Turin Cathedral, May 23, 2010

Homily of the Holy Mass for the closing of the Shroud Exhibition 2010

“WE HAVE SEEN THE GREAT ACTS OF GOD” (Deuteronomy 11:7 - Luke 5:26)

    Today, feast of Pentecost, our eyes of imploring faith are towards the Holy Spirit so that, according to Jesus’ promise, He could ‘guide us into all truth’ (John 16:13): the truth about the mystery of God–Love and the truth about man called to the communion with God also through the mystery of suffering.
    The Word of the Scripture which has been proclaimed has reminded us that Jesus has promised us the gift of the Spirit: «If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever» (John 14:15-16); then it has told us the event of the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the Apostles (1st reading) and finally it invited us to plan our life according to a spiritual mind and not according to a carnal mind (Romans 8:6), for we have the great dignity of sons of God. If we are children, then we are heirs: «Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together» (Romans 8:17) (2nd reading).
    We have come to the end of the solemn Shroud Exhibition, the first of the Third Millennium. Why did we want to organize this event? In order to give those who would come to venerate it the possibility to experience the gift we receive when, through faith and prayer, we come on the same wavelength as Christ’s sufferings, which are the main road also to participate in the grace of His Resurrection. This is what has come true during the six weeks of the Exhibition and the Eucharist we are celebrating  wants to be our thanksgiving for having the privilege of seeing the wonders the Lord has worked with His salvific action in people’s hearts.
    Now I feel the need for communicating to you, from the heart, the spiritual experience which has left its mark on me during this period of the Shroud Exhibition.
1. What I have seen
a)      Once again I have seen, with a deep emotion, the image of the Shroud Crucifix and I have stared lovingly at the shocking signs of human suffering Jesus faced in His Passion and Death. A suffering which has told me about love, about a boundless, never-ending and personal love, given to everybody, but even and infinitely to each of us, as Saint Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Galatians: «Christ loved me, and gave himself for me» (Galatians 2:20). As I paused praying silently in front of the Shroud,  Jesus’ words echoed in my mind, words which once again He has told me, making Prophet Isaiah’s words relevant for me: «Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine... Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee» (Isaiah 43:1,4). I felt reassured because the love of the Crucified Jesus enveloped me in a new light, the light of His Resurrection: «I have risen and I am with you for ever» (Liturgy of Easter Mass). This has given me the confidence that my sin is forgiven and even my death will be destroyed by the glory of the Resurrection.
b)     I have also seen the image of all mankind engraved on the faces of the numerous pilgrims:
·      a suffering mankind (the Passio hominis), who experiences Christ’s sufferings in its limbs and feels redeemed and comforted by them;
·      a mankind walking and seeking a Face, the face of a man which is God’s Face, Jesus’ Face, in order to find once again the strength to carry on with confidence, the confidence resulting  from our feeling truly loved by God, Who was made man to enter our most terrible darkness and so leading us into the light which gives us the confidence that nothing is meaningless of what we are living;
·      a mankind in need of finding again confirmations of its own faith, because it is lost in doubt, tired in search, but, anyway, willing to surrender to the force of a crucified love and like the Roman centurion say: «Truly this man was the Son of God» (Mark 15:39).
c)      I have seen so much desire to pray silently for a long time, above all in the Chapel of the Eucharist Adoration or in front of the Shroud, where many people lingered in the nave of the Cathedral.
         I have seen people queuing near confessionals, in the penitentiary, to seek the merciful embrace of that Father who «so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son» (John 3:16).
         I have seen  the tears of emotion of so many people who were expressing in that way their gratitude in feeling embraced by Jesus’ love, often felt as far, but now felt as so close, truly present and true Comforter in the situations of their lives.
2.    What I feel in my heart in this moment
a)      First of all, I feel bound to sing my great and sincere thanksgiving to the Lord for the wonders He has done during these weeks. We have lived an extraordinary event of grace, we have got moving testimonies of faith and, above all, we have seen a Church, who, with her pilgrimage, keeps pointing out to the world the only way of salvation: the way leading to Jesus.
b)     Then, I cannot help underlining the extraordinary grace all the Christian and civil community in Turin and myself got with the Holy Father Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Visitation. On May 2, he presented us with a memorable day, spent with us to offer us his deep and clear Teachings, his prayer for us and with us, and his example of a faith which is always serene and strong, even in the most difficult periods of  the life of the Church.
c)      In this moment, I also wish to remember and once again to thank those who have worked to prepare, organize and guarantee the orderly and safe progress of this great event: the organizing Committee of the Exhibition, the very numerous volunteers and aides of every kind, those who have carried out delicate and demanding tasks to guarantee order and safety to everybody. In particular, I am grateful to those who, generously indeed, took upon themselves the expenses of this important event, which brought honour to the Church and to Turin. From the numerous testimonies of pilgrims I have met, I have always heard very positive appreciations for the perfect organization, the kindness and the style through which the people in charge offered welcome, advice, information and every kind of help. Finally, I am pleased to underline that this Exhibition of the Shroud has been followed and made known in Italy and abroad through the various media, in which a lot of information has been offered, always deeply respectful and mindful of the spiritual meaning of the event.
3.    The responsibility of not wasting the gift we have been given
    Now that the Shroud Exhibition is over, we have the duty of keeping in our hearts what we have seen and got, above all as an enrichment of our faith:
a)      The Holy Father’s message, which someone defined “an Encyclical for Turin”, must be once again taken, read, meditated upon and implemented in our life behaviours: his homily during the Eucharist Celebration, centred on the commandment of loving one another as Christ loved us, the enthusiasm he transmitted to the very numerous young people gathered, inviting them not to fear final choices, following the example of Pier Giorgio Frassati, whose beatification of twenty years ago we commemorated last Thursday, the deep meditation the Holy Father offered us in front of the Shroud, a real gem of a doctrine on the mystery of suffering, death and resurrection, and finally the teaching he gave to the inmates of  “Cottolengo”, to whom with deep emotion he said: “Not only do  you picture Jesus for us, you are Jesus.”
b)     This Exhibition must remain in the history of our Church of Turin as a new invitation of the Lord to “Build together” here, in this town, in this area, the Kingdom of God, which is a «kingdom of truth and life, kingdom of sanctity and grace, kingdom of justice, love and peace» (from the Liturgy).
c)      Finally, I sincerely ask the Lord that nobody will dissipate that great hope the Passio Christi sowed in the hearts of so many brothers and sisters, called to bear heavy crosses every day: the Passio hominis. The Shroud tells us about the Lord Jesus, who leaves the certainty in our hearts, that we must be confident, because He always and everywhere leads us: on the way to the Calvary, in the suffering of the Cross, in the deep darkness of death, but above all he leads us in the light of the Easter of Resurrection and in the final glory on the right hand of the Father, where, as he clearly told us, he went to prepare a place for us.
    We feel that Mary, Jesus’ Mother, is here present in front of  the Shroud and in our Assemby; she invokes the Holy Spirit’s light with us, as at Pentecost, so that the Lord’s wonders everyone of us  was able to contemplate in this period could remain engraved in our eyes and hearts. Amen.
+ His Eminence Cardinal Severino Poletto
 Archbishop of Turin