Skies open to us.

Homily on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord for the venerability of Sister Elisa Martinez

(FSML) Our liturgical meeting on this Sunday takes place, dear sisters, after the Holy Father Francis decreed the venerability of your foundress, the Servant of God Elisa Martinez. She was born in Salento (Galatina, 1905) and in the same land she matured her vocation to consecrated life and, then, the choice of a new religious family. It was exciting for me, in following the final phase of the canonical process, to hear names that are familiar to me, of countries and people and above all those of the Marian Shrine of Leuca, in finibus terrae, and of the bishop of Ugento, Msgr. Giuseppe Ruotolo who, after having been a professor of philosophy in the Apulian Regional Seminary, as bishop was an active and intelligent conciliar father at Vatican II and, ultimately, a model of pastoral paternity also in the choice to end his days in the Tre Fontane trappa in Rome .

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The declaration of the venerability of Mother Elisa is a first important declaration by the Pope in which it is officially recognized that she has exercised the virtues in a “heroic” form and therefore, if all the other elements required for beatification and canonization are verified, it can be recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful. This, today, is important above all for you, who recognize in her the germ of your charism: she was animated by evangelizing anxiety and this missionary fire sustained her in her efforts and comforted her in hours of suffering and you will want to be such as well.

St. Pio of Pietrelcina predicted to her: “Your nuns will be a small flock of doves that will take flight and reach the ends of the earth” (Positio, p. 286: Summarium Testium, XL Testium) and today, in the context of the theophany, the account of the Baptism of Jesus according to the Evangelist Luke has given us this very image: while he, having received the baptism of John, stood in prayer, “the sky opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son: in you I have placed my satisfaction” ». Origen, a great Christian theologian who lived in the II-III century, comments thus: “The Holy Spirit descended on the Savior in the form of a dove, that is, a meek, innocent and simple bird and this was our teaching: because we imitate the innocence of doves. Such, in fact, is the Holy Spirit: pure and winged, who rises into the heavens. This is why in our prayer we say: “Who will give me wings like a dove to fly and find rest?” (Ps 55,7), which means: who will give me the impulse of the Holy Spirit? ” (In Lucam. Hom. 27: PG 13, 1871).

This must be of great importance to you. It is no coincidence that when Saint John Paul II chose the scheme for his apostolic exhortation on consecrated life, he wanted to refer to a theophany similar to the one proposed to us today in the Gospel account: here it is the Father who speaks, in a dialogue overflowing with tenderness with the Son. : “You are my beloved Son: in you I have placed my satisfaction”; there is the story of the Transfiguration, where the voice from heaven is addressed to those present and says: “This is my Son, the beloved: in him I have placed my satisfaction. Listen to him “(Mt 17,5).

Therefore, let the feast we are celebrating also be a memory for you: let yourselves always be “lifted” by the Spirit, “fly” in the generous exercise of charity with the wings given to you, that is, the profession of the evangelical counsels and life community. Be, then, like Mary who, after being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, “got up and went in haste to the mountainous region, to a city of Judah” to visit Elizabeth (Lk 1:39); be like the Virgin ready to visit and like Elizabeth ready to welcome.

We are still in the climate of Epiphany. The antiphon to the hymn of the Magnificat in the vespers of that solemnity told us: “We celebrate three wonders on this holy day: today the star guided the Magi to the crib, today the water is changed into wine at the wedding, today Christ is baptized by John in the Jordan for our salvation, alleluia ». The feast we are celebrating, therefore, is another face of the Epiphany; however, it makes us take a leap of thirty years: we pass, in fact, from “baby Jesus” to “adult Jesus”, as well as we move from the intimate and family sphere of the Holy Family, the Magi, shepherds and angels, in that of the so-called public life of Jesus, with John the Baptist and all the people who arrive at the Jordan to be baptized by him.

We too leave the Christmas holidays to return to “ordinary” life. We enter time per annum, as the liturgical calendar calls it, that is, in the rhythm of the days marked by daily commitments and duties, in the ordinariness of life.

It is time for sanctification. Pope Francis reminds us that “it is precisely by living with love and offering our own Christian witness in the daily occupations that we are called to become saints. And each in the conditions and state of life in which he finds himself “(Audience of November 19, 2014).

Let us then take another look at the Gospel account, at the particular theophany that we have heard: the Spirit is manifested by hovering over Jesus as at the beginning of creation (cf. Gen 1: 2) and the Father makes his voice heard, which reveals to everyone the identity of Jesus. And when does all this happen? It happens precisely when Jesus chooses in an ordinary way the ordinary way followed by all the others. “All the people” go to John to be baptized and so does Jesus: the humble among sinners, the innocent among the guilty, the pure who bears the sins of all. It is thus, in an inconspicuous, ordinary and unnoticed form, that Jesus makes his first public appearance, but it is precisely in this ordinariness that the heavens open.

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Everything happens while Jesus “was in prayer”. What did he pray for? Many fathers and doctors of the Church – and with them Saint Thomas Aquinas (cf. STh III, q. 39, a. 5) – reply that he prayed that the heavens would open and that we might enter those skies, now open. we, to whom Adam’s sin had precluded access. And here – Origen continued – that the Spirit descends on Jesus so that, once his humiliation is completed on the Cross, he gives it to us and also makes all of us “children” on whom the Father lays his mercy.

Marcello Card. Semeraro

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