The following is the transcription – not revised nor corrected by the author – of the homily delivered by the Archbishop of Lucca on 12 October 2021, in the parish church of Saint Andrew the Apostle in Viareggio.
We have listened to the words of Paul who says “I am not ashamed of the Gospel”. He knows that the proclamation of the Gospel of God’s Grace manifested in the Lord Jesus in His earthly life is what counts most of the apostolic ministry and of the Christian life: the knowledge of Jesus, the acceptance of his Person, the life with him and for him. For this reason St. Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel.
But then in the rest of the passage from the Letter to the Romans, he also speaks of another possibility of knowledge of God offered to all peoples. That is, the possibility of intuiting something of God through creation. It is what it also talks about in the psalm we have proclaimed and it is not a message whose words are heard, but it reaches everyone. The Creation that testifies to the greatness and beauty and wisdom of the Creator does not spread with words, it is not an announcement made of words, but it reaches everyone like the sun, as something that cannot be avoided.
And then it seems to me that these two reflections, these two dimensions of the knowledge of God, the proclamation of the Gospel in the person of the Lord Jesus, but also the possibilities that the Lord offers to all men to know him, lead us to reflect precisely on the circumstance that brings us together tonight, that is, on the person of Maria Valtorta for whom we pray in the 60 years of her death.
She, in her visions, claims to integrate the gaps in the Gospel. Because the Gospel, the Gospels, the narration of the Lord made by the Apostles, recorded by the first Christian communities, undoubtedly does not tell us everything. John says (Jn 21:25) that not everything has been written. What is needed for you to believe has been written, and then he adds: if everything that Jesus did had been written down, all the books in the world would not have been enough to contain his actions. And then Christian piety over time, in many and different forms, has integrated, in the logic of love, in the logic of the need that love has in front of itself, images, narratives, something that can make us feel near what is announced. It integrated the words of the Gospel with the languages of mysticism, but also the languages of art, the languages of music, the languages of literature. All the languages in which we still recognize some inspiration from God. How many times do we say this painter is inspired because truly these languages that arise from the action of the spirit of humanity, lead to a reading that offers tools to enter more deeply into the Gospels, to feel them closer, more ours, perhaps more in keeping with the sensitivity of that time. Because then these languages know different formulations also according to the spirit of the time. How many expressions Christian mysticism, painting, art, music, over the centuries has invented, given itself, welcomed by the truly effective action of the Spirit, so that the Gospel could touch the heart even more than the Word inspired is capable of doing; meeting a need that is a human need, it is a need of our nature, that of giving a face to the one who evidently the Gospel does not represent us. But how many faces of the Lord Jesus have we seen represented by the greatest artists. All also very different from each other, yet these faces have brought us closer to the Gospel. These representations, which are not evangelical, but are sometimes born from a profound interior inspiration, brought us closer to the Gospel, undoubtedly integrating it because the Gospel tells us little about Jesus’ face, his eyes, how he wore his hair, how tall he was. But we need, we men need when we talk about a loved one, to depict him. Here art comes into play, but also his words, the tone of his voice, the sacred representations, but also the environment in which he lived. When painters had to represent the Lord they imagined things that the Gospel does not say, because they needed to give an outline to the Word of the Gospel that would help the men of their time to feel that closer, more current, more challenging presence, because it is clothed with that humanity which we need and which the Lord himself willed for himself. We depict Jesus because Jesus is God who appeared in the flesh, manifested in the flesh, that is, in history, in culture, in language, but also in the face, in the stroke, in the word that escape us, but that someone has seen. John says (1 Jn 1,1): what our eyes have seen, what our hands have touched, what our ears have heard, we announce it to you. This continues to be a need.
Certainly Christian piety and the Christian’s journey of faith are nourished by the living word of the Gospel, by the re-presentation of salvation in the sacraments, but they are also nourished by culture, they are also nourished by what the Spirit of the pulsating life of the people of God, he donates to various figures to enrich this fundamental reality of Christian life. From this point of view, the mystic has often offered enrichments. They are private revelations, you know, not binding on faith, but they can do good, they have done good. In history we have had several of these works that have in some way re-presented with a vividness in keeping with the times, the face of the Lord Jesus, the word of him that men need to feel close to.
Then we must be thankful for this vitality, yes, we must be thankful for this vitality. It is the action of the Spirit who speaks and acts in the people of God for an ever greater understanding of the revealed mystery, as well as for an ever new capacity to incarnate it within life, to live it within charity as we heard in the Gospel. Christian generations rewrite the Gospel every time. There is in the beautiful novel by Mario Pomilio, “The Fifth Evangelical”, the search for this phantom book that ultimately leads to the awareness that every Christian generation rewrites the Gospel, not because it changes the four Gospels, but because in some way it rethinks them , it updates them, re-expresses them in its culture. This is not only the action of man, but it is the action of the Spirit, because it is the Spirit who guides us to an ever deeper and more current understanding of that Gospel of which Paul is not ashamed and of which we are not ashamed either. Nor are we ashamed of all the manifestations of the Spirit which in some way lead to an ever deeper and ever more timely understanding of the mystery of Christ. Of course, every generation has its own way of entering into this mystery. Every Christian generation, for the sensitivity of the time in which it lives, for the spiritual needs it has, for the challenges it has to face, needs the Spirit to guide it to understand in an original way the Mystery of Christ which is the same yesterday, today and always.
So dear brothers and sisters, in this Eucharistic celebration in which we remember Maria Valtorta, we express our gratitude for this and for other signs and manifestations that the Holy Spirit has given to some children of the Church who have led, as has so often happened, to understand more deeply and to love more intensely, the one Lord who has spoken, of the one Gospel that none of us should ever be ashamed of.