Fr. José María García. While reading today’s Gospel (John 2, 14-22) and celebrating today’s feast day (Nov. 9), two thoughts spontaneously came to me. One is that the Lord is faithful, not only to his plan, but He is faithful to us. Why? We are working with the essence of our vocation, with our vocation as businesspeople and leaders. And what we have heard in today’s readings is exactly how the Lord, in the background, makes reference to his faithfulness, to that fidelity which allows us to be leaders.
Leadership at the service of life
We then think we have to be faithful to our vocation and thus it corresponds that it be thus. But authentic leadership, Christian leadership, that leadership which is always at the service of life, is a leadership, which comes from God. And it is accomplished according to how real our relationship with Him is real. It is a relationship not only of ideas, but one of attachment, a covenant with Him. The Lord is faithful to us. The Lord always comes to meet us. The Lord always gives us what we need to fulfill our mission.
As the Holy Father said to us, “the mercy of God is always available. The Lord does not get tired.” We suddenly tire of our own misery, and we settle in it. And we forget to ask for forgiveness and to renew ourselves in that grace which permits us, precisely, to fulfill our leadership.
Today, on the feast day we are celebrating – St. John Lateran – we commemorate the great Basilica, the Mother Basilica, we could say, of the Church, because it is the See of the Holy Father (the Vatican came later), the Church of the Bishop of Rome, it justly makes reference to us that that leadership is at the service of that life which is our own Church.
And to some extent, we always have the danger of falling into the Old Testament’s temptation of returning to the temples. And what St. Paul tells us in the reading, we have heard is very clear. In the first place, the temple of the New Covenant is not a physical temple. Not even does our Shrine justify itself if there is not a living shrine behind it. That is to say, there are men and women who live their faith, who live from that life which the Lord gives us; that is from God’s faithfulness toward us.
Thus we are living temples, places of encounter with the Lord. Suddenly, it is easier for us to return to the great monuments, to the great places. And what do we do with that? We avoid, and we escape our responsibility. It is easier to look at the Holy Family of Gaudí or the Cathedral of Cologne, than to look at the reality of the Church. See how powerful we are! Look at the tradition we have!
And it is true; they are expressions. But when one goes to a house, what is important is to discover the home there is within. Architects may put a lot of effort into a house, a lot of care, but what truly makes it a home, a place of life, is the family living within.
And it is exactly the same for us as Church. Our places are justified according to the life of God and God is faithful to us. God always gives us that life which allows us to fulfill what we are and to fulfill the mission He has given to us. This is as a first thought, precisely, to have present the feast day we are commemorating today.
On what authority do you do this?
But there is also something in the Gospel that has a great deal to do with us. The Jews, who we at times like to quickly brand as Pharisees, a people who do not understand or are very narrow-minded, were a people more understanding and much more religious than we think.
If you listen carefully to today’s Gospel, and we compare it to the possible reaction we might have had if someone in the Shrine decides to throw away all the things we have set up, we would spontaneously kick them out. Who does he think he is? And they would ask: “on what authority do you do this? What do you base yourself on?” They enter into a dialog with Him, not because they are afraid of Him, but because they are really religious. And if someone reacts so strongly with such a gesture – one as prophetic as this one – instead of condemning Him and excluding Him – let us say to excommunicate Him (a very natural tendency among us with those who bother us) – it is precisely the opposite: to enter into a dialog, to allow oneself to be questioned formally. On whose authority do you do this? They also have the right to question.
And the Lord gives them a response that is also valid for us today. The question is with what legitimacy do you do this? What do you base your authority on to do something like this? In the first place, He does not refer to himself. “I am powerful, these are my strengths. I am competent. I am strong. I am talented.” Rather, He goes back to the action of the Father in him. He is fundamentally the Son of the Father. And the gesture – because the gesture is what convinced the Jew – the sign that convinced the Jew more than the reasons, no matter how valid they were… what was it…precisely what they were to experience later? “This temple will be destroyed, but my Father will rebuild it in three days.”
Total identification with the Father
Even more so, He says “and I will rebuild it.” That total identification with the Father is what permits Him to legitimize his action and his authority. It is not by Him in the first place, but because He knows He is the Son of the Father. Because He knows the Father legitimizes him, by the vocation of the Father. And the Father places Him in such a situation, where He, what He comes to do is to renew the Temple because the situation was scandalous. The Jews probably had many reasons for having all their businesses around the Temple or within the Temple. And they probably had many justifications and knew how to explain why it was convenient to have their businesses within the Temple: for pastoral reasons, for convenience, etc. We always have reasons. But the Lord tells them, “Take this out of here because you are converting the place of prayer with the Father into a den of thieves.” That is, men who use the Faith for their own benefit, for their need. On what authority do you do this? I do it on the authority given to me knowing that I am the Son of God, with what it is to fulfill the Will of the Father and, precisely, opening myself to that action of the Father in me that allows me to do what I do, to say what I do. It is not of me in the first place, but because the Father who gives me this vocation asks this of me.
