Local Communities: Witness and evangelisation
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  • Create Date Thursday, April 21, 2022
  • Last Updated 21/04/2022
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It was a truly "glocal" experience that brought together, from 7 to 10 April, 2500 leaders of the local communities of the Focolare Movement, partly present at the Mariapolis Centre of Castel Gandolfo (Italy), partly via streaming. Margaret Karram introduced the work of this "School".

Dear Everyone,

You cannot imagine how happy I am to be with you! I greet each and every one of those here in this room and all who are connected from all over the world! And through you I greet all the communities you represent. They are the most lively and beautiful part of the Movement.

Today I am here because I would like to experience – as far as I can – at least a part of this School with you and I would say that it could not have come at a better time, or one more necessary for the Movement and for all humanity.

We can all see the wave of violence that is affecting many places in the world, with conflicts that bring destruction and death; that build walls not only on Europe’s borders, but in many other countries of the world, that maybe are more forgotten. And all this is happening while the pandemic shows no sign of diminishing, and a general state of insecurity and fear is spreading and casts doubt on our ideals, on the values in which we believe and for which we have given our lives.

And we ask ourselves: what can we do today, in the circumstances in which we are living, to bring peace back to our communities, peoples and continents?

Love has been the heart of our life since the beginning of the adventure of the first local communities: a life spent in love with the Gospel. A life lived – precisely – in community with simplicity, joy, radicalness and love. And it is because they were touched by this love, right from the start, people drew closer and their numbers have multiplied. This is a story that is also your own story today: this is what the countless experiences you have in your localities tell us and – because you love – people decide to change the course of their life, and perhaps unexpected and complete changes take place in people’s lives.

The more mutual love circulates in the community, the more each one feels growing within them the energy to make courageous and generous choices. Thus, the imagination of love increases and new ways of helping, collaborating, welcoming and sustaining are invented; new ways of being alongside those who suffer; talents and resources are discovered; new ideas emerge. In reality, day by day we go forward together on a journey of holiness that is never the same, but is always new because it is animated, precisely, by the desire to build relationships based on gospel love that "looks at" each brother and sister seeing them as unique, and therefore worthy of a personalized love.

Every time I listen to the link-up, or hear about the initiatives of United World Week, when we hear the experiences of New Humanity or the inundations, the fruits in the New Families groups or in the parishes and neighbourhoods, I feel deeply happy inside because it is like opening my eyes to portions of humanity that are imbued with the divine. This divine emerges, however, from a great concreteness, and is the fruit of real gestures of love. If we are aware of evil, there is also Goodness that makes progress and gives hope.

If I could tell you two words on which to base the life of your local communities, I would say: "witness and evangelization". These two actions should increasingly be natural for us; they should be the "foundation" on which to base a true community; this is what distinguishes it from any other group or association of people.

A local community lives and works according to a gospel lifestyle in its relationships with everyone. Therefore, those who are around you and observe you, are perhaps struck by a good deed, by help given spontaneously, by unconditional listening, by our respect for every person, and let’s also say, by protecting the environment. It is love that conquers.

Keeping this quality of love alive and constant is not always easy; it is a challenge for every day. We must always know how to "start again" in order to make Jesus’s thought and feelings our own, in a deep way, as well as his faith and trust, his loving way of seeing every person.

In 1975 Chiara said:

“The life of the Word brings about in people a complete re-evangelization of their way of thinking, of willing, of loving. Thus, the Gospel, the law of life, is incarnated in us.

The Gospel is not a book like other books. Wherever it takes root, it gives rise to the Christian revolution, because the Gospel dictates laws not only for the union of the soul with God, but also for the union of people with one another.

The Gospel calls for the unity of all as an imperative, for the last will of Jesus to be fulfilled at least in that social fabric wherever there are Christians who live the Word of life.

And wherever one of these live, even the desert will flower.”

(C. Lubich 16.1.1975 – Meeting of the Volunteers).

In our societies, wherever we look, we find the most varied sufferings. There are environments withered by the bitterness of life, which takes away hope. It is powerful to think that Chiara assures us: wherever there is someone who lives the Word, "even the desert will flower".

So many "deserts" could flower through the witness of living communities! Who knows how many beautiful and deep experiences you are having in many local communities, by helping refugees, the victims of war, the homeless poor and so on?

