Speech of H. Eminence Cardinal ANGELO SCOLA, Patriarch of Venice,
on the third day of the first National Convention of the Apostolic Movement
On the theme:
Witnesses of Risen Jesus, hope of the world: Spirit, Truth, Communion,
Palasport “Gallo” – Corvo district
Friday, May 12, 4 p.m.
“Hope in the world.” Hope is an adventure, “to venture” to what is happening and affects and brings us with it. The great Feli said, in order to hope you need to be happy and to be happy you must have had a great gift, we have had this gift in Jesus Christ, victorious over evil and death through his cross in his Resurrection. This, as it has been well said, makes us shining witnesses of hope despite our weaknesses and our sin. The Trinity has chosen his sons in Christ Jesus, sons in the Son, constituting in Marian assumed Sacrament, the community of the Church, through which Jesus comes in every circumstance, in every relationship, at the meeting of our man brother. Therefore, thanks for having given me the opportunity to participate in this event of hope, in this nice adventure, thanks to the Apostolic Movement, to the Archbishop, to the Brother Bishops here present, to all Civil and Military Authorities and to all the priests, because history is built from the encounter of God’s freedom with the freedom of every one of us; and therefore, it is built in the practical situation that has always the nature of a sacrament, a visible luminous sign like your “logo” shows very well, so that this meeting is real.
I called the first step of our journey: ” Gospel and desire for life.” I rediscover, a young girl of Venice writes in a poem, at an ecclesial assembly last year in San Marco, “I rediscover with the faith the lost desire for life.” These words allow us to briefly identify two elements of the experience common to all men, I mean desire and freedom.
Desire flings open the I to the infinite. There are the stars in the etymology of the word desire. While freedom gives you the energy to pursue what you desire. Well, life, the life of every one of us here, but the life of every man in this time, would be no life without this desire for the infinite and without this free energy to pursue it. For this reason, the loss of the will to live always indicates a loss of desire and a weakening of freedom. It does not seem to be a case that desire and freedom, in a word will to live, because will to live implies these two elements, represent the most common words, the values far more in vogue today. We could say using a still being discussed difficult expression, but effective enough, that desire and freedom characterize the man of the after the fall of the walls, the man who is called postmodern; and we are all men and women of our time, we are in this sense postmodern persons. If this highlight that desire and freedom is completely understandable, I find very surprising, instead, the coincidence that now I am going to express.
Jesus, repeatedly, in the Gospel makes explicit lever right on the desire for the infinite and freedom as the two key factors in order to propose men the Kingdom, namely, his person, the announcement, “if you want” you can be happy, you can be accomplished (Mt 19, 21), “you will be free” but really free (Jn 8:36); therefore, contrary to what is often affirmed with no little superficiality we can say that the Christian announcement far from being outdated, is today more than ever on the same wavelength of the demand that the post-modern man carries in his heart; and this, I am repeating it, not only because desire and freedom are constitutive of the human heart as such, and therefore of the man of all time; but right because the radical and direct way with which Jesus speaks of desire for the infinite, that is, of happiness and true freedom, this direct way meets the radicality with which this double demand, this double instance is perceived in a special way today by men and women of all ages . What gives me in the end desire to live? It is as if every one of our brothers and sisters, whether he knows it or not, brought in the heart this demand, because it is worth it, and who am I? Someone loves me, in the end; he loves me to the point of ensuring me that this desire for life will not stop, will not shatter in front of anything, even when faced with pain, suffering, death?
These are questions exploded in the personal social lives of all of us with an entirely novel power, setting in motion a frantic search for happiness and testing energies of freedom unthought-of before. Evidently, I am not naive, this requires immediately a question that has a decisive role. What desire, what freedom can ensure the genuine wish to live? Or to say it in the terms of Jesus: at what conditions man fulfills, realizes the desire for the infinite and can thus be truly free? Can really the event of Christ still today intercept these constitutive questions so as they are formulated in the heart of the charming, confused and post-modern man? Well, this is the ground on which the Church wants to interrogate herself in Verona, but on which the Church has always interrogated herself, out of question, this is more or less on which we Christians are called to measure ourselves constantly as men in every area of evil, of existence. Therefore, it immediately appears from this datum that being Christians requires a full assumption of humanity, “not a hair of your head,” said Jesus, nothing is left out, nothing of humanity remains outside of the Christian horizon. How could it not be so if the Son of God “did not consider that jealous treasure his equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and becoming in the likeness of men, appeared in human form humiliated himself”? Logic, profound experience in the Christian is logic, the deep experience of the Incarnation, that which is assumed by Jesus, and everything is assumed and is saved.
