5-To conclude

    To end with, I would like to illustrate what I have just said by referring to the concrete examples of three small personal stories, three faces I met.  I do not know if you have seen the Argentinean film by Carlos Sorin called Historias minimas (Very small stories).  Our stories are always very small stories, of very little things, but it is necessary to be there in order to gather them, perceive the mystery that gives itself there, give thanks, ask.  They are stories full of meaning and revelatory of the mystery, if we are attentive to it.
    The first is David, a friend that I went to see in prison for many years; it was from him that I learned, with the greatest depth, what forgiveness is.  He told me once that one of his fellow prisoners had promised him, “When I get out, I swear to you, I will organise your escape”.  David, being reasonable, said to him, “Don’t make oaths like that.  You know very well what happens here to those who do not live up to their word!”  But the other man promised, he got out of prison and, of course, he never went back.  On the next visit I found my friend very angry and disappointed.  And I tried to calm him down by explaining, “But as you know very well, when you are inside you make promises because you do not know the extent of the difficulties, but once you are outside, you become aware that it is much more complicated.  You must understand that.”  Then David said to me, “Yes, you are trying to talk to me about forgiveness (I had never spoken about it!) but, you know, if I want to forgive him, I will have to change all my internal laws!”  No one had ever explained forgiveness to me like that!
    Second story: my most beautiful Christmas gift last year.  In front of the shop where I was working, there was a group of young homeless men who spent their days drinking and begging.  Little by little we got to know each other, and I stopped each time to greet them; I remembered their names, they remembered mine, and we became friendly.  I liked to see them and I believe that they also liked it when I stopped.  On the eve of Epiphany, a charitable organisation was distributing the traditional Epiphany cakes to them just at the time when I passed by. Just as I was going to leave, one of them stopped me and said, “Wait, Pascal has gone to get you something”.  And Pascal came back with a cake.  “Here, big fellow, this is for you.  You will have a celebration!”  When the excluded one becomes the one who includes, there is joy in the Kingdom of Heaven, isn’t there?
    A third story, again at work: there were a lot of young probationers sent by their schools to learn the trade.  Often they were young Arabs, who are usually not viewed very kindly.  I developed the habit of asking their names.  I was struck to see how important this insignificant little thing was: when you go back the next day and say, “Hello, Jamal” or “Hello, Kader!”, the number of times they said to me, with joy and surprise in their eyes, “Oh, you remembered my name!”  And after that, they came to greet me every day, which they did not do with the others.  That caused me to reflect a lot and understand more deeply these words of Jesus, “The shepherd knows his sheep and he calls each of them by name and they follow him!”  To what depth of the human, to what secret hope of salvation Jesus makes allusion in that simple phrase!  The interesting thing for me is that this story has a follow-up: one of my colleagues was a practising Moslem, an open and curious man: we always talked a lot with him about religion, politics, justice, etc.  And with a lot of freedom and friendship, he often commented to me on my ways of doing things.  He always insisted on telling me that when I spoke about humanity, he saw that the source of my attitude was my faith in God.  I found that very beautiful.  And so he spotted my way of doing things with the young men and the fact that they then came to greet me.  He then spoke to me and I explained to him what this had led me to discover of the mystery of the love of God, from the words about the sheep.  It touched me a lot that when I left he said to me, in reference to this little story, “I am going to miss you.  Being with you has made me work on my own Islam: there is a dimension of humanity with you that we do not have” and I thanked him for his help in re-reading my life.  All that happened because we were together for more than a year, brooms in hand.

    I will finish for good with a sentence from the Gospel that is a great light for me: “You are the salt of the earth. If the salt loses its savour, what will make it salty again?”  (Matthew 5:13).  There is a mystery on the salt, and that comes through in our manner of speaking.  If food is a little tasteless, we say, “It needs a bit of salt”.  If there is too much, we say, “You have been a bit heavy-handed with the salt!”  But if there is just the right amount, we don’t speak about salt any more, we just say, “What a good soup!”  It is the taste of the food that comes out, not the taste of the salt!  And that is exactly the meaning of the image in the Gospel.  We sometimes ask ourselves anxiously how to give a Christian flavour to our world.  Perhaps that is not the right question.  There is flavour in the world, and it is God that has put it there.  Our role, as Christians, is to be there so that the mysterious exchange is produced and the divine flavour of the world can be expressed.  Not our own taste...16
    Is there any better way to talk about Nazareth?

16.Same meaning for the sentence on the lamp: “No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed. No, it is put on a lamp-stand so that people may have light when they come in” (Luke 8:16). There is colour in the world, it is God who has put it there and people who have woven it.  It is necessary to have light so that people can see the colours of the world.  We are not the light, just the lamp. What is interesting is the world seen thanks to the light. The lamp is just a help.