Photo: Msgr Lépine, diocesemontreal.org

Msgr. Lépine:“What is the greatest message a human being can hear?”

The homily of the Msgr Christian Lépine Archbishop of Montreal on the occasion of the mass for the anniversary of Fr. Giussani’s death (February 22, 2021).

This is the question that Luigi Giussani asked himself in his youth: “What is the most important message?“

Talking about the greatest message a human being can hear brings the question back to the human being. What is the greatest human desire? The human heart? What is the greatest yearning of the human heart? What is the deepest aspiration of the human heart? What is certain is that the human heart, no matter how it voices or expresses its desire or needs, it thirsts for the absolute. When a human being thinks that it is with material goods that he will be able to satisfy his thirst for the absolute, well, at some point he realizes that there is never enough. If the human being thinks that it is through human glory or honours that he will be able to satisfy his thirst for the absolute, well, at a given moment he realises that it is never enough. If he thinks that it is through human love that he will be able to respond to his thirst for the absolute, he is already on a better path, but at the same time he is confronted with his own limits, his human limits, he is confronted with the failure of love that may occur in one’s life.

The time of the pandemic is (long) ... we are approaching one year. If we had told someone “what you would say, for the coming year, take a year-long retreat, a year for God ?”. Probably 99.9% of people would have answered, "I would like that, but I don't have time". And then, it happened to us. We've been in confinement for a year now. Now it's been a year since we've been confronted with our heart, what are the desires of our heart, with what the desires of our heart are. It's been a year since we've been confronted with our limits, it's been a year since we've been confronted with what happiness is, how I seek happiness in my life, what becomes of my thirst for happiness, my thirst for love, my thirst for life, and somehow, we're perhaps becoming more aware of our fragilities that we've forgotten, or becoming aware of our limits, perhaps revising our order of priorities. It is a very personal journey, but at the same time it is a journey for every human being, that every human being is called to make at some point in their life, and in times of pandemic it becomes more intense, more immediate. There are times in our lives when we ask ourselves questions about what we are going to do with our lives and sometimes we put off the answer until tomorrow; but, at some point we have to decide there, it's now, and in the pandemic, we are forced to look at our lives and decide now, what is our order of priorities or, perhaps, what my order of priorities was and how I am revising it. At the same time, what are my strengths for living? Usually we have strengths that sustain our life, we have physical strengths, emotional strengths, spiritual strengths. At first, when we are confronted with fragilities or limits, one way to get out of them is through entertainment. Entertainment allows us to forget for a while the questions of our life. The problem with entertainment is a legitimate one: when you have finished your series, your weekend of binge-watching series on the internet somewhere, the next day you come back to your life. There is relaxation in entertainment, but the problem with entertainment is that at some point you have to come back to your life. And when you come back to your life, with what strength do you come back? With what meaning? A time of relaxation that we take with the idea that we know what we are coming back to, our life has a meaning, it is not the same as the time we take which becomes like an escape because we don't know what we are coming back to. We would like it to be later, and we would have to put it off until tomorrow, but tomorrow finally catches up with us. Finally, what is the meaning of my life? And perhaps confront the question squarely: what is the deepest aspiration of the human heart? We are all unique, no two human beings are alike, but we are all human beings, we are all made for the absolute. But what absolute am I made for?

