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Friday, May 17, 2013

0278: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Easter by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0278: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Easter by Pope Benedict XVI 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, on 8 May 2005, 28 May 2006, 20 May 2007, 4 May 2008, 24 May 2009, 16 May 2010,  5 June 2011, and 20 May 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Regina Caeli and three homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

World Communications Day

Saint Peter’s Square, Seventh Sunday of Easter, 8 May 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today in many countries, Italy among them, the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven is being celebrated. On this feast the Christian community is invited to turn its gaze to the One who, 40 days after his Resurrection, to the astonishment of the Apostles, “was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight” (Acts 1: 9).

We are called, therefore, to renew our faith in Jesus, the only true hope of salvation for all humanity. Ascending to Heaven, he reopened the pathway to paradise, our final homeland. Now, with the power of his Spirit, he sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth.

World Communications Day is being celebrated this Sunday on the theme: “The communications media: at the service of understanding among peoples”. In today’s world of imagery, the mass media effectively become an extraordinary resource to promote solidarity and understanding within the human family. We have had incredible proof of this recently on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral rites of my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II. It all depends, however, on how these means are used.

These important tools of communication can support reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, fuel prejudice and contempt between individuals and peoples; they can contribute to spreading peace or fomenting violence. This is why an appeal must always be made to personal responsibility; all must do their part to ensure objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good in all forms of communication. In this way they contribute to bringing down the walls of hostility that continue to divide humanity, and to strengthening the bonds of friendship and love which are signs of God’s Kingdom in history.

Let us return to the Christian mystery of the Ascension. After the Lord ascended to Heaven, the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room, with the Mother of Jesus (see Acts 1: 14), invoking together the Holy Spirit who would invest them with the power to witness to the Risen Christ (see Lk 24: 49; Acts 1: 8). United to the Most Blessed Virgin, every Christian community relives in these days this unique spiritual experience in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost. We too turn now to Mary with the hymn of the Regina Caeli, imploring her protection on the Church and especially on those who dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization through the means of social communication.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
IN POLAND

GREETING BY THE HOLY FATHER
BEFORE THE REGINA CAELI

28 May 2006

Before concluding this solemn liturgy with the singing of the Regina caeli and the Blessing, I would like once again to greet the people of Kraków and the many visitors from all over Poland who have taken part in this celebration of Mass. I entrust all of you to the Mother of the Redeemer, and I ask her to guide you in your faith. I thank you for your presence here and for the witness of your faith.

In particular I address myself to the young people, who yesterday expressed their adherence to Christ and to the Church. Yesterday you presented me with the gift of your book of testimonies: “I do not take them, I am free of drugs”. I ask you now as your father: remain faithful to this promise. It is a question of your lives and your freedom. Do not let yourselves fall victim to this world’s illusions. I would also like to greet the scholarship holders of the Foundation “Work of the New Millennium”. I wish you every success in your studies and in preparing for your future. I greet all the representatives of the highest Authorities of the Polish Republic. I am grateful to the Polish Episcopate and to the representatives of many other European episcopates, who have taken part in this pilgrimage of mine on Polish territory. I greet the professors and students of Universities and Colleges from all over Poland, represented by so many Rectors. And I thank everyone who has shown me kindness in all sorts of ways, including those who have gone to the trouble of organizing my meetings with the faithful. May Mary intercede for you and obtain for you all the graces that you need.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
IN POLAND

HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER

MASS IN KRAKOW - BŁONIE

28 May 2006

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?” (Acts 1:11).

Brothers and Sisters, today in Błonie Park in Kraków we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: “Why do you stand?” - Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (see Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which “we stand” our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We have read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (see Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am deeply moved to be able to celebrate this Eucharist today in Błonie Park in Kraków, where Pope John Paul II often celebrated Mass during his unforgettable Apostolic Visits to his native land. Through his liturgical celebrations he met the People of God in almost every corner of the world, but surely his celebration of Holy Mass in Błonie Park in Kraków was always something special. Here he returned in mind and heart to his roots, to the sources of his faith and his service to the Church. From here he could see Kraków and all Poland. In his first Apostolic Visit to Poland, on 10 June 1979, at the end of his homily in this Park, he said with nostalgia: “Allow me, before leaving you, to look out once again on Kraków, this Kraków whose every stone and brick is dear to me. And to look out once again from here on Poland.” During the last Mass he celebrated here, on 18 August 2002, he said in his homily: “I am grateful for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me” (no. 2). I wish to take up these words, to make them my own and repeat them today: I thank you with all my heart “for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me.” Kraków, the city of Karol Wojtyła and of John Paul II, is also my Kraków! Kraków has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to the Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, “from a far country”, which thus became a country dear to all.

