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On a bus in Thailand

· A Catholic missionary tells of her daily encounter with Jesus to the Buddhist driver ·

What will he have understood about my God? I 'm still asking myself this again after four months of conversation with a public transport driver. At that time, I often went to work, from one place to another in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, and I willingly sat in the front with the driver, to converse, as the drivers know a lot about the city and what goes on within it.

That day he was a particularly talkative man. Knowing that I was a missionary, he started asking me thousands of questions. I gave in to his curiosity and answered, trying to be brief but precise, given that the topics were: dedication, eternal life and God, all categories that varied greatly between Buddhism and Christianity. I had therefore to be careful not to give vague answers or create misconceptions.

In the Buddhist world, to be a monk or a nun does not necessarily refer to a choice for the rest of one’s life. Actually, in the majority of cases monks remain monks for a limited time, which can vary from a few days to several years. My interlocutor asked me for this reason, how long I had been religious and how much longer I would intend to remain so. I responded that in our religion it is a definitive choice, that most important of all was the relationship with God and that, to be united with Him more intimately, some welcomed this way of life as a gift from God.

The next question did not come like a torrent as the previous ones had. There was a Pause. I thought that by then the driver was beginning in quieten down and that he had exhausted his repertoire. This however was not the case, he was preparing to ask me a very special question, one able to turn upside down my heart and mind and one that drove me to an extremely quick examination of my life. Even today his question resounds in my ears and in my heart: “Do you touch God every day?”.

I found myself silenced, searching for a possible answer, necessarily brief, understandable and, above all, believable. Especially believable because while the answer was being formulated, I became aware of the responsibility that went with that statement.

I was aware of my limits, and words seemed like boulders. They did not want to escape. The fact is that the touch of God, every possible day, had to find harmony in a true transformation of myself, had to be perceptible in my certainty of my relationship with Him. I felt as if were drifting far away, how then to respond? That man was waiting and the trip was about to end.

"Yes - I dared - every day," and then tried to explain. That impossible contact has been made possible by Jesus. Through him, God became one of us. And we have access to a relationship with him every day. It is always an event always sublime and unimaginable that daily life must never trivialise.

I was saying to him as to myself, that yes, it is true, I can touch God and I can do it every day. God is so great that He can lower himself to us - every day - for love; for He wants people to love one another freely, just like Jesus. I had arrived at my destination. Other people had to be taken elsewhere. "Good-bye, thank you." "Good-bye, it was a nice conversation."

I was hot, and not just due to the temperature outside. What did he, my Buddhist interlocutor understand? I do not know. I really do not know. But I know that I will never forget that question. It is there like a gift and obligation also for my Christian life. It accompanies me now for four months, reviving in me the gratitude for the gift of the incredible closeness of God to the daily and leading me back to the daily obligation of conversion.

The mission of every Christian is most beautiful: it is to make visible the opportunity given to us, to be able to touch God every day. It is bring us close to the way of Jesus, to be also like him, a meeting place, a space for a possible relationship between God and men.

What a wonder our faith is: the relationship that we have with God does not come to an end between us and him, but becomes a place that allows God to reach out to our brothers and sisters. It also allows our brothers to encounter and touch God who dwells within us.

I think the expression of Paul is to be understood along these lines: For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband (I Corinthians 7,14). Every baptized person is therefore enabled always to be a missionary because he is inhabited by God. The believer who accepts in their heart their non-believing neighbour, gives him - along with friendship - the chance to meet God who dwells in him and therefore to be made holy by him. May the Lord make us ever more a house inhabited by him where others can enter in so the meeting may occur.

by Teresa Bello




St. Peter’s Square

Feb. 21, 2020