Fr. Josep Rovira, CMF delivered the homily at the Baccalaureate Mass on March 21, 2015. He was already set to leave ICLA a couple of days after the Graduation Day and thus it was another fitting moment to draw the depth and wisdom of his experience and knowledge as a Professor and a missionary.
As in all his lectures and retreats, he always gives a thoroughly prepared, solid and very substantial content. This was meant primarily for ICLA’s graduating batch 2015, but a wider readership will certainly benefit from his and thus we are posting it here.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During these past months we have lived, and, in a particular way, we have studied the meaning of our Christian life and mission as committed Lay, Priests and Religious. On this “Graduation Day,” at the end of the Academic Year, having in front of us a period of deserved rest and other kind of activities, or the longed coming back home to our countries and apostolic fields, enriched by what we have deepened and experienced this year, we can ask ourselves: How can we put all our learnings into practice? How can we be more credible and more fitting witnesses to God, to Christ, in our world, with the people (Catholics or not, Christians or not, Believers or not) whom we shall meet? I would like to offer you some suggestions for our own reflection, by means of a sort of “Decalogue.”
1- The first one and the source of all the rest: the insistence on the primacy of God, the search for the Absolute in our human and Christian life, as a response to the increasing secularism in our society, the intellectual laziness, the comfortable indifference, scepticism and superficiality (of those who do not even ask themselves about the significance and aim of their lives); that to be is more important than to have; and witnessing that each one of us is worthier than what he or she produces, because every person is worthwhile in itself. In other words, the passionate search for God, the nostalgia of God, as St. Augustine said: “Oh God, You created us for Yourself; and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”1 Perhaps, someone can take this first suggestion for granted; but that cannot be. In fact, the consumer mentality, the longing for more and more money, the more or less bourgeois way of life (even among committed Lay, Priests and Religious), the need to find a social place, the passion for efficiency even in our apostolate, and the obsession for our own personal realization, have undermined the spiritual life of many Christians as well. Without this primacy of God, our existence has no sense at all. The risk is that many disciples of Christ can die due to many things, and even due to much work, but not due to much Gospel! We are not more or less philanthropic people, but first of all men/women of God; we are called, first, not to share or sell bread, but to be Evangelical leaven. So, the life of faith and, as a consequence, a rich prayer life: to be men/women of God.
2- Fraternity and solidarity, being preachers, witnesses and patient constructors of communion, as a response to the individualism and self-centeredness in the world, to the violence, to the many kinds of injustice, to the slavery in front of an excess of structures, to the sort of social massification, passivity and comfort at any cost (cf. VC 91-92). So, fostering altruism, fraternal life.
3- Simplicity, austerity/frugality and internal and external freedom, respecting God’ creation, as a response to the unbridled thirst for consumerism that destroys creation and produces economic and social unbalance (cf. VC 89-90). If we are attached to many material things, only to one place, to some people, to a culture…,, we are no more free for God and for the mission in favour of our brethren. So, a free and a more or less austere way of life.
4- Humility and courage at the same time, humble courage and spirit of service, as a response to the longing for economic power and political dominion of the people, and to the not so rare temptations of triumphalism and power even in the Church, calling in mind that the way and icon of being in authority in the Families, Parishes, Dioceses and Religious communities is Jesus serving (cf. Mt 23:8-12) and washing the feet of the disciples (Jn 13:1-17; VC 75, FT 12b, 17b). As saint Peter says in his first letter: “… always have an answer ready when you are asked upon to account for your hope, but give it simply and with respect…” (1Pt 3:15). So, not to be afraid –and still less, to be ashamed- to be what we are called to be.
5- Gratuitousness and magnanimity as a response to the relentless and merciless spirit of contract and exploitation of the people (cf. VC 104-105). So, being in a utilitarian and technocratic society and culture, “which is inclined to assess the importance of things and even of people in relation to their immediate «usefulness»” (VC 104), a sign of unbounded generosity and love, a life “poured out” without reserve, “in a world which risks being suffocated in the whirlpool of the ephemeral” (VC 105). To a society of calculation, we offer an unbounded gratuitousness; to a society of ephemeral, we bear witness to human and spiritual depth. In other words, and according to the Gospel (Jn 12:3; cf. VC 104-105), being a sign of the superabundant perfume at Bethany.
