Entry 0276: Reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Easter by Pope Benedict XVI
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, on 1 May 2005, 21 May 2006, 13 May 2007, 27 April 2008, 17 May 2009, 9 May 2010, 29 May 2011, and 13 May 2012. Here are the texts of the eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Regina Caeli and three homilies delivered on these occasions.
Dear brothers and sisters, continue serving God and man according to Jesus’ teaching, the shining example of your Saints and the tradition of your people. May the maternal protection of Our Lady of Consolation, whom you love and venerate, accompany and sustain you in this task. Amen.
St Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 1 May 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I address you for the first time from this window that the beloved figure of my Predecessor made familiar to countless people throughout the world. We also think to that window where John Paul II, from one Sunday to the next and faithful to an appointment that became a friendly habit, guided the history of the Church and of the world for more than a quarter of a century, and we continue to feel him closer to us than ever. My first sentiment is still gratitude to those who have supported me with their prayers in these days and to those who have sent me messages and good wishes from every part of the world.
I would like to greet with particular affection the Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and those Oriental Catholic Churches that are celebrating Christ’s Resurrection on this very Sunday. I address to these beloved brothers and sisters of ours the traditional proclamation of joy: Christós anesti! Yes, Christ is risen, he is truly risen. I hope with all my heart that the celebration of Easter may be for them a unanimous prayer of faith and praise to the One who is our common Lord and is calling us to walk with determination on the path that leads to full communion.
Today, we are beginning the month of May with a liturgical memorial very dear to the Christian people: that of St Joseph the Worker; and you know that my name is Joseph. Exactly 50 years ago it was established by Pope Pius XII of venerable memory to highlight the importance of work and of the presence of Christ and the Church in the working world. It is also necessary to witness in contemporary society to the “Gospel of work”, of which John Paul II spoke in his Encyclical Laborem Exercens. I hope that work will be available, especially for young people, and that working conditions may be ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person.
I am thinking with affection of all workers and I greet those gathered in St Peter’s Square who belong to many associations. In particular, I greet the friends of the Christian Associations of Italian Workers, who this year are celebrating the 60th anniversary of their foundation. I hope that they will continue to live their choice of “Christian brotherhood” as a value to embody in the field of work and of social life, so that solidarity, justice and peace may be the pillars on which to build the unity of the human family.
Lastly, I address my thoughts to Mary: the month of May is specially dedicated to her. Pope John Paul II taught us, with his words and even more, with his example, to contemplate Christ with Mary’s eyes, especially appreciating the prayer of the Holy Rosary. With the singing of the Regina Caeli let us entrust to the Blessed Virgin all the needs of the Church and of humanity.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 21 May 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The book of the Acts of the Apostles recounts that Jesus, after his Resurrection, appeared to the disciples for 40 days and then “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1: 9).
It is the Ascension, the feast we will celebrate on Thursday, 25 May, though in some countries it has been transferred to next Sunday.
The meaning of this final gesture of Jesus is twofold. In the first place, ascending on high, he clearly reveals his divinity: he returns to where he came from, that is, to God, after having fulfilled his mission on earth. Moreover, Christ ascends into heaven with the humanity he has assumed and which he has resurrected from the dead: that humanity is ours, transfigured, divinized, made eternal.
Therefore, the Ascension reveals the “most high calling” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 22) of every human person, called to eternal life in the
kingdom of love, light and peace. Kingdom of God
Celebrated on the feast of the Ascension is the World Day of Social Communications, initiated by the Second Vatican Council and now in its 40th year. This year’s theme is: “Media: communication, communion, cooperation”.
The Church looks with attention at the media, because it is an important vehicle to spread the Gospel and to favour solidarity between peoples, calling attention to the major problems that still mark them profoundly.
Today, for example, the “Walk the World” [to fight hunger] initiative of the United Nations World Food Programme, seeks to sensitize governments and public opinion on the need for concrete and timely action to guarantee to all, especially children, “freedom from hunger”.
With prayer I am close to this demonstration, which is taking place in Rome and in other cities of some 100 nations.
I earnestly hope that, thanks to the contribution of all, the plague of hunger will be surmounted which still afflicts humanity, putting in great danger the hope of life of millions of people. I am thinking, above all, of the urgent and tragic situation in Darfur, Sudan, where strong difficulties persist to satisfy even the primary food needs of the population.
With the usual recitation of the Regina Caeli we particularly entrust today to the Virgin Mary our brothers and sisters oppressed by the scourge of hunger, all those who come to their aid and those who, through the means of social communication, contribute to consolidating between peoples the bonds of solidarity and peace.
We also pray to Our Lady to make fruitful the Apostolic Trip to Poland which, God willing, I will make from Thursday to next Sunday in memory of beloved John Paul II.
