Catechisms of Fr. Stefano Aragno
Yesterday evening before going to bed I asked myself what I wanted to communicate to all of you. This morning I woke up early and it came to me to tell you these things regarding life. Thinking about all of are part of the Community, thinking about our lives, thinking about the lives of you families, there is a link that ties our lives together and has brought us here in Community, it is called sufferance, wound. It is called a troubled life.
I always thought that if every man and every family that have come to pass on this hill planted a cross this hill would be overwhelmed with crosses. How many people in these years, how many of us men and women, how many of our families have climbed this Calvary and planted their cross? And how many of us have also found the hope of the resurrection? These crosses have remained planted here, but life did not finish there and we are testimony of that today.
I want to speak to you, above all, about how life is a beautiful, immense, and amazing promise of God.
In the first pages of the Bible, from the moment God chooses the first men, from the moment in which the great story begins with Abraham and continues with Isaac, Jacob, Moses and all the others, God always promises life. He promises land to the people, he promises a home, he promises descendents. Our God is a God that makes promises and keeps them. What seems important to me is this: that we return to root of our life. When we are born we are a promise of God. My life is something in which one day God said, “I put my money on that life! That life is important to me!”
Let’s think about the phrase that the Holy Spirit chose while speaking to the heart of Mother Elvira to illuminate this celebration: "Take courage, I have conquered the world". This morning it came to me to contemplate this: what is trust for the men and women that live in community, and what is trust for you parents? It is a word, a wounded life. An addict is wounded profoundly in trust. He does not trust anymore because he has destroyed his to the point that he can no longer trust himself, he no longer trusts that his life could be born into the promise. Their trust has been ruined. The trust of you parents in your children, and the trust of the children in their parents has been wounded by evil, torn, lacerated like the clothing of Jesus that were stripped at the foot of the cross. We are all wounded in trust. What does the Holy Spirit want to communicate to us by saying: Take courage? What is the Spirit working in us? The Holy Spirit wants to heal this aspect of our life that is deep inside of us because we cannot live without trust.
Maybe we were a little tired when we got out of bed this morning, but overcoming our first yawns, life asks us to take the first act of faith: get up! You have to get up in order to live. It is trust that gives meat to your life. You get out of bed and life begins and you put your hope in that new day of life. Many of you parents hope: "Will I see my child today?"
You trust that this day of life will give you something. That trust is the foundation that generates hope. Get up, walk and start living. You get up even if you are buried under a mountain of burden, you hope and make a gesture of trust in life: you get up and live!
See how trust is an important part of our lives; it lives in us because we are created from God’s trust. Every child born is like God saying, "I trust in you, life! I trust in you, man! I trust you, woman! I trust in life." Our God is the God of life and he has trust in life! For this reason we, His children, carry His image and His likeness is stamped within, we are formed from trust. Man cannot live if he does not trust, he cannot get up without trust, even an act towards death is done in trust, with the hope that they can finish off the pain and that a new road will open to a different life. See how trust is written all throughout our story. Think of the origin of life; is not the wonder of an infant?!
There is a man that has passed through the Community, his name is Gilberto. This morning a mother came to me and said, "On this videocassette there is Gilberto that sings, plays and talks" and so Gilberto returned to my thoughts. He was a man that lived 25 years of “sewage”, evil garbage, putting his trust in the delusions of Satan, adoring and prostrating himself before all kinds of false idols of this world! One day the Madonna gave him a "holy kick" directing him towards Community, through a pilgrimage to Medjugorje he arrived here on this hill with a mountain of a cross and of desperation. Here, his eyes, as he wrote in a song, were reopened, like the eyes of a child that have been opened to the world. It is this that trust does! Trust reopens our eyes to life, inside ourselves, and to the world. It is this world that God has won with His trust in us, you reopen your eyes and begin to see yourself and see something new! You no longer see Good Friday, dark and sad, you see the dawn of the resurrection, you see a new light enter your life that penetrates the black clouds and begins to profoundly illuminate you and rids you of all that garbage that has aged you, saddened you, that has made you a loser, not a winner. God wants us to be winners!
