Homily - Father Stefano Aragno
(Dt 7,7-24; Jn 2,1-11)
Today, Saturday, the day that the Church has always dedicated in a special way to Mary, we celebrate our thanks to Her, this small yet great woman, a young girl who with her “Yes” changed history. A little “Yes” allowed God to come down and live in our midst.
What do the readings offered by the Church tell us?
The first reading is taken from the book of Deuteronomy, and we find Moses speaking to his people. Moses was chosen by God to guide a people who were slaves like we were. They were not slaves to drugs, but slaves to evil, slaves to the Egyptian pharaoh. They were a humiliated nation. They were sad and untrusting. A nation who thought there was no more hope. They were a nation that cried out to God in the darkness of their desperation, like many of us.
When we listen to your stories, you always tell us that there was a moment in which a cry of pain, of desperation rose to God from deep down in your soul: a cry rose from that interior life that was weighed down by the cross which was able to reach God’s heart, of entering inside that slaughtered heart and permitting God to create something beautiful. God created the Community, dear girls and guys, for you. One day God knocked on the door of Mother Elvira’s heart, right where she was: a nun, happy in her religious Congregation, because a cry of sadness, of desperation rose and touched His fatherly heart. God responded by meeting and calling another heart: available, open, Elvira’s heart, which started to hear that same cry that God heard.
When God hears, He makes someone that He chooses hear and react. He moved Elvira’s heart, inconvenienced her, lifted her up, and made her start walking: a vocation within a vocation, a calling within a calling.
And she said the most beautiful and greatest word that a man or woman can say when God comes knocking, what God awaits from each one of us, like he awaited from Mary that day, she said “Here I am!” despite her trembling legs and despite the fact that she did not understand what was about to begin.
“Do not be afraid” said the angel Gabriel to the young girl of Nazareth. “Do not be afraid, what is being born is not your act, it belongs to someone else, who listened to a cry and that now is knocking on the door of your heart. Get up and walk, with trust.” Elvira did this. First she walked within herself: the pains of childbirth started within her heart. It was a long birth. Normally these pains last nine months, but for her they lasted many years. When it was born, it was like a river. It was a multiple birth, immediately many children, and one right after the other. They started to run and they continue to do so: 56 children in 25 years. This deserves applause! Think how beautiful: saying “Yes” to God means generating a lot of life.
Let’s go back to Moses: not even he understood what God had called him for and he was shown a burning bush that was not consumed. That bush was God’s heart, which burns without being consumed and He also wanted to make Moses’ heart burn. But Moses stuttered. He was not capable of speaking publicly, so he said to God: “You have made a mistake”. Even Elvira said many times: “It is not me, you are wrong. God could not call someone like me, a daughter of poor people. I never studied. I do not have the human qualities that the world thinks are important to be able to develop a profession like this one…” But God does not look at appearances; He has never looked at appearances. God looks at hearts, God reads hearts and calls.
Then Moses contemplates what God is doing and tells his people that to me seems stupendous, which has happened also for us: “The Lord is bound to us and has chosen you”. God is bound to us and has chosen us. By bringing the Community to life God has decided: “I bind myself to the life of those young people and I choose them”. This means we are important to Him. God came here 25 years ago, opening the doors of this house, to tell us: “I bind myself to your life, I commit myself, I marry you”.
Jesus went to Cana, to the wedding feast to tell all humanity: “I marry you and in me wine will always be present”. God said and now says to us: “I bind myself to your life”. The story that started here is a story of beautiful love because it was born from God’s heart. God’s love is a love which is tied in freedom. It is the only love that binds and frees you.
Maurizio and Paola said before: “How many times is matrimonial love seen like a suffocating tie?” And often it is if we are realistic: if there is no room for Jesus and Mary everyone’s life, even your life, binds and enchains you.
The Lord bound himself and chose us and listen how nice, “…not because you are more numerous than other nations”, no one of us can brag about anything, if there is a community that can say “we have nothing to brag about” it is us! What do we have to brag about? No one wanted us anymore. God wanted us and knocked on the door of a woman’s heart, opened the doors to a house, because our lives interest Him. He wants to bind himself to us and His Love is faithful, He does not give up. God does not give up and He doesn’t leave us. He goes forward and overcomes betrayal. At times we betray His love, but His love does not betray. It is a love that has been offended, yet does not offend. It is a love that continues to love.
We were not chosen because we are more numerous, not because we are better: “…you are the smallest of all nations”. We are the smallest of all nations and yet God looked down on us. God has a special love and passion for those who are small, poor, or for those who feel like they have failed. Listen to what else God has said through Moses: “The Lord bound himself to you and chose you… because the Lord loves you!” God could not bring us any news more beautiful or great.
The Community Cenacolo is born, like a house that wants to give us God’s love, that allows our lives to be bound with God. The Lord loved us so much that before bringing us to this house, He came down into the darkness where we were, He led us out of Egypt with His powerful hand. God came down to the squares, the streets where we lived a life without meaning and took us by the hand and brought us here and I challenge whoever of you guys and girls that say: “I came to Community on my own!” It is not true! We were brought here.