“He who knew no sin, God made him to be sin, even,” says Paul in the second to the Corinthians, in our favor. Then the Christians in solidarity with their brothers, men, are called to embody a lifestyle whose desire shines out in their full truth, the one that was fulfilled in dead and risen Jesus Christ, among men. Jesus moved all the way by calling his interlocutors with meekness, but with precision in comparison with his person and inviting them to follow him. In the words of Revelation, he is the faithful witness of the incandescent Father’s love for every man and did not fear tears and efforts to manifest in his glorified humanity, the glory reserved for all men, yeast that silently ferments the dough or lamp placed above a bushel, according to the 1000 shades that freedom entails. The Christian today more than ever cannot shirk this testimony both personal and communal, and you have gathered here to take, all the way, this task in the heart of the great trunk of the Church.
Then the extraordinary coincidence between the Christian announcement and longing of the man of today, desire for freedom, however, lives today within a great hardship. Completely unrelated to any naive realism, as Christians, we are well aware of how many broken paths traverse the desire and the freedom of the postmodern man, there is no aspect of the very basic experience of a man related to his being one, of soul and body, of man and woman, of individual and community; there is no aspect that does not appear today as ravaged by an earthquake. In fact, one must not disregard that the new great needs to which I have referred are today often at the mercy of fragility, confusion and contradiction. The postmodern era thus appears as a time of labour, strong and violent are contractions and labour pains, but they remain crossed by the joyful prospect of childbirth, that is why we are hopeful and we do not talk of crisis, but of labour.
Second step, let us describe a little the labour of this birth, of this society in transition to a new form. Sustained by this Gospel reading let us turn our look at the life of the Church, of the churches in Italy. I have sometimes compared our Italian churches to an arm; as the arm, every Italian Church is one, but in the arm looking closely, you can distinguish three parts, the real arm, forearm and hand, so the real arm and right the one of the Italian churches seems to refer to the non few baptized a little forgetful of their baptism; then, there exists a forearm which suggests to the entirety of Sunday practitioners and finally a hand constituted by those involved, committed as you are.
How can we not hope that as it happens in our body the prehensile ability of the hand puts back in motion the action of the forearm and arm? Here you are part of this hand of our Italian and not only Italian churches. But how can this happen, how can this witness take place? First of all, recognizing the signs of hope that the spirit makes present among us. The first and most important is the existence of an ecclesial community subject thoroughly widespread in our land, in which men and women of all ages, try to live freely as they can the sequel of Christ, because they have adhered to his promise of happiness and they touch with their hands the growth of their liberty, within this sequel. This is the first sign. The second sign consists in the fact that many members of our Parishes and all our aggregations of faithful, working every day in all fields of human existence: university, school, work, neighborhood, factory, risk their testimony sharing spontaneously with all the men brothers, this longing to the fulfillment of the desire of the I and freedom.
By the grace of God which passes through the circumstances and the daily relationships the desire of the post-modern man meets to achievement meets Christians expression of Christ present and alive; Christians who seek an answer to this yearning for fulfillment and freedom. Naturally Christians live the common labour of our time, they do not have ready-made solutions to the questionable problems, they suffer from their contradictions, confusions and loss because they are people like everyone else, but they are supported by a founded hope and try to accompany positively the process of this difficult delivery without pretending to be the ones to fix the modalities and times that are ultimately in the hands of the mysterious plan of the Father. So the burning issues that characterize our present, let us think among others about the question of love, life, environment, demographic crisis, the loss of the sense of life for which a balanced relationship between affects, work and rest has deteriorated a bit everywhere; let us think of the drama of the right order to be built especially in the south of the planet, all these burning questions interrogate our communities all the way down the celebrating of the Eucharist, of putting themselves in the listening to the Word of God, of deepening with the catechesis the Christian vision of life, of practicing a free sharing of needs beginning with the most sensational, of taking charge in a real way of the sharpest geopolitical issues related to oppression, injustice, war, terrorism, I am thinking at the labour of legality in your territories. Incarnated Christian communities because they are constituted by men who, like all men of today are well aware that this desire for happiness and freedom cannot actually find satisfaction in individualistic and private terms, but only through community and solid ways of implementation.
