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Monday, April 15, 2013

0273: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Easter by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0273: Reflections before the Recitation of the Regina Caeli on the Third Sunday of Easter during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI 




On seven occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI recited the Regina Caeli on the Third Sunday of Easter, on 30 April 2006, 22 April 2007, 6 April 2008, 26 April 2009, 18 April 2010, 8 May 2011, and 22 April 2012. Here are the texts of the four brief reflections and three homilies delivered by Benedict XVI on these occasions.



BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Easter, 30 April 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the Easter Season the liturgy offers us manifold incentives to strengthen our faith in the Risen Christ. Today, on the Third Sunday of Easter, for example, St Luke tells how the two disciples of Emmaus, after recognizing him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24: 35), returned to Jerusalem full of joy to tell the others what had happened to them.

And just as they were speaking, the Lord appeared, showing them his hands and his feet with the signs of the Passion. Then, in the face of the Apostles’ disbelief and wonder, Jesus had them give him some broiled fish and ate it before their eyes (see Lk 24: 35-43).

In this and in other accounts, one can discern a repeated invitation to overcome incredulity and believe in Christ’s Resurrection, since his disciples are called to be witnesses precisely of this extraordinary event.

The Resurrection of Christ is central to Christianity. It is a fundamental truth to be reasserted vigorously in every epoch, since to deny it, as has been, and continues to be attempted, or to transform it into a purely spiritual event, is to thwart our very faith. St Paul states: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (I Cor 15: 14).

In the days that followed the Lord’s Resurrection, the Apostles stayed together, comforted by Mary’s presence, and after the Ascension they persevered with her in prayerful expectation of Pentecost. Our Lady was a mother and teacher to them, a role that she continues to play for Christians of all times.

Every year, at Eastertide, we relive this experience more intensely and perhaps, precisely for this reason, popular tradition has dedicated to Mary the month of May that normally falls between Easter and Pentecost. Consequently, this month which we begin tomorrow helps us to rediscover the maternal role that she plays in our lives so that we may always be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the Risen Lord.

Let us entrust to Mary the needs of the Church and of the whole world, especially at this time which is marked by so many shadows. As we also invoke the intercession of St Joseph whom we will commemorate tomorrow in a special way, thinking of the world of work, we turn to her with the prayer of the Regina Caeli, a prayer that enables us to taste the comforting joy of the Risen Christ’s presence.


PASTORAL VISIT TO VIGEVANO AND PAVIA (ITALY)

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

“Orti Borromaici” Esplanade, Pavia, Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, I met the diocesan Community of Vigevano and the heart of my Pastoral Visit was the Eucharistic concelebration in Piazza Ducale; today, I have the joy of visiting your Diocese and a culminating moment of our encounter is also here at Holy Mass.

I greet with affection my Brothers who are concelebrating with me: Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, Bishop Giovanni Giudici, Pastor of your Diocese, Bishop emeritus Giovanni Volta, the retired Pastor, and the other Prelates of Lombardy.

I am grateful to the Government Representatives and local Administrations for their presence. I address my cordial greeting to the priests, deacons, Religious, leaders of lay associations, the young people, the sick and all the faithful, and I extend my thoughts to the entire population of this ancient and noble City, and of the Diocese.

During the Easter Season, the Church presents to us, Sunday after Sunday, some passages from the preaching with which, after Easter, the Apostles, particularly Peter, invited Israel to have faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen One, thereby founding the Church.

In today’s reading, the Apostles stand before the Sanhedrin - before that institution which, having sentenced Jesus to death, could not tolerate that this same Jesus was now beginning to be active again through the Apostles’ preaching. They could not tolerate that his saving power was once more making itself felt and that his Name was attracting people who believed in him as the promised Redeemer.

They accused the Apostles. Their accusation is: “You want to make us responsible for that man’s blood”.

Peter, however, reacted to this accusation with a brief catechesis on the essence of Christian faith: “No, we do not want to make you responsible for his blood. The effect of the death and Resurrection of Jesus is quite different. God has exalted him as “Head and Saviour’ of all, and of you, too, his People of Israel”. And where will this “Head” lead us? What does this “Saviour” bring?

He leads us, St Peter tells us, to conversion - creates for us the leeway and opportunity to mend our ways and repent, begin again. And he offers us forgiveness for our sins: he introduces us into the proper relationship with God, hence, into the proper relationship of each individual with himself or herself and with others.

Peter’s brief catechesis did not only apply to the Sanhedrin. It speaks to us all, for Jesus, the Risen One, is also alive today. And for all generations, for all men and women, he is the “Head” who shows us the way and the “Saviour” who straightens out our lives.

The two terms: “conversion” and “forgiveness of sins”, which correspond to the titles of Christ “Head”, archegòs in Greek, and “Saviour”, are the key words of Peter’s catechesis, words intended to move our hearts too, here and now. And what do they mean?

