Homily given on Mercy Sunday, April 12, 2015, Inauguration of the community of Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Alcalá de Henares (Spain).
There are many things that I have in my heart at this moment. Years ago on today’s feast, the Feast of the Divine Mercy, I was consecrated as a bishop. The sisters, through Father Rafael and Mother, have wished that today be the day that we officially inaugurate the presence of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother in Alcalá de Henares. These are signs that God has a plan: He has a project upon us. This feast of the Divine Mercy has been pursuing me since my episcopal consecration and throughout my ministry. I am very grateful to the sisters for having chosen this day. It was supposed to have been on the 7th, the Feast of the return of the relics of the Holy Children. But the work of what, from now on, is going to be their home, was not completed and we had to delay the arrival of the sisters until Divine Mercy Sunday. This is the gift that we have received today.
Why do I say that I have many things in my heart? Because I can see the hand of God. I always say the same thing, and I will repeat it again today to Fr. Rafael and to anyone else that God may call to come to this Diocese: "If you come to this diocese in the name of God: go ahead! But if you do not come in the name of God: Do not even think about coming!
There have been a series of circumstances that have come together making it possible for the sisters to come to our Diocese. God uses people who go announcing the possibility… then private meetings take place: God writes the story as He wants to, and then we recognize it little by little. But I insist: This is God’s work! Not from God as an abstract idea: but from God the Holy Trinity, God the Father whom we have known in the Son, and dwells in us through the Holy Spirit. It is the unfathomable mystery of love which anticipates that which we need.
Because, dear sisters, and also speaking to the Servants Brothers of the Home of the Mother that are present here, and that soon God will make possible for them to be here, present in the Diocese: what does a bishop do when confronted with such a secularized Spain, where so many things have happened that make our poor brothers and sisters forget what is essential. What does a bishop do? The only thing he can do is get down on his knees in front of the Tabernacle and plead with the Lord that the priests of the Diocese be priests, that each one of them be a sign of God's presence: an external and internal sign. External because of what they wear. Thanks be to God, almost all the priests of the Diocese dress in their priestly garments. And an internal sign because they have God in their heart. This is the prayer of the bishop. We are not many priests here in the Diocese, it is true. But it is also true that we are the Diocese that has the youngest priests. And for that I thank the Lord.
And what else can a bishop do so that the Diocese gets filled with the presence of the Lord? We need a legion of virgins, men and women, consecrated to God, to make it known that God is alive in the Diocese, that God reaches the hearts of the people. And, see how the Lord wants to bless us, with the presence of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother. Thank you very much!
In this ever so special context of the Eucharist, on such a special day, we read the Scripture and see the same thing happening as it happened in the origins of the Church. Something happened that changed the hearts of those poor disciples that the Lord had been preparing throughout his public life. What happened is that Christ rose from the dead and they were witnesse. Even for Saint Thomas, who resisted and had to put his fingers in Christ's side and in the wounds of his hands and his feet in order to believe. That changed them completely. And, soon after, Pentecost puts the Church on its feet. They were poor people: fishermen, a tax collector, two nationalists …, that is to say, people that the Lord gathered along the way. And these men received nothing less than this task: "Go into the entire world”. We have not been asked that much, we’ve been asked to go to the Diocese of Alcalá. “Go into the entire world and announce the Gospel, teach everything that I have said to you, baptize them”.
Something great happens in the lives of these people, which this brief account of the Acts of the Apostles puts in front of our eyes, the evidence that faith changes people's lives. They all were of the same mind, they thought the same thing, and they all lived in the new community that the Lord had created. There were no poor among them, they shared their goods, they listened to the teachings of the Apostles, the Church was starting! That is the scheme: the same then as it is now.
In the moments of decadence in the Church, as you know, the Lord blesses us with a man like St. Benedict, with everything that the spiritual undertaking means which he sets in motion. After the rise of the first centuries of Christianity, there were difficult moments, but monasticism arrives, with St. Benedict, and so many others that were populating all of Europe with the presence of the Lord, teaching them to live according to the scheme of the apostolic life. And it is as if we had started again. In the Act of the Apostles, we see the early Christians: they gathered for the breaking of the bread, for communion, prayer, they lived in communion... This is the scheme, and it is like being born again, said the apostle. But is not only “to be born again”, we have remembered it in prayer, we have given thanks for baptism, for the presence of the Holy Spirit, because the Lord grants us the grace to be born again, and this is not only for us. Spain follows a long tradition of evangelization. Our history is populated with confessors and martyrs, virgins. We've taken it to so many countries. Now it is in a time of decadence, it is an amazing moment of secularization. We have reversed the parable. The prodigal son touched by the misery in which he finds himself, returns home. We, full of miseries, have left home. And increasingly we will state with more force that we cannot live outside of the home, because in the end we will not even have the possibility of feeding ourselves with what’s specifically human, which is to guard love, which is to grow in the dignity of the person, which is to savor God's justice, which is to know what a fraternal society means. Each time we will realize it more and more.
