Homily December 2, 2023

We celebrate our closing liturgy on the last day of Ordinary Time. Tomorrow, December 3, the memorial of St. Francis Xavier, we will celebrate the first Sunday of Advent of a new liturgical year. December 3 is also the anniversary of the canonization of St. Eugene de Mazenod. On that occasion, St. John Paul II defined St. Eugene as a man of Advent. He said: “Eugene de Mazenod… was a man of Advent, a man of the Coming. He not only looked forward to that Coming, but, as a Bishop and the founder of the Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he dedicated his whole life to preparing for it. His waiting reached the intensity of heroism, that is, it was marked by a heroic degree of faith, hope and apostolic charity. Eugene de Mazenod was one of those apostles who prepared the modern age, our age”.

To be men of Advent, men who not only await but prepare for the Coming of Jesus, could also be one of the characteristics of our mission as Major Superiors.  Men who do everything possible so that each brother can be prepared to receive the Lord. Men who do everything possible so that the Good News will reach the poor. How can we do this? Only a heart like St. Eugene’s, a heart that loves, that lives faith, hope and charity with ardor, will be able to fulfill its mission. A heart that is the seed and leaven of the beatitudes in the world. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to have a heart like that of St. Eugene in order to be able to continue the charism he has bequeathed to us.

As major Superiors we are called to have the same sentiments of Christ, to love like Christ: Our ministry should lead us to grow in friendship with Jesus and with the poor. That is why we have to take care of our heart and the Word of God warns us of some dangers. Our heart can become hardened, can feel the burden of the mission or move slowly.  The Word of God calls our attention to be vigilant so that this does not happen. It also calls our attention to three dangers: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of the daily life and that day catch you by surprise like a trap”. The Word of God awakens us to be alert to these dangers: carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of the daily life.

We know well our limits, our weaknesses. And these limits could hinder the path but not impede it. The warning of the Word of God calls us to be attentive not to turn our weaknesses into vices. We need to be humble and work to know ourselves and recognize that we are weak and in need of help. We need to examine our conscience and receive God’s forgiveness. Let us not allow our limitations to become vices that harden our hearts.

Drunkenness and any other form of addiction, including addiction to electronic devices, harden and slow down our hearts. I would like to draw attention to this because we are often tempted to fill our emptiness or seek compensations with seductions and substitutions for the requirement to live our vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We should be able to speak openly about it and allow ourselves to be helped to live our religious vows with joy and generosity.

God’s Word also warns us about the worries of life. Being Major Superiors we can be overburdened with these worries which can lead to anxiety, despair and sadness. We need to trust in God’s Providence and know that if we take care of ourselves, God will take care of us. We need to make every effort on our part but know that we are not saviors but collaborators with our Savior who only asks us to be faithful.

What can we do? We have to wake up, to be aware. Jesus shows us the way: humility. To be humble is to join the way God has chosen to save us, the humility of God. Humility to ask for help from our brothers, from the Oblates, from those who can help us in our weaknesses. Humility to trust in Providence and in the work of the Holy Spirit.  The same Spirit who has chosen you through the superiors is the one who guides us to prepare for that new era, that new age that the General Chapter is dreaming of. If we walk as humble missionary pilgrims of hope in communion with the whole Congregation, we can prepare the future to be more and more authentic Oblates who live their charism, missionaries of the poor and with the poor, preparing the definitive victory of Jesus over sin, injustice and death, the coming of the new heaven and the new earth which He has announced and made present and which we, collaborating with Him, make a reality. 

To Mary Immaculate, our Mother, we ask her to smile on us in our difficulties. To St. Eugene we ask to share in his love, to be part of that heart as big as the world, capable of passionately loving our family and the poor. Our Blessed Oblates encourage us to walk in hope. One of them was an Major Superior like us and shows us that even in this ministry we can be saints. To the Father, Son and Spirit we ask the blessing and grace to be their co-workers in the Mission of God entrusted to the Church. Amen