Nuncio's Homily for St. Francis Xavier Feast
HOMILY: FEAST OF ST. FRANCIS XAVIER
03 DECEMBER 2011, AT 10.30 HOURS
ARCHDIOCESE OF GOA AND DAMAN
Ez 03: 16-21; I Cor 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mk 16: 15-20
My dear Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao, Rev. Fathers, the Religious and my dear brothers and sisters,
You have come here to celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, whose relic is here in this Basilica. You are gathered here as one community, as one pilgrim people of God, to thank God for the gift of St. Francis Xavier to us and to the Church. Here you experience the love of God, pray for God’s blessings, graces and guidance. You offer your gratitude for everything the Lord has bestowed through the intercession of St. Francis Xavier. You are pilgrims on a journey, trusting in God, to give to others, an experience of his love, for “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3: 16) You are also gathered here to share his message of good news with others, as you heard in today’s Gospel, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.” (Mk 16: 15) You experience God’s love as you share his word to others. Today my dear brothers and sisters, I would like to share a few reflections about the love of God in the life of St. Francis Xavier and in the lives of all.
1. God’s love in the Life and Mission of St. Francis Xavier:
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, reminded time and again the young Spaniard, Francis Xavier, the verse from the Gospel that says: “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Mt 16: 26) St. Francis Xavier heard this message and seriously reflected upon it. He realized in his life the words of the Prophet Ezekiel, in the First Reading, who foretold that “the word of the Lord came to me” (Ez 3: 16). With that he felt that the Lord called him for an important mission with a great responsibility, similar to the calling realized by St. Paul in the Second Reading, who proclaimed “I am entrusted with a commission.” (I Cor 9: 17) This personal experience and deep conviction made him realize God’s plans for his life.
As a young priest, he had just one day to prepare for his first missionary journey, to go from Spain to a mission country, and that he did for the love of God with faith and hope. Upon reaching the destination, he learnt the local language, ate the available local food, adjusted to the life of the people, accepted the practices of the people, integrated to the local culture, assimilated a new life style in order to bring the Gospel of Christ to the people. The success story of St. Francis Xavier lies in his intense love for God and a deep sense of belonging to the Church and to the people. He moved from place to place totally and completely relying on God and proclaimed God’s message to all with conviction and compassion.
He was a person in a hurry to reach out to as many people as possible, because the long awaited redeemer has come. St. Francis Xavier had a deep compulsion to share God’s love and proclaim God’s message to others. He took to heart what you heard, in the second reading, St. Paul saying “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (I Cor 9: 16) He was a missionary who visited more than fifty countries and reached out to more than a million people and baptized them. He did this extraordinary service for the Church. For this, he is named the “Apostle of the Indies” and Patron of the Propagation of the Faith and all foreign missions. You are grateful to St. Francis Xavier for bringing the faith to your land, for continuing to pray and bless you even today.
2. God’s love for is reflected in our relationship with Creation:
Like St. Francis Xavier, all of you are called to proclaim the Gospel through the love of God in your lives. You proclaim this Good News not only to other people but also to your environment by taking seriously the stewardship of the earth that God has entrusted to man. Pope Benedict XVI says that God “has delegated that important responsibility to care for the world to every human being. God expects all of you to love and to care for the world because there is a “covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.” (Benedict XVI, World Day of Peace, 1 January 2008, No: 7)
In this regard, I am glad to learn that the recent Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Filipe Neri is dedicated to the care for the environment with the Theme: “Covenant between Human Beings and Creation: Divine Love’s Manifestation.”
In the Letter, Archbishop Filipe Neri mentions that “Creation is the prime concern in the Indian culture. The belief that God created the world is part of this culture…[it] discovered the ties existing between God, creation and the human person, experienced them and lived them…[There is therefore] a witness of the covenant between God and creation.” (Felipe Neri Ferrao, Pastoral Letter, 2011, No: 2)
You have a special relationship with all that the Lord has given and it is your responsibility to use them according to God’s will. At times and among some of us there may be tendencies to use the marvels of God’s creation for one’s own selfish interests and purposes and in the process destroy the beauty of nature and the environment and upset the natural ecological balance. Nature will show its destructive force if it is not taken cared of, it is necessary for all to be warned of its terrible effects even before they happen. In the First reading you heard that “if you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warnings” (Ez. 3: 21) and lived according to the plan of God. The special relationship of human beings with the creation is aimed at safeguarding and protecting nature and to use them for the common good.
3. God’s love to establish the Kingdom of God:
You are called by God, to live the fullness of life, to share the creative responsibility and establish the kingdom of Christ. For this purpose you are renewed and transformed with gifts and blessings, as the Prophet Ezekiel says, “a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ez 36:26). The kingdom is established with peace and harmony that begins in the hearts of each one. Only then can it be shared. [Pope Benedict XVI says that “Following the example of Christ, all Christians are called to reflect the mercy of the Father and the light of the Holy Spirit. Evangelization presupposes and brings with it reconciliation and it promotes peace and justice". (Benedict XVI, ‘Africae Munus’, Contonou, Republic of Benin, 20 November 2011)]
The Kingdom of God brings with it peace and joy. This joy you will especially experience when the Lord comes into your midst. It is the joy to live with forgiveness and reconciliation, with justice and peace. Pope Benedict XVI encourages you in this journey by saying that, “Christ calls, justifies, sanctifies and sends his disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God, so that all nations may become the People of God.
It is only in this mission that the true journey of humanity is understood and attested.” (Benedict XVI, 83rd World Mission Sunday 2009, No: 1). You have a mission, a demanding and sacrificial mission to build a peaceful and harmonious kingdom of God, beginning here in the Archdiocese of Goa.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, in ending, I wish to thank God for this opportunity to be here at the Shrine of St. Francis Xavier today. Like all of you, I too am a pilgrim who thank God for the gift of this great saint to the Church. My first knowledge of St. Francis Xavier began in my infancy at the diocesan Minor Seminary of Aversa where I entered when I was a boy. On the 3rd of December every year different initiatives were done for the Day of Missions. Other than the spiritual activities, artistic and cultural programs were also performed in order to raise funds for the missions. I participated in the artistic competition by entering a small copy of a painting of St. Francis Xavier, modeled from his famous portrait showing him holding the crucifix. The image in this painting made a great impression on me which remains to this day. He inspired me to become a missionary, but while God had other plans for me, He still enabled me to be in a service of the Church that brings me all over the world.
Let us thank God for your Archbishop Filipe Neri for leading and guiding this Archdiocese and instilling faith and hope in his leadership as the shepherd of his people. Let us thank God for the many priests and religious for their sacrificial, tireless and generous service to the Church and to the people of God. Let us thank God for all of you who build the community of believers and for the many blessings that you constantly receive from him. Let us thank God for Goa and Daman, this wonderful place; for the beautiful beaches, the mountains and hills, the environment and the ecological balance, that speak of the greatness of our God.
Let us pray during this mass that the Lord may continue to shower his blessings and graces upon each and every one of you. May the Blessed mother, Our Queen and Mother of Goa and Daman, and St. Fancis Xavier intercede for all your intentions. I specially bring to you the Apostolic Blessing of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI as a pledge of heavenly favors. God bless you. Amen.