18.08.2005 @ 18:00
Finding God in the other
The Minister General, Br. JosÃ© RodrÃguez Carballo ofm, to the XX WYD - Cologne, 17th August 2005.
â€œWe saw His star as it rose and have come to do Him homageâ€ (Mt 2,2). Examining the sky, the Magi only saw a â€œsignâ€. It was sufficient, however, to convince them to take the risk of a long journey in the hope of finding an answer to a question they had within them: â€œWhere is the infant king of the Jews?â€ (Mt 2,2). Having been enlightened by the word of the Prophets during their stay in Jerusalem, the â€œseekersâ€ arrived to where their hearts drove them and they found themselves before a frail child with its mother! They saw in Him, as their gifts indicate, the Eternal King, the Lord they were expecting.
The faith adventure of the three wise men from the east is an eloquent parable of what happened and is happening during this XX World Youth Day. An intense, profound desire has come to a multitude of young people. It is based on a â€œsignâ€, the invitation of a Prophet and the testimony of a man enamoured of Christ and mankind, the Servant of God John Paul II, to this multitude to set out on a journey to Cologne from all parts of the world, saying a journey, is to say effort, obstacles and trials. But you young people have come here because you wish to go forward, to â€œfindâ€. The motto of the XX WYD, in the dynamics of its symbolism, says all this. It especially says that it is desired to â€œfindâ€, â€œseeâ€, â€œencounterâ€ Jesus Christ, Crucified and Risen, in order to adore Him, to express praise, joy and love to Him. As words are not enough, you have come to give the most precious thing you have, as the Pope had invited you to do during his message: â€œOffer to the Lord the gold of your existenceâ€¦; have the incense of your prayer rise up to Himâ€¦.; offer Him the myrrh, the affection full of gratitude to Him who loved us, even to death on Golgothaâ€¦â€
They â€œreturned to their own country by a different wayâ€ (Mt 2,12) to avoid the intrigue of Herod, especially because something decisive had happened: they had met the Lord. The sentiments of the heart and the paths of live cannot but be new, different.
You also have met the Lord. It is necessary to return to your respective countries by another way, confronted by the promise of the Risen One: â€œI am with you alwaysâ€ (Mt 28,20). But how do we find Him? The Lord never leaves the person who seeks with a sincere heart without signs. Yes, we know, for example, the place par excellence of the â€œmanifestationâ€ of the Lord, the Eucharist, in the sign of the â€œbread brokenâ€ and of the â€œblood spiltâ€ (cf. Mk 14,22-24). But prior to and after the Eucharist, that is, on the everyday paths of our existence, what are the signs of His presence so that we can recognise Him and, then, adore Him?
Since the question profoundly involves life and the choices of each day, we must have an answer which does not allow for doubts or uncertainties. We can find this answer in two episodes of Sacred Scripture.
The first has the desert and a tent as its scenario and Abraham, our Father in faith, as the protagonist. On a certain day, in a â€œmonotonousâ€ environment and at the time of scorching heat, and, therefore, the least opportune, three travellers presented themselves before Abrahamâ€™s tent. He immediately went to greet his guests, to care for them and to offer them the best the house could offer. This attitude allowed Abraham to find the Lord in the three travellers.
The second episode clearly shows us what the â€œplace of faithâ€ is: Jesus Christ is believed in and is truly confessed wherever His disciples really show interest in others. It is a question of the great fresco of the Last Judgement (cf. Mt 25,31ff), when we will be assessed on the six elementary acts of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty to drink, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, going to the imprisoned, from the moment the Son of Man not only called the needy â€œthe least of my brothersâ€, but identified Himself with their destiny. It was a real surprise for the â€œelectâ€ and for the â€œothersâ€ who had never imagined that they were loving or hating the Lord Himself at the time they were showing mercy or indifference towards the little ones of this world.
â€œBut Lord, when did we see You?â€ Through pure mercy we have had to listen repeatedly, every time we read this page of the Gospel or hear it proclaimed, to the fundamental question and answer of life and history, that of the final judgement. The significance is unequivocal: we will be judged, we are judged, on the basis of our capacity to recognise the â€œsacramentalâ€ presence of the Risen One in the little people of the Gospel.
If, in a society chained by fear, suspicion, hostility, rancour and the rejection of the â€œdifferentâ€, we could begin to see the glory of God in the other and the manifestation of His grace and gratuitous love (cf. St. Ireneus, Against Heresies) in the life of the other, then history would be directed in another direction, that of encounter, dialogue, respect and walking together. Is not this our constitutive vocation, our DNA? We were created, in fact, in the image of God, chosen â€œto be holy and spotless and to love through love in His presence, determining that we should become His adopted children through Jesus Christâ€¦â€, called â€œto become true images of His Sonâ€ (cf. Eph 1,4ff; Rm 8,29). And God, precisely, is God Love, relationship, communion. He is the unfathomable mystery of God, but also the reality which makes us live: as the Father is donation and the Son acceptance in the unity of the Holy Spirit, so we live and grow in the measure we learn to give ourselves and to accept others in an unceasing exchange in order to activate communion in respect for people, their freedom and originality. This is valid for people, it is valid for all social, cultural and religious realities, from the smallest group to the community of peoples.
This is what returning by another way means! Sure, the founding experience of every choice and every goal remains valid even in the â€œnew waysâ€: to adore Christ by recognising in Him the first place of existence, as the Pope has written: â€œhe is the rock on which to build the future and a more just world in solidarity. Jesus is the prince of peace, the source of pardon and reconciliation, who can make all the members of the human family into brothers and sistersâ€.
If we wish to be among the wise who desire to meet the Lord in order to adore Him here in Cologne, as in every corner of the earth, then we should really bank on love, by accepting others with the very sentiments of Christ (cf. Rm 15,7; Phil 2,2), all the â€œothersâ€, even the â€œdifferentâ€ and the â€œbadâ€! Accepting, St. Francis of Assisi would say, â€œfriend or foe, thief or robberâ€ (RnB VII, 14) with kindness. These also are to be numbered among â€œthe lesser brothersâ€ with whom Christ identifies Himself. But, in order to do so, it is necessary to allow oneself be guided by the imagination of charity: miracles are possible, as happened in the meeting of Francis with the Sultan or with the wolf of Gubbio. It is necessary to have the daring to be and to feel as brothers and sisters of all in order to nourish human cooperation with the bread of fraternity. It is indispensable and urgent to activate or reactivate the tradition begun on the cross, that of forgiveness asked for and given. It is in accordance with our intelligence, by â€œnature we are beings in solidarity and made brothers and sisters in the need for bread, in the burden of guilt and in the joy of forgiveness, and with our future, because, if we do no leave the night of hatred, vengeance and violence behind us, the dawn of the â€œcivilisation of loveâ€ will never break.
Allow me to finish with the prayer attributed to St. Francis so that what we have â€œseenâ€ may become our everyday life:
â€œLord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine master, grant that
I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born
to eternal lifeâ€.