Holy Mass for the Carabinieri
Basilica of St. Petronius, 19 May 2007
1. "Christ…has not entered into a sanctuary made by human hands, but into a heavenly one, to appear now before the presence of God in our favor." These words, which you have heard in the second reading, reveal to us the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. Though the Gospel describes it as a movement from the earth to heaven ("He was removed from them and taken up into heaven"), in reality the mystery that we celebrate today consists in the perfect change, the perfect transformation of the humanity of Christ. His Ascension is the entrance of the humanity of Christ in its definitive condition.
Also, it is the moment in which the body and the human soul of the Word are introduced into full participation with the divine life and glory. All this has been described, with our language, as "passage from the earth to heaven," "ascension into heaven," from the moment that the contrast between the poverty of our human condition and the glory of the divine condition are symbolized by the distance between the earth and heaven.
Therefore, we celebrate today the glory of the risen Christ. His Resurrection is not simply a return to His first life as a mortal. It is a transformation that entirely renews the human condition: a renewal so profound that we must speak of a "new creation" and a "new man" (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:15; Col. 3:10).
The Gospels tell us that, for this reason, the apostles "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." They were able to see that the crucified and buried Christ truly was the Lord who lives forever.
2. "Therefore, brothers, having full freedom to enter into the sanctuary…by this new and living path which He has inaugurated for us…let us approach with a sincere heart." After having described the mystery of the Ascension into heaven as an event concerning Jesus, now the Word of God speaks of us, of each and every one of us. The mystery which we are celebrating today does not only celebrate the glory of Christ, but consequently, it also celebrates the glory of our person: it is our condition that is radically changed today. Why? Because today He has inaugurated for us a new and living path. What does all of this mean?
Above all, Christ reveals the unsuspected breadth of our destiny to us today. In Christ, coming into possession of His own divine life in His human body, man discovers the entire measure, the entire breadth of his possibility. "Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold My glory…" (John 17:24). Today, the Gospel is proclaimed in its entirety. Man is not destined for death, but for life; his destiny is perfect beatitude. Today, the definitive response is given to the question, "But what right have I to hope for life?" You have from today the right to hope for eternal life.
But Christ does not only reveal to use the unsuspected beauty of our destiny. He offers in himself the concrete possibility of achieving it, "by this new and living way which He has inaugurated for us." The impotence of our aspirations to realize ourselves, the contradiction which lives within our daily life between our finitude and the limitless nature of our desire, does not drive us to cut out our desires concerning the measure of our possibility. This impotence, that contradiction, is wiped out today in the mystery of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. Today, He becomes the new and living path, and by following Him there we can realize our humanity in God in its fullness.
3. Today you are celebrating your National Convocation. The mystery of the Ascension into heaven profoundly illuminates your celebration. It helps us to understand the architecture of the city where you find yourselves, the city of Bologna.
Bologna was surrounded by a wall with twelve gates. The Book of Revelation presents the heavenly city as surrounded by a wall with twelve gates. It is given as an analogy between the earthly city and the heavenly city, and all human toil is for making sure that the first always an image of the second: it is worthy of man.
After all, is this not the noble service of the Army, to render our common life more just? Today, the supreme strength and seal comes to you: the hope of a city more just is not vacuous; the commitment to it is not vain agitation. In Jesus, this is our assured destiny.
La traduzione, non rivista dal Card. Caffarra, è di Ryan Hilderbrand.