Siberia, 1994. The communist regime fell just a few years ago, leaving behind a great delusion in the hearts of all who lived hopeful for a future which never came, and the disorientation of those who felt as though they lost their identity in front of the world. The ruins of a damaged humanity meet of the streets of Novosibirsk. This humanity is always more and more uncertain of its identity. It is comprised of men and women deprived of a sense of belonging to something greater than them. The twenty degrees (Celsius) below zero outside correspond to the freeze that seems to paralyze the hearts and the facial expressions of the people. It is a people who attempt to place their hope in a future progress, still a long way off. The priests of the Fraternity arrived three years before, when the shelves of the supermarkets were completely empty and there were no Catholic churches in the city. For what reason were they sent here? When Fr. Massimo visited their mission, he responded to this question: “The people with whom you cross paths on the streets here don’t know anymore to whom they belong. They don’t feel like part of anything. Your mission here consists of generating in them the nostalgia for a home.”
And this is what mission is for us: to live every day the experience of the home, of a place in which our vocation is nurtured and continuously educated, in which each one of us is constantly embraced and forgiven, so as to awaken in others the desire to live in a place like this. The home is where I can remember meaningfully of whom I receive my existence, where I continually find those to whom I belong: “to make oneself at home” is a synonym for feeling free, at ease.
Mission coincides, therefore, with a place, with a home.
For this reason the first subject of mission is the family, which is the first area in which each one of us has felt “at home,” that is, embraced and loved, in a single word: free. The family is a home in which there is a father: a person who teaches the children about their origin, who indicates a road to follow, who spurs them onward, who corrects them and forgives them, who accompanies them giving clear rules and who sustains them with his advice. The family is the home where there is a mother who embraces the children again every day, nurtures them with her love, and consoles them. Therefore the family is the place where the discovery of being children opens us up to recognize our brothers.
It has never before been as clear as today that in those places where we are sent on mission, whether it be Siberia or the United States, Chile or Italy, we don’t see a significant difference. The knowledge of what the family is has grown more and more uncertain everywhere, and everywhere the knowledge that true freedom and belonging to a place are very closely connected has grown more and more fragile.
When we recite the Angelus, we remember the fact that the Word “has made his dwelling among us.” I like this image of God who, like one of us, looks for a home and, after a long pilgrimage, finds the home most adequate for him and moves there. This is the meaning of Christmas. It is God who decides to live in a home to generate in us the same question as those who first encountered him: “Where do you live?” It is Christ who is born again to reawaken in us the nostalgia for a home, for a place from which we can be formed to enter into reality and introduced to its meaning and to its beauty. It is a bit like when, as a child, your best friend invited you over to his house: Jesus throws open the doors of his home to you, here and now, to promise you a dwelling place that is infinitely more beautiful and lasting. Christmas is Christ who comes and dwells in the world to make the same nostalgia increase in us–the nostalgia for a Father who makes us fully feel like children, that is, free.
Photo courtesy of Nick Farnhill – flickr.com