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO BRAZIL ON THE OCCASION OF THE FIFTH GENERAL CONFERENCE
OF THE BISHOPS OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
Square in front of the Shrine of Aparecida, Sunday, 13 May 2007
Today is the ninetieth anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima. With their powerful call to conversion and penance, they are without doubt the most prophetic of all modern apparitions. Let us ask the Mother of the Church, who knows the sufferings and hopes of humanity, to protect our homes and our communities. I extend a special greeting to all mothers, whose day we are celebrating today. May God bless them and those who are dear to them.
HOLY MASS FOR THE INAUGURATION
OF THE FIFTH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE BISHOPS
OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Square in front of the Shrine of Aparecida, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 13 May 2007
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear priests, and all of you, brothers and sisters in the Lord!
There are no words to express my joy in being here with you to celebrate this solemn Eucharist on the occasion of the opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. I greet each of you most warmly, particularly Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me in the name of the entire assembly, and the Cardinal Presidents of this General Conference. My respectful greeting goes to the civil and military Authorities who have honoured us with their presence. From this Shrine my thoughts reach out, full of affection and prayer, to all those who are spiritually united with us, especially the communities of consecrated life, the young people belonging to various associations and movements, the families, and also the sick and the elderly. To all I say: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3).
I see it as a special gift of Providence that this Holy Mass is being celebrated at this time and in this place. The time is the liturgical season of Easter; on this Sixth Sunday of Easter, as Pentecost rapidly approaches, the Church is called to intensify her prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The place is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Marian heart of Brazil: Mary welcomes us to this Upper Room and, as our Mother and Teacher, helps us to pray trustingly to God with one voice. This liturgical celebration lays a most solid foundation for the Fifth Conference, setting it on the firm basis of prayer and the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis. Only the love of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, can make this meeting an authentic ecclesial event, a moment of grace for this Continent and for the whole world. This afternoon I will be able to discuss more fully the implications of the theme of your Conference. But now, let us leave space for the word of God which we have the joy of receiving with open and docile hearts, like Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ may once again take flesh in the “today” of our history.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, refers to the so-called “Council of Jerusalem”, which dealt with the question as to whether the observance of the Mosaic Law was to be imposed on those pagans who had become Christians. The reading leaves out the discussion between “the apostles and the elders” (vv. 4-21) and reports the final decision, which was then written down in the form of a letter and entrusted to two delegates for delivery to the community in Antioch (vv. 22-29). This passage from Acts is highly appropriate for us, since we too are assembled here for an ecclesial meeting. It reminds us of the importance of community discernment with regard to the great problems and issues encountered by the Church along her way. These are clarified by the “apostles” and “elders” in the light of the Holy Spirit, who, as today’s Gospel says, calls to mind the teaching of Jesus Christ (see Jn 14:26) and thus helps the Christian community to advance in charity towards the fullness of truth (see Jn 16:13). The Church’s leaders discuss and argue, but in a constant attitude of religious openness to Christ’s word in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, at the end they can say: “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28).
This is the “method” by which we operate in the Church, whether in small gatherings or in great ones. It is not only question of procedure: it is a reflection of the Church’s very nature as a mystery of communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit. In the case of the General Conferences of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, the first, held in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, merited a special Letter from Pope Pius XII, of venerable memory; in later Conferences, including the present one, the Bishop of Rome has travelled to the site of the continental gathering in order to preside over its initial phase. With gratitude and devotion let us remember the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who brought to the Conferences of Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo the witness of the closeness of the universal Church to the Churches in Latin America, which constitute, proportionally, the majority of the Catholic community.
“To the Holy Spirit and to us”. This is the Church: we, the community of believers, the People of God, with its Pastors who are called to lead the way; together with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, sent in the name of his Son Jesus, the Spirit of the one who is “greater” than all, given to us through Christ, who became “small” for our sake. The Paraclete Spirit, our Ad-vocatus, Defender and Consoler, makes us live in God’s presence, as hearers of his word, freed from all anxiety and fear, bearing in our hearts the peace which Jesus left us, the peace that the world cannot give (see Jn 14:26-27). The Spirit accompanies the Church on her long pilgrimage between Christ’s first and second coming. “I go away, and I will come to you” (Jn 14:28), Jesus tells his Apostles. Between Christ’s “going away” and his “return” is the time of the Church, his Body. Two thousand years have passed so far, including these five centuries and more in which the Church has made her pilgrim way on the American Continent, filling believers with Christ’s life through the sacraments and sowing in these lands the good seed of the Gospel, which has yielded thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. The time of the Church, the time of the Spirit: the Spirit is the Teacher who trains disciples: he teaches them to love Jesus; he trains them to hear his word and to contemplate his countenance; he conforms them to Christ’s sacred humanity, a humanity which is poor in spirit, afflicted, meek, hungry for justice, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, persecuted for justice’s sake (see Mt 5:3-10). By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes the “Way” along which the disciple walks. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word”, Jesus says at the beginning of today’s Gospel. “The word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (Jn 14:23-24). Just as Jesus makes known the words of the Father, so the Spirit reminds the Church of Christ’s own words (see Jn 14:26). And just as love of the Father led Jesus to feed on his will, so our love for Jesus is shown by our obedience to his words. Jesus’ fidelity to the Father’s will can be communicated to his disciples through the Holy Spirit, who pours the love of God into their hearts (see Rom 5:5).
