FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
THE PRINCIPLES BENEFICENCE AND BENEVOLENCE
Firstly, we are told by the author of the First Book of Kings how God through the Prophet Elijah called Elisha to ministry. The inspired writer stated: “The Lord said to Elijah: ‘You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you… Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you…” Here, I would like to lay the emphasis on the short time given to Elisha to bid farewell to his father and mother. When the Lord comes calling, sometimes time is not given for family socialization.
The second sentence and the third, I would like to pick from today’s gospel account. Jesus said “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” The third sentence is from Jesus’ last statement from today gospel text: “…No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” The first statement from Jesus calls for absolute detachment from a life of comfort for those who are called to follow Jesus while the second insist on the fact that no room will be given to “the called” to entertain a second thought of looking back to their former lives. Always remember what became of Lot’s wife when she decided to look back when they were told not to do so, what became of her – she turned into a pillar of salt. A word to the wise is enough.
As a seminary formator looking at these statements carefully, what comes to mind is the philosophical concept of beneficence and benevolence. The concept beneficence connotes acts or personal qualities of mercy, kindness, generosity, empathy, sympathy, others-centeredness and charity. These are the qualities that makes a priest go out of himself to help others. This concept finds a direct link with Jesus’ great mandate: “Go therefore and make disciple of all nations…”
Once a person is ordained a priest, it holds on him as a kind of Christian obligation to help others to know Christ and assist them in their needs. And when God calls one for such mission, at times like Elisha, there would not be time for one to say goodbye to family and friends. And where the priest is sent as Jesus rightly said, there may not be a place for him to lay his head. This is the character of Catholic missionary work.
This was the type of formation the early missionaries received during their formation that made them to leave the comfort of their homes in Europe to come to Africa, Asia, and South America, to bring the gospel. Although many of them knew that the climatic and health conditions in these areas weren’t favorable to them, they put the need to help other children of God far beyond their preservation of life. Many missionaries came and died and yet many others followed. Some were buried in unmarked graves while others were subjected to all kinds of barbaric treatments from the very people they were risking their lives to evangelize. This was the extent to which some of the early missionaries made sacrifices to help others.
Before a priest can act because of his formation on the principle of beneficence, (s)he ought to possess the God given gift of benevolence. Benevolence refers to the morally valuable character trait or virtue of being disposed to act to benefit others. Many of our priests are in this sacred vocation because, naturally, God has gifted them with this special character trait or virtue of being disposed to act to benefit others. The Catholic Church is having over a billion members, primarily, thanks to the grace of God and secondly, thanks to the benevolence of billions (if not trillions) of missionaries who since the Ascension of Lord has committed their lives to spreading the faith.
We have so many priests who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and yet they are working for God since they do not want to spend the rest of their lives crying quietly because they are going to die.
We need to be thankful to thousands of priests who on the daily basis do not think about where they will lay their heads in various missionary stations but what they think of is only on how to be beneficent and benevolent to their fellow brothers and sisters. May God continue to bless all those who answer the call of Jesus to perform varied works of mission. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRAY FOR US.