Holy Mass, San Girolamo della Caritá, Rome June 20, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
[…] "Who do people say that I am?" Throughout the two thousand years of the Church’s history the Lord has put that question to the disciples who follow Him, us included. "Who do people say that I am?" From any point of view it’s an important question. What does the world think of Christ? The destiny of every person depends upon what he or she thinks about Christ. The Holy Father frequently says that the Evil One, the devil, Father of the Lie, is determined to teach people to live as if Christ hadn’t existed, as if there were no God, who has redeemed us… The apostolic determination consists precisely in bring Christ to the people.
For 2,000 years the disciples of Christ, among whom are included all of you and myself, have lived with determination to communicate to the world the joy of having been redeemed by Christ, the joy of knowing that we are children of a God who is Father.
When the Lord makes this question he wishes to test the apostolic vibration of our soul, because we cannot live in tranquility when we see so many people who don’t yet know Christ, who have known Him but have abandoned Him or who follow Him wearily without true love. So the disciples told Him what the people of their time were saying; that You are Elijah, one of the prophets. People have their ideas about Christ nowadays too. Evidently there are many, thanks be to God, who have the faith to know that He is the Son of God, God our Father, therefore our Brother. But there are others who do not believe that He is God. They think that He was a moralist, a prophet, perhaps a visionary, or an invention. And this should cause us to suffer. It should bring alive in us ever more the desire that they come to know Christ truly, that in their lives there may awaken, as in the case of human loves, a love that seeks, that finds, that relates, knows and responds. We want to see this process awakened in everyone’s soul, the grace of God, that they seek Christ, find Christ, find Him in the Gospel, in the Eucharist, that they enter into relationship with Him and fall in love with Him.
[…] The question that the Lord puts to them. "And you, who do you say that I am?" They lived a life of intimacy with Him because He had chosen them, because He had brought them close to Him, and He hopes that they know Him better, know more about Him and love Him more than people in general. […]
May God bless you because you are giving a new vibration to the contemplative dimension of the faith life, to adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, to faith in the Real Presence of Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the sacred host. You spend hours in front of Him, opening your heart to Him, saying to Him: “Jesus, we love You. My Jesus, my love, my treasure, my God, You are all to me, You are the light that enlightens my soul, You are the way that I am walking, You are the word that fills my heart”, and so on with manifestations proper to one who is in love, in love with God.
A brief parenthesis. When John Paul II died, many journalists asked me and other cardinals things about the Pope and would comment on how he had beaten many records. He was the Pope who travelled the world most, the Pope who had met most millions of souls, the Pope who had published most doctrinal or disciplinary documents. So many records. And I used to say to them that they were misinformed because they had forgotten the most important record of all.[…] And I would answer that it is by far the most important and of all the interviews and articles I’ve read, I’ve never seen it mentioned. So what is it! He was the Pope who spent the greatest number of hours in front of the Eucharist. That is the record that enabled him to surpass all the other records. “Why?” one asked. Well, because those hours are hours spent by someone in love who speaks of his love with his beloved, and the one who loves shares with the world the love he carries inside. That is why he commenced his ministry saying, “Open the doors to Christ”. He died with Christ, of love for his brothers, and he went to all the platforms of the world to speak of this love, and all the power that he had, he had it because he spoke from the heart of Christ and thus answered men’s thirst for God, as referred to in the Responsorial Psalm we have sung.
That contemplative dimension of adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament is vital in your charism because you also must surpass in the Church the record of Eucharistic adoration. That power will come from it to you too, as it did to John Paul II and to all apostles throughout the Church, throughout the life of the Church, who have travelled the world to speak to men but who first fell in love.
Let’s return to the Gospel which has so much to teach us. I don’t want to go on too long. We priests should remember not to make our homilies too long, our preaching. Otherwise, people complain. But I know that you won’t complain.There is another very beautiful thing which also touches on your spirituality. Who is the first of the disciples to answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”? Peter. Your Association was born at the tomb of St. Peter and in these days of thanksgiving you are going to celebrate Mass there with your Founder. I see that your spirituality, and your Founder will correct me if I have not rightly understood, is evidently a Christocentric spirituality, Eucharistic, apostolic and petrine. You live in union with the rock that is Peter. May God bless you, because this signifies not only your union to Peter; the erection to take place tomorrow will also in some guarantee unity between the distinct components of the Home of the Mother. Your unity is also nourished by the love of Peter which guarantees the unity of the Church.
