Homily of Archbishop Matteo

48anniversariosantegidio3(1)Rome, February 4, 2016
Basilica of St. John Lateran

Dear sisters and brother

I feel the joy, truly Evangelii Gaudium, of being able to celebrate the anniversary of the Community of Sant’Egidio together, with so many friends, brothers and sisters (these categories are actually well mixed together), with Andrea, who never stopped seeing – even when the harvest is still not near- that the crop is getting ready, there is haste for how to gather all; with Marco, President of the Community, who with his tireless service keeps family truly without borders united; with all of you here and with that numerous men and women – present in more than seventy countries – of all social conditions and age, different and yet made one by love, from the little villages of Africa to the large cities, from the countries where the Church is a threatened minority – as in Pakistan – to the communities in Northern Europe.

I feel the joy in this basilica, our house today, which is “caput et mater omnium aecclesiarum”, the head and the mother of the whole church, so meaningful for the community that has always been  ‘Roman’ not only because of its birth. The twelve doors of the Apostles that surround this church and us, show us not only the twelve doors of the Holy Jerusalem, but also the vision of the future that we experience in our assembly of brother and sisters. We feel that many who are in heaven are united with us in the communion of saints. These twelve doors tell us of a community that opens itself to the world, that doesn’t want to be closed and doesn’t want to think itself as closed, but rather get out and enter the history of humanity through the only door of mercy, which is the Christ. This love reaches the crowds of cities, tired and exhausted like sheep without a shepherd, like the elderly who beg for protection, without defense as they are exposed to the banality of evil. This love reaches the countless children and all the victims, many of them unfortunately women, oppressed by the malice and the violence of this world. This love wants to reach the multitude of migrants who become strangers while desperately seeking the future.  I feel the pride and the joy, together with the shame for so many condemned  by indifference, of welcoming here today the first family coming to Europe through the humanitarian corridors.

This is a fruit of a tenacious mercy that doesn’t hide behind what is easy and say “it is not possible,” or “I do enough already.” This mercy doesn’t give in to the egocentrism, but rather encounter the challenges and demands of man and women. Mercy enlarges the heart, arouses intelligence, makes us strong and able to dream finding solutions and forging alliances that make them real. The Community is a mother, maybe materialistically weak, but made strong by mercy. It is mercy that enlarges the heart notwithstanding the weakness – including the financial one – and find the necessary resources. The community is a mother that is always poor because what she has she gives it away for the poor. Let’s contemplate this evening our assembly with the eyes of faith. It’s a human, physical, non-virtual reality; it a reality marked by the burdens of history and sin. Don Mazzolari would say that the humanity of the church might irritate those who prefer to judge than to be merciful, the written rather than the Spirit, the triumph of truth rather than the uncertainty charity, the rigid mechanisms rather than people. When we see the church we cannot but feel owe and praise the Lord. We understand this even better today and in such a passionate ‘today’ of the church now.

However, we have to respond to the talent the Lord has given us. How did we invest it? This is the judgment for our life. Did we help or did we remained indifferent? Did we succumb to fear, taking refuge in our tepid and reassuring individualism seeking only consideration for ourselves? This celebration is gratitude for a love greater than our humility. It is an occasion to renew our choice to love, our ‘yes’ to this call, a new beginning, a true jubilee. Without charge we have received, without charge we want to give, trusting the providence of God with whom we cooperate with our decision and will but who is always greater than our persons. God is the one who brings everything to completion.

