21 Mar All is Changing…God is calling us to return to the roots of our identity
Homily of the Minister General at the Opening Mass of the Chapter of the Foundation of Russia and Kazakhstan
Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and show mercy toward those who love you and keep your commandments and your precepts! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and turned from your commandments and your laws. (Daniel 9:4-5)
My dear brothers, may the Lord give you peace!
We begin these days of examination, conversion, and rededication to the Lord Jesus by listening to the Book of the Prophet Daniel. Whatever might be said about its authorship, and the time when it might have been written, the Book and its Prophet call our attention to three ‘moments’ in the life of all believers, serving as a spiritual itinerary applicable to our lives and to the life of the Foundation.
In the first ‘moment’, the Prophet recognized that it is God who is at the center of the universe, of our lives. While many other things clamor for this position, our lives and the life of the community of believers can be lived faithfully and fruitfully only if God and His merciful fidelity are recognized and celebrated. “Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant…”
In this same prayer, Daniel moves to a second ‘moment’, the confession of failure, which is both personal and collective. Daniel calls all believers to recognize that they have not always been faithful to the Covenant. They have oftentimes rebelled in small and great ways against the precepts, the ‘law’, of God. Some abandoned all together the faith and embraced the religious and secular beliefs of the dominant culture. Others randomly selected what pleased them about their faith, mixing and matching things taken over from the larger, dominant culture, placing at risk their integrity. With the change of historical circumstances internal and external to the communities of the faithful, people lost sight of the originating vision, a vision that must be renewed and embraced in new ways in times of great trial and rapid changes. Many did not maintain a spirit of prayer and devotion and, thus, were not able to read the ‘signs of the times’ and adapt their lives of faith without losing their integrity. When people of faith are not anchored deeply in their relationship with God, they end up lost. And from the Biblical stories, it is clear that when people are lost, they begin to tear one another apart, criticizing each and every detail of life. The authority of service in the community of faith also will no longer be respected, no longer be able to command respect.
Here enters the gift of prophetic utterance on the part of Daniel. We must recognize that this gift is not given in order to gain a new way to predict in detail what might happen in the near or remote future. Rather, Biblical prophecy is fundamentally about recovering the identity of faith, recovering an authentic sense of who God is and what God is seeking to do in our lives, and in the life of the world, Church, Order, and Foundation. It is about reclaiming what belongs to God, and discerning His love and mercy in each and every moment of our history, personal and collective. It is in this context that we better understand Daniel’s prayer to the God of the Covenant, which if found later in the same Chapter 9, verses 17-18: “Now, our God, hear the prayer and petition of your servant; and for your own sake, Lord, let your face shine upon your desolate sanctuary.18Give ear, my God, and listen; open your eyes and look upon our desolate city upon which your name is invoked. When we present our petition before you, we rely not on our just deeds, but on your great mercy. (Dan. 9: 17-18). What is more important than the sins of God’s people is the power of God’s mercy and love, God’s desire that the people wake up to their situation, assume responsibility for their failures, and return with open hearts and minds to Him.
My brothers, it is this same invitation that God is giving to each of you – each of us – gathered here these days in Chapter. We have not come here to justify our good intentions, listen to reports, and then return to the Foundation as if nothing has changed. ALL IS CHANGING! God is calling us to return to the roots of our identity and our calling and to do so with a fresh vision and with hearts open to the new things that God is seeking to create within us and through us, for the sake of the life of the world. Let us, with Daniel, places ourselves once again before the Lord God, not holding onto projects or places as if they were our personal possession. Rather, let us open our minds and hearts to the holy operation of God’s Spirit, seeking only to serve the Lord our God with all our hearts, and all our minds, and all our energies, and to do this in the blessedness of the sacrament of fraternity that we are called to share with one another.