Homily of Mons. Darío Castrillón Hoyos
for Holy Mass Friday, July 11
(Memorial of St Benedict)
1) Today we celebrate the feast of the Abbot St Benedict, and, with him, we celebrate the primacy of that attentive listening which must be our constant attitude, that fruitful silence. We celebrate the primacy of the interior life, the only possible source of a dynamic pastoral life; the primacy of the daily conversion of our identity, of what we are and what in every instant we must become.
And how significant and instructive it is for us to remember here, in this place, that our Holy Mother Church has chosen as patroness of missions the great and little carmelite of Lisieux: a contemplative! It is also highly significant that in large part it has fallen to Benedictine monks to evangelize Europe, and, along with evangelization, to conserve and develop all the best from that classical culture which contained so many wonderful elements ready to be integrated into Christianity, and, finally, to guide and direct the flowering of Christian civilization. How much light has shone on this world through the plots weaved by the wonderful plans of Divine Providence!
If every saint is - and, indeed, every saint is - a reflection of divine holiness, we find in Benedict of Norcia the primate of the Absolute, the sense of the essential.
The divine liturgy, in today's collect, sums it up in a truly marvelous and richly suggestive way: it makes us ask for the strength to run "dilatato corde"! And one can run in such a way on the sole condition of "nihil praeponere" for the love of Christ.
Thus was the life of St Benedict: a full-out, open-hearted race to the Lord who comes. Thus must our priestly lives be, whatever our circumstances of time, place, and duty; this must be the characteristic of our sacred ministry.
But running "dilatato corde" requires being strongly motivated; it requires being illuminated by that love that bursts into flame in our very hands every day when we celebrate the Holy Mass, by that love the blazes forth within us whenever we are silent adorers of the Blessed Sacrament. Only thus are we able to run - not just walk, but run - to meet Him who comes, and also to Him who comes as every brother who, whether consciously or not, has need of our ministry, of our being priests.
So then, let us run "dilatato corde" to the urgent ministries of confession and spiritual direction; then let us run to the bedsides of the sick; let us run to the sides of families to bring peace and encouragement; let us run wherever there may be suffering to alleviate, a word of comfort to give, a problem to solve with light of the Gospel; let us run everywhere, because Christ is indispensable to all: He alone is salvation. He is not "optional," He is not "a" way, "a" truth, "a" life, but the Way, the Truth, and the Life! There may be elements of truth elsewhere, and they are to be valued, but nevertheless, all is found in its fullness only in Him. St Augustine, the great African who illumines the Universal Church of all times, observes: "Christ is the bridge that brings together all the ends of the earth; he is the only ship that can cross over the habitual evil of sin to link up with God. How can we permit him to be disregarded if he is the only existing connection?" (in Ser 1: 6-14, 2).
We must "run"; it is the urgent mission of every age and it will always be so until Christ is all in all!
2) "To run," yes, but in order to run one must have certainties. We must be well-founded on the certain truths of reason, on the certain truths of divine Revelation, and on the certain truths of the living Magisterium. We must be men of certainty, and we must be able to pass on these certain truths to others. Truths that spring from the fundamental truth, that of Christ's resurrection, without which our faith would be in vain and in vain would be our actions, which would be nothing more than beating the air.
And so I say to myself and to you: who more than the priest must be a man of certainties?
In a culture, by now so widespread, where doubt is given first place, doubt considered more as a sign of a free mind than as a stimulus to the tireless search for truth - such a culture gives precedence to discussion which has become an end in itself, to dialogue that does not seek the wished for goal of conversion. Such a culture considers certainties to be expressions of "dogmatism," intolerance, and closed-mindedness. In such a culture we priests are also tempted to give in to the fear of being considered self-righteous, or at least unpopular in the public opinion polls, and therfore of being rejected. But then our running becomes lying down, and the necessary vigor of our proclamation is enfeebled; it hides behind few points that are acceptable to the common consensus. And the sense of mission, intrinsic to our identity, is at risk of disappearing, of losing its required integrity.
If the Divine Maestro had been like that, agreeing with everyone, he would have ended up having lunch with Pilate, Annas, and Caiphas. Very nice and peaceful, true, but humanity would never have been given the authentic image of the truth, the clarity of the way, and the full participation in the life.
Certainty, even if it is not "à la pàge" in the current mundane culture, is in itself a positive quality of knowledge and not a defect! On the contrary, absolute doubt and "probablism," as well as being far from the just tirelessness of research and in-depth study, is, in and of itself, like a disease for man, who has been made for the truth. He who shouts "dogmatism" at the priest who humbly preaches certain truths is, both from the point of view of dialectic in general and in view of the facts, actually revealing himself to be a deposit of undeniable dogmatism.
