an identity “under construction.” The same must be said of our missionary communities.
Ordinarily we think that our communities have a mission to accomplish. And so, they are usually constituted. But it must be said, rather, that it is the Mission that has a community. What matters is not what our communities do “for God,” but, what God wants to do through our communities. This requires a lot of spiritual and collaborative discernment to discover what God wants to do, to realize, through our community.
Already in the XXIV General Chapter, the Congregation expressed its awareness of the mission in profoundly theological terms: the “Missio Dei.” And with it, something revolutionary was said: we must return to God Himself, to the Holy Trinity, to the pre-eminence of the mission. Our God is missionary. He has revealed himself to us in creative mission as Father and Lord of the Universe, in redemptive mission in the Son, Jesus Christ, and in actual, contemporary mission in the Spirit of the Father and the Son who brings the divine mission to its fullness.
It is not, in principle, the Church that has a mission, but it is the “Missio Dei” (God’s Mission) that has the Church, and acts through the Church. This instrumental and symbolic dimension of the Church in the “Missio Dei,” is obviously applicable to our communities. The community does not have a mission, it is the Missio Spiritus (The Spirit’s Mission) that counts or wants to have a community and with each of its members. The Risen Jesus referred to this when he asked Simon Peter: “Feed my sheep.” He didn’t say: your sheep. And this, could be translated in our case: your class, your school, your students. Therefore, the crucial question is: Does the Holy Spirit count on our Community to carry out the mission that God that the Father and the Risen Lord have entrusted to her?
What is of importance is this paradigm of Mission – always old and always new! – that our last Chapter made it the engine of the third part of the document: that is, the engine that shapes community and spirituality. And so, MS, 65 puts it:
“We resolve to be – with Jesus – a Congregation “going forth” (cf. Mk 1:38) … we commit ourselves to form – under the guidance of the Spirit – communities of witnesses and messengers;; we will take care to be men of deep spirituality… and embrace the processes of transformation that the Spirit grants us… The Spirit of our Father and our Mother will speak for us”.
It has been common among us to talk about “missionary community” or “missionary spirituality.” In this way of speaking, the mission becomes an adjective and not – as it should be – a noun. It is community “in mission” or in the mission of the Spirit. Then ours is a spirituality “in mission”. The mission is the source that nurtures the community. The mission of the Spirit is the permanent source of spirituality. The Congregation wants to live this from the charism bestowed on our founder Claret by the Spirit.
The rediscovery of the “Missio Dei” enables us recognize that it is not the community that has a missionary program, but that it is of God, the God of mission. He counts on the community to carry out his missionary program. This community is characterized by being a human group that has been chosen by God through a vocational event to form together a community of disciples-missionaries of Jesus, anointed by the Spirit.
The “Missio Dei” is much greater than each local community, which is one of the living instruments that God uses to carry out his mission in history. It is expected that in every missionary community, the missionary Trinity that saves human beings and creation will be reflected in some way, and establishes its Reign. And from this comes a crucial question to identify as a Christian community: How do we build and form communities that collaborate in the “Missio Dei?” What processes need to be opened for this to be possible?
2. Communities set up by context
In the Mother-Church of Jerusalem, God’s prominence in the Constitution of the community was undoubtedly stated:
“Every day the Lord added to those who were to be saved.”
It was the Lord who – as the protagonist – configured the community of “one heart, one soul and all in common.”
The new communities were not “clones” of the Jerusalem community. Each of them was configured according to the context: one was the community of Antioquia, another of Ephesus, another of Thessalonica, another of Corinth, etc. The model of the Church prevailed as oikós, family, home, extended family. Thus they began to speak of “par oikía,” that is, the parishes.
The community emerges, as a living organism with enormous adaptability. Therefore, it doesn’t respond to this type of community with the customs that impede any innovation based on the excusing expression: “it has always been done this way,” “it has been tried before and it has never worked.”
The community that refuses to become stagnant, one in which there is no room for people who allocate for themselves privileges of seniority and propriety, is a community open to innovation and willing to assume the “new” form that the Spirit wants to grant at this time, in this place, with these people, so that it may be a worthy partner in the Mission.
For this to be possible, the community has to be led through a double process: of growth in mutual relations between all the members who constitute it (without excluding any!) – and in interaction with the environment – urban or rural, cultural, bio-regional, ecclesial – in which the community is located and to which it has been sent.
What must not happen is that the internal context of the persons changes, but and everything remains the same, as if nothing had happened; or that the social and ecclesial context changes but the community remains the same as always. To be the same community always implies that the rules, the past norms, the previous projects of the community are imposed when dealing with a new situation. In other words, what is “established” is more important than the concrete persons.
