Secular Franciscan Order

Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis

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Homily - October 29, 2011 – Fr. Amando Trujillo Cano, TOR

SFO General Chapter - Sao Paolo, Brazil.

At the end of this General Chapter we may ask ourselves: how can we implement all the good things we heard on the subject that we have addressed? Where to begin? The passage in Luke's Gospel that we have heard today gives us some clues that can help us to apply some of what we have shared these days and thus go from gospel to life and life to gospel. Firstly it is important to reflect on something that seems trivial but is instead very important: the presence of Jesus at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, who were observing him carefully. Let us recall that the Pharisees distinguished themselves from ordinary people because they observed the Law of Moses and many other regulations to the letter, but they did not pay attention to judgment and to love for God. The leaders of this group were among the staunchest opponents of Jesus and participated in the decision to bring him to Pontius Pilate to request his death. However, the Gospels indicate that Jesus repeatedly accepted the invitation to dine at the home of Pharisees, thus showing a clear openness to this group of people who were very different from him.



We are tempted to visit only those whom we know or those who think similarly to us, or invite to the fraternity those who are already engaged in parish groups while we show little openness toward those who seem indifferent or hostile to our mission. However, to evangelize the environments in which we live it is necessary to have the openness that Jesus had, by being willing to relate to those who are unchurched and even visit or talk with those who do not sympathize with our mission in order to bring the Gospel message to them, too. This message is not our invention and is not limited to human power, but it is the message of the risen Jesus with the power of salvation for those who listen to it and believe in him.

On the other hand, Jesus does not limit himself to be present in the house of the leading Pharisee. He tells a parable to those invited because he noticed that they were choosing the places of honor at the table. When we are in environments that seem contrary to the Gospel, and indeed in every environment, it is important to observe carefully what happens, analyze the situation, to enlighten it with the light of the Gospel values. We are to do this, of course, not only with words, but by the example of life first; that is, not as teachers but as disciples of the one teacher. Jesus indicates the guests the negative consequences of their ways and proposes them an alternative approach that would produce the result they wanted. He ends with an instruction of great human and theological depth: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” In reality it is God who exalts those who are humble and do not seek places of honor but are free of selfish ambitions. Those who are obsessed with all this will not be exalted by God, who is the one that really counts, but will be rather humbled when their intentions are sooner or later revealed.

In our work of evangelization we are also called to seek sincerely the good of others, we are to converse with the men and women of our time, reflecting on the practical consequences of our decisions, pointing out what really helps the person’s full development and what dehumanizes it, even if it seems positive, easier or more efficient. Today, as always, there are false promises of happiness that are actually death traps for those who fall into them, think of the excessive ambition of political and economic power, the obsessive pursuit of immediate sensual pleasure, the narcissism which makes us indifferent to the suffering of others, etc. There are true illusions in contemporary culture that have deceived millions of people who have lost their freedom. We cannot give ourselves to others when we become slaves of selfish disorder. Our evangelizing mission also consists in helping the men and women of our time to heal those illnesses of the intellect and of the will, in bringing sight to the blind and promoting true freedom that makes us capable of loving as Jesus did, which is the only way to happiness. If we do this, we will be instruments of God's love who wants to liberate and renew our world through our presence and witness of faith, the more humble and faithful, the more effective they are.

This leads us finally to the foundation of our evangelizing mission, which is also the foundation and core of our faith: the faithful and persistent love of God. St. Paul speaks of this love when he writes to the Romans about God's love for Israel despite their transgression, and says that "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable." The apostle teaches us so that God's saving plan is making its way in spite of human infidelity and will ultimately be fulfilled when even the people of Israel comes to faith in Christ Jesus, something that seems humanly impossible. God has chosen us in Christ and has given us the gift of salvation. To the extent that we are soaked in this experience of God's love in Jesus Christ, we will be able to infect others with the germ of Christ’s new life. Let us then trust in God who has a plan that sometimes seems mysterious, but that we are called to believe in fully. This faith throws us into the deep of our history to call others to the adventure of faith in the Risen One; this is why we dare to invite others to live the universal brotherhood and sisterhood as St. Francis, in order to be signs of forgiveness and reconciliation, builders of a new humanity that anticipates the new heavens and new earth which God has prepared for us.

And when we feel that our strength is running low or we face the temptation of discouragement, let us remember the Lord's promise expressed in the psalm that we have proclaimed today: “For the LORD will not cast off his people, nor abandon his inheritance; But judgment shall again be with justice, and all the upright of heart shall follow it” (Ps 94). The same Jesus who has sent us to evangelize all creatures has promised to be with us every day of our lives and encouraged us with these words: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world”. (Jn 16:33).

Let us conclude with the last paragraph of the Lineamenta for the next Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, which in turn introduces a paragraph of Pope Paul VI’s Evangelii Nuntiandi:

We therefore approach the new evangelization with a sense of enthusiasm. We will learn the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing, even at times when proclamation might seem like a seed sown among tears (cf. Ps 126:6). "May it mean for us - as it did for John the Baptist, for Peter and Paul, for the other apostles and for a multitude of splendid evangelizers all through the Church's history - an interior enthusiasm that nobody and nothing can quench. May it be the great joy of our consecrated lives. And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the Kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world."