Basilica of the Porziuncola – Eucharist presided over by the Minister general
“GO, REBUILD MY CHURCH” (2Cel 10)
II Gathering of Cardinals and Bishops
(Portiuncula, Sept. 26, 2011)
Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General, OFM
Eminences, Excellencies, brothers and sisters all in our Father St. Francis,
May Lord give you peace! (Test 13).
It is with great joy and excitement that I welcome you in this holy place restored by the Poor Man of Assisi with his own hands (cf. 1Cel 21) and blessed by the maternal presence of the Virgin made Church, the Queen of Angels, for whom Francis professed a tender and filial love, she who was the home, palace, robe and tabernacle of God (cf. SalBVM 4.5). I welcome you in this place loved by our Father above all others (2Cel 18, cf. 19), and this for many reasons. For example, this place is the cradle of the Order of Friars Minor and Poor Clares (LegCl 8, cf. 2Cel 18); it was here that the Lord revealed that he should live according to the manner of the Holy Gospel (cf. Test 14), cf. 1Cel 22); here the Lord gave him brothers (cf. 2 Cel 18), with whom he gathered at Chapter to share the benefits that the merciful Lord worked in them and to discern the needs of the way of life they embraced (cf. 1Cel 1Cel 30); and it was from here that the brothers went forth to restore as center focus with their life and words the gift of the Gospel in the cloister of the world (cf.1Cel 29.30). No wonder it was here he wanted to die in the afternoon / evening of October 3, 1216 (cf. 1Cel 105ss) and asked his brothers never to abandon this place, he who had stripped himself of everything. Welcome, then, brothers, to the house of the Mother, and because of that, welcome to our common home.
It was the year 1205-1206. Francis, a true seeker of meaning and fullness, was reflecting on his recent history, which, humanly speaking, was full of failures (take, for example, his illness and the time spent in prison). He asked again and again, Lord, what do you want me to do? (ICel 6). To this question, which constantly tormented him in the depths of his heart at the beginning of his conversion, Francis heard a first response in his inner dialogue, a dialogue more of the heart than words, with the Christ of San Damiano. He heard, Francis go and repair my Church which is falling into ruins (I Cel 5, 13), which came from Christ as he hung on the wall of the little ruined Church located on the outskirts of Assisi (cf. TC 13ss). The friend of Christ is how Buenaventura called Francis (LM XIII, 3). At that time he did not understand the deep meaning of Christ’s invitation, but his prompt obedience to what he had heard makes him ready to fully understand it right here in the Portiuncula. This occurred right after having consulted with Christ by opening the Book of the Gospels (cf. 1Cel 15). At that moment, he understood that the Lord called both him and his brothers to repair the Church through the Gospel, which he embraced as rule and life – as he himself will state in the Rule (cf. 2R 1, 1).
Since then, the Portiuncula may well be called, among other titles, the Shrine of the Gospel and of the Evangelical Response of Francis. Here, continues to resonate strongly that radical invitation which one day Jesus made to the first disciples and which young Francis also heard as though addressed to him directly, “Do not take gold, silver, or a bag for your journey, neither two coats, nor sandals, nor staff … (Mt 10, 9-10). Here, the joyful and always young reply of Francis to the Gospel continues echoing, which is also heard on the feast of St. Matthias, namely, “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I yearn from the depth of the heart to put into practice”. Here, Francis’ gesture continues to live on after listening to the Gospel, for he immediately set to work what he had heard, – as his biographer would later write (1Cel 22).
