Cardinal Bertone's Homily at Vigil Mass

«The World Belongs to Whoever Loves It Most and Is Best Able to Tell It So»

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FATIMA, Portugal, MAY 12, 2010 ( Here is a translation of the homily given today by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Benedict XVI’s secretary of state, at a vigil Mass for Thursday’s feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone celebrated the Mass following a rosary led by the Pope in Latin and a candlelight pilgrimage.

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Venerable Brother Bishops and Priests
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Dear Pilgrims,

Jesus said: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). In order to enter the kingdom, we must become humble, ever humbler and smaller, as small as possible: this is the secret of the mystical life. A serious commitment to the spiritual life begins when a person makes an authentic act of humility, moving away from the difficult position of one who always considers himself the centre of the universe so as to abandon oneself into the arms of the mystery of God, with the heart of a child.

Into the arms of the mystery of God! In him not only is there power, knowledge and majesty, but also infancy, innocence, infinite tenderness, because he is Father, infinitely Father.

We did not know this before, nor could we have known it; it was only when he sent his Son to us that we were able to discover it. The Son became a child and so he could tell us to become children ourselves in order to enter his kingdom. He, the God of infinite grandeur, became so small and humble before us that only the eyes of faith, only the eyes of the simple are able to recognize him (cf. Mt 11:25). In this way he called into question the natural instinct of self-assertion that dominates us: “Become like God” (cf. Gen 3:5). Very well, then! God appeared on earth as a child. Now we know what God is like: he is a child. We had to see it to believe it! He came to address our overwhelming need to be noticed, but he turned it on its head by inviting us to place it at the service of love; to be noticed, yes, but as the most peaceable, indulgent, generous and serviceable to all: the servant and the last of all.

Brothers and sisters, this is “the wisdom from above” (cf. Jas 3:17). By contrast, the “wisdom” of the world exalts personal success and seeks it at any cost, eliminating without scruples those who are considered an obstacle to one’s own supremacy. This is what people call life, but the trail of death that it leaves behind immediately contradicts them. “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer”, as we heard in our second reading, “and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn 3:15). Only someone who loves his brother possesses in himself eternal life, that is to say, the presence of God, who, through the Spirit, communicates his love to the believer, making him a sharer in the mystery of the life of the Blessed Trinity.

Just as an emigré to a foreign country, even if he adapts well to the new situation, preserves – at least in his heart – the laws and customs of his people, so too when Jesus came on earth, he brought with him, as a pilgrim of the Blessed Trinity, the manner of life of his heavenly homeland which “expresses humanly the divine ways of the Trinity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 470). In baptism, each one of us renounced the “wisdom” of the world and turned towards the “wisdom from above”, which was manifested in Jesus, the matchless Teacher of the art of loving (cf. 1 Jn 3:16). To lay down one’s life for one’s brother is the highest form of love, said Jesus (cf. Jn 15:13); he both said it and did it, commanding us to love as he did (cf. Jn
15:12). Passing from life as possession to life as gift is the great challenge that reveals – to ourselves and to others – who we are and who we want to be.

Fraternal and gratuitous love is the commandment and the mission that the divine Teacher left us, one that is capable of convincing our brothers and sisters in humanity: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35). At times we lament the marginal place of Christianity in present-day society, the difficulty of handing on the faith to the young, the decline in the number of priestly and religious vocations … and one could list other grounds for concern; in fact, we often think of ourselves as the losers vis-à-vis the world. The adventure of hope, however, takes us beyond that point. It teaches us that the world belongs to whoever loves it most and is best able to tell it so. In the heart of every person there is an infinite thirst for love; and we, with the love that God pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), are able to satisfy that thirst. Naturally, our love must express itself not “in word or speech but in deed and in truth”, joyfully and readily placing our goods at the disposal of those in need (cf. 1 Jn 3:16-18).

Beloved pilgrims, and all who are listening to me, “share with joy, like Jacinta”. That is the invitation that this Shrine chose to highlight on the centenary of the birth of the blessed visionary of Fatima. Ten years ago, in this very place, the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II raised her to the glory of the altars together with her brother Francisco; they accomplished in a short time the long journey towards holiness, guided and sustained by the hands of the Virgin Mary.

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