The New Testament presents Christ as the missionary of the Father. Especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus often speaks of himself in relation to the Father who sent him into the world. And so in today’s Gospel he says: “the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (Jn 14:24). At this moment, dear friends, we are invited to turn our gaze to him, for the Church’s mission exists only as a prolongation of Christ’s mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21). The evangelist stresses, in striking language, that the passing on of this commission takes place in the Holy Spirit: “he breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). Christ’s mission is accomplished in love. He has kindled in the world the fire of God’s love (see Lk 12:49). It is Love that gives life: and so the Church has been sent forth to spread Christ’s Love throughout the world, so that individuals and peoples “may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). To you, who represent the Church in
Latin America, today I
symbolically entrust my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, in which I sought
to point out to everyone the essence of the Christian message. The Church
considers herself the disciple and missionary of this Love: missionary
only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and
with renewed wonder by the God who has loved us and who loves us first (see 1
Jn 4:10). The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by
“attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his
love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her
mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of
her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters! This is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in
Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith
in the God who is Love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ. You
believe in the God who is Love: this is your strength, which overcomes the
world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that
Christ won for you by his Cross! This is the faith that has made America the
“Continent of Hope.” Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not
an economic system: faith in the God who is Love—who took flesh, died and rose
in Jesus Christ—is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth
such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until
today, as attested by the ranks of Saints and Beati whom the Spirit has
raised up throughout the Continent. Pope John Paul II called you to a new
evangelization, and you accepted his commission with your customary
generosity and commitment. I now confirm it with you, and in the words of this
Fifth Conference I say to you: be faithful disciples, so as to be courageous
and effective missionaries.
The second reading sets before us the magnificent vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is an image of awesome beauty, where nothing is superfluous, but everything contributes to the perfect harmony of the holy City. In his vision John sees the city “coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” (Rev 21:10). And since the glory of God is Love, the heavenly Jerusalem is the icon of the Church, utterly holy and glorious, without spot or wrinkle (see Eph 5:27), permeated at her heart and in every part of her by the presence of the God who is Love. She is called a “bride”, “the bride of the Lamb” (Rev 20:9), because in her is fulfilled the nuptial figure which pervades biblical revelation from beginning to end. The City and Bride is the locus of God’s full communion with humanity; she has no need of a temple or of any external source of light, because the indwelling presence of God and of the Lamb illuminates her from within.
This magnificent icon has an eschatological value: it expresses the mystery of the beauty that is already the essential form of the Church, even if it has not yet arrived at its fullness. It is the goal of our pilgrimage, the homeland which awaits us and for which we long. Seeing that beauty with the eyes of faith, contemplating it and yearning for it, must not serve as an excuse for avoiding the historical reality in which the Church lives as she shares the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted (see Constitution Gaudium et Spes, no. 1). If the beauty of the heavenly
is the glory of God—his love in other words—then it is in charity, and in
charity alone, that we can approach it and to a certain degree dwell within it
even now. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps his word, already experiences
in this world the mysterious presence of the Triune God. We heard this in the
Gospel: “we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23).
Every Christian is therefore called to become a living stone of this splendid “dwelling
place of God with men”. What a magnificent vocation!
A Church totally enlivened and impelled by the love of Christ, the Lamb slain for love, is the image within history of the heavenly
prefiguring the holy city that is radiant with the glory of God. It releases an
irresistible missionary power which is the power of holiness.
Through the prayers of the Virgin Mary, may the Church in Latin America and the
Caribbean be abundantly clothed with power from on high (see Lk 24:49),
in order to spread throughout this Continent and the whole world the holiness
of Christ. To him be glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and
St Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 27 April 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The celebration during which I ordained 29 new priests just concluded in St Peter’s Basilica. Every year this is a moment of special grace and great festivity: renewed energy is infused into the network of both the ecclesial and civil community. If the presence of priests is indispensable for the Church’s life, it is, however, precious for all. In the Acts of the Apostles one reads that the deacon Philip brought the Gospel to a city of Samaria; the people enthusiastically adhered to his teaching, also seeing the wondrous signs that he worked for the sick: “So there was much joy in that city” (8: 8). As I reminded the newly ordained during the Eucharistic celebration, this is the sense of the Church’s mission and in particular of priests: to sow the joy of the Gospel in the world! Where Christ is preached with the power of the Holy Spirit and he is accepted with an open heart, society, although full of many problems, becomes a “city of joy” - as heard in the title of a famous book that refers to the work of Mother Teresa at Calcutta. This is therefore the wish that I make to the new priests, for whom I ask you all to pray: may they spread, there where they will be destined, the joy and hope that springs from the Gospel.
