Tuesday, March 18, 2008

With Basilica as "Hearth," the Focolarini Bid Farewell

Amid tributes from the Pope, his deputy, Italy's top politicians and ecumenical/interfaith leaders from around the world, the funeral of the Focolare foundress Chiara Lubich jammed Rome's Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls earlier today.

Mother and head of the A-list "new movement" that came to count 2.1 million members in almost 200 countries, Lubich died last week at 88 at the Focolare headquarters in Rocca di Papa, south of Rome, where she was buried in the chapel following the afternoon rites.

With the papal basilica filled to capacity, hundreds more watched the liturgy on large screens in the piazza outside despite yet another day of Rome's infamous March rain season.
People came from around the world. Among those who came to bear witness to Lubich’s commitment to dialogue among Christians and believers of other religions, there were leaders representing various movements, people like Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community and Anna Maria aus der Wiesche, from the Evangelical Lutheran Christusbruderschaft in Selbitz (Germany). There were people from other Christian Churches like Metropolitan Gennadios, Orthodox archbishop of Italy and Malta in representation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, German Evangelical Bishop Christian Krause, and Anglican Bishop Robin Smith. Among those from other religions, there was Lisa Palmieri, representative for the American Jewish Committee to the Holy See, Imam Izak El Hajji Pasha from the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, New York, Rev Yasutaka Watanabe, chairman of the board of directors of Risshō Kōsei Kai (a Japanese Buddhist movement) and Pra Tongrathana, a Theravāda Buddhist from Thailand.

In his address Cardinal Bertone said that the 20th century was full of bright stars of divine love. “Notwithstanding its many contradictions,” he said, “the last century saw God inspire many heroic men and women; people who as they tried to relieve the pain of the sick and the ill and share the fate of ordinary people, the poor, those at the bottom, also shared the bread of charity that heals the heart, opens the mind, rebuilds trust and passion in lives broken by violence, injustice and sin. Some of these pioneers of charity are already saints and blessed for the Church; people like Fr Guanella, Fr Orione, Fr Calabria, Mother Teresa of Kolkata and many more.”

The last century “was also the century in which new Church movements were born. And Chiara Lubich has a place in that constellation with a charisma all of her own which distinguishes her character and apostolic action,’ he added.

“The founder of the Focolare Movement did not create a welfare or humanitarian association, but in her quite and humble way, she devoted herself to light the fire of God’s love in people’s heart. She inspired people to be love themselves, to live the charisma of unity and communion with God and their fellow human beings, to spread love and unity by making themselves, their homes and their work a focolare, a hearth in which a blazing love becomes contagious and lights up all that is around it; a mission that everyone can carry out because the Gospel is within everyone’s grasp: bishops and priests, children, teenagers and adults, the consecrated and the laity, married people, families and communities; all called to live the ideal of unity which is to let all be one! Indeed, in her last interview during her long agony Chiara said that “the wonder of mutual love ‘is the vital sap of the mystical Body of Christ’.”

“To us, especially to her spiritual children, falls the task of pursuing the mission she started. In heaven, where we like to think she was welcomed by Jesus her groom, she will continue to walk with us as well as help us.”
...and in tribute, Zenit has re-run a 2000 Good Friday meditation written by Lubich.

It was necessary that the Son, in whom we all are, should feel separated from the Father. He had to experience being forsaken by God, so that we might never be forsaken again. He had taught that no one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends.

He who is life itself was giving himself completely. It was the culmination of his love, love's most beautiful expression.

All the painful aspects of life conceal his face: They are nothing other than him.

Yes, because Jesus, crying out in his abandonment, is the image of those who are mute: He no longer knows how to speak.

He is the image of one who is blind -- he cannot see; of one who is deaf -- he cannot hear.

He is the weary person, moaning.

He is on the brink of desperation.

He is hungry ... for union with God.

He is the image of one who has been deceived, betrayed; he seems a failure.

He is fearful, timid, disoriented.

Jesus forsaken is darkness, melancholy, contrast. He is the image of all that is strange, indefinable, that has something monstrous about it. Because he is God crying out for help!

He is the lonely person, the derelict. He seems useless, an outcast, in shock.

Consequently we can recognize him in every suffering brother or sister.

When we approach those who resemble him, we can speak to them of Jesus forsaken.

To those who recognize that they are similar to him and are willing to share his fate, he becomes: for the mute, words; for the doubtful, the answer; for the blind, light; for the deaf, voice; for the weary, rest; for the desperate, hope; for the separated, unity; for the restless, peace.

With him the person is transformed and the non-meaning of suffering acquires meaning. He had cried out a "why?" to which no one replied, so that we would have the answer to every question.

The problem of human life is suffering. Whatever form it may take, however terrible it may be, we know that Jesus has taken it upon himself and -- as if by a divine alchemy -- he transforms suffering into love.

I can say from my own experience that as soon as we lovingly accept any suffering in order to be like him, and then continue to love by doing God's will, if the suffering is spiritual, it disappears; if it is physical, it becomes a light burden.

When our pure love comes in contact with suffering, it transforms it into love. In a certain sense, it divinizes the suffering. We could almost say that the divinization of suffering that Jesus brought about continues in us. And after each encounter in which we have loved Jesus forsaken, we find God in a new way, more face-to-face, with greater openness and fuller unity.

Light and joy return; and with the joy, that peace which is the fruit of the spirit.