The following was a talk given by missionary Annie Hetzel at one of the Masses at the end of her summer missionary experience in Maine:
First of all I want to thank all of you. Thank you for being so welcoming, for your kindness and generosity. My intention was to come to serve and make a difference in the communities of Jay and Farmington. But as my experience is coming to an end, it’s clear to me that you have impacted me more than I could ever have impacted you. So I want to thank you. Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the Bread of Life Discourse from the Book of John. So I would like to take a moment to share with you about my own relationship with The Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.
When I was in highschool I went on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica to serve alongside the missionaries of the poor. Although I witnessed poverty and despair like I’ve never seen, I also witnessed so much joy. This joy was radiating out of the residents who we served, most of whom were severely mentally or physically impaired. But joy was also radiating from the brothers of the Missionaries of the Poor who served these people every single day. While I was truly moved it wasn’t until my second trip the following year that I realized the true source of their joy. It was Jesus, the Bread of Life.
When I went the second time to Jamaica it finally dawned on me that the reason the brothers were able to accomplish the work they did was because they relied on God for every thing. They went to Mass and adoration each day and they prayed throughout the day. In other words, they received the Bread of Life daily. Although I realized this, I still didn’t incorporate what I learned into my own life. I thought that the call for holiness was just for the brothers, or for priests, or sisters, but I didn’t really think it was possible for me. That all my messiness or my ordinary life could be holiness.
But Im realizing (I guess I’m a slow learner) that striving for holiness is a kind of holiness itself. That the Brothers of the MOP, or Sisters For Life, and Fr. Paul, are not joyful because they live a religious life. They are joyful because of their personal, intimate friendship with Jesus. This friendship with Jesus is not only possible for all of us, it’s what God wants for all of us. And when Jesus is our friend it’s obvious to others. And it can help bring others closer to Him. I have come to realize that to be filled with Jesus is the only way to be a true missionary. And we are all made for this no matter what our vocation is…we are all called to be missionaries.
Saint Faustina said in her diary “Although I am in the company of others my heart is always united to Him. When I am asleep I offer Him every beat of my heart, when I am awake I immerse myself in Him without saying a word. I than try to make it easier for Jesus to Pass through me to others. I go everywhere with Jesus. His presence accompanies me everywhere.”
I’ve seen mission work lived out in so many different ways right here in the towns of Jay and Farmington, Maine. I see it in the way the parishoners who help with bread-making kneed the bread with pride. In the way the men help with projects around the church. In the couples who feed the hungry at the nutritian center, in all those who diligently care for the garden on cold and hot days just the same. In the way you all encounter each other with love, compassion and empathy. You are all answering this call to holiness. What a blessing it has been to witness!
This is what it means to allow Jesus to pass through you to others. In returning to today’s Gospel, the Bread of Life is our food for the Journey, Without it we can do little through our own efforts, but with it the possibilities of what Jesus can do are endless.