Remembering Jesuit missionaries
The annual Mass of Irish Jesuits International for deceased Jesuit Missionaries and Volunteers took place on Sunday 7th November 2021 in the beautiful chapel of Gonzaga College, Dublin. The Mass was celebrated by Fr John K Guiney SJ, Director of Irish Jesuits International. Fr Ashley Evans SJ, who spent 27 years working as a teacher and priest in Cambodia, was the homilist.
In his homily, Fr Evans spoke of how much missionaries themselves learn from their encounters with the people in the communities they have gone to serve. He gave examples from his own experience in Cambodia of how he came to understand his mission and the people he worked among by listening to them.
He brought attention to the story from the first reading of the Mass, in which Elijah asks a gentile widow in a time of famine for a cup of water and some bread. She gives him what he asked for even though she has only enough food for one last meal for herself and her son, and her generosity is rewarded.
“This gentile woman,” he remarked, “respects the tradition of hospitality… She welcomes Elijah into her life and shares the last meal she is going to have with him.” Her response to Elijah signals the end of the famine. The rains come again, and food is plentiful. “She brings a blessing to many more people than herself,” Fr Evans commented. He noted too that this story of Elijah had a deep impact on Jesus. When Jesus preached in the synagogue in Nazareth, he reminded the people about this story, and they got angry with his interpretation of it – that God has no favourites, that both Jews and gentiles were perfectly capable of receiving God’s grace. God loves and cares for everyone.
Jesus finds the same trust in God’s providential care in a widow whom he sees putting her last coins into the temple treasury in Jerusalem, and he points her out to the apostles as an example. It is from generosity and trust like hers that freedom comes – she is “free of all kinds of attachments,” Fr Evans said. He gave gratitude then for the missionaries commemorated at the Mass, as they showed that same self-giving which brings freedom. They put so much that was valuable to them behind and started in a completely new culture and place in order to give witness to the Good News.
The entire Mass was filmed and is available for viewing on YouTube ».