January 27, 2023

Verbatim: Homily of Cardinal Michael Czerny at the Pax Christi Conference closing Mass


Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., head of the Vatican dicastery for promoting integral human development, gave this homily at the Pax Christi Conference closing Mass.

God does not grow tired or weary. (Isaiah 40:28) How different he is from us! 

…There are victims. There are aggressors. There are those who profit from the misfortune of others. God, however, hears the cry of His poor. 

After decades in Babylon, the people Isaiah addressed in about 538 B.C. must have become comfortable and maybe even complacent. Perhaps even to the point of not wanting to leave, in spite of their complaints. Becoming complacent is a great temptation. It leads us to lower our gaze, to look at our toes. We become absorbed by the present, until eventually what we say we want falls off the horizon. 

Early Christians kept their hope alive by gathering after the sunset on the Sabbath to await the dawn together. Together, they learned to orient themselves, to look to the east. They built their churches in the direction of the dawn, to educate themselves week after week to look up, to be enlightened by the One who comes as the rising sun. 

For those who believe in peace, even amidst the night that envelops us, how precious are the words of Isaiah pointing us to the stars: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name (Is 40:26). The heavens are inhabited by a vast array of light, at once immense and silent. In the firmament, God’s power radically challenges the violence of men and generates wonder. The stars are a point of reference. Violence seeks to destroy all points of reference. Each star shines in its own place, whereas wars tear us away from our own place. 

These days, apocalyptic scenes unfold before those who work for peace. We come face to face with the horrors that force people to migrate, flee or fight and die. The liturgy puts us into the realm of God’s power, feeding our vision with His Word, and making us capable of prophecy. In the encyclicals Laudato si’ and Fratelli tutti we already have everything we need to share a great dream of peace with those whom God loves. For the peace of Christ empowers us to dream, just as Jesus Himself dreamt as He slept peacefully even amidst the storm at sea. We are in the same boat, the one in which the Lord sleeps, and He is still with us and invites us to have faith. 

God’s dreams set us in motion. That is why we need to be rested, filled with the peace of Christ — in order to realize them. “Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30). These words come from Jesus’ weariness, a weariness that is overcome in faith. Even before talking about burdens, the disappointment of cities unchanged by His preaching has been overtaken by a cry of praise: “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Mt 11:25). The Lord knows our weariness and can take our disappointments on to Himself. 

With whom do we want to shape the new world? Do we want to wait for recognition from the powerful, to count on the agendas of institutions, to have the support of those who hold the reins of the old world? God’s way is different, for He excludes no one, whether poor or rich, and He begins from the margins, the peripheries. Here and now. Let us pay attention to the little ones, let us listen to them: They will evangelize us. 

Then we will experience firsthand the words of Isaiah: “Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted, but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:30-31). Amen. 

Dec. 7, 2022

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