On Saturday 4 September 2021, the Minister General Br. Massimo Fusarelli, presided the Profession of novices at the Sanctuary of La Verna.
4 novices of the Province of Toscana, 2 novices of the Province of Lazio-Abruzzo and 8 novices of the Custody of Holy Land , have professed.
Attached, you will find some photos and the homily of the Minister General.
Homily for the Profession of Temporary Vows at La Verna
4 September 2021
Colossians 1:21-23 and Luke 6:1-5
In all our lives, there is always a “before” and “after”: before an event, a choice, a transition and after, with more or less distance. This often leads to anxiety due to anticipation or disappointment, a great expenditure of energy and sometimes to tiredness. An example for all: the before and after of Covid, with everything that we know that has changed and will change.
For you too, my novice brothers, there is what comes before this day and what begins today. Each of you knows the “before” that has brought you here today, and I hope that in this year, you have been able to look with new eyes at your “before” to be able to welcome this “after” in a new way. I hope and pray that this moment will be marked by the encounter with the Lord Jesus, who generates a beautiful and contagious newness, a joy to be shared: let us allow ourselves this contagion!
St Paul presents us with a time – “a before” – and an after, which is the “now”: “before” the Christians of Colossae were distracted from God, they did not know him, their minds were taken by other things; this means that they were all taken up with filling that emptiness that we carry within us, with thoughts, words, images. The more we fill it, the more that emptiness hungers to be filled. “Now” instead, there is a new situation that touches them. Thanks to the death of Christ’s body of flesh and through him, they have been made what God desires: holy because he is holy, without blemish and able to walk in truth before him. It is thanks to God’s gracious initiative that they are reconciled.
Holy, spotless and blameless in Scripture refers to the sacrificial victims offered to God, who were to be the best, not the cast-off: the Colossians in the “after” of their life in the footsteps of Christ, live the offering of themselves every day as vital worship, until the final fulfilment.
This gift is given to you today: to offer your life as a pleasing and joyful gift so that every thought, feeling, action, affective energy and will be directed to Him, oriented to His will, progressively transformed by His love. This is the meaning of the promise to live without anything of our own, that is, free from attachment to our overbearing ego, which takes possession of everything, even God’s gifts. If throughout this year you have been able to touch and get to know this part of you that is clinging to itself, I hope you have been able to encounter and taste the humble and beautiful reality of Christ’s love, which does not disappoint and surpasses all knowledge.
You have spent a year here on La Verna, in contact with St Francis, who knew the “before” of his condition of sin and the “after” of the encounter with the leper… he says it clearly in the Testament when he came to the end of his life, he knows how to draw that boundary in his life: first I adored myself, then I was able to meet the gaze, the rotten flesh and the embrace of the lepers, and in that “we” I found my true “I”, the fraternal one, marked by mercy.
He knew the “before” of his fatigue with the fraternity of the Order that followed other paths and the “after” of the encounter that made him similar to the Beloved here on La Verna … if it was as if he was closed in on himself, almost bent over in the anguish of the growth of his creature, the fraternity, after, on this mountain, welcomes it back as a gift of the One who loves us as one who is truly humble, dispossessed of everything, free to give himself to the Beloved to the point of leaving a wound of love in his body. The glorious Cross of the Lord imprinted in the flesh of Francis’ heart and life the trace of a humble love: the Seraphim presents himself to Francis in a peaceful, loving way. Christ does not imprint his victorious mark on a servant: it is the friend, the bridegroom, the brother who marks his friend with the fire and the kiss of love.
Francis remained firm in the faith, as St Paul said to the Colossians, attached to the solid rock that is Christ. As he approached his Transitus, the Poor Man showed the brothers that Christ was everything to him, everything…; he taught him his way, which he now leaves to his brothers, to us, today to you, so that we may allow Christ to show us the way. That body lying on the bare earth precisely means this freedom, this gift of self… Oh, how we need it! May Jesus make us see with the eyes of the spirit the way to say a new, freer and happier yes to his call!
Today you too are told to place your foundation in Christ (1 Cor 3:10-12 and Eph 3:17) because faith is the radical and heartfelt adherence to Christ and gives rise to the hope generated by the Gospel.
Today you recognise that the after, the hour of your life, is that of friendship with Jesus, of the gift of your whole life to Him, in the Spirit. On this basis, you can say the ‘yes’ that is being asked of you today. St Francis expressed it thus:
Now that we have left the world, however, we have nothing else to do but to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him. (Rnb 22,9)
Brothers! Do you really want to please Jesus alone? It is a nuptial verb. I wish you this passion, this heart impulse in the ‘yes’ that you say today: you will have reservations and worries, doubts and fears; it is normal. Trust today in the faithful word of the Lord and cast all your concerns on Him. For your whole life. How is it possible to persevere in this way?
You can experience this trust in two ways as you listen to today’s Gospel of Luke:
- To be poor pilgrim preachers, that is, pilgrims and strangers in this world. It is necessary to stay on the journey, without fixing on places, roles, places, as you sometimes see us older brothers do… stay free.
- In the freedom of the Gospel: this is indicated to us by today’s Gospel and recalled by the words of the Rule which you will shortly be professing and which I wish to hear again with you, not without a pang in my heart:
Let the brothers not make anything their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all. As pilgrims and strangers in this world, serving the Lord in poverty and humility, let them go seeking alms with confidence. (...) Giving yourselves totally to this, beloved brothers, never seek anything else under heaven for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rb 6,1-6)
This poverty, our royal livery as St Paul VI called it, can only be truly and lovingly lived in evangelical freedom. How is it possible to choose to live without anything of one’s own, from the treasure of ourselves to possessions, without this movement of love? Without a great trust in his fatherhood? Without the audacity of those who, out of love, throw everything away and call God alone Father? Without a great love for the world and human beings?
Dear brother novices and soon to be professed: I wish with all my heart and with all my strength that you will truly fall in love with the gaze with which the Lord looks at you today and draws you to himself. To desire nothing else under heaven, to have no fear of losing something, but to know that with Christ, everything is given to us. To trust: you can take the step of following in Jesus’ footsteps in and through your poverty. God is not afraid of our infidelities because he knows and loves us. Rather, he stops at our self-sufficiency, at the pride of life that makes us obstinate in seeking happiness on our own. He knows how to sit and wait for us, and He knows when the time has come to return to Him, to meet His gaze again.
I can testify to you that that gaze can get lost along the way and look for something else elsewhere. However, I can also tell you that the hour is coming when that gaze will once again seek ours, and with us that of many, and overcome resistance and fear, self-sufficiency and sin. We believe it, we trust it, we hand ourselves over once again with you to this obstinate and invincible Love. And in that look, our gaze changes towards the world, towards people. Creation, reality. Creatures become brothers and sisters, not enemies, to be loved and served with humility.
I wish you a happy journey of following in the joy of love that does not disappoint. Amen.