Homily of Card. Matteo Zuppi on the occasion of the feast of Sant'Egidio
1 Corinthians 2,10-16
Luke 4, 31-37
Sisters and brothers,
This square tonight gathers also those who are scattered in the four corners of the world and we feel them so close to us and united to us through that profound and invisible link that is communion.
We live with a special joy the memory of Sant’Egidio. Today, in fact, we celebrate a very important anniversary: 1,300 years after his death that occurred in the south of France where he is buried. It is a privilege occasion to give thanks. We should never loose any occasion of doing so because giving thanks helps us to live well. ‘It is right and just’ as we say in the liturgy and it is a source of salvation because he who gives thanks lives better and makes others live better.Giving thanks helps us to remember the gifts we have and frees us from the temptation to be caught up in the sorrows that make us lose the part that will not be taken away and that make us become so victimised that we do not really realise the closeness of God.
We give thanks for a gift that is both ours and mine, personal as the most intimate and precious thing that we have and that helps us to make our neighbour precious by loving him or her. It is also a common gift which makes us all live in one single house with many rooms united even if they are far away, despite our sins we are his because God is always greater than our misery.
And ‘friendship here never ends’ as Valdo Vinay, an old friend of the Community, used to say because it is God’s choice to be friend that enables us to be a family and to be a family in all our choices because it is the most important of all. Sant’Egidio is a home and not a centre. I was surprised, personally I was shocked, when Andrea phoned me on the day of Sant-Egidio a year ago and told me Pope Francis had announced he would create me cardinal. I understood it later, it was clear to me the coincidence - eminent is the Community, what I have is for the love I have received and we are all titular of this house. The house that unites us to the Bishop of Rome and to the Church he presides.
Let us give thanks because it has changed our lives and after so many years and resistance does not stop doing so. A great tree was hidden in that little seed of the beginning and Andrea saw it when it seemed impossible because he believed that the Word is effective. We thank him wholeheartedly together with Marco and all those who, the Apostle would say, ‘are tiring for us’.
Let us always pray for one another and also those who have the service of communion in such a large and truly universal family that asks us to never lack our friendship and closeness. Sant’Egidio is a large tree that wants to offer shelter in a world marked by obscure and powerful interests that threaten and ruin it; a world crossed by so many pandemics which the Community has never got used to, it has never ignored them nor faced them with no haste nor with detachment of officials.
There is no time to waste with evil! Sant’Egidio has never stopped to be in a hurry to reach many half dead men and women in a half dead world because if you waste time it is half of their life that is lost and this time because of the bandit that is indifference. In these difficult months full of loneliness and fear we have understood even more the strength of humanity that is Sant’Egidio and now we cannot waste it without passion or keeping it for us alone.
Sant’Egidio lived in a world that was completely different from ours and we may think he does not have anything to do with us. Indeed, love always overcomes distances, time, differences, because it comes from God. And it is really true that what remains is what we give to others. Holiness, that is to say, God's love reflected into our humanity, never ends and lasts after us. Sant'Egidio certainly did not go around with a halo, but certainly others were looking for him because he was full of love, he transmitted a love that made him attractive and shining, authoritative, like one who is empty of his words and full of the words of God.
He was a Greek who took the Gospel seriously and felt at home everywhere, like the Community. He went to the other side of the world at that time, France and Spain. In Catalonia there are some sanctuaries dedicated to Sant'Egidio. He was a rich man who became poor. He was a man of intense and persevering prayer and at the same time attentive to others, he welcomed everyone, especially the poor and those who needed protection. He was not frightened - let us say intimidated - by the violent and the rich. On the contrary, if they met him, they understood and became different, because he was not conceited, but powerful, strong, full of God's intelligence. He resisted their violence and defended the doe, his friend. He built a monastery, a community of people. None of us at first knew who Sant'Egidio really was.
In the early years of the Community Andrea was often asked what had made Sant’Egidio so special that he chose to take his name! We have understood that he looks very much like us! Because those who love the Lord do not become completely equal to others, a bit like those who love themselves and therefore are banal and equal to others. Actually, they discover that we are brothers and sisters and that it is good and beautiful to be brothers and sisters, they understand that we are children of the same mother and live the joy of being together as brothers and sisters: poor and rich, men and women, sick and not sick, young and old, children and adolescents. We can all listen to the Gospel and help us each other to put it into practice by learning that each of us always has something to give to the others.
