Homily at the Mass of World Youth Day, Metro Park, Panama City (January 27, 2019)
“The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them: ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Lk 4:20-21).
With these words, the Gospel presents the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. It started in the synagogue that saw him grow up; he was in the midst of neighbors and people he knew, and perhaps even some of his childhood “catechists” who had taught him the Law. It was an important moment in the life of the Master: the child who was educated and grew up in that community, stood up and took the floor to proclaim and put into action God’s dream. A word previously proclaimed only as a future promise, but now, on the lips of Jesus alone, could be spoken in the present tense, as it became a reality: “Today it has been fulfilled.”
Jesus reveals the now of God, who comes to meet us and call us to take part in his now of “proclaiming good news to the poor… bringing liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, announcing the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18-19). This is the now of God. It becomes present with Jesus: it has a face, it is flesh. It is a merciful love that does not wait for ideal or perfect situations to show itself, nor does it accept excuses for its appearance. It is God’s time, that makes every situation and place both right and proper. In Jesus, the promised future begins and becomes life.
When? Now. Yet not everyone who was listening felt invited or called. Not all the residents of Nazareth were prepared to believe in someone they knew and had seen grow up, and who was now inviting them to realize a long-awaited dream. Not only that, but “they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” (Lk 4:22).
The same thing can also happen with us. We do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real, and much less that he can become so present and work through somebody like a neighbor, a friend, a relative. We do not always believe that the Lord can invite us to work and soil our hands with him in his Kingdom in that simple and blunt a way. It is hard to accept that “God’s love can become concrete and can almost be experienced in history with all its painful and glorious vicissitudes.”
Often we too behave like the neighbors in Nazareth: we prefer a distant God: nice, good, generous but far-off, a God who does not inconvenience us. Because a close and everyday God, a friend and brother, demands that we be concerned with our surroundings, everyday affairs and above all fraternity. God chose not to reveal himself as an angel or in some spectacular way, but to give us a face that is fraternal and friendly, concrete and familiar. God is real because love is real; God is concrete because love is concrete. Indeed, this “concrete manifestation of love is one of the essential elements in the life of Christians.”
We can also run the same risks as the neighbors at Nazareth, when within our communities the Gospel seeks to be lived concretely. We begin to say: But these young people, aren’t they the children of Mary, Joseph, aren’t they the brothers and sisters of so and so? Are these not the youngsters we saw grow up? That one over there, wasn’t he the one who kept breaking windows with his ball? What was born as prophecy and proclamation of the kingdom of God gets domesticated and impoverished. Attempts to domesticate the word of God occur daily.
You too, dear young people, can experience this whenever you think that your mission, your vocation, even your life itself, is a promise far off in the future, having nothing to do with the present. As if being young were a kind of waiting room, where we sit around until we are called. And in the “meantime,” we adults or you yourselves invent an hygienically-sealed future, without consequences, where everything is safe, secure and “well insured.” A “make-believe” happiness. So we “tranquilize” you, we numb you into keeping quiet, not asking or questioning; and in that “meantime” your dreams lose their buoyancy, they begin to become flat and dreary, petty and plaintive. Only because we think, or you think, that your now has not yet come, that you are too young to be involved in dreaming about and working for the future.
One of the fruits of the last Synod was the enrichment that came from being able to meet and above all to listen to one another. The enrichment of intergenerational dialogue, the enrichment of exchange and the value of realizing that we need one another, that we have to work to create channels and spaces that encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today. And this, not in isolation, but rather side by side, creating a common space. A space that is not simply taken for granted, or won in a lottery, but a space for which you too must fight.
You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.
Not tomorrow but now, for wherever your treasure is, there will your heart also be (see Mt 6:21). Whatever you fall in love with, it will win over not only your imagination, it will affect everything. It will be what makes you get up in the morning, what keeps you going at times of fatigue, what will break open your hearts and fill you with wonder, joy, and gratitude. Realize that you have a mission and fall in love; that will decide everything. We may possess everything, but if we lack the passion of love, we will have nothing. Let us allow the Lord to make us fall in love!
For Jesus, there is no “meantime,” but only a merciful love that wants to enter into and win over our hearts. He wants to be our treasure, because he is not a “meantime,” an interval in life or a passing fad; he is generous love that invites us to entrust ourselves.
He is concrete, close, real love. He is festive joy, born of opting for and taking part in the miraculous draught of hope and charity, solidarity and fraternity, despite the paralyzed and paralyzing gaze born of fear and exclusion, speculation, and manipulation.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord and his mission are not a “meantime” in our life, something temporary; they are our life!
In a special way throughout these days, Mary’s fiat has been whispering like a kind of music in the background. She not only believed in God and in his promises as something possible, she believed God himself and dared to say “yes” to taking part in this “now” of the Lord. She felt she had a mission; she fell in love and that decided everything. the Lord stands up again among us his friends and acquaintances; he takes the book and says to us “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
Do you want to live out your love in a practical way? May your “yes” continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the world and for the Church.
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2019
Romana, n. 68, January-June 2019, p. 45-47.