Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin celebrated Holy Mass this morning at the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary at Pompeii, Italy, and spoke of how Christians are to live out their faith.
At this place of Marian devotion, where on 8 May every year thousands of faithful participate in reciting the Supplication to the Virgin, a prayer composed in 1883 by Blessed Bartolo Longo, founder of the shrine, the Cardinal began his homily, noting the liturgy of the day, which presents “the nascent Church.”
“The Apostles, reinvigorated by the gift of the Holy Spirit, begin their mission to proclaim the Good News. Peter, proclaiming his faith, invites those present to repent of their sins and to wash their faults in the water of Baptism to be reborn to the new life,” he said.
“A first question comes to mind: what does this new life consist of?” he asked. “For Christians, there can be but one answer: it consists of love and is manifested in charity.”
“Charity opened the doors, in fact it opened them wide to hope, giving life to a new era,” stressed Cardinal Parolin. “No problem, no apprehension, no matter how strong or motivated, can keep distant a hope that, precisely in this place is manifested as concrete, made of works that speak the language of a charity that transforms, builds and makes everything new.”
“This remains true,” he noted, “even if today what we live does not shield us from difficulties and anxieties, such as the snare of a violence that always lies in ambush, or the scarce and uncertain prospects of work for our young people, to whom not only the economic crisis of these times, but old and structural delays make it difficult to look at the future with serenity and confidence.”
The cardinal emphasised three important concepts which may help us to understand what the Lord wishes to say to us every day: proclaiming our faith, putting it into practice in how we treat our neighbor, and being light to the world.
The first is that of proclaiming our faith. Since we are baptized and have received in Confirmation the gift of the Holy Spirit, he encouraged those present to “make this gift bear fruit.” Let’s do so, he said, “without descending to compromises but living and professing our faith in fullness.”
Recalling Peter, he said to think of “the poor fisherman of Galilee, drawn by Jesus to an adventure that is greater than he is. The Lord gives him the keys of the Kingdom, he makes him the head of the Apostles, he gives him confidence. And what does he do? At the moment of need, he denies him three times.”
The Cardinal noted an important lesson to be learned from Peter’s sin and repentence.
“However, faith in Christ is stronger!” he stressed. “Peter ‘wept bitterly,’ he repented of what he had done and, after Jesus’ Resurrection he gathered his brothers. But he was still frightened. His humanity was fragile. Behold, then, God sent the Holy Spirit who gave the Apostles, gathered with Mary in the Cenacle, the grace, the strength to proclaim the Kingdom of God.”
Turing to Mary, he said that she “in a certain sense, answered the ‘yes’ of the Annunciation, making herself present as the first evangelizer. Thus, Mary placed herself at the service of Jesus and the Gospel, humble handmaid of the Lord, but also Mother of our faith.” He added, “She watches over as a loving and diligent Mother not only the affairs of our daily life, but over the firmness of our faith. She is the one who invites us to look at her Son.”
The second concept was to put our faith into practice – that is, to love our neighbour. “Here, in fact, is the heart of our faith. This is the revolution brought by Jesus. Mutual love is the commandment that he gave to his own before he died, defining it His and New. It is, therefore,” he added, “the very essence of his teaching. Only through love of a brother, in fact, Saint John tells us, ‘we pass from death to life.’ We are reborn, that is, to a new life.”
“Love among human beings is what is most at God’s heart, what He wants for us, because He is the Father of all. Therefore, by loving one another we are closer to God. And union with Him is the inexhaustible source of interior light, it is source of life, of spiritual fecundity, of continual renewal.”
The third concept was being a light for the world – mission. The secretary of state said that, “We must take this light, this truth to the world, we must witness it and proclaim it to all. And we must do so with joy, as Pope Francis exhorts: ‘Never be sad men and women: a Christian can never be so! Do not let yourselves fall prey to discouragement!'”
He added, still quoting the Pontiff that, “‘Ours is not a joy that is born from possessing many things, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, of knowing that with Him we are never alone, even in difficult moments, even when the path of life runs into problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many!’”
Cardinal Parolin told the faithful to live this out, saying “We cannot keep to ourselves this joyful certainty, but we must communicate it to others, because – as Pope Francis says again in Evangelii Gaudium – ‘we will succeed in being fully human when we are more than human, when we allow God to lead us beyond ourselves so that we attain our truest being.’”
He encouraged those present to look to Mary “who welcomed the gift that God gave her and brought it into the world … living witness of the light of faith, and even today she continues to give to her children.”
The Cardinal concluded, “Let us entrust to Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth, but especially our sweetest Mother, the “most tender among mothers,” all our preoccupations, our anxieties, our needs. Let us pray for the Church, let us pray for Pope Francis who asked me to have us remember him particularly in this Day and place – let us pray for the whole world, let us pray for peace.” (D.C.L.)
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