Third step, living Jesus Christ, here and now is our hope. As the letter to the Romans states we Christians are joyful in hope, not unreasonably, but with good reason, since the signs of this hope are clearly identified there in our personal and community history, realistically embodied in that of the whole human family. However, the tangible signs of this hope, I first recalled two them, with a positive note, the Christian of our time would remain prey of ideology if our personal freedoms were not every day open again to the desire for the infinite. In a word, the signs of hope remain ineffective, they become alive only if meet and remain in the Hope that is in risen Jesus Christ. It is in him that our hope is the hope of the world, as it is stated in the first letter to Timothy. Moreover, if to hope you have to be happy, this is only possible if every day our freedom is surprised by the priceless gift that makes us such. Risen Jesus Christ in his true body that is alive today in the Eucharistic church is a pledge of our own resurrection. He lives in the Trinity in his true body Eucharistically offered to all of us in the everyday life and this is the down payment of our resurrection in our real bodies.
The unprecedented announcement of Easter that the Eucharistic memory makes present daily in all of history, it is not a fairy tale, not a myth, that satisfy an impossible frustrated yearning for immortality; but it is a present and encounterable fact as you witness. The friends, men and women that Jesus had gathered around him during the three years of his public mission, among whom his very mother, were not an occasional group of followers of an effective itinerant Rabbi would have come, a group that would have failed with his failing, but only the constitutive core of that ecclesial community that the cross and resurrection of Jesus formed into a new and everlasting relationship and that the Baptism, the Eucharist with the other Sacraments, continue to make strongly present to our freedom throughout the history of men and peoples. Jesus and his followers, Christ and the Church are no longer dissociated, they constitute a singleness, a unity, the people of believers that makes of the Church the most beautiful form in the world when through the power of the Spirit that is manifested through the sacraments, the freedom of men meets the Church, giving rise to many forms of community especially to the parishes, but also to the thousand forms of associations, of which the other day I spoke with two brothers. Therefore, Jesus concretely comes to the meeting of men and women and forcefully poses his invitation again: if you want to be fulfilled, if you want to achieve your desire, come and follow me and you will really be free for “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them” and we Christians know well as Matthew 28 says that “He will be with us until the end of the world. ”
When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist we should, as recommended by Paul to the Christians of Corinth, make this gesture with great awareness of the mystery that it contains. Christ our hope would then make our hearts burn forever as it happened for the two on the road to Emmaus; as for them in the breaking of the bread we will find the intense light of the Word of God, we will recognize him present among us able to make shine in the eyes of the faith, his face radiant with beauty to such a point that as the women, as Zacchaeus, as dozens of Christian generations, with haste and with joy we would put ourselves in motion to communicate it to all.
The Eucharist constitutes the progressive deepening of our relationship with the Lord and with the brothers. The regular participation in this gesture is made necessary, in its providential repetition, by our limit which prevents us to understand in a single stroke the singular and absolute mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Eucharist is truly revealed as the principal and decisive moment of all existence. Thanks to this moment, slowly in the Christian the Eucharistic form of life starts, as the Servant of God John Paul II used to say. The followers of Jesus having in common Christ himself that assimilates them to him, tend to put in common all of themselves in freedom. Inasmuch as they are capable not only do they tend to share the spiritual and material goods, but their very existence, since they no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was raised for them, men and women. Therefore, we Christians are loved by God, as Colossians says, saints and elect of feelings, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, men who come up to the unique experience that can really convince the freedom and the desire of the post-modern man.
This experience is based on two important columns that as the two pillars of Hercules hold the whole human experience. Two statements at first sight shocking. The first is from 2.6 to 10 Corinthians, “in pain happy.” Who can write such a dizzying sentence: happy in pain? Here is the first pillar of our human experience and the second Luke 7, no less paradoxical: “love your enemies.” In pain happy and love your enemies. Tell me if there is anything human that is not embraced by these two great pillars of Hercules. Here is enclosed the personal and community insurmountable paradox of the Christian experience that fully realizes human life because nothing remains outside of these two great pillars. Community formed by such men are the free result, full of grace, of communion whose gift Christians do not cease to invoke from the Spirit with the community and personal prayer, with the Sacraments, with the donations of their entire lives so that, as vital lymph, it invests all the circumstances, all relationships, enabling them of love of free sharing, of self-giving gift, of judgment, of faith, of having the same thought of Christ, of universal openness to all the dimensions in the world.
