CZESTOCHOWA, Poland, DEC. 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily that Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, delivered Tuesday at the spiritual exercises organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum for diocesan leaders of Caritas and other ecclesial agencies throughout Europe.
The retreat, which began Monday and ends Friday, is taking place at the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa on the theme, “Here I Am.”
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this feast of St. Andrew, before the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, we are invited to turn our gaze to Jesus Christ and to follow him, leaving everything readily; we are invited to allow him to become truly the only Lord of our life, because only in him, living and incarnate Son of God, is our salvation; in him we find God who is Love. He is the human face of God, who so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that we could live in him in love. In him — who stripped himself of his rank and actually subjected himself to death and death on the cross for us, in virtue of pure love and mercy for all — is our hope and he is the only cornerstone that confers solidity to the building of a new humanity.
Together with St. Andrew, we feel called to make our way of thinking, of feeling, of loving and of acting totally identified with his; in this place, close to Mary, the faithful handmaid of the Lord, blessed because she believed and put her trust totally in God always doing his will, we feel impelled to share the same sentiments of Christ who, in the total offering of himself revealed to us the love of God and enriched us with a true superabundance of love, calling us to undertake the way of holiness, immaculate in his eyes out of love. Our life, just as that of the apostles, cannot be other than a testimony of the immense love that was revealed in Jesus Christ, above all toward the poor and derelict, in favor of sinners and of all those who are far from God, who truly live in a condition of radical poverty. God calls us, in a special way today, with the Apostles, to evangelize: to proclaim Christ, to give witness of him through love, to give the reason for the hope that impels us, which is none other than Christ, in whom we have known love.
Evangelization is possible, it is urgent and God is asking for it; in our days we see a powerful request for evangelization; the cry is raised: “Help us!” It is God’s moment, the hour of the new evangelization, the time of a missionary Church that proclaims and attests that God is Love. This is what is most urgent. It is about a new evangelization in a pagan world, which has distanced itself from God and does not even pose the problem to itself. It is urgent to evangelize. This is our future. This is God’s great appeal to the Church of our time.
The truth of evangelization, the sign that the Lord’s mandate to evangelize is being carried out, which Andrew and the Apostles obeyed and which we are called to follow, is the great sign of charity, which is the dimension of a Christian’s life and the indispensable pillar which supports the Church. The sign of the Messiah, Savior and hope of humanity, which men, sinners and poor, sick and destroyed are awaiting, so that “the poor are evangelized,” as Jesus responds to John’s disciples (cf. Matthew 10). It is the great sign that the Kingdom of God is near to us, from whom we received the Good News of the Kingdom of God, which is rooted in us: God-Love reigns in our hearts. Without this sign, “Without this form of evangelization through charity and without the witness of Christian poverty the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications. The charity of works ensures an unmistakable efficacy to the charity of words.” (“Novo Millennio Ineunte,” No. 50).
This is, hence, the true sign that makes the Gospel credible: charity, precisely this, the love that we are called to bear one another as Christ has loved us, a living and effective love, practical and concrete toward our brothers, above all toward those who are in conditions of greater poverty and need. From this all will know that we are his disciples: by loving one another as he loves us and with his same love (cf. John 13:34-35). Charity is the vital principle of the Church, Body of the Lord. As Pope John Paul II reminded us, which this shrine so calls to mind, in his letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte”: “The Lord’s words on this point are too precise for us to diminish their import. Many things are necessary for the Church’s journey through history, not least in this new century; but without charity (agape), all will be in vain” (“Novo Millennio Ineunte,” No. 42).
Because of this St. Paul reminds us: “If I have … but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3). Charity is the true heart of the Church. At the end of our life we will be examined and judged on love (St. John of the Cross). In the end love alone will remain, love toward the poor and toward the most in need: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35). “See how they love one another”: this was the distinctive sign of that community in which everything was shared and everything was held in common (cf. Acts 2:42-44). This must also continue to be today and always the distinctive sign, reaffirmed and reinforced by the new evangelization, by Christians and by Christian communities, so that the world will believe, so that it can see how Christ and his Gospel have transformed us, how, in truth, we have been made new creatures by the Holy Spirit who infuses in our hearts the very love of God.
Under the action of the Holy Spirit which is on Christ to proclaim the Good News to the poor and the suffering (cf. Luke 4), following the footsteps of Jesus, Good Samaritan who comes to meet us stripping himself of his divine condition and making himself one of us, poor with the poor, it is necessary and imperative that we open ourselves to all men, especially to those who are victims of injustice and marginalization, to all those who are far and abandoned, to those who have been deprived or wounded in life and in hope, to the elderly, the sick and the invalids, to those who suffer for whatever reason, to all those who need consolation and strength, to the new poor that modern society creates, to sinners. May they see in us the most total closeness, an acceptance that reflects the one and true God, who does not make distinctions between persons, who in his Son Jesus Christ came to meet each one of us in his infinite, merciful and universal love. May they be able to see in our loving and selfless concern the God and Father of mercy, the God of every consolation, who loves them with unbounded love, receives them unconditionally, expecting nothing in return, who forgives, loves and heals them, and fills them with hope and re-establishes them in their dignity. May we — through our closeness and proximity to the poor, through our preferential option for them, as option of the Church — give witness of God’s style of love, of his providence and his mercy, and may those seeds be sown today, in history, of the Kingdom of God that Jesus himself, face of the Father, scattered in his earthly life helping all those who went to Him for every sort of spiritual and material need (cf. “Novo Millennio Ineunte,” No. 49).
Like Jesus, Son of God made man, God with us, with his very love, the love of God incarnate, Christian charity leads us to share all that we are and all that we have with those who ask for it for whatever need; it impels us to establish new human relationships, which are rooted in the love of God, which is God, relations that are based on respect of the dignity of every human being, of the human person, and on the defense of the weak, of the innocent and of the defenseless. Charity requires Christians to found a new world and it asks us to be committed, with the help of divine grace, in the present circumstances, to build something that is ever more compelling and necessary: the unity of all, joint work, elbow to elbow with others, in the struggle against poverty and the poverties that grip and threaten our society. Today charity impels us to address the many and diverse forms of poverty, those that are always with us and those of today, the many situations of need that Christians must face, and the great challenges of our times.
The charity that the Spirit realizes in us points us to the practice of an active and concrete love toward every human being. It is urgent and imperative to count on charity that, let us not forget, must also necessarily be a service to culture, to politics, to the economy and to the family, so that the fundamental principles on which the destiny of humanity depends are respected, in which its inviolable dignity is at stake, as well as its fundamental and inalienable rights. This dimension of charity is an inseparable component of evangelization.
Through the intercession of St. Andrew and of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, star of the new evangelization, may God enable us to carry out the work of evangelization of the early Church, rendering present — through the force of the Spirit and participation in the Eucharist, sacrament of charity — the incarnation in words and works of the Gospel of Love, which is Jesus Christ, Son of God, our hope.
[Translation by ZENIT]