Father Luigi Giussani

Responsible for a Gift

Our wonder at the encounter must become “an incessant prayer of entreaty.” Here are extracts from the homily of the Archbishop of Milan from the almost 200 Masses celebrated throughout the world to mark the 9th anniversary of of Fr. Giussiani's death.
Angelo Scola

“All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat. Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” (Reading, Is 55:1-2.) The prophet, with clear and incisive images, describes the ardent desire for fulfillment of the heart of the human person, a desire that none of us can meet with our own strength. In fact, the prophet begins with an invitation: “Come to the water, receive without paying!” Nobody can buy their own salvation, that is, the solution to the enigma that each of us is: yesterday, I did not exist; today, I exist; tomorrow, I will not exist. Every attempt to purchase one’s salvation is a waste. Only God fulfills, only God can freely satiate the heart of the human person.

This is precisely what happened that day on which Mary, after the Angel’s annunciation, deeply moved and thus set into motion by active generosity, went to Elizabeth’s house bearing in her womb Jesus, the dawn of salvation. Saint Ambrose, commenting on this event, asks with Elizabeth, “Why this great favor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? I can’t understand it. For what virtue, or good work, or merit?” There is no virtue, no good work, no merit worthy of the stunning gift of the child Mary carried in her womb. A wonder similar to the one that filled Elizabeth at the gift of Mary’s visit filled the heart of many of us when we encountered Monsignor Luigi Giussani. The gift, the charism, given to this great priest and educator made the Grace of faith persuasive and therefore incisive for many. So then, “His time is lost indeed who loves not Thee/Jesus, sweet love, most dear and divine.” The time of our life would be wasted if our wonder at the encounter did not become an incessant prayer of entreaty. Everything, precisely everything of the human is dear to the Christian. As Fr. Giussani once brilliantly put it, the Christian “is concerned with all that exists and all of existence....”

From Fr. Giussani’s charism, lived in the Church, flows a grateful and responsible love for Christ and the Church. For this reason, the Servant of God in his courageous innovative effort, for which he often paid personally, always sought every way to pursue unity... founded on the rock of the ministry of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him, a rock that alone guarantees the total openness of the heart of the faithful. And unity... is nourished daily in following those who have been called to guide the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, and as such have been recognized by the Church, our mother. Celebrating in all the continents, in these days, the Eucharist on the ninth anniversary of the death of the founder therefore means praising God for the grace of unity, essential note of every authentic ecclesial experience. In fact, unity ensures the flowering of the freedom of the “I” in the community. There is not full freedom if it is not expressed in the sensitive belonging to a guided ecclesial community, but at the same time, a community is not a true one unless it enables the freedom of each person to blossom fully.

Christ Himself, who tells us, “Come,” establishes with each of us... a bond that, through communion, permanently generates community. In fact, this is the historical condition He chose in order to give Himself to women and men–“Do this in memory of Me.” In Jesus Christ eucharistically, ecclesially, God wanted to need human beings. The Eucharist that we are celebrating helps us to understand this mystery better: Christ is really present. How we struggle to embrace this fact in all its affective and moving intensity! He is truly present. It is He who gathers us together this evening. It is He who gives Himself to us in the Eucharistic sacrifice and in it makes us one thing alone, one Body alone. So then, I encourage you from the heart not to drift away from the gesture that has been alive from the beginning of the Movement, of participating in the Holy Mass with awareness, as much as possible, even on weekdays, with a bit of sacrifice. The responsibility for the gift received is expressed in Christian observance. But Christian observance... coincides with the total offering of one’s own life so that the glory of the humanity of Christ may be manifested in the world: life in itself is vocation. Pope Francis speaks of the “Church which goes forth” (Evangelii Gaudium, 24): the Sower untiringly walks the whole field of the world even into the places of its forms of fragility and baseness, its weaknesses and its contradictions, even to the place of blasphemies against Him. The Sower never ceases to throw the good seed. Mission–because this is what we are talking about–is not a matter of strategies or particular activities to add to the fabric of our daily existence. Mission is, above all, a matter of responsible awareness, nourished daily by an experience of fraternity, that asks every individual, every day, the question, “Who am I?” and, above all, “for Whom do I act?” Today’s Gospel proposes with clarity the road of the answer. It is the virtue proclaimed by the Magnificat: “He has looked with favor on His lowly servant” (Gospel, Lk 1:48). Thus Mary speaks of herself, indicating the road for each of us. Humility comes from the Latin word humus. So it tells us to stay close to the earth, well attached to reality. The Magnificat establishes a radical distinction between the humble and the proud person: “He has scattered the proud in their conceit”–this powerful image describes very well the great temptation of post-modern man, even if one can understand such extreme weakness, a whirlpool that pulls him down–“and has lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:52). For the Ambrosians, the children of St. Charles Borromeo, humilitas cannot help but permeate every fiber of their being, and must be achieved through daily, incessant prayer of entreaty. If you look at it well, the opposition between humility and pride, before being an opposition between virtue and vice, is one between reasonableness and unreasonableness. In the ultimate analysis, the proud person is a narcissist who prolongs all life long the inevitable experience of our earliest childhood: seeing oneself in the mirror as another person. Instead, maturity requires that we allow the other to be the other. This is the import of full love.... Pride makes us impermeable to the other and, in the end, generates a bad form of solitude even when we are together with others, so that life is burdensome, as Dante intuited with his great genius, condemning the proud to walk with the crushing weight of enormous rocks on their shoulders. Humility, instead, generates faithful who are glad and constructive and, as Péguy said, it makes them “the most civic-minded among men,” something the Servant of God Luigi Giussani taught us up to his last breath. Amen.

From the Concluding Address
The power of the charism of the Servant of God Monsignor Luigi Giussani is seen, I would say, more today than when he began 60 years ago. His beginning was like a premonition of what the holy Church would come to need: the passion for education. How can one respond to the fascinating and confused anxiety of post-modern people if not by educating women and men, from their earliest years, to welcome the Mystery that embraces us and to give themselves totally? In our times, the bewilderment about the fundamentals of life requires that we must re-write, re-think, and, therefore re-live what sexual difference means, what love is, what it means to procreate and educate, why one should work, why a pluralistic civil society can be richer than a monolithic society, how we can be able to encounter each other, reciprocally, to build effective communion in all the Christian communities and good life in civil society, how to renew finance and the economy, how to look at fragility, from illness to death, at moral fragility, how to seek justice, and how to constantly learn to share the need of the poor. In our times, the pedagogical genius of Monsignor Giussani continues to be pertinent, in a new sphere. Of what? Of witnessing and recounting. These two ideas can no longer be separated; one must live what one intends to communicate. What is not communicated is not entirely understood; and if it is not understood, it is because it is not adequately lived. People today are seeking, even when they rebel against God, when they do not love the Church of God, when they do not love the people of God, they are seeking incessantly and frantically. Whom do they find? They must find Christians in our beautiful Ambrosian Church; ...they must find people of communion, who welcome each other, in reciprocal listening, striving to give their own existence for the supreme good of the very existence that is Jesus Christ. Therefore, they must find people who witness, and recount what they live.... I strongly encourage you to go to daily Mass and pray the rosary daily: these conditions must not be set aside, no matter how intense the rhythm of our lives. There is no justification for setting aside the constitutive gestures that respond to our heart. There is no justification for not making daily Eucharistic space for God.