But the Lord is now stirring up in us the same thing as He did with St. Benedict. That in our Diocese of Alcalá de Henares, in all our parishes, and in all the workplaces where religious life is present, and now here in the convent of the Bernardas, you shall be like a sacrament that shows the world the beauty of faith in God, which changes our hearts. 'Give thanks to God because He is good, for his mercy is everlasting!' The right hand of the Lord has been strong, extraordinary. We cannot fall into the temptation of forgetting Christ. Spain cannot forget Christ! Because then the same thing will happen as it is sung in the psalm: “the stone which the architects rejected is now the cornerstone”. We know this, we know this from our own experience. What does Spain need? Christ! And what does Christ mean? The presence of the Catholic Church, with the full truth, to proclaim the faith, to witness it with their way of life, to make it present with the beauty of heaven. That is why I am so grateful, and I want the faithful of the Diocese to be happy this afternoon. "Because the right hand of the Lord is strong, because this is the day that the Lord has made". We are finalizing the octave of Easter, it is the Feast of the Divine Mercy, and I thank St. John Paul II for this gift and that life has granted me to get close to him. St. John Paul II, has brought us here. He has given us this feast of the Divine Mercy. We are now on the eve of the anniversary of his death. Remember him always. The Lord granted him the grace to die on the eve of this feast that he himself, in accordance with everything he had learned from St. Faustina, gave as a gift to the Church.
I hope that the sisters, Servants of the home of the Mother, will be a sacramental space where the beauty of Heaven is shown, touching these virgins with the same beauty of God.
They are dressed in white, so that, guided by the hand of Mary Immaculate, patron saint of Spain, they can demonstrate the greatness of living only for God and from God, for all the brothers and sisters.We need, I insist, Spain needs a legion of virgins, consecrated to the Lord, of holy priests, and that you, my dear lay faithful, baptized, renewed, you may live your vocation to marriage if you are married, your life as people in the world, your activity and your work, touched by the grace of God. But God is not an idea, God has become flesh, and we need to touch it and see it. And, how do we see Him? We want to see the Lord! Where are we going to see Him? In a particular way you are going to see Him in the virgins consecrated to the Lord, who will be in our Diocese like a song of blessing to God and who will make us recite many times this psalm: "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, because his mercy is everlasting!"
Dear sisters, we need your help to make all of us know what this beautiful letter from St. John tells us. The victory over the world is not the power of our human strength, is not the power of our inflamed passions, it is not the power of the world, which sometimes manifests itself in money, and this is evident in the power, is manifested in so many ways, and sometimes so deteriorated. "The victory over the world is the faith." St. John told us: "This is the victory" why? Because you let the omnipotence of God enter in your weakness. That is what faith is: to be enriched by the divine omnipotence, that he has planted in us, because we have been created in his image and likeness. He who believes will fulfill his commandments: the commandments are not something that enters from the outside and that is to be imposed by God’s despotic will. The commandments are for our wellbeing, and are written in our hearts because God has created us. They are like the channels through which the redemptive grace of God is expressed, or simply to be like images of God, who created us in his own image. He who has been born again, by the water of Baptism, by the Holy Spirit, lives in the will of God, which is expressed by those highways of goodness which are the commandments of God. Starting with the first alliance at Mount Sinai and then by everything that the Lord has given us by expressing where is the true man: He is the true man, He is the Adam that God has intended and that now we see in its fullness as the new Adam who is Jesus Christ, who has come, dear sisters, said St. John, with water and blood. Holy Fathers: with the water of Baptism and the Blood of the Eucharist. What is the point? For regenerating man: male and female. To renew society, to renew the family so that entering the new birth which is Baptism, we may live in the same way as the first disciples with absolute novelty. As we read in the Letter to Diognetus: "We, Christians, dress as others do, we have the same authorities, we are subject to the same laws, but Christians are the soul of the world" the soul!
