My Dear Sisters and Brothers! This year we have in the Church the Year of the Consecrated Life, the time given us to ponder on what is the essence of life of the women and men, from various religious orders, who take the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They undertake various ministries for the benefit of the Church and the wider society but the essence is that each religious order or congregation is like a window which gives us an insight into the mystery of Christ. Next year, on January 25, it will be 200 years since St Eugene de Mazenod and his five companions established the first community of missionaries who eventually developed into Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The “window”, the insight into the mystery of God, which St Eugene de Mazenod wanted his Oblates to provide the Church with is precisely to expose that our God is the community of Divine Persons. That’s why community life is the crucial part of our Oblate life. We don’t live and minister on our own. St Eugene insisted on that. In those first years which followed January 25, 1816, when the Oblates were founded, there were big demands on missionaries in France, but those first five Oblates didn’t go to five different parishes to preach, even if, in this way, they could cover more area. On the contrary they would go together, as a community, even to small and poor places. In this way they would witness to God who is the Community of Divine Persons. If we know this we won’t be surprised that the first companion of St Eugene was Fr Henry Tempier, who was not a gifted preacher but he was a holy man and strongly committed to community life.
But as you know the Trinity is a huge topic, so what is a particular “window”, a particular insight St Eugene wanted to contribute to the Church by founding the Oblates?
If we are still in our architecture imagination, let me ask you this question: “Why do we have the door in the Church?” To get into the Church? What about this: To get out of the Church into the world with the message of the Gospel. Jesus Christ is the One who came from heaven with Good News to shape us into the likeness of the community of the Trinity.
When I was walking by that house in Melbourne with the Christmas tree already done I just shook my head and I kept walking. When we get a glimpse of heaven, the glimpse transforms us into what we see. That was the glimpse St Eugene wanted to offer the Church so badly damaged in his time, as if he was saying: “Don’t lick your wounds. Don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Don’t dream about better times but remember the basics. Our God is the Divine Community which reaches out. That’s what we are called to be.”
The first Oblate House established in Aix in 1816 is attached to a little church. Do you know what the title of the church is? The church of Mission. I have never come across any other church under such name but as I look at the main door to the church of Mission in Aix I can see St Eugene and our first missionaries walking out of the church to evangelize the towns and villages of the Southern France.
To finish I would like to leave you with anther image. It is the image of Our Lady, the Star of the New Evangelization. The image was made at the request of John Paul II. I would like to dedicate this image to the young people of your parish: Mary is holding Jesus very closely. It indicates her love and commitment to the Lord. But notice where she is standing. She is standing in the door. You can say that it is the door of your parish church. However before she steps out she turns to you. If you look into her eyes you can read that she is silently asking you: Will you join me to take my Son Jesus Christ out there, to those who don’t know him yet?