Dear Father Nikodemus,
Dearest priests, religious men, religious women,
may the Lord give you peace!
The celebration of Migrants Day is an opportunity for us to reflect, pray and give thanks. To reflect on the current situation of tens of thousands of people living among us and to listen to them, giving voice to their expectations, fears, difficulties, but also to their joys and determination. To pray for them and with them and thus to continue to build together our ecclesial community of the Holy Land. To thank the Lord for their presence, for their witness of authentic, solid and resolute faith, and to thank those among you, religious men, religious women and volunteers, who spend their lives supporting, helping and making this portion of the Church of the Holy Land grow.
As I meet with you periodically, I think of the concerns that are always on your minds, the many daily problems that you face and that often make us feel powerless.
I think of the issue of the permanent threat of expulsion that affects so many families and is a tragedy especially for their children. Children and young people, born and raised here and who, years later, are threatened to leave for a ‘homeland’ they have never known. In a sense, they are forced to become migrants themselves and leave what should be their country for the unknown. Families who must periodically change their residence, for fear of being tracked down and deported. Working men and women who cannot easily leave the homes where they work. Asylum seekers, especially women, who have no job prospects and are exposed to threats of all kinds. I think, in short, of the many who live among us without any legal guarantees, with the risk of being forced to leave at any time, without means and without the possibility of obtaining them, forced to live on crumbs.
I am thinking of those who live in humiliating working conditions, but especially of the many children who do not have the opportunity to live like any other family, with a close father and mother, a home and a serene living environment; who are separated from their parents, for lack of means, always on the move and with the fear of having to leave suddenly for an unpredictable future.
These are just some of the situations you have to deal with on a daily basis. They are well-known situations that we talk about repeatedly.
But what strikes me most, when I meet Father Nikodemus and his staff, is to feel that, in spite of everything, in the midst of these situations of hardship, your faith does not diminish, but is the strength that sustains you. You show testimony of strength and determination that always amazes us and sustains and empowers us as well.
It seems to me that today's gospel speaks a bit about you and your experience of faith.
The logic of the world always seeks great things, trusts what is strong. But the path of faith has other logics, and is wedded more to smallness, to what does not appear, to what is poor and ultimate.
Jesus compares faith to a seed: what is stronger than a seed?
If the force of the world is a force that occupies spaces, imposes laws, prevails, as it often happens among us and everywhere, the force of the seed is that of life that grows, that has patience, that injects new dynamics into history, that knows how to see good wherever it is found.
If it were great, if it were strong, it would be a security and power like any other worldly power.
But faith is not so much about being strong as it is about knowing how to rely on the strength of Another; it is no accident that St. Paul says that just when He is weak, then He is strong (2 Cor. 12:10).
In Luke's gospel, faith is proper to the little ones, those who do not rely on their own strength and leave room for the Lord's work in their lives, those who trust and surrender themselves in Him.
This faith, which is converted to smallness, which is nourished by trust and abandonment, this faith - Jesus says - can make happen even what seems impossible.
Faith is precisely about impossible things, not because it fills life with miracles, but because it makes us capable of the greatest miracle that can happen to a person, that of being able to turn evil into good, to draw life even from death.
In the face of the mystery of evil, where man is alone and powerless, faith makes it possible to take the step that reopens a path again, that recreates confidence and makes it possible to find meaning again: because in faith nothing is ever definitively dead.
This is the testimony we receive from you. In spite of everything, right there where everything seems to be stuck, with no way out, faith opens new paths and perspectives, creates spaces for life, love and sharing.
It is a lesson also for our local communities, also crushed by so many problems, but called to give the same witness of faith, to be that seed that despite everything, even if not visible, makes ineradicable trees grow.
The Church of the Holy Land is composite, has many different forms, speaks many languages, has an incredible variety of colors. It is true that we are known in the world for being the Church of the Status Quo, of all that is immovable; but if we know how to observe well, we really see how the small seed of the gospel is silently and patiently growing, creating new Christian realities of life and faith in our country.
I am called to be a servant of the unity of this Church, ensuring that we are all aware of the beauty and challenges that come from this extraordinary diversity.
It is necessary that little by little all these different souls of this same Church of ours meet more often, pray together, share their life experiences. When shared, faith is strengthened and enriched with a new vitality, which we need so much.
Welcoming is a necessary condition for making this journey of faith a concrete reality.
But I am also here today to say thank you
To say thank you to all those who dedicate energy and time to ensure that migrants among us find a place in the Church. I address not only the priests and sisters who work tirelessly to create a community and form the faithful, but also all the members of the lay movements, the coordinators and committees, the volunteers who serve as lectors, acolytes and choir members, those who cook and clean, those who initiate and animate social programs, and so many others. Many of you have exhausting jobs for many hours, yet come during weekends and evenings to help build the Church.
Brothers and sisters, we are facing many challenges. Let us today celebrate the gift of our faith, the wonderful diversity of our Church, and pledge to work together to contribute to the light in this land, to the peace that is to come, and to the spread of the good news that God has defeated darkness despite all that testifies to the contrary.
May God bless you all and may the Lord strengthen you in your faith, your witness and your life.