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Monday, April 8, 2013

0272: Reflections on Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0272: Reflections before the Recitation of the Regina Caeli on Divine Mercy Sunday during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI 




On seven occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Regina Caeli on the Second Sunday of Easter (Domenica in Albis and Divine Mercy Sunday), on 23 April 2006, 15 April 2007, 30 March 2008, 19 April 2009, 11 April 2010, 1 May 2011, and 15 April 2012. Here are the texts of the six brief reflections and two homilies delivered by the Holy Father on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Saint Peter's Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 23 April 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday the Gospel of John tells us that the Risen Jesus appeared to the disciples, enclosed in the Upper Room, on the evening of the “first day of the week” (Jn 20: 19), and that he showed himself to them once again in the same place “eight days later” (Jn 20: 26). From the beginning, therefore, the Christian community began to live a weekly rhythm, marked by the meeting with the Risen Lord.

This is something that the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council also emphasizes, saying: “By a tradition handed down from the Apostles, which took its origin from the very day of Christ's Resurrection, the Church celebrates the Paschal Mystery every seventh day, which day is appropriately called the Lord's Day” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 106).

The Evangelist further recalls that on the occasion of both his appearances - the day of the Resurrection and eight days later - the Lord Jesus showed the disciples the signs of the crucifixion, clearly visible and tangible even in his glorified Body (see Jn 20: 20, 27).

Those sacred wounds in his hands, in his feet and in his side, are an inexhaustible source of faith, hope and love from which each one can draw, especially the souls who thirst the most for divine mercy.

In consideration of this, the Servant of God John Paul II, highlighting the spiritual experience of a humble Sister, St Faustina Kowalska, desired that the Sunday after Easter be dedicated in a special way to Divine Mercy; and Providence disposed that he would die precisely on the eve of this day in the hands of Divine Mercy.

The mystery of God's merciful love was the centre of the Pontificate of my venerable Predecessor.

Let us remember in particular his 1980 Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, and his dedication of the new Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow in 2002. The words he spoke on the latter occasion summed up, as it were, his Magisterium, pointing out that the cult of Divine Mercy is not a secondary devotion but an integral dimension of Christian faith and prayer.

May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, whom we now address with the Regina Caeli, obtain for all Christians that they live Sunday to the full as “the Easter of the week”, tasting the beauty of the encounter with the Risen Lord and drawing from the source of his merciful love to be apostles of his peace.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Saint Peter's Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I renew my wishes for a Happy Easter to all of you on the Sunday when the Octave of Easter is concluded and which is traditionally called Sunday “in Albis”, as I have just said in my Homily. [See text of homily below.] According to the wish of my venerable Predecessor, Servant of God John Paul II, who died precisely after First Vespers of the Festival, this is also called Divine Mercy Sunday.

In such a singular recurrence I celebrated Holy Mass in this Square accompanied by Cardinals, Bishops and priests, by the faithful of Rome and by many pilgrims, who have wished to draw close to the Pope on the eve of his 80th birthday. From the depths of my heart I renew to all my most sincere gratitude that I extend to the entire Church, which has surrounded me with affection like a true family, especially in these days.

This Sunday, as I said, concludes the week or, more properly, the “Octave” of Easter, which the liturgy considers as a single day: “the day which the Lord has made” (Ps 117[116]: 24). It is not a chronological but a spiritual time, which God opened in the sequence of days when he raised Christ from the dead.

The Creator Spirit, infusing new and eternal life in the buried body of Jesus of Nazareth, carried to completion the work of creation, giving origin to a “firstfruits”: the firstfruits of a new humanity, which at the same time is a firstfruits of a new world and a new era.

This world renewal can be summed up in a single phrase, the same one that the Risen Jesus spoke to his disciples as a greeting and even more, as an announcement of his victory: “Peace be with you!” (Lk 24: 36; Jn 20: 19, 21, 26).

Peace is the gift that Christ left his friends (see Jn 14: 27) as a blessing destined for all men and women and all peoples. It is not a peace according to a “worldly” mentality, as an equilibrium of forces, but a new reality, fruit of God's Love, of his Mercy. It is the peace that Jesus Christ earned by the price of his Blood and communicates to those who trust in him.

“Jesus, I trust in you”: these words summarize the faith of the Christian, which is faith in the omnipotence of God's merciful Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I renew my gratitude for your spiritual closeness on the occasion of my birthday and the anniversary of my election as Successor of Peter, I entrust all of you to Mary, Mater Misericordiae, Mother of Jesus who is the incarnation of Divine Mercy.

