Speech by His Excellency Monsignor Antonio Ciliberti
Day 1 – 25/09/2008
with great joy, I greet you all in the Lord, on this day so holy and true, in which the Apostolic Movement gathers to celebrate its third convention, its third national meeting.
This warm and fraternal greeting, substantiated by so much joy, is for all of you most dear friends.
But allow me also on your behalf, this greeting to have hints of special attention and gratitude towards the dear Bishops present, successors of the Apostles, continuators of the work of Christ within the community of men, brothers.
My greeting also goes to my dear priests, close collaborators of the bishops in this important and irreplaceable work. It extends to all religious men and women; in fact, the peculiarity of their vocation says the special predilection that God has for them; placing them in the depths of his heart so that, through the mediation and the humility of their service, they make present in the Church the world of God on which to spark off, in a relevant way, their missionary activity.
I greet with great care and affection, the associations, groups and movements present, approved by the Church, which in communion with the Shepherds; always constitute the visible expression of the omnipotence of the Spirit of God who, according to the needs, the requirements of his Church, arouses those essential charismas and the quality of service, geared to the edification of the Church of the Saints.
But still my greeting, this evening, is aimed at representatives of all institutions, authorities, both civilian and military. They, too, according to the missionary action of the Church, are called to be unconditionally available, in the particular solemnity of their mission, to provide the indispensable contribution that finds the point of its convergence and centrality in the human dignity and in building precisely, the common good.
But allow me still this greeting to have hints of special gratitude to Mrs. Maria, Founder and Inspirer of the movement, for in the humility of her approach with the Lord; she may raise her fervent prayer, so that He may bestow the abundance of his Spirit on our community, and every day more and more, he may pose it again as the incarnation of the Church of Christ in every area of our diocesan life.
This greeting, still lies with special feelings of appreciation for the initiative, the continuity, the fantasy of imagination above all, humble and strong faith, in the President.
But I can not forget this evening to greet with affection the great Augusta, now marked by the pain with which, in deep communion with Christ, she sacrifices her sufferings for the purification of our community.
To all the cordial greetings and best wishes for a steady and constant commitment, in conformity with the directions of the Church and therefore in deep relevance to the needs of all.
We are here to meditate, as has become customary in the Movement, on the Papal documents, but particularly on those documents that are highly topical. You will remember that, already, last year, we reflected on the encyclical Caritas Est; this year, the new Holy Father Benedict XVI’s encyclical, “Spe Salvi”: this is a very nice church epithelium, because it says, in complete harmony with the style of our Church that looks to the solicitations of the Pontiffs that take into account the emergencies of our society, and the indications of the bishops in our country, to be able to rest on these data for her planning.
And it is beautiful, then, to see how this Movement, attentive to the Pontifical Ministry, from time to time, undertakes to examine these documents. This year it is the time of hope. What is hope? I questioned myself and, bearing in mind what the Holy Father said in this great encyclical, as a background on which I give my reflection, I tried to capture those moments that I think are important.
The first thing to do is to see how our society, the same as the current civilization, considers and evaluates the hope.
The second step is to check what the hope of the Christian is, the third moment is commitment to live strong in hope in order to be its carriers in the world.
Today, to the interrogative we have proposed, what is hope, the world more or less answers like this: it is the expectation of a better tomorrow. This answer is largely included also within the area of our present culture and our civilization, the so-called modern civilization.
But when we consider substantially, asking ourselves what lies in this better tomorrow, this time of waiting, we receive from today’s culture, as a part of our civilization, some specific indications. We know well the event that, today, founds in a particular way, our culture and our so called civilization, is the power of reason, rediscovered unequivocally, formerly with the French Revolution and exalted by the Enlightenment.
Reason is, of course, the formal and constitutive element of our identity, of the identity of man. This is so because he is a rational being. The power of reason has tried to actualize its potentiality, depending on the achievement of that object that would have constituted, as it were, the fulfillment of its expectations, the anxiety, of the so-called hope.
And therefore, we are driven, in an admirable manner, to update a lot of potentialities that are proper to reason, in the field of such an advanced technology, which, nevertheless, perseveres at an accelerated pace its course in our time. All this in a perspective to procure to man those consumer goods in which the man of the so-called modernity placed the certainty of carrying out his hopes. He even placed the realization of the fulfillment of the needs of his Spirit.
