Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State Celebrates Mass and Delivers Homily at the Shrine of the Holy Face

After the visit of Pope Benedict XVI on September 1, 2006 there now comes the visit of his Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone on Sunday April 27, 2008. Certainly this is an important event which can only lead to historic and significant actions on the part of the Holy See. Cardinal Bertone's visit is notable for many reasons, not the least because it comes just one week after Pope Benedict's apostolic visit to the United Nations and the United States of America. May the Holy Spirit enlighten minds and hearts to bring the Face of Christ to the sight of each and all the peoples of the world. What follows is my translation of the homily delivered by Cardinal Bertone at the Sanctuary of the Holy Face on Sunday April 27, 2008.

"The liturgy of this 6th Sunday of Easter gives us a foretaste of the feast of Pentecost, towards which we are heading with quickening steps. The readings which we have listened to are an invitation to live in joy because beside us and within us there lives the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.

'Stupendous are the works of the Lord...Shout joyfully to God, all you on earth' (Ps 66, 1-3). The responsorial psalm causes us to exult because of the works of creation, but at the same time, with St. Augustine we exclaim: 'You are great, Lord, and very worthy of praise (...) You have made us for yourself and our heart will not rest until it rests in you.' Our eyes, through the visible world are brought towards that which is interior and invisible: into the dimension of the spirit in which is reflected the light of the Word which illuminates every person. It is in this light that the Spirit of God works.

The joy of this Sunday is concentrated on the reality of the new merciful presence of God among mankind, that follows upon the departure of Jesus resulting from his death and resurrection. 'I will pray to the Father and he will give you another Consoler so that I might remain with you forever', Jesus had assured his disciples who had been shaken by the sense of becoming orphans at the thought of the loss of their Teacher. No, the apostles will not be orphans. Nor will the generations of ever new followers of Christ be orphans. Jesus is with them constantly. He comes to them constantly in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the most profound truth which the Church is living: the time of the cenacle, of the companionship with Christ which remains forever in the Church. Which remains in us.

It is the Holy Spirit which makes Christ present to all people of all times, so that he is able to be the Savior of all. After the departure of the historic face of Christ, it is through the Spirit that his presence is restored. The veil of marine byssus preserved in this Sanctuary as a most precious relic shows us the features of the Messiah, but on this veil it is the Spirit which makes the Son of Man visible, just as the Son has made the Father visible. (cfr Badde, Paul, La seconda sindone, p. 216)

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has written 'It is not therefore a problem of the color of the eyes or of the hair, nor a problem of physical features. It is a problem of vision, of our vision: how do we know how to see the face of Jesus? If there is lacking in us the vision of faith, we are like the disciples of Emmaus who did not recognize in the features of that pilgrim the face of the risen Lord (...) If in a person there does not exist an interior openness, which sees more than what is measurable and able to be understood at first glance, which perceives the splendor of the divine within creation, then God remains excluded from the field of vision' (Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy)

Along this same line, let us listen again to what the same Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has pronounced in the homily given during his visit to this Sanctuary: 'To enter into communion with Christ and to contemplate his face, to recognize the face of the Lord in that of one's brothers and sisters and in the activities of every day, it is necessary to have "innocent hands and pure hearts". Innocent hands, that is lives illuminated by the truth of love which conquers indifference, doubt, falsehood and selfishness'.

'Your face is my fatherland!' wrote St. Therese of Lisieux. The much desired fatherland of every person where peace and harmony reigns. Observing the image of the Holy Face of Christ, visible and invisible at the same time; a face which is "disarmed" as someone has said, we are able to find the proper reference point for the expression of our own faces; 'A disarmed face is able to disarm one's neighbor' said the jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.

There are two other elements which emerge from today's liturgy. The first is reflected in the condition posed by Jesus in order to have the light necessary to see and to enjoy the presence of the Consoler: 'If you love me, keep my commandments. I will pray to the Father...and you will know him.' The second element, indicated by the letter of the holy apostle Peter, is this: 'Adore the Lord, Christ, in your hearts, always ready to respond to whoever asks you the reason for the hope that is in you'.

Right away we see how love is the full accomplishment of the vocation of the person according to the design of God. He who loves God, obtains from God not only love, but also the capacity to love. Humanity has need of this, because only love is believable. The unshakable faith in this love inspires in the disciples of Jesus of every age thoughts of peace, throws open horizons of pardon and of harmony.'Whoever knows that he is loved, loves' said Don Bosco to young people to point them towards being 'good citizens and honest Christians'.

In the second place we see how the disciples of Christ must always be ready to respond to whoever asks the reason for the hope which is in them. (cfr Pt 3:15). Benedict XVI in the encyclical Spe Salvi clarifies that Christians must be able to give a reply regarding the logos - the meaning and the reason - for their hope; and hope is the equivalent of faith (cfr 2). The faith must be transmitted and accepted also in its beauty and intellectual power, in its intimate "reasonableness", as a reply to all the authentic instances of human reason. 'Nevertheless --admonishes Peter --let this be done with sweetness and respect, with an upright conscience...'

How much human wisdom and how much spiritual richness is contained in these two directives! It is necessary that we place ourselves decisively and with enthusiasm along this way, and the help of the Holy Spirit will not be lacking. For this we implore the gift of wisdom and we do this through the intercession of Mary, the Most Holy Mother of Christ. We ask this of her who best reflects the human features of the Son of God made flesh, and who best contemplated His Holy Face on earth and now contemplates it in eternity."


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