3. Communities in transformation
Life doesn’t stop. Living organisms are always on the move: they evolve, grow, change, take on new forms without losing the identity. Vital processes are unstoppable. But when the movement becomes slower and more accustomed, when there is involution instead of evolution, deformation in the place of transformation, the processes of death begin to set in. This observation is also valid for life in the spirit. There is no spirituality without vital processes of transformation. Not to progress in the spiritual life is to go backwards.
The same can be said of the prophetic groups, to which our communities undoubtedly belong. We form “living organisms.” Life must not stop in our communities: they must be constantly open to transformational processes, otherwise, phases of deterioration and deformation or even death would not be a distant reality.
St. Paul puts it very well in Rom 12:2
“Do not conform to this world, but, be transformed with a renewal of the mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
To conform to the system, the scheme of a deviant world from the project of life that God offers, is to prepare to die. Paul pleads with the Christians of Rome to become anti-system; to renounce the well-off form, to assume another “form.” And this form begins with a process of innovation in the mind, in consciousness. Or, put in words from our time: innovation begins in a “new consciousness.” From there, it is possible to discover what Life offers us, the future that God grants us, the will of God.
In our last General Chapter, two proposals for the future were presented: one was the method of programming, and the other is the method of transformation processes. After a long discernment, the Chapter members opted for the second. But there are still those who ask: and what is this “transformation processes” in the field of mission, house (community, oiko-nomía), spirituality-formation)?
The transformation process is a journey into the emerging future: the one we seek and the one we are granted. And it requires learning three things: to be opening the mind (transcending the limits of our knowledge), opening the heart (transcending the limits of our relationships) and opening the will (transcending the limits of our small will).
It is one thing to organize ourselves in “a programming key” and yet another to organize ourselves “in the key of transformation.”
- The programming key: We start from an analysis of reality and its challenges; we then offer the keys of responses; finally, and finally we decide on options, priorities and actions and those responsible to carry them out. The results will then be evaluated to achieve the programmed result.
- The key of transformation: We undertake a journey, in order to unleash in us, in our communities, in our institutions, the processes of life. It’s the peculiar thing about living organisms! In its itinerary, the organism is multi-directional: it receives internal and external influences, spiritual, environmental, contextual and, according to them, it changes and improves its “form.”
If we consider ourselves “living organisms,” intelligent and emotional, as people, communities and organizations, we must pay attention to those processes in which our interaction with the environment and external context regenerate and transform us. This is how we open ourselves not only to the future, but also to move forward: to the future that we can foresee and promote, to the future that can reach us – and in a theological key, we call “advent.” This living organism can be called “active hope.” On the other hand, “we believe in the Holy Spirit, The Lord and the giver of Life.” We experience how every process of transformation takes place in alliance with Him. We don’t exclude the necessary programming as a responsibility towards life; but we don’t absolutize them, but we subordinate them to the transformative processes which surpass them.
“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.” (Dean Jackson).
The account of consecrated life lies in a moment of transition. We are in an incredible moment of evolution of our species and reaching a new mode of consciousness. We already see reality differently: we feel part of the biotic community of the earth recognizing that “everything is interconnected;” that’s why we’re gaining a new perspective to describe our identity, culture, and faith.
4. From the ego-system to the community eco-system
“In community we discover who we really are and how much transformation we are still in need. For this reason, I am irrevocably devoted to small groups. Through them, we can carry out the work that God has entrusted us to transform human beings” (John Ortberg).
“It does not matter how fast you run, if you’re going in the wrong direction.” And this happens, above all, when we are centred on our individual or collective “ego”. Then, there is no journeying, no adventure, no newness, like a madman circling around and around the same square. In the centre “I” stand reaffirming myself to the satisfaction of a false identity. Therefore, we should ask ourselves: how to make the journey from the ego-system to the eco-system?
Otto Scharmer (Theory U) easily describes the stages of a process of transformation that frees us from our ego-centrism. Instead of looking at others, we must learn to see each other through the eyes of others and the whole. When you shed your ego-vision then you enter the invisible zone from which it is possible to start again:
- Guided only by our usual way of thinking, we usually say: “Yes, I know” and we close ourselves to any new
- Instead, when we open our minds to “the other,” we begin to admire: “Oh, look at that.”
- When we look at the reality with an open heart, with empathy, we say, “yes, I understand how you feel.”