Actually, this is also the message that I brought in the past days to the United States of America, with an Apostolic Journey that had these words for a motto: “Christ our Hope”. I thank God because he has generously blessed this, my unique missionary experience, and has allowed me to be an instrument of Christ’s hope for that Church and that Country. At the same time, I thank him because I myself have been confirmed in hope by American Catholics. In fact, I found great vitality and the determination to live and witness the faith in Jesus. This Wednesday during the General Audience, I plan on pausing more amply on this, my Apostolic Visit in America.
Today, many Eastern Churches celebrate, according to the Julian calendar, the great Solemnity of Easter. I desire to express my fraternal, spiritual closeness to these brothers and sisters of ours. I cordially greet them, praying to the one and trine God to confirm them in the faith, to fill them with the resplendent light that flows from the Lord’s Resurrection and to comfort them in the difficult situations in which they must often live and witness the Gospel. I invite all to unite themselves to me by invoking the Mother of God, so that the path of dialogue and collaboration embarked on long ago may quickly bring a more complete communion among all Christ’s disciples, so that they may be an ever more luminous sign of hope for the whole of humanity.
ORDINATION OF NEW PRIESTS FOR THE DIOCESE OF ROME
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter’s Basilica, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 27 April 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the words that say “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing” come true for us in a very special way. Indeed, besides the joy of celebrating the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day there is the spiritual exultation of the Easter Season, of which we have now reached the Sixth Sunday, and above all the celebration of the ordination of new priests. Together with you I greet with affection the 29 deacons who are shortly to be ordained priests. I express deep gratitude to those who have guided them in their process of discernment and preparation and I ask you all to thank God for his gift to the Church of these new priests. Let us support them with intense prayer during this celebration, in a spirit of fervent praise to the Father who has called them, to the Son who has attracted them to him and to the Spirit who has formed them. The Ordination of new priests usually takes place on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, known as “Good Shepherd” Sunday, which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations but this was not possible because I was away on the Pastoral Visit to the United States of America. The image of the Good Shepherd seems to be the one which sheds more light than any other on the role and ministry of the priest in the Christian community. However, the biblical passages which today’s liturgy offers for our meditation also illumine the priest’s mission, from a different angle.
The First Reading, from chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles, tells of the mission of the deacon Philip in Samaria. I would like immediately to draw attention to the sentence that ends the first part of the text: “The rejoicing in that town rose to fever pitch” (v. 8). This expression does not communicate an idea or a theological concept but refers to a circumstantiated event, something that changed people’s lives: in a specific city of Samaria, in the period that followed the violent persecution of the Church in Jerusalem (see Acts 8: 1), something happened that caused “great joy”. So what was it? The sacred Author recounts that to escape the persecution which had been unleashed in Jerusalem against those who had converted to Christianity, all the disciples except the Apostles left the Holy City and scattered in the countryside around it. This distressing event mysteriously and providentially gave new dynamism to the spread of the Gospel. Among those who had dispersed was Philip, one of the Community’s seven deacons, a deacon like you, dear Ordinands although, of course, in a different way because, in the unrepeatable season of the nascent Church, the Apostles and deacons were endowed by the Holy Spirit with extraordinary power in both preaching and in healing. Now, it happened that the inhabitants of the region of Samaria mentioned in this chapter of the Acts of the Apostles unanimously accepted Philip’s proclamation and, thanks to their adherence to the Gospel, he was able to heal many sick people. In that town of Samaria, in the midst of a people traditionally despised and virtually excommunicated by the Jews, the proclamation of Christ, which opened the hearts of all who accepted it, resounded. This explains why, St Luke emphasizes, “there was great joy” in that town.
Dear friends, this is also your mission: to bring the Gospel to everyone so that everyone may experience the joy of Christ and that there be joy in every city. What can be more beautiful than this? What can be greater, more exciting, than cooperating in spreading the Word of life in the world, than communicating the living water of the Holy Spirit? To proclaim and to witness joy: this is the central core of your mission, dear deacons who will soon become priests. The Apostle Paul called Gospel ministers “servants of joy”. He wrote in his Second Letter to the Christians of Corinth: “Domineering over your faith is not my purpose. I prefer to work with you toward your happiness. As regards faith, you are standing firm” (II Cor 1: 24). These are programmatic words for every priest. In order to be collaborators in the joy of others, in a world that is often sad and negative, the fire of the Gospel must burn within you and the joy of the Lord dwell in you. Only then will you be able to be messengers and multipliers of this joy, bringing it to all, especially to those who are sorrowful and disheartened.
