Building up the Church starting from the bottom up
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) - What follows is a letter Fr Mario Ghezzi sent to his family and friends.
Bangkok, 26 January 2015
Dear family and friends,
After the wonderful experience of the five months on sabbatical between Italy and fascinating Jerusalem, I went back to Cambodia at the end of May 2014.
On 13 August, I began a new life at the new mission in Ta Khmau, which can be summarised in a few figures: four Catholics, including a couple that does not come to church, and about ten catechumens who will be baptised on Easter night this year.
In short, coming back to Cambodia for me has meant starting from zero, which sometimes feels like below zero.
Every Sunday afternoon, I welcome less than 20 people in the house I rent. When we are 20, I can say that "the church" is full. Every Sunday I look these few Christians in the face, one by one: five young catechists from Phnom Penh who help me set up the room that serves as a church one afternoon a week; Ms Mani, also from Phnom Penh, who provides strength and courage to these young catechists; and the young catechumens, all under the age of 17, who come from the nearby school for the disabled run by Australian Marist brothers.
Each catechumen is missing a limb, or poliomyelitis made their legs or arms useless. They come in wheelchairs, three-wheeled scooters or bicycles without trainer wheels. They come to a broken-down church, a partial church one might say, a half-lame church. Yeah, that is right. Yet, that is what makes beautiful the adventure and the challenge of proclaiming the name of Jesus where no one knows him yet, starting from the last of the last. This is how it works. I wondered myself many times, but there is no other way round. The Gospel begins to take root amid our poverty and misery, which is the most fertile ground.
Last Sunday during my homily I asked the following question: Mention one of the gifts you received from God. Surprise! One of the two baptised girls - who comes to church in a sidecar and makes her way through the doors using her hands - raised her hand and said, "The most beautiful gift I received from God is my disability, because were I not disabled I would not have come to the Marist school, and I would not have met so many people who love me. Above all, I would not have known Jesus. I thank him every day for my disability . . ."
After such words I said, "What more can I say in my sermons? It is best I keep quiet! I hold this simple but profound lesson of spirituality close to my heart . . .
How many times do I Him ash him: on what side does one start to build a community, to proclaim Your Gospel? I always tell Him that I have no clue, nor the faintest idea, but I just know that everything starts from Him and that He will take care of everything and build things gradually, in due time, above my own limits and confusion.
Thirty years in Nazareth in the silence of a house and the noise of his carpenter father's shop are the first sign that Jesus gave us. We start from the silence, the daily work, the actual making of something shaped in the form of chairs, tables or things for children, scouts activities, student hostels and more.
This is simply working and building in silence with a great desire in the heart: every gesture, every word, even a simple hello, every dollar spent, every person received, invited, listened to and helped, every prayer to heaven and every single Mass celebrated perhaps with no one present - all this is done with the deep desire that His name be announced, and known so that many may know, after all, the joy of being loved by this mad God who died on the cross for those who have no consideration him, or say, I don't like your religion; your God is foreign; we do not need you here.
This is how far God's madness can go. He loves and gives life without asking anything in return, not even a word or a feeling of gratitude. He died for those who despised him and yet saved them as well!
Here we must trust poor Geppetto who, to relieve his loneliness, made for himself a wooden friend, but one who became alive because of his great desire to live, so much alive that the piece of wood became living flesh and blood, just like Geppetto himself, and this despite his great unruliness.
Geppetto never thought that such a miracle could happen when he began to carve a block of wood. The miracle came on its own, took shape far beyond his wishes and expectations. Indeed, this is how God works with us: he goes beyond our wishes and expectations. Hence, quietly and patiently and with a bit of faith, I am starting to carve the block of wood that will be Ta Khmau parish.
If we think about it, each of us always has a piece of wood to carve and shape patiently, and God will do the rest.
Don't forget to say a prayer for me.
Father Mario Ghezzi