Homily of Fr. Ivan Filipovic for Holy Mass
We celebrate this Holy Mass for the intention of evangelization throughout the world. This is a missionary Mass. The Gospel readings in these days are from the book of Matthew, where Jesus gives “the missionary discourse,” so named by the scholars. I remember that at the beginning of this chapter Jesus calls the twelve apostles, each by name, and he sends them off. In yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus describes how one of his missionaries should be, one of his disciples who would proclaim the Kingdom of God to the world.
Our Community is also a missionary one, not just because we have houses all of the world and in far away places, but because God has wanted to welcome the youth. He wants to announce the Kingdom of Heaven to us because, if we truly meet the living Jesus who is the spring of life, then we can share this reality with everyone.
I was thinking of how I encountered this living God when I entered Community. How was the Community a missionary for me twelve or thirteen years ago when I, too, showed up at the Cenacolo with death in my heart? I remember one thing that happened shortly after I entered Community, maybe twenty days after. It’s something that really touched my heart.
You all know how the first days of Community are. Everybody tells you stories, and you ask many questions. Every one speaks to you about this and that, and it all becomes a great confusion in your head, because it takes at least three months to start to understand anything at all.
In those first days I was very, very confused, and I heard people often speak about God’s Providence. It was a word used quite frequently, and the guys were always saying, “Let’s pray for Providence. We must pray for Providence. We trust in God’s Providence.” I entered in Ugliane in Croatia, where there was war, and we prayed a lot for the gift of Providence because we had barely anything at all. We always ate beans in a can, and thanks be to God, every once in a while the Italian charities brought us something. With just twenty days of Community, all this talk about Providence seemed ridiculous. I had a hard time believing it. It just seemed like a story somebody made up.
One evening when we had sharing in the chapel, and everyone shared what he had lived that day. I still didn’t understand Italian, so a guy was translating for me what was being said. At a certain point the guy’s voice who was speaking started to crack, and he began to cry. Meanwhile the person who was translating for me stayed in silence and lowered his head. After dinner that evening, I went to the guy who had translated, who was my “guardian angel,” and I asked him to explain to me why that other guy had started crying in the chapel and why everyone stayed in silence. He looked at me with sad eyes and said, “We betrayed God’s Providence!” Then he added, “Do you remember that today we finally drank coffee after many days that we didn’t have any? Well, we were able to have some coffee because one of the guys asked for it. He conned his friends. It wasn’t because we trusted in God. We have betrayed His Providence!” The guy in the chapel was crying about this, and his tears touched my heart.
Today when I think of our Community and how it is a missionary one, I realize that the first missionary I met was that guy, his tears. I really did have a hardened heart after twelve years of drugs and evil, but that young guy’s tears had the strength to crush that hardness. Those tears told me a lot about that guy. I understood that he really believed in Providence; he really had faith in God. God came to me through that guy and had me find Him. Today when I read the Gospel and Jesus tells me how to be a true missionary, I realize that this guy had the heart of a missionary, He knew how to share everything that he had with us, his belongings, his time, his health. And not just with us. When Providence arrived and when charities came to bring something, he was the first to share it with the poorest people in the area, with the women whose husbands were at war. These are things you never forget. This is how the Community makes us encounter God.
Being a missionary is everyday in the little things, in your gaze, your tears, your smile. I have been praying so much in these days, especially for you parents, you guys and girls, for your families, for our families, that we sons and daughter may be able to be missionaries for our parents, that the look in our eyes, our very being will speak to them of the God whom we are encountering in Community. We pray, also, that you parents will be able give testimony to God, whom you are finding through your lives, your Saturday meeting, the catechisms that you listen to, the Masses you attend. In this way, parents and children can be missionaries for one another, when the life of each one of us speaks of God. This is what is means to be a missionary: to live a life that speaks of God to the people around you. God, through the Community, desires this of us, because this is our salvation: to meet Jesus, to live Jesus. When you meet Jesus you can’t help but to become a missionary. From those little daily missionary actions, the larger missions are born: Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Africa.
But today Jesus also speaks of persecution in this missionary Gospel reading. He doesn’t want to tell us imaginary stories, or fool us. He doesn’t want to put false hope into our hearts: “Yes, don’t worry, everything will be fine, as always!”
Jesus tells us that the life of a missionary is a difficult life. Still today many priests are risking their lives and are murdered for the sake of the Gospel.
When I think of all of us here in Community, I realize that we have a really peaceful life. We are not taken before judges in courts. We are not risking our lives. But I think that our past-- the temptation of thinking with longing about our false freedom, about drugs and sex--I would say that these are our persecutions. The need to feel this false freedom, the feeling of being able to do just anything we want, the sensation of not belonging to anyone or anything, all of these things have remained impressed in our memories. They have made their mark in our individual story, and at times they can be real and true persecutions, which paralyze us from doing good, from being true missionaries in the deepest part of our being.
Today I understand that the drugs have caused our lives to be false, to be lies, for many years. I realize that we guys and girls of the Community, with these strong memories and experiences on our backs, belong to a category of very particular people. You parents need to be aware of this always. We will never be “normal!” We can never pretend that nothing happened—a lot happened! We are fragile, and we need to tell ourselves the truth. But Jesus has promised that He will be our strength in our weakness! Evil tempts us, persecutes us, and waits for us in these memories. Evil waits for us to leave the Community to tempt us even harder, and we need to accept that we are like this! You parents need to know these things in order to help us and sustain us in prayer, to understand us, and to help us.
Today’s Gospel says, “A brother will kill his own brother and a son his parents.” This afternoon I saw a mother kill her own son. Her son has been in Community for one year, and the mother--who knows absolutely nothing about the Community and who had abandoned her son on the streets for years--came with her “companion,” who is much older than she, to take her son back. The boy was totally confused. They went into the office to get his documents, jumped into the car, and they took off…this is a mother who kills her son. This Gospel may seem exaggerated, but we must be pay attention because the Word of God sheds light on our lives today.
We young men and women of the Community have been called to an extraordinary mission, and we are capable of fulfilling this mission in spite of all our fragility that is very real. But God alone is our strength. We’re the ones who built this tent, who worked all these nights to do it all. We have the capacity to make these sacrifices. We are the ones heading off to the missions in Mexico, Brazil. We’re the ones who want to go to Africa. We are the ones who have encountered the living Jesus, Jesus who gives strength and hope to so many.
This evening we will have an Adoration that we have called “missionary.” Mary will be with us, and with Jesus we will go around the world. We will go to all of the continents, knocking at the hearts of many youth. Together we will go and tell the whole world that we have been blessed to meet Jesus, that we aren’t afraid of our weakness, because Jesus has made Himself the strength of our life. He has become the hope in our eyes. We will go everywhere, and it will be beautiful when we go into our own individual countries: Italy, Croatia, Bosnia, all the way to Argentina. We will knock at the doors of all our Community houses throughout the world, at the hearts of all the guys and girls and children who are not here with us for these days. This evening we will all be together because we are missionaries, and we will share this together with all of the joy that lights up our eyes. You parents, who have not seen your sons and daughters because they are far away, this evening with Jesus and Mary we will knock at the doors of their hearts. We will share with them the joy of the Living God who we are encountering here in Community. We are His Community. We are His work. How happy we are to be called by Him, to be his missionaries, and we will proclaim it to everyone! With one voice, we will proclaim to the whole world the same faith, hope and charity, the same heart. In this Mass, let us welcome Jesus who will become the Bread of Life for us. Let us welcome Him with faith that He may strengthen us and make our hearts explode with joy. As one Church, united together with the Holy Father and our Mother Elvira, let us take Him to all the world.