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Msgr Edgar Pena Parra’s Homily at Opening of the Academic Year of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart

Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State: ‘We invoke on the year that begins the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He will illumine and guide your research and your daily educational commitment’

Here is a Zenit translation of the homily that the Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, H.E. Monsignor Edgar Pena Parra gave this morning, in the course of the Holy Mass, for the opening of the academic year of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We meet around the Eucharistic Table for the opening of the academic year of this Catholic Athenaeum. We wish to invoke divine assistance on the students, for whom the new academic year will mark a stage of the decisive phase of <their> scientific and professional formation; on the docents called to a renewed dedication in the delicate formative role of the new generations. I gladly accepted the invitation to preside over this Holy Mass, and I’m happy to express to those present my cordial greeting. In particular, my thought goes first of all to the Rector, Professor Franco Anelli, to the academic body, to dear Monsignor Claudio Giuliodori, General Assistant, and to the priests his collaborators. Moreover, I greet deferentially the other Authorities convened here.

Today’s Gospel page (Mark 4:21-25) illumines our celebration as well as the cultural and spiritual path that the Catholic University is following in this new academic year.

After saying to the Apostles that He entrusted to them the mystery of the Kingdom of God, Jesus compared it to a lamp. And as the latter is not placed under a bushel or under the bed, but very visibly on the candelabrum, so that it can give light, so they <the Apostles> must not keep hidden the mystery of the Kingdom of God, that is, keep it only for themselves, as if they were a group of chosen ones. That mystery was certainly penetrated and understood with all the commitment of their intelligence, but at the same time the Apostles were called to manifest it to all, spreading it widely to the ends of the earth. In fact, Jesus admonished them: “For there is nothing hid, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light” (v. 22).

And, in fact, it’s what Jesus did first. From the moment He left Nazareth, He began His public preaching going through the roads of Galilee. The purpose of His mission was to communicate to all the closeness of the Kingdom of God, namely, the Father’s love for all and, particularly, for the poorest.  Seeing the Divine Master at work, the people perceived that the light had truly come into the world — as Saint John writes in the Prologue — and it was no longer “under the bushel,” but shone on the candelabrum. And the crowds so realized it that they ran to be illuminated, to receive a light that illuminates the darkness of an often sad and difficult life.

The image of the light that exists to illuminate others, and certainly not itself, describes well Jesus’ life and mission. He is the true Light that illumines every man; He didn’t come for Himself, He did not incarnate Himself to fulfil Himself or to affirm a personal project of His. Jesus came on earth to illuminate men’s way to salvation. He came so that, listening to His word, all could follow the paths of existence until reaching Heaven. The disciples that He continues to call throughout the centuries, from generation to generation, are invited to do the same, that is, not to hide the light of the Gospel that they have received, or to adopt strict measures to communicate this light to the world.

He Himself reminds us of this in today’s Gospel: “the measure you give will be the measure you get” (v. 24). It’s an invitation to have a wide and merciful heart as that of the Father who is in Heaven. And God’s generosity with us has been wide: He gave us His Son so that we would receive Him and make Him known to others. It is on a similar generosity that we will be judged. In fact, Jesus clarifies to the disciples: “to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (v. 25).  According to the Gospel, love and generosity can’t endure restrictions and borders: a believer’s heart is universal and open to all.

 

It is about giving a limpid Christian witness in every environment in which we are called to live and operate. In this apostolic commitment we have the certainty of being sustained by the Holy Spirit, He who guides the disciples to the fullness of truth. And it’s all the more appropriate to keep present this work of the Spirit in the context of a University community, where the dialogue unfolds daily between faith in Christ and scientific research. When Jesus spoke to the Apostles in the Cenacle, He had His Church in mind that, thanks to the gift of the Spirit, would be able to understand fully His message of salvation. This happened fundamentally and extraordinarily at Pentecost, but then it has continued in the ordinary life  of individuals and communities, as well as in the exceptional events that Providence has disposed in the course of the centuries. Therefore, to accomplish effectively the mission to give witness of Jesus and His Gospel, every person, every believer and every community, including the University <community> must enter, so to speak, the ray of Pentecost and entrust him/her/itself to the illuminating action of the Spirit in truth.

Today, with this liturgical celebration, we want to insert ourselves joyfully in the “ray of action” of that event, invoking with faith the gift of the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Seat of Wisdom. We invoke him so that, in the year that begins, this University community may live fully its vocation and mission inside the Church and at the service of her mission in the world. This University distinguishes itself with the adjective “Catholic,” desired by its Founder, Father Agostino Gemelli, which recalls the ecclesial nature of the Institute, namely, its place within the mission of the Church. We know that a community’s ecclesial nature can never be taken for granted. Not even the title “Catholic” is enough to guarantee it! It’s a gift that always calls to be received and revived with faith and generous commitment.

In fact, it’s beautiful to recognize that, in the invocation and reception of the Holy Spirit, every generation of professors and students is called to collaborate so that the University is what it should be, namely, “Catholic.” The “catholicity” of the University community and of University work consists in a passionate commitment to reflect on the whole reality, in the light of the mystery of Christ, on whom depends the elaboration of a Christian culture open to the comprehension of all. If Christ is the Truth that illumines, frees, and gives meaning to life; if He is the complete answer to man’s profound questions that cannot be eliminated, the truth that is Christ must, precisely in Catholic Universities, be light for others <and> for the world. And this is very different from a label given to an institution once and for all, nor can it be only the task of an academic summit or of those responsible for University pastoral care, but it’s a gift and a commitment that calls into question the willingness and docility of all to the action of the Spirit.

Therefore, we invoke on the year that begins the light of the Holy Spirit, so that He will illumine and guide your research and your daily educational commitment.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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