Let us return to the First Reading which offers us another element of meditation. In it is mentioned a prayer meeting which takes place precisely in the Samarian town evangelized by the deacon Philip. Presiding at it are the Apostles Peter and John, two “pillars” of the Church, who came from Jerusalem to visit this new community and strengthen it in the faith. Through the imposition of their hands, the Holy Spirit descended upon all those who had been baptized. In this episode we can see a first attestation of the rite of “Confirmation”, the second Sacrament of Christian initiation. The reference to the ritual gesture of the imposition of hands is especially meaningful also for us who are gathered here. Indeed, it is also the central gesture of the rite of Ordination through which, in a little while, I shall confer on the candidates the dignity of the priesthood. It is a sign inseparable from the prayer of which it is a silent prolongation. Without speaking, the consecrating Bishop and after him the other priests, place their hands on the heads of the ordinands, thereby expressing the invocation to God that he will pour out his Spirit upon them and transform them, making them sharers in the priesthood of Christ. It is a matter of only a few seconds, a very short time, but full of an extraordinary spiritual intensity.
Dear Ordinands, in the future you must always think back to this moment, to this gesture that has nothing magical about it and yet is full of mystery, because this is the origin of your new mission. In that silent prayer the encounter between two freedoms comes into being: the freedom of God, who works through the Holy Spirit and the freedom of man. COPY The imposition of hands visually expresses the specific manner of this meeting: the Church, impersonated by the Bishop standing with extended hands, prays to the Holy Spirit to consecrate the candidate: the deacon, on his knees, receives the imposition of hands and entrusts himself to this mediation. Altogether these gestures are important but the invisible spiritual movement that they express is infinitely more important, a movement clearly evoked by the sacred silence that envelops everything, internal and external.
We also find in this Gospel passage the mysterious Trinitarian “movement” that leads the Holy Spirit and the Son to dwell in the disciples. Here, it is Jesus himself who promises that he will ask the Father to send his Spirit, defined as “another Paraclete” (Jn 14: 16), a Greek word that is equivalent to the Latin “ad-vocatus”, an advocate-defender. The first Paraclete is in fact the Incarnate Son who came to defend man from the accuser by antonomasia, who is Satan. At the moment when Christ, his mission fulfilled, returns to the Father, he sends the Spirit as Defender and Consoler to remain with believers for ever, dwelling within them. Thus, through the mediation of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, an intimate relationship of reciprocity is established between God the Father and the disciples: “I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”, Jesus says (Jn 14: 20). However, all this depends on one condition which Christ imposes clearly at the beginning: “If you love me” (Jn 14: 15), and which he repeats at the end: “He who obeys the commandments he has from me is the man who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him” (Jn 14: 21). Without love for Jesus, which is expressed in the observance of his commandments, the person is excluded from the Trinitarian movement and begins to withdraw into himself, losing the ability to receive and to communicate God.
“If you love me”. Dear friends, Jesus said these words at the Last Supper in the context of the moment when he instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. Although they were addressed to the Apostles, in a certain sense they are addressed to all their successors and to priests who are the closest collaborators of the successors of the Apostles. Let us hear them again today as an invitation to live our vocation in the Church ever more coherently: you, dear Ordinands, listen to them with special emotion because precisely today Christ makes you share in his priesthood. Accept them with faith and with love! Let them be imprinted on your hearts, let them accompany you on the journey of your whole life. Do not forget them, do not lose them on the way! Reread them, meditate on them often and, especially, pray on them. Thus you will remain faithful to Christ’s love and realize with joy ever new that his divine word “walks” with you and “grows” within you. CONTINUE
One more observation on the Second Reading: it is taken from the First Letter of Peter, near whose tomb we find ourselves and to whose intercession I would especially like to entrust you. I make my own and consign to you with affection his words: “Venerate the Lord, that is, Christ, in your hearts. Should anyone ask you the reason for this hope of yours, be ever ready to reply (3: 15). Worship Christ the Lord in your hearts: cultivate a personal relationship of love with him, your first and greatest love, one and totalizing, in which to live, purify, illumine and sanctify all your other relationships. The “hope that is in you” is linked to this “adoration”, to this love of Christ, who through the Spirit, as we said, dwells within us. Our hope, your hope is God, in Jesus and in the Spirit. It is a hope which from today becomes in you a “priestly hope”, that of Jesus the Good Shepherd who dwells within you and gives shape to your desires in accordance with his divine Heart: a hope of life and forgiveness for the people who will be entrusted to your pastoral care; a hope of holiness and apostolic fruitfulness for yourselves and for all the Church; a hope of openness to faith and to the encounter with God for those who support you in their quest for the truth; a hope of peace and comfort for the suffering and for those wounded by life.
Dear friends, this is my wish on this day which is so important for you: that hope rooted in faith may become more and more your own! And may you, who are wise and generous, gentle and strong, always be respectful and convinced witnesses and dispensers of it. May the Virgin Mary, whom I urge you to welcome anew, as did the Apostle John beneath the Cross, accompany you on this mission and protect you always, as the Mother and Star of your life and your priesthood. Amen!
St Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 17 May 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I returned from the Holy Land the day before yesterday. I have in mind to talk to you about this Pilgrimage more fully next Wednesday, at the General Audience. Here I would like above all to thank the Lord who granted me to complete this most important Apostolic Journey. I also thank all those who offered their collaboration: the Latin Patriarch and the Bishops of the Church in Jordan, in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories, the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, the civil authorities of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, the organizers and the police forces. I thank the priests, religious and faithful who welcomed me with such great affection and all who accompanied me and supported me with their prayers. A wholehearted thank you to everyone!
This Pilgrimage to the Holy Places was also a Pastoral Visit to the faithful who live there, a service to Christian unity, to dialogue with Jews and Muslims and to building peace. The Holy Land, a symbol of God’s love for his People and for all humanity, is also a symbol of the freedom and peace that God wants for all his children. Yet recent and past history shows de facto that this very Land has also become a symbol of contradiction, in other words of never-ending division and conflict among brothers and sisters. How can this be? It is right that this question should challenge our hearts although we know that a mysterious design of God concerns that Land where as St John writes he “sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins” (1 Jn 4: 10). The Holy Land has been called a “fifth Gospel” because in it we can see, indeed, tangibly feel the reality of the history that God brought about with men and women; beginning with the places of Abraham’s life and including the places of Jesus’ life, from the Incarnation to the empty tomb, the sign of his Resurrection. Yes, God entered this land, he acted with us in this world. But here we can say even more: the Holy Land, because of its history, may be considered a microcosm that sums up in itself God’s arduous journey with humanity. It is a journey that implies together with sin also the Cross. Yet, with the abundance of divine love there is also always the joy of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection that has already begun and is a journey through the valleys of our suffering towards the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that is not of this world, but lives in this world and must penetrate it with his power of justice and peace. CONTINUE
The history of salvation begins with the choice of a man, Abraham, and a people, Israel, but its scope is universal, the salvation of all peoples. The history of salvation has always been marked by this interweaving of particularity and universality. We see this connection clearly in today’s First Reading: on seeing in Cornelius’ home the faith of the Gentiles and their desire for God, St Peter says: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10: 34-35). Learning to fear God and practise justice thus opens the world to the Kingdom of God: this is the most profound purpose of all interreligious dialogue.
I cannot conclude this Marian prayer without thinking of Sri Lanka, in order to assure of my affection and my spiritual closeness the civilians who are in the combat zones in the north of the country. This concerns the thousands of children, women, and elderly people whom the war has deprived of years of life and hope. In this regard I wish once again to address a pressing invitation to the belligerents to facilitate evacuation and to this end I join my voice to that of the Security Council of the United Nations which, just a few days ago, requested an assurance of their safety. I also ask humanitarian institutions, including the Catholic agencies, to leave no stone unturned to meet the urgent food and medical needs of the refugees. I entrust that beloved country to the motherly protection of the Blessed Virgin of Madhu, loved and venerated by all Sri Lankans and I raise my prayers to the Lord that he will hasten the day of reconciliation and peace.
St Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 9 May 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May is a month beloved and welcomed for many reasons. In our hemisphere, spring comes with a wealth of colourful flowers and normally, the climate is conducive to walks and excursions. For the Liturgy, May is always part of the Easter Season, the time of the “Alleluia”, of the revelation of Christ’s mystery in the light of the Resurrection and of our Paschal faith; and it is the time of awaiting the Holy Spirit who came down on the nascent Church powerfully at Pentecost. The Church’s tradition of dedicating the month of May to the Virgin Mary harmonizes very well with both these contexts, the natural and the liturgical. Indeed, she is the most beautiful flower to have unfolded since the Creation, the “rose” that appeared in the fullness of time when God, by sending his Son, gave the world a new springtime. At the same time she is the humble and discreet protagonist of the first steps taken by the Christian community: Mary is its spiritual heart since her very presence among the disciples is a living memory of the Lord Jesus and a pledge of the gift of his Spirit.
This Sunday’s Gospel, taken from Chapter 14 of the Gospel according to St John, gives us an implicit spiritual portrait of the Virgin Mary when Jesus says: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (see Jn 14: 23). These words are addressed to the disciples but can be applied to a maximum degree precisely to the One who was the first and perfect disciple of Jesus. Mary, in fact, observed first and fully the words of her Son, showing that she loved him not only as a mother, but first of all as a humble and obedient handmaid. For this reason God the Father loved her and the Most Holy Trinity made its dwelling place in her. Furthermore, when Jesus promises his friends that the Holy Spirit will come to their aid to help them remember and deeply understand his every word (see Jn 14: 26), how can we not think of Mary who, in her heart, the temple of the Holy Spirit, pondered and interpreted faithfully all that her Son said and did? Thus already before Easter but especially after it the Mother of Jesus also became the Mother and model of the Church.
