Rome -- October 26, 2000

At the Mass inaugurating the academic year of the Campus Bio-Medico University

My dear sisters and brothers:

1. Just recently at the Jubilee of Universities, the Pope, in the name of Christ the Redeemer of man, exhorted us to give witness in the academic world to our faith “with energetic thought and a consistent life.” Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit and of grace. In this Mass inaugurating a new year of activity at the Campus Bio-Medico University, I unite myself to all of you, praying for the gift of a stronger faith that is more deeply rooted in our intellect and heart, a faith that will allow us to act, in all circumstances, guided by the supernatural vision of sons and daughters of God.

Our first reading (cf. Acts 2:1-11) has once more shown us the extraordinary moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles gathered in prayer in the Cenacle together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Their uncertainty and fear disappeared as soon as the fire of God’s love enlightened their intellects and enkindled a new zeal in their wills. Thus began the great epic of evangelization, which will last until the end of time.

In the Bible, fire often symbolizes God’s love: “For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God.”[1] The burning love of God for mankind reaches its most elevated expression in the incarnation of the eternal Son of the Father in the virginal womb of Mary of Nazareth. Jesus described his own mission with these words that continue to challenge us “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”[2]

An uncontainable longing to transmit this divine fire inspired every step of Christ on earth and led him to give his life for love of mankind. The disciples from Emmaus asked one another after their journey alongside Him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?”[3]

I have mentioned the fact that it was in the Cenacle at Jerusalem, twenty centuries ago, that the Church’s mission in the world began. Now it is our turn to continue it as Christians united to the Pope and to the bishops. What are we praying for when we ask the Holy Spirit to enkindle our hearts? What does this mean for us, as disciples of Christ on the threshold of a new millennium? What characteristics must this witness take on for those who form part of the university world? These are questions that I invite you to ask yourselves in the presence of God, ready to accept whole-heartedly the answer that our Lord wants to suggest to you.

2. Allow me to develop these considerations in connection with one of the consequences of charity and justice (among the many that we could choose), which our day and age seems to have special need of: harmony. In this regard, I would also like to ask each of you to intensify your prayer, and the offering of your daily work, for peace in the world, and especially, in the land of Jesus, the Holy Land.

The university was born with the vocation of being a meeting place, a site where knowledge is shared and transmitted in disinterested collaboration. It is a school of fellowship and respect for others. This entails thousands of practical aspects, including teamwork, the exchange of data and information, and reciprocal assistance among all of the members of the academic community and with other institutions. The university thus becomes a leaven of peace and progress in society.

For Blessed Josemaria Escriva, the cross, in addition to being the instrument for the salvation of mankind, also represents the “plus” sign, a symbol of union. Men tend at times to foster the division sign, to create barriers, to divide into rival groups. They foolishly seek to justify discord, lack of charity, a rejection of the spirit of service, under the pretext of a presumed justice. It is true that justice means giving to each one his due. But, as Blessed Josemaria Escriva taught, this is not enough. We are obliged to give to each of our fellow men and women more than what is demanded by strict justice (without, of course, injuring the rights of others), “because each single soul is a masterpiece of God’s making.”[4] Let us ask the Paraclete to teach us the path of true charity. Love that is limited to feelings is immature. Sincere love is expressed with deeds. “The best way of living charity lies in generously outdoing the demands made on us by justice.”[5] This charity usually passes unnoticed, but it is always extraordinarily fruitful both in heaven and on earth.

An ancient pagan author wrote: Concordia, parvae res crescunt; discordia maximae dilabuntur[6] (When there is harmony, little things grow greater; but when there is a lack of harmony even the greatest things fall to ruins). Our university, like all human realities, has been born small and is growing gradually. One could say that it is living a marvelous adventure. For you, these are foundational years, comparable to those of childhood and early youth for a human being. These are the years when character is forged and the permanent characteristics that define the deepest identity of an individual are molded. You are taking part in an inspiring enterprise. It is particularly important that you know how to maintain this “harmony,” this unity so wisely desired by the ancient philosopher: unity among the components that make up the university, with each other and with the authorities that govern the various sections, called to exercise their commitment to serving the good of the whole academic community. This means, as your “Statement of Purpose” points out, “knowing how to put one’s own professional prestige at the service of the common good” (Art. 4).

3. For the fire of divine charity to burn within us, we need prayer. Jesus becomes present in the Word and in the Bread, in the pages of Sacred Scripture, and, above all, in the Eucharist. When we approach this fountain of supernatural life with the proper dispositions, He makes us understand the meaning of every event, small or great, private or public, in the light of faith. Therefore, we have an absolute need to dedicate a little time each day to personal prayer, really putting ourselves into the scenes narrated in the Gospel.

Personal prayer is a dialogue with Jesus. As John Paul II said during those unforgettable gatherings of the recent World Youth Day, Christ by his questions introduces us “into the laboratory of faith.” God communicates his will to us and invites us to make a response which gives meaning and Christian value to our life. Prayer makes us capable of turning our whole day into an extended meeting with Christ. Classrooms, laboratories, university offices become a place where our faith matures and is transmitted to others.

We are aware of the fact that you will encounter obstacles on the path you must take to carry out this program of Christian life. But strengthened by the grace that comes from prayer and from the Eucharist, everything is possible. When you encounter difficulties of this kind unexpectedly, I invite you to pray with Blessed Josemaria: “O Jesus, strengthen our souls, open out the way for us, and, above all, intoxicate us with your Love. Make us into blazing fires to enkindle the earth with the heavenly fire you brought us.”[7]

The fire of God’s infinite Love is the Holy Spirit, who is also “the Spirit of truth,” as we heard in the Gospel (Jn 15:26). He has many things to tell us, since he wants to guide us to eternal life (Jn 16:12-13). We have to open wide our hearts to divine Wisdom, which always makes itself known to those who love. Human knowledge, when enlivened by faith, far from deserting the surroundings of daily life, imbues them with energy and new hope. Even in scientific research that seems far removed from any connection with the faith (although it isn’t), there throbs a thirst for a truth that transcends the particular and contingent.

Let us entrust to our Lady, through the intercession of Blessed Josemaria, the path of the Church in Rome and the activity of our academic community in these final months of the Great Jubilee. We ask our Mother to help us write, all united together, a new page of history, in which the light of the Gospel and a sincere love for the life of each human being will shine forth. Amen.

[1] Deut 4:24.

[2] Lk12:49.

[3] Lk 24:32.

[4] Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Friends of God, no. 83.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Lucio Anneo Seneca, Letters to Lucilio, Lett. 94, 46.

[7] Blessed Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, no. 31

Romana, n. 31, July-December 2000, p. 239-242.

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