Homily Cardinal Bagnasco
Rome, St Peter’s Basilica, 3.8.2019
European Meeting of European Guides and Scouts Homily “Parate viam Domini”
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Scouts and Guides of Europe
It is with great emotion that we find ourselves in the heart of Christendom, next to the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the final destination of EUROMOOT, your European Meeting. We have in our hearts the words that the Holy Father Francis has just addressed to us, together with his paternal and encouraging presence. We renew our gratitude to him and assure him of our prayer.
Saint Peter looks at us and so does the forerunner John the Baptist, repeating the old and ever new call: “Parate Viam Domini”, “Prepare the way of the Lord”! How serious and sweet these words sound under the vaults of this distinguished basilica! How good they are for our hearts! You have the vigour of your youth, years full of dreams and hopes, of daring and of promises. But remember, the youth of the heart has no age: the years go by quickly, but youth must remain, even if veiled by the patina of wisdom that time gives to those who embrace it serenely. That is why we can say that John’s words are good for all of us, for our young hearts. In these days en route, you have prayed, tasted serious and joyful fraternity, you have meditated together and alone, you have worked on the Word of God, you have sought concreteness in the exhortation of John the Baptist, and finally, He whom you have known in the Scriptures, you have met Him in the living embrace of the sacraments. Now, within the mystery of the Divine Liturgy, what can we still hear?
Dear Friends, you have set out from different roads on the continent and now you are here, where the blood of the Apostle bore as its fruit the blood of so many martyrs who – yesterday as today – have shed it for their faith in Jesus, the reason of their lives. Could we forget this legacy? Can we take faith lightly, almost play with the Gospel while they put their lives on the line? Could we look with detachment, almost through the window, at a multitude of Christians who, today in the world, are persecuted, excluded, violated and killed because of faith? Can we be lazy and sophisticated disciples while they are facing every sacrifice for God’s sake? I believe that this is the answer that rises from the tomb of Peter and the martyrs to the exhortation of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord”. The answer is the martyrs and saints, men and women – great and very small – who gave their lives for him: Peter and Paul, Lucia and Agatha, Gianna Beretta Molla and Piergiorgio Frassati, Cyril and Methodius, Benedict and Edith Stein, John Henry Newman and John Paul II… and a multitude that no one can count. In their lives, they prepared the ways of God, and thus helped others to meet Him, to open the earth to Heaven, to open the way in the night so that the day would come. They have understood – struck by the Light – that man exists because God is there, that faith is not a set of emotions or good feelings, that Christian life is not doing something like doing a task, but living in relation to Christ; they have understood that the most important thing about existence is not being important but being useful, that freedom is not doing what one wants to do but choosing good and truth, and that in a world without truth one cannot live long. They understood that sacrifice is the other name for love, and that joy is not having things but trusting in Jesus, in a heart to heart that precedes all activity and service. Dear young people, God is not an idea, but He is Someone, and the darkness of faith is a consequence of His dazzling Light.
Today, God seems to be an unnoticed presence, because everything contributes to distract us from the essential: images, words, sounds, noises… everything tends to distract us, knowing that those who create stronger sensations capture the freedom of others and manipulate it. The widespread culture spreads the myth of omnipotence to weaken man, confuse him and use him. Material well-being is not enough to be happy: if the soul remains empty of true ideals, if it does not meet God, it is lost; it does not know where it comes from and where it is walking. The main problem of modern man, an often unconfessed problem, is eternal life, his ultimate destiny, the future beyond the door of time, if the end of the earthly race is the tragic and cold nothingness. Only eternity is the meaning of man, because our little heart is made for God and nothing else can ever satisfy it.
Saints and martyrs are those who have never lost their sense of the Divine, of the supernatural, of the beauty of grace. When – as in our time – there is a tendency to naturalise the Gospel, that is to say, to take away from it the backbone of the supernatural life that Christ came to give us, then Christianity becomes a services agency. The eternal Son of God came down to earth not so much to share the life of Man, but much more to elevate Man to God. This is what men of all ages need and this is the centre of Christ’s mission: “Go into the entire world”. Only the whim of our will can stop it and keep it a prisoner. Could we stay outside? Can we hide ourselves, by fear of confrontation, of derision? Can our hearts shrink to this point? The material and sensitive world needs the invisible world: sometimes it fears it because it escapes its parameters, but it is intrigued, desires it, often in an unconscious or unexpressed way.
We must remember the words of the Master: you are in the world but not from the world. The true way of being in the world, of truly loving it, is not to let ourselves be assimilated by the world: this does not mean being only critical of reality as nihilism does, but it means being witnesses of faith. In other words, we must show that there is a different world, which does not ignore the present world but supports it, embraces it in truth. This world is not an ideology; it is Christ, the eternal Son of God, the Saviour, the Prince of justice and peace. He is our Principle and our Destiny, our Way. He is our Joy.
Angelo Card. Bagnasco
Metropolitan Archbishop of Genoa
President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences
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