The path we must take - the path that Jesus points out to us - is called “conversion”. But what is it? What must we do? In every life conversion has its own form, because every human being is something new and no one is merely a copy of another.

But in the course of history, the Lord has sent us models of conversion to whom we can look to find guidance. We could thus look at Peter himself to whom the Lord said at the Last Supper: “[W]hen you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22: 32).

We could look at Paul as a great convert. The City of Pavia speaks of one of the greatest converts in the history of the Church: St Aurelius Augustine. He died on 28 August in 430 in the port town of Hippo, in Africa, at that time surrounded and besieged by the Vandals.

After the considerable turmoil of a turbulent history, the King of the Longobards acquired Augustine’s remains for the City of Pavia so that today they belong to this City in a special way, and, in it and from it, have something special to say to all of us, to humanity, but to all of us here in particular.

In his book, Confessions, Augustine touchingly described the development of his conversion which achieved its goal with Baptism, administered to him by Bishop Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan. Readers of his Confessions can share in the journey that Augustine had to make in a long inner struggle to receive at last, at the baptismal font on the night before Easter 387, the Sacrament which marked the great turning point in his life.

A careful examination of the course of St Augustine’s life enables one to perceive that his conversion was not an event of a single moment but, precisely, a journey. And one can see that this journey did not end at the baptismal font.

Just as prior to his baptism Augustine’s life was a journey of conversion, after it too, although differently, his life continued to be a journey of conversion - until his last illness, when he had the penitential Psalms hung on the walls so that he might have them always before his eyes, and when he excluded himself from receiving the Eucharist in order to go back once again over the path of his repentance and receive salvation from Christ’s hands as a gift of God’s mercy.

Thus, we can rightly speak of Augustine’s “conversions”, which actually consisted of one important conversion in his quest for the Face of Christ and then in the journeying on with him.

I would like to mention briefly three important landmarks in this process of conversion, three “conversions”.

The first fundamental conversion was the inner march towards Christianity, towards the “yes” of the faith and of Baptism. What was the essential aspect of this journey?

On the one hand, Augustine was a son of his time, deeply conditioned by the customs and passions prevalent then as well as by all the questions and problems that beset any young man. He lived like all the others, yet with a difference: he continued to be a person constantly seeking. He was never satisfied with life as it presented itself and as so many people lived it.

The question of the truth tormented him ceaselessly. He longed to discover truth. He wanted to succeed in knowing what man is; where we ourselves come from, where we are going and how we can find true life.

He desired to find the life that was right and not merely to live blindly, without meaning or purpose.

Passion for truth is the true key phrase of his life. Passion for the truth truly guided him.

There is a further peculiarity: anything that did not bear Christ’s Name did not suffice for him. Love for this Name, he tells us, he had tasted from his mother’s milk (see Confessions, 3, 4, 8). And he always believed - sometimes rather vaguely, at other times, more clearly - that God exists and takes care of us (see Confessions, 6, 5, 8).

But to truly know this God and to become really familiar with this Jesus Christ and reach the point of saying “yes” to him with all its consequences - this was the great interior struggle of his youthful years.

St Augustine tells us that through Platonic philosophy he learned and recognized that “in the beginning was the Word” - the Logos, creative reason. But philosophy, which showed him that the beginning of all things was creative reason, did not show him any path on which to reach it; this Logos remained remote and intangible.

Only through faith in the Church did he later find the second essential truth: the Word, the Logos, was made flesh.

Thus, he touches us and we touch him. The humility of God’s Incarnation - this is the important step - must be equalled by the humility of our faith, which lays down its self-important pride and bows upon entering the community of Christ’s Body; which lives with the Church and through her alone can enter into concrete and bodily communion with the living God.

I do not have to say how deeply all this concerns us: to remain seekers; to refuse to be satisfied with what everyone else says and does; to keep our gaze fixed on the eternal God and on Jesus Christ; to learn the humility of faith in the corporeal Church of Jesus Christ, of the Logos Incarnate.

Augustine described his second conversion at the end of the 10th book of his Confessions with the words: “Terrified by my sins and the pile of my misery, I had racked my heart and had meditated, taking flight to live in solitude. But you forbade me and comforted me, saying: “That is why Christ died for all, so that those who live should not live for themselves, but for him who died for them’ (II Cor 5: 15)”; Confessions, 10, 43, 70).

What had happened? After his baptism, Augustine had decided to return to Africa and with some of his friends had founded a small monastery there. His life was then to be totally dedicated to conversation with God and reflection on and contemplation of the beauty and truth of his Word.

Thus, he spent three happy years in which he believed he had achieved the goal of his life; in that period, a series of valuable philosophical and theological works came into being.

In 391, four years after his baptism, he went to the port town of Hippo to meet a friend whom he desired to win over for his monastery. But he was recognized at the Sunday liturgy in the cathedral in which he took part.

It was not by chance that the Bishop of the city, a man of Greek origin who was not fluent in Latin and found preaching rather a struggle, said in his homily that he was hoping to find a priest to whom he could entrust the task of preaching.

