Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!
I greet all of you who, from the different parts of our diocese - Palestine, Israel and also Jordan - have come here at the foot of our Mother's diocesan shrine to pray together. I greet in particular all our parishes, accompanied by our pastors, but also the Syriac Church, all the various religious communities, the migrants from so many distant countries who live among us, as well as the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and the many pilgrims who joined us on this very special day for the whole diocese.
Last year on this occasion, there were many of us from all over the diocese, and it was a beautiful Church experience. We were together with all the Catholic Churches of the Holy Land, Latins, Melkites, Syriacs, Maronites, Armenians... The whole Church was here for the opening of the synodal path wanted by Pope Francis, which will still last for some time. It was really a wonderful Church experience, which we still remember fondly.
The Synod is not over yet. On the contrary, we are in the midst of the synodal journey of the universal Church, which awaits from us proposals, answers and directions regarding the Church's journey in the years to come. This day is therefore an opportunity for us to bring here, at the feet of Our Lady of Palestine, the journey of this past year, and entrust to her the life of our ecclesial community, our families and our entire diocese, of which Our Lady of Palestine is the patroness.
We have had many meetings, many occasions to pray, to encounter, to share our experiences, to go on pilgrimages. The heart of this whole journey and the main purpose we set for ourselves was to listen; to listen to each other, but above all to listen to you. Usually, we priests are the ones talking, the ones telling you to listen: our sermons, homilies, lectures, directions... This year, we tried to do the opposite. In some parts it worked well, in others not as well, but we always tried to be a church that knows how to listen.
Listening, communion and mission. These are the three words of the Synod. In order to live in communion with each other, a true communion, it is important to listen to one another. Family members who do not listen to each other lose communion over time, because they are no longer able to share life. And the same thing also happens in beautiful religious communities and our parish communities.
Let us therefore ask Our Lady to develop in us this important attitude, which should always apply to everyone: listening. Listening first of all to the Word of God, to find in it renewal for our spirit. Last year, on the Sunday of the Word of God, many parish communities and many families stopped for a day to read and pray with the Bible. It was a beautiful experience. I hope and pray that this will become a daily habit. Because listening and living close to the Word of God also makes us capable of caring for each other and for the needs of the community; it strengthens and nourishes our faith as Christians. Our communities will be stronger if they know how to listen. As we have already said, listening does not only mean hearing, but also welcoming in us the life of the other. Welcoming in us, first of all, the life of God, and then the life of the whole world around us.
So I pray that in this journey of ours, we learn more and more to be synodal communities. This does not just mean doing things together, deciding together, or being more democratic, but being communities where we all feel that we are participants in each other's lives.
Today, we also want to bring at the feet of Our Mother and Patroness the lives of our various civil communities in our diocese, in Cyprus, in Jordan, in Israel and especially in Palestine. While visiting and meeting the many parish and religious communities in the various territories of the diocese, I saw so many beautiful experiences of life and commitment, so much desire to participate; but I also saw the many problems that plague our respective societies. Impoverishment of so many families, economic fragility, rampant violence in cities and villages, social and sometimes even religious tensions, youth unemployment, and increasingly fragile politics, which stand far away from the reality of the country and are unable to give clear and immediate answers to the many needs of our society.
I am thinking in particular of the political and military tensions in Palestine, which recently seem to slowly but increasingly resemble the most difficult political and military tensions we've known in the past, which we've unfortunately experienced several times. There is a deep distrust, especially among young people, who are impatient to find answers to their expectations regarding life and dignity. This year, there have been too many funerals of young people who have died in this interminable conflict.
We are here then also to ask and cry out our desire for justice and peace, to ask those in powers to really commit themselves to the common good of all.
But we are here first of all to affirm once again that we firmly believe that "nothing is impossible for God" (Lk 1:37), and that with the intercession of Our Lady of Palestine, it is still possible to dream of a decent future for our families and especially our young people.
The Gospel presents us with the meeting of two women, St. Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary, and the element that stands out most here is disproportion. Disproportion between what happens and the echo of what happens. Because in reality almost nothing happens; simply two women who meet. Nothing more normal, simple, everyday like.
And then there is the significance of this event. How it is read by the two women, by the evangelist Luke, by the Church, and then by us here today. First, all we see is two people, Mary and Elizabeth, but then we come to understand that through this encounter there are so many other people; that indeed, the protagonists of this encounter are not only Mary and Elizabeth, but John the Baptist, Jesus, the Holy Spirit... Then, with the Magnificat, there is also the whole history of salvation: the poor, the rich, the hungry... There is Abraham and all the fathers to whom God made those promises that are fulfilled today. And the Magnificat ends with a "forever" (Lk 1:55), which opens to the future, and thus reaches us. So we are there, too....
The Gospel tells us that God wants to fill our lives with Himself, to make us, like Mary and like Elizabeth, bearers of the mystery of salvation, in this life of ours, such as it is; with its little things, its more or less successful daily routine, its contradictions, its political and economic difficulties to which I have alluded, its labors, its barrenness. We believe that this life of ours is inhabited by salvation, because God has simply chosen to come to us, in us.
St. Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary are two women who realize this and recognize it in each other. They recognize that their own history is the object of this attention from God, and that He gave life there where it was impossible for life to be born.
The Gospel reminds us, then, that we become aware of God's passage when we see Him in the other, as St. Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary did. Noticing God's presence in human life cannot happen outside of a human relationship, because we need the other to recognize God's passage in us.
This is the service we are called to render to each other. The synodal journey we have been talking about is also this. Not only to listen and hear each other, but to be able to recognize God's passage among us and in each other. This awareness brings and gives new life, confidence, a life of praise, of "Magnificat." Where we recognize the Lord's passage, history opens from its own small and narrow spaces to the immense spaces of the history of salvation; we stand in solidarity with a whole people walking on the same road, creating communion and instilling confidence. God's presence opens one to hope.
It takes courage today to talk about hope, about the future, about life. But if we really believe that God is present and that God can change the life of the world, then it is no longer utopia.
Let us ask Our Lady of Palestine to open our hearts to hope, to open our eyes and hearts not only to our problems, but also to the passage of God among us, among our poor, in our families, in our religious and parish communities, in our civil society.
We entrust to you once again our whole diocese of Jerusalem. May you give us the strength to be, in this Holy Land of ours, bearers of joy and hope.