Dear sisters and faithful listening to me now: Spain has lost its soul! It is the most dramatic thing that could happen to us. We have forgotten God! He has no public relevance. And I do not mean the people particularly in families, in so many good people, - that exist - but it is missing the soul. And what would our body be without the soul? We would become inferior beings. This is what is happening: we are a society that does not respect the dignity of human persons. It was said by Pope St. John Paul II: "I speak to the redeemed man, who has been purified, washed and redeemed by the Blood of Christ." And Baptism invites us to live on the same level and dignity of Jesus Christ, because He has given them to us. It is a mystery of grace. It is not promethean what we are doing, it is not for us to capture the "throne of the gods". It is God who has come down into our valley, has stayed with us, has taken flesh in the holy womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has shown us what it is to be a man. We have been born again. But dear, we are weak people, we are faint-hearted people, we are fearful people… as were the first disciples also. The Gospel says: "In the dusk…" this is what is now moving to Spain: the dusk, the dusk of the culture.”At dusk, while the disciples were behind closed doors for fear of the Jews". It is a parable for us, it is a parable for Spain. The Catholics: where are they? They are on the dusk of the culture that has forgotten God, behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, the Risen Lord presents himself to us with his glorious body, and says: "Peace be with you". This is what I would like to say this afternoon to you, dear sisters. Peace be with you! To the priests, and to all of you who are accompanying the sisters. Peace be with you! It means reconciliation with God, with our brothers, with ourselves. It is to be born again, it is the Passover. The Lord has conquered death and has conquered the root of death which is sin. "Peace be with you, peace be with you" and what does St. John say? "And the disciples"… and us, because now this word is acting in our hearts… "The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord". The Lord, you see Him sacramentally here, in the altar. We are clothed with Him, we are Jesus Christ present here, and you are the ones that "when you gather in my name, I will be in your midst". Christ is present here because He has risen. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and this is the spark that we need at this moment: priests, religious, consecrated life, dear lay faithful, we need to see the Lord, this is the victory, this is faith. To see the Lord!.
The Lord, what does He do? He repeats the same gesture of Genesis: formed from the dust, clay, He breathed the breath of life and there appeared the first living creature. Now He does the same thing, it is a new genesis, a new creation. In the language of St. John, it is to be born again, He breathed on them: "Receive the Holy Spirit, as the Father has sent me so I am sending you". This is the same, dear sisters: the Lord sends us to redeem this earth, to fill it with light, to dispel the darkness of a culture without God, to end the culture of death.
"Receive the Holy Spirit". This is the dwelling place of victory. We know that the battle has been won. The Lord needs souls that will place their trust in Him and abandon themselves to His love. "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive… ". Sin is the worst of all diseases.This is what the Lord gives us this afternoon and now I know why the Lord wanted to consecrate me as a bishop on the day of the Divine Mercy. Why have you come on the day of the Divine Mercy? Why has the Pope announced yesterday a Jubilee Year dedicated to the mercy of God? So that we liven the earth with our profession of faith. I say to you sisters: you begin as in Bethlehem. We had to get the house ready quickly so that you can live in it… You will discover this home as in Nazareth, but do not forget, our road is to Golgotha, to the Cross, because without the Cross there is no renewal. Without martyrdom, this land will not be enlivened. Without the confession of faith to the extreme, without saying: "Lord, for you, whatever you want, even my life", we cannot renew these difficult times that we are living that are dominated by a global culture. The goal is not Spain; this is a project that goes beyond this land.
Therefore, we conclude this homily, in the name of the Lord. Be received with gratitude from our part, from the part of the bishop and the priests who have joined us, by all of you present here. So yes, dear sisters, come in the name of God, and if not, you can leave.
And if they come (the Servant Brothers of the Home of the Mother) well the same thing: in the name of God, for whatever God wants. I know that God has a great plan prepared for this diocese.
The beautiful song that was prepared by the group Kerygma, was done so, spontaneously. I told them: "Look, the sisters are coming". And they thought: "For the day of the Divine Mercy, We’ll see what we can do". And what have we done? Well, we have made the glory of God descend on this square where you are going to live. Place there the Tree of Life that is the Blessed Sacrament and say: "Lord, here we are, we thank you". And with this, we welcome these sisters, which I am sure they will be an eye-opener for our Diocese.
Thank you very much indeed, and do not forget:
- To be a sacrament, as the first Christians, to show the beauty of the designs of God.
- Apostolic fruitfulness.
- The cornerstone: Jesus Christ. That means for us to be born again and live in fidelity to the will of God, which are the commandments, to achieve peace.
"And the disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord". And the bishop and the priests are filled with joy in seeing you as a gift from God. May the Lord bless you and may He glorify our Diocese.