People instantly grabbed hold of Augustine and forced him forward to be ordained a priest to serve the city.

Immediately after his forced ordination, Augustine wrote to Bishop Valerius: “I was constrained... to accept second place at the helm, when as yet I knew not how to handle an oar.... And from this derived the tears which some of my brethren perceived me shedding in the city at the time of my ordination” (see Letter 21, 1ff.).

Augustine’s beautiful dream of a contemplative life had vanished. As a result, his life had fundamentally changed. He could now no longer dedicate himself solely to meditation in solitude. He had to live with Christ for everyone. He had to express his sublime knowledge and thoughts in the thoughts and language of the simple people in his city. The great philosophical work of an entire lifetime, of which he had dreamed, was to remain unwritten.

Instead, however, we have been given something far more precious: the Gospel translated into the language of everyday life and of his sufferings.

These were now part of his daily life, which he described as the following: “reprimanding the undisciplined, comforting the faint-hearted, supporting the weak, refuting opponents... encouraging the negligent, soothing the quarrelsome, helping the needy, liberating the oppressed, expressing approval to the good, tolerating the wicked and loving all” (Sermon 340, 3).

“Continuously preaching, arguing, rebuking, building God’s house, having to manage for everyone - who would not shrink from such a heavy burden?” (Sermon 339, 4).

This was the second conversion which this man, struggling and suffering, was constantly obliged to make: to be available to everyone, time and again, and not for his own perfection; time and again, to lay down his life with Christ so that others might find him, true Life.

Further, there was a third, decisive phase in the journey of conversion of St Augustine. After his Ordination to the priesthood he had requested a vacation period to study the Sacred Scriptures in greater detail.

His first series of homilies, after this pause for reflection, were on the Sermon on the Mount; he explained the way to an upright life, “the perfect life”, pointed out by Christ in a new way. He presented it as a pilgrimage to the holy mountain of the Word of God. In these homilies it is possible to further perceive all the enthusiasm of faith newly discovered and lived; his firm conviction that the baptized, in living totally in accordance with Christ’s message, can precisely be “perfect” in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount.

Approximately 20 years later, Augustine wrote a book called the Retractations, in which he critically reviewed all the works he had thus far written, adding corrections wherever he had in the meantime learned something new.

With regard to the ideal of perfection in his homilies on the Sermon on the Mount, he noted: “In the meantime, I have understood that one alone is truly perfect and that the words of the Sermon on the Mount are totally fulfilled in one alone: Jesus Christ himself.

“The whole Church, on the other hand - all of us, including the Apostles - must pray every day: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (see Retract. I 19, 1-3).

Augustine had learned a further degree of humility - not only the humility of integrating his great thought into the humble faith of the Church, not only the humility of translating his great knowledge into the simplicity of announcement, but also the humility of recognizing that he himself and the entire pilgrim Church needed and continually need the merciful goodness of a God who forgives every day.

And we, he added, liken ourselves to Christ, the only Perfect One, to the greatest possible extent when we become, like him, people of mercy.

Let us now thank God for the great light that shines out from St Augustine’s wisdom and humility and pray the Lord to give to us all, day after day, the conversion we need, and thus lead us toward true life. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Easter, 6 April 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel of this Sunday - the Third of Easter - is the famous account of the disciples of Emmaus (see Lk 24: 13-35). It tells the tale of two followers of Christ who, on the day after the Sabbath or the third day after his death, were leaving Jerusalem sad and dejected, bound for a village that was not far off called, precisely, Emmaus. They were joined on their way by the Risen Jesus but did not recognize him. Realizing that they were downhearted, he explained, drawing on the Scriptures, that the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to enter into his glory. Then entering the house with them, he sat down to eat, blessed the bread and broke it; and at that instant they recognized him but he vanished from their sight, leaving them marvelling before that broken bread, a new sign of his presence. And they both immediately headed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of the event.

The locality of Emmaus has not been identified with certainty. There are various hypotheses and this one is not without an evocativeness of its own for it allows us to think that Emmaus actually represents every place: the road that leads there is the road every Christian, every person, takes. The Risen Jesus makes himself our travelling companion as we go on our way, to rekindle the warmth of faith and hope in our hearts and to break the bread of eternal life. In the disciples’ conversation with the unknown wayfarer the words the evangelist Luke puts in the mouth of one of them are striking: “We had hoped...” (Lk 24: 21). This verb in the past tense tells all: we believed, we followed, we hoped..., but now everything is over. Even Jesus of Nazareth, who had shown himself in his words and actions to be a powerful prophet, has failed, and we are left disappointed. This drama of the disciples of Emmaus appears like a reflection of the situation of many Christians of our time: it seems that the hope of faith has failed. Faith itself enters a crisis because of negative experiences that make us feel abandoned and betrayed even by the Lord. But this road to Emmaus on which we walk can become the way of a purification and maturation of our belief in God. Also today we can enter into dialogue with Jesus, listening to his Word. Today too he breaks bread for us and gives himself as our Bread. And so the meeting with the Risen Christ that is possible even today gives us a deeper and more authentic faith tempered, so to speak, by the fire of the Paschal Event; a faith that is robust because it is nourished not by human ideas but by the Word of God and by his Real Presence in the Eucharist.

