Immobility is not a Gospel value – General Minister’s Homily

General Minister’s Homily at the meeting of the North-Slavic Conference

June 22, 2017, Poland

For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” (2Cor 11:2).

 

Dear brothers in North-Slavic Region,

In these days, we have been listening to and meditating on the second epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians. It was written for a community that had welcomed the message of Jesus Christ, which was rapidly growing but that also had to face some serious infighting. They not only clashed with divergent opinions on the meaning of the message of Jesus and his life, death and resurrection, but mostly they had ongoing power struggles between leaders and preachers within the various local communities. These clashes had absolutely nothing to do with doctrine and sadly, these power struggles permeate the history of the Church and the Order.

St. Paul is both frustrated and upset precisely because of the behavior of the members of the Corinthian Church. This behavior provoked and fomented divisions which undermined the strength of their witness to Jesus’s message.

How could the faithful bear witness to the infinite power of the cross and resurrection if they were caught up in lawsuits and battles for power? St. Paul was convinced that all those who came to believe the message of Jesus became fellow disciples and collaborators, coworkers with the same mandate to preach the Gospel message of love and hope.

At the same time St. Paul was clearly aware that the power that the Gospel has to transform lives necessarily passes through the concrete testimony of life of the believers meaning the followers of the Risen Lord Jesus. This is why St. Paul insisted on the need for Jesus’s followers to keep their eyes focused only on Jesus and in their discernment and action allow themselves to be guided by the values and priorities based on the experience of the cross and resurrection. Pope Francisco takes up this message in his reflection on Christian Discipleship in Evangelii gaudium.

This message continues to be a priority for us, Friars Minor, today. St. Paul invites us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to do our discernment and direct all our actions in accord with the objective of giving witness to the spirit of unity, to the joy and hope which flow from the cross and resurrection of Jesus. We are called to increasingly carry this message of unity, peace and reconciliation. However, in order to invite others to live in the spirit of unity, peace and reconciliation, we must first accept and make our own the values of God’s Reign. Amid the constant changes that we are experiencing, we, Friars Minor, have to take seriously and truly live the core values that guide our lives. This is increasingly important as we learn to assimilate the rapid and substantial changes that are happening in the world today, in the Church and in order.

The Gospel requires us to be on the move, not to rest in one place and not to stand still as if immobility were an authentic Gospel value. It isn’t. Not at all. We are called to do a deep and solid discernment in regards to the signs of the times. Now is the time to demonstrate what it means to be people of faith, evangelical people and persons willing to seek God’s will in our lives in every historical transition period.

We need to allow the conclusion of Evangelii gaudium enter our hearts. These are the words that Pope entrusts to us in prayer to the Virgin Mary. We are once again challenged to show the same courage that Mary demonstrated throughout her life:

 

“Mary, Virgin and Mother,
you who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life
in the depths of your humble faith:
as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us to say our own “yes”
to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus.

Obtain for us now a new ardor born of the resurrection,
that we may bring to all the Gospel of life
which triumphs over death.
Give us a holy courage to seek new paths,
that the gift of unfading beauty
may reach every man and woman.” (EG 288).