3) We Gospel workers have need of those indisputable truths on which we can stake our existence. We will possess these fundamental truths if the Credo that we recite every day truly becomes the reference point for our lives.
The knowledge of certainties becomes the prerequisite and stimulus of our missionary zeal and of our love for the brothers that the Lord puts on our paths only when it takes on not only an intellectual character, but also an existential one. Only thus does it become the propelling force for our "amori tuo nihil praeponentes" and for the daily "viam mandatorum tuorum dilatato corde curramus."
Only if we are up to living existentially in ourselves the saving effect of the truths of faith that we believe will our lives become truly communicative. It is a transformation that produces in us and in others a radical and continual change.
It is enough to think of the Samaritan when, struck but the sign of Christ's pronouncement, she runs, astonished, to announce to the other inhabitants of her village: "Come and see the man who told me everything I ever did. Could he be the Messiah?" (Jn 4:29) The encounter with Christ was for her a happening that penetrated the heart of her being. And so she runs to communicate it to others. As well, Paul's experience abundantly exemplifies the dynamic of the announcement. Stopped in his tracks by Christ, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he emerges so fully transformed that the living presence of that memory will thereafter shine forth in every aspect of his life, that memory of having encountered Christ. It is for this reason that wherever he goes and whatever he does he goes and does as a missionary.
His announcement, indeed, is the reverberation to others of what has happened and continues to happen in him.
All the Apostles' preaching has as its psychological and existential foundation the experience of their personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
Christ gathers the apostles around him, at the beginning of his preaching, not by means of an intellectual discourse on salvation and the New Covenant, but with the concrete proposal to share with Him everyday life: "Jesus, turning around and seeing the two disciples who were following him, said to them, 'What are you looking for?' They said to him, 'Rabbi, where do you live?' 'Come and see,' he told them" (Jn 1:38-39). The Saint we celebrate today reminds us of this.
4) St Benedict, with his life and with the high wisdom of his Rule, reminds us that without an existential connection between what we want to transmit to others and what we have experienced for ourselves, a connection, that is, between the truth being preached and the lives we have led, our testimony is not wholly true and loses pastoral effectiveness.
Missions and evangelization are not questions of publicity and of "marketing," and neither is an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. No! it is a question of truth, of contents, of identity, of prayer, of penitence, of holiness. We are in the sphere of Grace here!
Christianity, the "planting" and growth of the Church (which is Christ himself extended in time" does not depend on round-table discussions, on meetings, on techniques - even if, rightly used, they also can be part of our duty - because we are dealing with a new life. Christianity is communicated when this new life is transmitted from person to person. This is why, in the midst of all the difficulties that we find in the contemporary world, I would like to shout out with all my strength that the Church on its way to the Third Millennium needs only one thing: Saints, and, above all, Priests who are Saints! And this is what we must be. Utopia? No, on the contrary, eminently realistic!
It is enough to open ourselves up every day to God's grace, without putting up any resistance, in order to become what we are. And then the testimony of our identity will be enough to make us all into the most dynamic of missionaries, to make fruitful the pastoral task for which we were made.
What did St Benedict do, the formidable builder of Christian civilization? He did nothing but pray and obey, preferring nothing to the love of Christ.
5) Let us run, then, my brothers and friends, free from every shackle, putting nothing before the love of Christ, united among ourselves, accomplishing everything "ut in omnibus glorificatur Deus"!
We are the ones, priests one-hundred percent, with ourselves, with others, in every place and circumstance, in the intimacy of our souls and in the way we present ourselves to others; we are the clear signs, unmistakable and coherent, humbly proud of the character within us, faithful to Mother Church and to the Magisterium, always at the service of primacy of God, the only source of every man's true good. Here is our first, fundamental task for the new evangelization. In this way that phrase will not be for us a mere slogan, but a reality.
Coherence is costly, but it alone pays back in fecundity and true happiness.
If we will persevere in following Christ the Priest, in eternity we will be numbered among those who "follow the lamb wherever he goes" (Ap 14:4) to delight in his felicity.
In the Book of the Apocalypse Christ, turning to the Bishop of Pergamum, remembers Antipas, who for the sake of the Gospel was put to death, and, moved, calls him "my faithful witness" (Ap 2:13). We cannot escape from it: in this way Christ attributes to Antipas the title of his own faithful Witness.
My faithful witness! It is worth giving everything, renouncing everything, even life itself, to merit such praise from Christ's lips. It is well worth it!
Yamoussoukro, July 11, 1997