ADDRESS OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE ORDER OF THE BV MARIA DE LA MERCED
Hall of the Consistory
Saturday, May 7, 2022
Dear brothers and sisters… There are some, right? Pure machismo, Mexican style!
I am grateful for the words that the Father Master General addressed to me on behalf of all of you, and I am glad to be able to welcome you here on the occasion of the General Chapter of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy. The theme of the assembly, fully in keeping with the Marian origin of his vocation, is the verse from the Gospel of Saint John: “Do whatever he tells you!” (2.5). It is a significant choice supposes considering the project that they are about to launch from the point of view of the service. And it is that we religious can never forget that there is no following without service and without the cross (cf. Jn 12:26).
In this way, the first request that Our Lady makes of you today, as members of the General Chapter, is to listen. The current situation could be compared to the one presented in the gospel of the wedding at Cana: «they have no wine left». Many realities that we can see today in the world, in the Church, in the Order speak to us of this lack, they speak to us of the lack of hope, of motivation, of solutions. Given this, the Virgin challenges them: listen! And you may ask me, what do we have to listen to? The voices that tell us about everything negative? The voices that sell us easy solutions, or convoluted programs full of scholarship, or perhaps the voices that offer us solutions of compromise? These are all the temptations of a general chapter. Pay attention!
I think that Mary tells you something else today, she asks that it be Jesus who challenges her heart in a new, original, unexpected way. Perhaps the servants of Cana also met in chapter and thought what they could do. There were probably voices that raised the problems, others that provided feasible, albeit risky, solutions, and perhaps others that recommended letting the guests go honestly, acknowledging their own inability to deal with the situation, that they were running out of wine. And ending a wedding party with mate cocido was certainly not the most appropriate thing to do. It is possible that you have already traveled the road, in all the itinerary that has brought you here with questions, proposals, convictions and queries.
Jesus does not respond to these questions, he does not respond. He proposes something that surely no servant would have thought of, fill the purification jars, and also fill them with water. Even before entering into the meaning of this gesture, what seems interesting to me and I propose for your consideration is that Jesus does not tell them what they expect, but precisely something that they would never have imagined hearing. The chapter is not going to be right, it is going to be listened to simply, with gratitude, with abandon. In the first place, listen to God, no matter how much he can speak to us through the brother or the circumstances.
On the other hand, the purification jars, which surely served at the beginning of the banquet, call us to return to our first love, to the source, to recover the innocent and hopeful attitude of our first years of consecrated life. They also ask us to have clear eyes of those who see the need, and not the fruit that they hope to obtain for the effort made. The jars that are empty must be filled again with the same illusion with which they were filled before the banquet began. If you look at it, it is a job that needs to be done, but that we do not undertake because we believe that it no longer makes sense. And this is another great temptation. Does this make sense? Does it make sense for them to travel from so many places to meet? Or is it just another formality? That is the temptation.
The Lord asks us that: “start again, start each day, in each project, don't get tired, don't get discouraged”.
It is something that Jesus repeats in his Gospel, when he asks Peter to cast the nets again, and Peter replies: "Lord, we haven't caught anything!" (cf. Lk 5,5).
The reality to which we referred before may seem like a long night, our work may seem like a pointless getting tired, if it is not perceived as a generous response to the call of Jesus, uniting us with the Church in the work of evangelization. Because the vocation of the Church is to evangelize, the joy of the Church is to evangelize, and seeing an interesting thing, that despite everything, contradictions, problems, the network is not broken (cf. Jn 21,3).
Let us open our hearts to welcome the surprise that Jesus brings us. I don't know what it will be and you don't know either. Throughout the chapter –they are in the middle–, throughout the chapter, well, things will emerge that some thought and others will be a reality, the Lord brings them.
John affirms in his gospel that this truth is not known by the master of the room, who is surprised that at this point in the banquet the new wine is brought out, only "those who were serving" can know it. Therefore, listen to María, do not be afraid to let yourself be surprised by that voice that calls you to refill the jars, to wear yourself out in the concrete and simple service, useless in the plans of the master of the room, but essential to recognize a work that does not it is ours but God's. And in all of this knowing how to “be”, to be with Mary, next to Christ at the foot of the cross, in the suffering flesh of the poor and the captive that He made His, His own. And today there are also captives, as always. They change geography, they change modality, they change color, but slavery is a reality that is taking shape more and more. More and more and with more variety. Today, perhaps without mistake, we can say that there are more slaves than in the times in which you were founded, certainly. And that has to be a challenge, certainly, to your response. The new slaveries, those that are hidden, those that are not known, those hidden, but there are so many. Even in megacities like Rome, London, Paris, everything, there are slaveries that continue. Look for them and ask the Lord: what do I do?
And thanks for what you do, look out for today's slaves, and don't forget to pray for me. Thank you very much.