The Road is Beautiful for Those Who Walk

Synthesis of the Italian responsibles Assembly. Riva del Garda (Italy), January 24, 2010.
Julián Carrón

“The road is beautiful for those who walk.” This is the newness that the Mystery introduces into history: He makes the road beautiful. For those who walk. “The road is beautiful for those who go.” It’s impressive how this comes true: life becomes a beautiful road, an ever-more fascinating journey, an ever-more exciting adventure for those who walk and, instead, for those who do not walk, it becomes increasingly burdensome. “When he woke in the morning, everything annoyed him, beginning with the light; even the coffee with milk,” said the song by Chieffo, “L’uomo cattivo”[“The Bad Man,” in il libro dei canti, Jaca Book, Milan, 1976, p. 291]. The same ingredients of living are annoying for one and are beautiful for another.
What introduces this beauty, what makes the road beautiful? “I wonder as I wander out under the sky” [“I Wonder,” in Canti, Cooperativa Editoriale Nuovo Mondo, Milan, 2002, p. 238]. As I walk under the sky, I marvel that Jesus came to die for poor, hungry people like me and you. For those who are full of this wonder, once they encounter Him, everything makes them long for Him. “All the countryside is yellow, and I already long for you” [C. Chieffo, “La strada,” in Canti, op. cit., p. 245]. What makes the road beautiful is that everything, everything, once we have encountered Him, sets off our longing for Him–for You, O Christ–and the more we walk (when life tightens, when the countryside is yellowed), the more we long.
This is the newness that Christ, the Mystery made flesh, who becomes presence for humanity, introduced as a possibility in the historical situation of those times, in the shambles of those times, in the convulsed situation of those times and introduces, for each of us, in the shambles of today. As observed in yesterday’s assembly, those who teach in today’s schools don’t find themselves before kids who need to be adjusted only slightly, their understanding corrected just a shade; no, the humanity we see before us is increasingly more confused, undone, destroyed. But the more you are aware of this situation, the more you marvel that One had pity on people like you and like me–just as we are, with all our humanity–before any other consideration. Let’s ask ourselves, then: All the signs of humanity we see around us–the unease, the dissatisfaction, the sadness, the boredom, or the shambles–are they obstacles? The fact that we no longer find ourselves before the cream-of-the-crop student, or the cream-of-the crop person, or that we are no longer the cream of the crop like before, is this an obstacle, or is it an occasion for being amazed again that One came who had mercy on us, on me and you? Again: Are those signs of humanity the symptoms of a disease or the symptoms of a structural disproportion, of an expectant awaiting for the only One who can restore the “I,” not in the sense of settling things, but of resurrecting it from this situation? We’ve come to the end of the line, we see, in many of our gestures, in many people we meet: neither we nor the Church are served by a reduction of Christianity to ethics. In the situation in which we are, in which we find ourselves living, we and others, as said before, only Jesus can happen. In other words, we need something beyond, something more than what we manage to do, something more than all our attempts.

The value of the situation is that it makes evident to us that we can no longer allow ourselves to reduce Christianity, the nature of Christianity: either Christianity happens for us and for the others, or we no longer stand; and if we no longer stand, faith isn’t reasonable; we lack the reasons for believing. What is amazing is that in this situation, as was testified to yesterday in the assembly, we’re seeing the emergence of those who have been on a journey in these years, who are traveling a road, because Jesus happens, happened and happens, is happening.
Grace happens. How do you see this? To answer, I’ll draw on what you said. One of you described it very well: “I’ve experienced a total overturning of my way of looking.” How do you see that someone is journeying a road? How do you see that the grace of Christ, as an event, happens? From the fact that someone can say: before I was one way and now I find myself different; before I tried to put what happened in a predefined “grid,” and now it is “the surprise of a new consciousness.” An event blew away the grid and introduced a newness. When people let themselves be taken by the event, by the grace that happens, a newness is introduced. You see that there’s grace; you see that there’s the event and that there’s a willingness of our freedom to welcome it by the fact that the grid is blown away: the event–embraced–throws us wide open again, making us breathe deeply. Those who are on a journey, who let themselves be taken, can describe an experience (not “reflections,” but an experience): I was there, this happened to me, something happened and now I’m here, at another point, and I see a newness happening. You see that a person experiences something other because a new consciousness is introduced. I can judge the previous situation because of the light that is introduced into the present, because of the fact that now I breathe, I find myself surprised and amazed by what happens and I realize that, previously, I put those things in the grid. The newness of what happens introduces a new judgment, and you know that it is an experience because it increases the person. What is different from before? When the sentimental repercussion ends, everything doesn’t vanish. This newness remains and introduces itself into daily life as “a total overturning of my way of looking.”
Now, many of you were able to testify to this yesterday because the event happens, grace happens–otherwise, you wouldn’t have been able to say it.
And then, the second sign: “a friendship arises like a surprise,” you said, finding yourselves together not because it’s needed, not for the organization, but “so as not to lose what happens,” that is, for the memory, “to go deep down into the relationship with Christ.” I immediately thought, hearing these testimonies of yours, of the good, the grace for everyone in what is happening in Latin America. There, some have let themselves be swept away by the event that happens, by the grace that happens; they have such a needy humanity, so wounded, that they let themselves be swept away, without anyone telling them what to do. When Cleuza and Marcos returned from the International Assembly in August, they sought out Fr. Aldo to look together at what had happened, and Fr. Aldo returned to visit them, because he wanted to go more deeply into what happened with them, and Julián De La Morena was the first to follow them, all amazed in the face of what’s happening.