This marvellous Gospel text already contains the structure of Holy Mass: in the first part, listening to the Word through the Sacred Scriptures; in the second part, the Eucharistic liturgy and communion with Christ present in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. In nourishing herself at this two-fold table, the Church is constantly built up and renewed from day to day in faith, hope and charity. Through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, let us pray that in reliving the experience of the disciples of Emmaus every Christian and every community may rediscover the grace of the transforming encounter with the Risen Lord.


HOLY MASS FOR THE CANONIZATION OF FIVE NEW SAINTS

Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912)
Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348)
Nuno de Santa Maria Alvares Pereira (1360-1431)
Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903)
Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894)

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Easter, 26 April 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Third Sunday in the Easter Season, the liturgy once again focuses our attention on the mystery of the Risen Christ. Victorious over evil and over death, the Author of life who sacrificed himself as a victim of expiation for our sins, “is still our priest, our advocate who always pleads our cause. Christ is the victim who dies no more, the Lamb, once slain, who lives for ever” (Easter Preface III). Let us allow ourselves to be bathed in the radiance of Easter that shines from this great mystery and with the Responsorial Psalm let us pray: “O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us”.

The light of the face of the Risen Christ shines upon us today especially through the Gospel features of the five Blesseds who during this celebration are enrolled in the Roll of Saints: Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli. I willingly join in the homage that the pilgrims are paying to them, gathered here from various nations and to whom I address a cordial greeting with great affection. The various human and spiritual experiences of these new Saints show us the profound renewal that the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection brings about in the human heart; it is a fundamental mystery that orients and guides the entire history of salvation. The Church therefore, especially in this Easter Season, rightly invites us to direct our gaze to the Risen Christ, who is really present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

In the Gospel passage, St Luke mentions one of the appearances of the Risen Jesus (24: 35-48). At the very beginning of the passage the Evangelist notes that the two disciples of Emmaus, who hurried back to Jerusalem, had told the Eleven how they recognized him in “the breaking of the bread” (v. 35). And while they were recounting the extraordinary experience of their encounter with the Lord, he “himself stood among them” (v. 36). His sudden appearance frightened the Apostles. They were fearful to the point that Jesus, in order to reassure them and to overcome every hesitation and doubt, asked them to touch him he was not a ghost but a man of flesh and bone and then asked them for something to eat. Once again, as had happened for the two at Emmaus, it is at table while eating with his own that the Risen Christ reveals himself to the disciples, helping them to understand the Scriptures and to reinterpret the events of salvation in the light of Easter. “Everything written about me”, he says, “in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (v. 44). And he invites them to look to the future: “repentance and forgiveness of sins [shall] be preached in his name to all nations” (see v. 47).

This very experience of repentance and forgiveness is relived in every community in the Eucharistic celebration, especially on Sundays. The Eucharist, the privileged place in which the Church recognizes “the Author of life” (Acts 3: 15) is “the breaking of the bread”, as it is called in the Acts of the Apostles. In it, through faith, we enter into communion with Christ, who is “the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice” (see Preface for Easter, 5) and is among us. Let us gather round him to cherish the memory of his words and of the events contained in Scripture; let us relive his Passion, death and Resurrection. In celebrating the Eucharist we communicate with Christ, the victim of expiation, and from him we draw forgiveness and life. What would our lives as Christians be without the Eucharist? The Eucharist is the perpetual, living inheritance which the Lord has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood and which we must constantly rethink and deepen so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, it may “impress its inexhaustible effectiveness on all the days of our earthly life” (Insegnamenti, V [1967], p. 779). Nourished with the Eucharistic Bread, the Saints we are venerating today brought their mission of evangelical love to completion with their own special charisms in the various areas in which they worked.

St Arcangelo Tadini spent long hours in prayer before the Eucharist. Always focusing his pastoral ministry on the totality of the human person, he encouraged the human and spiritual growth of his parishioners. This holy priest, this holy parish priest, a man who belonged entirely to God ready in every circumstance to let himself be guided by the Holy Spirit, was at the same time prepared to face the urgent needs of the moment and find a remedy for them. For this reason he undertook on many practical and courageous initiatives such as the organization of the “Catholic Workers Mutual Aid Association”, the construction of a spinning mill and a residence for the workers and, in 1900, the foundation of the “Congregation of Worker Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth” to evangelize the working world by sharing in the common efforts after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. How prophetic the charismatic intuition of Fr Tadini was and how timely his example remains today in an epoch of serious financial crisis! He reminds us that only by cultivating a constant and profound relationship with the Lord, especially in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, can we bring the Gospel leaven to the various fields of work and to every area of our society.

