TO THE BISHOPS RECENTLY APPOINTED PARTICIPANTS TO THE PROMOTED COURSE
FROM THE CONGREGATION FOR BISHOPS
Hall of the Consistory
Thursday, 13 September 2018
Dear brothers, good morning!
I welcome you today with joy at the conclusion of your pilgrimage of new Bishops to the spiritual sources of this ancient and ever new Rome of Peter and Paul. In embracing you as new Pastors of the Church, perhaps still traversed by the amazement of having been called to this mission never proportioned and conforming to our strength, I would like to take you apart, you and each of your Churches; I would like to approach you with the touch of Christ, the Gospel of God that warms the heart, reopens the ears and loosens the tongue to the joy that does not fail and sets, because it is never bought or deserved, indeed it is pure grace!
In the perspective of the joy of the Gospel you have tried to read the mystery of your identity just received as a gift from God. You have chosen the right way to enter the episcopal ministry, for which no credit can boast and there are no titles of property or rights acquired. We have almost "by chance" found the treasure of our life and therefore we are called to sell everything to preserve the field in which this inexhaustible mine hides (cf. Mt 13.44). Every day it is necessary to take back this precious gift, in its light to seek the light (see Psalm 35:10) and to let itself be transfigured by its face.
I speak to you here of the most urgent task of Pastors: that of holiness! As the prayer of the Church has been expressed on you, you have been elected by the Father, who knows the secrets of the hearts, to serve him night and day, so as to make it favorable to your people (cf. Roman Pontifical, Bishops' Prayer of Ordination).
You are not the result of a merely human scrutiny, but of a choice from Above. Therefore, from you it is required not an intermittent dedication, a fidelity to alternate phase, a selective obedience, no, but you are called to consume yourselves day and night.
Remain vigilant even when the light disappears, or when God himself is hidden in the darkness, when the temptation to withdraw is insinuated and the evil one, who is always lurking, subtly suggests that by now the dawn will no longer come. Just then, again bow down with his face on the ground (cf. Gen 17: 3), to hear God speak and renew his promise never denied. And then remain faithful even when, in the heat of the day, the forces of perseverance fail and the result of fatigue no longer depends on the resources we have.
And all this not to nurture the narcissistic claim to be essential, but to make the Father favorable to your People. God is already in favor of man. His divine being, which could also exist without us, in his Son Jesus reveals himself to us. In him, we offer the fatherhood of God that never resigns; in him we know the divine heart that nothing and nobody gives for lost. This is the message that the faithful have the right to find on your lips, in your hearts and in your life.
At the beginning of your ministry, I ask you to put God at the center: He is the one who asks everything but in return offers life fully. Not that life watered down and mediocre, meaningless because full of solitude and pride, but the life that flows from his company that never fails, from the humble force of the cross of his Son, from the serene security of the victorious love that lives there .
Do not let yourselves be tempted by stories of catastrophes or prophecies of disasters, because what really matters is persevering, preventing love from cooling down (cf. Mt 24,12) and keeping up and raising your head towards the Lord (cf. Lk 21,28) because the Church is not ours, it is God's! He was there before us and he will be there after us! The destiny of the Church, of the little flock, is victoriously hidden in the cross of the Son of God. Our names are engraved in his heart - carved in his heart! -; our fate is in his hands. Therefore, do not spend your best energies to account for failures and to reproach bitterness, letting your heart shrink and shrink your horizons. Christ be your joy, the gospel and your nourishment. Keep your gaze fixed only on the Lord Jesus and, accustoming yourself to its light, know how to search it incessantly even where it is refracted, even through humble glows.
There, in the families of your communities, where, in the persistent patience and in the anonymous generosity, the gift of life is cradled and nourished.
There, where there is in the hearts the fragile but indestructible certainty that truth prevails, that love is not in vain, that forgiveness has the power to change and reconcile, that unity always wins division, that the courage to forget oneself for the good of the other it is more satisfying than the intangible primacy of the ego.
There, where so many consecrated men and ministers of God, in the silent dedication of themselves, persevere regardless of the fact that good often does not make noise, it is not the theme of blogs nor does it come to the front pages. They continue to believe and to preach courageously the Gospel of grace and mercy to men thirsting for reasons to live, to hope and to love. They are not frightened by the wounds of the flesh of Christ, always inflicted by sin and not infrequently by the children of the Church.
