Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti at the mass for Fr. Giussani

Bassetti: "Fr. Giussani and the ‘love story’ of Christianity”

The homily of the Cardinal Archbishop of Perugia during mass for the anniversary of Fr. Giussani’s death (February 22, 2021).
Gualtiero Bassetti

It is always beautiful to be able to celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter - which coincides with the sixteenth anniversary of the birth into heaven of the servant of God Fr. Luigi Giussani - together with a people on a journey, like that of Communion and Liberation. Although the spread of the virus continues to increase, particularly in our country, we ask the Lord, as you have written in your prayer intentions, "the watchful and grateful awareness of the gift received in our encounter with Fr. Giussani’s charism, that we may continue to better serve the Church, recognizing that Christ dwells in every passing instant and, therefore, nothing is useless; everything is a sign of an indestructible positivity.”

These words represent a light of hope for the times we are living in. The pandemic has certainly revolutionized our lives, made human relationships difficult and produced much suffering. Many friends, family members and acquaintances have in fact left us because of this epidemic. What we are facing is undoubtedly a great trial. A trial to be faced with charity and responsibility, and above all with Christian discernment. We cannot be annihilated by fear and, at the same time, we must not face this trial with naive superficiality either. This is the moment to bear witness to our faith, to recognize that the other is Christ and to testify to the world that God is a Father who has made love the key to everything.

Fr. Giussani understood this perfectly. The words which Cardinal Ratzinger pronounced about Fr. Giussani on the day of his funeral still remain engraved in my mind. He had understood, the future Pontiff said, that Christianity "is not an intellectual system, a set of dogmas" or "a moralism" but is instead "an encounter; a love story; an event". Christianity is therefore a "love story" and above all a "present fact". That is, an event that is repeated incessantly in the history of humanity and not only as an event that happened in the past. The proclamation of Christ is today, in every historical period and in every latitude. Who knows how many times you have heard these words?

Saint Peter, not by chance, in the first reading of today's liturgy, exhorts the elders to shepherd their flock "not because they are forced to, but willingly" and to do so "not as masters" but as "models". Thus, there is no self-interest to be pursued but "a generous spirit" to be realized and valued. One can easily trace in these words the paradigm of the good shepherd, who leads his flock "for his name's sake" (Ps 22). It is the shepherd who becomes a father, who deeply loves his flock and puts himself at its service. This is the logic that must animate all those who, in the name of Christ, hold a role, an office or a position. We are called to love and serve, and not to command or dispose of the will of others.

In this reversal of meaning - love instead of power, service instead of command - lies the profound meaning of the mission that Jesus entrusted to Peter. But if you think about it, this is also the meaning of the earthly mission of each one of us. Every man and woman who truly encounters Christ in their lives feels within themselves this very strong call to love: love is the authentic vocation of the Christian. And consequently, if one loves fully, one is also joyful.

And thus, if joy is the gift that Christianity has given to humanity, charity is the means to live our faith without hypocrisy. Being Christians without joy is not possible. But to live as Christians without charity is a disaster. It is a disaster for ourselves and for all the people around us. The mission that Jesus entrusted to Peter can be condensed into these two words: charity and joy. Two words that are also reflected in the apostolic succession. The Church of Rome, in fact, is not the center of a worldly and monolithic power, but on the contrary "presides in charity over all the Churches".

Making charity and joy the two compasses of one's faith means, without a doubt, living a life against the tide. "In a world where everything, everything, said and says the opposite," Fr. Giussani affirmed, it is fundamental "to verify the pertinence of faith to the needs of life" in order to be able to testify that "faith corresponds to the fundamental, original needs of the heart of every man and woman." To speak to the heart of man: only the great prophets are able to touch the chords of the human soul. In my opinion, Fr. Giussani was this: a prophet of modern times who became an educator and made a gesture of love towards the human being because, as he himself wrote, to educate does not only mean to transmit a patrimony of knowledge and culture but it means, above all, "to bring out the humanity that is born in another being".

Today we live in difficult times. But I would like to make an exhortation: let us not waste this time! This is the time we have been given to live. It is a precious time. The tribulations, the sufferings, the humiliations that the pandemic has produced cannot suffocate our horizon. Our goal is heaven and this trial we are going through is perhaps necessary to test our faith and to show us what we are.

Read also - Pierre: "Obedience rooted in the love of Christ"

When I was in ICU, and felt that my strength was leaving me, I thought about all the good I could have done and had not done. I thought back on my life. To the people I had met. To the places where I lived. And I said to the Lord: I am yours.

So, dear brothers and sisters, let us ask Jesus, with a pure heart, to help us to be docile before the Father and, filled with joy, let us place total trust in His love.