Bratislava, 17 March (TK KBS) The 3rd European Social Catholic Days have begun in Slovakia, with the main theme Europe beyond the pandemic: a new beginning. The opening Holy Mass in the Cathedral of St. Martin in Bratislava was celebrated by the Metropolitan Archbishop of Bratislava Mons. Stanislav Zvolensky, President of the Slovak Bishops' Conference. The opening prayer for peace in Ukraine was recited by Andriy Yevchuk, a Ukrainian Greek-Catholic priest who is based in Bratislava and is responsible for the pastoral care of Ukrainian Greek-Catholics.
Then Mons. Zvolensky addressed the faithful: "We are opening the 3rd European Catholic Social Days with the celebration of Holy Mass. We carry with us the weight of the knowledge of the immense suffering caused by the war conflict in Ukraine and at this moment we also ask for peace and a peaceful solution. We carry in our hearts the great pain endured by the people and caused by the conflict in Ukraine, and therefore we also offer the Holy Mass for a peaceful solution to this conflict," he said.
The event is organised by the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE)) and the Slovak Bishops' Conference (KBS) in collaboration with the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. In Slovakia welcomes its Interim Prefect, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, President of COMECE, the Archbishop of Luxembourg, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, and the President of CCEE, Mons. Gintaras Grušas, Archbishop of Vilnius, and others. They social days take place in a so-called hybrid form. More than 150 delegates of bishops' conferences (bishops, priests and laity) from Europe came in person to Bratislava, while the rest will be able to watch the event online. The working languages of the meeting are Slovak, English and Italian with interpretation.
Homily of Mons. Stanislav Zvolenský, 17 March 2022, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava
Eminences, Excellencies, dear brothers and sisters,
we open the 3rd European Catholic Social Days with the celebration of Holy Mass.
[We carry with us the burden of the knowledge of the immense suffering caused by the military conflict in Ukraine and at this moment we also pray for peace and a peaceful solution.]
In the first part of the Mass, in the Liturgy of the Word, we open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit, because the correct formulation and concrete realization of Catholic social doctrine comes from evangelization and is based on the reception of God’s message.
In this context, we can recall the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, who wrote in the encyclical Centesimus Annus: “The »new evangelization«, which the modern world urgently needs [...] must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine” (n. 5).
After listening to today’s passages from Sacred Scripture, we realize together their basic message: the need to open ourselves to our neighbour; and thus prepare us in an appropriate way to reflect on social themes afterwards.
In the first reading from the Book of Jeremiah, we have listened about the two different groups of people.
The first group of people are those who rely on man; they have made the flesh their strengh and their heart has turned away from the Lord (cf. Jer 17:5).
The second group includes those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust (cf. Jer 17:7). Although the prophet in the following text does not forget that those who trust in the Lord may not always fare well, he reminds them that the Lord is their fixed point.
In the following sacred text from Psalm 1, we have listened to and repeated the words that we have accepted in conscience as the right choice of life, and we recall them again and again as a prayer, because we know that blessed and happy is everyone who has recognized the value of God’s words and willingly deals with them again and again (cf. Psalm 1:1-2).
And then we heard a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, who introduced us to the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16:19-31).
The words of the prophet Jeremiah about the man who relies on man and turns away from the Lord and the man who trusts in the Lord and the Lord is his hope appear as if mirrored in the parable of the rich man on the one hand and poor Lazarus on the other.
The rich man personifies the unjust use of wealth by those who use it for unbridled and selfish luxury, thinking only of their own gratification, having not the slightest interest in the beggar who stands at their door.
The poor, on the other hand, represents the man whom only God cares for. Unlike the rich man, he has a name in the parable, his name is Lazarus, which is abbreviation of the name Eleazar, which means “God help him”. But the one who is forgotten by all is not forgotten by the Lord God; he who is worthless in the eyes of people is not worthless in the eyes of the Lord.
The basic message of the gospel is to point out that earthly injustice is perverted by God’s justice: After death, Lazarus is welcomed “into bosom of Abraham” that is, into eternal happiness; the rich man, on the other hand, ends up “in the netherworld,” “where he was in torment”. This is a new state of things, which cannot be appealed to, and is final; and so man must strive for conversion during his earthly life, for then it is ineffectual.
This parable can also be read from a social perspective. The Holy Father, St. Paul VI, who refers to this parable in his encyclical Populorum progressio, leads us to do so. In connection with helping the weak he wrote: “It involves building a human community where liberty is not an idle word, where the needy Lazarus can sit down with the rich man at the same banquet table” (n. 47).
It would not be inappropriate if I took the liberty of interpreting the themes of our 3rd Catholic Social Days in the sense that they are based on the principles of the appropriateness of the "same table" for the richer and the poorer, even in the current situation in Europe, when the demographic crisis, family policies and the rural-urban divide will be discussed.
At the same time, it also corresponds to the content of the notion of true freedom, when our experts will also address the ethical and anthropological implications of the digital and technological transformation of contemporary society.
As we now return to our personal relationship with the Lord and our present perception of God’s Word, we realize that the words of the Gospel – "They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them." – apply to us as well (Lk 19, 29).
And this is what the Holy Father Pope Francis is telling us: “In order to convert, we must not wait for prodigious events, but open our heart to the Word of God, which calls us to love God and neighbour. The Word of God may revive a withered heart and cure it of its blindness. The rich man knew the Word of God, but did not let it enter his heart, he did not listen to it, and thus was incapable of opening his eyes and of having compassion for the poor man. No messenger and no message can take the place of the poor whom we meet on the journey, because in them Jesus himself comes to meet us: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40), Jesus says. Thus hidden in the reversal of fate that the parable describes lies the mystery of our salvation, in which Christ links poverty with mercy” (Pope Francis, General audience 18 May 2016).
The message of today’s passages from Sacred Scripture touches our hearts and calls us to love and responsibility to be open to our brothers and sisters, both in the large scale of the European community and in the small space of our daily lives.