With her help, let us become renewed in the Spirit in order to cooperate in the work of peace which God is accomplishing in the world and which is not just talk, but which is actualized in the countless gestures of charity by all his sons and daughters.


MASS OF THANKSGIVING IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE POPE'S 80th BIRTHDAY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is called “in Albis”, in accordance with an old tradition. On this day, neophytes of the Easter Vigil were still wearing their white garment, the symbol of the light which the Lord gave them in Baptism. Later, they would take off the white garment but would have to introduce into their daily lives the new brightness communicated to them.

They were to diligently keep alight the delicate flame of truth and good which the Lord had kindled within them, in order to bring to this world a gleam of God's splendour and goodness.

The Holy Father, John Paul II, wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy: in the word “mercy”, he summed up and interpreted anew for our time the whole mystery of Redemption. He had lived under two dictatorial regimes, and in his contact with poverty, neediness and violence he had a profound experience of the powers of darkness which also threaten the world of our time.

But he had an equally strong experience of the presence of God who opposed all these forces with his power, which is totally different and divine: with the power of mercy. It is mercy that puts an end to evil. In it is expressed God's special nature - his holiness, the power of truth and love.

Two years ago now, after the First Vespers of this Feast, John Paul II ended his earthly life. In dying, he entered the light of Divine Mercy, of which, beyond death and starting from God, he now speaks to us in a new way.

Have faith, he tells us, in Divine Mercy! Become day after day men and women of God's mercy. Mercy is the garment of light which the Lord has given to us in Baptism. We must not allow this light to be extinguished; on the contrary, it must grow within us every day and thus bring to the world God's glad tidings.

In these days illumined in particular by the light of divine mercy, a coincidence occurs that is significant to me: I can look back over 80 years of life.

I greet all those who have gathered here to celebrate this birthday with me. I greet first of all the Cardinals, with a special, grateful thought for the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who has made himself an authoritative interpreter of your common sentiments. I greet the Archbishops and Bishops, including the Auxiliaries of the Diocese of Rome, of my Diocese; I greet the Prelates and other members of the Clergy, the men and women Religious and all the faithful present here.

I also offer respectful and grateful thoughts to the political figures and members of the Diplomatic Corps who have desired to honour me with their presence.

Lastly, I greet with fraternal affection His Eminence Ioannis, Metropolitan of Pergamon, personal envoy of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. To him I express my appreciation for this kind gesture and the hope that the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue may proceed with new enthusiasm.

We are gathered here to reflect on the completion of a long period of my life. Obviously, the liturgy itself must not be used to speak of oneself, of myself; yet, one's own life can serve to proclaim God's mercy.

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me”, a Psalm says (66[65]: 16). I have always considered it a great gift of Divine Mercy to have been granted birth and rebirth, so to speak, on the same day, in the sign of the beginning of Easter. Thus, I was born as a member of my own family and of the great family of God on the same day.

Yes, I thank God because I have been able to experience what “family” means; I have been able to experience what “fatherhood” means, so that the words about God as Father were made understandable to me from within; on the basis of human experience, access was opened to me to the great and benevolent Father who is in Heaven.

We have a responsibility to him, but at the same time he gives us trust so that the mercy and goodness with which he accepts even our weakness and sustains us may always shine out in his justice, and that we can gradually learn to walk righteously.

I thank God for enabling me to have a profound experience of the meaning of motherly goodness, ever open to anyone who seeks shelter and in this very way able to give me freedom.

I thank God for my sister and my brother, who with their help have been close to me faithfully throughout my life. I thank God for the companions I have met on my way and for the advisers and friends he has given to me.

I am especially grateful to him because, from the very first day of my life, I have been able to enter and to develop in the great community of believers in which the barriers between life and death, between Heaven and earth, are flung open. I give thanks for being able to learn so many things, drawing from the wisdom of this community which not only embraces human experiences from far off times: the wisdom of this community is not only human wisdom; through it, the very wisdom of God - eternal wisdom - reaches us.

In this Sunday's First Reading we are told that at the dawn of the newborn Church, people used to take the sick out into the squares so that when Peter passed by his shadow might fall on them: to this shadow they attributed a healing power. This shadow, in fact, was cast by the light of Christ and thus in itself retained something of the power of divine goodness.

From the very first, through the community of the Catholic Church, Peter's shadow has covered my life and I have learned that it is a good shadow - a healing shadow precisely because it ultimately comes from Christ himself.

