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"Here is the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sins of the world"

2nd Sunday Ordinary Time (Year A)
Homily for the close of the Salesian Family Spirituality Days
Is 49:4.5-6; 1Cor 1:1-3; Jn 1:29-34

Dear brothers and sisters
We bring this year's Salesian Family Spirituality Days to a close by giving thanks and praise to the Lord who has brought us together, lets us hear his voice, and sends us back to our homes, communities and work with the mission of pointing young people to his presence amongst us. Jesus is the only one who can quench our thirst for love, life and freedom, because He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world".
Over these days we have reflected on the most essential element of the Salesian charism, Don Bosco's Preventive System, a true gift of God for all members of the Salesian Family, parents, educators and the young. We are dealing with a system that has an immense potential to bring everyone to holiness, educators and those being educated, becuase it transforms educators especially through the energy of pastoral charity, but also converts the young into authentic actors in their own education, freeing them from harmful experiences that are a risk to their physical health, psychological maturity, and eternal salvation, and freeing up all their physical, intellectual, affective, moral and spiritual energies to ward off negative experiences when these occur, and to build strong personalities, excellent human beings, good Christians and future citizens of heaven.
But we have also seen that just as essential in our mission is the promotion and defence of the rights of people, especially children, adolescents, older young people, convinced as we are that economic poverty is not the greatest problem, even if it seems the most evident and immediate one, but rather a mentality that justifies and promotes the scandalous divide between the rich and the poor, between those who enjoy rights and others who are deprived of them. Certainly we are speaking of the basic rights of every human person, like health, education, a home, family, but also religious freedom, and, especially Christ, who is everyone's right.
The Word of God which we have listened to, tells us that life is a calling and that everyone has a mission to carry out: the Servant of Yahweh is called to be the servant of God and his mission is to be “a light for the peoples” and to bring salvation to all. Paul feels himself called to be “an apostle of Christ”, with the specific mission of preaching Christ crucified. John the Baptist was born to be the precursor of Christ and from his mother's womb has received the splendid mission of preparing for his coming, recognising him in the midst of the people and pointing him out to his disciples as “the Lamb of God”, filled with the Holy Spirit, the Son of God recognised by the Father, and witnessing to him through his word, life and death.

We too, dear brothers and sisters, as members of the Salesian Family, have a calling, a vocation: to be the precursors of the Christ we know, and recognising him, present him to the world. The Salesian mission is, in fact, nothing other than being believers who make known the Spirit's breath wherever he sows seeds of life, good, truth, beauty; who make God's presence discoverable and his provident love nin creation, history; who let young people see the presence of Christ in his Church, in the poor, the needy and the marginalised, and point to Him as the one who is seeking their hearts, because He is able to fulfil their deepest desires, and not leave their hopes unfulfilled, and encourage them to become his disciples.
Without John's witness, Jesus would have passed unnoticed by the crowd. And what happened then happens today too, where traces of God in the world seem to have been lost, where we experience the “silence of God” and where we seem to be beguiled into thinking we can live apart from his presence, his loving presence, his salvific role. The Baptist had the grace of living in waiting for the Christ, preparing to receive him, with mind and heart alert and vigilant, and then recognising him amongst the crowd which was looking for him. The Baptist had the courage to be the first to point out Jesus as the victor over sin and who had the audacity to not let what he knew pass by in silence. And so, supported by the Baptist, Jesus could begin to manifest his presence amongst men.
Nevertheless the Gospel does not only want to remind us of the merit of John in waiting for and pointing out Jesus as the Lamb of God who hands himself over to death in order to overcome sin, as the man filled with the Spirit and who is the Son of God, but rather it wants to draw our attention to the need for Christian witness so that Jesus can be recognised and followed in our generation, also in need of redemption. There would have been little point in God becoming incarnate as the son of Mary if Jesus had not been accepted as the Son of God. We must not forget what the Prologue of John's Gospel says: “He came amongst his own but his own did not accept him. But to whoever did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God”. It is a very sad thing, also in our own experience, to touch evil close at hand, to be aware of its tremendous power, and at the same time to pretend to have no need of Christ and to want to substitute him by scientific and technical progress, money and wellbeing. With great courage and frankness Benedict XVI says in his encyclical “Spe Salvi” that science – even if it makes life easier and more comfortable for men and women of this earth, at least for those who can benefit from it – does not redeem man. and that's because “technology and science – does not tend towards a purpose, or promote a particular meaning, does not open up scenarios of salvation, does not redeem, does not reveal the truth: technology is functional”. (U. Galimberti, L’ospite inquietante. Il nichilismo e i giovani, Feltrinelli, Milano 2007, p.21)
Well then, if Jesus had not counted on the availability of John the Baptist, he would not have been presented as the Lamb, the man filled with the Spirit, the Son of God. In affirming Jesus' mission, John accepted that his own would diminish: by indicating Jesus as the Lamb who takes away sin, he sent all those who come to see him towards Jesus.
Today, as yesterday, or better, today more than yesterday, Jesus needs people who will make him known. There is a need for people to make God's presence seen in the world. God's desire to be close to us, in a word, his incarnation, would have been a failure if there had not been John the Baptist to make him visible amongst the crowd.
Here is our Salesian mission, dear brothers and sisters: being people who given witness to Jesus amongst the young, especially those who are poor socially and economically, needy in terms of emotions and affection, at risk from the perspective of loss of meaning in life, loss of hope for the future. We must not forget that the attempt to chase God away from our lives does not turn the world into a paradise. The opposite! it makes our work more toilsome, our life more fragile, and our earth much less like paradise.
This pedagogical choice of God's is interesting - being preceded by precursors. It is a choice that brings abundant fruits when the chosen people carry out this role to the full, and identify themselves with God's will. This is what Don Bosco did. As a believer he walked through history “as one who could see the invisible” and channeled all his energies into a single cause: the salvation of the young, and to bring about this mission he created so many initiatives and works amongst others the Salesian family, with no other aim than: “Da mihi animas”.
I am certain that vocations for all our institutes will multiply, will be more solid and fruitful if young people – boys and girls – in our work or whom we look after in various activities find in us a John the Baptist who points out Jesus to them, lets them know of his deepest identity and guides them to follow him.
What a beautiful mission the Lord has entrusted to us! Let us carry it out joyfully, with conviction and generosity. Christ is everyone's right. Let us point to his presence amongst us and bring young people to a personal encounter with Him.
Rome, Salesianum – 20 January 2008

Fr Pascual Chávez Villanueva,
Rector Major

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