Children are the image of the wonder of the trust of life! The journey of trust and wonder begin when a child's head springs forth from the womb of a mother. Let us observe a child: slowly it seems human nature accompanies this wonder. In the beginning the child has difficulty seeing and so he feels the warmth of his mother, he grabs for her breast. The trust is in touching and feeling before seeing. Then the child opens his eyes and sees the shadows, after a month we see them fixating, and then watching, then the child starts to become familiar, he trusts in the world around him, in the people he sees; he is always filled with wonder! The child touches a flower, and then puts it in his mouth because he wants to feel it, then touch, then take, and then he falls and cleans himself off, then he gets hurt….all of this is wonder that lives, that grows, that is born! It is the promise that God creates in the life of every child.
But then what happens? What happened in our lives? We all were children like this, born with the will and desire for the wonder of life, with a sensation in our hearts, and with the certainty that says, "It is great to be alive, I exist!" Before saying this with our mouths we feel it in our hearts.
Every life is born like this, we were born this way. We were born with our hearts saying “how great it is to be alive. Life: welcome me, hug me, protect me, defend me, and promise me! I want to discover not only what God has put around me, but inside of me, like a promise.” But at a certain point, that promise was broken.
I remember joyfully, of our many pilgrimages, of the last few years to Częstochowa, on foot after many days of sacrifice to arrive face to face with the image of Mary torn and wounded. That Madonna, from that country there, is not afraid to be on our side. Look, She is with us, she is our alleviator, she is the true promise of God! This wounded image of Mary puts herself side by side to each one of us so that we do not have to be afraid of the wounds that life has caused us. Mary is with us! She walks with us!
Something has happened in our lives; I say this to you parents, youth and myself. If I think about my life, something has wounded this promise. A situation, a violence, something has happened where the promise of life has been lacerated, wounded, defected. Many times during our childhood, in the moment that you say "Ohhh…!" someone cuts you off and takes away the wonder of your infancy, it kills off your great desires for life, the promise that God has placed inside of your heart. There is something that has entered into the promise of our life and wounded it.
What happened in our lives? What has happened to many of us? Maybe through the poverty of your father, mother, brother, your parents friends… the people that have given life to you, who were supposed to take part of that promise, the desire for life we were wounded. We should have heard them tell us, "We are happy for you life, that you exist, your life is a promise for us!" But pain within our families is created because our parents were also children wounded, many times more than us, and at a certain moment they have lost sight of the promise and you in seeing how that promise has been crossed, remain disappointed. You no longer see the promise in the people around you, those who gave you strength in life, and you fix your mind on those that have hurt you in your life. You mom and dad argue with one another, they scream, they hurt one another, they leave each other and separate from one another. What happens? You see the promise of life fall apart; your home falls apart, the foundation of your life story starts to shake and you start to sink. One of your friends hurts you, scratches your life, and you, a child, remain confused: "How is it that my friends whom I love, wound me?"
Do we understand what happened in our lives? A deep crack has been generated, a laceration; and what is it that evil does in this situation? It makes you feel guilty. Its weight falls upon you! You feel stepped on, you do not feel like the person that carries the promise of God, on the contrary, you feel like consequence of guilt. You feel bad, and that you attract all that is bad to you. This can happen within the family; sometimes in life. How many people have we come across that for a pain, a death, feeling traded by someone that you love, a war that destroyed your country and your home, discovering that someone who seemed to be promise in your life crosses your love… or maybe you see their defects and that promise day that you were married or fell in love it seemed truly the promise of your life, reveals itself as a heavy cross to carry! In that moment your trust begins to waver and you ask yourself, "Why?" That promise that fathers you, that love that you desire to see and know falls to the ground. The precious jewel that is your life ends up in the mud, falls, gets dirty and crumbles into pieces! In community we use a strong expression: when feel the weight of our lives, when you wake up without faith, when you wake an d feel the weight of the evil that has trashed your life and those around you, we say "oggi sono a pezzi!", "today I am in pieces!"
