THE ATTRACTION OF THE FAITH
by Adrianus Simonis
The following is the greeting and homily of Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, primate of Holland, during the Mass of the International Assembly of Communion and Liberation Responsibles in La Thuile, Sunday, August 28, 2005
“Hope does not disappoint.” I had hoped to return to Rimini and La Thuile this year as well, and thanks be to God, this has happened.
Why am I always so willing to come to you? Because our gatherings are like oases for one who lives more or less in a spiritual desert.
I can assure you that, during the year, the Meeting and this international encounter form the background of my existence as one of the faithful and as a bishop.
Dearest brothers and sisters: I believe that you, too, have been looking forward to this international assembly in a particular way.
After the unforgettable months that we have just passed through, marked by death and also by the Mystery living in the Church, the Body of Christ in history, we have welcomed with gratitude Benedict XVI to the place of his great predecessor, John Paul II.
Now the word we have listened to leads us to look directly at the sense of pain in no longer being able to take joy in Fr. Giussani’s physical presence among us. I too have experienced his affectionate attention, through several phone calls.
Now I would like to return to three affirmations taken from the passages we have just listened to.
“You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced… a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.” You are here, we are here, because of an event that is so intensely human that a question has arisen in us about the Mystery of God present. Just as six centuries earlier, Jeremiah asked himself about God, so too, 2,000 years ago, a few Jews found themselves asking, “Who is this Man?” before that Jesus, marked by something unexplainable. Shared living with Him made it evident that they could trust in Him. The same wonder lives on in the Church, and with CL this fact has by now happened to thousands of people, multitudes from whom those gathered here are like the tip of an iceberg. Jeremiah tells us today that faith is the fascination by which you “let yourself be seduced,” an attraction that tends to spread. Many of you love Fr. Giussani wholeheartedly, though you have never met him, except through someone who has already been marked by having encountered Christ through his humanity.
The prophet speaks of a “burning fire.” It is the desire that arises when our heart leaps before the Mystery present. Here is the intimately personal and at the same time universal mark of the encounter. It elicits that precious restlessness that the world does not know.
“Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” I’m brought here to say something about this famous passage of today’s Gospel, Matthew 16, about the primacy of Peter. Many modern exegetes consider Jesus’ words to Peter as an interpolation. Not only have I never found in my studies of Bible exegesis a true argument against the authenticity of Jesus’ words, but there is an evident argument that attests to the historicity of the promise to Peter. If the passage were an ad artem interpolation, the authors would certainly have removed Jesus’ harshness with Peter. Today, I say publicly that for me, the most convincing sign of Fr. Giussani’s–and thus the charism’s–witness to Christ was his not placing himself at the center of the Movement, of the people that he saw being born around him.
Life is pure gratuitousness from God, and only if it is freely given back to Him does our person flower into awareness and affective maturity. In Fr. Giussani, we have received a witness to the Mystery whom we can follow to learn to overcome the fear of entrusting ourselves freely. To the question, “What can man give in exchange for himself?” we know how to respond! We have seen the gain, the hundredfold of living responding to Christ in the circumstances, of loving “the Lord in everything, above everything,” as Christ and the Church say. Now, having recognized the truth of life, each one of us must commit ourselves with the encounter we had. This is the key of the conversion to Christ: not wanting to decide for ourselves the concrete modality that the Father has always chosen to lead us to acknowledge Christ. Let us not forget that the future Benedict XVI described faith as “obedience of the heart to that form of teaching to which we have been entrusted.”
A third and final reference to today’s readings will help.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age,” Saint Paul has exhorted us. Today, those among us who follow that Mystery that Fr. Giussani served for his entire life and with all his capacity for affection for life, do not find themselves orphans, because not only are they his disciples, but his traveling companions, since they live as “children of the Father”–even if younger in years and, above all, less ardent than he.
This is why his affirmation, “The greatest sacrifice is to give your life for the work of an Other,” is decisive; this judgment goes directly to the depths of the heart of Christ, to which the charism has always introduced us. The world’s mind-set does not comprehend how from obedience is born the freedom to live as sons. Well, the charism is given by the Spirit, and acknowledged in the Church to personalize the faith. We have heard that Paul does not tell us to mortify ourselves but to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,” that is, compare everything with our desire for fullness.
Finally, Fr. Giussani opened us to the Eucharist as the sacrament of Christ’s friendship toward us and ours toward Him. This is the Communion, the Communion in Him among us.
In this spirit, entrusting ourselves to the intercession of Mary, we celebrate the Eucharist, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.