"In recent months, we have clearly understood that we are in the European Union but the borders between us are like high mountains. We are only ostensibly living in a united Europe. "
The Fourth Saturday of Easter—May 18, 2019—(Acts 13:44‒52; Jn 14:7‒14)
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
After seventy-four years, we have returned to the place where our nation’s Way of the Cross began. This term—Way of the Cross—and not some other, signifies that our nation has united its postwar destiny to Jesus’ Way of the Cross. This term gives it the strength not to falter on its Way of the Cross but to endure pain and suffering, in the belief that after the cross comes the glory of the resurrection.
Before handing himself over to his enemies, Jesus Christ partook of the Last Supper with his disciples and told them to do the same in memory of him (do this in memory of me) whenever they gathered in his name. For two thousand years, the Church has remained faithful to Jesus’ mandate, aware that it can only respond to the challenges of the world if it has a lively awareness and memory of his salvific work.
Here, we celebrate the Eucharist for all the casualties among our people, because we are confident that as long as we unite their sacrifice to Jesus’ sacrifice, we are preventing their memory from being erased from our nation’s remembrance, so that they may experience the glory of heaven with the risen Lord.
The departed are not buried when they are interred in the ground but when they are forgotten. Prayer and remembrance are the only things we can give them, and no one can take these things from us.
Remembrance or memory is a fundamental human trait, which gives a person’s whole life meaning. If a person is deprived of remembrance, he is reduced to a lower level than that of animals, who have some form of memory.
Since many of us never met our grandfathers, we are grateful to our grandmothers and parents who, through all these yours, have nurtured a lively awareness of our affiliations within us. Faith in Jesus Christ and the remembrance of our ancestors have given us, and continue to give us, the strength to endure the past and present, when others want to erase our memory by force. Gatherings such as this one indicate that memory cannot be taken from a people, because we know very well what a person who has lost it resembles.
Not only our faith in Jesus Christ, but also the entire history of salvation and biblical heritage as such are based on remembrance and memory.
God remembers his people, his promises and his covenant, and urges his people not to forget the covenant that he has made with them and their forefathers, to remember his wondrous works, and to transmit this heritage from generation to generation. If God himself warns us that we must not forget past events and need to learn from them, who would dare contradict God’s Word and law?
May all who hear this try to understand that they cannot destroy such gatherings, because when our grandmothers and parents transmitted memories of past events to us, they were not transmitting hatred but only remembrance in the light of Christian faith. We are not here today because we hate anyone but for the sake of our loved ones, whom we pray for and commend to God’s mercy.
We believe that the Word of God is eternal and contains a message that has been given to the young and old, healthy and sick, living and deceased. Therefore, we wish to dwell briefly on today’s liturgical readings, which the entire Catholic world is reading today.
During these fifty days of Eastertide, we hear daily about the spreading of the good news following Jesus’ resurrection and the lives of the first Christians, according to what Saint Luke wrote in the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles reveal a great truth to us, which can be summarized in a single sentence: “Every act authored by God creates great problems for people” (cf. P. Bossuyt—J. Radermakers, Lettura pastorale degli Atti degli apostoli, EDB, Bologna 2001, p. 396).
God often creates events in human lives that make people’s heads spin, but they cannot help themselves because they cannot be destroyed as they are God’s work.
We are amazed at how the first Christian community, through the power of the Holy Spirit, faithfully carried out Jesus’ mandate, went into the whole world and proclaimed the gospel to every creature (cf. Mk 16:15). We ask ourselves how this handful of little people found the strength to transcend all borders, leave behind the narrow confines of Jerusalem and bring the name of Jesus to all the ends of the earth, while remaining rooted in the teachings and traditions of their people.We have just heard today how Saint Paul the apostle, who loved his people so much that he could wish that he were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of their salvation (cf. Rm 9:3), had to make a hard decision in Antioch and tell his fellow Israelites that if they did not want to accept Jesus Christ, he would turn to the pagan nations and, due to their lack of faith, would not exclude other nations from God’s salvific work (cf. Acts 13:46‒52). He, together with his apostles, sought to tear down all borders and turn toward all the nations, without ever turning his back upon his people and continuing to work for their salvation.
In recent months, we have clearly understood that we are in the European Union but the borders between us are like high mountains. We are only ostensibly living in a united Europe.
As in early Christian times, when the community had to confront itself, an opinion coming from our Catholic milieu has raised a barrier, thereby encouraging all those trying for decades to extinguish our people’s memory of past events to rear their heads and reveal the darkness in their hearts.
Every discerning person can understand how great the barriers between us are, how much further we have to go and how much we have to overcome in order for us to listen to each other and dine together at the same table.
The entire Christian message from apostolic times revolves around two realities: the Word and bread, as essential factors, without with there is no fellowship of life.
Only if we want to hear the word of truth can we sit at a common table. To dine together is far more than to partake of food. To dine at the same table includes a fellowship in which each one is accepted as is, with particularities celebrated as gifts that enrich our fellowship and lead to unity.
As on the first Pentecost, we today, in this place, on this first station of our national Way of the Cross, cry out to the Lord and invoke the gift of his Spirit, that all barriers may be shattered, first of all in ourselves, in our families, our nation and even in the Church of Christ.
I believe that among our people are many wise and reasonable individuals who are ready to open their hearts and minds to the Truth and believe the Truth, without waiting for the truth to come from Europe or across the ocean. Why do we expect and ask others to evaluate us, judge us and impose their truth upon us?
With an aching heart, Saint Paul asked the Christians in Corinth: “Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers? But rather brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers? Now indeed [then] it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another” (Cor 6:5‒7).
How long shall we litigate among ourselves? How long will others judge us and tell us what is true? When shall we want to hear the word of truth, sit at the same table and live in fellowship as brothers and sisters?
Yesterday, Jesus told us in the Gospel: “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6) and today he tells us: “And whatever you ask [the Father] in my name, I will do” (Jn 14:13).
Let us pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, to open our hearts and minds to the truth because the truth will set us free (cf. Jn 8:32).
I said first of all to open our hearts because I believe that our minds are healthy but our hearts are hard, and there is darkness in them.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours, so that our departed may finally rest in peace. May we become one nation which, in love and harmony, builds its future and progress with your blessing. Amen.
Msgr. Ivica Petanjak, Bishop of Krk