'We are a people of poor and humble, of old and young, of brothers and sisters who become little, so they all become great.' The homily by Card. Matteo Zuppi

Homily by H.Em. Card. Matteo Zuppi at the Eucharistic liturgy on the occasion of the Community of Sant'Egidio's 55th anniversary
San Giovanni in Laterano, 9 February 2023

The Eucharist is always thanksgiving, the most complete thanksgiving as it unites us with the Lord and with one another, it clothes our poor people with the light of God's full love, of his presence in the uncertainty and confusion of our life.
We all feel today, personally and as a community, the joy of giving thanks for our friendship that unites us, for many years of love, a free and circular bond. We all truly enjoy it, those of the first hour as well as those of the last, a foretaste of that father's home who wants "all that is mine is yours".
A dear friend of the Community, Valdo Vinay, who shared the path of our early years in his old age, used to repeat an expression of a young man: 'Here friendship never ends'. He used it for himself and I believe we can all say it. Friendship has not ended; indeed, it has grown stronger, and has faced so many pandemics of poverty and suffering. The Community has always been close to the wounds of the people, the poor.
It began at the shacks of the Cinodrome, the Community's first service, and it has never stopped looking for the many and often enormous Cinodrome, everywhere. So much suffering, so many tears!
The cry for peace of entire peoples has found in this Noah's Ark listening, protection, friendship, home, light, warmth. It has never stopped looking for a solution - something very different from easy and self-indulgent declarations, digital and show emotions.
Sant'Egidio, aware that the solution never depends solely on our decision and effort, has never stopped searching for it with all of itself. "My eyes shine with light because I dry the tears of those who suffer," Mother Teresa used to say.
The Community shines with love, because it has wept with those in tears, yet it has been comforted by the many smiles returned, an anticipation of the never-ending Jesus' beatitude. Measure has never been what could be done, but what needs to be done.
Sometimes we experience, bitterly when delays are human fault, our fragility and weakness, yet we do not give up looking for solutions. It has happened like this with the Humanitarian Corridors. They have opened up the impenetrable wall of 'there is nothing to do', 'all you can do is wait'. Thousands of people, who had been waiting, have had a future. Just a few? Whoever saves a life - a single life - saves the world entire, because each person is a world, unique and irreplaceable. We must always remember that whoever loses a life, loses a world entire.
These years confirm to us that it is always possible to love life, to defend it, to change this world so that fraternity is real. Everyone can do it and is full of happiness, freed from sadness or love reduced to adrenalin. But the persuasive voice of false realism is constantly repeating to forget about it, to think that it's not worth it. It wastes energy and so many means and possibilities. A great many. And let us hope that in this time we will find plans for the future to build something that will only remain if we go beyond ourselves. So the beauty of this celebration is that it brings together not only the many present, but also the many Communities all over the world, from the small and remote villages in northern Mozambique or Congo, plagued by violence, to the numerous Communities in Ukraine and Russia. In the storm of war they have never stopped helping the weakest, comforting and feeding the lonely elderly, those living on the streets or the children in the Schools of Peace. Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who are in difficult or risky situations or belong to a minority. We thank them for the example of humanity they offer, showing the Christian life and the spirit of the Community. Let us all continue to shine lights of hope and show a better world when all around us is the darkness of violence, of war, but also of loneliness and meaninglessness. Let us all resolve to be peacemakers, to preserve a human heart like a lamb, even when the world becomes a wolf, and believes only in weapons, unable to find humanity.
Let us sow the seeds of a different world, and begin the ceasefire even now where we are, disarming hands and minds and filling them with feelings and bonds of love. War also extinguishes dreams and aspirations. The Community of Sant'Egidio brings them back to life, defends them, a bud of peace that continues to bloom, a foretaste of the peace that can make life bloom. All Sant'Egidio is a people of peacemakers, because it brings hearts closer together, removes barriers, breaks down walls, creates places where Fratelli tutti is not just a grand vision but the reality of behaviour and words.
And I warmly thank the intelligent and patient efforts to weave peace, like those in South Sudan, sometimes as long, we could say endless, as wars are! St John Paul II, speaking to the Community, was right: you set no limits other than charity. And charity is untiring not because it does not experience weariness, but overcomes it through love itself. And we thank Andrea who never stops struggling against the darkness of evil with restlessness and intelligence. He continues to dream of changing the world, because he listens to God and his passion for the harvest. He has seen a garden even when there was only a desert. Thank you Andrea! Christ is peace because he has broken down the wall of separation that divides and generates war, that is, enmity.

Sant'Egidio has become a universal family, with no borders, and like a mother, it forgets no one. And I thank from the bottom of my heart those who strive for this mother to show her maternity everywhere, starting with Marco and the entire Presidency of the Community. Let us always remember to pray for every Community and also for those who serve it in communion and unity. We are a people of poor and humble, of old and young, of brothers and sisters who become little, so they all become great'.
We are workers who can always, - and it is a grace - work for the Lord and thus for our neighbour. Pope Benedict, with great gentleness and deep human understanding, said at the end of lunch at the soupkitchen in Via Dandolo that who serves and helps is confused with whom is helped and served, happiness for one and the other.
It is a "we" that is open and precise at the same time, welcoming and never anonymous, because the "we" not only does not erase the "I", it does not restrict it, but on the contrary, it frees it from egoism and from thinking that it is sufficient for itself, because it isolates, it does not depress it, on the contrary, it elevates it, because it makes it useful. ('You are useful actually when you are free, without consideration or merit!'). We are in the same boat. We are in the same boat, with radicality, never compromising, always seeking the possible good but never forgetting to believe in the impossible, because the harvest is truly great and the suffering it holds is terrible, it makes people suffer. When we feel this we are led to involve other workers, who become idle because no one has hired them for a day's work, not because they do not want to work. And joy is working for love. It is the Word of God that keeps calling and sending. It has preserved the Community, because it never ceases to make us sensitive to new aspects of poverty and also to understand the old ones in new and more profound ways. It is the Word that allows us to live each encounter as an anticipation of what we will find full in heaven. The Community is always little - we are always the little flock - a minority that does not stop generating life, but is already a large people. Time has not allowed subtle scepticism or sclerotic mechanisms to grow. Here is this evening's blessing and prayer, just like the one that has long accompanied our evening prayer: Lord our God, who in the confusion and loneliness of this world do not cease to gather a holy people with your Word, from every land, city, country, so that in charity they may render you acceptable worship, keep the flock you have gathered, preserve it in your love, now and for ever, for ever and ever. Amen.