Homily of

His Eminence Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino

Special Envoy of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to Singapore

at the Thanksgiving Mass

Good Shepherd Cathedral, Singapore, 21 June 2006

THE HIGHROAD OF CHARITY

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am happy to be here to celebrate this solemn Eucharist with you. Gathered around the sacramental ministry of the Archbishop, we profess the same faith, nurture the same hope, and bear witness to the same charity; in this way we express and show forth in a wonderful manner the holy mystery of ecclesial unity. I wish to express to your beloved Archbishop my gratitude for being invited here to be with you and for the fraternal affection he has graciously shown me.

On this day the Church devoutly commemorates Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. Saint Aloysius fully lived the Gospel beatitude of poverty in spirit, that is, the ridding oneself of earthly honours and goods in order to obtain true riches, the Kingdom of God. In fact, he said to his father, the Marquis of Castiglione delle Stiviere: "Being marquis is not enough for me; I seek a kingdom". He was evidently speaking of the Kingdom of heaven. To make this desire a reality, Aloysius renounced his noble title and his inheritance so that he could enter the Roman novitiate of the Company of Jesus. He became poor so that he could become rich. He would make the observation in one of his writings: "Princes too are dust, like the poor". In fact, he took upon himself the most humble tasks, dedicating himself to the care of the sick, above all those stricken with the epidemic of plague that hit Rome in 1590, and giving his life for the ill.

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This memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga brings our thoughts to a chapter of the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium that is all too often undervalued: the chapter on the universal vocation to holiness. The Church is the homeland of saints, of those called to holiness, the communion of those who participate in God's holiness through our Lord Jesus Christ. Defining the Church as "holy" helps us to understand that those who belong to the Church as her members are an expression of the Church's holiness. The Church herself echoes God's command to "be holy, because I am holy" as she repeats her own command: "Be holy, because I am holy". The Church is holy on the condition that we are holy. The holiness of Christ's bride is the holiness of those who form the Lord's Body. This is the primary and radical invitation that Saint Aloysius makes to us: become saints.

Your Cathedral is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd. In the passage of John's Gospel that speaks of the Good Shepherd, Jesus presents himself as the only true Shepherd, as the Saviour, as the one who guides men and women to life and who is the head of the one true flock. The statement "I am" shows its value not only as revelation, but also as resoluteness and commitment. Just as the "I am" of the Old Testament was an affirmation, so too is Jesus' "I am": "I am always, and shall always be, for you and with you as the Saviour". We can thus understand the perennial relevance of these words. The sheep belong to him, they are "his". Between the Good Shepherd and his sheep there exists a bond of mutual knowledge. Based on a communion of life and solidarity in interests, this mutual knowledge is the intimate presence of the one with the other, it is mutual understanding and trust, a communion of heart and thought. Jesus knows all his sheep and calls each by name. His sheep, by means of sure instinct, recognize his voice. What closely unites them is a bond of communion in love.

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Love: this is the life and the programme of the Church and of Christians, this is the highroad of holiness to which we are called by Saint Aloysius Gonzaga! The Lord commands his Apostles to continue his saving mission, and besides ordering them to evangelize, to offer grace and mercy through Baptism and the other sacraments, he asks them to become Apostles of charity: "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment" (Mt 10:8). A complete programme of charity that shows how Christ has come to save: he is sent to those who are lost, he is sent first for the sick before he is sent for the healthy. As Christians, we must feel the need to respond to the vocation to be holy by bearing fruitful witness to charity in all the many and varied situations of human poverty, even in those connected with a lack of justice and peace. There is only one charity, God's charity, but the recipients of charity are men and women in their endless needs. Christ sends us to those who are lost, to sinners, to the fragile, the weak, the defeated, those who are shipwrecked in life, the exploited, those denied the respect owed to their dignity; he sends us to all these so that we may bear witness to a Gospel-based love that is neither exceptional nor occasional, but fundamental and essential. Charity is the highroad for bringing about true evangelization.

Dear fellow Christians, we must always take to heart the need to bear witness to charity - and to social and political charity too. This is a necessary witness that must be lived out in our daily lives: if we wish to become saints like Aloysius Gonzaga, not a day must pass without us being called to exercise charity, to proclaim it and to give it. Let us therefore place these intentions and these promises under the patronage of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, in the certainty that through his intercession they will be a source of goodness and grace.

 

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino

President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

and of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants

Singapore, 21 June 2006

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