Rome, November 5, 2008
At the opening of the
Academic Year at the
Pontifical University of
The Holy Cross
Highly esteemed professors,
dear students, and non-teaching
As we begin this year of academic activity at our university, the twenty-fifth since its foundation, we want to invoke the Paraclete so that our efforts in study and work, united to the Body and Blood of Christ, become an offering pleasing to the Most Holy Trinity.
As you perhaps already know, the postponement of our usual meeting was due to the Twelfth Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which has been studying, during the past few weeks, the topic: “The Word of God in the Church’s Life and Mission.” I had the good fortune of being able to participate in the meetings of the Synod. At the opening of the first General Session, on October 6, the Holy Father meditated with the Synod Fathers on some verses from Psalm 118, in which the people of God praise the divine Law. One of these verses reads: Your word, O Lord, is as stable as the heavens. And the Pope commented: “This refers to the solidity of the Word. It is firm; it is the true reality on which we must base our life... the Word of God is the foundation of everything, it is the true reality... The realist is the one who builds his life on this foundation, which is permanent.”
An example of life transformed and built upon the Word—which is a firm rock and bears Christ’s face—is certainly the life of the apostle St. Paul, who on the road to Damascus experienced the power of the saving Word, and who became its most courageous herald. Indeed, the Apostle to the Gentiles, who we venerate in a special way in this year dedicated to him, united himself to God’s loving conversation with mankind; he welcomed the Word and transmitted it to others, after having made it part of his own daily life. Like St. Paul, we too, Christians of the twenty-first century, are called to speak with God: the Word that guides us, true and firm reality, encourages us to correspond with all our heart and all our exterior conduct. In this interior process the Holy Spirit illumines us and helps us to understand, in a certain measure, that the Word of God, listened to and meditated upon, should be put into practice in our daily life. That is why it is good to go frequently to the Paraclete, especially whenever we see that God is awaiting our response to his love.
In that same meditation to which I alluded earlier, the Holy Father pointed out that our human word, compared to the firmness of the divine Word, is “almost nothing, a mere breath. As soon as it is pronounced it disappears. It ‘seems’ to be nothing. But the human word has incredible power. Words create history, words form thoughts.” The human word, as an instrument to communicate with God and with others, has to manifest what man guards in his heart: his hopes and desires, his vision of reality and experience of life. Words are a reflection of man’s greatness, created as a being who can relate to others, as the image and likeness of God. The word, therefore, is a great gift of God. Through human words the Word of God is transmitted to men and women. In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit enlightened him about the mystery kept secret for long ages but [which] is now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations (Rom 16:25-26). With human words, we Christians strive to praise and give thanks to God for all his benefits and to bring, with naturalness, the happiness of the Gospel to other men and women. More specifically, in the Pontifical Universities we transmit Sacred Doctrine, and in our four faculties we study the Word revealed throughout history, the words that regulate the social life of the Church, the words of wisdom that explain our being and our acting, and the effectiveness of words in our communication. All in relation to the divine Word and to human words.
Therefore our fundamental task is that our language—in work, in family life, in social relations—finds its firmest foundation in the divine Word. The content, or the form and tone of our words is not unimportant, for they always have to serve the good and never evil. In this regard, St. Josemaría taught: “Acquire the habit of speaking about everyone and about everything they do in a friendly manner, especially when you are speaking of those who labor in God’s service. Whenever that is not possible, keep quiet. Sharp or irritated comment may border on gossip or slander” (Furrow, no. 902).
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to reproduce in us the image of Christ, so that we learn to imitate Jesus in his conversation, which was always friendly towards everyone. May all of our conversations—my dear professors, students and non-teaching personnel—always serve to enrich and encourage, to console those who are suffering, to teach those who are ignorant, to correct affectionately those who are mistaken, to support the weak; and may they never lack in truth and charity.
May Mary Most Holy, who kept all these things, pondering them in her heart (Lk 2:19), help us to build the edifice of our life on the foundation of hearing and meditating on the Word, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit present in the Church, and to spend our life on earth doing good, imitating her beloved Son, Jesus.
Romana, n. 47, July-December 2008, p. 276-278.