By: Bp José Luis IMC (Bishop of Manzini)
Homily at the launching of the first phase
of the synodal journey
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“Not so among you” – “Akukafaneli kutsi kube njalo kini”
How I wished these four words from today’s Gospel passage would always (I mean: always!) remain in our hearts. How I wished these four words would be like seeds in our hearts that would produce fruit of how a Christian community should be. “Not so among you” constantly challenges any Christian community to go back to the Gospel to find her identity. We are not an NGO, we are not government, a political or a cultural organisation. We are a Christian community.
In today’s Gospel passage James and John, the sons of Zebedee – two of the 12 apostles – present a request to Jesus: “Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory”.
Note the request. They are not asking to be with Jesus in his glory like the one who was next to him on the cross: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” They want special places. They want to rule. They want to command. They want special privileges.
In their request, the rest of the community of the 12 does not count anymore. They break the group. These are two brothers. It is about them. It is about their family. In fact, in the Gospel of Matthew (20:20) it is the mother who presents this request to Jesus about her sons.
I wonder how frustrating this could have been to Jesus when you think they had been with him for a long time and still did not get it.
Reflecting on this passage a Bible scholar wrote:
The disciples have various models of authority before their eyes. They know the political and religious leaders, the rabbis, the scribes, the priests of the temple. All exercise power in the same way: they give orders, claim privileges, demand reverence as the ceremonial prescribes; in front of them it is necessary to kneel, kiss the hand…
Jesus’ teaching is clear: “Not so among you”. The reason is simple: that is how he – Jesus – showed his authority,
For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all
Pope Francis gives us today a wonderful opportunity to implement what Jesus teaches us. He calls the whole Church to start a process of listening.
Today, our diocese, in communion with every other diocese in the whole world, in communion with the whole church, launches this special season of listening.
We want to listen to each other, to every baptised: those we meet every Sunday and those who are at home, those who remain part of our Catholic family and those who chose to join other churches.
We want to give a voice to everyone and hear what is in each one’s heart. By listening we show we are a servant Church like Jesus has called us to be.
Listening is the best gift we can offer every family and our country in this present moment.
- Listening fights the temptation of thinking that “we already know”. In our country there are those who think that they already know what the people think and want. “Not so among you” and therefore we want to listen and hear what each one has to say;
- Listening to all – men and women, adults and young people – fights the temptation of thinking that only a few have the right to have a voice. “Not so among you”. St Benedict understood this very well when he told his monks that many times God reveals his will through the youngest among them. I wonder how many people believe that God can reveal his will through young people;
- Listening fights the temptation to shut down the voice of those who want to share with us their sufferings, cries and lack of hope. “Not so among you”. As the Bishops wrote decades’ ago: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ”. We want to make sure we give space in the Church to voice to those joys and griefs.
- Listening avoids the risk of becoming angry and violent when no spaces to voice their cries are available. “Not so among you”. We want to make sure that by opening spaces to talk, we avoid building up that anger that bursts into violence.
- Listening avoids the risk of thinking we are “above” anyone. “Not so among you”. As Pope Francis wrote a year ago: “We are brothers and sisters” and we all share the same dignity given to us by our baptism. That is why you hear me remembering St Augustine who was a bishop in our continent: “with you I am a Christian, for you I am a bishop”.
That is why I believe that listening is the best gift we can offer a country struggling to listen and to voice her cries without violence. Listening is the best gift we can offer our families too when we are unable to listen to each other.
We count on each one of you to freely share what you have in your hearts and also to be ready to listen to each other. We count on each one of you to ask the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us in this journey.
Note: Launcing of the first phase of the synodal journey was on Sunday17th October 2021 at Our Lady of the Assumption (Cathedral) in Manzini.