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"The true protagonist of history is the beggar: Christ who begs for man's heart, and man's heart that begs for Christ." With these words, eight years ago, Father Giussani concluded his address here in St. Peter's Square, kneeling before Pope John Paul II. Today we come back as beggars, even more desirous of Christ, astonished at how Christ has continued begging for our heart.
1. "Great and wonderful are your works, Lord, God Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of all nations!" (Revelations 15:3).
Like the martyrs of the Apocalypse, after seeing his victory we, too, can say: "Great and wonderful are your works, Lord, God Almighty." What are the works that make us sing? The resurrection of Christ, who, by the work of the Holy Spirit, has taken hold of us in baptism, making us "his."
Christ's victory makes us exult with joy and gratitude at seeing how he takes the whole of our humanity and brings it to a fullness beyond compare, making us live no longer for ourselves, but for him who died and rose for us (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15). It is in the flesh, in all the events of life, that we are given the grace to live this newness: "Though living in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Our astonishment at Christ's love for each of us dominates our life, because "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). This is how we have experienced "the power of his resurrection" (Philippians 3:10).
This is the defeat of the nothingness that constantly looms over every man, and that often makes him doubt that there is an answer that corresponds to the need for truth, for beauty, for justice and for happiness in his heart, because nothing is able to wholly fascinate him for long. For, "without Christ's resurrection, only one alternative remains: nothingness." In the risen Christ, instead, we see the victory of being over nothingness, and therefore the reawakening in us of the one hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).
The encounter with Father Giussani's charism in the great riverbed that is the Church has made Christ more and more familiar to us, more familiar than our father and mother, to the point of arousing in us the question: "Who are you, Christ?" following the same method that led the disciples from the experience of the encounter with Christ's humanity to the great question about his divinity.
In this way, we, the baptized, have become one with Christ. (cf. Galatians 3:27). This is the unassailable fascination of Christianity: It makes us participate in an event that takes up our whole "I" and rescues us every time we fail, like the disciples of Emmaus, who said, "Were our hearts not burning within us as we spoke with him on the road?" (Luke 24:32) Thus, in the light of the Holy Spirit's gifts, the whole of reality and the whole of life witness the reasonableness of faith in Christ, the world's destiny and salvation.
2. "Who shall not fear and glorify your name, O Lord, You alone are holy!" (Revelation 15:4).
It is the immensity of his love that shines out in his works and makes it easy to recognize the Lord; as it was for the people of Israel, who before God's mighty hand, "feared the Lord and believed in him" (Exodus 14:31). All that is needed is for our freedom to give in and, as Your Holiness wonderfully reminded us in your encyclical, let ourselves be drawn by Christ into the "dynamic of his self-giving" to us ("Deus Caritas Est," No. 13).
In the person of Christ, this giving reaches an "unprecedented realism" (No. 12). God incarnate becomes so overwhelmingly attractive that he "draws us all to himself" (No. 14). A person who meets him finds him so correspondent to his heart's expectation that he does not hesitate to exclaim before the manifestation of the beauty of his holiness: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).
But, as Peter himself, many times we perceive, too, the whole drama of human freedom which, instead of opening us trustingly in astonished and grateful acknowledgment for the Lord present, can close itself up in the conceited pride of autonomy or in skepticism, to the point of despair, faced with one's own impotence and the immensity of evil.
But, as Your Holiness again reminded us in the encyclical, God's holiness reveals itself as a passionate love for his people, for every man, and at the same time a forgiving love (cf. "Deus Caritas Est," No. 10). All man's frailty, his betrayal, all the dreadful possibilities of history are traversed by that question put to Peter on the lake that morning, "Do you love me?" (John 21:17).
Through this simple, definitive question, God's unique holiness reveals in Christ its inconceivable and mysterious depth: God is mercy. In this, man, each one of us, is recreated in the truth of his original dependence, and freedom blossoms once more as humble, glad adhesion full of entreaty: "Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you" (John 21:17). In this free "yes" of the creature, in every circumstance of life, the glory of God echoes and is at work. "Gloria Dei vivens homo" (St. Irenaeus, "Adversus Haereses," IV, 20, 7). The glory of God is man who is alive.
3. "All nations shall come and worship you Lord, because your judgments have been revealed" (Revelation 15:4).
The judgment of the Apocalypse reveals us the truth of the last day, when all will come to bow down in acknowledgment that Jesus is the Lord, and Christ will be definitively "everything in everyone" (Colossians 3:11). This radiant judgment is not contradicted by a world that seems to be moving away from God, but the dramatic situation in which we are living intensifies Christ's distressing question: "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Answering this question makes us more aware of the importance of this meeting. Our coming together here around Peter makes us certain that that final fulfillment lives in belonging to the Church, to the "little flock," the anticipation and pledge of the final manifestation. But, at the same time, we are pressed by the urgency of the task we are called to.
As at the first Pentecost, we, too, have been chosen, called to be witnesses of the beauty of Christ before all nations. What simplicity of heart is needed to let oneself be molded by Christ so as to make the whole of our daily life, our work and family, our relationships and initiatives resplendent with newness! Only one thing can arouse in those we meet the desire to come with us to worship before the Lord: Seeing realized in us the promise of Christ that those who follow him will have the hundredfold here on earth (Mark 10:29-30).
[Translation issued by the Pontifical Council for the Laity; adapted]