“What Gift Does the Spirit Want to Offer to the World through Us?”
This is the homily of the Fr. Xavier Thirukudumbam for occasion of the Arnoldus Family Day, celebrated on 16th of January during the 15o General Chapter.
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I believe that your long wait, to conduct this 15th General Chapter, has contributed positively, to consolidate the process of your preparation. I was infatuated with the profound and provocative question, you raised during the process of your preparation: i.e., “what gift does the spirit want to offer to the world through us?” This question is not only relevant to you, sisters, but to every member of the Arnoldus family. I would like to invite you to reflect with me further, on the crucial question that guided your preparation, although you may have arrived at better responses to this question. My reflections are based on the liturgical readings of the day. I would like to reflect on the above question with the help of three other questions.
- What is the spirit of a Chapter?
- What gifts of the spirit are we blessed with? and,
- Who are the beneficiaries of these gifts?
We heard in the first reading, Isaiah articulating the mood of God, in relation to his people. The mood is one of joy and delight. God rejoices over his people for what they have become. The General Chapter is a time of celebration and rejoicing with God, and with one another, for what God has done to the congregation, and through the congregation to the world. As we rejoice with the Lord, the Lord himself is delighted and rejoices over us for the marvels we have done through our missionary interventions. There is no doubt, you have made a difference in the world with your transforming presence. I pray that this joyful mood permeates all your Chapter undertakings.
In the second reading, saint Paul tells us what gifts of the spirit we are blessed with, that which He wants to offer to the world. We are blessed with varieties of gifts. We are blessed with rich personal resources. There are very skilled and qualified people among us. There are people in our congregations with expertise in various fields of specialization. We have a sound tradition and a profound spirituality. We have incredible intercultural communities and impressive record of missionary achievements. Our success stories of promoting human rights, equality, justice, peace and integrity of creation are remarkable. The lessons we have learnt and the challenges we encountered have strengthened, shaped and transformed us.
With this commendable history behind you, many congregations may envy you, many bishops would want to invite you to work in their dioceses, many NGOs would like to be your mission partners, and of course, the SVDs would love to expand our collaboration with you. But what does the Spirit want?
That takes us to the third question: who are the beneficiaries of these gifts? To whose common good, these gifts are to be dispensed? Today’s gospel offers us, excellent insights in dealing with these questions.
Firstly, according to St. John, Jesus performs his first miracle of transforming the water into wine, in an obscure, small village of Cana. It is not a high-profile project. For the other gospel writers, this is not the first miracle of Jesus. His second miracle of healing of the son of a royal official from Capernaum (4:46-54) is also performed there.
Secondly, the miracle is done at the behest of Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is the first one to sense the problem at the wedding feast. With utmost sensitivity of a woman, and firmness of a mother, she manages the situation resolutely. The situation is very delicate, and the need is very urgent. She takes control of the situation. “They run short of wine, do something,” she says to Jesus. But Madam, it is not my duty, and I don’t want to interfere with someone else’s job!, replies Jesus But for Mary, there is no place for compromises or negotiations now. She tells the servants straight away, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Thirdly, there are all indications that the family of the bridegroom is poor. An analytical understanding of the gospel reveals, that the family could make only minimum provisions, and afford only for cheaper or inferior quality wine for the wedding. But they had large hearts. They ran out of, not only wine, but also joy. They are facing a situation of shame and a possible liability litigation, because wedding parties those days, are often reciprocal, with mutual obligations.
Fourthly, the collaborators in the wine project of Jesus are not the disciples, or the guests; not even the steward of the wedding, but the simple, poor and busy servants. When Jesus asked them to fill the jars with water, they could very well reply saying, hey, look, we are busy with the tasks assigned to us. It is not easy to fill those six jars, measuring huge quantity of water of about 750 liters. Besides, we are supposed to take orders from our chef and not from you. But they did not say that. They readily collaborate with Jesus in working this wonder. The knowledge of the mystery of water turning into wine was given only to these simple servants, and no one else, not even the bridegroom, or the steward or the guests.
Now there is an abundance of wine. Perhaps the disciples were getting ready with vessels to collect the left-over wine. But the impact of this extraordinary event kept them spellbound. They learnt important lessons about the source of the gifts, the beneficiaries, and collaborators in the wine-project of Jesus.
Dear sisters and brothers, our founder Arnold Janssen left us with the rich spiritual legacy, of relying on the divine providence. We have no shortage of resources. We will never run short of wine. What I want to underline is, that we are blessed with enormous amount of gifts. But the crucial aspects of our missionary projects are: who are our beneficiaries, what are their needs, and who are our collaborators? May the Holy Spirit continue to guide you in your collective discernment and decision-making process. Amen.