Love for prayer and for manual labour also distinguished St Bernardo Tolomei, the initiator of a unique Benedictine monastic movement. His was a Eucharistic life, entirely dedicated to contemplation, expressed in humble service to neighbour. Because of his rare spirit of humility and brotherly acceptance, he was re-elected abbot for 27 years, until his death. Moreover, in order to guarantee the future of his foundation, on 21 January 1344 he obtained from Clement vi papal approval of the new Benedictine Congregation called “Our Lady of Monte Oliveto”. During the epidemic of the Black Death in 1348, he left the solitude of Monte Oliveto for the monastery of S. Benedetto at Porta Tufi, Siena, to attend to his monks stricken with the plague, and died, himself a victim, as an authentic martyr of love. The example of this Saint invites us to express our faith in a life dedicated to God in prayer and spent at the service of our neighbour, impelled by a love that is also ready to make the supreme sacrifice.

“Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him” (Ps 4: 3). These words of the Responsorial Psalm express the secret of the life of Bl. Nuno de Santa María, a hero and saint of Portugal. The 70 years of his life belong to the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th, which saw this nation consolidate its independence from Castille and expand beyond the ocean not without a special plan of God opening new routes that were to favour the transit of Christ’s Gospel to the ends of the earth. St Nuno felt he was an instrument of this lofty design and enrolled in the militia Christi, that is, in the service of witness that every Christian is called to bear in the world. He was characterized by an intense life of prayer and absolute trust in divine help. Although he was an excellent soldier and a great leader, he never permitted these personal talents to prevail over the supreme action that comes from God. St Nuno allowed no obstacle to come in the way of God’s action in his life, imitating Our Lady, to whom he was deeply devoted and to whom he publicly attributed his victories. At the end of his life, he retired to the Carmelite convent whose building he had commissioned. I am glad to point this exemplary figure out to the whole Church particularly because he exercised his life of faith and prayer in contexts apparently unfavourable to it, as proof that in any situation, even military or in war time, it is possible to act and to put into practice the values and principles of Christian life, especially if they are placed at the service of the common good and the glory of God.

Since childhood, Geltrude Comensoli felt a special attraction for Jesus present in the Eucharist. Adoration of Christ in the Eucharist became the principal aim of her life, we could almost say the habitual condition of her existence. Indeed, it was in the presence of the Eucharist that St Geltrude realized what her vocation and mission in the Church was to be: to dedicate herself without reserve to apostolic and missionary action, especially for youth. Thus, in obedience to Pope Leo XIII, her Institute came into being which endeavoured to translate the “charity contemplated” in the Eucharistic Christ, into “charity lived”, in dedication to one’s needy neighbour. In a bewildered and all too often wounded society like ours, to a youth, like that of our day in search of values and a meaning for their lives, as a sound reference point St Geltrude points to God who, in the Eucharist, has made himself our travelling companion. She reminds us that “adoration must prevail over all the other charitable works”, for it is from love for Christ who died and rose and who is really present in the Eucharistic Sacrament, that Gospel charity flows which impels us to see all human beings as our brothers and sisters.

St Caterina Volpicelli was also a witness of divine love. She strove “to belong to Christ in order to bring to Christ” those whom she met in Naples at the end of the 19th century, in a period of spiritual and social crisis. For her too the secret was the Eucharist. She recommended that her first collaborators cultivate an intense spiritual life in prayer and, especially, in vital contact with Jesus in the Eucharist. Today this is still the condition for continuing the work and mission which she began and which she bequeathed as a legacy to the “Servants of the Sacred Heart”. In order to be authentic teachers of faith, desirous of passing on to the new generations the values of Christian culture, it is indispensable, as she liked to repeat, to release God from the prisons in which human beings have confined him. In fact, only in the Heart of Christ can humanity find its “permanent dwelling place”. St Caterina shows to her spiritual daughters and to all of us the demanding journey of a conversion that radically changes the heart, and is expressed in actions consistent with the Gospel. It is thus possible to lay the foundations for building a society open to justice and solidarity, overcoming that economic and cultural imbalance which continues to exist in a large part of our planet.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that shines out in the Church with rare beauty today in Arcangelo Tadini, Bernardo Tolomei, Nuno de Santa Maria Álvares Pereira, Geltrude Comensoli and Caterina Volpicelli. Let us be attracted by their examples, let us be guided by their teachings, so that our existence too may become a hymn of praise to God, in the footsteps of Jesus, worshipped with faith in the mystery of the Eucharist and served generously in our neighbour. May the maternal intercession of Mary, Queen of Saints and of these five new luminous examples of holiness whom we venerate joyfully today, obtain for us that we may carry out this evangelical mission. Amen!