6- Cordiality and mercy as a response to any kind of cool, distant and technical, standard and computerized relationship (think, for example, of health’s world in some hospitals, factories, fields, and in general in the working places). Mercy is an image of God, and merciful people are, truly, God abiding on earth. Therefore, Jesus said: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 36). We, people, tend to reward those who reach the goal; God, instead, to those who try to. So, examples of closeness and tenderness.
7- Tireless builders of an always possible reconciliation, as a response to any kind of tensions, old and new hatred among people, families, cultures, religions, tribes and groups. As Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect” (Mt 5: 43-48). So, being models of welcome, acceptance, constant dialog and tireless pardon and reconciliation in any field.
8- Openness to everybody, starting with the small ones (cf. Mt 25: 31-46) and those living close to you (perhaps a member of your own family, Parish or Religious community), as a response to an economic, technological and technocratic depersonalized society. So, witness of humanity.
9- The joy to live and the joy for your Christian charism and mission and, as a consequence, the openness to hope, as a response to the spirit of dissatisfaction, the spirit of resignation, to sadness and to a certain kind of “taedium vitae” (disgust of living), which can lead even to drugs’ experiences, drunkenness, as a result of an atheistic and hedonistic culture (cf. VC 88). So, lovers of life, as a gift of the God of life (cf. Gen 1-2; Dt 30: 19-20; Ps 8; Wis 11: 24-26)2; love for the life that makes us signs of simple and mature joy (cf. FLC 28)3; happy people, in spite of all difficulties—but it does not mean a superficial or candid, ingenuous, unaware people—because God, the Lord is with us “always until the end of this world” (Mt 28: 20); and, “if God is with us, who shall be against us?” (Rom 8: 38), “… whom shall I fear?... I will not be afraid… I hope, I am sure… (we) trust in the Lord”, in Him is our hope (Ps 27). As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said: “The scars are the sign that it was hard, but the smile is the sign that You overcame!”
10- Depth, seriousness, mother of wisdom and, as much as possible, preparation and cultural qualification, with a life inwardly unified, as a response to a sort of uncritical and superficial existence, made by advertising slogans, fashions, vain chatting by internet, every kind of cell-phone and television spots. It does not mean that you necessarily have to get certain academic degrees and doctorates, but it does mean that you have known and have reflected what you think and what you say. You have prepared, you understand it (even with a certain cultural depth, as we do along these years in ICLA) and, above all, you live it, because we are convinced that not our academic titles (although they are so important to improve our mission!) but decisively our lives will convince the people, will “attract” them, as Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have said (EG 14). Being competent, above all, on the divine issues (experience of God, life of prayer, theological and spiritual ongoing formation) and on human issues (experts in humanity and, as much as possible, on cultural subjects too.) So, models of seriousness and competence in your own fields, of human maturity and responsibility.
1- We committed Lay, Priests and Religious men and women, have to be, in our society, more than ever, Christians who point out and stress: 1) God as the sense and centre of our lives, His Word and the life of prayer; 2) life of fraternal communion; and 3) simplicity, authenticity and even austerity of life, being –in this way-, like Christ, free and available for the mission, and especially close to the poor and all people’s human and spiritual needs; 4) in very few words: being men/women of God, rich in humanity,
2- And, at a human level, being: cordial/heartfelt, simple and competent,
3- With a well-defined human, Christian and charismatic identity; a right-centred, deep, joyful, open and welcoming life.
Finally, dear brethren and friends, at the end of this academic year we have once more and better understood that what we are is more important than what we do; but, if we are right and faithful disciples of Christ, inevitably we shall do also what the people need and are waiting from us. The constant temptation in the world that we face is to point out more to do than to be. Let us be like our Master and Lord, and for sure we shall do, like Him the plan of love of the Father in favour of our beloved brothers and sisters.