21. Jesus Christ is the rule of the mission
You call me Master and Lord, and rightly, so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you. I tell you most solemnly, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly.
The spirit of the Congregation is a participation in the Spirit of Christ himself, as proposed by Saint Vincent; ‘He sent me to preach the Gospel to the poor’. (Luke 4:18) Hence, ‘Jesus Christ is the rule of the Mission’ and shall be considered as the center of its life and activity (SV, xii, 130).
The relationship between the Rule and Jesus is evident. Our rules are inspired by the Spirit of Jesus and are a guide in living according to the Spirit of Jesus. Since it is impossible to embody the entire Spirit of Jesus in the rules, then Jesus himself, is the Rule of the Mission.
1. We Ought to Have this Divine Model Always Before Our Eyes
When Saint Vincent attempted to explain the meaning of the words “seek first the Kingdom of God”, he spoke of Jesus as the Rule of the Mission:
Yes, our Lord has recommended that we ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ and that we should devote our whole lives to this task. It is his will for us, for he is the Rule of the Mission. He speaks and we listen to his words and commit ourselves to him in the living out of his word1.
Christ is the Rule of the Mission, not only in some global, generic sense, but also in that he guides our concrete behavior in specific situations. Saint Vincent counseled Monsieur Durand:
Another point to which you should pay particular attention is to depend greatly on the guidance of the Son of God. I mean to say that, when you have to act, you should reflect like this: ‘Is this in conformity with the maxims of the Son of God?’2
In a conference on the evangelical maxims, Saint Vincent expressed his desire that the Congregation live and act according to the example of Jesus:
The Company, from the very beginning, had the desire to model itself on our Lord by doing what he did, i.e., by observance of the evangelical maxims. In this way the Congregation might render itself pleasing to the Father and useful to his Church … Thus we are confident that Jesus will give each one of us the grace to live every maxim and every rule to the highest degree of perfection. It is our task to form a Company animated by the Spirit of God and faithful to the inspirations of this Spirit3.
2. Religion for the Father
For Jesus, the two basic virtues are love of God the Father and love of neighbor. For a missionary, the two basic virtues to imitate are the very same:
The first evidence of Jesus’ love for the Father was his esteem for the Father: our Lord had such a high esteem for the Father that he offered him homage in all he was and in all he did. He related everything to the Father. He would not say that his doctrine was his own but credited it to his Father. Is there any higher esteem than that of this Son, who is equal to his Father, and who nevertheless recognizes his Father as the Author, the single source of all the good that is in him?4
Further evidence of Jesus’ love for the Father is manifested in Jesus’ dependence on the will of God: Jesus fulfilled the will of his Father in all things. This is why he came to live among us, not to do his own will, but to do the will of his Father. O Savior! Such goodness! How wonderful to give oneself to the practice of your virtues. You are the King of Glory, but you came into this world with the single purpose of fulfilling the will of the One who sent you5.
A final proof of Jesus’ love of the Father is his very act of love: and his love, what was it like? My savior! How deeply you loved your Father! Can there be a love as great as the love that gives everything in self-sacrifice? Can there be a greater testimony to love than dying for love?6
3. Charity Towards One’s Fellow Human Beings
The second virtue of Jesus was his love of his neighbor. This was a proof of his love for the Father. Who practiced this love better than Jesus?
Look at the Son of God: what a loving heart! what a fire of love! My Jesus, teach us, I beg you, what brought you down from heaven. Why did you come and suffer the many persecutions and torments you received here? O Savior! O fountain of love! Humbled for us by such degrading punishment! Who loved another more than you did? You came to open yourself to all our miseries, to be taken for a sinner, to lead a life of suffering, and to endure a disgraceful death for our sakes. Is there any other love like this? Who could love with such great love?7
- No one of us doubts the fact that Jesus is the model and example for our conduct, but do I personally accept the evangelical norms as the real pattern for my daily life?
- Does something else really shape my life more than Jesus’ words, example and values?
O Savior, grant us the grace to conform our actions to yours, our feelings to yours, so that our lamps might burn brightly and our hearts be watchful. My brothers and sisters, let us beg this grace of God with our prayers and sacrifices. Let us use every means so that God will inspire the Church to enter into these divine truths. Let us direct our lives, our actions and our feelings towards this same end. We pray in your name Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen8.
- “Seek First the Kingdom of God,” February 21, 1659, O. c., xi, 429.
- Advice to Antonine Durand, 1656, O.C., xi., 239.
- “On the Evangelical Maxims,” February 14, 1659, O.C., xi, 427.
- “On the Members of the Congregation of the Mission and Their Works,” December 13, 1658, O.C., xi, 411..
- “On Poverty,” August 13, 1655, O.C., xi, 149.
- “On the Members of the Congregation of the Mission and Their Works,” December 13, 1658, O.C., xi, 411.
- “On Charity,” May 30, 1659, O.C., xi, 555.
- “On the Members of the Congregation of the Mission and Their Works,” December 13, 1658, O.C., xi, 424.