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO MALTA
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 1950th ANNIVERSARY
OF ST. PAUL’S SHIPWRECK ON THE ISLAND
(17-18 APRIL 2010)

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Floriana Granaries, Floriana, Third Sunday of Easter, 18 April 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ, Maħbubin uliedi (My dear sons and daughters),

I am very glad to be here with all of you today before the beautiful church of Saint Publius to celebrate the great mystery of God’s love made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. At this time, the joy of the Easter season fills our hearts because we are celebrating Christ’s victory, the victory of life over sin and death. It is a joy which transforms our lives and fills us with hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises. Christ is risen, alleluia!

I greet the President of the Republic and Mrs Abela, the civil authorities of this beloved Nation, and all the people of Malta and Gozo. I thank Archbishop Cremona for his gracious words, and I also greet Bishop Grech and Bishop Depasquale, Archbishop Mercieca, Bishop Cauchi and the other bishops and priests present, as well as all the Christian faithful of the Church in Malta and Gozo. Since my arrival yesterday evening I have experienced the same kind of warm welcome which your ancestors gave the Apostle Paul in the year sixty.

Many travellers have disembarked here in the course of your history. The richness and variety of Maltese culture is a sign that your people have profited greatly from the exchange of gifts and hospitality with seafaring visitors. And it is a sign that you have known how to exercise discernment in drawing upon the best of what they had to offer.

I urge you to continue to do so. Not everything that today’s world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church. If we are tempted to believe them, we should recall the incident in today’s Gospel, when the disciples, all of them experienced fishermen, toiled all night but failed to catch a single fish. Then, when Jesus appeared on the shore, he directed them to a catch so great that they could scarcely haul it in. Left to themselves, their efforts were fruitless; when Jesus stood alongside them, they netted a huge quantity of fish. My dear brothers and sisters, if we place our trust in the Lord and follow his teachings, we will always reap immense rewards.

Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in him alone. It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land” (Acts 27:44).

More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. And he calls us to a relationship of love. Notice the question that he put three times to Peter on the shore of the lake: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” On the basis of Peter’s affirmative response, Jesus assigns him a task – the task of feeding his flock. Here we see the basis of all pastoral ministry in the Church. It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom he loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating his love to those we serve. During our Lord’s Passion, Peter denied him three times. Now, after the Resurrection, Jesus invites him three times to avow his love, in this way offering him healing and forgiveness and at the same time entrusting him with his mission. The miraculous catch of fish underlined the apostles’ dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of God’s grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing.

We know from Saint Mark’s Gospel the signs that accompany those who put their faith in Jesus: they will pick up serpents and be unharmed, they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover (see Mk 16:18). These signs were immediately recognized by your forebears when Paul came among them. A viper attached itself to his hand, but he simply shook it off into the fire, and suffered no harm. He was taken to see the father of Publius, the protos of the island, and after praying and laying hands on him, Paul healed him of his fever. Of all the gifts brought to these shores in the course of your people’s history, the gift brought by Paul was the greatest of all, and it is much to your credit that it was immediately accepted and treasured. Għożżu l-fidi u l-valuri li takom l-Appostlu Missierkom San Pawl [ Preserve the faith and values transmitted to you by your father the Apostle Saint Paul]. Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paul’s gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. As Moses taught the people of Israel, the words of the Lord “shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise” (Deut 6:6-7). This was well understood by Malta’s first canonized Saint, Dun Ġorġ Preca. His tireless work of catechesis, inspiring young and old with a love for Christian doctrine and a deep devotion to the Incarnate Word of God, set an example that I urge you to maintain. Remember that the exchange of goods between these islands and the world outside is a two-way process. What you receive, evaluate with care, and what you have that is of value, be sure to share with others.

I would like to address a particular word to the priests present here, in this year devoted to a celebration of the great gift of the priesthood. Dun Ġorġ was a priest of remarkable humility, goodness, meekness and generosity, deeply devoted to prayer and with a passion for communicating the truths of the Gospel. Let him serve as a model and an inspiration for you, as you strive to fulfil the mission you have received to feed the Lord’s flock. Remember, too, the question that the Risen Lord put three times to Peter: “Do you love me?” That is the question he asks each of you. Do you love him? Do you wish to serve him through the gift of your whole lives? Do you long to bring others to know and love him? With Peter, have the courage to answer, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” and accept with grateful hearts the beautiful task that he has assigned you. The mission entrusted to priests is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world (see Homily, 24 April 2005).

As I look around me now at the great crowds gathered here in Floriana for our celebration of the Eucharist, I am reminded of the scene described in our second reading today, in which myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands united their voices in one great song of praise: “To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13). Continue to sing that song, in praise of the risen Lord and in thanksgiving for his manifold gifts. In the words of Saint Paul, Apostle of Malta, I conclude my words to you this morning: “L-imħabba tiegħi tkun magħkom ilkoll fi Kristu Ġesù” (1 Cor 16:24; “My love is with you all in Christ Jesus”).


