Sunday, 15 March 1998
1. “God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here am I“” (Ex 3:4).
In the first reading we heard the account of Moses’ vocation. God reveals his own name to Moses: “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14), so that he would tell it to the people of Israel. This is how a special relationship of trust and familiarity is established between God and his messenger. He is invested with authority as mediator between the people and their Lord. Because of this responsibility, he will become God’s instrument for Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Through his work, Yahweh himself will lead the people for 40 years through the desert to the promised land and make the great Covenant of Sinai with them.
The history of Moses’ vocation clearly shows how the call to communion with God, and therefore to holiness, is the necessary premise for every particular mission for the sake of the community and in service to one’s brothers and sisters.
The divine initiative, which calls a person to holiness and entrusts him with a special mission in service to his neighbour, shines brightly in the spiritual experience of the three new Servants of God whom I have had the joy today of raising to the glory of the altars: Vincent Eugene Bossilkov, Brigida of Jesus Morello, religious and foundress of the Ursuline Sisters of Mary Immaculate, and María of Mt Carmel Sallés y Barangueras, virgin and foundress of the Missionary Teaching Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
2. “They drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). The martyr Bishop, Vincent Eugene Bossilkov, drank from the supernatural Rock which is Christ. Faithfully following the charism of St Paul of the Cross, founder of his congregation, he intensively cultivated the spirituality of the Passion. He also dedicated himself without reserve to the pastoral service of the Christian community entrusted to his care and faced the supreme trial of martyrdom without hesitation.
Bishop Bossilkov thus became the Church’s radiant glory in his country. A fearless witness to the Cross of Christ, he is one of the many victims sacrificed by atheistic communism in Bulgaria and elsewhere, in its plan to destroy the
Church. In those times of harsh persecution, many looked to him and drew from his example of courage the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel to the very end. I am pleased, on this festive day for the Bulgarian nation, to honour those who, like Bishop Bossilkov, paid with their lives for adhering without reserve to the faith they received in Baptism.
Bishop Bossilkov was able wonderfully to combine an intense spiritual life and constant attention to the needs of his brethren with his mission as priest and Bishop. Today he is presented to us as an eminent figure of the Catholic Church in Bulgaria, not only because of his extensive learning, but for his constant ecumenical concern and his heroic fidelity to the See of Peter.
When the communist regime’s hostility to the Church become more determined and threatening, Bl. Bossilkov chose to stay by his people, although he knew that this meant risking his life. He was not afraid to face the storm of persecution. When he sensed the moment of supreme trial, he wrote to the Superior of his religious Province: “I have the courage to live; I hope I will also have it to suffer the worst and to stay faithful to Christ, to the Pope and to the Church!” (Letter XIV).
And so this Bishop and martyr, who throughout his life strove to be a faithful image of the Good Shepherd, became one in an altogether special way at the moment of death when he united his blood with that of the Lamb sacrficed for the world’s salvation. What a shining example for us all, called to bear faithful witness to Christ and his Gospel! What a great encouragement for those who today are still suffering injustice and oppression because of their faith! May the example of this martyr, whom we contemplate today in the glory of the blesseds, instil faith and zeal in all Christians, especially those of the beloved Bulgarian nation which from now on can invoke him as its heavenly protector.
5. “Repent, says the Lord, the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Gospel acclamation; cf. Mt 4:17). The Gospel passage for today, the Third Sunday of Lent, highlights the basic theme of this important season of the liturgical year: the invitation to repent and to perform worthy acts of penance.
The three new blesseds who are presented today for our veneration were able to accept this demanding invitation. It was not an easy path for them. Indeed, they had to face trials and opposition; but they always did so with a heart ready to do God’s will to the end. They combatted evil by doing good. Thus, by word and example they became credible witnesses for their contemporaries. With their help, many others have accepted Christ and his Gospel of salvation.
In our time, as we now rapidly approach the third millennium, may the lives of our illustrious brothers and sisters spur us to follow the Lord faithfully on the difficult but shining path of fidelity to Christ.