And what happens next? You start to search! It is the "Prodigal" Son. "Enough! Enough! Father give me my share, I am leaving!" Enough! I do not believe in love anymore, I do not believe in trust, I do not believe! It no longer exists! I am closing that door there, it is an illusion; that desire that God has put in my heart…it is not possible to love! If those that gave me life have turned against me, if I have turned against those that have loved me, I am not capable of loving, and I have no worth. Enough, I am leaving! I will slam the door towards my mother and father; I will close the door to my heart and leave! I am disheartened and I am sad.
I am leaving with one question in mind: "Whose child am I?!” I have slammed the door to my home, I am leaving, who am I going to make pay for this? I'll make life pay! I'll make myself pay, I want myself to hurt, I will hurt myself! Think about how many time we have hurt ourselves. You do not eat, you throw up, you cut yourself, you do not want to live, you refuse the gift of your life, and you throw yourself into the trash, into drugs, into every kind of confusion. You slam the door of your home and go. You go and make life pay; the precious gift that God has given you! If life is not a promise, I will throw it away, trample over it and refuse to love it. My life and body will pay for this; I will make my temple of life pay. And so I want to hurt myself using drugs, using others and letting others use me. I want to hurt myself in way that others want to hurt me too! I will do this because I have lost sight of the promise of life. Then I will make my family pay, I will make them pay, those that gave me life and those who are the source of life.
You may not realize it but the heart of the matter is this: "You have given me life: I do not accept it! I want to get even, so I will hurt you!" Think about all we have done to hurt those that have tried to love us and that for their own poverty they have hurt life; so what do you do? It is like a downward spiral, they have hurt us and we hurt them. Our lives are wounded! Then I make myself pay for it and everyone around me! There are men and women around us who have made everyone pay, they have made life pay. I will hurt everyone, I will break, hit, scream, I will hurt myself and everyone else, man, woman, I will destroy life for everyone, children, women, youth, adults! See that this deterioration happens when we lose sight of the promise. And what is to happen next? This lacerating anguish of life says: "Enough, now I will decide for my life!".
In that moment, we have even accused God: "God, where are you? Where are you? You gave life, where are you?! If in this life everyone has done wrong, has wounded my life, where are you God?" So we slam the door in God’s face as well: "I do not believe in you! There is no God, you do not exist!" In this moment, you see that evil awakens. When we are hurt in life, when life is wounded, evil knows that he can enter more easily and in that moment, he knocks on the door and tells you "Come with me! Lets decide together for your life, forget about all your good intentions for your life, it is all a fairy tale, it does not exist, you have already seen that it is not worth it!
So many delusions! That pure love that you are looking for does not exist. Get out and come with me!" Try to understand the illusion of Satan: first he gives you an illusion, then it takes advantage of you and then it leads you to delusion to the point of being torn in pieces. He deludes you: “Trust me you will be happy! Take this, all your troubles will vanish. A little bit of drugs, a joint, cocaine, pills and it’s all gone!" In reality, nothing goes away and everything gets worse. How often have we experienced this? We end up worse than the swine. How difficult is it for us in community to get back on our feet, like when the son yesterday evening was reduced to eating with the pigs; how it is difficult to lift our heads up and rediscover our dignity because evil causes us to feel shame and guilt saying: "You will never change! You with what you have done, will never be able to clean up your act!"
How many times have we felt the weight of this sadness in our hearts? We think to say: "We are truly desperate, what can we do now? What can we do?!" You feel the weight of life and you are out of breath.
But there is hope, you know? There is a hope and it is this! There is a hope that was born on this hill, a living, true, powerful hope, there is a hope and it is called God’s Mercy! This hope is not a dream, it is not an illusion, it is not something that wears out like the effects of a pill and then you find yourself desperate again. This is a hope that is alive and has been made flesh, it is the life of a man who wanted to enter into our lives, his name is Jesus of Nazareth!
