9 mai 2007 réouverture de l’église. Mgr Dupuy, nonce apostolique près l’Union européenne, nous autorise à faire connaître son homélie. Nous en avons aussi une traduction anglaise.
Delivered on Wednesday 9 May 2007
“I am the true vine, and you are the branches.”
Jesus says these words on the evening of Holy Thursday, as the hour fast approaches when his flesh is to be slashed and torn. He compares himself to a vine, whose branches must be pruned and cut back so that they can produce fruit. In his suffering, in his death, in the loneliness which is about to engulf him, we can see not only the work of his adversaries, but also the hand of the owner of the vineyard, who “prunes” his “vine” so that it bears fruit.
It is clear that we also, sharing as we do in Christ’s Paschal journey, must likewise let the wine-grower remove the dead branches from our lives as well. But how difficult it is to recognise his hand in our failures and in the hard knocks that life metes out to us! How difficult it is, when we try to view the situation in Europe today from the perspective of believers, to make sense of the ways in which we are misunderstood or the trials we have to endure!
Three years ago, at a meeting of the European Provincials of the Salesian order, the Rector Major spoke out against the “substantial incompatibility” existing between Catholic Christianity and the principles espoused by Europe as an institution. “The Church,” he said, “is seen as unimportant; the family has fallen apart; the system for handing on faith and values has broken down; there is a rejection of anything that might be considered Catholic.” Fr. Chavez built his address around the biblical icon of the foundation of the church of Antioch – the subject of today’s first reading. He pointed out the parallels between the situation of the community of Antioch and today’s European Community, with both being made up of people of different walks of life, different languages, cultures, races, and both grappling with “problems of a disciplinary and doctrinal nature”. And just as Barnabas did for the Christians in Antioch, said Fr. Chavez, we too have to learn to understand what is going on in the new Europe, so that we can meet its challenges, harness the available resources, and establish a visible – and lasting – Christian presence; we must, in a word, overcome pessimism and adopt the Gospel attitude of hope. Just as Barnabas did for the Christians in Antioch. Through his words and through his actions, this disciple was a constant source of encouragement for the whole of the Church. A Jew from Cyprus, where he exercised the functions of a Levite, he became a Christian – but not a nominal Christian: he really changed; he became another man! In fact, the apostles gave him a nickname, “Barnabas”, which means “the one who encourages, exhorts, consoles”.
Today’s Europe is in need of many Barnabases, men and women who are prepared to proclaim the gospel as “good news”, truer than idols, ideas and ideologies. Twenty or so years ago, in an attack on the growing domination of our society by idols, the French singer Guy Béart warned against what he called the multi-messianic era, where everyone is expected to feel that they are the messiah. To quote from one of his songs: “Don’t go for the wrong guru:. Don’t put your money on the wrong messiah.
Yes: let us not mistake our god. Cardinal Danneels recently called on the faithful to reject the idea that Christ is no more than a booster rocket – and one of many at that – which is supposed to lead us to God. It is not true that one religion is the same as another. Christianity is not a variant of the other religions. At a time when interreligious dialogue is much talked of, it is a good thing also to affirm our identity. We have a responsibility, said the Cardinal, to engage in a genuine dialogue, without denying who we are and what we are.
Let’s not get the Messiah wrong. Let’s not get the Gospel wrong, either. The Gospel is not a moral code, even though a moral code necessarily flows from it. The Gospel is Good News; news which rings out afresh each morning with a force greater than the force of destiny and decay; with a clarity more convincing than uncertainty and ambiguity; with a truth more compelling than tragedies and utopias. We are sent out to bear witness to the fact that, since Christ is risen from the dead, fate and inevitability no longer hold sway. We are sent out to reveal to other people the authentic face of a God whom we start to discover by seeking at one and the same time for truth and for freedom. In a recent address to the members of the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences, Pope Benedict XVI, recalling the figure of Andrei Sakharov, spoke of the need, both in our personal and public lives, to have the courage to speak the truth, and to live by it, to be free vis-à-vis the world around us which frequently has a tendency to impose its attitudes and norms of behaviour. “True freedom consists in walking in the path of truth.”
“I am the true vine.” A vine is not an ornamental tree. What good is a vine that fails to bear fruit, that doesn’t bring us cheer? What good is a Church if it doesn’t kindle into life, among its members and in the world round about it, more love and care for others, more justice and more hope? If a Christian community – as a community and also through its individual members – isn’t like a ripe fruit-tree, then it is doomed.
And what is the secret of the tree which bears much fruit? Jesus has given us the answer to this question: “Abide in me as I abide in you”. This command, repeated seven times, is not some pious exhortation: it is a radical call; it is the key to any search for God. If the love of Christ doesn’t irrigate our lives, if it doesn’t permeate our thoughts and our actions, we will produce nothing, nothing of lasting value for our future and for the future of humanity.
If on the other hand we do follow Christ as a person in a genuine and tangible manner, then we will “do things”, and there will be fruits to show for it. I was very taken with something that Raymond Barre, a former French Prime Minister, once said about Robert Schuman. Barre never actually met Schuman, but he came to know him through his work: the seeds put forth shoots, the trees began to grow and spread their branches … In his attempt to discover the man behind the achievements, Barre came to see that Schuman consistently managed to reconcile religious and humanist values with the values of public service: a fine example of how a politician can remain true to his convictions and at the same time discharge his responsibilities to the full.
Schuman realised a very important fact: living involves choosing. And choosing means giving up certain things. We must have the courage to make choices; to drop some secondary interests in order to concentrate on a few key ones.
This is especially true in our spiritual lives. Holiness is like sculpture. Sculpture, according to Leonardo da Vinci, is “the art of removing”. Whereas the point about many art forms is that the artist “adds” or “applies” something to something else, in sculpture the opposite occurs. The sculptor carves and chips off the unwanted bits of marble until the image he is after finally emerges from the block.
Christian perfection works in the same way. To progress towards it, we have to hack off the useless lumps of stone – the desires, the ambitions, the plans that tug us this way and that and stop us from ever achieving anything worthwhile.
May is the month of Our Blessed Lady; so let us ask her for the daring and the staying power to trust ourselves completely to her son.
Mary, urge us forward when we’re reluctant or grudging or half-hearted in our service to others, or when we hang back out of fear. Give us the courage to rise above ourselves, to leave behind our comfortable security and our preconceptions so that we may walk with others in genuine solidarity. And may this solidarity be built on truth and not illusion, on hope and not on disenchantment, on action and not on lip-service. Keep us at all times in an attitude of visitation, so that, like you, and with you, we may bear fruit, and help our Lord to be born in our brothers and sisters.
Mgr. Dupuy, La Viale Europe, Saint Sacrement