What a joy then a saint like that and having a name that unites us! His name makes the name of each one of us important and makes grow in us, even after so many years, the desire to be better and the serene choice to pull out the best in us. Sant'Egidio was one who did a lot of miracles. He teaches us to do the great things of Jesus' disciples, who cannot have a mediocre love. Ancient stories tell us of people who were in great need, as prisoners or people condemned to death, who pronounced the name of Sant'Egidio and were freed or protected. Another story tells of Sant'Egidio as the one who prepared a table on the ground for the poor, the table that Jesus prepares for us in heaven. The name itself makes us company in the difficulties, it is like light in the darkness, it makes us feel important even in the greatest weakness, because we are loved, alone but not isolated, as it happens to many brothers and sisters of ours who unfortunately live far away and in dangerous conditions. It represents peace and many invoke Sant'Egidio because they are submerged by the tragic storm of war.
The Gospel, we have just listened to, speaks of a man who was not master of himself because he was possessed by a spirit that ruined his heart and his relationship with others. Jesus repairs, heals, silences division and rebuilds a relationship of love, he gives us the power to free the world from the many spirits of division, hatred, violence and loneliness. That is why Sant'Egidio was and is the protector of those who are weak, healer, defender of those who do not know what to do, of people who suffer psychiatric and spiritual disease, shipwrecked, possessed by demons, peasants who invoke rain against drought.
Sant'Egidio is a patron, a protector, someone who thinks of me, who does not forget me, for whom I am important so much that he comes to my aid. He continues to protect the doe from the violence of the many kings and every arrogance of men and women who think they can own the environment. How many people do not have a patron that defends them! Let us celebrate our patron with joy, we understand that we are loved by the Lord and we choose to be protectors for others because we are strong of the love the Lord gives us. We love Sant'Egidio, this house is holy because it is a gift from God. ‘The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature. All your works give you thanks, o Lord and your faithful bless you. They speak of the glory of your reign and tell of your great works. Making known to all your power, the glorious splendour of your rule.’
At the conclusion of the liturgy
The greeting of Marco Impagliazzo
I would like to address a special greeting to all of us in the square, to those in the Basilica and all those who are connected from all over the world for this great celebration and feast. Dear Andrea, thank you for the inspiration you give every day to the life of the Community. Dear Don Matteo, a full-titled Roman priest from Trastevere, a close collaborator of Pope Francis, teacher of this church of Sant'Egidio on this very special anniversary. We needed a celebration like this for the 1300th anniversary of the passing of Sant'Egidio but also to celebrate your first year of cardinalate, this is perhaps the true surprise! I also thank Vincenzo and Ambrogio who have concelebrated in this beautiful and solemn liturgy in which we also had permission from the government and CEI to strengthen the choir for the liturgies.
But I would especially like to thank for the many written messages I have received in so many ways, via social media, and personally. It is really an emotion to be here and ideally embrace all our Communities, a large family of communities, as Don Matteo said. The memory of Sant'Egidio, a memory that has been connected for centuries to a man and then to a sanctuary, like the most famous in the south of France, a hermitage, a church and many places that time after time have been built linked to this saint in Europe. A European memory, a European saint. But allow me to say that it is so but it is no longer so because today this memory has overcome the European boundaries and is no longer connected only to a man, a saint, but it is linked to a Community, at least that is how we feel it, to many Communities that are part of the same family, a universal family.
And everything that Sant'Egidio has represented in history, the protection of the poor, of the little ones, from diseases, shipwrecks, the scourges of nature, pandemics - everything that Sant'Egidio has represented as protection - is what our community lives today and wants to live in the future, and it is providential that it is like this in this time. Because the answer to a difficult time ours is not being alone and it is not leaving anybody alone and to know that we are all on the same boat, as Pope Francis says. The answer to this time is being a community, also being the Community of Sant'Egidio and it is to populate of communities our cities, that is why it is so beautiful that it is no longer just the memory of a saint but it is the memory of all Communities that take the name from him. That is why we asked Sant'Egidio to protect and allow the Community to grow in the world and in the style of the Community of Sant’Egidio. There is a style of the Community that is a sign of protection towards all those who are in need. May Sant'Egidio grant us the blessing of never being alone, of building every day communities that do not live on virtuality but of reality. Long live Sant'Egidio!