Where do we start from, to understand whether the grace is happening or not happening? What do we look at when we talk about the Movement? The Movement is one; it’s international, and what happens in one specific spot in the world (which increasingly often I can see directly) is for the entire Movement. So when I see our friends in the United States who gather and participate in a beautiful gesture, and afterwards they don’t seek each other out, don’t need to call each other, I say that something is happening there, too, but it isn’t yet what’s happened in Latin America. It is not that you have to mechanically reproduce something; it is simply that you can’t help saying that what has happened in Latin America has happened because the Christian event happens and finds a humanity that embraces it. There, where it is embraced, the things you’ve said take place: a total overturning of the way of looking (the grid is blown away) and friendship as a surprise of finding yourselves together. I can’t find better words for describing what I see–that you can’t claim to be the result of an organization–and at the same time what is missing. Because of this newness that has been described, a surge of passion is being generated in Latin America, so that Argentines, Paraguayans, and Brazilians are eager and push to have a vacation together, because they want to stay together, to share this newness, to keep from losing it.
The same is happening among many of you, as you testified yesterday. I’ll repeat only a few of the expressions you used, as documentation of the newness. “I’m re-acquiring my sight, my relationship with reality, my humanity,” one of you said. How do you see that someone is having an experience? By the fact that the “I” grows. “I am recovering my humanity”–in other words, I don’t stick a discourse on my old humanity. I don’t remain in the grid, adding something. I don’t put a label over an already perfectly constituted “I.” The grace of His presence invests my need, my solitude, to the point of determining, molding the perception I have of myself. If it weren’t this way, it would mean that Christianity is unable to touch the heart of the question and that, in the end, everything remains as it was before, and we walk towards skepticism: “Nothing new under the sun!”
Therefore, this is the challenge: Does something new under the sun happen or does it not? Each of us can decide what position to take before what happens, what we saw yesterday, what I tell you about, from Africa, London, Latin America, or the United States. I could go on and on relating facts that document the contemporaneousness of Christ among us, this event that has no limits, that waits only to find a humanity capable of being amazed. In the face of what happens, in fact, an open wound is needed. Only through this can grace enter–the grace that happens, because grace has acquired a new face in the encounter, acquired a new visage; it’s not something “spiritual,” but the event that has happened through something real.