Yesterday Monsignor Giovanni said: “We think we carry the cross, but it is the cross that carries us.” How true this is! The cross brought us here, because Jesus the Crucified is on that cross. He lifted us up on eagles wings; the eagles wings of our God are Jesus’ open arms on the cross which have come down on our cross, relieved us and brought us here on this holy and blessed hill where He came down to start something beautiful. The Lord led us out, ransomed us, paid the ransom, paid our debts… and we have many! The debts we accumulated by doing evil, God has paid them all. He has paid our ransom and do you know what the ransom was? It was His Son on the cross.
Now the Word of God tells us an important thing to do in these days, in this time, in the time that we are in Community: “Recognize that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God”, recognize it! If we do not recognize it we loose God’s gift. Recognize that the Lord is the faithful God, which has not let you go and will not let you go; open your eyes, become conscious that you were brought here by God. I have the impression that many of us waste the gift of Community because we do not recognize it as a gift from God. It is a great gift from God to be here; It is God’s house, not just Mother Elvira’s idea, not one of her projects. It was not born from her. It is something born from that heart that wants to bind itself to our lives for something great and beautiful that we must finish: we were not born to die as slaves. God freed us so that we can remain free and so that we can use that freedom to love, serve, announce, and bring light.
God says to his people: “You will be blessed”. They were an unhinged nation like us, a nation “in pieces” like we would say: that one day wanted to go forward and one day wanted to go backwards, one day they were pushed by Moses and as soon as Moses quit they were lost and started to adore the golden calf.
They were a fragile nation: weak, poor, and sinners. They were also a community of public sinners like ours, and yet God loves that place of fragility because that is the place where it is shown that it was His work. Whoever comes to Cenacolo for just one week understands that this is not our work. Even the blind see it and everyone realize it because it is a mass of human poverty and misery that goes forward together, that starts over again each day, that loves, forgives, makes incredible sacrifices together, that does not count the hours of work, that lives the joy of simplicity… only God can do something like this! Only God could have created it, only on God’s project table certainly not on ours because Elvira has never sat down at a project table, but always followed the only burning desire of saying “yes” to God in the moment so that His will can be fulfilled.
God says to that nation: “You will be blessed and there will not be a sterile man or woman in your midst.” Just think how beautiful, the Lord wants to make our lives fertile; exactly that life that had generated death and that made us die, God desires to make it a fertile life. There will no longer be anyone sterile: all of us can have children, many of them, children of faith, prayer, and love. How nice it is to think that when humanity is married to God offspring are generated, generated in abundance.
The Lord offers us a journey; he tells us: “Observe the commandments”, this seems important for us guys and girls of the Community to understand well. God, as a road to salvation, does not offer us pills, an illusion, or an idea he offers us a walk of fidelity to his Word; that is the road of freedom and this is what we experience in Community. If you are faithful to what the Community tells you, you feel free, and that walk makes you free. Now how long does the walk in Community last? Your whole life! Because the Community teaches us a new meaning of life, a new pathway on which our feet must walk every day of our lives, if not we go back to Egypt, get lost again, and go back to being sad.
Then the Lord offers us a journey of healing and at the same time of fighting. God tells the people: “You shall consume all the peoples whom the LORD your God will deliver to you.” Do not be afraid when evil attacks you because the Lord your God is in your midst! God does not abandon us. God does not abandon our lives in the tombs, does not abandon us in hell, in the darkness, in the sadness of our death. He wanted to come down and lift us up. God does not abandon us today, He is bound to us always and it is nice to think that if we give him our hand, we are always safe. We are in His hands and His heart. He accompanies us.
Monsignor Giovanni and Ismael have already said a lot about the wedding feast at Cana. I will only share with you what struck me today while rereading this passage: “there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.” She was there! Where Mary is present there is everything! When Mother Elvira came here on this hill there was nothing, but the Mother of Jesus was present. She was here waiting for us, to open our hearts, the door of the house, to say, “Finally you have arrived! Finally you all have arrived!” Our Lady was there above that door and that same statue of Our Lady will come here tonight. We will carry her, the small Mary, in a procession onto this stage with many lit candles and we will consecrate ourselves to Her, we will entrust ourselves to Her.
That statue of Our Lady there above the door jam is the Easter of the Lord. You know that when the people of Israel came out of Egypt, they put a sign of liberation above their doors: it was lamb’s blood. For us Christians it is the blood of Christ on the cross. But here in the Community Cenacolo above our door there was Mary of Nazareth, the Mother of Jesus.
There was his Mother, so there was also Jesus, the Church, and the Apostles. Where Mary is present, the Church is alive, life is alive, there is new wine, humanity finds their God, and therefore find themselves, find the beauty of living, find that they are not only places of sin but also that they are capable of loving.
“There was the mother of Jesus”: there was, there is, and there will be. Now we are in peace because if Mary is with us, we walk on the road the God has chosen for our lives. She is small and humble, and yet so great and so important.
In this Mass, guys and girls, parents and friends, let’s give our hands to Mary. God offers her to us as an alliance, friendship that supports, guides, protects, and accompanies us.
The mother of Jesus was present, is present, and will always be present.