« HERE I AM, SEND ME » (ref. Isaiah 6, 8)
By José I. Sierra
This phrase contains two important statements: here I am and send me. Every authentic missionary approach requires this in order for it to move forward. It has been this way for thousands of years. The Bible has many examples of people who have pronounced these words before God: from Abraham to Moses, as well as Esther, David, Mary of Nazareth and so many others. In the Church, they are also the words pronounced by future permanent deacons and priests before the bishop, as well as all those who are going to receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
Let us take a closer look at the meaning of these important statements.
Here I am
We all know what taking attendance at school is like. Every morning, the teacher takes his list, he calls out the name of a student who answers: “present!” It is a simple and effective method that allows us to know who is in class, who is available.
When someone makes his presence known, it is also a way for that person to validate his identity in the midst of others. By doing so, I am accepting my identity as a person. In other words, I’m differentiating myself from others because I know who I am.
If we deepen this reflection, we realize that being present also means to exist for someone, in spirit as in flesh. Just like a parent says to his child: “I’m here for you”; just like a friend says to another: “What’s wrong? Tell me about it, I’m listening”; just like God says to me: “I love you, you are precious in my eyes.” (ref. Isaiah, 43:4)
To be present also means realizing that we live in space and time, a notion that sends us back to the question of our existence and our place in the universe. It is an approach that requires, in a certain way, an act of faith from our part because of how difficult it is to grasp such a reality.
When I say “here I am” to God, I’m essentially telling him four things: that I’m available, that I accept my identity, that I exist for others, and that I believe in myself. Without these realities, we are not ready to say: “send me”.
As we have seen, many people throughout History have answered “here I am” to God’s call, and have been sent by him to accomplish a given mission. However, nothing leads us to believe that their mission was easy. Being sent implies going out. It demands that we step out of ourselves, out of our comfort; it shakes our bearings. Being sent is gathering momentum, it’s an action that propels us forward and makes us land at a specific, and especially unknown, place.
And yet, the Lord never sends someone by force. For God gives us the freedom to accept or refuse his call. If I tell him: “send me”, it is of my own will that I do it. It is I, not others, that am telling God who to send. And so, accepting God’s call requires a decision on my part. I may be available, I may accept who I am, I may believe in myself. But I cannot be sent on mission if I do not decide to do it.
The Lord is knocking at our heart’s door and waits for an answer to his call. What happens if I refuse and say “no”? Will he be angry at me? Of course not. One thing is for sure, we have nothing to lose and everything to win by saying: “Here I am, send me!”
By José I. Sierra
José I. Sierra is Head of Communications for Pontifical Mission Societies – Francophone side. The PMS are the missionary organ of the Church and depend on the congregation of the evangelization of peoples. He is also editor-in-chief of the journal Univers, a journal of missionary information and animation in the service of the Canadian Church, published by the Pontifical Society of the Spread of Faith.