Christian communities feel called today more than ever by the urgency of happiness and freedom of our brothers to become more and more places of effective communion, clearly identifiable areas of life as you experience in your communities so that everyone can meet Jesus there. The demand for visible physically meeting places, the demand for a physically documented communion is nothing more than an extension of the demand of familiarity, friendship, brotherhood, which is the imposing consequence of any real encounter among people. When Andrew and John on the banks of the Jordan river, left the Baptist, set on the trail of Jesus, they are surprised by the fact that Jesus suddenly turns around and point-blank asks this question: “What are you looking for? And they: “Master, where are you staying?”; they are the emblem of every one of us, we are looking for a familiarity with the one who has loved us first, with the one whose meeting has mobilized the desire for fullness and opened the prospects of true freedom and what does the teacher answer? “Come and see “.
Each of us, every Christian must be able to say at all times, to every man, to every woman he meets everywhere, on the tram, at school and university, in the factory, in the district; he must be able to turn this invitation in simplicity and concreteness: “Come and see.” That is why, every parish, every Christian community, must continually regenerate as welcoming place of this physically documented communion. Only by living such a communion, Parish and Aggregations, become open communities without boundaries, open to the world; they are in themselves missionaries, the measure is not a something which is due, but the free explosion for the gratitude of the meeting done and of the possibility of remaining in this meeting with many brothers. Those who belong and daily live such a communion are regenerated in the affects in families who feel part of the big ecclesial home find in every moment energies of edification that make them credible signs, authentic witnesses of the saving presence of Christ in all the environments of human existence. This way, vital spaces are born in which virtuous communities express themselves alimented by men whose style of life, as Paul used to say, is that of existing in Christ. How often does this formula return, and the Apostle insists: “Be that you eat, or drink, test everything and take everything you think is good for, everything is yours but you are of Christ and Christ is God’s.” As in these ecclesial communities the life of communion can continually be renovated in order to keep them their permanent character of an event that covers the hearts of men so that it throws open their desire for the infinite and really liberates their freedom. It is necessary that the Eucharistic encounter with Christ tends to invest all the circumstances and all the relationships that constitute the texture of our existence as baptized. It is necessary, I am repeating it, that the life of every one of us assumes a Eucharistic form. The Eucharistic form of the Christian existence is nothing but the result of the redemptive incarnation of the Son of God that reaches us and invests us in the Sacrament here and now, in this moment as at any other moment. The total gift of the self that Jesus Christ carried out on Golgotha comes true by the work of the Spirit in the Eucharist, in the Sacraments offered to our freedom of believers. Bringing the Eucharist in the Christian life means for the Christian marrying all the way this logic, this substantial experience of sacrament and incarnation. In concrete terms, this means adhering, it is the third time I have said it, but I insist because that it how things work out, it is that which we normally do not accept, in adhering to all the circumstances and all relationships that are like the plot through which the plan of the Father unfolds on my person, a sacramental plot through which life as a vocation comes true moment by moment. The Eucharistic offering of the bread and wine, fruit of the earth and of the work of man performed so that the power of the Spirit transforms them into the given body and shed blood of Christ and at the same time source and summit of the live offering that the Christian makes of himself, the one that St. Paul with a genial formula in Romans 12 calls the reasonable cult, latreia, the total gift of the personal life as Pope John Paul II witnessed us. It implicates the gift of himself to the Father and in the Father to the brothers in everything, in every moment of our existence and this gift is possible if it pours out of a loving heart that does not forget the manifestation of risen and live Christ, as ultimate consistency of the whole reality.
The last step. The dimension of this experience of testimony, truth and communion. First of all, the urgency of charity, loving and working in Christ and for Christ without fear of sacrifice and duty, desire and freedom find the sure way of fulfillment. A community of men builds itself and is spontaneously led to share that primitive form of desire which is called need. The clear preference of Jesus for the poor for the last, not only does not exclude anyone from love but actually draws the proper setting of love for all, the first and most basic condition for our communities to be a vital happening in which the people of God is continually regenerated and so the practice of charity. In fact, charity generates a people.
It is necessary for every Christian community to take charge of a stable and comprehensive education of all its members to gratuitousness. In practice, a Christian community that wishes to live beginning with the Eucharist will propose indiscriminately to all its members to devote a portion of their time to share with humble gestures the need of the last. However it must be configured, the forms will be as many as the imagination of groups and individuals will be able to formulate under the impulse of the Spirit. It is important that they decide to donate a concrete portion of their time as a concrete expression of self-giving with the only concern to educate ourselves to the love of the one for the other, in the name of the love with which the Father loves me in Christ Jesus assuring me the daily company of the Christian Community; the first dimension of a witnessing community is free education.
