JERUSALEM – On October 8, 2016 Salesian Pontifical University – Jerusalem Campus held the annual Dies Academicus. Rev. Prof. Francis Moloney SDB, S.T.D., D.Phil (Oxon), D. Univ (ACU), world renowned author and scripture scholar, Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University, Former Dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at Catholic University of America, delivered the Lectio Magistralis on “The Word of God, Jesus Christ, and the Eucharist. Christian Hope in a Secularized World”.

The guests of honor in attendance were His Excellency Most Reverend Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine, His Lordship Most Reverend William H. Shomali, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, His Lordship Most Reverend Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, and Reverend Dr. Mauro Mantovani SDB, Rector of the Salesian Pontifical University.

The Dies Academicus opened with the hymn “Per Crucem” sung by the STS choir. Next, Deacon Chege, the master of ceremonies invited Reverend Prof. Mauro Mantovani, Rector of the Salesian Pontifical University to deliver his address. Prof. Mantovani welcomed all to the Dies Academicus and passed along greetings and wishes of the Chancellor of the University and Salesian Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosc, Rev. Fr. Ángel Artime. He continued by speaking to the students of the STS reflecting on the situation and opportunities that are provided while studying here in Jerusalem and recalling the words of one of the dreams of Don Bosco “This is your field” connecting them with the current stage of formation and emphasizing the importance of a deep study of theology now, so that we will be able to more fully minister to the young that we are sent to. He emphasized the importance of recognizing Theology and its importance among the other sciences in order to bring about a truer cultural vision of man and woman being made in the image and likeness of God. Finally, Rev. Dr. Mauro Mantovani called on Professor Pier Gorgio Gianazza, sdb to present the honored guests with a copy of his new book about St. Mariam Baouardy.

His Excellency Most Reverend Giuseppe Lazzarotto, the Apostolic Delegate of Jerusalem and Palestine, spoke next drawing from Pope Francis’s reflection on Paul’s letter to the Galatians connecting it with the risk of forgetting the gift of the Holy Spirit that we have been given in the recognition of our call to this vocation as we continue our formation here in Theology. He stressed the importance of uniting our theological studies with our prayer life to continue to draw on the Holy Spirit in our lives as we delve more deeply into theology.

Finally, Reverend Fr. Eric Wyckoff was invited to introduce our main speaker Fr. Maloney. Fr. Eric pointed out that most of us were probably already familiar with Fr. Moloney as a result of having referenced him in many footnotes of papers that we have written, but in case anyone might not have known he then went through Fr. Moloney’s extensive background.

In his introductory remarks, Prof. Moloney pointed out that in the heart of Christian life is love. The first Christians were an alternative voice in the society, they cared for one another and so they spread rapidly in the Roman Empire. Similarly nowadays we must bear an alternative voice within contemporary increasingly fragmented world with developing distrust of “great truths.” Many people ignore the challenges of a secular world, rather than surrender themselves to one meaningful tradition, they combine fragments of an ever incomplete and temporary fashion into an unfinished whole – a collage identity.

However, it would be a failure to repeat the same processes from our past, because there is so much good in society that is not simply a continuation of the “good things” of our past. In the past people used to follow principles, moved from head to heart. Nowadays, we tend to move from heart to head, seeking for experiences that form our principles for the future. Pope Francis in Misericordiae Vultus calls all believers to generate a culture in which especially young people, arrive at life- determining decisions through positive experiences that begin with the heart. The secularized world calls for an “education of the heart.”

Prof. Moloney highlighted the most important aspects of the following essential themes: The centrality of the Word of God, The Christ-centered spirituality (see Acts 11:26) and the Eucharist.

Through the history of more structured Church and councils, we have exchanged incredible familiarity with the Word of God, which was a characteristic of the Apostolic Fathers, for the opinion that the Revelation found in the Catholic Tradition was superior to the Revelation found in the Bible. Although, the Second Vatican Council asked all Catholics to rediscover the original “sources” of their faith and practice and some fifty years later pope Benedict XVI called for rediscovery of God’s Word in the life of the Church as a wellspring of constant renewal, it seems that there is only a little impact on the day-to-day life of the Church. Bishops and Religious Superiors have more important things to do than lead us through an intense biblical renewal.

The key to a Christ-centered spirituality is to realize, that what is deepest within us, what overwhelms us, but at the same time determines us, that we are radically opened to, is “the transcendent“. We yearn for the divine home, for which we were created. It is in our humanity that we are in touch with the divine, because it is something which Jesus shared with us. We are all capable of repeating the life-style of Jesus of Nazareth because we have been graced with discipleship, yet we often betray our true selves and don’t recognize our dignity. Jesus, not without fear, accepted suffering and God the Father raised him from the death. Today we are called to reflect more deeply on the opportunity we have, as convinced Christians, to present the face of God, made known to us in and through Jesus, in our confused and confusing world.

The Eucharist in Synoptic Gospels is given as a broken body for broken people, namely betrayers and sinners. For John, the washing of the feet is a symbol of Baptism, and the gift of the morsel is a symbol of Eucharist. Both are portraits of God’s incredible love for his failing disciples. Christ loves his own “to the end” (Jn 13,1) and the reason is: “… so that when they happen, then you may believe that I AM HE” (Jn 13,18). It is precisely in this crazy self-gift in love to others who do not love him in the same way that he makes God known. The new understanding and practice of Eucharist in the light of the Word of God will lead us to connect the Eucharistic mystery with Reconciliation, to accept that we are sinners.

As a profound biblical scholar, prof. Moloney explained the experience of two disciples going to Emmaus, which took place on the same day, as the Resurrection (cf. Lk 24, 1-51). The whole of Luke’s Gospel has been directed towards this “day.” They are walking away from Jerusalem, away from God’s saving story. Jesus, the risen one “walks with” them, but they do not recognize him. They know of his life and teaching, they know of his death, they know of the events at the tomb, they have even heard the Easter proclamation. They know everything, but they do not understand the significance of these events. Jesus makes for them the “liturgy of the Word,” he opens the Word of God for them. Now they take the initiative: “Stay with us for it is toward evening, and the day is now far spent,” (Lk 24, 29) and at the meal they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. The failing disciples turn back on their journey back to Jerusalem.

In the concluding remarks, prof. Moloney highlighted the guidelines for hope in a secularized world: contemplate God in Jesus Christ and the Scriptures, recognize our need for God, welcoming his reconciling and nourishing presence in his Sacraments across our journey. We do not walk alone. Jesus of Nazareth is with us. Even in our failures, he leads us home.

The words of thanks after the lecture were given by Fr. Karol Kulpa, sdb who also led the following discussion. Prof. Moloney, answering the first question, underlined the Spirituality of the Cross, that the Glory of God was manifested foremost in the crucifixion, where Christ was lifted up and thus courageously manifested his self- giving love. His Lordship Most Rev. Giacinto- Boulos Marcuzzo, titular bishop of Emmaus, suggested that going away from Jerusalem was maybe failure, at the same time, there the two disciples found the solution. Prof. Moloney agreed that we have to stay in Jerusalem to feed ourselves, but also go away to be a missionary for others. Thus as the first volume of Luke (Gospel) ended in Jerusalem, the second in Rome (Acts), the third volume (our life) should end in the mission throughout the world. The way of St. Francis of Assissi, who preached the Gospel at all times, could be a way of spreading a Christian alternative culture.

The words of thanks to all participations were delivered by sr. Angela, our STS secretary.

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