Peter was a man with all the human weaknesses, but he was above all a man full of passionate faith in Christ, full of love for him. It was through his faith and love that the healing power of Christ and his unifying force reached humanity, although it was mingled with all Peter's shortcomings. Let us seek Peter's shadow today in order to stand in the light of Christ!

Birth and rebirth, an earthly family and the great family of God: this is the great gift of God's multiple mercies, the foundation which supports us. As I continued on my path through life, I encountered a new and demanding gift: the call to the priestly ministry.

On the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul in 1951, as I faced this task, when we were lying prostrate on the floor of the Cathedral of Freising - we were more than 40 companions - and above us all the saints were invoked, I was troubled by an awareness of the poverty of my life.

Yes, it was a consolation that the protection of God's saints, of the living and the dead, was invoked upon us. I knew that I would not be left on my own. And what faith the words of Jesus, which we heard subsequently on the lips of the Bishop during the Ordination liturgy, inspire in us! “No longer do I call you servants, but my friends...”. I have been able to experience this deeply: he, the Lord, is not only the Lord but also a friend. He has placed his hand upon me and will not leave me.

These words were spoken in the context of the conferral of the faculty for the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and thus, in Christ's Name, to forgive sins. We heard the same thing in today's Gospel: the Lord breathes upon his disciples. He grants them his Spirit - the Holy Spirit: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven...”.

The Spirit of Jesus Christ is the power of forgiveness. He is the power of Divine Mercy. He makes it possible to start all over again - ever anew. The friendship of Jesus Christ is the friendship of the One who makes us people who forgive, the One who also forgives us, raises us ceaselessly from our weakness and in this very way educates us, instils in us an awareness of the inner duty of love, of the duty to respond with our faithfulness to his trust.

In the Gospel passage for today we also heard the story of the Apostle Thomas' encounter with the Risen Lord: the Apostle is permitted to touch his wounds and thereby recognizes him - over and above the human identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas recognizes him in his true and deepest identity: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20: 28).

The Lord took his wounds with him to eternity. He is a wounded God; he let himself be injured through his love for us. His wounds are a sign for us that he understands and allows himself to be wounded out of love for us.

These wounds of his: how tangible they are to us in the history of our time! Indeed, time and again he allows himself to be wounded for our sake. What certainty of his mercy, what consolation do his wounds mean for us! And what security they give us regarding his identity: “My Lord and my God!”. And what a duty they are for us, the duty to allow ourselves in turn to be wounded for him!

God's mercy accompanies us daily. To be able to perceive his mercy it suffices to have a heart that is alert. We are excessively inclined to notice only the daily effort that has been imposed upon us as children of Adam.

If, however, we open our hearts, then as well as immersing ourselves in them we can be constantly aware of how good God is to us; how he thinks of us precisely in little things, thus helping us to achieve important ones.

With the increasing burden of responsibility, the Lord has also brought new assistance to my life. I repeatedly see with grateful joy how large is the multitude of those who support me with their prayers; I see that with their faith and love they help me carry out my ministry; I see that they are indulgent with my shortcomings and also recognize in Peter's shadow the beneficial light of Jesus Christ.

At this moment, therefore, I would like to thank the Lord and all of you with all my heart. I wish to end this Homily with a prayer of the holy Pope, St Leo the Great, that prayer which precisely 30 years ago I had written on the souvenir cards for my ordination:

“Pray to our good God that in our day he will be so good as to reinforce faith, multiply love and increase peace. May he render me, his poor servant, adequate for his task and useful for your edification, and grant me to carry out this service so that together with the time given to me my dedication may grow. Amen”.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Castel Gandolfo,  Second Sunday of Easter, 30 March 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During the Jubilee of the Year 2000 the beloved Servant of God John Paul II established that throughout the Church the Sunday after Easter should be called Domenica in Albis and Divine Mercy Sunday. This occurred contemporaneously with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish Sister who was born in 1905 and died in 1938, a zealous messenger of the Merciful Jesus. Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man, and therefore for us. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men and women may have life and have it abundantly (see Jn 10: 10). From divine mercy, which brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows into the world, peace between different peoples, cultures and religions.

