Official opening of the academic year at Salesian theological Study Center
October 19th, 2019
Saturday, 28th week Ordinary Time. Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit.
Readings: 1 Cor 12:3-7, Psalm 104; John 14:23-26
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like to greet first of all Mons. Scicluna, fr. Gustavo Cavagnari, the Principal of the Studium Theologicum salesianum, and the whole Salesian family present here.
I have already had the opportunity, a few days ago, to express my appreciation for the precious service carried out in our diocese by the religious, and in particular by the biblical and theological centers.
I said in this regard that “in our small ecclesial community we have a religious presence that is an expression of the plurality of languages and charisms present in the rest of the universal Church. A religious presence that, together with the parishes and local communities scattered throughout the territory, has a fundamental role, I would say essential, in giving to our Church a precise form and identity; and this essentially consists of: attention to the weaker parts of the population (children, disabled, elderly, problematic families, etc.); formation and education for local youth (schools and universities); welcoming of pilgrims from all over the world (Holy Places); the study of the Word of God (Biblical Centers); contemplation and prayer (contemplative monasteries); theological studies and formation of religious and seminarians from and for the whole world (theological studies)” (Homily opening SBF, 2019).
“We want to thank for the theological centers, the diocesan, Franciscan and Salesian seminary, which for generations have been preparing and forming for the religious life and priesthood seminarians coming from all over the world and who will then bring their experience of Holy Land everywhere”(ibi).
Your presence, therefore, even if temporary, is a precious gift to our Church, because it allows our Church to have a universal dimension. In other words, your presence, together with that of many other religious coming from all over the world, allows our Church to keep alive and concrete the manifestation of Pentecost, as expressed in the Acts of the Apostles. In our context of hatred, divisions and conflicts, this manifestation of Pentecost is still today the main mission and witness that our Church is called to give to our peoples here. A Church, that is, within which every culture is at home, where differences are not denied, but are nevertheless reconciled.
The Salesians played an important role in the recent history of our church. For over a hundred years the Salesians have been synonymous with vocational schools, training, attention and care to young people. Even today we need your experience, in order to improve our service and our attention to the world of youth, which here too, as in the rest of the world, changes quickly. We acknowledge that it is becoming always more difficult to understand their way of thinking and therefore their expectations too.
Your family’s contribution has been enriched in recent years with the Ratisbonne Theological Study Center.
The theological study already existed, at Cremisan, as we know. But the transfer to Ratisbonne and the transition to the English language has given your presence a new face and has filled a very serious gap in our community.
We had, in fact, study centers in Italian, in French, but nothing in today’s lingua franca of the world and especially here, which is English, of course.
In this way you have allowed many, Salesians and not, previously excluded, to be able to take advantage of the enormous possibilities that our land offers for theological, biblical and spiritual formation.
On the other side, the diversity of languages does not allow a great cooperation between the different study centers of our Church, and this is perhaps the next and important challenge: to improve collaboration between the various centers.
The Gospel chosen for this celebration gives us an important indication. It is part of the long speech that Jesus makes to his disciples during the last supper in the Cenacle, after the gesture of the washing of the feet.
It is a farewell speech, in which Jesus accompanies the agitation, that the disciples feel at the announcement of his imminent departure.
In this speech some intuitions of Jesus, which are the heart of a disciple’s life, are expressed repeatedly
I would like to highlight one aspect only.
The aspect is that all what Jesus says is linked to a conditional: today’s Gospel, in fact, starts with an “if”. “If anyone loves me …” (Jn 14:23).
The communion of life with God is possible only if we live in the acceptance of the love that God has for us.
If you live by this acceptance, by this love, then the fruit is obedience: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (Jn 14:23).
For Jesus, love is not a simple sentiment, emotion, but a life of listening and obedience.
He was the first to experience it towards the Father, seeking nothing but to do His Will, in the dramatic condition, at Gethsemane.
Jesus knows that the disciples will not have to do everything on their own: it is the Spirit that forms the life of children in us, the obedient life. He will teach everything and remind his disciples of his words, so that they may remain in obedience (Jn 14:26).
I hope then – and I conclude – that the Holy Spirit will support you and will accompany you in your studies, certainly at times boring and heavy or difficult to understand, but at other times I hope interesting.
The study of the Word of God and theology alone, without prayer and without the gift of the Holy Spirit, do not lead to obedience and new life in Christ. No study, no academic formula can replace or explain the experience of Easter, the resurrection, which we as Christians are called to witness. Before being theologians, we are called to be believers. And it is only in the Spirit, as Paul says, that we can say that Jesus is the Lord (1 Cor 12: 3). The study is absolute necessary because it will help to bring order to our experience of Christ, but it cannot replace our experience of Christ we can have only in the Spirit.
May this period of yours in the Holy Land help you grow in the knowledge of Christ and make you true, passionate and prepared witnesses to his resurrection.