With what legitimacy, on what authority do you do what you do? This is a question which society also asks us today as today’s Church. On what authority do Christians speak as they do and ask what they ask? On what authority do we dare to dismantle, to disqualify as we so quickly disqualify when we see the signs of the times in our world? And we suddenly have to do it because our temple gets full, our place of prayer with God is soon filled with the many tables of the money changers, filled with many businesses which do not belong, filled with vicious leaders, as Fr. Guillermo Carmona said. Because there are other intentions, there are two discourses. And it is what the Church has suffered until ten minutes ago, until the arrival of Holy Father Francis who has had the valor to “kick out the tables” (pardon the expression) of the money changers who were installed within the Church herself.
And that, what did it bring as a consequence? That we would not have authority. We are not authentic, suddenly, we can go back to eternal life, and the one who does not comply we condemn to the pains of hell. But in the background, it is authenticating us, based on what? To fulfill the Will of the Father or on our businesses installed within the Church? On what authority are you conducting that renewal of the Church some ask themselves?
On what authority does the Church speak and announce? And the only thing the Church can say is exactly what Our Lord Jesus Christ said: fulfilling the will of my Father. If I do this, it is not because of me. It is not because I am a new leader who astutely needs the Church more than before, but because God is asking this of us. And that power, that conviction at the hour of action is what allows it to be believable; that people, who may be estranged, are moved, that people who are distant from the Church because they became disillusioned with the Church, by that mania we have of excommunicating the one who does not think as we do, suddenly they begin to look at the Church as their home. It is my house, even if I think differently, even if I am mistaken, but I have the right to be in my house.
Because he loves me
A mother does not exclude her child because he falls, because he is mistaken, even if he thinks differently or is in error. He will always be her child. And this is what is moving in the institutional Church; it shakes her up. We are not prepared for this if we only govern according to personal categories, our own and not those of the Pope.
Holy Father Francis is acting with such forcefulness but at the same time with such gentleness that we are moved. He has this firmness of the Gospel, but he also has that face and those maternal hands that make everyone feel sheltered and embraced.
Let me refer to an anecdote that I heard in Germany. They told me about one of those vagabonds or people who are typically at the train stations in Germany, somewhat inebriated, a bit asocial as they say, was picked up by the police or by the groups who take care of them. And among his things, the plastic bags in which they carry their belongings, appeared an image of Pope Francis. They then asked him, “Why do you have this picture of Pope Francis? A German in a German train station.” “Because he loves me.” What did he know? How had this man experienced that Pope Francis loved him? Because his language, his gestures are always personal.
On what authority does the Church speak? She speaks fulfilling the will of the Father. She speaks detaching herself from the “money changers’ tables,” from the corruptions that brought us shame and that we have swept under the table, but which, thanks to the Internet and the communication networks, are known throughout the world… priests, bishops, laity who disguise weaknesses as virtues, so to speak.
With what legitimacy can we celebrate the Jubilee?
On what authority does the Church speak? What legitimacy do you have? My legitimacy is in my origin, that I fulfill the will of the Father. And this also counts for us as Schoenstatt. We prepare ourselves to celebrate the Jubilee of Schoenstatt, the 100 years of the Covenant of Love, the 100 years of our Family. With what legitimacy can we celebrate it? To celebrate it not in the sense of a gala, that we are going to spend money we do not have to tell ourselves “we are fantastic, look at the good stalls we have here around the Shrine” or to truly take the message of the Covenant of Love to the people of today.
In what way, on what legitimacy can we celebrate the Jubilee? Fulfilling the will of the Father because the Father God asks this of us. We have no other legitimacy, we have no other legitimacy of our authority than being docile to the will of the Father, of seeking the will of the Father and putting it into practice.
Therefore, when we asked ourselves how we are going to celebrate, our attitude was to recall what our Father and Founder said to us: “Faithful to the original forces, found anew.” Father Kentenich, our Father, was, in a sense, very daring. Why? Because he trusted in God, in God’s fidelity and he also trusted in the openness of his children to the mercy of God. That we were not going to stand before God, as he would say, with white collars to say “we are perfect, You have to love us, You have nothing else to do but love us.” No, we present ourselves in our need. But that need through which you can act.