Can we go ahead and answer this question? What absolute am I made for? Somewhere the absolute always looms on the horizon and from one day to the next we look for nourishment to get to the next day. A bit like we eat today to have strength today and we should eat tomorrow to have strength tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. You need to sleep today to be strong tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, to be strong the next day. At some point the question arises: in which direction am I walking? Yes, I have elements that give me strength every day, but what is the meaning of my life, in what direction am I walking, what am I walking towards? What is my horizon, what is the horizon of my existence? If it is health, what happens to the horizon of my life when I am sick? If it is success, what happens to my life horizon when I am faced with failure? If it is human relations, what becomes the horizon of my life when I am confronted with loneliness? The pandemic brings us back to these questions in a slightly more intense way. The pandemic is a bit like waiting for the "new normal" to return, but at the same time, it is a time when we are confronted with questions about our lives; the question of our lives: do I want to face them now or move forward delay until there is no more pandemic? But now we've been waiting for a year for a pandemic to end, and we've been waiting for a year for a vaccine to work. Every three months the deadline has been extended by three months. We are still in the same mode: “we can't now, but in three months we will be able to”. From three months to three months, we find ourselves today. There are still people who have lost their jobs, who haven't found a job. There are people who have been sick and we were unable to treat them, there are people who have died without us being able to accompany them. Are we here to wait for it to end or is there something today, now, that I can do to have the strength to live? Is there something today that I can do to have the strength for tomorrow? Today - not tomorrow when it will be over; today.


We come back to the message: what is the greatest message a human being can hear? And this is true of every human being. And Don Luigi Giussani's answer, or the quest, the research or the answer that he shared with a fellow colleague in the seminary, or that he meditated in his heart, is that God became Man. This is the greatest message. It is not only a spiritual message in the sense, a message that tells us that in the evening of our life, eternal life awaits us, it is also the most human message. It is also the most human message for us today: God became Man, the Word became flesh, it is a transcendent message, it is a message that directs our gaze beyond the horizontal, beyond the horizon of this world, it is a gaze that calls us to "yes, I am in the world", but it goes beyond the world; and God is waiting for me. And this is also the most human message for today. It is also the message that reminds us that God is coming to me today, that God is coming to knock at the door of my heart today, that God is coming to reach my humanity today, that he is coming to reach me in my frailties, in my weaknesses, in this pandemic experience where perhaps I am at a stage where I am questioning everything.

We know that there are families where affection has grown in this time of pandemic, but then there are also families that have separated. God made Man, the Word became flesh, God who is with me today, it is God who presents Himself to me as the deepest answer to give me the most substantial nourishment so that I can have the strength to live and love today, not tomorrow, today. The nourishment that makes us capable of living and loving today, it knocks at the door of our heart, it is God made Man, the Son of God made Man, the Word made flesh. Somewhere Don Luigi Giussani often referred to this with others, because it goes through the whole history of the Church, it is part of our tradition and perhaps a in a more renewed understanding for our time, through the Second Vatican Council, through the great Christians, is that there is no one who is as human as God; God is the most human. God is more human than we are. He is more human than us because He created us, He created our humanity, He knows why we are made, as mothers often say to their children, "I knitted you, I knitted you, I know you inside-out". How is it that you know? "I'm the one who knitted you". God knows us more than we know ourselves; he knows what it is to be human, and this is not only a general knowledge for humanity, but also that I, this individual, Josiane, Robert, God knows me, there is no one who knows me as well as God. God knows my humanity more than I know myself, more than I know myself. God knows me more than I would ever know myself. God alone is human, there is no one human like God. Then God who became man, the Word who became flesh, who has just knocked at the door of our heart and who comes to nourish our humanity; He knows what nourishment we are made for, He knows what bread we are made for, He knows what water we are made for. As Jesus himself said in the Gospel we can find in this world the water that satisfies today, the food that strengthens today, but where is the water and where is the food that strengthens forever? Where is the water and the food that strengthens us when we are weak, when we are sick, when we are losing a loved one, when we are separating. Where is this nourishment? It is God made Man, He is the nourishment. Not only does He know us, not only does He know us more than we know ourselves, not only is He more human than we are and He knows what our humanity needs more than we know ourselves, but He gives Himself as food, He gives Himself in us, He gives Himself in light, He gives Himself in light, He gives Himself in strength, He gives Himself in peace, He gives Himself. He does more than give to us, He gives Himself, He gives His presence, He gives His life, He comes to dwell.

What is the most important message for every human being?
God became Man.