God bless Spiritans! “Quidquid initum habet, finem habet” (Whatever has a beginning has an end) so muses the Latin sage. Our Enlarged General Council 2016 held in Rome ended rightfully with the Holy Mass on July 2, 2016.
The Homily, entitled “Called to be Heralds of Hope” was well articulated and delivered by Fr. Bede Ukwuije, CSSp
(1st Assistant Superior General).
Below is the full text.
In today’s readings, we are called to be heralds of hope. In order to be heralds of hope, we have to be ready to embrace God’s newness.
Hope is God’s gift. The initiative belongs to Him. In the midst of exile of the people of God, when all hope seems lost, prophet Amos 9, 11-15 calls on the people to contemplate God’s work of renewal. The vocabulary is very concrete: Restoration: God promises to restore Israel. Reparation: God promises to repair the ruins. Reconstruction: God promises to reconstruct Israel and bring back the exiled people. The ruins will be replaced with new life, new cities, new vineyards, fresh fruits. God’s work of recreation finds echo in Revelation, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).
In the Gospel of Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus poses radical renewal as condition for the success of mission: “New wine, new skin”. Newness here has nothing to do with age. It is a question of attitude, an inner disposition, the fruit of conversion of heart, conversion of vision. The old vision distinguishes between yesterday and today, the one who sows and the one who reaps, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, North and South, older circumscriptions and younger circumscriptions, hard times and good times, success and failure. These distinctions cause competition, class struggle, intergeneration conflict, Jealousy, despair and disenchantment. In the new vision proposed by Amos and Jesus, the one who plants and one who reaps are walk side by side. Men and women who acknowledge their common humanity work together to make the world a better place. God’s presence is recognized and celebrated in good as well as difficult times.
The Enlarged General Council has helped us to evaluate where we are at in the implementation of the decisions of the General Chapter of Bagamoyo 2012.
One great fruit as was expressed in the final message to confreres is our renewed hope in the future of Spiritan mission.
This renewed hope is what we need to offer to the contemporary world.
Many people are discouraged by the culture of violence and the increasing number of deaths in our streets and cities. Many are not sure of their next meal not to talk of having access to medical care. Unemployment and juvenile delinquencies have become part of daily life. Think of the number of people who drown every day in the ocean while trying to cross to Europe for greener pastures. The misery and inhumane treatment they suffer in the hands of human traffickers is unimaginable. Many of them are literarily sold into slavery where they are used like objects or animals and discarded when they are no longer useful.
In the midst of all this chaos, we are called to be heralds of hope. The greatest service that missionaries can render to our society is to repeat in season and out of season that life is possible even when everything seems to go wrong. Missionaries cannot take part in the ongoing collective depression. In the footsteps of Amos and other prophets we must rebuild hope in the minds and hearts of people. In the footsteps of our Founders, Fr. François Poullart des Places and Fr. François Libermann, we must invite our contemporaries to contemplate the actions of God in the salvation history; how God makes life spring up in the desert of hopelessness.
Many Spiritans are involved in this work of reconstruction. This is what we do when we undertake new initiatives in Education ; when we open new missions in Europe, Bolivia and Asia ; when we explore new development projects ; when we dare into zones of conflict like South Soudan. We reconstruct the ruins of humanity when we undertake JPIC work in prisons and commit ourselves to the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
I was privileged to celebrate Easter 2016 with the Spiritans in Durban South Africa. The summit of the celebration for me was the stations of the cross in the Female prison in Durban, where our confrere Fr. Peter Sodje, CSSp works as chaplain. One of the inmates who became the catechist, serving long term sentence, during the vote of thanks said about the chaplaincy: « This is the only place where we are not considered as offenders ». The chaplaincy planted in the heart of the prison contributes to the reconstruction of broken humanity.
As we go back to our respective communities, we need to ask ourselves these questions: Are we open to welcome the new things God does in our lives? Are we ready to allow God to renew the world in Jesus Christ, our future? Are we ready to make ourselves available so that God may use us to transmit his surprises to our society?Our response to these questions will determine the possibility of our being heralds of hope in the deserts of the human family held hostage by violence and despair. Our response to these questions will determine our capacity to welcome the God of life who comes in the daily events of our life.