|Msgr. Americo Ciani, Fr. Paolo Palombarini, OFM, Cap., Fr. Carmine Cucinelli, OFM, Cap.|
In the Gospel of John the Evangelist we read: "John the Baptist saw Jesus pass, fixed his gaze on Him and said:" Behold the Lamb of God. "We are gathered here today in prayer, fixing our gaze precisely on the Holy Face of Jesus , it is the Face of the Son of God, made man. So many things happened in that moment and now it is up to us today to ask ourselves whether we are also new disciples, if we are proclaimers of the same amazing things.
Among the disciples that John the Baptist had attracted there was Andrew, who immediately followed Jesus, but soon after his soul, filled with the joy and enthusiasm of having met the Savior awaited for centuries, addressed his brother Simon and said to him: "We have found the Messiah, Christ" and led him to Jesus.
John the Evangelist tells us that one day two others met Jesus, they were James and John, Jesus passed by, he saw them arranging their nets with their father, he invited them and they left their father, boat and nets and immediately followed Jesus.
We find ourselves, then in front of another amazing episode: there is a man named Levi, who by now was subject to invaders, the Romans, stood at the tax stand when Jesus passed by, saw him and said: "follow me. And Levi abandoned everything and followed Jesus ".
One day Jesus invited Philip and he immediately followed him and Philip met Nathaniel and said to him: "We have found the Messiah" and he invited him saying: "come and see". Another time Philip, one day was solicited by some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus and he led them to Jesus. "Come and see". Behold, my dear ones, the vocation is the vocation we all received with baptism, and we have been called to be part of the family of God. And therefore each of us is charged with responsibility among men.
If we were called by the Lord as Samuel was, he who replied: "Here am I, be it done to me according to your word" would we have responded with generosity and clarity as Samuel had anticipating Paradise on this earth. But let's look around: God is not known, Jesus Christ is not known or loved by so very many. We are living in an increasingly distracted society, we are living in a society that claims to live without God. So we can ask ourselves: why so much violence? why so much corruption? why so much madness in our schools, where, for example, many teachers, male and female, have recently not allowed the manger scene to be set up in schools. How many have even taught Christmas carols removing the name of Jesus and replacing it with "Peru"! During the recent Christmas holidays, there was a gruesome episode in the beautiful town of Carpi, already destroyed by the earthquake and rebuilt. About one hundred manger scenes had been set up and the head of the Child Jesus was cut off of the one in the cathedral!
My dear ones, never before has there been such a ruthless persecution against Jesus and against the Church! Never before have we had so many martyrs as today. The number of today's martyrs is surpassing those of the persecution of Nero, Diocletian and all the persecutions of the first centuries. So it is up to us to become aware of our vocation as Christians, it is up to each of us to examine our conscience and to ask ourselves: "do I know Jesus Christ?, do I know him well? , what can I do to get to know him better and to make him known to others?" When the disciples asked Jesus, as in today's Gospel, "Master where do you live? Jesus answered them, "Come and see," it was four o'clock in the afternoon. "They went and stayed with Him." Can we say the same thing too?" "Come and see? "
When Jesus became known he did not give us lessons in high philosophy, he did not give us abstract lessons, he gave us only the example of a boundless love. He said: "Do as I have done, love one another as I have loved you". Therefore, we, today, fixing our gaze on His Holy Face, are filled with joy, we are admiring the superhuman beauty incarnate in our midst. He, God, became humble, became poor, became flesh among us and today he looks at us with that compassion full of love. And looking at us, we forget our sins, our failings; looking at us, He raises us to new life.
Today, contemplating His Holy Face with humility we can say: "Lord, forgive us, we have neglected you, forgive us, Lord, forgive us, we have given too much importance to what is worth little, we have even been taken by this anti-religious, anti-Christian mentality. We have given more space to politics instead of reconciling ourselves. Lord, forgive us, make us new creatures ...
Behold, my dear ones, the Lord today asks us to follow him and to give testimony: behold, today, after the examination of conscience there must pour from our heart a clear purpose, firm and courageous as true Christians, true witnesses of Jesus Christ, Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, he who accepted the passion, the humiliation of the tribunals, accepted death on the cross. And on the cross he said: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!"
He instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood precisely so that each one of us could feed on Him day by day. O my Lord, we ask you: Lord, take us with you. You repeat again: "try to know me more" and we will follow you, we seek your love, we want to be saturated, intoxicated by your word, we want to know more the Word of God which is the word of grace, we want to know the Holy Scriptures. So many times we learn by heart what happens in the world through strange and beastly information, we learn it by heart, but we do not know the Gospel. We do not know the Word of God!
Our task is not only to know Jesus Christ but to make Him known through our testimony. Can we say today with simplicity to those who are alone, lost, who no longer have hope, who are in the most bitter suffering, to those who do not have anyone to confide in, who are hungry for justice, can we say that we are brothers and sisters in solidarity with them?
If we are true Christians we can simply say: "Come, I can help you know Jesus because I have found him, I have met him, I live with him, I live in communion with him, because He has transformed my life. Come and do the same too ".
It is the prayer that I as a priest offer to the Lord for the whole community that today has come to venerate the Holy Face of Jesus, I pray to the Lord so that he can give us this aura of goodness in our lives, so that each of us can fix our gaze on Jesus Christ present here before us. It is the risen Christ, my dear ones, it is the Christ who bears within himself the signs of His passion, of the crucifixion, but He is the Risen Christ who wants each one of us to rise again to new life. During this Holy Mass we continue to pray invoking and proposing to be new creatures capable of testifying to this great and sublime truth.
Mons. Americo Ciani, Canon of the patriarchal basilica of St. Peter's in the Vatican.