Rome, July 7, 2018
Homily of Archbishop Carballo for the Eucharistic Celebration at the Opening of the Assembly
Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life
(Ez 2:2-5; Ps 122;
2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6)
Brothers and sisters, behold the mission of the word that we have heard. This word is meant to become for you and for me a lamp and a light for our journey. If we do not want the word to be dead or sterile, but want it to bear fruit, we must welcome it as a lamp, a light. For this we must listen to it, that is, we must welcome it into our hearts, so that we too may be able to become an interpretation of the Gospel, as Benedict XVI asked us some years ago in his very beautiful apostolic exhortation “Word of God”: to become a living interpretation and exegesis of the Gospel.
This is the mission that unites all. Our rules may separate or at least differentiate us, but the Gospel unites us, the word unites us. This is, says the Council, the absolute rule of the consecrated life.
Pope Francis says that it is the supreme rule of the consecrated life, and so we must turn to the Gospel, we must welcome the word that is the light for our life.
In this word that we have heard I would like to emphasize three aspects or, if I could put it this way, I would like to deliver three aspects:
1st aspect: We are sent.
I am sending you, the Lord said to Ezekiel.
Mary, Anthony, Peter, John…. I am sending you: This is the mandate that the Lord gives each one of us who have heard this today. Like Jesus in the Gospel, we too are sent to go from village to village, along the world’s roads, and especially you, a secular institute.
Be careful not to close yourselves up in the sacristy; we do not need you in the sacristy. Be careful not to be a photocopy of us religious; the Church does not need photocopies that vanish after a few years. Sixty years ago the Church recognized your form of life as consecrated women in the world, consecrated seculars, in the secular environment. Do not give this up; if you do, you should vanish. You know what I am talking about. I am not someone who sweetens the fatal poison. Be eager about your vocation and be consistent with your consecration as consecrated seculars, consecrated in the world.
Like Jesus, then, we are sent. Sent for what? Like him, to teach. To make beautiful speeches? No!
The world is overflowing with beautiful speeches and does not need any more words. What the world needs above all is the word, the word that becomes witness. When the Gospel says that Jesus taught with authority, it means this: he was not making small talk, he was not making slogans. What, then, are we sent to say?
What we have heard. Watch Jesus: he does only what he has seen the Father do, he says only what he has heard from the Father.
But who are we? Do we think that we will save the world? No! Absolutely not! We can say only what we have heard, do only what we have seen, act as does the prophet. We too are called to teach, to live, to proclaim what the Lord is saying; nothing else, all the rest is only seeking for attention: me, me, me.
The Lord called the disciples to be with him, and he has sent them.
We are certainly called as consecrated persons, you as spouses according to your spirituality derived from Saint Angela; we are called to full communion with the Lord. We are called to be able to say what the Lord says: that communion is fundamental.
The contemplative dimension is also for you who live in the world; if you do not want to be of the world, you must be contemplatives. Communion with the Lord is vital, essential; it is fundamental.
But be careful not to deceive yourselves. Jesus calls us to be sent immediately, and so he puts us on the world’s roadways. He calls his disciples to be with him, but at the same time to be sent.
Look then at the reason for our full communion with the Lord. Everything else is just a self-deception, especially for you who are consecrated in the world.
The Pope insists so much on a Church on a journey, going out, and consecrated life goes out. We demolish it by contemplating – excuse my language, but I feel that I’m with family – by contemplating our own belly button.
In his letter to consecrated persons, the Pope says: Do not be victims of your own littleness. Or, I would add, of big changes, squabbles and problems… we all have them. If we contemplate only our own problem, we finally smother ourselves. Young people prophesy, old people dream. May none of us be deprived of dreams, because as long as we’re dreaming we’re alive, we’re young. The day when we lose the capacity to dream, old age has taken over. The first aspect, then: sending – we are sent.
2nd aspect: We are sent into a field where sowing seeds is not at all easy.
We see this in the Word of God: Ezekiel must preach to a rebellious people, to a hard-hearted people, to a stubborn people. The prophet’s mission has always been difficult. We consecrated persons can give up many things, but we cannot forget, says the Pope in his letter to consecrated persons, Prophecy. Either we are prophets or it is better to disappear from consecrated life.
Even Paul does not feel himself at the height of the ministry to which he has been called. He speaks of a thorn in the flesh. Scripture scholars would like to know more about what Paul was saying, and they construct various hypotheses. He was probably talking about some obstacle to feeling at the height of the ministry entrusted to him. At the same time, Paul (like all the apostles) had to taste the sour wine of persecution, insults, privations, and so many other difficulties that he encountered in his proclamation of the Gospel.