He is God’s Mercy and strength, only He is capable of giving hope, of breaking the chains of evil, bursting through the closed and fearful doors of the Cenacle so that the Holy Spirit could enter! Only in our Lord can we find the Eternal Word, the Word that each one of us was born to and our hearts have started to beat within the heart of our mother, Mary. "You Lord have the word for eternal life". Today Lord Jesus, here in this place, where your Word has become flesh once again, where your life has pierced through our death, where your story has touched our story, where your hand has leaned up against our leprosy, where you have freed us from the power of Satan, Lord, today we ask that your mercy can transform into something alive in our hearts, free us from all fear!
Look at God’s love! This evening there is a biblical presentation; bring tissues because we will be crying a lot, because in front of a love like this you cannot just fall on you knees and ask for forgiveness without crying penitently and also joyfully! If we were to think, what did God want to become so as to put faith back into the lives of us men and women wounded in trust? He, himself, became a wounded man! For us that have been betrayed and have betrayed, He became a man betrayed by His friends, betrayed with a friend’s kiss, betrayed by everyone except his Holy Mother! He permitted himself to be bruised, flagellated, humiliated; in more ways than we could think of hurting our own bodies. He allowed more than just scratches and holes, more than just “race tracks” left by needles so as to allow space for drugs to enter our bodies, he allowed much more! Why? Because He is with us, He is with us always! "Where were you Lord when they were hurting me? Where were you when the promise fell and was lacerated?": "I was with you! I opened my arms on the cross with you, I was wounded inside of your wounds, I was on the cross of your burdens, I was there when they hit you, I was there to pick up your life so that it wouldn't fall into inferno of sadness, I was there so that one day when you find Me, you may rediscover trust and faith in life!".
This is real love! Only this is love! The community is not trying to win you over, believe me. We are poor, weak and many times we have to go and ask your forgiveness because you all know our joys and limits and you see them but there is one thing I that I am certain of and proud to say: the Community will not take you for a ride! Because we have proposed the only way, the only encounter, the one truth of life, that is to meet with the man that for love became wounded flesh, this Man, for love, spread his arms on the cross to free us from our crosses.
This Man that overcame death and resurrected has let a river of mercy flow out of his heart to unite itself to humanity for always, He unites himself to our hearts, Jesus of Nazareth, was crucified and has resurrected, and this evening we will see him walk out of the tomb; that man was broken but became victorious, that man has conquered the world! Only He has won! And only He will win! Only He can conquer the world of our sadness! He is the only one that can conquer our pain; he is the only one that can conquer our past! Only He can conquer the world! Brothers, sisters, and friends: Take courage! Here we can rediscover trust, He gives life, the Spirit of God gives life, so that our lives can once again push its head through the uterus of God’s Mercy and be amazed all over again, and we can say, "Ohhh! Life is beautiful; it is a gift, it is a joy, it is a celebration! How beautiful it is to give life!" Do you understand the great miracle that God has created on this hill? He has created a womb of life, through a foster mother, to give life to us!
I hope that you are stupefied in these days and that God's wonder embraces you, redresses you and burns inside of you. This evening you will see flames rise and fall… Our men in community during the last minute preparations were running all over the set, mounting and dismounting, saying: "everything is aflame!". Parents, friends, men and women, today on this hill, everything is aflame! The love of God burns through our sins, the Mercy of God sets everything aflame! "Even if your sin is scarlet red, my Mercy will wash it whiter than the snow". "Do not be afraid!” we are not afraid! We have faith! Jesus has conquered the world today! Amen, Alleluia!
Let us welcome the victory of Jesus now that he makes himself present in the Eucharist on this altar. He is coming, feel his presence: win! We want to begin this adoration with a song that we sang at the tomb of John Paul II in Rome. We were given this great privilege and honor! We went with one hundred and fifty men and women to visit the Holy Father, to bring our joy, to drink from the spring of the Church, to nourish ourselves of this love that for the past two thousand years has defended and protected the life of man. We went and we experienced the joy of getting on our knees by the tomb of John Paul II to sing this song: "Open the door to Christ". Open, bust down the doors now because Christ wants to win the world of our lives, he wants to open us to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.