Dear friends, in these coming days, in the heart of this Marian month, I will have the joy of going to Portugal. I shall visit Lisbon, the capital, and Porto, the country’s second most important city. The principal destination of my journey is Fatima, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco, the two little shepherd children. For the first time as Successor of Peter, I shall visit this Marian shrine that was so dear to the Venerable and dear John Paul II. I ask everyone to accompany me on this pilgrimage, participating actively with their prayers: with one heart and one mind let us invoke for the Church, and in particular for priests and for peace in the world the intercession of the Virgin Mary.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sixth Sunday of Easter, 29 May 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The book of the Acts of the Apostles states that after a first violent persecution, the Christian community of Jerusalem, except for the Apostles, spread to the surrounding areas. Philip, one of the deacons, arrived in a city of Samaria. There he preached the Risen Christ, and his proclamation was supported by numerous healings, so that the outcome of the episode was very positive: “there was much joy in that city” (Acts 8:8).
We are repeatedly impressed in a profound way by this expression, which in essence communicates a sense of hope, as if saying: It is possible! It is possible for humanity to know true joy, because wherever the Gospel comes, life flourishes, just as arid ground, irrigated by rain, immediately turns back to green.
With the strength of the Holy Spirit, Philip and the other disciples accomplished in the villages of Palestine what Jesus had done: They preached the Good News and worked miraculous signs. It was the Lord who acted through them. As Jesus proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of God, so the disciples proclaimed the Risen Jesus, professing that he is the Christ, the Son of God, baptizing in his name and driving out every illness of body and spirit.
“There was much joy in that city”. Reading this passage, one thinks spontaneously of the healing power of the Gospel, which throughout the centuries has “watered” so many populations, like a beneficent river. Several great men and women saints brought hope and peace to entire cities — we think of Charles Borromeo in Milan at the time of the plague, of Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and of so many missionaries, whose names are known by God, who have given their lives to bring the proclamation of Christ and make profound joy flower among men. While the powers of this world sought to conquer new territories for political and economic interests, Christ’s messengers went everywhere with the aim of bringing Christ to men and men to Christ, knowing that he alone can give true freedom and eternal life. Today too the Church’s vocation is evangelization: whether it be to populations which have not yet been “irrigated” by the living water of the Gospel, or to those that, though having ancient Christian roots, are in need of new nourishment to bear new fruit and rediscover the beauty and joy of the faith.
Dear friends, Bl. John Paul II was a great missionary, as an exhibition open now in
Rome also documents. He
re-launched the mission ad gentes and, at the same time, promoted the
new evangelization. Let us entrust both to the intercession of Mary Most Holy.
May Christ’s Mother accompany the proclamation of the Gospel always and
everywhere, so that the places where men rediscover the joy of living as
children of God will multiply and spread in the world.
PASTORAL VISIT TO AREZZO, LA VERNA AND SANSEPOLCRO
(MAY 13, 2012)
“Il Prato” Park, Arezzo, Sunday, 13 May 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of this liturgical celebration, the time of the Marian prayer invites us to gather spiritually before the image of Our Lady of Consolation, housed in the Cathedral.
The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy always desires to comfort her children in moments of great difficulty and suffering. And this city has experienced many times her motherly support. Therefore, today too, we entrust to her intercession all the individuals and families of your community who find themselves in situations of great need.
At the same time, through Mary, let us ask God for moral support, so that the community of Arezzo, and all of Italy, may resist the temptation of discouragement and, with strength in the humanist tradition, may they continue with determination on the path of spiritual and ethical renewal, that can alone lead to the authentic advancement of social and civil life. Each person, in this, can and must do his or her part. O Mary, Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us!
PASTORAL VISIT TO AREZZO, LA VERNA AND SANSEPOLCRO
(MAY 13, 2012)
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
“Il Prato” Park, Arezzo, Sunday, 13 May 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is a great joy for me to be able to break the Bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist with you. I extend my cordial greetings to you all and I thank you for your warm welcome! I greet your Pastor, Archbishop Riccardo Fontana, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome, the other Bishops, priests, men and women religious and the representatives of Ecclesial Associations and Movements. A respectful greeting goes to the Mayor, Mr Giuseppe Fanfani, grateful for his greeting, to Senator Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy, and to the other civil and military Authorities. A special thank you to all those who have generously cooperated to make my Pastoral Visit a success.
Today I am welcomed by an ancient Church: expert in relations and well-deserving in her commitment to building through the centuries a city of man in the image of the City of God. In the land of Tuscany, the community of Arezzo has distinguished itself many times throughout history by its sense of freedom and its capacity for dialogue among different social components. Coming among you for the first time, my hope is that this City may always understand how to make the most of this precious legacy.