But what is the experience that today unites the men of the so-called modern civilization? Faced with this perspective that appeared admirable, the men of our civilization had to verify, unequivocally, that reason applied to technology in the dimension of the procurement of consumer goods, even if reprimanding to this thirsty humanity innumerable goods; this humanity is unsatisfied, disappointed, dismayed, because the contingent and material things certainly do not have the power to quench the thirst of the Spirit that goes beyond things and seeks more. A great disappointment that characterizes that anxious dimension that, not infrequently, labours the men of our times.
Nevertheless, right because reason is the constitutive element of the entity of a man, it has within itself unexplored potentialities; striving in an even more efficacious and responsible way, he tried to identify, even better after this experience, full of disappointment, in what, basically, he could have found the constitutive object on which to rest life in order to realize the hope in the perspective of achieving happiness; and gratified by experience, carrying out a lot of potentialities, the man of our times, in spite of all, arrived at understanding some things that made him an authentic constituent of true hope: in its simplicity, he must combine into the unity of their essence those adjectives that characterize the identity of hope …
What are these adjectives? Absolute, eternal, unchanged.
Absolute is that which, to be, does not need to rely on others.
How could constitute substance of hope, for the intelligent man of our times, what, in order to be, would need to rely on others?
Its instability, its uncertainty, would be a reason of disturbance and would kill the definition of hope. It must be some immutable thing, for the very mutability makes wobble the foundation on which hope rests; it must be something eternal, so that it introduce us forever in the perennial relevance due to its very height. Despite the typically natural ability to capture in a rational manner the height of these values, the man of our civilization, the modern man must also recognize the limits of his existence.
His reason is not the absolute, so man does not have within himself the ability to think for man the constitutive object of his real hope.
And at this point, in the postmodern civilization, a tension is present that, in an admirable manner, man’s nostalgia makes ever present: the one, that is, of begging for a help that comes from above, in order to be able to aid in the limitations of this worn humanity. Plato already cried it out four centuries before Christ. If there comes no help from above, we would be hopeless and desperate. He cried it out, with force, in the sureness of his faith; in a more complete and sublime way, St. Augustine, the great genius of mankind: Lord, you made us for yourself and our heart will always be restless until it does not rest in you.
He highlights the transcendent and the absolute need which man feels in the depths of his heart.
This indigence, often articulated in pain, turns from the earth to heaven and gets to the heart of God, who, of course, is not deaf to the invocation of man, his son.
Here is, then, the second stage of our reflection. What is hope, then, for us Christians? It is not just waiting for a better tomorrow, the answer of our civilization; but it is the certainty that that tomorrow is, already, in the today of our history; even if not yet, because it needs the fullness of its realization.
In what is essentially realized this datum? In the presence of God within the community of man, his son. God, God, if I saw, if I followed him, where is this God? If God is in your heart, look for him everywhere, look for him in your chest and you will find him with you.
Everywhere I look and turn, God I see you immense, I admire you, I recognize you in myself; the earth and the broad spheres speak of his power, immensely in you; that is the voice of the poet. But the holy book, history, in a memorable way, tell us even more: that God who welcomes in full man who not only has this indigence of humanity, in a personal and direct way; comes to meet us and is embodied in the Virginal womb, in the noble creature among the mothers, the Immaculate Mary.
He takes upon himself, in the humility of his person, the fragile condition of our marked humanity and we understand, quickly, to what dizzying heights, he elevates our humanity, assumed in the unity of the person of the Word.
See how, then, that waiting that, to some extent, characterizes the tension of hope, in God’s world finds a historical connotation that does not end in the Incarnation which is the beginning of the saving work, brought to completion by Christ in history.
In fact, that Christ who became incarnate for us, immolated himself on the altar of the cross: expiation victim for our sins; celebrating that only and true sacrifice that ransoms man from his humanity of child of God and gives him the guarantee of eternal health, granitic and sure, strong and irreducible foundation of genuine hope.
Yes, Christ alone, is able to celebrate that authentic event of salvation, because he, Man God, in the unity of his person, has the power to carry out works which have an infinite value: his sacrifice, the Paschal Sacrifice is the redemptive sacrifice par excellence, so that we can cry out the truth, strong of his conscious faith: for the man of all times there is no other possibility of salvation apart from Christ.
Christ is our only savior, yesterday, today and forever.