- When I contemplate reality from its source or the deepest part of our being, with our open will, then we say: “what I experience, cannot be expressed in words; I feel moved and calm; I know myself better; I am connected to something that surpasses me”. At this level, one perceives that he/she is not the same person after the experience.
If we look at the world around us, if we take the view of other people – and not just one’s own – if we listen to the new, we will see emerging opportunities and tune into them.
- When we only see ourselves through our eyes, only “our own” is urgent and pressing. We never have time for others; as in Jesus’ parable, everything is an excuse: I cannot go to the meeting, I cannot participate because… “I bought a field… I got married… I have a lot to do” (cf. Mt 22:1-10; Lk 14:16-24). To this is added cynicism: the cynic further excludes himself by saying that it matters little what he does. Or the emptiness of depression: nothing can change! It is going to be a failure!
- When we see ourselves through the eyes of others and in the context of the whole, we begin to be concerned about global warming, financial crisis, growing consumerism, fundamentalism, migration, refugees, affective disorders, etc. We become more inclusive and transparent, and become better organized to serve the well-being of all. When the boundary between ego and eco is blurred, surprising contributions, innovative results, change of mentality and new consciousness appear. And there is a “revolution from within”, a contemplative transformation.
How different it is to contemplate ourselves in the process of programming or in the process of transformation! Our Congregation wants to translate these processes of transformation into the field of mission (a new paradigm), community (prophetic and contemplative group), organization and institutions (a new autopoietic model), spirituality and formation (transformative formation), of people (on their way to the mystique of open eyes).
We are at a time when we need dreams, vision, and audacity; an era in which we want to do away with fear, cynicism and doubt. Jesus says, “”Men and women of little faith (oligopistia), why do you doubt?” (Mt 14:31). Life is unstoppable.
The Congregation wants to open processes which would bring about each of the conversions: conversion and the other are verified:
“We resolve to be – with Jesus – a Congregation “going forth” (cf. Mk 1:38) which receives the call of the Church to the pastoral-missionary and ecological conversion: we commit ourselves to form – under the guidance of the Spirit – communities of witnesses and messengers; we will take care to be men of deep spirituality who – open to the recommendation of Pope Francis to the Congregation – adore our God the Father “in spirit and truth” (cf. Jn 4:23) and embrace the processes of transformation that the Spirit grants us (MS, 65).
For personal reflection and community
 Cf. HAC, 58
 Cf. MS, 1-4
 Hch 2, 47.
 Hch 4, 32.
 Cf. Richard, N., Longenecker (ed), Community Formation in the Early Church and in the Church Today, Hendrickson, Peabody, 2002; Justin Smith, Missional Communities and Community Formation: What does the New Testament have to say, in “Apostolic Missio,” 21 (2013), p 190-202. Richard Ascough questions if Thessalonica was a community “similar in its constitution and structure to a voluntary professional association:” cf. Richard Ascough, The Thessalonian Christian Community as a professional voluntary association, in “Journal of Biblical Literature” 119 (2000), pp. 311-328; Philip A. Harland, Associations, Synagogues and Congregations: claiming a place in ancient mediterranean Society, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.
 Mike Breen Leading Misional Communities: rediscovering the power of living in mission together, Pete Berg, 2013. The family home was the space of father, mother, children, slaves, workers, businesses, associates. The “Church of the House” (Filemon, 1 Cor 16:19; Rom 16:6; Phil 2). One difficulty was that the “oikós” were separated from each other and also economically, hence the word “oikonomía.” If– it was thought – sharing resources could ruin the house itself, the New Testament advocated another model: sharing resources, teachings, koinonia. And all things under the one Pater Families who resurrected Jesus from the dead.
 John Ortberg, If you want to walk on the waters you have to get out of the boat, Life, 2003.
 Cf. Otto Scharmer, New New 901, Theory U. Leading from the future as it emerges, Berret Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2009.
 Autopoiesis is the property of a living system that allows it to maintain and renew itself by regulating its composition and conserving its boundaries – Merriam Webster Dictionary.
A missionary community
How do we relate our missionary community to Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom? Watch this video and ask yourself how your vocation forms part of Jesus’ project for humanity. How is God’s generosity related to your life and mission?
- Communities Configured by the Mission
- The Community "Oikos"
- The Community School of Disciples in Mission
- Prophetic and Contemplative Community
- Liturgical and Celebratory Community
- Walking Forth in the Spirit. Practicing Discernment in Personal Life and in Communities
- Leadership and Organization of the Community
- Conflict Transformation in Community
- Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Community
- Celebrating Life and Mission in Intercultural and Intergenerational Communities
- The Dream of Being Community
- The Paschal Mystery in Our Communities