A vocation is nourished by obedience to the faith: Holy Mass opening the 13th OFM International Council for Formation and Studies | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

A vocation is nourished by obedience to the faith: Holy Mass opening the 13th OFM International Council for Formation and Studies

Jerusalem, Church of St. Saviour, October 10, 2011

The Holy Mass, which opened the 13th OFM International Council for Formation and Studies, hosted by the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem from October 9 - 16, was celebrated this morning in the parish Church of St. Saviour. The topic of the meetings will be Make known to me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths (Psalm 25,4). The Franciscan vocation between perseverance and belonging. The celebration was presided by the Custos, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, and was attended by the 14 delegates of the Conferences of the Order, as well as by Father Vidal Rodriguez Lopez, Secretary-General for Formation and Studies, and Father Sergiusz Baldyga, Deputy Secretary-General for Formation and Studies. The latter two were also con celebrants of the Holy Mass, which opened the meeting. For the Custody of the Holy Land, the delegate is Father Noel Muscat, who was also called on to attend this International Council.

The ceremony opened with the intonation of Veni, Creator Spiritus and the liturgy proposed for refelection the first passage of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Romans 1,1-7) and the text of St. Luke’s Gospel, in which Jesus speaks of the Sign of Jonah (Luke 11,29-32). On the basis of the message contained in these readings, in his homily the Custos examined in further depth the meaning and the value of the universality of salvation, highlighting the link between this gift open to all and the vocation for “obedience of faith” (Romans 1,5), to which each person is called. St. Paul’s experience is emblematic in this regard; before his conversion, he knows salvation only through belonging to the People of God, the chosen people; after he meets Christ, Paul understands that salvation is open to all peoples, because Jesus died for everyone, and therefore he can say to the Romans, to these pagan-believers-in-Jesus brothers, that they are also among them. He thus goes from a mentality of exclusion to one of inclusion and it is on this value that he bases his mission as an apostle of peoples, called by grace and gift to announce the Gospel (Romans 1,1) and to obtain obedience of the faith by all peoples. St. Paul thus imitates the model offered by Jesus who, by meeting and healing the excluded and the outcasts of social and cultural life, was an authentic revolutionary with his extraordinary action of readmitting all men into the heart of the human family and the family of the saved. This exceptional work continues even on the cross, when Jesus promises the good thief that he will be welcomed into His Kingdom (Luke 23,39-43). Here the doors of salvation are opened for good.

The task of the formators, Father Pizzaballa continued, is first of all to allow the other to discover his condition as saved and to repeat to him: “You are also amongst the saved”. This is where the story of every vocation begins, which, as in St. Paul’s experience, from the call to salvation passes through the inner struggle with the old man (Rm 7), to at last reach, thanks to the action of the Spirit of God, the complete gift of the self, the fullness of the new life and spiritual worship (Romans 12). The objective for authentic formation is precisely obedience of the faith, i.e., the acceptance of the design of salvation that the Lord has prepared for each man, a design which, without this obedience, remains vain and useless. The goal is to be able to say, as Jesus did: “Your faith has saved you”. Faith is, therefore, the necessary passage to enter salvation and to allow salvation to be accomplished in everyone’s life.

Lastly, in the Gospel, Jesus’ words remind us to be aware that those who are distant, the multitude of people who are also recipients of the announcement and included amongst the saved, will become our judges and will measure the genuineness of our faith and stimulate us to believe better and better, deeper and deeper. Therefore, the formators as well, who live in close contact with young people and work to open up their future, who announce salvation to young people and help them travel down the road of their vocation, must let themselves be called and judged in the obedience of the faith by those to whom salvation and the vocation are announced. They must continually measure up to the path of personal purification proposed by St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, allowing obedience of the faith to become increasingly “inclusive”, capable of truly embracing the whole of existence.

It is our wish that the work of the International Council for Formation and Studies can gain new impetus and find new motivations precisely from the essential and inescapable relationship with Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Every formative project finds its centre and its meaning here, in the places where Jesus himself lived and taught and which still speak intensely of him to us. That model of Path, Truth and Life, which is the inspiration of every vocation, the substance of the faith, the reason of every fidelity, or the choice of staying in the love of God, in the perfection of His charity, which summarizes in Him everything that is essential, gains a Face here.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marie-Armelle Beaulieu