In a text parallel to this one that we have read, from St. Luke, and another one of St. Matthew, is said: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, because this has not been revealed to you by flesh and blood but by my Father who is in Heaven”. The immediate response of the fiery Peter pleased the Lord so much because he spoke with his heart in his hand. The Lord says to him: “it is not flesh and blood that has revealed this to you but my Father God”. It is very important to bear in mind in all the institutions of the Church, in each one of us, that we are capable of absolutely nothing without the help of God Our Father who sends us his spirit, the Holy Spirit, who within our soul reminds us of the teachings of Jesus and gives us with his gifts the strength necessary to be able to live them. The Holy Spirit acts in our soul as in the soul of Peter, enabling us to give personal responses to Jesus, when in the course of our life he puts that question to us: “Who do you say that I am?” Observe, my sister, my brother, that throughout life you will see, more than once, when you are before the tabernacle, how Jesus will say to you, “Who do you say that I am for you?” Just as He once asked Peter too, when He entrusted to him the government of the Church, if he loved Him. The Lord knows how limited is our capacity to correspond to his love, but through his Spirit He tries to help us to love Him more and more.
So we reach the final part of this Gospel passage and in summary you see that the Lord, after Peter has recognized his divinity, tells them that they will see that divinity humiliated by men because the Son of Man will be despised, humiliated, crucified, but on the third day will rise. The Lord announces to his apostles his passion, death and resurrection so that they will never be frightened of the cross in life. Because the cross is going to be the throne of triumph and it is from the roots of that tree, the profound roots, that the joy of the resurrection will be born. I like to recall this in connection with your spirituality for two reasons that relate to the virtue of penance. All institutions undergo moments in which they have to confront the cross, especially Founders. Sometimes it is a passive penance, which often consists of the lack of material means, and other times consists of incomprehension of the charism that one wishes to live, which is a way of saying yes to the Lord. There are passive penances which often, as in the case of families, the children don’t know about; only the parents know. In institutions also there are things that only the Founder knows and those who are closest to him, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, that cross is loved because that cross is the guarantee of resurrection. We have to undergo the cross to reach the joy and the triumph of the resurrection.
But furthermore, it is beautiful that you have in your life plan, in your statutes, a series of things that will assure for you the practice of mortification and personal penance, corporal and spiritual. It is very important because the Lord said: “Whoever wishes to come after Me must take up his cross every day and follow Me”. The cross is sometimes given to us. Other times we have to seek it, accepting the contradictions and difficulties of every day with love and seeking to scatter the salt of mortification and of active penance in everything that we live. We must put a little grain of salt in everything so that Christ be truly within us, in our soul, and so that He may accompany us.
We come now to the penultimate character or characteristic of your spirituality, which is joyfulness. Ever since I’ve known you and seen always your smile, it’s been a joy to me to see the smile of Christ, his joy. We Christians must be founders of peace and joy in a world that is sad. In a world that perhaps wallows in abundance but which is sad because it is far from Christ. You are close to Christ and that is why you radiate joy and you have a youthful spirit because the Christian never grows old. The youthfulness of Christ is always in his soul, and Christ never gets old because He is always the living God, yesterday, today and tomorrow to the end of time.
Finally we conclude these words with the last but not least important characteristic: the Marian spirit. The Virgin, Mother of Christ, Our Mother, Mother of humanity, Mother of all, as you like to call Her. She is the Cause of our “Laetitia”, the cause of our joy. Well, I am going to end by saying to the Most Blessed Virgin on your behalf that She embrace you all here. Observe that the Virgin is here. Because now on the altar what happened on Calvary 2000 years ago is about to be actualized. Sacramentally it will be the same sacrifice as Calvary and when the sacrifice of Calvary was accomplished, at the foot of the cross was Our Mother. I like to imagine when I celebrate Mass that She is beside the altar. We don’t see Her but She never abandons her Son, like a Mother doesn’t abandon her son when he is dying. Well, I say to this Mother of ours who is going to accompany us now in the renewed sacrifice of the cross, on your behalf, that She present to her Son everything that is in your souls, and I end as I began. The most beautiful thing that we can do is to place on the altar, carried by the Most Holy Virgin, all that we have in our hearts, all your intentions, your apostolic desires, your desires for holiness, everything that is in the heart of your Founder as a need for the whole community, and one thing that I’m sure is in all of your hearts as it is in mine, is the desire with the help of God’s grace to do what the Virgin herself did, that is, to love God unto death. As She did, at the foot of the cross loving God’s will, in that exemplary way. And so, if we are faithful, She will always be our Mother, the Cause of our Joy.
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