Closing Eucharist. 2nd Joint Meeting of CCC/APRF. Gopalpur-On-Sea.

St. Vincent’s Retreat Center. Feb. 17, 2009.

Serafin Peralta, CM

At the hotel where we stayed last Feb. 11 in Bhubaneswar, we were told that the restaurant would be open for breakfast at 6AM the following day. I came down at 6 the following morning. I asked if the restaurant was open and I was told yes it was open. I entered, but breakfast was not yet ready. Open but not ready.

Inter-religious Dialogue. That’s our theme for this 2nd Joint Meeting of CCC/APRF. Like that restaurant that was open but not ready yet to serve breakfast, and like many other peoples and religions or faiths, we may be open to the idea of inter-religious dialogue. But are we ready? That’s a question.

These past days, especially during the first week, we’ve been talking about the real meaning, the historical meaning and the implications of this phrase: “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”. I don’t think we have been fully satisfied with the attempted answers or explanations. Perhaps we can agree on this one: “sine dialogo nulla salus”

The first reading in today’s liturgy speaks of God’s anger over the wickedness of the people whom He has created. “There is nothing in their heart but evil” God tells Noah. So God has decided to destroy humankind. Only Noah, his family and some species of animals would be saved. God told Noah who was living on top of a mountain to build an ark, something that Noah’s neighbour mocked and laughed about. Noah endured this mockery for more than a hundred years…until the floods did happen. Now, a hundred years is a long time according to man’s reckoning. While we are open to inter-religious dialogue, it might take another hundred years for everybody to be ready for it. Like Noah, we may become the object of mockery or become a laughing stock of the people. Like Noah, we need patience and humility in order to endure the mockeries of our neighbours. Advocating inter-religious dialogue may be like building an ark on top of a mountain.

The gospel reading tells us of the apostles’ inability to understand…and to appreciate what Jesus has done: multiply bread, heal the sock and so on. Again, we bring this consideration to our reality: can we not yet appreciate the need for inter-religious dialogue in spite of the fact the Jesus- God – has become man, that Jesus himself has engaged the Scribes and the Pharisees in an on-going dialogue, that Jesus has eaten with sinners, has kept the company of Samaritans and publicans, that Jesus has conversed with women. It is this same Jesus who has said that we will be known as His followers by our love, and that we shall be judged by our service of the poor.

What we have done during this 2nd Joint Meeting of CCC/APRF is only a beginning. I hope that we are now open and ready for inter-religious dialogue. There is a song that goes like this about peace: “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” While our theme for this meeting is inter-religious dialogue, perhaps to go hand in hand with it is intra-religious dialogue, like a dialogue among ourselves, a dialogue among Provinces in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, on-going dialogue among the regional formators. It will be ironic if we can dialogue with other religions, cultures and faiths and yet fail to dialogue among ourselves.

I like now to take this occasion to thank the persons involved in planning, organizing and steering this meeting. I like to thank especially Fr. Matthew Kallamakal, the Provincial Visitor of North India Province, for hosting so graciously this meeting. The past 10 days have been days of warmth, welcome and hospitality and an “at home feeling”, whether here at St. Vincent’s Retreat Center, at Aquinas College, Stella Maris, De Paul Hostel, the C.M. and the D.C. Provincial Houses. With Fr. Kallamakal are the confreres along with their staff who worked behind the scene, invisible yet very efficient, whether it is in the kitchen/refectory, laundry, housekeeping, driving. And we have the Chairman of CCC, Fr. Armada and the Organizing Committee headed by Fr. Jose Manjaly, Fr. Joseph and Fr. George. Together they worked very hard and have done a good job in spite of limited resources and practical difficulties of distance and communications. I like to thank also our confrere, the Bishop of Balasore, Msgr. Thomas Thirutalil, who came out of his way to be with us and to preside at the opening Eucharist, giving us a very inspiring and challenging homily. And we thank, too our seminarians from Aquinas College and novices from Stella Maris for their music and their assistance in our liturgies. And how can we forget the children who entertained us with their dances and songs!

Our speakers, your presence and participation, my dear confreres, and those of the Sisters added to the success of our meeting and the joy that is in our hearts as we end this meeting. Not far from my mind are Fr. General and the members of his Council whose solicitude and interest for initial and on-going formation of our confreres is deeply felt by all of us. We also appreciate the support of our dear Provincial Visitors of the APVC. The letter that we have written to them expresses our sentiments and our recommendations for the formation program of our Provinces as well as those that might have inter provincial relevance. And we thank our own confreres in our own Provinces who have been praying for us and who have taken over our works in the meantime so that we can be here.

Let us go to the question that Jesus asked his Apostles in today’s gospel reading  referring  to what He has done , and perhaps, too, to what we really want to do with regards to inter-religious dialogue: “Do you still not understand?”  May God bless us. AMEN.


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