Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Highlights from Australia, Part II

And now to wrap up Australia. I would say the best is saved for last, but my favorite address was the one at Barangaroo, and not just because the name is so cool. But there lots more good stuff coming, so read on:
Discourse to Seminarians and Religious

Faith teaches us that in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, we come to understand the grandeur of our own humanity, the mystery of our life on this earth, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 24). Faith teaches us that we are God's creatures, made in his image and likeness, endowed with an inviolable dignity, and called to eternal life. Wherever man is diminished, the world around us is also diminished; it loses its ultimate meaning and strays from its goal. What emerges is a culture, not of life, but of death. How could this be considered "progress"? It is a backward step, a form of regression which ultimately dries up the very sources of life for individuals and all of society.

We know that in the end - as Saint Ignatius of Loyola saw so clearly - the only real "standard" against which all human reality can be measured is the Cross and its message of an unmerited love which triumphs over evil, sin and death, creating new life and unfading joy.

Each of you has embarked on the greatest and the most glorious of all struggles, to be consecrated in truth, to grow in virtue, to achieve harmony between your thoughts and ideals, and your words and actions. Enter sincerely and deeply into the discipline and spirit of your programmes of formation. Walk in Christ's light daily through fidelity to personal and liturgical prayer, nourished by meditation on the inspired word of God. The Fathers of the Church loved to see the Scriptures as a spiritual Eden, a garden where we can walk freely with God, admiring the beauty and harmony of his saving plan as it bears fruit in our own lives, in the life of the Church and in all of history.

Never forget that celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom means embracing a life completely devoted to love, a love that enables you to commit yourselves fully to God's service and to be totally present to your brothers and sisters, especially those in need. The greatest treasures that you share with other young people - your idealism, your generosity, your time and energy - these are the very sacrifices which you are placing upon the Lord's altar.
Benedict issues a call to all Religious and Seminarians to follow faithfully their path of formation. He highlights especially the standard that Ignatius pointed to, the Cross, as that path alone that is sure and true. Religious are subject to the same temptations to consumerism and decadent living as anyone else. For this reason, they must make the Scriptures and Celibacy two bastions of their lives. The Scriptures keep him or her rooted in Christ and his love, and Celibacy expresses that love universally, sacrificing self for the purity of a gift offered.

Tonight we focus our attention on how to become witnesses.

Dear young people, is it not because of your faith that friends in difficulty or seeking meaning in their lives have turned to you? Be watchful! Listen! Through the dissonance and division of our world, can you hear the concordant voice of humanity? From the forlorn child in a Darfur camp, or a troubled teenager, or an anxious parent in any suburb, or perhaps even now from the depth of your own heart, there emerges the same human cry for recognition, for belonging, for unity. Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit!

Love is the sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit! Ideas or voices which lack love – even if they seem sophisticated or knowledgeable – cannot be "of the Spirit". Furthermore, love has a particular trait: far from being indulgent or fickle, it has a task or purpose to fulfil: to abide. By its nature love is enduring.

the Holy Spirit is God eternally giving himself; like a never-ending spring he pours forth nothing less than himself. In view of this ceaseless gift, we come to see the limitations of all that perishes, the folly of the consumerist mindset. We begin to understand why the quest for novelty leaves us unsatisfied and wanting. Are we not looking for an eternal gift? The spring that will never run dry? With the Samaritan woman, let us exclaim: give me this water that I may thirst no more! (cf. Jn 4:15).

Let his gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. Let your faith mature through your studies, work, sport, music and art. Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments, and thus be a source of inspiration and help to those around you. In the end, life is not about accumulation. It is much more than success. To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God’s love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts! Let wisdom, courage, awe and reverence be the marks of greatness!
Benedict's intensity shines forth at the Vigil mass. We hear clearly the voice of Augustine, one of Benedict's great influences, speaking through him from his Confessions. The Augustinian dualism between all that perishes and is mortal and that which is immortal finds expression in Benedict's separation of the consumerist mindset and novelty from eternal life and the Spirit. One could attempt an argument from neo-Platonism here, but that would be misguided. Augustine's neo-Platonism was embraced along with a firm rejection of the dualism that he has known as a Manichee. Hence, his neo-Platonism was strictly Christian and not vice-versa. He was a Christian first and foremost, with all that that involved in regards to the Incarnation and God's love for the world. Benedict speaks similarly. As often as he rejects the consumerist quest for novelty, he praises the beauty of creation and of human achievement. He simply wants our youth to be alive, and to stop stuffing themselves with our cultural fast food that clogs the arteries and squeezes the heart.
Closing Mass

Here in Australia, this "great south land of the Holy Spirit", all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit's presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: "charged", as the poet says, "with the grandeur of God", filled with the glory of his creative love.

Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure?

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith's rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God's gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning - the ultimate meaning that only love can give?

Being "baptized" in the one Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) means being set on fire with the love of God. Being "given to drink" of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord's plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being "sealed with the Spirit" means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.
Benedict again quotes a Jesuit, this time Gerard Manley Hopkins, to express the beauty of creation and of God's natural world. The rest speaks for itself. Benedict's yearning is evident as he practically begs those who are young to actually care for coming generations. Think of someone other than yourself! he practically yells. He longs to see a new age, and asks that the youth of our times be prophets of that new age. The image from Jeremiah of empty cisterns that hold no water is beautiful. The Holy Spirit wants to fill these, if only they will be repaired. Yet we have been satisfied with empty cisterns, with the "novelty" that they hold. They may not hold water, cracked as they are, but they hold a lot of other "stuff." Such is the consumerist mindset. Instead, Benedict asks for a civilization of love, and for us to be its prophets.

Markel, SJ

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