Meeting of the Presidents of Conferences – Homily by the Minister General
At the end of this meeting of the Minister General and his Definitory with the Presidents of the various Conferences of our Order, we wish to be enlightened by the Word proclaimed.
GO AND PROCLAIM
Meeting with the Presidents of the Conferences
(Rome, 18 May 2011)
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General, OFM
Acts 12, 24 – 13, 5; Jn 12, 44-50
My dear Brothers May the Lord give you Peace! Your word, O Lord is a Light to my feet! At the end of this meeting of the Minister General and his Definitory with the Presidents of the various Conferences of our Order, we wish to be enlightened by the Word proclaimed. We want the Word to be the on who guides our options of life and mission to make them truly meaningful.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, shows us a community of believers who, after having seen the Lord and experienced his presence, came out of hiding. They were in the Upper Room “behind closed doors for fear of the Jews “(Jn 20, 19) and overcome with fear and discouragement because of the death of Jesus. There were now boldly proclaiming the resurrection of the Lord, even in the midst of great persecution. “We must obey God rather than men,” is the response Peter gives to those who tried to silence him (Acts 4, 19). The lives of the disciples had been touched by the Lord. The presence of the Risen burned in their hearts and their feet are set in motion, first in Jerusalem, then in Paphos, Perga, Antioch, unto to the ends of the earth (cf. Acts 13: 13-25). All this speaks of the conviction and passion that characterized the preaching of the Gospel in the early Christian community, which means that if this community at first appeared as a ghetto, now it had become a missionary community and in a community at the service of the Gospel.
Like the early Christian community, let us come out of our hiding places, often caused by fear of not being understood or heard, to proclaim with both the creativity of life and the Word the Good News that has changed our hearts and our lives. Now is the time to go out, go, set out, as the last General Chapter asked us to do in various ways. Let us remember that a life touched by the dynamism of the Gospel becomes an overwhelming passion for the Kingdom” (BGG 28).
The Gospel in turn presents one of the main requirements of those called to proclaim the Gospel, namely, union with Jesus. In the text of the Gospel we have just proclaimed, Jesus presents himself as the One sent by the Father and, as such, One who is in perfect communion with him, so much that he doesn’t say or do anything he has not heard from the Father. “I have not spoken on my own; the Father who sent me told me what to say and how to speak [...] what I say, I say as the Father instructed me “(Jn 12, 49).” “Turned constantly toward the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1, 18), Jesus always maintaind such a communion with the Father that he will later say, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me” (Jn 4, 34).
Because Jesus is the model for every apostle and evangelizer, this bahavior of saying only that which he has heard from the Father, and of always doing the will of him who sent him, should be the fundamental behavior of those who have received the mission to be bearers of His Good News to the men and women of today. Moreover, because we are called, as we have said, to be bearers of the gift of the Gospel, to restore it as center focus (BGG 11) (for every gift has to be given back, and the Gospel, which is about Jesus Christ, is the first gift we have received [cf BGG, 5]), and share it with others, we must, therefore, clearly realize that our mission is to be mediators. What then is asked of a mediator, a disciple, an apostle, a bearer of the gift of the Gospel if not to hand down faithfully what he has received without manipulation of any kind. This requires a great adherence to Jesus and to the Gospel of the Father to humanity.
This adherence does not speak of a loan personality, but speaks of the desire to conform oneself, to identify oneself, and to stay as intimately united to Him whom the disciple, apostle, and bearer of the Gospel is called to convey, communicate, and to whom he is called to lead others. We are to be so close to him like the branch is to the vine – if one is to bear fruit, that is (cf. Jn 15, 1-5); so identified with him, that one can say with Paul: “I live, yet not I, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2, 20); and so conformed to him to the point that one can say to have the same sentiments of Christ (cf. Phil 2, 5).
The apostle must have a clear awareness of being a bearer of something that doesn’t belong to him, for it is a gift, the gift of the Gospel. The apostle has to be clearly aware that when He (Jesus) sends, it is also He (Jesus) who speaks, for He (Jesus) is the sole protagonist. The one being sent, i.e., us, as bearers of the gift of the Gospel, what we have to do is make more visible Him who sends us, in such a way that He is able to speak through us. It is of His Word that the world stands in need and not ours. It is His Word and not ours that will give life and life in abundance. It is His Word and not ours that will save the world.
Additionally, the apostle missionary and bearer of the Gospel cannot be content with merely conveying something he has received; he is called to be a witness. Jesus says in the Gospel just heard, “he who sees me sees the One who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Jesus, the One being sent; he is an icon, reflection, and presence of Father. Called to be bearers of the gift of the Gospel, let us respond to this call in word and deed. What’s more, we ourselves are the letter of the Lord to our brothers, written not in pious books or pamphlets more or less, but in our own personal and community history. Before preaching a message, we must become message; we must make ourselves the message, a living exegesis of the Word as Pope Benedict XVI stated (VD 83). No wonder the Holy Father always says that “the preacher must allow himself to be personally appealed by the Word of God he proclaims”; otherwise as Saint Augustine stated, which Benedict XVI continues to affirm, the preacher who limits himself only to preach the Word of God without listening to it will bear no fruit (cf. DV 59).
Brothers, in light of the readings the Church proposes us, we must ask ourselves, “Are we really a missionary fraternity, or does stagnation threaten to cripple the evangelizing dynamism that has always characterized our fraternity? We find that many times our efforts are futile. “Isn’t all this talking to us about the need to strengthen our full union with Him who sent us? I have the impression, and not just me, that many times we are closing ourselves in our own “cenacles”, for fear of many elements which impede our mission. As we look at the early Christian community as it is presented in the Acts of the Apostles, we must say that it was certainly not easy to carry out the mission Jesus entrusted to it before going to the Father. Also, in the beginning, they were much less in number than us. What, then, does the experience of the early Christian community say to us about this?
Brothers, now is the time to go out, to leave behind our fears and reaffirm our faith in Him for whom nothing is impossible. And as we go out and cross borders, a special attention must be paid to the youth. Having this special attention for them “entails the courage to make a clear proclamation” (DV 104), without recoiling, for it is not true that young people today are less generous than what we were years past. Nonetheless, in order to reach them, we need witnesses and teachers who walk with them and support them to love and communicate the Gospel, especially to their peers. It is also necessary that the Word of God is presented to the youth with its vocational implications in such a way that the Word itself can guide them in their vocational options of life, even in the total consecration to the priestly or religious life, especially Franciscan life. Let us not hesitate to present life to the youth as a vocation, and to present both Franciscan and Religious Life as a proposal for a beautiful life.
May the Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, intercede for us! May both Francis and Clare be with us in our mission as Bearers of the Gift of the Gospel to the men and women of today!