In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Your Eminence, most revered brother in Christ, Archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Lluis Sistach, first of all I wish to warmly thank You for the possibility to be in this church and to pray with You and Your faithful. I thank You for Your words of greeting and for the invitation to address the people of God with the words of the preaching. My gratitude also goes to the Community of Sant’Egidio, and to its founder Prof. Andrea Riccardi, for their faithful work in the dialogue between the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church in a spirit of evangelical love.
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord!
Today the Lord’s grace has gathered us together, so that we could give thanks to the Creator for his great mercy. The Church lives by the Liturgy, which has been celebrated for two thousand years, in order to confirm the hearts of the believers in Christ.
Our times, however, offer us many occasions in which we ask ourselves: is our prayer strong? Is it meaningful? Is our trust vain? Has the Lord abandoned a world that flees so persistently from the Gospel?
These are piercing questions. But in today’s readings from the Old Testament we have heard that similar doubts caused anguish even in ancient times. “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? – says the holy prophet Habakkuk – Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (Hab 1, 2-3).
Today’s liturgy is celebrated before the conference, which focuses on a very important theme: “Family of God, Family of Peoples”. We are called to reflect and bear witness to family, which in the words of the Apostle Paul, is a little Church. Are we strong enough, however, to bear witness to the Church among strife and conflicts?
Everywhere we behold the ruin of traditional families, replaced by forms of cohabitation, which Scripture clearly exhibits as sin. And there is bitterness also in the fact, that in order to justify sin, people resort to professed scientific knowledge and even to Holy Scripture. And again we say with the prophet: “Destruction and violence are before me”.
What must we do? And where will we find the intelligence and strength we need to bear our Christian witness to the truth? The Lord himself answers our questions: “the righteous will live by his faith” (Hab 2:4) – he tells the prophet.
Faith, therefore! This is the source of our strength; this is the light that dispels darkness. But how do we recognize it? And how do we use this weapon, which St Paul compares to a shield capable of extinguishing all the flaming arrows of the evil one? (Eph 6:16).
In one of his teachings, Maximus the Confessor writes that faith is not a merely human capability; it is a gift of God. Therefore faith, if it remains in us, is a strength that transcends our limitations and littleness. Faith – we say – is a mystery, a grace of the Holy Spirit, the one who cries within us: “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6). Faith is a shield, because the Lord himself fights for us.
As we have heard in the letter to Timothy, we need to kindle this gift and not be ashamed to bear witness to Christ, for indeed God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).
The current century is full of information. On any issue one can hear any number of theories. Therefore, in our time a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline becomes all the more crucial. For those who seek conflicts, this spirit may seem madness. But we should not be afraid of this, because our witness, by God’s grace, can be like that weak seed that can bear fruit even in a heart with little faith. Even if the current world seems an unmovable stone, an impenetrable mountain of passions, we need not lose heart. Indeed, we have listened to what the Lord told us today: “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea’, and it will obey you” (Lk 17:6).
This is the Lord’s promise: “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mk 9:23). And we are reminded that our good news is not of this world.
The witness of Christians reveals a new depth to our earthly existence. And the beauty of this revelation is addressed to the insuppressible freedom of man. The Christian faith reveals the God of love. And if love “binds together in perfect unity” (Col 3:14), it is capable of leading the men and women it is spread upon to perfection.
Brothers and sisters, let us put the commandments of Christ into practice. Then, in the most diverse parts of the world, we shall be recognised as disciples of Christ by how we love each other (Jn 13:35).
May the Lord preserve you, your families and all the people of this city for many happy years. Amen!