The Most Reverend John Wilson, Metropolitan Archbishop of Southwark (Photo: Francesco Perazzini)

"Giussani spoke of faith as that which brings forth the fruit of hope"

The homily of the Most Rev John Wilson, Archbishop of Southwark, during Mass for the centennial of Fr. Giussani's birth. St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, London, February 25, 2022.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is an immense joy to see you here in St George’s Cathedral. As I said at the beginning of Mass, you are, each and every one of you, most welcome.

Sadly, the world is in a very different place since we last gathered together to celebrate Holy Mass. We have faced a global pandemic, with loss of life and livelihood for so many. Perhaps some amongst us here have been affected by its consequences which, as we know, are still unfolding.

And now we have the utter outrage, the desperate tragedy of war in Europe. The invasion of Ukraine has shattered peace and justice. It threatens the lives of countless innocent people. How necessary it is to join with Pope Francis in praying and fasting for peace.

Dear friends, in the face of all this, and more besides, including things in our personal lives, we can feel powerless. But we have a choice: we either move closer to God, turning to the truth he reveals in Christ, or we move and turn away. We either believe that the Lord is compassion and love – and that a duty to live compassionately and lovingly has been placed upon all humanity – or we don’t. We cannot say both yes and no to God. We cannot say both yes and no to each other. Faith requires that we say yes; yes to God, yes to peace, and yes to each person’s dignity, even when spoken from our brokenness, our pain, and our sin.

Our beloved Mgr Giussani, whose centenary of birth we commemorate this year, reminds us of some words addressed to God in the Ambrosian liturgy: "You have bent down over our wounds [O God] and have healed us, giving us a medicine stronger than our scars, a mercy greater than our fault." God shows us the way to healing; the way of peace, the way of mercy.

Dear friends, as Christians, as disciples, the most important question we must each answer in faith is this: Do I know, in my heart, despite everything, that the Lord loves me? Do I believe that His victory and His love are stronger than death and sin? Dear brothers and sisters, do you know that the Lord loves you? Everything in our life depends on our personal answer to this question.

When the Lord Jesus spoke about marriage in the Gospel we heard tonight, He expressed an important truth about its permanence and indissolubility. This can help us reflect on a deeper unity which we are called to live, the unity between faith and hope, a unity God has joined and which we should not divide.

Si Puo Vivere Cosi? Is it possible to live this way asked Mgr Giussani. Is it possible to live in a way so that faith gives birth to hope; and so that hope might overflow into love? Yes, we say; yes, we believe it is possible in union with Christ. It might not necessarily be easy, or without sacrifice. But, yes, we believe – I believe – it is possible to live with a profound consciousness in my heart and soul that I am loved by God in Christ and therefore I have hope.

In the words of the Dutch priest, Henri Nouwen, we can live in response to God’s love, not defined by what we have, or by our work, or by what people say about us; but defined and held secure by the beautiful truth that I am – that you are – a beloved child of the Father, the pearl of great price for which Christ gave up everything on the cross to purchase. Do you know that the Lord loves you? Everything depends on our answer in faith, and the hope it brings for our existence.

(Photo: Francesco Perazzini)

Mgr Giussani spoke of faith as that which brings forth the flower and the fruit of hope. It might just be a small seed, but it can and does grow and it can and does blossom. Hope born of faith isn’t some kind of cheery optimism which always tries to look on the bright side, seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. No, Christian hope looks to the "glory of God," the glory of "God recognised" for who he is and for what life means when lived in relationship with Him. The Catechism puts it like this: "Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help and grace of the Holy Spirit."

Dear friends, our hope – what we know to be true hope – is born from faith in Christ. It is inseparable, indissoluble, from Him, connected directly to the Lord Jesus. The faith which recognises God’s presence in Christ among us gives birth to a hope for transformation – for us, for the world, and for the whole of creation.

When Enrico Manfredini entered Bologna in 1983 as its new Archbishop he proclaimed: "Christ here and now. We should serve Christ, here and now; Christ present here and now." These words, quoted by Mgr Giussani, speak to us. We believe in the presence of Christ with us here and now – do we not? We believe in the love of Christ, present with us, present within us, here and now – do we not? We can, we must say yes in faith to Christ with us and Christ for us, Christ our hope of glory. And if your or my yes is hesitant – and sometimes it might be – then we pray for stronger faith. We pray with, and for, each other for a firmer yes to Christ.

Because we believe, we are people of hope. Because of our faith we live in the world, and in the Church, with the memory of Christ’s resurrection alive in us through the Holy Spirit. Because we are people of faith, we embody Christ’s living memory, as witnesses of him who rose from the dead. Our hope is always connected with the Lord Jesus, and him crucified, risen and glorified.

Dear brothers and sisters, our faith – your faith and my faith – is as important now as it ever was: important to the Lord, important to His Church and important for the world. Born from the faith of a disciple, Christian hope announces Christ present here and now. Christ present through his Spirit. Christ present in his Word. Christ present in his Body and Blood and in the Tabernacle. Christ present in the least of our brothers and sisters. Christ is present with us. So, dear friends, let us serve him.