You said, “A change of the ‘I’ has come about, a new gaze on everything;” “I’ve changed the gaze with which I looked at my brother.” You see that the event happens by the fact that it opens us anew to the Mystery; it educates us to the religious sense, makes us breathe fully, blows away the grid. We can live the Movement trying to put it into the grid (“Now I’ll say what’s needed”) or we can let ourselves be swept along by the event underway. The risk of saying, “I understand,” and putting a label on what happens, making it fit into the grid, is always lurking. If Christianity doesn’t find someone who lets himself be swept away, it can’t demonstrate all its capacity to change us and regenerate our hope, so that we can fill our lungs deeply, so that the road becomes beautiful.
How is this possible? If each of us let’s ourselves be taken, if our freedom allows itself to be engaged and questioned. Nothing is automatic. “You have to let yourself be taken by the Mystery as it happens,” one of you said–and this depends on a judgment–and added, “The point is not to change the method.” What does this mean? “Going after what happens,” following the grace that happens, that is for you and for me. The whole point of the journey of these years comes down to this: whether we let ourselves be swept away by what was happening. All the difference is between those who let themselves be struck by what was happening, whatever the moment along the road, and those who resisted or resist, draw back, try to put what happens into the grid. But Christianity does not fit into the grid. “New wine in new wineskins.” It’s impossible to fit it into our frameworks; the attempt is useless. If someone bumps into the event of His presence and lets himself be struck, he changes, and he in turn is made an event, and can no longer be put into the grid. There are increasingly more people among us who can no longer be put into the grid. Christianity is an event we can resist, but cannot control–it’s unpredictable, irreducible. When Christianity happens, people are filled with reasons, because they experience the answer to their human need. Only the Mystery, who becomes a familiar and historical presence, in fact, can truly respond to our humanity. Without this presence, nobody could remain himself for long, before seeing his own human face deconstructed. “Only the divine can ‘save’ man. The true and essential dimensions of humanity and its destiny can only be preserved by He who is their ultimate meaning” (L. Giussani, At the Origin of the Christian Claim, McQueen-Gills University Press, Montreal, 1998, p. 83). How does the divine educate us to this? Through an historical presence. We’re not talking about our “visions;” we’re talking about historical presences (of which I am a witness, for all I see around me) through which His presence happens. And it’s not necessary to first sort out man, to put him in order, before entering into a relationship with His presence, because man can’t truly be put in order without the Christian event happening.
Here, Christ demonstrates who He truly is. Only the divine can save the essential dimensions of man. The most persuasive sign that Christ is God, the greatest miracle is, therefore, the gaze that recomposed the entire “I.” The only question is whether this gaze exists, whether this gaze remains in history (in the way of treating the human, of looking at your brother, of looking at your kids, of looking at ourselves); whether our humanity is reached and embraced by it. The sign that this gaze is contemporaneous to our life is that what happened in the first people who encountered Him is happening in us: their life, embraced, re-awoke in that moment in all its original profundity, in its original openness–in other words, in all its religious sense, in all its mysteriousness. That this gaze reaches us today is seen by the fact of a reborn affection for ourselves, one that would otherwise be impossible, because, “We cannot sustain love for ourselves unless Christ is a presence, as a mother is a presence for her child. Unless Christ is a presence now–now!–I cannot love myself now and I cannot love you now” (L. Giussani, Qui e ora (1984-1985) [Here and Now], Bur, Milan, 2009, p. 77). This is, then, the most powerful sign of the authenticity of the charism: a gaze like the one we traced in Fr. Giussani is the sign of the divine, the sign of the contemporaneousness of Christ, inasmuch as it made possible an affection for oneself that would otherwise be impossible.

It is only because Christ re-awakens all my humanity that I can acknowledge His presence. So then we can overturn Dostoyevsky’s sentence: The problem isn’t whether a cultured man of our times can believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, but that without a cultured man, that is, without a man who uses all his reason and all his capacity for freedom, there cannot be real faith–one cannot reasonably affirm Christ, except as an addition to the grid, like a hat put on an already perfectly constituted “I.” To truly believe in Jesus Christ, to admit that a newness of this caliber is possible, all your freedom and all your reason are needed; a cultured man in this sense is needed. Otherwise, you cannot believe with the fullness of humanity.
So, then, here is the challenge we all have before us: Am I open to the grace with which Christ calls my life today, the gaze with which Christ embraces my life today? Only in this openness can you be generated. As we were reminded yesterday, only those who allow themselves to be generated can generate, that is, only those who acknowledge the need for a place where they can be constantly generated, those who have this poverty, generate. The true decision–and with this I enter upon the new step of School of Community on charity–is whether I let myself be embraced today. All the drama of living consists either in resisting or in letting myself be taken by the embrace of Christ today. The first charity isn’t the one we “do.” We are only able to give ourselves gratuitously because we have been bowled over, because we are open to accepting the charity of the Mystery for us, the love of Christ for us, that arrives in so many ways. Yesterday, one of you speaking of his wife, said, “You are the charity of Christ for me.” Fr. Aldo was quoted as saying, “My work is my whole life that is born of One who loved me without self-interest.” The true decision, the only decision–all the rest is consequential–is whether I am willing to let myself be embraced by the modality with which Christ embraces me today.

Life is simple if we have this simplicity within. We must constantly beg to have the simplicity to let ourselves be generated by Christ, because what I can generate is only what overflows from what I receive. It is my hope that the new School of Community will introduce us to understanding deep down the origin of the whole journey of faith. Christ amazed the first two he met because the heart of His presence is charity. The ultimate intimacy of the Presence acknowledged by faith is charity. Even as just an intuition, they perceived that good Presence, full of passion for their lives. Charity is the intimacy of the Presence acknowledged by faith. Without the unique precedence of the love of Christ for each of us, there is no Christianity. Not just at the beginning, but in every step of the journey there is something that comes before any move of ours–it precedes us. Life changes, is fulfilled, only if one is open to the “something that comes before,” that is generated by Him, that is not us, but Him, who expects to be with us for all of time, to the end of the world. It is He who constantly generates it and who comes to us. Our only question is: But am I there? “Do you love me?”