Like Sr Faustina, John Paul II in his turn made himself an apostle of Divine Mercy. In the evening of the unforgettable Saturday, 2 April 2005, when he closed his eyes on this world, it was precisely the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter and many people noted the rare coincidence that combined the Marian dimension - the first Saturday of the month - and the dimension of Divine Mercy. This was in fact the core of John Paul II's long and multi-faceted Pontificate. The whole of his mission at the service of the truth about God and man and of peace in the world is summed up in this declaration, as he himself said in Krakow-Łagiewniki in 2002 when he inaugurated the large Shrine of Divine Mercy: “Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind”. John Paul II's message, like St Faustina's, thus leads back to the Face of Christ, a supreme revelation of God's mercy. Constant contemplation of this Face is the legacy he bequeathed to us which we joyfully welcome and make our own.

In the coming days, on the occasion of the First World Apostolic Congress on Divine Mercy, there will be a special reflection on Divine Mercy. It will be held in Rome and will begin with Holy Mass at which, please God, I shall preside on Wednesday morning, 2 April, the third anniversary of the pious death of the Servant of God John Paul II. Let us place the Congress under the heavenly protection of Mary Most Holy Mater Misericordiae. Let us entrust to her the great cause of peace in the world, so that God's mercy may achieve what is impossible for human forces on their own and instil in hearts the courage for dialogue and reconciliation.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Castel Gandolfo, Second Sunday of Easter, 19 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

To you present here and to all those who have joined us by means of radio and television, I warmly renew my fervent good wishes for Easter on this Sunday that concludes the Easter Octave. In the atmosphere of joy that stems from faith in the Risen Christ, I would like to express a most cordial “thank you” to all those and they are truly numerous who have wished to show me a sign of affection and spiritual closeness in these days, both for the Easter festivities and for my birthday 16 April as well as for the fourth anniversary of my election to the Chair of Peter, which is actually today. I thank the Lord for the harmony of so much affection. As I have had the opportunity to say recently, I never feel alone. Especially in this special week which for the liturgy constitutes a single day I have experienced the communion that surrounds and supports me: a spiritual solidarity, nourished essentially by prayer, which manifests itself in thousands of ways. Starting with my collaborators in the Roman Curia, to the geographically most remote parishes, we Catholics form and must feel we are one family, enlivened by the same sentiments as those of the first Christian community, of which the text of the Acts of the Apostles that is read this Sunday says: “The company of believers were of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4: 32).

The true centre of the communion of the first Christians was fundamentally the Risen Christ. Indeed, the Gospel recounts that at the moment of the Passion, when the divine Teacher was arrested and condemned to death, the disciples dispersed. Only Mary and the women, with the Apostle John, stayed together and followed him to Calvary. Risen, Jesus gave his disciples a new unity, stronger than before, invincible because it was founded not on human resources but on divine mercy, which made them all feel loved and forgiven by him. It is therefore God's merciful love that firmly unites the Church, today as in the past, and makes humanity a single family; divine love which through the Crucified and Risen Jesus forgives us our sins and renews us from within. Inspired by this deep conviction, my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II, desired to call this Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, and indicated to all the Risen Christ as the source of trust and hope, accepting the spiritual message transmitted by the Lord to St Faustina Kowalska, summed up in the invocation “Jesus, I trust in you!”.

Just as it was for the first community, it is Mary who accompanies us in our everyday life. We call upon her as “Queen of Heaven”, knowing that her regal character is like that of her Son: all love and merciful love. I ask you to entrust to her anew my service to the Church, while we trusting say to her: Mater misericordiae, ora pro nobis.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Castel Gandolfo, Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday concludes the Octave of Easter. It is a unique day “made by the Lord”, distinguished by the outstanding event of the Resurrection and the joy of the disciples at seeing Jesus. Since antiquity this Sunday has been called in albis from the Latin name, alba, which was given to the white vestments the neophytes put on for their Baptism on Easter night and took off eight days later, that is, today. Venerable John Paul II entitled this same Sunday “Divine Mercy Sunday” on the occasion of the canonization of Sr Mary Faustina Kowalska on 30 April 2000.

The Gospel passage from St John (20: 19-31) is full of mercy and divine goodness. It recounts that after the Resurrection Jesus visited his disciples, passing through the closed doors of the Upper Room. St Augustine explains that “the shutting of doors presented no obstacle to the matter of that body, wherein the Godhead resided. He indeed could enter without their being opened, by whose birth the virginity of his mother remained inviolate” (In ev. Jo. 121, 4: CCL 36/7, 667); and St Gregory the Great added that after his Resurrection the Redeemer appeared with a Body by its nature incorruptible and tangible, but in a state of glory (see Hom. in Evang. 21, 1: CCL 141, 219). Jesus showed the signs of his Passion even to the point of allowing Doubting Thomas to touch him; but how can a disciple possibly doubt? Actually God's indulgence enables us to profit even from Thomas' disbelief, as well as from the believing disciples. Indeed, in touching the Lord's wounds, the hesitant disciple not only heals his own diffidence but also ours.