Finally, in today’s Gospel, Jesus is rejected by his own people. Here is the fulfillment of John’s words in the prologue to his Gospel: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” His own people said, in effect, “We don’t need you. Maybe when our hungry stomachs need to be filled or our sick people need to be cured, but your preaching does not interest us. Tomorrow we will listen, when we have nothing else to do.” This is the lot of the prophets, this was the lot of Jesus, this is the lot of anyone who prophesies. There is no other road. We see that Jesus had to feel a little frustrated; he was human. I think that this may be the only situation where it is said that Jesus could not do anything; Jesus was powerless before his own people.
3rd aspect: Many difficulties, but we are not alone.
The Lord is with us, in the mission that he has entrusted to us, and when we feel the weight of our weakness, like Paul, the Lord tells us, “My grace is enough for you.” But here we must overcome another temptation.
We prefer to act without needing grace, because the ego, the attention-seeker, would be out. But the Lord makes us understand that our chariots and horses bring us nothing, that only in weakness can we be great, because that is where we can experience that the Lord’s power is manifested even in our weakness.
If nothing is impossible for God, as Luke says in his Gospel, we can say with Saint Paul, “I can do everything in him who strengthens me.” Be careful, though, not to seek “everything” in buildings, in our chariots and horses, so that we sink as Pharaoh’s chariots and horses sank.
I am well aware that some of your Companies are going through difficulties, perhaps especially because of lack of new vocations, and I know that there is a danger that buildings may suffocate your charism.
Be careful about buildings; there are three types:
1st The ones that we must maintain in order to manifest our charism.
2nd The ones that we must renovate in order to manifest it.
3rd The ones that we must let go of.
A general chapter, a general assembly like yours, can do no less than make serious discernment, even about buildings.
In his letter to consecrated persons, the Pope gives us criteria, posing a question: Do our buildings serve the mission, or is the mission functioning in view of the buildings? Do our buildings manifest that we are (in your case) consecrated spouses of Christ? Do you continue what you can and as you can, maybe letting go of fundamental elements of full communion with your Spouse, just to maintain buildings that are here today and will be gone tomorrow? Please be courageous and do not wait for tomorrow, when it could be too late. Do what you should do, remembering that we are never alone, and that we must not fear weakness. In his homily for February 2, 2013 – which I consider a bit of a last testament to consecrated life, delivered a few days before he left the chair of Peter – Pope Benedict invited us all to accept our littleness joyfully and, keeping faith alive, we too will get to the point where we can boast, with Paul, in our weakness.
Dear sisters, we are sent into an environment of disbelief, distrust, indifference… this is the most serious problem facing the Church, when not even our own people listen to us, those we think of as neighbors. His own people came to take Jesus away, saying he was out of his mind. If they treated the teacher this way, what can we expect? This is certainly not an easy reality; it calls for trust, trust in the Lord.
Dear sisters, I wish you a federation assembly with much dialogue, not chit-chat. There is no dialogue without listening; listen to each other. Then I wish that you may let the Holy Spirit work, which must not be taken for granted. May you be able to say, “The Holy Spirit and we have decided,” not changing the language to “We and perhaps the Holy Spirit have decided it.” For this purpose, may the assembly make its decisions in a climate of prayer, in a climate of discernment. In consecrated life, this is the fundamental word for living the present with passion and the future with hope. Discernment on a personal level: Lord, what do you want me to do? Discernment at the level of the assembly: Sisters, what should we do? The three elements in discernment that can never be lacking:
1) The Gospel, with the Gospel in hand and heart, because only with this can our life be justified.
2) The charism, your own charism: Be secular, remain secular, not religious in a second or third category. I see a problem for consecrated life, how many times we religious are becoming secular and you seculars are becoming religious. This doesn’t work. Let each one remain with her own vocation to which she was called, and let each one rekindle the gift she received from God.
So, discern in the light of your charism as consecrated seculars, then in the light of your charism as spouses, and be united. Holy unity, your foundress would say, which is a fundamental element for you, unity that we will be able to translate into communion too, not uniformity. Each one of you should live the charism in your own culture, thus not uniformity, but always unity. If in the name of charism this unity, this communion would get broken… you will know that there is no charism there, nor is the Lord there, because the only thing that divides is the devil, the one who separates.
3) The third element which must be present in our discernment as an assembly is, or are, the signs of the times. I often say that the fundamental question is not what our founders did; the question is what would our founders do here and now?
This is why John Paul II in his exhortation “Consecrated Life” invites us to reproduce with courage the holiness and the creativity of our founders, their holiness and creativity.
Sisters, have a good assembly and may the Lord bless you, bless your families, your journey. You know that our Congregation is always open to help as we can.
Have courage! Forward! Forward! Forward!
Let no one rob you of the joy of following Christ. Let no one rob you of the Gospel. If they steal the rest, let it go and don’t waste your energy or strength to get it back.
Never let them rob you of Jesus. Otherwise we would have to go to the ends of the world to regain him.
Have a good assembly!
(transcribed from a recording, not reviewed by the author)