This is precisely, my beloved brethren in our Father St. Francis, what we all promised on the day of our profession, namely, to observe faithfully the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. GGCC 5, 2). Different are the ministries to which we have been called; yet at the basis of that call is one and the same vocation, i.e., the vocation to be Friars Minor. This is the first and last reason why we are gathered here: We are brothers. The Lord gave me brothers is what our Father St. Francis will grateful confess at the end of his days (cf. Test 14). This is also our humble and joyful confession: The Lord gives us brothers. The learned is as much a brother as the illiterate one is, and the one in authority is as much a brother as the one who is called to obey, because all of us are equal by profession (GGCC 3.1). We are all called to exercise the ministry of the washing of the feet (cf. Adm IV, 2-3). Some will do so as Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church; others as pastors of a local church; as Ministers of the brothers; and yet others by doing household chores, etc. The ministries may vary, but all of us are called to do them with an attitude of service from the logic of the gift; and even when we do what we are suppose to do, we are still to consider ourselves as unprofitable servants – as the Lord says in the Gospel.
Go and repair my Church, the Lord is saying to each of us today; and then we ask him, how do I repair the Church? The answer is given by Francis in the Rule we have all professed when he states, Observe the Gospel faithfully, live the Gospel, make the Gospel your rule and life (cf. 2R 1, 1) and you will repair the Church of Christ. Yes, this is the vocation and mission to which we are called; this is our proprium; this is our specific contribution in the reparation of the Church of the Lord. I feel, my dear brothers and lords in the Lord, that the call of the Lord to us now is this: start from the Gospel, walk from the Gospel, take it as our rule and life, so as to give it to others.
At the last General Chapter held here around the Portiuncula, the brothers were more aware of being sent out to bring the Gospel to the men and women of today; it described us as missionaries in the heart of the world as brothers and minors, with the heart turned towards the Lord (cf. BGG, 10). Is not this also your mission: to be bearers of the gift of the Gospel as shepherds of the flock entrusted to you? But in order to accomplish this, one must, above all, allow the Gospel to dwell in us, in such a way that it may change our hearts as it changed the heart of Francis and the first brothers. Thusly, we proclaim and witness to what we experience: What our eyes have seen, what our hands have touched…, that we declare unto you (1 John 1: 1-3). Only then will men and women thirsty for words of eternal life (Jn 6, 68) and for words which are spirit and life (Jn 6, 63), will find in us not only teachers, but also witnesses, living exegesis of the Gospel (cf. Verbum Domini 83) – as was the Little Poor Man of Assisi. This is what they are really expecting of us.
Paul, a model of every apostle, does not see himself as an official of the Gospel, but as a father and a brother who generates community by proclaiming the Gospel he received and welcomed in his own life (cf. 1 Cor 4, 15). He evangelized, not only with words, but also with his whole person, so that in his existence the paschal mystery of the crucified and risen Christ shows forth. It is a mystery which is particularly manifested in his physical, moral, and spiritual sufferings, which he endured for Christ (cf.1Cor 4, 6-13, 2 Corinthians 4, 8-12, 6, 4-10, 11, 23-33 …), so that he is able to say, For me to live is Christ (Phil. 1, 21) and also, I live, but it is not I; it is Christ who lives in me (Gal 2, 19).
The example of Paul, just like the example of Francis, are both strong wake-up calls for our evangelizing action in which today, more than ever, we need real witnesses who live the Gospel they preach. The credibility and acceptance of the Gospel will depend largely on the witness given by the person who evangelizes. The Gospel, as we well know, is not just a doctrine or a moral book, let alone an ideology. The Gospel is a person, i.e., the person of Jesus, the Good News of the Father to humanity; and for us Friars Minor, the Gospel is our way of life.
After this gathering, everyone will return to work on the plot that the Lord has entrusted to him in his vineyard. Some, as Cardinals, as close collaborators of the Pope; others, as bishops; others as pastors of the portion of the Church which the Lord has entrusted to you; yet others will do so by leading and governing the Universal Fraternity. All of us, let us go forth from this celebration with the firm purpose to restore with our lives and our words, as center focus, the gift of the Gospel which we have graciously received. May Mary, Queen of the Angels and of the Seraphic Order, the Virgin of the “YES” to God, obtain for us from the Lord such a grace! Amen.