A Vision of Hope

Official News Release Nº 2

Rome, Monday June 20, 2016

Homily of H.E. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, given during the Holy Mass of Inauguration of the IV Ordinary General Chapter of the SSVM (Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican City, Saturday June 18, 2016)

Dear concelebrants, sisters Servants of the Lord and of the Virgin of Matará, and brothers in the Lord!

The liturgy of Saturday evening already brings us into the festive spirit of Sunday, the day of the Lord. With great interior joy we find ourselves gathered together here in this historic Basilica, dedicated to the apostle Peter. Here we are truly able to breathe in the atmosphere of catholicity of the Church!

It is a particular joy for us this evening to welcome the many religious sisters who have convened in order to begin their IV General Chapter in devout prayer. Upon the very tomb of the apostle Peter, they wish to reaffirm their deep love for the Holy Church and their complete fidelity to the Successor of Peter.

They come from many different parts of the world and bring with them the commitment of their fellow sisters; they are active in a profound spiritual renewal and in a generous spirit of ecclesial service. We assure them now of our prayers.

1) The Word of God

Brothers and sisters in the Lord: the Word of the Lord that has just been proclaimed has given us an introduction to our Eucharistic celebration.

In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah has repeated even to us the words of hope that God had spoken to the people of Israel deported to Babylon five centuries before Christ, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition” (Zec 12:10). These are words that refresh our hearts as well in the midst of the difficulties we experience in the present hour.

In the second reading, the apostle Peter has reminded us of our ecclesial commitment, which is born of the fact that we are all united in Christ Jesus. “There is neither Jew nor Greek,” insists St. Paul, “there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Finally, in the Gospel reading, St. Luke proposes to us once again the law of fidelity that every disciple of Christ must follow. The Lord thus says to us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  These are certainly demanding words, but they are also consoling words, for Jesus added, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24).

2) The Presence of the Spirit

With this vision of hope, you, dear religious sisters, have consecrated yourselves to Christ; it is with this interior disposition that you wish to continue on the path that He indicates to you daily through His Holy Spirit. In fact, it is this same Holy Spirit that every day gives life to the Church, as we shall profess in a few moments in the Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life.” Yes, we must always perceive His presence, both in our personal lives and in the life of the whole Holy Church.

In this respect, who does not remember the great Encyclical of Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul II, dedicated precisely to the work of the Holy Spirit? It is the famous Encyclical “Dominum et vivificantem” from May 18, 1986.

Truly, with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the feast of Pentecost, the time of the Church has begun, that time which has lasted throughout the centuries and generations.   It is this Spirit which “comes to the aid of our weakness” according to the beautiful expression of St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans (Rom 8:26). The Apostle then also tells us, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Rom 8:26). Under His guide we become interiorly mature, in order that we might correspond fully to our Christian vocation.

3) The Gift of Charisms

Brothers and sisters in the Lord: I could not finish my words without recalling that alongside the charismatic gifts which the Holy Spirit gives us, there are also the hierarchical gifts that He has equally always given to His Holy Church. Both of these gifts, the hierarchical and the charismatic, contribute to the building up of the Christian community, and it is impossible to put them in opposition to each other. An important document from the Congregation of the Faith has recently reminded us of this, with its significant title “The Church Rejuvenates” (Iuvenescit Ecclesia; cf. L’Osservatore Romano, June 15, 2016). In that document there is an important section about the charismatic gifts; there we find criteria to verify their divine origin. This is the greatness of the Church of Christ, guided on earth by Her Shepherds and vivified from above by the Holy Spirit.

4) Looking at Mary

Dear Sisters: may your consecrated life continue to be lived always in this ecclesial dimension. From Heaven may your dear departed Bishop of Velletri, Msgr. Andrea Maria Erba, intercede for you, he who with such great paternal love blessed your Institute and thus introduced you into the great Family of religious communities scattered throughout the world.

May the Blessed Virgin Mary, model of consecrated life, always be your example. With great docility to the Spirit, she fulfilled her mission by the side of her Son Jesus. May you be like Mary, always faithful to your ecclesial mission, so that you might thus make a great contribution to the spread of the Kingdom of God in today’s world.