At the beginning of the second year of my Pontificate, I have felt a deep need to visit Poland and Kraków as a pilgrim in the footsteps of my predecessor. I wanted to breathe the air of his homeland. I wanted to see the land where he was born, where he grew up and undertook his tireless service to Christ and the universal Church. I wanted especially to meet the living men and women of his country, to experience your faith, which gave him life and strength, and to know that you continue firm in that faith. Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular.

I cordially greet all those gathered in Błonie Park, for as far as my eyes can see and even farther. I wish I could meet each of you personally. I embrace all those who are taking part in our Eucharist by radio and television. I greet all of Poland! I greet the children and young people, individuals and families, the sick and those suffering in body or spirit, who are deprived of the joy of life. I greet all those whose daily labours are helping this country to grow in prosperity. I greet the Polish people living abroad, everywhere in the world. I thank Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kraków, for his warm words of welcome. I greet Cardinal Franciszek Macharski and all the Cardinals, Bishops, priests and consecrated men and women, as well as the other guests who have come from many lands, particularly the neighbouring countries. My greetings go to the President of the Republic and to the Prime Minister, and to the representatives of the national, territorial and local Authorities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have taken as the motto of my pilgrimage to Poland in the footsteps of John Paul II the words: “Stand firm in your faith!” This appeal is directed to us all as members of the community of Christ’s disciples, to each and every one of us. Faith is a deeply personal and human act, an act which has two aspects. To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend. We have to accept what God reveals to us about himself, about ourselves, about everything around us, including the things that are invisible, inexpressible and beyond our imagination. This act of accepting revealed truth broadens the horizon of our knowledge and draws us to the mystery in which our lives are immersed. Letting our reason be limited in this way is not something easy to do. Here we see the second aspect of faith: it is trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ himself. What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.

Saint Paul speaks of this in the passage from the Letter to the Ephesians which we have heard today. God has given us a spirit of wisdom and “enlightened the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great power in Christ” (see Eph 1:17-20). Believing means surrendering ourselves to God and entrusting our destiny to him. Believing means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator and Redeemer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and making this relationship the basis of our whole life.

Today we heard the words of Jesus: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Centuries ago these words reached Poland. They challenged, and continue to challenge all those who say they belong to Christ, who consider his to be the greatest cause. We need to be witnesses of Jesus, who lives in the Church and in human hearts. He has given us a mission. On the day he ascended to heaven, he said to his Apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation … And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it” (Mk 16:15,20). Dear brothers and sisters! When Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!

Before I return to Rome to continue my ministry, I appeal to all of you in the words spoken here by Pope John Paul II in 1979: “You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death ... You must be strong with the strength of faith, hope and charity, a charity that is conscious, mature and responsible, and which can help us at this moment of our history to carry on the great dialogue with man and the world, a dialogue rooted in dialogue with God himself, with the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, the dialogue of salvation” (Homily, 10 June 1979, no. 4).

I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life’s ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today’s world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness. And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Saint Peter’s Square, Seventh Sunday of Easter, 20 May 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I first of all wish to renew my thanks to the Lord for the Apostolic Visit to Brazil that I undertook this past 9 to 14 May, and at the same time I thank those who accompanied me with their prayer.

As you know, the reason for my Pastoral Visit was to inaugurate the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops’ Conferences. But prior to such a great ecclesial event I was able to meet the Brazilian Christian community. In fact, many faithful came for the occasion from the city of São Paolo, especially for the canonization of the first native-born Blessed of Brazil: Friar Anthony of St Anne Galvão.

I would like to pause at length on this Visit next Wednesday during the General Audience. In the meantime, I invite you to continue to pray for the Conference that is taking place at Aparecida and for the journey of the People of God who live in Latin America.

A further motive for reflection and prayer that the annual occasion of the World Communications Day offers today is the theme: “Children and the Media: A Challenge for Education”. The educational challenges of today’s world are often compared to the influence of the mass media, which compete with school, Church and even the family.

In this context, an adequate formation in the correct use of the media is essential: parents, teachers and the Ecclesial Community are called to collaborate to educate children and youth to be selective and to develop a critical attitude, cultivating a taste for what is aesthetically and morally valid.

But the media must also bring their contribution to this educational commitment, promoting the dignity of the human person, marriage and family, and the achievements and aims of civilization.

Programmes that instil violence and anti-social behaviour or vulgarize human sexuality are unacceptable, all the more so if they are proposed to minors.

