My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
Last Sunday we read the Gospel describing Jesus visiting his home town Nazareth. After the first miracles and public teaching Our Lord comes to the place of his childhood. It wasn’t a big place at that time. There were about 150 people in Nazareth. So everybody knew everybody. Jesus knew them and they knew him well too. If we could interview them they would tell us so many things about the hidden 30 years of Our Lord that it would be enough to write a few books. However we shouldn’t regret that these memories about Jesus have been lost, because the knowledge the people of Nazareth had about Jesus was incomplete. Knowing Jesus well they missed the most important thing: that he was God. For them Jesus was only the son of the local carpenter and the poor and unimportant Mary. For thirty years they had God growing up by their side and they didn’t recognize him because they didn’t have faith. St Mark finishing this passage about Jesus visiting Nazareth says that Jesus was leaving the town amazed at their lack of faith.
Today’s Gospel about Jesus sending his disciples for the first time to preach the Good News is a continuation of the challenge the people from Nazareth faced. The people who will meet the Apostles will be challenged to see in them the messengers of God. Their faith will be challenged.
As you may know this year in the Catholic Church we have “Year of the Consecrated Life” (YCL). From the first Sunday of Advent 2014 until February 2, 2016 we are invited to realise a contribution of women and men from various religious orders, congregations and institutes. For those men and women who have dedicated their life to follow Christ by taking the vows of chastity, obedience and perseverance it is the time of grace and renewal. Pope Francis who offered the Church this special year comes from the Jesuit Order, so he knows the Consecrated Life from the first hand. The pope with his love and gentleness challenges our faith in the Consecrated Life. It applies to all of us: bishops, priests and lay Catholics. It is a good challenge. It is a needed challenge because without faith we will never understand a nun, a brothers or a religious priest. Without faith religious (or consecrated) people won’t have the slightest understanding of themselves. Without faith we will be like the people from Nazareth watching Jesus and having no clue who he is.
A few days ago when we had a clear sky here in Melbourne, which as you know was simply “promising” us the chill of the Antarctica to descend upon us, it happened that I was watching the sky at night. That night I was admiring the beautiful full moon. Then it occurred to me what I have always known but somehow I have never paid attention to it. The light of the moon is simply the light coming from the Sun. Each night the moon tells us the story of the Sun. Each night the moon reminds us about the Sun. If the Sun were gone we wouldn’t see the moon at night.
In the Bible Jesus Christ is called the Rising Sun. If Jesus is the Sun a nun, a religious brother or a religious priest is the moon. The light which we can see in them is the light of Christ. As at night the moon tells us the story of the Sun as our religious, by their very existence, tell us the story of Jesus Christ when we journey through our earthly life.
As I said before this year challenges our faith. I can tell you that it is a big challenge for the religious to hold their vocation and mission in a high esteem too, not to grow used to the mystery they touch every day.
I hope that the challenge of this year can become an opportunity for all of us to gain a healthy, spiritual and catholic approach to our religious women and men, the approach which comes from the faith in Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world.
I would also like to ask our young people who discover that they are drawn to the mystery of Christ and the mission of the Church to pray whether they can also discover that it appears to them that being the reflection of Christ's light in this world is something that resonates with them. Have courage my friends to follow up these holy inspirations.
In my life I’ve been asked many question but the question of the young fellow I mentioned at the beginning went to the bottom of my heart and I can tell you I felt enormous joy and peace when I could answer: :Yes I do believe in God.”