Second, getting educated to the thought of Christ. A Christian Community can say “come and see” to anyone, expressing communion even as a permanent education in the faith, understood as a criterion with which to face all of reality. We have already said it, test everything Paul says in the first to the Thessalonians, hold the value, hold fast to what is good. This cannot be an automatic datum in the life of a Christian. The Christian is called to face all that is real starting from what Paul in 1 Corinthians, calls the thought of Christ. All the contradictions of the postmodern man that invest the spheres of love, of life, of affects, of work and justice, need this organic education to the thought of Christ and in order to do it you have to drink in a systematic way at the source of this thought, as you do supporting the charisma of your Inspirer and Founder, resumed in the Statute that says ” the remembrance and proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” is proclaimed to those who do not know him, is reminded to those who met him accompanying it with our witness of life. Only in this way it becomes possible to develop a judgment of communion on salient aspects of community life and made the necessary distinctions of all the most relevant nodes of civil society, in our communities practicing the decisive principle of Augustinian inspiration, Christians always united on necessary things, free in the questionable ones but in all of them witnesses of Christ’s love and charity.
And finally, the third dimension of a community that bears witness to the ends of the earth. It is natural that the invitation: “Come and see” the abode of the Christian community is addressed by us basically to all, starting from those with whom the Father calls us to invest huge portions of our time, our classmates, work and neighborhood bodies. After our family persons are to be numbered among these all these people, but with these we establish tendentially stable relationships or of noteworthy breath, we share judgments, opinions, skills relating to elementary and daily aspects of existence in order to come to the burning issues related to civil, social and political life. It is in these fields of human existence that we meet our fellow man, we feel nobody as if he were far from Christ. How can however, our belonging to the community continually feed our desire for the infinite and liberate our freedom if it does not generate so powerful a gratitude that through our lives and through the explicit word tends to really be communicated to everyone in all areas of the existence men? As the free and elementary sharing of the need of the last ones educates us to love all the closest neighbours, so in this perspective, the support of the Church’s mission “ad gentes” must be conceived by our parishes and our Aggregations as a tool for the permanent education to the missionary dimension that every Christian is called to live in first person. That is why it is a sign of the Spirit that your experience is opening up in Africa, Germany, Switzerland, as well as out of the Italian borderlines. So dear friends, let us conclude telling us this: we are a building of living stones which has as “the cornerstone the rock which builders rejected,” a place where to truly be free and in which the desire of happiness and fulfillment grows with the passing years; it does not diminish, it grows with the passing years to be implemented with the passage to eternal life of the final embrace of the Father.
This is the specific vocation of the Church in every area that lives on her inside; like you, as Monsignor Constantine said, you need to be rooted in the solid ground of the Holy Church of God. Therefore, desire for living, desire for freedom, desire for happiness are not dreams of men permanently adolescent; they are the experience of mature men, of young persons wide open to fullness, of people who get married, who generate children, who consecrate themselves to God in the virginity of the holy celibacy, who work, who contribute to the building of civil society, who participate in the life of the civil administration, who when they have the vocation also to the good government of the same. For this reason, we love life and we are heavily committed in the sphere of education, we are men who beget children, educate children, seek to ensure a dignified old age and a personal death for every elderly person. We are men convinced that God guarantees the absolute dignity of every individual from conception to natural death. These are the Christians, men with this lifestyle, men rejoicing in hope, free from the result because they follow Christ, having understood that the secret to carry out the desire for happiness is also in embracing the Cross, in pain pleased. Return to these two overwhelming statements but in the end the only permanently pacifying before the mystery of the evil of death, in pain, in sorrow happy, love your enemies, men free of the outcome, truly free, rejoicing in hope because they follow Christ by having understood that the secret to carry out the desire for happiness is even when it is required as a condition to embrace the Cross, as a passage to the resurrection, to the fullness as it was for Jesus the one who loved us first.
Christians due to the strength of their hope, which is not only in the certainty of eternal life, live happy because they know that this hope is already perceptible in the hundredfold down here, you will have eternal life, and the hundredfold down here and what is the coming together in his joy as you do today in this first convention if not the sign of the hundredfold down here. This is the only reason for our living, our following Christ. We Christians expose ourselves to witness firsthand the simplest and most comforting truth. Whoever loves and we feel to be loved by Christ, whoever loves is generated by God and knows God, whoever does not love did not know God, because God is love. “Deus Caritas Est”.