A Mission In Life

by Fr. Shay Cullen

We have to have a mission in life, to make it meaningful,with purpose and to live more fully.The mission can be to accomplish any good work,motivated by a spiritual value of compassion, love of justice, care of others,empathy and solidarity with the sick, the oppressed and lonely. These inner convictions and commitments can be the driving force of mission.

It can be caring for our family, helping the local community,dedicating ourselves to prayer,helping the poor in anyway we can or even going out to change the world and to help others without seeking to enrich ourselves or to gain from it.The more selfless and pure our motivation the better. Unable to be engaged personally on a mission to serve  and directly save others many find a mission in sharing their surplus wealth in close partnership with a chosen mission or charitable work.

A mission in life is it own reward because it takes us out of ourselves toward others and it is a life of sharing and a life lived for others where we can find happiness, friendship and fulfillment. There is no better way to live as Jesus of Nazareth showed us. No greater love can anyone have,than to lay down their life for a friend.  

I have been on mission with the Columban Missionary Society for almost 44 years. The Columbans made my mission possible from the beginning by sending me to the Philippines.Then the Holy Spirit took over and guided me  the way I should go.

The latest chapter in my mission story happened a short while ago.I went with Preda social workers  to get another youth named Miguel our of dehumanized prisons and to find  his  mother. His father had left them years before.

We got him out with a court order from the dirty infested prison cell, a den of iniquity where innocent kids are treated like criminals.The  minors are held pending an investigation of some allegation made against them, usually with little evidence to support it, It takes weeks  or months in the Philippine system to have  a child brought brought before a court. Meanwhile in the  overcrowded cells the child is abused, molested, starved and even beaten by other inmates or cruel guards.

While the Preda social workers can save up to a hundred minors every year (some as young as 13)  thousands more could be jailed and no one will know or help them. We have to change the system and get the juvenile justice law that forbids the jailing of minors under 15  be respected and implemented by the authorities.Those over  15 cannot be jailed unless the act was with discernment.But many are  framed up. Changing that system is one mission I am on but it could take a life time.

Its in the  Jail where we are called upon to look for Jesus of Nazareth to see him present among the poor ,the hungry naked and the unjustly imprisoned . On the day of Judgement St.Mathew tells us  Jesus  will call us  to himself.  

`Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Matthew 25:31-46     Then we will ask when did we do all that to you Lord?
and he will answer, “so long as you did it to the poorest of my brothers and sisters you did it to me”. Its a powerful  passage where Jesus identifies himself with the poorest of the poor ,the hungry,sick, lonely abandoned and unjustly imprisoned.  

So from the jail I went to Paranaque in Metro Manila where there are millions of men women and malnourished sickly children living in the most unhygienic slums imaginable. I walked into a quagmire of filth, misery among the dwellers of the slums.Perverse poverty reigned supreme.

Its was not the first time that I visited a slum one of many.This was just a bit worse that the rest. They are the result of the great social equality in most modern societies where the wealth never trickles down to the poor. Where an estimated  two percent owns or controls 70 percent of the national wealth. The revelations of many politicians stealing billions of pesos supports the point.

A great divide exists between rich and poor like that between Lazarus at the gate of the rich man Dives. Not even the crumbs that fell from his table could Lazarus get. The only creatures who had compassion were the kind dogs that licked his sores to try and heal him. What a condemnation of the irresponsible greedy rich. The children of the poor have to beg or steal to eat and then they go to jail.

To get to the shacks and shanties where Miguel  mother lived we crossed a river thick smelly and as black as tar with the pollution nothing could exist there.Plastic bags and human waste floated there as the slums have no sewerage or toilets. The foot bridge was rickety, dangerous and made by the people themselves with scraps like their  shacks and hovels.

They met. Miguel’s mother embraced her lost son in tears and something good and beautiful entered their impoverished world.

I looked up into the distance at the towering condominiums and skyscrapers of the super rich and wondered if there was a Zacchaeus among them who would have a change of heart and give back to the poor.

(email: shaycullen@preda.org)

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