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OPENING EUCHARIST OF THE XXIIII GENERAL CHAPTER. HOMILY SISTERS HOSPITALLERS OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS - Br. Jesús Etayo Rome

(Rome, April, 24th 2024)

Introduction: Synodal Encounter

I remember six years ago, on that occasion a few days later I shared with you the opening Eucharist of the General Chapter of the Congregation. Again today, on the Solemnity of St. Benedict Menni, it is with great pleasure and joy that we gather to celebrate the Eucharist that opens your XXII General Chapter. It is the most important event for any religious Congregation, because it gathers us around the Lord, especially to listen to the Spirit so that He may illuminate the paths and the route that the Congregation must follow in the coming years in fidelity to the charism and the mission entrusted to it.

The General Chapter is also a synodal event of great importance for the Institution and for the Church. Precisely in these years in which we have been preparing first and then celebrating the Synod on synodality - the second and last session will be held in October - the General Chapter is an evident expression of synodality, not only during the Chapter, but from the beginning of its preparation: The whole Congregation, Sisters and Collaborators, have been working and making this journey together, this pilgrimage towards the Chapter, listening to each other, discerning, sharing, praying, in short, walking with the Lord in search, we could say, of "the promised land", in search of what the Lord is asking of you. Now, during the Chapter, it is time to take it all in and for the group of you who have been chosen to return to walk synodically listening to the Lord and to the Congregation, also to the sick and their families, to the Church and to the world, in order to renew your missionary commitment of hospitality to the Lord.


"Clothe yourselves with bowels of God's mercy (Col. 3:12)."

This is the motto you chose for the General Chapter. It is an expression very much in line with the charism and mission that the Founders bequeathed to you and is a Pauline expression that implies a way of being, a lifestyle and a spirituality that is very concrete and closely linked to hospitality. You have explained very well the meaning that you want to give it in this Chapter, as a guide for the Chapter itself and for the future. Indeed, we live in a world threatened by violence, abuse, selfishness, the pursuit of each one's own interests, even if it means trampling on the interests of others. What our world needs most is precisely this: to show the love and mercy of God, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of his truth.

To clothe oneself here does not mean to change costume or habit in order to make a performance and then return to the original stage. To clothe oneself means to be converted, to change definitively, to become new persons at the service of God's love. It implies a very broad spiritual and human sensitivity, capable of being moved by those who suffer, live in loneliness or feel lost, even in their dignity. A sensitivity that does not look the other way, that, like the Good Samaritan, becomes a neighbor to those who are in need, contrary to what is usually done.

To clothe oneself with the bowels of God's mercy: what a beautiful expression! To have bowels of mercy in the face of every need, to have compassion for those who suffer as the Lord himself, to bring God's love to all. And the bowels of God's mercy: to always welcome, care for, listen to, love, love, heal, protect and so many other things. God's mercy knows no bounds. "Even if your mother forsakes you, I will never forsake you" (Is.) That is as far as it goes. From there you want the Chapter to orient the present and the future of the Congregation. The Pope told us in the audience he gave us during the last General Chapter: Be icons of God's mercy. A demanding challenge today for those who have the mission of hospitality. It is the same for you.


In fidelity to the Founders

Today the Chapter opens on the feast of St. Benedict Menni, who with the Venerable Ma Josefa Recio and Sr. Maria Angustias Jimenez, (Sister Charity), know so much about it, because her life was a process of permanent growth in the depths of God's mercy. They have in them great examples and testimonies to follow.

The world in which the three of them lived was very turbulent and difficult. However, to love with a heart of mercy was their project, what they always sought and pursued, concretizing it in a life project dedicated to God in the service of the sick and needy, especially the mentally ill and children with various illnesses. Two of God's favorite people, on whom they lavished their love and left their lives, literally in the case of Ma Josefa. Today it is up to them to follow them faithfully, according to the reality of our world, which has changed a lot in many things, but perhaps less in the lack of love and affection, in the lack of mercy and hospitality. Surely the field of needs is even greater.


Conclusion

"Prophetic signs of hope and of God's closeness to suffering humanity". This is the subtitle of the Chapter's motto. Clothe yourselves with the bowels of God's mercy in order to bring God closer to suffering humanity. Claim the prophecy, the humble but clear and effective cry that God does not abandon the human being, much less the one who suffers. To tell the world that God cares for the little ones in whom he is especially incarnated.

To shout to the world that God wants peace and not war, forgiveness and mercy and not vengeance, justice and not contempt and abuse of any kind.

Sisters, consecrated life has a permanent call to be a living prophecy, awakening the presence of God. We are reminded of this in many documents and in recent times often by Pope Francis. But our founders already did it. They did it above all with deeds. This is the key: Our prophecy is service, was a slogan of many years ago. We invoked the prophecy without borders during the centenary of St. Benedict Menni. Now in the Chapter they are initiating, they want the prophecy of mercy and hospitality to guide them to find the ways to make it effective in today's world.

Let us ask the Lord, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Benedict Menni and St. John of God, to accompany them throughout the Chapter, so that they may discern and see the path that the Spirit continues to mark out for them in order to continue carrying out the mission entrusted to them. May the same Spirit also give them the strength, courage and audacity to follow it. May they be able to work with the Lord's blessing on the themes and blocks proposed: The renewal of the Directory; the discernment of the lines of action for the next sexennium and logically the election of the persons who will guide the future of the Congregation during the next sexennium, the Superior General and her Council.

I wish you a good Chapter, we will pray for all of you so that you may be faithful to what the Lord is asking of you at this moment. Let us now continue the Eucharist on the Solemnity of St. Benedict Menni, in which we celebrate the Lord's Passover and in which every day we experience the love of God who loves us with deep mercy and invites us to the Eucharistic banquet that nourishes our life.




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