Already in 1949 Chiara looked to Jesus forsaken and read in his cry a program of life, seeking Him, His face, in all the most painful situations. Even more so today, He is the one who always inspires us how to live in these very complex times. This is also testified to by the "mission" that the General Assembly of the Focolare set itself in February 2021: "To embrace the world, listening to the cry of humanity, of creation and of the new generations".                                                             

With Jesus forsaken, we are called not only to embrace our own sorrows and limitations, asking forgiveness for our failures, but we feel challenged to seek him in humanity that resembles him. Therefore, every place is our place, the wounds of every brother or sister are ours, so is the pain of those who ask us for help or for a response of love.

That is why I would like to share with you what we are experiencing at this time in the Movement:

I think most of you will have heard of the recent publication of the results of an investigation into a series of abuses at the hands of a former focolarino in France. It is an unspeakable pain that leaves without peace the victims, our communities, and me too. I wrote a letter to our communities in France, copied to all our people in the world, “asking forgiveness for the suffering they have experienced, not only at the hands of whoever committed abuse, but also because of our indifference, our lack of vigilance and our lack of understanding.” And we added: “This is a particularly important and key moment of our life, in which God is calling us to be able to remain in the trial of the harsh reality which the report puts into light. We can’t escape, nor can we look the other way, even if we know that over many decades, the charism of unity has not only had the experience of abuses or attacks on the dignity of people but has also witnessed a lot of life, light and faithfulness, and much self-giving at the service of unity in the Church and in the world.”

I wanted to tell you that some words of Pope Francis have greatly helped me to grasp the gift behind this very painful event. Speaking to the Roman Curia on December 21st, 2020, the Pope said:

“Those who fail to view a crisis in the light of the Gospel simply perform an autopsy on a corpse. They see the crisis, but not the hope and the light brought by the Gospel. We are troubled by crises not simply because we have forgotten how to see them as the Gospel tells us to, but because we have forgotten that the Gospel is the first to put us in crisis. If we can recover the courage and humility to admit that a time of crisis is a time of the Spirit, whenever we are faced with the experience of darkness, weakness, vulnerability, contradiction and loss, we will no longer feel overwhelmed. Instead, we will keep trusting that things are about to take a new shape, emerging exclusively from the experience of a grace hidden in the darkness. “For gold is tested in the fire and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation” (Sir 2:5).

“… In this sense, our unwillingness to enter into crisis and to let ourselves be led by the Spirit at times of trial condemns us to remaining forlorn and fruitless, or even in conflict. By shielding ourselves from crisis, we hinder the work of God’s grace, which would manifest itself in us and through us. If a certain realism leads us to see our recent history only as a series of mishaps, scandals and failings, sins and contradictions, short-circuits and setbacks in our witness, we should not fear. Nor should we deny everything in ourselves and in our communities that is evidently tainted by death and calls for conversion. Everything evil, wrong, weak and unhealthy that comes to light serves as a forceful reminder of our need to die to a way of living, thinking and acting that does not reflect the Gospel. Only by dying to a certain mentality will we be able to make room for the newness that the Spirit constantly awakens in the heart of the Church.”

This invitation to be born again, looking at every wound, crisis or pain in the light of the Gospel and with the hope that comes from the Gospel is an invitation I make to myself and to all of you, coordinators of local communities, in order to be credible witnesses to the great gift of the charism to which God has called us.

Dear Everyone, I am with you in this inspiring task!

More than ever today humanity needs a witness of gospel life, and I am sure that each of you is here because you were called, personally, by Jesus, to be at the service of every sister and brother, especially those whom our society calls the least, the rejected.

For this reason, my wish for each one of you is that these days of your school – which also come a short time before Easter, be a time of rebirth and resurrection – and may above all be a strong call to aim for holiness: personally, and all together.

  • to go into depth and rediscover the joy and courage of our first calling.
  • to resume our journey following Jesus.
  • to be light, leaven, and salt in our environments.
  • to spread His love everywhere to many.

I embrace you with all my heart, together with the communities you represent. Please give everyone our love, our trust, and our best wishes for a Holy Easter of rebirth in love for us all, an Easter of peace!

Margaret Karram

Castel Gandolfo, 7 April 2022

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