I would like to express my joy, my dear brothers, for the grace to be able to celebrate with you in this Eucharist of Thanksgiving to the Lord for one hundred years of the beloved Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.
In spiritual union with our brothers serving throughout the world, we first of all thank God. We also thank Fr. Félix de Jesús Rougier and Conchita Cabrera de Armida. Thanks to the conscious and radical way that they lived and transmitted the charism, many brothers in the Congregation have been able to live out their own callings fully, joyfully, attractively, and fruitfully. Every day, our brothers can deepen their life project in the light and strength of a particular Trinitarian spirituality. This is a spirituality of love for the Holy Trinity and for each of the Divine persons of the Trinity. As Fr. Félix preached and lived: “we unite ourselves with Jesus in order to go to the Father, through the motion of the Holy Spirit, who is the center of our whole spiritual life.”
Our celebration of the centenary of our founding is a real cause for joy, and it invites and moves us to look toward the future, toward that which the Holy Spirit inspires. In this way, he can continue to do great things through us (Cf. Apostolic Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to All Consecrated People, on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life, 11.21.2014).
“Oh my Jesus! Are you happy with the Missionaries?” Conchita wrote in one of her letters to Fr. Félix. “The will to serve me and to make themselves holy exists. But there lacks a unity of guidelines. There is a lack of interior life because of an excess of exterior tasks that are drowning the spirit. There is hidden gossip and a lack of obedience to discernment. Religious observance is missing. This last point is of central importance and must be remedied. Also, primacy must be given to the spirit, and not to exterior tasks. I have already told you what I desire, which will make my beloved Congregation flourish. From this congregation I anxiously await glorious fruits. More care needs to be taken in formation; more vigilance of the superiors regarding some members (…). More care for what is within than for what is without”. “I believe,” Conchita also wrote, “that it is God’s will that the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit have a deeper interior life in order to properly guide their vocations and lives in intimacy with Jesus, in order to become one with Him (…). More unity, more definition of criteria and of heart; less indifference, more charity – in charity there are no limits” (to Fr. Félix, May, 1932). Have these words lost their usefulness? Or on the contrary, are they necessary today? We should meditate on this!
Truly, it must be said, before us we have one hundred years of marvelous history to tell. But we also have a beautiful story to write. In order to write it, it is important to first of all return to our origins, return to our “first love”, or as Pope Francis has said, return to Galilee. We must return to the first call, where everything began. To return there, to the place were Jesus walked, where he called the disciples, where they left everything, and where they followed him (Mt. 4:18-22).
Return to Galilee and reread everything through the realities of the cross and the victory. Return to Galilee to rediscover baptism as a living source, to draw renewed energy from the roots of our faith and of our Christian experience. Return to Galilee, to that incandescent place in which God’s grace touched each of us at the beginning of the journey, to light with that spark the fire for today, for each day – and to bring warmth and light to our sisters and brothers.
Return to Galilee, to the place of our own existential experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, who called us to follow him and to participate in his mission. Return to Galilee, to rediscover the memory of that moment when Jesus crossed our path, looked at us with mercy and compassion, and asked us to follow him….that moment when his eyes caught ours and we felt loved. Where is our Galilee? Do we remember it? Do we keep sight of it? Or, do we already go along roads and paths that have made us forget?
Return to Galilee, to re-encounter our “first love”, to see Jesus crucified and also risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. Return to the “first love” to receive from the Holy Spirit the fire that Jesus has lit in the world, a fire that we should bring to others – even to the ends of the earth.
The parable of Jesus that we just heard is helpful in this context. It also speaks to us about God’s call to go and work on the vineyard. We know that the image of the vineyard is very significant in the Scriptures and teaching of Jesus.
It is the Father who sends his children – he sends us – to work the vineyard. It is the Father who asks that we work for his Kingdom. Let us go today, now, at each moment, with all that we have, in each circumstance, to any place.
In Jesus’ words, history had a clear goal. The people of Israel had officially said yes to God,
But at the moment of truth they didn’t do what He asked. Israel did not understand that working in the vineyard meant accepting the guidelines of love and service to humanity. This love and service is directed to every person, to all people, and especially to the poor.
Today, we are the recipients of history…we who have said “yes”. Therefore, in the light of Jesus’ parable, we need to ask ourselves: Are we really working in the Lord’s vineyard, following his instructions and guides – those that he has given to us through the Gospel and the Church, but also through our charism and spirituality? Is our life truly put at the service of love fully lived? Because, “being a missionary is breaking, leaving, crossing the sea, forgetting things, remembering people, giving oneself, emptying oneself, walking, discovering, sewing seeds, waiting. To be a missionary one must conjugate lots of verbs, especially the verb ‘to love’, all the time and for all people.” (Mons. Peñalosa in his book “I am Félix de Jesús”).
And so I insist, return to Galilee so that from there we can regain a renewed energy, longing, and courage, the decision to be saints “as Jesus was, in five ways: in his silence, in his example, in his words, shedding his blood, giving his live for humanity (…). Give of yourself, give yourself to Jesus! And give of your souls, consumed in this offering, silent, exemplary, charitable, penitent, and untiring in sacrifice (…). This, and much more, even unto martyrdom itself, and all for love” (Conchica to Fr. Félix, 1903).
Dear brothers, God wants us to discover his project of love. He has invited us – and continues to invite us every day – to make his project ours through a free exercise of obedience. We must meditate on, discern, and radically choose this obedience. God will take on the responsibility of making his project coherent, making sure that his kingdom of justice and peace, along with the riches of human values, flourish in the hearts of his people. Through his people, God’s light will extend over the entire world. Each of us has been and is still called by name to be with God and to be sent by him. We are to be a sign for each and every person of his alliance between love and life. Our response to God’s call, generous and accommodating, must always come from our free choice.
Let us make the dream of Conchita and Fr. Rougier our own; let’s make our own, as they did, God’s project. Let us continue writing with the ink of holiness into the history of the beloved Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit. Let’s make our own the generous and courageous work that they accepted and developed throughout the hundred years of the Insitution – attracting many, many brothers. Today we remember them, as well as those other who helped begin the Work through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, with gratitude and affection. And as we remember them we act in hope: a hope that never disappoints.
Friends: Jesus, alive and always present in the Eucharist, invites us to fill ourselves with this hope. He invites us to start anew; to always “start anew with Christ”; to leave behind fear and in his strength open ourselves to the gift of the Holy Spirit. He invites us to let ourselves be guided, and even more, to let ourselves be possessed by the Holy Spirit. This way, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires in us creative faithfulness, communal and ecclesial unity, and enthusiasm for missionary service to build the Kingdom, here and now, everywhere.
“With Mary everything! Without her nothing!” Father Félix de Jesús Rougier used to say this often as he came closer to the moment when he would finally contemplate God “face to face”. Similarly, we, wrapped in the tenderness of the Virgin Mary’s gaze, and together with Her, begin the work of the Spirit with a renewed enthusiasm, faithfulness, and courage. The Spirit asks us to promote his Kingdom within and alongside the Church, stating with firm conviction at every moment, “what you love, my Jesus, is what I love”.
Congratulation, brothers! The Spirit of the Lord has anointed you, and so: onward