But Jesus, in the infinity of his love for us, in deep synchrony with the will of the Father, as we know, wanted that that only and authentic sacrifice, celebrated once and for all on the altar of the cross, could be re-proposed in the perennial presence of history so that it resulted an instrument of salvation, for me, for you, brothers, sisters and shepherds.
Therefore, he instituted the mystery of Christ who is the re-proposition of the Paschal sacrifice of Jesus: the Holy Mass in which the greatness of his love reaches unattainable summits for the limits of the ability of man, because in every sacrifice he becomes food and drink to feed in wealth our inner life, giving us his Body and his Blood to extinguish, for eternity, the blazing heat of the heart.
This is my body, this is my blood, who eats and drinks will possess life.
Dear friends, here is the admirable concretization of the expectations that, in a powerful way, are present in the heart of a man and that find the opportunity of exhausting response in the work of God that is conjugated with Christ, through the work of the Spirit.
But Jesus wanted to make sure that what he brought to completion, to build the hope of mankind, and celebrate in a permanent way his saving revelation; could be perpetuated also through the humiliation of those who, welcoming his work, undertake to share with responsibility his mission.
Therefore, as the Father teaches, he said: I will send you the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will bring to completion in him, the work begun in Baptism.
We know well what happened on the day of Pentecost, that it is not a pretty tale: it is the powerful redemption of the divine love; the soul of the Church feels that life has a great mission in the world. Let Peter and the others bring the Spirit of God, undertake their task which was that of guiding men in the name of Risen Christ, in the name of our Savior.
Beloved, the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church and steadily; he guides her with the omnipotence of his love, in the fulfillment of her mission.
We have irrefutable data that confirm, unequivocally, this truth. Let us make a small observation. If we consider the current tradition of our humanity and we compare it with the same humanity, in the recent but no longer remote past; in a measurable way, we find this irrefutable datum. Humanity proceeds in a gradual and constant manner, from a condition of inferiority, to a situation of higher level, and all this despite the limitations and selfishness of man, which often constitutes a curbing force of the action of the Spirit of God.
This datum says, unequivocally, that the power of the Spirit of God is, the soul of the history of mankind which is realized in this constant and unstoppable process towards the fullness of its liberation. Clearly, if man collaborates with this plan of God, the pace will be the one that the Holy Spirit gives to the journey of his Church. On the contrary, if without a sense of responsibility, and hidden, man does not undertake to cooperate, his disengagement will not turn the Holy Spirit off. However, he will thwart God’s plan for his life and for all those entrusted to his responsibility.
Therefore, our commitment is to propose this; the strength of our hope lies right in this certainty: that our better tomorrow is already present in the today of our history, because God in an admirable way, in Jesus Christ, with the omnipotence of his Spirit, has brought his part to completion.
At this point, the third interrogative we asked ourselves at the beginning. What must our attitude be before this ineffable design in which we notice, greater, the hope for us Christians in the world?
The answer is obvious. We must strive to be able to collaborate responsibly, because what the Lord has done, without our help, we will not find in us the fullness of its fulfillment, without our responsible co-participation; it is essential, therefore, in light of these other truths, to fling open soul and heart, the entirety of our existence, to welcome Christ, our hope, Christ our Saviour, establishing with him this inseparable relationship of unity of life, of substantial communion from which to draw the inspiration and strength of our history and mission of men.
We will welcome Christ Truth, like Mary, in whose womb the Word was made flesh, by welcoming his Gospel which is Christ who speaks to the world, in the concrete situation, in his history, in his life. We welcome Christ, the living bread, through the Eucharist, so that he substantiates our spirituality, he also gives strength to our mission.
In this perspective, certainly, there is a fine example: Mary, Mother of the Redemption, and Star of Hope, because she is just the one who welcomed in the mystery of her motherhood the God made our brother and, through the mediation of her historical mission in the world, she brought him to the men of good will, as the only and true savior.
Let the Church, with her children, in light of these truths, commit herself to live this mission, so that each one of us can really be in the world, a witness of hope for all the men of good will.
In the particularity of this Congress, I turn with affection this wish, to all the members of this worthy association, so that strong with Christ the God, in the humanity of their flesh, they can really be, in the world, witnesses of hope, in order to irradiate to the men who live a moment of suffering and distress in this world a safer approach, which is the one that leads to the common salvation: Jesus Christ our Lord.