I therefore renew the appeal to those responsible in the media industry and to social communications workers to safeguard the common good, respect the truth and protect the dignity of the person and the family.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which the liturgy recalled last Thursday, is celebrated in some countries today. The Risen Jesus returns to the Father; he thus opens for us the passage to eternal life and makes the gift of the Holy Spirit possible.

Like the Apostles then, we too, after the Ascension, gather in prayer to invoke the outpouring of the Spirit in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary (see Acts 1: 12-14). May her intercession obtain a renewed Pentecost for the whole Church.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

St Peter’s Square, Seventh Sunday of Easter, 4 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ into heaven is being celebrated in various countries, including Italy, a mystery of faith which the Acts of the Apostles places 40 days after the Resurrection (see Acts 1: 3-11) and for this reason it was celebrated last Thursday in the Vatican and in several other Nations of the world. After the Ascension, the first disciples remained together in the Upper Room gathered around the Mother of Jesus, fervently awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus (see Acts 1: 14). On this first Sunday of May, the month of Mary, we too relive this experience, feeling Mary’s spiritual presence more intensely. And St Peter’s Square looks almost like an “Upper Room” under the open sky, packed with the faithful, most of whom belong to the Italian Catholic Action to whom I shall speak after the Marian prayer of the Regina Caeli.

In his farewell discourses to the disciples, Jesus stressed the importance of his “return to the Father”, the culmination of his whole mission: indeed, he came into the world to bring man back to God, not on the ideal level - like a philosopher or a master of wisdom - but really, like a shepherd who wants to lead his sheep back to the fold. This “exodus” toward the heavenly Homeland which Jesus lived in the first person, he faced solely for us. It was for our sake that he came down from Heaven and for our sake that he ascended to it, after making himself in all things like men, humbling himself even to death on a cross and after having touched the abyss of the greatest distance from God. For this very reason the Father was pleased with him and “highly exalted” him (Phil 2: 9), restoring to him the fullness of his glory, but now with our humanity. God in man - man in God: this is even now a reality, not a theoretical truth. Therefore, Christian hope, founded on Christ, is not an illusion but, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, “we have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6: 19), an anchor that penetrates Heaven where Christ has gone before us.

And what does the human person in every epoch need other than this: a firm anchorage in life? Here once again is the wonderful meaning of Mary’s presence among us. Turning our gaze to her, like the first disciples, we are immediately directed to the reality of Jesus: the Mother points to the Son who is no longer physically among us but awaits us in the Father’s house. Jesus invites us not to linger looking upwards, but to be united in prayer together, to invoke the gift of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, only those who are “born from on high”, that is, from God’s Spirit, have access to the Kingdom of Heaven (see Jn 3: 3-5), and the first to be “born from on high” was, precisely, the Virgin Mary. To her, therefore, let us turn in the fullness of Easter joy.


PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO CASSINO AND MONTE CASSINO

REGINA CÆLI

Cassino, Piazza Miranda, Sunday, 24 May 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Every time we celebrate Holy Mass we feel echoing in our hearts the words that Jesus entrusted to the disciples at the Last Supper as a precious gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Jn 14: 27). How great is the need of the Christian community and the whole of humanity to taste to the full the riches and power of Christ’s peace! St Benedict was a great witness of it because he welcomed it into his life and made it fruitful in works of authentic cultural and spiritual renewal. For this very reason, the word PAX is displayed as a motto at the entrance to the Abbey of Monte Cassino and to every other Benedictine monastery: in fact, the monastic community is called to live in accordance with this peace, which is a Paschal gift par excellence. As you know, I went on my recent journey to the Holy Land as a pilgrim of peace and today in this region marked by the Benedictine charism I am granted the opportunity to emphasize, once again, that peace is in the first place a gift of God, hence its strength is found in prayer.

However, it is a gift entrusted to human commitment. The necessary energy to put it into practice can also be drawn from prayer. It is therefore fundamental to cultivate an authentic life of prayer to assure the social progress of peace. Once again the history of monasticism teaches us that a great development of civilization is prepared for by listening daily to the word of God, which impels believers to make a personal and community effort to fight every form of selfishness and injustice. Only by learning, with Christ’s grace, to combat and defeat the evil within ourselves and in relations with others, do we become authentic builders of peace and of civil progress. May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, help all Christians in their different vocations and walks of life to be witnesses of the peace that Christ gave us and left to us as a demanding mission to be carried out everywhere.

Today, 24 May, on the liturgical Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians venerated with deep devotion in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai the Day of Prayer for the Church in China is being celebrated. My thoughts turn to the whole Chinese population. I greet Catholics in China in particular with great affection and I urge them to renew on this day their communion of faith in Christ and of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. May our prayer in common obtain an outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that unity among all Christians and the catholicity and universality of the Church will be ever deeper and more visible.


PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO CASSINO AND MONTE CASSINO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Cassino, Piazza Miranda, Sunday, 24 May 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). With these words, Jesus took his leave of the Apostles, as we heard in the First Reading. Immediately afterwards the sacred Author adds that “as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1: 9). This is the mystery of the Ascension that we are celebrating today. But what do the Bible and the Liturgy wish to tell us by saying that Jesus “was lifted up”? We cannot understand the meaning of these words from a single text or from a single book of the New Testament but rather by listening attentively to the whole of Sacred Scripture. In fact the verb “to lift up” was originally used in the Old Testament and refers to royal enthronement. Thus Christ’s Ascension means in the first place the enthronement of the Crucified and Risen Son of Man, the manifestation of God’s kingship over the world.

However, there is an even deeper meaning that is not immediately perceptible. In the passage from the Acts of the Apostles it is said first that Jesus was “lifted up” (v. 9) and then it says “taken up” (v. 11). The event is not described as a journey to on high but rather as an action of the power of God who introduces Jesus into the space of closeness to the Divine. The presence of the cloud that “took him out of their sight” (v. 9), recalls a very ancient image of Old Testament theology and integrates the account of the Ascension into the history of God with Israel, from the cloud of Sinai and above the tent of the Covenant in the desert, to the luminous cloud on the mountain of the Transfiguration.

To present the Lord wrapped in clouds calls to mind once and for all the same mystery expressed in the symbolism of the phrase, “seated at the right hand of God”. In Christ ascended into Heaven, the human being has entered into intimacy with God in a new and unheard-of way; man henceforth finds room in God for ever. “Heaven”: this word Heaven does not indicate a place above the stars but something far more daring and sublime: it indicates Christ himself, the divine Person who welcomes humanity fully and for ever, the One in whom God and man are inseparably united for ever. Man’s being in God, this is Heaven. And we draw close to Heaven, indeed, we enter Heaven to the extent that we draw close to Jesus and enter into communion with him. For this reason today’s Solemnity of the Ascension invites us to be in profound communion with the dead and Risen Jesus, invisibly present in the life of each one of us.

In this perspective we understand why the Evangelist Luke says that after the Ascension the disciples returned to Jerusalem “with great joy” (24: 52). Their joy stems from the fact that what had happened was not really a separation, the Lord’s permanent absence: on the contrary, they were then certain that the Crucified-Risen One was alive and that in him God’s gates, the gates of eternal life, had been opened to humanity for ever. In other words, his Ascension did not imply a temporary absence from the world but rather inaugurated the new, definitive and insuppressible form of his presence by virtue of his participation in the royal power of God. It was to be up to them, the disciples emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit, to make his presence visible by their witness, preaching and missionary zeal. The Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension must also fill us with serenity and enthusiasm, just as it did the Apostles who set out again from the Mount of Olives “with great joy”. Like them, we too, accepting the invitation of the “two men in dazzling apparel”, must not stay gazing up at the sky, but, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit must go everywhere and proclaim the saving message of Christ’s death and Resurrection. His very words, with which the Gospel according to St Matthew ends, accompany and comfort us: “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28: 19).

Dear brothers and sisters, the historical character of the mystery of Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension helps us to recognize and understand the transcendent condition of the Church which was not born and does not live to compensate for the absence of her Lord who has “disappeared” but on the contrary finds the reason for her existence and mission in the invisible presence of Jesus, a presence working through the power of his Spirit. In other words, we might say that the Church does not carry out the role of preparing for the return of an “absent” Jesus, but, on the contrary, lives and works to proclaim his “glorious presence” in a historical and existential way. Since the day of the Ascension, every Christian community has advanced on its earthly pilgrimage toward the fulfilment of the messianic promises, fed by the word of God and nourished by the Body and Blood of her Lord. This is the condition of the Church, the Second Vatican Council recalls, as she “ “presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the Cross and death of the Lord until he comes” (Lumen Gentium, no. 8).

Brothers and sisters of this beloved diocesan community, today’s Solemnity urges us to consolidate our faith in the Real Presence of Jesus in history: without him we can do nothing effective in our life or our apostolate. It is he, as the Apostle Paul recalls in the Second Reading, whose “gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the equipment of the saints, for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ”, that is, the Church. And this is in order that we “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4: 11-13), since the common vocation of one and all is to form “one body and one spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call” (Eph 4: 41). My Visit today fits into this perspective. As your Pastor noted, its purpose is to encourage you “to build, found and rebuild” your diocesan community ceaselessly on Christ. How? St Benedict himself points out the way to us in his Rule when he recommends that we prefer nothing to Christ: “Christo nihil omnino praeponere” (LXII, 11).

