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Dear brothers and sisters,
On this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered together with joy to celebrate a feast of sanctity. Let us give thanks to God, who made his glory, the glory of Love, shine in the Martyrs of Otranto, in Mother Laura Montoya and in Mother María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come for this feast – from Italy, from Colombia, from Mexico, from other countries – and I thank you!
I would like to consider the new saints in the light of the Word of God that has been proclaimed. This is a Word that has invited us to fidelity to Christ, even unto death; it has called us to recognize the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to all; and it has spoken to us of the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and missionary work lose their Christian character. The Acts of the Apostles, when they speak to us of the deacon Stephen, the first Christian martyr, insist on saying that he was a man “full of the Holy Spirit” (6:5, 7:55). What does this mean? It means that he was full of the Love of God, that is whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the Risen Christ, so much so that it led him to follow Christ in total fidelity, to the point of the gift of self.
Today the Church proposes for our veneration a group of martyrs who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About 800 people, who survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, Italy, were decapitated on the outskirts of that city. They refused to deny their faith and they died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which permits us to see beyond the limits of our human vision, beyond the confines of earthly life, it permits us to contemplate “the heavens opened up,” as St. Stephen says, and the living Christ at the Father’s right hand. Dear friends, let us maintain the faith that we have received and that is our treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never let us lack strength and serenity.
As we venerate the Martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain many Christians who, in our own time and in many parts of the world, now still suffer from violence, and to give them the courage of fidelity and to answer evil with good.
The second thought we can draw from the words of Jesus that we have heard in the Gospel: “I pray for those who believe in me through their word: that all may be one; as you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us” (John 17:20). St. Maria Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization first as a teacher and then as a spiritual mother of the indigenous people, to whom she gave hope, welcoming them with God’s love and bringing them to him through an effective pedagogy that respected their culture and did not oppose it. In her work of evangelization Mother Laura truly made herself all things to all men, according to the expression of St. Paul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:22). Today too her spiritual daughters live and bring the Gospel to the most obscure and needy places, as a kind of vanguard of the Church.
This first saint, born in the beautiful country of Colombia, teaches us to be generous with God, not to live our faith alone – as if it were possible to live the faith in an isolate way – but to communicate it, to convey the joy of the Gospel with words and the witness of life in every place in which we find ourselves. Wherever we live let us let this light of the Gospel shine! She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, which corrode Christian communities and corrode our heart, and she teaches us to welcome all without prejudice, without discrimination, without reticence, with sincere love, giving them the best of ourselves and above all sharing with them what is most precious to us, which is not our works or our organizations, no! Our most precious possession is Christ and his Gospel.
Lastly, a third thought. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them” (John 17:26). The fidelity of martyrs unto death and the proclamation of the Gospel to everyone are rooted in, have their roots in the love of God poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (cf. Romans 5:5), and in the testimony that we must give of this love in our daily life. St. María Guadalupe García Zavala knew this well. Giving up a comfortable life – how much damage is done by a comfortable life, well-being; the “bourgeoisification” of the heart paralyzes us. Giving up a comfortable life to follow Jesus’ call, she taught the love of poverty, which permitted a greater love of the poor and infirm. Mother Lupita knelt on the floor in the hospital before the sick and abandoned to serve them with tenderness and compassion. And this is called “touching the flesh of Christ.” The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this way of acting: do not be ashamed, do not be afraid, do not be repulsed by “touching the flesh of Christ.” Mother Lupita understood what this “touching the flesh of Christ” meant. Today her spiritual daughters continue to seek to reflect God’s love in works of charity, without avoiding sacrifice and facing all obstacles with meekness, with apostolic perseverance (hypomonē), enduring them with courage.
This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus did, and this means not bring shut up in ourselves, in our own problems, our own ideas, our own interests, in this little world that does so much damage to us, but going out and caring for those who need attention, understanding, help, to being them the warmth and nearness of God’s love, through delicate gestures of sincere affection and love.
Fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel, to proclaim it with our words and lives, witnessing to God’s love with our love, with our charity to all: these are the luminous examples and teachings the saints who are proclaimed today. But they also pose questions for our Christian life: How am I faithful to Christ? We bring this question with us to reflect on during the day: How am I faithful to Christ? Am I able to manifest my faith with respect but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize those in need, do I see everyone as a brother or sister to love? Let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the new saints, that the Lord fill our lives with the joy of his love. Amen.[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]