Antwerpen (Belgio): Festa per il 42° anniversario della Comunità
18 aprile 2010
Domenica 18 aprile, la cattedrale di Anversa ha accolto la celebrazione della Comunità di Sant’Egidio per il 42° anniversario della nascita della Comunità e i 25 anni di esistenza in Belgio, presideuta da mons. Johan Bonny, vescovo di Antwerpen. Il cardinale Peter Turkson, presidente del Pontificio Consiglio Giustizia e Pace, non essendo potuto arrivare a causa del blocco dei voli per la nube vulcanica, ha inviato la sua predicazione, che è stata letta da mons. André Dupuy, nunzio apostolico presso l’Unione Europea.
Your Excellencies …,
Brothers and Sisters in Consecrated Life;
Today is the day the Lord has made, which is true of every Sunday but especially of such a special occasion which the Lord has been patiently preparing with His infinite and patient gifts of grace. The Eucharist is always an act of thanksgiving, but especially today, looking back on this Community’s 25 years of life, prayer and service. Every Gospel orients our lives in some important way, but today’s Gospel seems ‘custom made’ to help us mark Sant’Egidio’s birthday in Belgium with all its depth of meaning, past and future.
For me it is a joy and an honour to preside at this Eucharist and to join you in giving thanks. To be truly grateful, it is not enough to look back on blessed moments and achievements, although that is the first step. It is also necessary to ask, what has been our vocation until now? and how does the Lord send us forth from this joyful Jubilee day?
In today’s Gospel, in the space of less than ten verses, Saint John reports how our Lord Jesus used the imperative six times, gave six commands. Moreover, there is a seventh order in the first reading which is put negatively and which we are surely not to obey!
Let us listen to the six imperatives from the Gospel of John: The Lord Jesus commands: (6) cast your nets off starboard; (10) Bring some of the fish; (12) Come and eat; (15) Feed my lambs; (16) Take care of my sheep; (17) Feed my sheep; (19) Follow me. And finally, in the Acts of the Apostles, the High Priest orders: Do not speak in the name of Jesus (40).
So, celebrating 25 years of Sant’Egidio in Belgium:
i) The first command is “come and eat”, and this is exactly what the founding members began doing 25 years ago so that Sant’Egidio would be born and live and grow. Down the years you have repeatedly accepted the invitation to “follow” Jesus as a new community in the Church, and you regularly nourish yourselves in common prayer, at the Eucharist, and in shared life and ministry. Please continue to do so!
ii) In order to live as a new community, each one hears the Lord say, “Bring some of the fish”, that is to contribute one’s time, talents, energies, resources, labours. Moreover, like the faith-filled widow, you have not just given out of what is left over, but out of your substance. Yes, this means sacrifice, made with cheerful generosity because, we know, the Lord loves a cheerful giver and abundantly rewards beyond anything one could ever have expected in return. Please continue to bring in more and more of the fish!
iii) Thirdly, Jesus says, “cast your nets off starboard”, that is, break with routine, fly in the face of custom, use the unconventional side of the boat. This is what you have done in social service, in inter-religious dialogue, in peace-building. And this creative effort, driven by faith, is echoed in the responsorial psalm, “Weeping all night long, in the morning joy” (Ps 29), reminding us of the poignant phrase, “sowing in tears, rejoicing in the harvest”. The Lord would have it so, from now on, too.
iv) And here comes the mysterious triple commandment, “Feed my lambs – take care of my sheep – feed my sheep”. This is a service of humility, like the real vocation of a Bishop. Yes, it may seem more urgent to break through outer barriers and reach those who have never heard the Gospel; yet Jesus gives the pastoral charge to care of the lambs and feed the sheep, namely the Lord’s own flock, the Church. It is not easy, whether in an ageing and shrinking churches here in the north, or in the usually poor mission countries of the south, or in tiny diaspora churches amongst the other great religions or where there is none at all. Everywhere the flock needs food, needs care.
Yet to feed Jesus’ lambs and care for His sheep is essential: to nourish the Body of Christ. It is the Body of Christ (the whole, real, concrete, ecclesial and mystical) Body of Christ which receives the mission of the Gospel, not just visible instances like the Holy Father, Bishops, Priests or even a community like Sant’Egidio. Today Jesus commands us to care for His needy lambs and feed the malnourished sheep of His flock so that, providentially, the Father’s kingdom might come. Is Sant’Egidio ready to do so during the coming 25 years?
As a member of the Roman Curia seeking to help the Holy Father in his ministry of leadership, I take the liberty to address a special challenge to you today. When you hear the command about “my lambs”, I suggest you hear the Lord challenging you to help the Church in the delicate issues involved in the protection of children, the rehabilitation of abused children or of adults abused as children, the healing of families damaged by abuse, the restoring of credibility and trust. You may be tempted, as a lay Community, as a new Community, to turn aside with the legitimate excuse, “Not our business.” If so tempted, please hear the Lord saying in the imperative: Care for my lambs who have been hurt. Feed my sheep, some of whom have sinned.
v) The six commandments of today’s Gospel seem sufficient to celebrate Sant’Egidio’s Anniversary and renew your mission, but I am happy to take up a seventh, a negative one, a false but tempting one. When the High Priest orders the apostles “not to speak in the name of Jesus”, please notice that he is speaking in the name of MANY powers and forces in the world today. MANY would like to stop you and me from acting and speaking in His name. In the case of Sant’Egidio, they would say so reasonably, ‘Sure, go ahead, serve the poor or build the peace but only in the name of common humanity, or human rights, or basic decency.’
But I say to you: Do not listen to the many high priests of secularism. Obey all six commandments as explicitly as possible in the name of Jesus. It is tough to be the Church in the modern world. It is tough to create new public space for the Gospel This I believe is your fundamental mission as Sant’Egidio and indeed, in a different way, very much the mission of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to which the Holy Father assigned me a few months ago.
Giving thanks for the 25 years full of so many blessings, let us ask for the grace, during the coming 25, for this Community to live everything, to do everything, to speak everything – not for itself or in the lovely and respected name of Sant’Egidio – but primarily and always in the name of Jesus.
Therefore, listening to the commandments again, we promise to obey them all: -- (6) cast your nets off starboard; (10) Bring some of the fish; (12) Come and eat; (15) Feed my lambs; (16) Take care of my sheep; (17) Feed my sheep; (19) Follow me – all in the name of Jesus.