PASTORAL VISIT TO AQUILEIA AND VENICE

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

San Giuliano Park, Mestre, Third Sunday of Easter, 8 May 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad to be with you today and to be celebrating this solemn Eucharist with you and for you. It is significant that the place chosen for this Liturgy should be San Giuliano Park: a place where religious rites are not usually celebrated but where cultural and musical events are held. Today this place is hosting the Risen Jesus, truly present in his word, in the assembly of the People of God with its Pastors and, eminently, in the Sacrament of his Body and of his Blood. I address my most cordial greeting to you, venerable bishops, with the priests and deacons, to you, men and women religious and lay people, with a special thought for the sick and the invalids present here, accompanied by the National Italian Union for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines [UNITALSI]. Thank you for your warm welcome!

I greet with affection Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Patriarch. I thank him for his moving words to me at the beginning of holy Mass. I address a respectful thought to the Mayor, to the Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities who is representing the Government, to the Minister for Labour and Social Policies and to the civil and military Authorities who have wished to honour our meeting with their presence. I offer my heartfelt thanks to all those who have generously cooperated in the preparation of my Pastoral Visit and to ensure that it goes smoothly. I extend to you my heartfelt thanks.

The Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter — which we have just heard — presents the episode of the disciples of Emmaus (see Lk 24:13-35), an account that never ceases to astonish and move us. This episode shows the effects that the Risen Jesus works in two disciples: conversion from despair to hope; conversion from sorrow to joy; and also conversion to community life. Sometimes, when we speak of conversion we think solely of its demanding aspect of detachment and renunciation. Christian conversion, on the contrary, is also and above all about joy, hope and love. It is always the work of the Risen Christ, the Lord of life who has obtained this grace for us through his Passion and communicates it to us by virtue of his Resurrection.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have come among you as Bishop of Rome and perpetuator of Peter’s ministry, to strengthen you in faithfulness to the Gospel and in communion. I have come to share with the bishops and priests their concern for missionary proclamation, which must involve us all in a serious and well-coordinated service to the cause of the Kingdom of God. You, who are present here today, represent the ecclesial communities that were born from the mother Church of Aquileia. Just as in the past when those Churches were distinguished for their apostolic fervour and their pastoral dynamism, so today too it is necessary to promote and courageously defend the truth and unity of the faith. It is necessary to account for Christian hope to modern men and women who are often overcome by immense and troubling problems that plunge the very foundations of their being and action into crisis.

You are living in a context in which Christianity is presented as the faith which has accompanied the journey of many peoples down the ages even through persecutions and harsh trials. The many testimonies that have spread everywhere are an eloquent expression of this faith: churches, works of art, hospitals, libraries and schools; the actual environment of your cities, of the countryside and the mountains, is everywhere spangled with references to Christ. Yet today this existence of Christ risks being emptied of its truth and of its deepest content; it risks becoming a horizon that only superficially — and rather, in its social and cultural aspects — embraces life; it risks being reduced to a Christianity in which the experience of faith in the Crucified and Risen Jesus fails to illuminate the journey of life, as we have heard in today’s Gospel concerning the two disciples of Emmaus, who after the crucifixion of Jesus were going home immersed in doubt, sadness and disappointment. Unfortunately such an attitude is beginning to spread in your region too. This happens when today’s disciples drift away from the Jerusalem of the Crucified and Risen One, no longer believing in the power and in the living presence of the Lord. The problem of evil, sorrow and suffering, the problem of injustice and abuse, fear of others, of strangers and foreigners who come to our lands and seem to attack what we are, prompt Christians today to say sadly: we hoped that the Lord would deliver us from evil, from sorrow, from suffering, from fear, from injustice.

It is thus necessary for each and every one of us to let ourselves be taught by Jesus, as the two disciples of Emmaus were: first of all by listening to and loving the word of God read in the light of the Paschal Mystery, so that it may warm our hearts and illumine our minds helping us to interpret the events of life and give them meaning. Then it is necessary to sit at table with the Lord, to share the banquet with him, so that his humble presence in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood may restore to us the gaze of faith, in order to see everything and everyone with God’s eyes, in the light of his love. Staying with Jesus who has stayed with us, assimilating his lifestyle, choosing with him the logic of communion with each other, of solidarity and of sharing. The Eucharist is the maximum expression of the gift which Jesus makes of himself and is a constant invitation to live our lives in the Eucharistic logic, as a gift to God and to others.

The Gospel also mentions that after recognizing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, the two disciples “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem” (Lk 24:33). They felt the need to return to Jerusalem and to tell of their extraordinary experience: the encounter with the Risen Lord. A great effort must be made so that every Christian, here in the North East [of Italy] as in every other part of the world, may be transformed into a witness, ready to proclaim vigorously and joyfully the event of Christ’s death and Resurrection. I know the care which, as the Triveneto Churches, you devote to seeking to understand the reasons of the modern man’s heart and that, referring to the ancient Christian traditions, you are concerned to outline a programme for the new evangelization, looking attentively at the numerous challenges of the present time and rethinking the future of this region. With my presence I would like to support your work and to imbue everyone with trust in the full pastoral programme initiated by your pastors, hoping for a fruitful commitment on the part of all members of the ecclesial community.

