On the Occasion of the Opening of the Academic Year at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy (October 4, 2021)
We have just heard the story of Pentecost. It is the story of a very special encounter that, thanks to the descent of the Holy Spirit, gave humanity the opportunity to gather together again in the name of the Lord, no longer as strangers, but as brothers and sisters.
I am happy to be here with all of you today, after a long absence during which the pandemic, not yet defeated, prevented us from meeting in person. I pray today in a special way for our dear Professor Miguel Angel Tabet, and for all those in our academic community who have passed away in recent months.
“Pentecost is the feast of union, understanding and human communion,” Benedict XVI said a few years ago (Homily, May 27, 2012). This communion is a gift from God that our world and the entire Christian family so badly needs. The beginning of a new academic year is a propitious moment to once again unite ourselves to our Lord in his prayer for unity at his Last Supper: Even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us (Jn 17:21).
Last January, Pope Francis, speaking of unity in the Church, said: “the Lord did not command that his disciples be united. No, he prayed to the Father for us, so that we might be one. This means that we are unable to achieve unity by our own strength. Unity is above all a gift, it is a grace to be requested through prayer” (General Audience, January 20, 2021).
In today’s Gospel we heard that Jesus had many more things to say to the Apostles (cf. Jn16:12). Among them is surely his longing for unity in the Church, and for unity among us. A unity that enables us to discover the great works of God of which the Apostles spoke (cf. Acts 2:11). The alternative, as we well know, is to remain anchored in our small concerns, which instead of bringing us closer to God and to others, entangle us in our selfishness, and hinder us from seeing the beauty of the world, and above all the value of others.
The Psalm again speaks of these great works: Bless the Lord, O my soul! You are so great, O Lord, my God; how great are your works, O Lord! You have done all things in wisdom; the earth is full of your creatures (Ps 104). These works include persons in a special way. Each person is a work of God offered to us as a gift. It is up to each one of us to discover the gift each person we meet on our path represents.
During one’s university years there are many encounters with new people: other students, professors, personnel. Let us ask God to help us to always discover the gift he is offering us through all these encounters. How many beautiful friendships are born during the years spent in Rome! Lasting friendships that we all take back to our own countries, and that are often a strong spur in our lives in the service of God. “When friendship is real, when our concern for the other person is sincere and fills our prayer, there are no shared moments that are not apostolic: everything is friendship and everything is apostolate, without being able to distinguish them” (Fernando Ocáriz, Pastoral Letter, November 1, 2019, no. 19).
In 1969, St. Josemaría said in a meditation: “To live according to the Holy Spirit means to live by faith and hope and charity – to allow God to take possession of our lives and to radically change our heart, to remake it to the measure of His” (Christ is Passing By, no. 134). Perhaps we should also make a new resolution to live according to the Holy Spirit, which is nothing else than to live like Jesus. St. Josemaría’s words speak of a radical change of heart. Why do we still need a deep change of heart if we have already spent many years in our Christian life or even in a vocation to the service of God in his Church? The answer to this question is found in the words of Jesus that we have just heard: I have yet many things to say to you (Jn 16:12) If we really want to listen to God’s voice today, we need to have an open spirit. We need the humble attitude of those who know they have received much and, at the same time, who are aware that God is very great and that his wisdom far exceeds our own knowledge.
At Pentecost, our Lady has a discreet place, but she is present there with her Son’s apostles. Let us ask Mary, at the beginning of this academic year, to give us light in the coming months so that we too may be instruments of unity wherever we are, and specifically in the life of the university.
Romana, n. 73, July-December 2021, p. 46-48.