What we have so often said in this Congress. It is not about simply repeating the Founding Document until we are saturated by the texts. It is about going to the original sources, to see precisely which was the original force that led Father Kentenich to found. And strangely starting not from from the signs of the times. Father Kentenich did not make a study of the signs of the times and say “Aha…!!!!!” That came later. The first thing Father looked for to fulfill the will of the Father was to take the voice of his heart seriously.
Do you remember, are you aware of what was the voice of Father’s heart before the 18th of October of 1914? What was his concern, his motivation? To form the new man in the new community, we have thus formulated it so, this is how he told it to us. Yes, of course. But the force, the question he had which authenticates his action, what was it? Something we all surely understand; it is the concern for his children. They are going to war and will not survive. Only with the ethical vision of the new man in the new community with a great deal of self-education, these do not survive. The battlefields swallow them up, the environment swallows them up. And what does Father do? He goes to his personal experience, to the experience of his heart. And from there, he begins to search to see if that is real, motivated by this, to seek the will of God. And in this, he sees the signs of the times, but a part of what God has placed in his heart from that experience that he sees as a personal task of his fatherhood. Perhaps at that moment, he did not have it and did not even formulate it thus, but it motivated him. To what? To dare, to risk. To take that great leap of faith, as he told us and permanently repeated to us, was the most difficult of his life. What came later, let’s say in Spain, is “history.” Because he had the certainty that God was faithful to him, that the Blessed Virgin had taken his word seriously and that together they were fulfilling the will of God.
From the voice of his heart
In that force, from the voice of his heart, Father Kentenich understands those signs of the times, which as we often say today, imperceptibly. But that he did not read with sociological criterion, as we are reminded by our bishops in Aparecida, but from the perspective of faith knowing he is child, from knowing he is an instrument of God for his own. The analysis we make of the signs of the times are neither Marxist nor sociological – from whatever order they may be – but always from that attitude of the child who seeks the will of the Father.
Therefore it is that our Father was legitimized in taking that decision, to discern, seeking the signs from God for seeking God’s will. We, as Schoenstatters today, if we truly want to celebrate our Jubilee and be faithful to our Father, have to begin precisely as our Father, in that attitude of having a practical faith in Divine Providence which, in the first place, takes one’s own voices of the heart very seriously.
Why is the Schoenstatt Family vibrant? From top to bottom. From the heads who have the responsibility for the leadership to the Schoenstatter who has just sealed his Covenant of Love and begins to grow in the mystery of Schoenstatt. Because through them, that is where God makes himself present to us. That is the new temple. That is the temple of the New Covenant. That is the temple that speaks to us, not of the Old Testament, but of the newness given to us.
What are we doing here? The question is worthwhile. Are you legitimized for asking yourself the question about leadership? Are you capable, intelligent, do you have the means? But, what legitimizes you to say you are Schoenstatt leaders, Christians and Catholics? The same that the Lord said, the Lord’s same response. To seek in an attitude of practical faith in Divine Providence, asking from the heart of those who are mine and of my own heart. What is the will of God? Because that is where that new time is being formed. That is where the new Schoenstatt that Father wanted to give to the Church is being formed.
Culture of Encounter – Covenant Culture
The Holy Father is speaking to us of a “culture of encounter,” he speaks to us of a renewed Church. Where is Schoenstatt in this? Is it the instrument of the Blessed Mother in the hands of the Holy Father? We speak of a “covenant culture” (that is the topic they had given me). And it is precisely about that.
Covenant culture does not simply mean to create a methodology that can be applied, a formal means and we produce, let’s say, “the products.” In the first place, it is not a business.
Covenant culture is precisely that pedagogy which permits a culture of encounter where respect, where the valuing one another is real because we believe that God is present in one another, that God is acting in one another. That is what permits us, which legitimizes us to have authority as businesspeople…like Schoenstatters, like Christians, like Catholics today and before the society in which we exist and which is, as I say, our responsibility.
We celebrate the feast day of the Saint John Lateran Basilica. We celebrate the Church, and we celebrate Her from the standpoint of the will of the Father. A will that expresses itself in something so terrible, so difficult to manage but also so loved by God as is practical faith in Divine Providence that begins in the place that no one can enter but God and us, that place is our own heart. In that Heart Shrine that God has given to us. Therefore, in solidarity with one another, in a Covenant of Love in solidarity … we place ourselves at the service of the Church and society, from our vocation, in what our Holy Father Francis asks of us.
Homily in Costa Rica, 2013 CIEES (Iberia-American Congress for Schoenstatt Businesspeople and Executives), November 9, 2013
Transcript: Claudia Echenique, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Original English. Translation: Carlos Cantú, La Feria, USA
Official WebsiteCIEES2013 (Spanish): http://congresoempresarioscr.com
Videos of the homilies given during the Congress (spanish)