Even a traditionally Catholic people can feel negatively or assimilate almost unconsciously the repercussions of a culture that ends by insinuating a mentality in which the Gospel message is openly rejected or subtly hindered. I know that you have made and are making a considerable effort to defend the eternal values of the Christian faith. I encourage you never to give in to the recurring temptations of the hedonistic culture and to the appeal of materialistic consumerism. Accept the invitation of the Apostle Peter, contained in today’s Second Reading, to conduct yourselves “with fear throughout the time of your exile” here below (1 Pt 1:17); an invitation that is put into practice by living intensely on the thoroughfares of our world in the awareness of the destination to be reached: unity with God, in the Crucified and Risen Christ.

In fact, our faith and our hope are addressed to God (see 1 Pt 1:21): they are addressed to God because they are rooted in him, founded on his love and on his fidelity. In past centuries, your Churches knew a rich tradition of holiness and of generous service to the brethren, thanks to the work of zealous priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative life. If we wish to listen to their spiritual teaching it is not difficult for us to recognize the personal and unmistakable appeal that they address to us: Be holy! Make Christ the centre of your lives! Build the edifice of your existence on him! In Jesus you will find the strength to open yourselves to others and to make yourselves, after his example, a gift for the whole of humanity.

Around Aquileia people of different languages and cultures were to be found united. They were brought together not only by political needs but especially by faith in Christ and by the civilization of Love, inspired by the teaching of the Gospel. Today the Churches founded by Aquileia are called to strengthen that ancient spiritual unity, in particular in the light of the phenomenon of immigration and the new geographical and political circumstances that are coming into existence. The Christian faith can certainly contribute to the practicality of such a programme, which concerns the harmonious and integral development of the human being and of the society in which he or she lives. My presence among you is therefore intended to be a strong support in the efforts made to foster solidarity among your North-Eastern dioceses. Further, it is intended to encourage every project, striving to overcome those divisions which might thwart concrete aspirations to justice and peace.

This, brothers and sisters, is my hope, this is the prayer that I raise to God for all of you, as I invoke the heavenly intercession of the Virgin Mary and of the many Saints and Blesseds among whom I would like to recall St Pius X and Bl. John XXIII and also Venerable Giuseppe Toniolo, whose Beatification is now at hand. These luminous Gospel witnesses are the greatest treasure of your region; follow their example and their teaching, combining it with the needs of the present day. Be confident: the Risen Lord is walking with you, yesterday, today and for ever. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the Third Sunday of Easter, in the Gospel according to Luke we meet the Risen Jesus who presents himself to the disciples (see Lk 24:36) who, startled and incredulous, think they are seeing a ghost (see Lk 24:37). Romano Guardini wrote: “the Lord has changed. He does not live as he lived previously. His existence cannot be understood. And yet it is corporeal, it encompasses... the whole of the life he lived, the destiny he passed through, his Passion and his death. Everything is reality. It may have changed but it is still tangible reality” (Il Signore. Meditazioni sulla persona e la vita di N.S. Gesù Cristo, Milan 1949, 433). As the Resurrection did not erase the signs of the Crucifixion, Jesus showed the Apostles his hands and his feet. And to convince them, he even asked for something to eat, thus the disciples “gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them” (Lk 24:42-43). St Gregory the Great comments that “the fish grilled on the flame means nothing other than the Passion of Jesus, Mediator between God and men. Indeed, he deigned to conceal himself in the waters of the human race, he accepted to be caught in the net of our death and was placed on the fire, symbolizing the pain he suffered at the moment of the Passion” (Hom. in Evang. XXIV, 5: CCL l 141, Turnhout 1999, 201).

It was by means of these very realistic signs that the disciples overcame their initial doubt and opened themselves to the gift of faith; and this faith enabled them to understand what was written on Christ “in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (Lk 24:44). Indeed we read that Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.... You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:45-48).

The Saviour assures us of his real presence among us through the Word and through the Eucharist. Therefore just as the disciples of Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread (see Lk 24:35), so we too encounter the Lord in the Eucharistic celebration. In this regard St Thomas Aquinas explains that “it is absolutely necessary to confess according to the Catholic faith that the entire Christ is in this sacrament... since the Godhead never set aside the assumed body” (Summa Theologiae III, q. 76, a. 1).

Dear friends, it is usual in the Easter season for the Church to administer First Communion to children. I therefore urge parish priests, parents and catechists to prepare well for this feast of faith with great fervour, but also with moderation. “This day continues to be memorable as the moment when... they first came to understand the importance of a personal encounter with Jesus” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 19). May the Mother of God help us to listen attentively to the Word of the Lord and to take part worthily in the Banquet of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, to become witnesses of the new humanity. 



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