Lenten Retreat: ‘One Who Loves Teaches to Love’

Homily Discusses ‘The Way in the Desert’

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One who loves, on rescuing another concretely, teaches also, by the fact, to love, says Father Pietro Bovati, who from Sunday, March 1 to Friday morning March 6, is preaching the Lenten Retreat to the Pope — who is following it from the Vatican — and to his collaborators of the Roman Curia. Said in other words, a work of corporal mercy is also a work of spiritual mercy.

This was the seventh meditation, on Wednesday afternoon, March 4, the second of the day, dedicated to the “way in the desert” (Exodus 15.22:16.8; Matthew 25:31-46; Psalm 23), a synthesis of which Vatican Radio published in Italian.

The Vatican published the themes of the 10 meditations on the general theme of the Burning Bush: ‘The bush was burning due to a flame of fire’ (Exodus 3:2). The meeting between God and man, in the light of the Book of Exodus, of the Gospel of Matthew and of the prayer of the Psalms.”

 God, Master of History

For Father Bovati, in the history of Exodus, the desert is the “place of Providence,” the area in which God “reveals Himself as the God of the Covenant with Israel, the good and faithful God and, at the same time, the Almighty Sovereign to whom all cosmic forces are subject”: He is “the Architect of the history of salvation,” a history where expressed also is “the freedom of men, of the assent or rebellion against God”; God “works admirably “ in history, but humanity must not be reduced  “to a pure passive object.”

“Paradoxically, then, to exalt God in His work, one would thus annihilate the very summit of creation, constituted by man, free and artisan of his destiny, because created in the image and likeness of God,” noted the Italian Jesuit.

Not Without Human Freedom

So, for Father Bovati, God’s action in history, as the Bible shows, “takes into account men’s resistances and He always wants to obtain an answer, He doesn’t impose Himself and He desires a relationship with the creature, including his “cooperation,” a “courageous collaboration.” Therefore, “the realization of God’s salvific action in human affairs depends, in a certain sense, on man.”

The 40 years spent in the desert means “the whole of existence,” explained the preacher: the desert is a “representation of our earth,” where “man suffers,” but where “God reveals Himself,” “acting precisely thanks to His servants.”

The Double Listening

Father Bovati insists on the game of liberties: “We must assume, in a responsible way, the task of doing the good as if our hands were God’s hands,” because it’s what happens when “God’s servant lives the virtue of the double listening: he listens to the voice of God and he listens to the cry of the people entrusted to him.”

The desert, “figure of life,” is not only a space but a time “which can become temptation,” “it’s our time, the time of man”: the people “matured in faith” there and God “inspired” there men capable of helping those put to the test, as in Moses’ case.” The latter “listened to the cry of suffering, even if badly expressed and the demands of his people put him in difficulty because he himself didn’t know how to respond.” The Italian Jesuit noted that our “prayers are also always very imperfect” and “especially the cry of the poor,” which is “often broken.” Moses then invoked the Lord faithfully in “a prayer that surmounted the temptation and he was heard.”

On Loving one Teaches to Love

And then there is the gift of the Law. In the desert God “imposed a law and an order on the people”: this means that in “the act itself of rescue, the obedient relationship to the Lord must be taught.”

So, “on loving, one teaches to love,” and “in the work of corporal mercy, one also does a work of spiritual mercy, one touches people’s heart making them apt to believe in God and to act as God wills, namely, in love.”

Father Bovati then recalled the Last Judgment in the great charter of Matthew 25: the Judgment is focused solely on one thing, to help people in their need, take care of a suffering body, but also of the heart of the suffering person, because in  the “littlest one” says the Gospel, “Jesus is there.”

However, the preacher asked, “how can we see that we help God Himself when we take care of little ones? How can our eyes of flesh really be able to see that it is so? “

He answers: “It’s without seeing that we love, without glory, without honour, in the gift of self even to death, behold the fullness of the good, the Father’s blessing of life.”

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Anita Bourdin

France. Journalist accreditated to the Holy See press office since 1995. Started Zenit in french in january 1999. Classical litterature (Paris IV-Sorbonne). Master in journalism (IJRS Bruxelles). Biblical theology (PUG, Rome).

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