Monday, December 5, 2011

Five hundred years ago…

Friar Bruno Cadoré, OP
Master of the Order & Grand Chancellor or the Angelicum

Agitations and reports of civil unrest have made the news in recent months and continue to do so in several countries of the world.  In one place, it is the determination to be freed from oppressive, authoritarian regimes. In another, there are groups who are questioning those systems, particularly economic systems, that seem to want to manage the world in spite of the inequality they establish between men and the serious anxieties they create, especially for the young. Here and there, often forgotten voices are making themselves heard, reminding us that the human being wants to be an actor in his own history, and aspires to freedom and justice.  They are opening new horizons of hope for a habitable and sustainable world for all.

It is in this context that, responding to the request of the General Chapter of Rome, we are rereading in all our communities the sermon given to the community of Hispaniola by fr. Antonio de Montesinos.  We remember the prophetic stance taken 500 years ago by those friars who were attentive to the realities of their time; who tried to understand the issues by taking a theological perspective; who sought to root their common preaching in this way. They wanted to present the Good News of the Gospel from the position of those who do not matter in the “way of the world”.  We know that this preaching certainly provoked violent reactions from those whose privilege was threatened. But it also contributed to, on the one side, politicians re-evaluating their own methods and on the other, theologians, by speaking with politicians, taking their part in that decisive debate on the future of the world.

‘Are they not men?’, they cried.  In many places throughout the world, brothers and sisters are still asking this radical question today. The power of this question lies not only in the evidence brought before those who exploit the weak in so many ways. The power is also in that assertion which somehow sounds hollow in contemporary debate: those whom you exploit (or even ignore in the march towards humanity’s future) are not only men but especially they are our brothers.  But, this assertion immediately raises the corollary: we are their brothers, or rather, their preachers; we are sent to ask them if they will accept us as brothers. The preaching of the Order is rooted in this fraternity with our contemporaries with whom, sharing in the Word, we desire to meet Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Beyond the memory of an event of which the Order can be proud, the celebration of this anniversary is also a call for us to the responsibility of preaching today. What are the perspectives for us from which we realise the urgency of making the Word heard?