I am well aware of how loneliness and abandonment rage in our time, individualism spreads and indifference to the destiny of others grows. Millions of men and women, children, young people are lost in a reality that has obscured the reference points, are destabilized by the anguish of belonging to nothing. Their fate does not challenge the conscience of all and often, unfortunately, those who have the greatest responsibility, guiltily avoid. But we are not allowed to ignore the flesh of Christ, which has been entrusted to us not only in the sacrament that we break, but also in the people we have inherited.
Even his wounds belong to us. It is right to touch them not to make them programmatic manifestations of understandable anger, but places where the Bride of Christ learns to what extent she can be disfigured when the features of the Bridegroom fade in her face. But also learn from where to start, in humble and scrupulous fidelity to the voice of his Lord. Only He can guarantee that, in the branches of his vineyard, men will not just find wild grapes (cf. Is 5: 4), but good wine (cf. Jn 2:11), that of the true vine, without which nothing can we do (cf. Jn 15: 5).
This is the Church's goal: to distribute this new wine that is Christ in the world. Nothing can distract us from this mission. We constantly need new wineskins (cf. Mark 2:22), and all we do is never enough to make them worthy of the new wine that they are called to contain and pour. But, precisely for this reason, the containers should know that without the new wine they will be cold stone jars, able to remember the lack but not to give fullness. Please, nothing distracts you from this goal: to give fullness!
Your holiness is not the fruit of isolation, but flourishes and bears fruit in the living body of the Church entrusted to you by the Lord, just as at the feet of the cross he gave his Mother to the beloved disciple. Welcome her as a bride to love, a virgin to be cared for, a mother to make fruitful. Your heart does not fall in love with other loves; watch for the soil of your Churches to be fertile for the seed of the Word and never trampled by wild boar (cf. Ps 80,14).
How will you do it? Reminding you that we are not at the origin of our "portion of holiness", but it is always God. It is a small sanctity that feeds on the abandonment in his hands like a weaned child who does not need to ask for proof of the mother's proximity (see Psalm 131.2). It is a holiness aware that nothing more effective, greater, more precious, more necessary than you can offer the world of fatherhood that is within you. By meeting you, each person can at least touch the beauty of God, the safety of his company and the fullness of his closeness. It is a holiness that grows while it is discovered that God is not tamable, he does not need enclosures to defend his freedom, and does not contaminate as he approaches, indeed, sanctifies what he touches.
We do not need the accounting of our virtues, nor a program of asceticism, a gym of personal effort or a diet that is renewed from Monday to Monday, as if sanctity were the result of the will alone. The source of holiness is the grace to approach the joy of the Gospel and let this be to invade our life, so that we can no longer live differently.
Before we existed, God was there and he loved us. Holiness is touching this flesh of God that precedes us. It is getting in touch with his goodness. Look at the shepherds called on the night of Bethlehem: they found in that Child the goodness of God! It is a joy that nobody can rob them of. Look at the people who watched Calvary from afar: she came home beating her chest because she had seen the bleeding body of the Word of God. The vision of the flesh of God digs into the heart and prepares the place where the divine dwells little by little. fullness.
Therefore I commend you not to be ashamed of the flesh of your Churches. Enter into dialogue with their questions. I recommend special attention to the clergy and seminaries. We can not respond to the challenges we have against them without updating our processes of selection, accompaniment, evaluation. But our answers will be devoid of future if they do not reach the spiritual chasm that, in many cases, has allowed scandalous weaknesses, if they do not reveal the existential emptiness that they have nurtured, if they do not reveal why God has been so mute , so silenced, so removed from a certain way of life, as if it were not there.
And here, each of us must humbly enter into the depths of ourselves and ask ourselves what he can do to make the face of the Church we govern in the name of the Supreme Pastor more holy. It is not necessary to just point the finger at others, make scapegoats, tear their clothes, dig into the weakness of others as they love to do the children who lived in the house as servants (cf. Lk 15,30-31). Here it is necessary to work together and in communion, but certain that true holiness is what God accomplishes in us, when we are docile to his Spirit we return to the simple joy of the Gospel, so that his blessedness becomes flesh for others in our choices. and in our lives.
I invite you therefore to go forward joyful and not embittered, serene and not anguished, consoled and not desolate - seek the consolation of the Lord - keeping the heart of lambs that, even if surrounded by wolves, know that they will win because they count on the help of the shepherd (see St. John Cris., Om. 33.1: PG 57.389).
Mary, the One who carries us in her arms without judging us, is the bright star that guides your fireplace.
While I thank Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri and their respective Congregations for their generous work, I impart the Apostolic Blessing on each one of you and on the Churches that you have been called to serve.