· 1 January 2050 ·
Dear Sisters and dear Brothers,
“Simon, when I came to your house you didn’t wash my feet, nor did you kiss or even pour perfume on them. Simon, where are you? What are you looking at? What are you listening to? What do you want to hear from me? Flattery and platitudes? Worldly small talk and rationalizations? Simon, get up, raise your head and listen to me for once:
Who offered all she had to live in the Temple? Did you notice that widow? Did you see her? Answer me, Simon.
Where were you when I was standing before Pilate? What were your words, (rather, your preaching) when the crowd cried ‘release Barabbas’? What did you shout? Simon, answer me.
Who wiped my bloodstained face on the way to my Passion? Who stood at the foot of the Cross while I breathed my last? Where were you, Simon?
Who came at crack of dawn to care for my disfigured body? Who challenged the soldiers on patrol at dawn? Who recognized my voice that morning? Who believed that I had risen from the dead and had proclaimed the Good News?
Who? Who? Who? Simon! Answer me.
To whom did I say ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it?’. Remember Simon, to whom did I speak these words? Who listened to these words and immediately put them into practice? Who remained at my feet to hear me and to study my words? Who chose ‘the better part’, that of study and reflection? Answer me, Simon, who?
Who gave me a drink at the well when I was tired? On that day, who recognized me and believed in me? Who went to proclaim it? Do I need to walk a long way with you, as with your companions on the road to Emmaus, to explain to you what some understood and believed almost instantly?
Simon, reply to me, and tell me: who didn’t believe in the Good News, thinking that it was raving?Answer me. Who is my brother, and sister and mother? To whom are my words addressed? Whom am I looking at and listening to?
Look up, Simon, don’t be afraid, but come back. Go back to your origins, to your sources. The woman who gave birth to you and rocked you. The one who taught you to talk. Let her answers blossom within you and find in your innermost depths what you have forgotten. Like Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary with you. Do not fear to let all the Marys speak.
Dear sisters and dear brothers, Christ questions us and opens our minds. Let us recognize our serious errors and shortcomings. We have worn blinkers for too long, thereby reducing our vision, our listening and even our intelligence. We have looked and listened only at what we wanted to hear and see. Our Councils, our decrees, our apostolic letters and our official documents were drafted by us, human beings. We have even been bold enough to regulate the intimate life of women and of men. Today, let us not harden our hearts, let us listen to what the Spirit tells us, the Church of the 21st century. Let us stop and take a break in order to hear what is said to us beyond words.
My predecessors recognized the female genius, wasn’t it enough? I would dare to say that we did not go very far into this reflection and thus into certain innovations. Several years ago the scandals of every kind of abuse got its claws into us: there was a cataclysm and a flood, comparable to that of Noah which devastated and destroyed the Church-Barque of St Peter, and at the same time reformed or rather saved us. For several years we have been living a different way of being Church. And I thank all those women who, in the midst of storms as well as in moments of calm and in an invisible manner catechize and organize the preparations for marriage, as well as the celebrations of funerals. I thank them for standing up and for daring to shout, to protest and to have us practically boycotted for weeks on end. Let us remember it: this was a real awakening of awareness. What would we be without women? And what would we have become without them? Towards what breakdown would we have gone without their effective presence?
Today I would like our ears to be free and open to other resonances. In our patrimony we have women doctors of the Church, and this is fortunate. I am thinking of St Hildegarde of Bingen and St Catherine of Siena who travelled the world and proclaimed salvation on every occasion, in season and out of season. I am thinking even further back, to the prophetesses of the Bible, whether they are called Esther or Deborah, or again to all the women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ.
Salvation comes from women and also comes through their words. Our homilies – as the Greek meaning says – exist in order to enter into conversation. Thus it is urgent to invite them to speak and to leave the homilies to them. We will do all we can to give women and lay people the possibility of giving homilies during our Sunday Masses.
To some this seems a revolution but this is not so. St Thomas Aquinas explains in his commentary on St John that the Samaritan Woman is the model of apostolic preaching. In fact for him the purpose of preaching – and this is also true for homilies – is a knowledge of faith founded on the encounter with Christ. This woman, the Samaritan Woman, nourished by listening to Christ, proclaims what is necessary in order that all who listen to her go to meet Christ, and Thomas Aquinas adds clearly and precisely: ‘This woman takes on the role of the Apostles in bearing the message’.
Let us think of the name given to Mary Magdalene since the early centuries; she was called ‘the Apostle of the Apostles’. The time has come to open our eyes and ears and to restore to women their place in passing on the word during our celebrations of the Eucharist.
Today salvation enters us and like Zacchaeus we descend. We descend from our illusions, from our prejudices, from our false beliefs, from our inertia, from our empty words, from our false excuses, we descend into a place that separates us from these idols, we detach ourselves from our illusions, from our prejudices, from our false beliefs, from our inertia, from our empty words, from our false excuses, we descend into a place that separates us from these idols and detach ourselves from our illusions. We descend in order to reach the invisible, the mute, the wounded and frail, we descend within ourselves to be visited and forgiven, we descend to take Christ’s hand and to hear him tell us ‘the Lord is with you’, we descend as far as that so that the salvation that comes for women and for men may come and dwell within us. I thank all the dioceses who did not wait for the announcement of this reform to enrich themselves with the preaching of women during the homily”.
Dear sisters and brothers, this homily was given 10 years ago by our beloved bishop who has since died. He was a pillar of this great reform. Let us thank him today, the first day of the year 2050, for this journey of change which continues. May the blessing of our God come down upon us, daughters and sons of Abraham, so that our words may be fertilized by his gaze, by his Spirit and by his compassion for each and every one. Amen.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 20, 2019
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