Today, the second reading of the liturgy, on the occasion of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Delville, beautifully illustrates what we are experiencing. An important ministry, that of a successor of the apostles, is entrusted to a man in this good city of Liège. A series of human interventions were necessary to achieve this result. The Apostolic Nuncio made an extensive survey. Many people were consulted. The Roman Congregation for Bishops has played its part. And finally, the Pope made the final decision. But according to Paul, these are only human mediations, because ultimately, it is the risen Christ, Christ ascended into heaven, as specified in verses 8 to 10 of the letter to Ephesians, the Christ of the Ascension, who, dare I say, keeping both feet on the ground, governs his church and gave gifts to men and calls them to be apostles, and others to be prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.
[Vous me direz que Mgr Delville pratique en cette matière un cumul immodéré, quoique non taxé, étant tout cela à la fois…] But in this passage Saint Paul mentions only the gifts related to education. But there is much more to ensure the vitality of the great body of the Church. But this great diversity should always be kept in unity through the bond of peace, because there is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Spirit and one Body of Christ. So, then, the various vocations and missions are unified with a view to the increasing fullness of Christ, Head and members together, who, in harmony, must ensure the specific ministry of communion that Christ has given to the Church. This is what happens through the mission of the bishop, the successor of the apostles. This is what He does today from heaven, but through earthly mediations, giving, in the person of Bishop Delville, a new bishop to the Catholic Church in Liège.
The other two readings of the liturgy emphasise the importance of the double and unique love of God and neighbour which lies at the heart of the Jewish Law in the centre of the new law of Christ. The difference is that the Law of Love which Deuteronomy demanded adherence to from the human heart itself has taken a human face. The word of the Law itself is personified. It is made visible and audible in the Word made flesh. It comes to us concretely in Jesus, true man and true God. This is the One who dwells in our mouth when we proclaim our faith in the Credo. It was He who, through baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist, lives in our hearts. And it is once again He, God made man, who, within ourselves, reminds us that it is impossible to truly love God without loving man, and also impossible to ultimately love man without loving God.
This is the first meaning of the parable. It is impossible to serve God without going to the human brother, met on the path of our lives. But it is also impossible to substantially love the neighbor without understanding that this is the Son of God himself who first became the neighbour of every man. Luke wrote his account so that, reading between the lines, we understand that it is Jesus who is the first universal Good Samaritan, the foreigner, who came from elsewhere, from God himself, to reach every man in his greatness and misery, to look with love on humanity, always between life and death for the cure, the focus on his own shoulders and entrust to the inn, the good inn which is, hopefully, his church, to which he gives the resources to take care of us down here until his return in glory.
As the Samaritan, Jesus is no other, it is He, and He alone, who has paid attention to the man who was stripped, wounded, helpless and committed to him without reservation. However, He relies on the clarity and freedom of those who hear His word. He asks a question: Which of these three do you think was the neighbor to the man who had fallen into the hands of robbers? Better still: Jesus offers himself as a matter that we address, while leaving us with the task of response, decision and our walking after him. [Mais, en retour, celui qui a compris le Seigneur à travers sa parabole n’attribuera rien à sa liberté, mais tout à l’exemple du Seigneur et à sa grâce.] What mercy? That we have ourselves been found, collected and cured by Christ, our neighbor, to the point that we can do the same for others ourselves.
We know that, by his personal journey, Bishop Delville is, among many other things, aware of the importance of social engagement among the poorest in our society, in perfect continuity with the episcopate of his predecessor, Bishop Aloys Jousten. We have no doubt that the parable of Christ, the Good Samaritan, it will be a permanent inspiration, and in this area as in all others of his ministry, we wish him strength, joy of heart, contagious enthusiasm and, frankly, abundance of fruit on the banks of the rushing river which, happily, nourishes the Silver City. Amen.