We are many. Yet Sant’Egidio is always a little-great family, with at the same time large horizons and personal attention to everyone. Only a large horizon allows us to understand who we are, allowing us not to age and help us to see what we have and what we represent for for many beyond us. In a narrow horizon we can easily feel satisfied even righteous! When we open the heart to the Gospel and the world, we cannot be complacent. Rather we feel the restlessness and the haste to grow, to start again on the journey, to feel that it is indeed a new beginning, as the Gospel of Jesus that we just heard tells us: he is calling us, gathering us, sending us. He is sending his own. Today we are celebrating not the feast of an institution but a moment in a journey that begun on February 7, 1968 when Andrea Riccardi, gathered for the first time a small group of students from a high school in Rome around the Gospel. It was the beginning of spending life in the service of the poor, knowing deeply within that this was the way to change oneself and the world. This ambition did not change to become spectators, more or less refined. We still want to make the world better. We have now a greater responsibility because we saw so many signs of the strength of the Gospel capable of chasing away evil spirits as loneliness and hate, neglect and indifference, illness as HIV-AIDS, war and violence. We feel more and more the necessity to live the Gospel not wasting opportunities  but rather to be happier and find a mission for everyone in this earth.

We dream and work because we do not want a life used to empty words, voided of life even if apparently pleasant. We want that many may encounter the Gospel as a word that is near, personal, fraternal, deep, popular, concrete, of the orthodoxy and and the orthopraxis, where those who help and those who are helped are mingled together. We dream and work so that war might be banned from humankind and arsenals might be emptied; a world where the fight against the death penalty will be won; a world where countries will not be empty of spirit reduced to markets only. We dream and work so that the world will find unity and dialogue defeat prejudice. I think that the challenge of peace is in front of us and all of us must win it with a network of relationships, with the wisdom of encounters and the insistence of prayer.

One of the secrets of the Community is living two by two. It is the fraternity, the taste, I would dare to say, the liturgy of friendship that –at times- makes us vulnerable but it is always gift of communion.   So many brothers and sisters joined during the journey in this friendship that is not exclusive, circular or transient but rather gives value to the other making him/her neighbor. The road gets longer as we make it and God is always there, distance that cannot be fulfilled; God above and inside us. Today for all and for me this is our feast the joy of a new beginning. The community is mother of mercy because she moved away from ideological positioning, the sterile contrapositions, the game of power that dissipate energies of many. The poor saved us from this. The community did not judge, analyzed, catalogued those near us but rather has loved everyone seeking to see everyone with mercy.

Jesus sends us. Where? Where is way? The Gospel doesn’t say it so that we have to go everywhere. There is no program. The only program is love sent to the poor, the little ones, the half dead persons on the streets. Everything is the result of the gaze. If we look at the other from on high we will consider them not interesting, maybe not even worthy of our attention. Too often we look only for what we need in the others. We must look at others without suspicion, without seeking what doesn’t work, the deficiencies, the limits of others, always preoccupied more for ourselves and less for others. Jesus is asking us not to be ourselves, not to take what is needed for the journey. In reality he trusts us and liberates us from the burdens of our fears and  self-defenses, of our masks. This evening he says: “Take my love only, listen to understand the life of others, the deep questions of others, their silent prayer. Pope Francis says: “Each human being is the object of the infinite tenderness of the Lord, He himself lives in his/her life… Beyond any appearance each one is immensely sacred  and deserves our affection and dedication” For this reason we cannot accept a cheap mercy. As Madelein Delbrel said: “We have to make sure that Christians will not accept a diminutive idea of mercy doing something just right. They need to be not in the category of the honest and measured but the one of the revolutionary merciful.

There is the need to revolutionize this mercy of the middle ground, of the competent bureaucrats. We cannot wait the sensational surveys of some newspapers to know that there is an ocean of suffering in the world today. The world if contorted by pain that is almost infinite. The church is like a mother anxious at the door of the hospital where strangers take care of her children. She expects that through us we can touch all who are inside in those beds. Mercy is the sign through which person see Christ: let’s us show him without makeup and out time will recognize him” In our personal daily contacts, everywhere, even where it seems irrelevant, with the lightness of goodness we can inject doses of mercy.  We can all work to give mercy because this only transforms the world, fills the hearts and fulfills the measure of justice.

Thank you oh lord because you want me with you. Thank you because you trust us, persevere in having pity on our poverty and give the joy of sharing mercy with all especially the poor. Please oh Lord free us from fear so that we can make your house as beautiful as you wanted it.