The feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a wonderful occasion to begin our 36th General Chapter dedicated to “Mission.” “The cross of Jesus Christ is central to our mission. Like the apostle Paul, we preach Christ and him crucified… Through the eyes of the crucified Savior we see the world which he redeemed with his blood, desiring that those in whom he continues to suffer will know the power of his resurrection.” (C#4) The cross of Jesus reveals who we are, how we live, and what we do as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The cross is the great sign of faith. We might forget this. When we look at the cross we no longer see the horror, the scandal, the humiliation and the absurdity of the Son of God who died this way. Our faith brings us to see the Resurrected One who triumphed over sin, death and violence. The cross proclaims the unbelievable love of God. Yet, surrounded by so many images of the cross, often cheap and simple decorations, we can forget its awesome mystery of love and the victory over sin, evil and death.

I invite us to look on the cross and to ask God to strengthen our faith, and to make us more aware of faith in our lives. We take faith for granted, and it becomes mundane, an automatic reflex. Our life can become plans and calendars; we live, move and have our being as though we operate like the automatic cycle on a washing machine. The button is pushed and off we go. Part of the cycle is daily prayer and Eucharist, and then we go to work, a separate compartment from prayer. We might believe in ourselves more than in God! We think we are “the movers and shakers” and God is far away, remote and invisible. We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We have to save the world!

I invite us to ask God for the gift of faith as we open this General Chapter, the Chapter of our jubilee. We come here, first of all, as men of faith, and this means men who have vision, who see deeply what is not evident and who possess wisdom. We believe that Jesus brought us here as his missionaries. He desires to breathe the newness and power of the Spirit on us, this special body of Oblates called the General Chapter.

This is not just another meeting, one more General Chapter. We cannot be here wondering “will this Chapter be useful!” We know the Spirit of Jesus is among us and will speak to us. WEhave to make the General Chapter an event that will touch the Congregation!

I was at a Province assembly where a large group of Oblates solemnly processed to the chapel and intoned the Veni Creator Spiritus. It was powerful and beautiful. After this beautiful prayer to the Spirit, we walked to the meeting hall and I heard these comments: “Another useless meeting.” “What a waste of time and money!” “We hear the same people talk all the time and then nothing happens.” Let me use the words of Jesus to his disciples, “Among you it cannot be like this.” The feast of the exaltation of the cross calls us to faith. We cannot disbelieve in God’s presence and activity among us.

  • We will invoke the Holy Spirit and the Spirit will be among us. We MUST have faith; we must LISTEN, watch, pray, share, and work hard to be faithful to the Spirit.
  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Risen Lord is among us, truly present!
  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Father and the Risen Lord send the Spirit as our consoler and advocate, as well as to shake us up. I hope so!
  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that God will speak to us through our work. He will reveal his missionary plan and our participation in it.
  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that old and young Oblates are valuable and important for the mission and the future of the Congregation.
  • In the light of the triumph of the cross, I believe that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate have much to give for God’s kingdom and to the Church, and this is not the time to lay down and die.

The first days of our General Chapter, we will be hearing many hours of reports. My brothers, we are not here to be entertained! We are invited to see the works of the Lord in the missionary work of our Congregation. An image to motivate us in these first days is to see our General Chapter as the return of the 72 disciples in jubilation after being sent out on mission. The disciples come and tell Jesus all they have done. Our reports will be like that, relating marvelous signs and wonders, and also the challenges that can only be faced with fasting, penance and prayer.

In this passage we are told that Jesus exulted in the Spirit upon hearing about the missionary zeal of his disciples. Brothers, Jesus is among us and will be exulting before the Father in the Spirit as we witness the missionary wonders we have accomplished! We, friends of Jesus, gather around Him, rejoicing to be together. We want to tell of the good things we have done in his name. Let us believe and see more deeply into the “reports.” “Do not forget the wonders of the Lord!”

Again, I invite us all to believe that the Risen Lord is here among us. We know he comes to us in Word and Sacrament. Let us frequently make an act of faith during these days, to see Jesus and hear Him in our assembly, this motley group of missionaries who are so in love with the poor! I invite us to have the eyes to recognize Jesus in our midst, breathing the Spirit upon us in the Chapter hall, and in the corridors, breaking bread with us at table and in our small groups. By the power of the cross, may we allow the Spirit of Jesus to inspire us, sending us on mission to the poor.

As we speak of mission, we have the great question burning in our hearts, “Lord what you will have us do?” Let this be our focus throughout the General Chapter. “Lord, where do you want to send us in faithfulness to the Oblate charism which is so necessary today?” We open ourselves to the Spirit to receive Mazenodian courage, audacity and creativity, to bring the Gospel to the world today. This Good News is stronger than any other force in society and it is this Good News that people are seeking. The Father is drawing all people to the fount of life.

As we contemplate the cross, we remember that faith is the certainty of things hoped for; the conviction of things we do not see (Heb. 11:1). My brothers, let us enter the General Chapter of 2016 under the sign of the cross, with great faith in the Risen Lord who is among us, who gifts us with his Spirit, and who wishes to send us forth, on mission.