At the Inauguration of the Academic Year, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 3, 2016)
“Ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus usque ad consummationem saeculi (Mt 28:20): Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Jesus’ voice resounds in the world and will continue doing so until his final coming, when all things—in heaven and on earth—will be united in him (see Eph 1:10). The promise of our Lord is very timely and encourages all Christians to announce the presence of the Word incarnate among mankind. It is Jesus himself who guarantees the authenticity of his salvific presence through the sending of the Paraclete, who lives in the Church and in our hearts.
We sense the need to entrust the academic year to the Holy Spirit, to have a sure guide for our path. Invoking him does not mean asking for help that is foreign to our condition as Christians and as members of a university dedicated to study and research. From our heart—where he dwells—from the depths of our being, as from the spring of life-giving water promised by Jesus (see Jn 4:14), the Holy Spirit “purifies us, illuminates us, renews us, transforms us, because he makes us participants in the very life of God that is Love... This is the precious gift that the Holy Spirit brings to our hearts: the very life of God, the life of true children, a relationship of confidence, freedom and trust in the love and mercy of God. It also gives us a new perception of others, close and far, seen always as brothers and sisters in Jesus to be respected and loved,” as Pope Francis said (General audience, May 8, 2013).
Therefore, none of us views the academic year as an exclusively individual project, centered on satisfying purely human expectations. Certainly, human expectations are legitimate and form part of the professional vocation of the student, the researcher, the teacher, those in charge of the technical, administrative and business tasks. But the Christian vocation—and with it the living water, the light-giving and impetuous force of the Holy Spirit—leads us to look higher, with an active attitude and the desire to correspond to the gifts he has prepared for each one of us throughout this year.
Now, a few weeks before the conclusion of the Jubilee Year, is a good moment to reflect on the fruit that the Holy Spirit has brought forth in us. We have seen our faith strengthened in Jesus, the face of the Father’s Mercy, and in his Church, where his divine presence dwells. But have we made a resolution to let ourselves be guided by the Spirit to go out to all nations, aware that each person harbors, even though not fully realizing it, a thirst for God?
To understand better the mission that has been entrusted to us, we should consider more closely the works of mercy—particularly the spiritual ones, since these give us in profile the program of integral formation, inspired in the figure of Jesus, that the Church seeks to impart also in academic and educational institutions, which today are beginning a new school year.
The Gospel reminds us that when the disciples found themselves with Jesus just before being sent out as missionaries “they worshipped him” (Mt 28:17). Let us ask the Holy Spirit that our work in the coming months, closely united to Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Altar, may be an act of adoration of the Father; and let us also ask that our work may never lose sight of the Church’s universal mission.
With this Catholic outlook, St. Josemaría spoke about the work of the university: “University people should be responsible citizens with a healthy concern for the problems of other people and a generous spirit which brings them to face these problems and to resolve them in the best possible way. It is the task of universities to foster these attitudes in their students” (Conversations, no. 74).
The Blessed Sacrament chapel in this church is the heart of all the University’s life. Here Our Lady of Apollinaris is venerated. Let us ask her to intercede for us, so that all the gifts that our Lord wants to grant us in this academic year may bear fruit. Amen. Praised be Jesus Christ.
Romana, n. 63, July-December 2016, p. 297-298.