In past centuries, the Church in Arezzo has been enriched and enlivened by many expressions of the Christian faith, among which the highest is that of the Saints. I am thinking especially of St Donatus, your Patron, whose witness of life, which fascinated the Christianity of Medieval times, is still relevant. He was a fearless evangelist, so that all might be liberated from pagan customs and rediscover in the Word of God the strength to affirm the dignity of every person and the true meaning of freedom. Through his preaching, as Bishop he led his people back to unity through prayer and the Eucharist. The chalice was broken and then pieced back together by St Donatus, of whom Gregory the Great speaks (see Dialogues i, 7, 3). It is the image of a work of peace carried out by the Church within society, for the common good. Such was recorded for you by St Peter Damian and with him the great Camaldolese tradition of Casentino which for a thousand years, has offered its spiritual wealth to this diocesan Church and to the universal Church.
In your Cathedral Pope Bl. Gregory X is buried almost as if to show in different times and cultures the continuity of service that the Church of Christ wishes to render to the world. He, sustained by the light of the young Mendicant Orders, by theologians and Saints like St Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, had to confront the great problems of his time: reform of the Church; reconciliation of the schism with the Christian East, which he attempted to bring about at the Council of Lyons; concern for the Holy Land; peace and relations among peoples. He was the first in the West to have an exchange of ambassadors with Kublai Khan of China.
Dear friends, the First Reading presents us with an important moment which manifests the universality of the Christian Message: in the house of Cornelius St Peter baptizes the first pagans. In the Old Testament, God wanted the blessing of Hebrew people not to be exclusive but extended to all nations. Ever since the call of Abraham he had said: “[B]y you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen 12:3). Thus Peter, inspired from on High, understood that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35). Peter’s gesture becomes an image of the Church open to all of humanity. Following the great tradition of your Church and of your Communities, may you be genuine witnesses of God’s love for men!
But how can we, in our weakness, carry this love? St John, in the Second Reading, tells us emphatically that liberation from sin and from its consequences does not come about by our own initiative, but of God’s. It was not we who loved him but he who loved us and who took upon himself our sin and washed it away with the blood of Christ. God loved us first and wants us to enter into his communion of love, to collaborate in his work of redemption.
In the Gospel passage the invitation of the Lord resonates: “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (Jn 15:16). It is a message meant in a specific way for the Apostles but, in a broad sense, regards all the disciples of Jesus. The whole Church, all of us are sent out into the world to spread the Gospel Message and the good news of salvation. But it is always God’s initiative; he calls us to various ministries, so that each one plays a proper role in the common good. He calls us to the ministerial priesthood, to the consecrated life, to married life, to working in the world: all are asked to respond generously to the Lord, sustained by his Word which comforts us: “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (ibid.).
Dear friends, I am aware of your Church’s commitment to promoting Christian life. Be a leaven in society, be present as Christians, be active and consistent. With its centuries-old history, the City of Arezzo embodies significant expressions of culture and values. Among the treasures of your tradition, there is the proud nature of Christian identity, witnessed through many signs and rooted in devotion like the one to Our Lady of Consolation. This land was the birthplace of great Renaissance figures, from Petrarch to Vasari, and played an active role in affirming that concept of man which left its mark on Europe’s history, drawing strength from Christian values. In recent times too, the ideal heritage of your city has been expressed by some of its most distinguished figures through university research and in other institutions where they have elaborated the very concept of civitas, realized in terms of the Christian ideal among people of our time. Within the context of the Church in Italy, committed to education in this decade, we must ask — especially in this Region where the Renaissance was born — what vision of man are we proposing to the new generations? The Word of God, that we have heard, is a powerful invitation to live God’s love for everyone, and, among its distinctive values, the culture of this land includes solidarity, attention to the weakest, respect for the dignity of each person. Your capacity to welcome those who have come here recently in search of freedom and work, is well known. To show solidarity with the poor is to recognize the plan of God the Creator, who made us all one single family.
Of course, your Province has also been severely hit by the economic crisis. The complexity of the problems makes it difficult to find quick and effective solutions to emerge from the present situation which especially affects the underprivileged and greatly worries young people. Since far-off times, attention to others has motivated the Church to show concrete signs of solidarity with those in need, sharing resources, promoting simpler lifestyles, going against an ephemeral culture which has disappointed many and brought about a profound spiritual crisis. May this diocesan Church, be enriched by the shining witness of the Poverello of Assisi, continue to be caring and attentive towards those in need, and may it its instruction succeed in overcoming the purely materialistic ideologies that often mark our age and end up clouding our sense of solidarity and charity.
Witnessing to the love of God by paying attention to the weakest is tied to the defence of human life, from its conception to its natural end. In your Region, ensuring everyone dignity, health and fundamental rights, is justly considered an indispensable good. The defence of the family, through a just legislation able to protect the underprivileged, is always an important factor to ensure a strong social fabric and offers hope for the future. Just as in the Middle Ages, the Statutes of your cities became instruments which ensured inalienable rights to many, may they continue that task today, promoting a City with an ever more human face. The Church offers her contribution to this task so that the love of God may always be accompanied by love of neighbour.
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