Apostolic Nuncio at Inaugural Mass of the SCCs

 Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio at the Inaugural Mass of the 

1st National Convention of Small Christian Communities

“Small Christian Community: a Home and School of Communion” 

Goa – 19 November 2013 


Readings: Acts 2:42-47 

       John 13:31-35

Your Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Dear Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, Bishop Thomas Dabre with all the Members of National Service Team, Brother Bishops, Fathers and Sisters, lay leaders and animators of the Small Christians Communities, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, 

I am indeed very glad to meet all of you and to preside over this solemn and joyful Inaugural Mass of the First National Convention of the Small Christian Communities of India. As Pope’s Representative in this beloved Country, I bring to you the blessings and greetings of our Holy Father Pope Francis as a pledge of his affectionate and paternal concern for all of you.

The theme you have chosen for your Convention – “Small Christian Community: a Home and School of Communion” – is indeed very meaningful as it touches the very heart of the Gospel Message and, at the same time, is in great harmony with the specific contribution that the Small Christian Communities are called to give to the life and mission of the Church.

In the first reading of today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we have just heard a brief and effective description of how these values were practised by the first Christians in the life of the newborn Church: “And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and communion, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2: 42). Therefore, communion in the Church, with the riches of its internal dynamism and visible expressions, is born from faith, inspired by the apostolic preaching, nourished by the Breaking and sharing of the Eucharistic Bread and prayer, and it is expressed in brotherly love and service.

In this same light, at the beginning of this Mass I greeted you with these words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (II Cor 13: 14). These words emphasize how the free gift of the Father in Jesus Christ is realized and expressed in the communion brought about by the Holy Spirit. The divine gift of communion, in fact, represents, in a certain sense, the “identity card” of the Church, because “communion” is, first of all, the “identity card”, or better the very essence of the most holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, eternally united in the perfect communion of the divine love.

 The revelation of communion as a participation in Trinitarian life is illuminated with special intensity in John’s Gospel, which has been just proclaimed. Here, the communion of love that binds the Son to the Father and to men and women is at the same time the model and source of that fraternal communion which must unite disciples with one another, as it was in the brief description of the newborn Church in the Acts of the Apostles. 

The Apostle John, as we have just heard, tells us that in the Cenacle of Jerusalem, during his last supper with his disciples, when Jesus announces his departure from this world, He gives his disciples “a new commandment”, like a testament, so that they might continue his presence among them in a new way: “A new commandment I give to you: Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13: 34). Hence, it is communion of men and women with the Trinitarian God and communion of men and women with one another.

At this point we can ask ourselves: what is new about it? Why Jesus calls this commandment of love “new”? We know, in fact, that in the Old Testament God had already given the commandment of love. But now, in the words and life of Jesus this commandment has become new because Jesus makes a very important addition to it: “As I have loved you, that you also love one another”. What is new is precisely this loving as Jesus loved. All our loving is preceded and nurtured by His love, refers to His love, and is achieved precisely through His love. The Old Testament did not present any model of love; it only formulated the precept of love. Instead, Jesus gave himself to us as a model and source of love, a boundless, universal love that could transform all negative circumstances and all obstacles into opportunities to progress in love. 

Thus, my dear brothers and sisters of the Small Christian Communities, we understand that this twofold communion with God and with one another is inseparable. Wherever communion with God, which is communion with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, is destroyed, the root and source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the Trinitarian God is not alive and is not true.

Let us now go a step further. Communion, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is – as we have heard in the first reading – nourished by the Eucharist and is expressed in fraternal relations. In the Eucharist, Jesus nourishes us, he unites us with himself, with His Father, with the Holy Spirit and with one another. This network of unity that embraces the world is, in other words, that home and school of communion which you aim at building through your witnesses of faith and love in the Church, and which Blessed Pope John Paul II wanted the Church to be in the new millennium, as he clearly wrote in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte (n. 43). 

In this way, the gift of communion brings about very real consequences. It lifts us from our loneliness, from being closed in ourselves, and makes us sharers in the love that unites us to God and to one another. It is easy to understand how great this gift is if we only think of the fragmentation and conflicts that afflict relations between individuals, groups and entire peoples all over in the world, including India. 

Let me quote, in this regard, the profound and crystalline words of Pope Francis, in a recent catechesis he gave in St. Peter Square in Rome, about the intimate relation between the reality of the Church and the gift of communion. “The Church – he said – in her most profound truth, is communion with God, intimacy with God, a communion of love with Christ and with the Father in the Holy Spirit, which extends to brotherly communion. This relationship between Jesus and the Father is the “matrix” of the bond between us Christians: if we are intimately part of this “matrix”, this fiery furnace of love, then we can truly become of one single heart and one single soul among us. For God’s love burns away our selfishness, our prejudices, our interior and exterior divisions. […] In this communion – communion means common-union – we form a great family, where every member is helped and sustained by the others.” (30 October 2013).

Thus, “communion” is truly the Good News, the remedy given to us by the Lord to fight the loneliness that threatens everyone today, the precious gift that makes us feel welcomed and beloved by God, in the unity of his People gathered in the name of the Trinity; it is the light that makes the Church shine forth like a beacon raised among the peoples. 

Dear brothers and sisters of the Small Christian Communities, as the Representative of the Holy Father I have come to you to strengthen you in the faith of the Church. I would like to encourage you to remain steadfast in that faith which is the source of the authentic communion, that gives meaning to life and gives strength to love. I also wish to congratulate you and express the gratitude of the Church to all of you for your testimony of authentic Christian life, and exhort you to continue with renewed enthusiasm and commitment in serving the diocese and the parishes as Small Christian Community leaders, animators and moderators.

I encourage you to be fully engaged in the work of evangelization and in witnessing and building true communion in the Church and in the world alike, without exclusion or partiality, without any prejudice or sectarianism, avoiding and conquering divisions and discriminations based on differences of languages, rites, ethnicity and regional provenience. We all, as Christians and Catholics, must be examples of unity in diversity of languages, cultures and regions. In this way, you will also be credible in working for unity and harmony in the society at large, which suffers so much from divisions and conflicts based on social, cultural and ethnic diversities. 

Finally, we cannot forget that we are celebrating this Holy Eucharist in front of the beautiful Basilica of Bom Jesus where the relics of St. Francis Xavier are safeguarded for the veneration of the faithful. It is by his courageous beginning that the Good News of salvation reached until you from one generation to the other. Let you be inspired by his enthusiasm and passion for the missionary work in spreading the Gospel all over! 

Guided by the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, model of faith, hope and charity, live out God’s love in a simple, practical way in your ecclesial communities, families, places of work, making of the Church, wherever you live, a welcoming home and school of communion, fulfilling the sublime, new commandment Jesus gave us: “Love one another as I have loved you”. Amen.





Golden Verse

1Korintkarank 7:38

Mhonnttôch aplê ankvar hoklê lagim logn zata to borem korta; ani logn zaina to odik borem korta.