99th Anniversary of The Foundation of the QFMS (SMÉ) - February 2nd 2020
Homily of Bishop of Alain Faubert,
Auxiliary Bishop of the diocese of Montréal
Laval, Sunday, February 2, 2020
Mal (3, 1-4)
Lc (2, 22-40)
No wonder... that the bishops of French Canada... chose this date of February 2, this ancient feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, to found a society of foreign missions. Jesus is the Light of the Nations…And this light needs witnesses!
We could stop the homily there…we could think that everything has been said…
It seems to me that we can still say something more by looking more closely at this Gospel and these texts of the Word of God today… something more about Him who is the Light…and about the witnesses he calls in his service…
And so, I decided to use the good old Jesuit technique, and ask myself the following question: where are we in the text? Does the Gospel, besides revealing who is Jesus, puts us in relation with him? Moreover, let us be daring, would there not be something special unveiled about the testimony and the service that the SME is called to render to the Light of the Nations?
Where then would be the trace or the face of the SME in this Gospel…? In Mary and in Joseph? In the faces of Simeon and of Anne? What a beautiful diversity of generations! What a great complementarity between men and women!
Was it more difficult at the time of the foundation in 1921 to see men and women together in common service of the Light? The fact is that in almost 100 years… that’s what you have become!
I still resist to the idea that you have become old…of course, Simeon and Anna…were not young people. And the SME has become a venerable Lady soon to be a centenarian.
But still! When we look at the Lord’s choices in Salvation history, we must recognize that age was not often a determining factor…David was too young, Jeremiah maybe also…Abraham was too old…And so, how about Simeon and Anna? What about us? Too old? Really?
The fact is that Simeon and Anna, whatever their age, are called to play a decisive role in this Gospel which happens to be the culmination of the narration of the infancy of Jesus in saint Luke…
Like us, they are not famous people in those days, but rather humble and pious believers who carry the memory and the hope of their people. Can we not recognize ourselves in them?
Despite their age, they are model believers: attentive to the coming of the Lord, drawn eagerly towards the Day of the Messiah; vigilant in prayer and fasting, full of hope and confidence.
And even witnesses of Christ, witnesses of God to all those who will want to listen, at the risk of passing for fools. And so, what is Simeon and Anna telling us about the Lord through their words and through their whole life?
They first tell us that God is faithful to his Covenant. They, they believe in his promises. The Lord has promised that he will come, and so, they are ready and close to where the action is taking place, in the Temple. They know that God will not deceive them.
And here comes Jesus. Does God gloriously enter his Temple? He rather enters with humility and self-effacement. At the heart of the Jewish faith, at the center of his religion, the Messenger, the One sent by God presents himself, but not as he was expected…You heard Malachi in the first reading: « He will be like the refiner, formidable…who could stand before him? ». And here is a helpless child in the arms of a young couple too poor to offer the sacrifice expected by the most well-to-do people.
Simeon and Anne are witnesses of the faithful God, but still a puzzling and surprising God…
Witnesses to the God who enters through the door of he Law, in the middle of the Temple, to blow up the Law, to make the Temple obsolete…
Simeon and Anna are witnesses to a God whom we must recognize, almost hidden in the heart of the world…and yet revealed in a child, a child similar in all things to his brothers, as tells us the Letter to the Hebrews.
Who can recognize him, a little child among the humble? Who can welcome him, poor among the poor? It took the little and the humble to do so, like Simeon and Anna, as if to tell us that it is through the little ones and among the little ones that God’s plan is accomplished.
Is this not what you are witnessing, brothers and sisters of the SME? Does the testimony of Simeon and of Anna not resemble that of the SME?
1) To proclaim a God faithful to his love for all;
2) To testify to a God who does not allow Himself to be shut up in a Temple, but Who wants to join up with his children, his brothers and sisters wherever they are;
3) To recognize that puzzling God who does come as we expected Him… who already manifest Himself right there, in the genius of the people to whom we would like to bring him;
4) To be at the service of the Light of the Nations…the one who, as tells us the Letter to the Hebrews, who comes to liberate…those who because of the fear of death spend their lives in slavery.
Those who experience material insecurities, insecurities due to war; profound insecurities everywhere when feel that the steamroller of economical logics wants to crush us; those who believe that they are forgotten by God, born under a bad star, prisoners of the forces of evil that have colonized their conscience and their very heart…
5) Is it not the service that we have to render to them: to testify to the light that this child brings…to God…and to ourselves! Jesus is the Light of the Nations because he comes to shed light on the true face of God who loves all people of all races and of all cultures…the God who loves them and wants Life for them in abundance!
Simeon also tells us that Jesus is the Glory of Israel, that is to say, Jesus comes to accomplish the mission for which Israel was chosen: not to keep for itself God’s promises, but to share them with all people.
And I tell myself that thee glory of the PMEs and of the Foreign Missions Society, it is not the number of your members…but those men and women whose number we cannot count whom you have helped to stand up in dignity
Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God – saint Irenaeus…
If the glory of God is not God himself…but us…
The glory of Israel is not Israel…it is its radiance according to its call, its mission.
The glory of the SME is not the SME, but its vocation, its service to humanity.
We sense that there is something decisive in the Gospel of the Presentation. From now on, God has come. From now on, the prophecies are accomplished. With Jesus, we pass from the demands of the Law to the light of the Spirit who is its key.
A passage that is lived by Simeon and Anna. It is remarkable that these two elders do not fall back into nostalgia or into the refusal of change. They rather embrace the novelty that Christ brings…they rejoice in it. This is what they so ardently hoped for.
They push us to that passage, they summon us to that passage. In the power of their wisdom, as the elders in the faith…Simeon and Anna tell us: « Do not be afraid to welcome the novelty of Christ; do not be afraid of what God is building today in silence, despite all the collapses of the world and of the Church. »
On this day when the Gospel reminds us that this child in the arms of Simeon will be a sign of division, we are called to a decision.
A decision for us to welcome or to refuse that God who presents himself to us in humility who will help us to recognize his passage in our lives, in our own temple, so that we may be able to say to the Lord: « My eyes have seen your salvation ».
A decision renewed for the SME and for all its members, since a temptation could be hiding in this Gospel: the temptation to so much identify ourselves to Simeon and come to say: « Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace…».
It seems to me that for the SME, it is not the time of the Nunc dimitis like Simeon…but rather the time of prophetic service like Jeremiah, like Isaiah…not « Let me go » but rather: « Here I am, Lord, send me! »
We will then be able to say to the SME: Ad multos annos, and I could wish to it, wish to you…to take advantage of this 100th to not only celebrate the past and the service accomplished, which is legitimate, but to imagine also new ways of meeting, of testimony, of commitment so that everywhere on the earth of men and women who do not yet know it open their eyes and their hearts to the one who is the Light of the Nations!