The visit of the Risen One is not limited to the space of the Upper Room but goes beyond it, to the point that all can receive the gift of peace and life with the “creative Breath”. In fact Jesus said twice to his disciples,” “Peace be with you”. And he added, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”. Having said this he breathed on them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained”. This is the mission of the Church, eternally assisted by the Paraclete: to bear the Good News, the joyful reality of God's merciful love, in order, as St John says, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20: 31).

In the light of these words I encourage all, Pastors in particular, to follow the example of the holy Curé d'Ars, who “in his time... was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord's merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love” (Letter inaugurating the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009). In this way we shall make increasingly familiar and close the One whom our eyes have not seen but of whose infinite Mercy we are absolutely certain. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles, to sustain the Church's mission and invoke her exulting with joy: Regina Caeli....


BEATIFICATION OF THE SERVANT OF GOD JOHN PAUL II

Saint Peter's Square, Divine Mercy Sunday, 1 May 2011

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!

I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” (Jn 20:29). In today’s Gospel Jesus proclaims this beatitude: the beatitude of faith. For us, it is particularly striking because we are gathered to celebrate a beatification, but even more so because today the one proclaimed blessed is a Pope, a Successor of Peter, one who was called to confirm his brethren in the faith. John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous and apostolic faith. We think at once of another beatitude: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). What did our heavenly Father reveal to Simon? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of this faith, Simon becomes Peter, the rock on which Jesus can build his Church. The eternal beatitude of John Paul II, which today the Church rejoices to proclaim, is wholly contained in these sayings of Jesus: “Blessed are you, Simon” and “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe!” It is the beatitude of faith, which John Paul II also received as a gift from God the Father for the building up of Christ’s Church.

Our thoughts turn to yet another beatitude, one which appears in the Gospel before all others. It is the beatitude of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary, who had just conceived Jesus, was told by Saint Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). The beatitude of faith has its model in Mary, and all of us rejoice that the beatification of John Paul II takes place on this first day of the month of Mary, beneath the maternal gaze of the one who by her faith sustained the faith of the Apostles and constantly sustains the faith of their successors, especially those called to occupy the Chair of Peter. Mary does not appear in the accounts of Christ’s resurrection, yet hers is, as it were, a continual, hidden presence: she is the Mother to whom Jesus entrusted each of his disciples and the entire community. In particular we can see how Saint John and Saint Luke record the powerful, maternal presence of Mary in the passages preceding those read in today’s Gospel and first reading. In the account of Jesus’ death, Mary appears at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25), and at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles she is seen in the midst of the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room (Acts 1:14).

Today’s second reading also speaks to us of faith. Saint Peter himself, filled with spiritual enthusiasm, points out to the newly-baptized the reason for their hope and their joy. I like to think how in this passage, at the beginning of his First Letter, Peter does not use language of exhortation; instead, he states a fact. He writes: “you rejoice”, and he adds: “you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet 1:6, 8-9). All these verbs are in the indicative, because a new reality has come about in Christ’s resurrection, a reality to which faith opens the door. “This is the Lord’s doing”, says the Psalm (118:23), and “it is marvelous in our eyes”, the eyes of faith.

Dear brothers and sisters, today our eyes behold, in the full spiritual light of the risen Christ, the beloved and revered figure of John Paul II. Today his name is added to the host of those whom he proclaimed saints and blesseds during the almost twenty-seven years of his pontificate, thereby forcefully emphasizing the universal vocation to the heights of the Christian life, to holiness, taught by the conciliar Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium. All of us, as members of the people of God – bishops, priests, deacons, laity, men and women religious – are making our pilgrim way to the heavenly homeland where the Virgin Mary has preceded us, associated as she was in a unique and perfect way to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Karol Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council, first as an auxiliary Bishop and then as Archbishop of Kraków. He was fully aware that the Council’s decision to devote the last chapter of its Constitution on the Church to Mary meant that the Mother of the Redeemer is held up as an image and model of holiness for every Christian and for the entire Church. This was the theological vision which Blessed John Paul II discovered as a young man and subsequently maintained and deepened throughout his life. A vision which is expressed in the scriptural image of the crucified Christ with Mary, his Mother, at his side. This icon from the Gospel of John (19:25-27) was taken up in the episcopal and later the papal coat-of-arms of Karol Wojtyła: a golden cross with the letter “M” on the lower right and the motto “Totus tuus”, drawn from the well-known words of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in which Karol Wojtyła found a guiding light for his life: “Totus tuus ego sum et omnia mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, Maria – I belong entirely to you, and all that I have is yours. I take you for my all. O Mary, give me your heart” (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, 266).

