The “Giussani House” in Asunción is one of the four residences for the abandoned elderly, run by the Foundation of St. Raphael, which was founded by Padre Aldo. I celebrate the Mass there every Sunday for a group of twenty elderly persons. There are people of all shapes and sizes: a man blind from birth who plays the guitar and sings in guaraní while the others follow his songs using their wheelchairs and crutches; one who always yells in pain from his room and another who insults me because I wake him up, even if he is the only one who kisses my hand after having received the Eucharist.
A couple of Sundays ago, during the Mass, I was a bit distracted while reading the Gospel. That day, the Liturgy offered this piece of the Gospel of Matthew: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. While reading, I looked up and I saw that some of the residents were looking at me with tears in their eyes. After finishing the Gospel, just before beginning my homily, a man interrupted me and asked me, with a trembling voice: “Pa (which means “father” in guaraní), this means that all of those who come here to visit me and who clothe me and feed me do it because Jesus is within me?”
In the difficulty and the heat of that day – which did not help my distraction – the question of that man was an incredible reminder for me. I did not want to reduce it to thoughts about why people do charitable work. Instead, I understood that my life and my priesthood were given to me: they are, in and of themselves, charity. What happens, in fact, through my limits and those of the others, is the occasion for Christ to manifest Himself in person, here and now: it is the experience of the Gospel that becomes Incarnate. I don’t remember what I responded to the elderly man, but since that day, I have been celebrating the Mass in a different way. Whether I be in the nursing home with ten residents, or young people, or in the parish with two hundred, what truly matters is that my memory is fixed on an ever new commotion for His Presence.
A while ago, I happened to read the notes of a dialogue between don Giussani and the Fraternity of St. Charles that took place in 1992. “Living charity must be being with the other, just because the other exists. Charity is another way to look, another heart. It is on the gaze that is educated by charity, that allows us to truly live the Gospel.” The education that we have received from don Giussani is an incredible gift. Charitable work is the most precious invention and the most important inheritance that I have been given because it touches the thing that is most difficult to discover in daily life, that is, the self revelation of a Presence which capable of transforming the life of an elderly man and of touching my life and my vocation in such a profound way.