HOMILY OF CARDINAL TARCISIO BERTONE
Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls
Your Most Reverend Eminences,
The First Reading presented for our meditation is the well-known passage from the Book of Job. This harshly-tried righteous man proclaimed, indeed, almost shouted: "I know that my Redeemer lives... from my flesh I shall see God... and my eyes shall behold [him], and not another". While we offer our final farewell to Chiara Lubich, holy Job's words remind us of the ardent desire for the encounter with Christ that marked her entire life. It marked even more intensely her last months and days, tried by the intensification of an illness that drained her of all physical energy, in a gradual ascent of Calvary, crowned by a sweet return to the Father's enfolding arms.
Chiara completed the last lap of her earthly pilgrimage accompanied by the prayer and affection of her followers, who encircled her in a great, uninterrupted embrace. Her last "yes" to the mystical bridegroom of her soul, Jesus "abandoned-Risen", was feeble but determined. Everything was then accomplished: her dream at the beginning had become true, her passionate longing was satisfied. Chiara is meeting the One she loved without seeing him, and full of joy can exclaim: "Yes, my Redeemer lives!".
The news of her death widely echoed in every milieu, caused deep mourning among thousands of men and women on the five continents, believers and non-believers, the powerful and the poor of this earth. Benedict XVI, who immediately sent his comforting Blessing, here renews through me the assurance of his participation in the profound grief of her spiritual family.
Representatives of other Christian Churches and of different religions have joined the chorus of admiring esteem and deep participation. The mass media too have brought into the limelight the work she carried out, spreading evangelical love among people of different cultures, faiths and backgrounds. In fact, we can indeed say, Chiara Lubich's life was a song of praise to God's love, to God who is Love.
"He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him". How often did Chiara meditate upon these words and how frequently did she return to them in her writings, for example, in the Words of Life on which hundreds of thousands of people have drawn for their spiritual formation! There is no other way to know God and to give meaning and value to human existence. Love alone, divine Love, makes us capable of "generating" love, of loving even our enemies. This is the Christian newness, in this lies the whole Gospel.
But can we live Love? After the Last Supper, in the moving farewell to the Apostles - we have just heard it -, Jesus prayed "that they may all be one". Thus, it is Christ's prayer that sustains his friends on their journey in any age. It is his Spirit that gives birth to witnesses of the living Gospel in the Church; again, it is he, the living God, who leads us in times of sadness and doubt, of difficulty and suffering. Those who entrust themselves to him fear nothing, neither the hardship of the voyage on stormy seas nor obstacles or adversities of any kind. Those who build their house on Christ are building on the rock of Love that sustains all, exceeds all, conquers all.
The 20th century is dotted with the bright stars of this divine love. Consequently, it should not be remembered solely for the marvellous breakthroughs achieved in the fields of science and technology and for economic progress, which has not eliminated, however, the unjust division of resources and goods between peoples but on the contrary has sometimes even accentuated it. The 20th century will not pass into history merely because of the efforts made to build peace, which unfortunately have not prevented horrendous crimes against humanity, and conflicts and wars that never cease to bathe vast regions of the earth in blood. Although the last century was fraught with contradictions, it is the century in which God brought forth innumerable, heroic men and women who, while they alleviated the wounds of the sick and the suffering and shared the destiny of the little, the poor and the lowly, dispensed the bread of charity that heals hearts, opens minds to the truth and restores trust and enthusiasm to lives broken by violence, injustice and sin. The Church already identifies some of these pioneers of charity as Saints and Blesseds: Fr Guanella, Fr Orione, Fr Calabria, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and even more.
It was also the century when new Ecclesial Movements were born, and Chiara Lubich found room in this constellation for a charism that was quite her own and distinguished her apostolic action. The Foundress of the Focolare Movement, in her own silent, humble style, did not create institutions for social assistance and human advancement, but dedicated herself to kindling in hearts the fire of love for God. She formed individuals who were love itself, who lived the charism of unity and communion with God and with their neighbour; people who spread "love-unity" by making themselves, their homes and their work a "focolare" [hearth] where divine love burns contagiously and sets ablaze all who are close to it. This is a mission possible to everyone because the Gospel is within everyone's reach: Bishops and priests, children, young people and adults, consecrated and lay people, married couples, families and communities, all are called to live the ideal of unity: "that they may all be one!". In the last interview she granted, which was published in the final days of her agony, Chiara said: "The vital sap of the Mystical Body of Christ is the wonder of reciprocal love".
The Focolare Movement is thus committed to living the Gospel to the letter: "the most powerful and effective social revolution". From it were launched the "New Families" and "New Humanity" Movements, the publishing house Città Nuova, the Citadel of Loppiano and other citadels of witness on the different continents, as well as lay branches such as the "Volunteers of God". In the climate of renewal brought about by the Pontificate of Blessed John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council, her courageous ecumenical openness and quest for interreligious dialogue could come to fruition. Catering for the years of youthful defiance, the "GEN Movement" catalyzed thousands and thousands of young men and women, fascinating them with the ideal of Gospel love, then extending its radius of action with "Young People for a United World". In order to present the Gospel unabridged to children and youth, Chiara founded the Movement "Youth for Unity". In Brazil, in response to the plight of those who lived on the outskirts of the great megalopolises, she inaugurated the project of an "Economy of Communion in Freedom", advancing a new theory and economic praxis based on brotherhood, for sustainable development for the benefit of all. May it please the Lord to favour many scholars and financial agents to assume the economy of communion as a serious resource in order to plan a new shared world order! And how many other meetings did she organize with representatives of the different religions, of politics and of the world of culture!
"Mariapolis", Mary's city, is the name that Chiara Lubich chose to give to the meetings and proposals of a society renewed by Gospel love. Why should they be called Mary's City? Because for Chiara, Our Lady was "the most precious key for entering the Gospel". And perhaps this is why she was able to highlight the Church's own "Marian profile" effectively and constructively. Chiara decided to entrust her work to Mary by giving it her own name: "Work of Mary". The Work, Chiara therefore affirmed, "will remain on the earth like another Mary: totally Gospel, nothing but the Gospel and, since it is the Gospel, it will never die". And how would it be possible not to imagine that the Holy Virgin herself accompanied Chiara on her arrival at the quay of eternity?
Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue with the Eucharistic celebration, bringing to the altar our "thank you" to the Lord for the witness which this sister in Christ has bequeathed to us, for her prophetic intuitions which preceded and prepared the great changes in history and the extraordinary events that the Church experienced in the 20th century. Let us join our gratitude to Chiara's. Reflecting on all the gifts and all the graces she received, Chiara said that when presented to God, and the Lord would ask her her name, she would simply answer: "my name is Thank you. Thank you, Lord, for everything and for always".
It is up to us, and especially to her spiritual children, to continue the mission she began. From Heaven, where we like to think she has been welcomed by Jesus, her Bridegroom, she will continue to walk beside us and help us. Today, while we take our leave of Chiara with affection, let us listen to these words, in her voice, which she often repeated: "I would like the Work of Mary, at the end of time when, compact, it will be waiting to appear before the abandoned and Risen Jesus, to be able to say to him - making its own the words of the Belgian theologian Jacques Leclercq that never cease to move me: "On your day, my God, I shall come towards you.... I shall come towards you, my God... and with my most insane dream: to bring the world to you in my arms'". This was Chiara's dream. May this also be our constant wish: "Father... that they may all be one... so that the world may believe".