The Major Superiors of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, accompanied by the Superior General, undertake a pilgrimage to the heart of the Catholic Church, the venerable St. Peter’s Basilica. This pilgrimage is a profound exploration of faith, leadership, and the enduring legacy of St. Peter, the humble fisherman upon whose testimony the Church stands. Here is the Homily of the Superior General which he pronounced during the Eucharist he presided over, on the Tomb of St. Peter.
The Significance of St. Peter’s Basilica
We have listened today’s readings which, with a marked apocalyptic vocabulary, announce the end of powerful empires, of magnificent temples that will be destroyed, of wars and disasters that announce the definitive victory of God who comes to judge the earth. Today we celebrate the Eucharist in the crypt of the imposing Basilica of St. Peter. What are our feelings about the words of Jesus: of all that you contemplate there will not be left one stone upon another? Some people think that the whole Church would collapse with the basilica if these words were fulfilled. Why is this temple so important? What is its secret? This basilica was built on the mortal remains of a man condemned to death on a cross. It is Simon, a fisherman from Galilee whom Jesus chose to be his disciple and to be the Stone on which he would build his Church. Centuries of history have been building what we contemplate but its center is the altar built over the remains of Peter who suffered his martyrdom near this place. The most important thing is a few bones of a fisherman from Galilee! And these bones are not visible to the public. What is important is what is not seen! Perhaps there we find a first lesson for our mission.
Authority and Temptations
We, like Peter, are called to be Christ’s shepherds, exercising a service of authority in the Church. Perhaps we are tempted to exercise it from self-referentiality. We can fall into the temptation of thinking that we are better than others, that we have more power or that we know more. We can remain in the accessory things, things that speak of prestige, of privileges. Perhaps we think we have the right to the top positions, to be listened to and obeyed, to travel where and when we want… Jesus tells us, all that will come one day when it will collapse and not a stone will be left upon a stone.
The Essence of Service
We can ask ourselves what is the most important thing in our service of authority? Let Peter answer us: The most important thing is to have met Jesus, to have followed him to death, to have borne witness to his death and resurrection. The most important thing is to have told the Lord three times that I love him in spite of having denied him three other times. Indeed, only by loving and following Jesus can we be shepherds and servants of our brothers and sisters. As we celebrate the Eucharist on this altar, we remember that it is on Peter’s confession of faith and love that the Church is founded.
Love for the Church and Charism
Love to the Church gave birth to our charism. St. Eugene became a priest of the poor because he felt the heartbreaking call of the abandoned Church of his time. It is enough to reread the Preface to feel once again Eugene’s passion and love for the Church. A love proven throughout his life. At the tomb of Peter, today we give thanks to the Church for having given us the CC and RR as a sure way to live the Gospel and to be holy missionaries. Our best service to the Church will be to read, pray and live these CC and RR. In a few years we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the papal approval of our CC and RR. We as major superiors have a very important role in the animation of our confreres. Let us commit ourselves today, before the altar of Peter, to do everything in our power to put them into practice personally and communally and thus be pilgrim missionaries of hope in communion. Let us make this pact with Jesus, with Peter, among ourselves.
Walking with the Church and Synodal Experience
CC&RR. 6 tells us that love for the Church passes through fidelity to her pastors. We know what St. Eugene and our CC and RR ask of us in relation to the Bishop of Rome. Also today we have to walk with the Church and follow the guidelines of the successor of Peter. As Oblates, it is easy for us to tune in to Pope Francis who always asks us to put Jesus Christ and the poor at the center and to work for universal brotherhood. We should enthusiastically embrace the appeals he makes to us in Laudato Si to promote an integral ecological conversion and care for our common home. The Church that is living a Synodal experience invites us to walk in it and with it to serve the poor. It will do us much good to welcome this synodal dynamic of community discernment in our local communities, in our Assemblies and in our councils at all levels of the Congregation. It will do us much good to walk together in order to decide on the most appropriate structures to revitalize our life and mission. Let us also accept the call to walk together with the laity and the members of our charismatic family. It is a grace to live in these beautiful moments and from our charism we can be prophets of that new world and of the Kingdom that Jesus preached.
Facing Weakness with Faith
It is in this age that Jesus has chosen us. Let us not be afraid. Like Peter we feel weak and we know from experience that we can deny Jesus. But Peter’s love and faith confirm that we can do it because the Spirit of the Lord is with us. The Blessed Oblate Martyrs of Spain that we celebrate today, died together with a layman confessing their faith and forgiving and praying for those who killed them. They, along with Eugene de Mazenod and all the Oblates who have preceded us, confirm that it is worthwhile to give one’s life to proclaim Jesus to the poorest, that it is worthwhile to live the Gospel and our CC and RR, that it is worthwhile to live in communion with the Church. It is worthwhile to embrace this beautiful Oblate vocation to which Jesus calls us.
Mary Immaculate’s Intercession
May Mary Immaculate help us to live with the same passion of St. Eugene to serve our brothers and the poor. May she help us to always say Yes to the Lord, to walk in a synodal journey, to try everything to proclaim and live the Gospel, to give our lives in oblation for love of Jesus Christ, the Church and the poor to whom we have been sent. May St. Peter confirm us in the faith so that walking in hope and love we may sow in the world the beatitudes. Amen