In his Testament, the new Blessed wrote: “When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, said to me: ‘The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium’”. And the Pope added: “I would like once again to express my gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of the Second Vatican Council, to which, together with the whole Church – and especially with the whole episcopate – I feel indebted. I am convinced that it will long be granted to the new generations to draw from the treasures that this Council of the twentieth century has lavished upon us. As a Bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice. For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate”. And what is this “cause”? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all the others.

When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ he was able to call “the threshold of hope”. Throughout the long journey of preparation for the great Jubilee he directed Christianity once again to the future, the future of God, which transcends history while nonetheless directly affecting it. He rightly reclaimed for Christianity that impulse of hope which had in some sense faltered before Marxism and the ideology of progress. He restored to Christianity its true face as a religion of hope, to be lived in history in an “Advent” spirit, in a personal and communitarian existence directed to Christ, the fullness of humanity and the fulfillment of all our longings for justice and peace.

Finally, on a more personal note, I would like to thank God for the gift of having worked for many years with Blessed Pope John Paul II. I had known him earlier and had esteemed him, but for twenty-three years, beginning in 1982 after he called me to Rome to be Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was at his side and came to revere him all the more. My own service was sustained by his spiritual depth and by the richness of his insights. His example of prayer continually impressed and edified me: he remained deeply united to God even amid the many demands of his ministry. Then too, there was his witness in suffering: the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, yet he remained ever a “rock”, as Christ desired. His profound humility, grounded in close union with Christ, enabled him to continue to lead the Church and to give to the world a message which became all the more eloquent as his physical strength declined. In this way he lived out in an extraordinary way the vocation of every priest and bishop to become completely one with Jesus, whom he daily receives and offers in the Church.

Blessed are you, beloved Pope John Paul II, because you believed! Continue, we implore you, to sustain from heaven the faith of God’s people. You often blessed us in this Square from the Apostolic Palace: Bless us, Holy Father! Amen.


DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

St Peter’s Square, Second Sunday of Easter, 15 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every year in celebrating Easter we relive the experience of the first disciples of Jesus, the experience of the encounter with him risen: the Gospel of John tells that they saw him appear in their midst in the Upper Room on the evening of the very day of the Resurrection, “the first day of the week”, and subsequently eight days later (Jn 20:19, 26). That day, later called “the Lord’s Day”, was the day of the assembly of the Christian community which gathered for its own devotion, that is, to the Eucharist, a new form of worship which from the outset differed from the Judaic worship of the Sabbath. Indeed, the celebration of the Lord’s Day is a very strong proof of Christ’s Resurrection, for only an extraordinary and overwhelming event could have induced the first Christians to begin a form of worship that differed with regard to the Jewish Sabbath.

Then, as today, Christian worship is not only a commemoration of past events nor even a specific, inner mystical experience; rather, it is essentially an encounter with the Risen Lord who lives in the dimension of God beyond time and space, and yet becomes really present amidst the community, speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures and breaks the bread of eternal life for us.

It is through these signs that we relive what the disciples experienced, that is, the event of seeing Jesus and at the same time of not recognizing him; of touching his body, a real body and yet free from earthly bonds.

What the Gospel says is very important: namely, that Jesus, in his two appearances to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room, repeats several times the greeting: “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:19, 21, 26). Here, the traditional greeting with which people wish one another shalom, peace, becomes something new: it becomes the gift of the peace that Jesus alone can give because it is the fruit of his radical victory over evil.

The “peace” that Jesus gives to his friends is the fruit of the love of God which led him to die on the cross, to pour out all his blood, as a meek and humble lamb “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

For this reason Blessed John Paul II chose to call this Sunday after Easter, Divine Mercy, with a very specific image: that of Jesus’ pierced side from which blood and water flowed, according to the account of an eyewitness, the Apostle John (see Jn 19:34-37). However Jesus is now risen and the paschal Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist flow from him, who is alive: those who receive them with faith receive the gift of eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us accept the gift of peace which the Risen Jesus offers us, let us allow our hearts to be filled with his mercy! In this way, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, we too can bring these Easter gifts to others. May Mary Most Holy obtain this for us. 



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