I therefore thank God for the good that your community is doing under the guidance of Fr Abbot Dom Pietro Vittorelli, its Pastor, whom I greet with affection and thank for his courteous words to me on behalf of all. With him I greet the monastic community, the Bishops, priests and men and women religious present. I greet the civil and military Authorities and in the first place the Mayor to whom I am grateful for the welcome address with which he greeted me on my arrival in this Piazza Miranda, which from this day on will be called after me, although I do not deserve it. I greet the catechists, the pastoral workers, the young people and all those who in various ways see to spreading the Gospel in this region, laden with history, which experienced periods of great suffering during the Second World War. Silent witnesses of it are the numerous cemeteries that surround your rebuilt town: among them I remember in particular those of Poland, Germany and the Commonwealth. I extend my greeting, lastly, to all the inhabitants of Cassino and of the neighbouring towns: I reach out to each one, and especially to the sick and the suffering, with the assurance of my affection and my prayers.

Dear brothers and sisters, at this celebration we hear resonating St Benedict’s appeal to keep our hearts fixed on Christ, to prefer nothing to him. This does not distract us, on the contrary it is an even greater incentive to build a society in which solidarity may be expressed by concrete signs. But how? Benedictine spirituality, well known to you, proposes an evangelical programme that is summed up in the motto: ora et labora et lege prayer, work and culture. First of all is prayer which is the most beautiful legacy that St Benedict bequeathed to the monks, but also to your particular Church: to your clergy, the majority of whom were trained at the Diocesan Seminary, for centuries housed in this same Abbey of Monte Cassino, to the seminarians, to the many people educated at the Benedictine schools and “recreation” centres and in your parishes, to all of you who live in this region. In lifting your gaze from every village and part of the diocese you can admire the Monastery of Monte Cassino, that constant reminder of Heaven, to which you climb every year in procession on the eve of Pentecost. Prayer, to which with its sonorous tolling the bell of St Benedict summons the monks every morning, is the silent path that leads us straight to God’s Heart; it is the breath of the soul that restores peace to us in the storm of life. Furthermore, at the school of St Benedict, the monks have always cultivated a special love for the word of God in lectio divina, which today has become the common patrimony of many. I know that your diocesan Church, in adopting the guidelines of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, takes great pains to acquire a deeper knowledge of the Bible and indeed has inaugurated a programme for the study of the Sacred Scriptures, this year dedicated to the Evangelist Mark, which will continue over the next four years and conclude, please God, with a diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land. May attentive listening to the divine word nourish your prayers and make you prophets of truth and love in a unanimous commitment to evangelization and human advancement.

Another pivot of Benedictine spirituality is work. Humanizing the working world is characteristic of the soul of monasticism and this is also an endeavour of your community that seeks to be beside the numerous workers in the large industry present at Cassino and in the businesses connected with it.

I know how critical the situation of many of the workers is. I express my solidarity to all those who are living in a worrying and precarious plight, to workers on redundancy pay or who have actually been discharged. May the wound of unemployment that afflicts this territory induce the public authorities, entrepreneurs and all who have means to seek, with the help of all, effective solutions to the employment crisis, creating employment in order to safeguard families. In this regard how can we forget that the family urgently needs better protection because this institution is dangerously threatened at its very roots? Then I am thinking of the young people who have difficulty in finding dignified work that will enable them to build a family. I would like to say to them: do not feel discouraged, dear friends, the Church does not abandon you! I know that at least 25 young people of your Diocese took part in the last World Youth Day in Sydney. In treasuring that extraordinary spiritual experience, may you be Gospel leaven among your friends and peers; with the power of the Holy Spirit, be new missionaries in this land of St Benedict!

Lastly, attention to the world of culture and education is part of your tradition. The famous Archives and Library of Monte Cassino contain innumerable testimonies of the commitment of men and women who meditated upon and sought ways to improve the spiritual and material life of human beings. In your Abbey the “quaerere Deum” is tangible, that is, it is possible to feel that European culture has consisted in the search for God and the readiness to listen to him and this also applies in our day. I know that you work with this same spirit in universities and schools so that they may become workshops of knowledge, research and enthusiasm for the future of the generations to come. I also know that in preparation for this Visit, you recently held a congress on the theme of education, to inspire in everyone a keen determination to pass on to the young the indispensable values of our human and Christian heritage. In today’s cultural effort which aspires to creating a new humanism, faithful to the Benedictine tradition, you rightly intend also to pay attention to the frail or the weak, to the disabled and to immigrants. and I am grateful to you that you are giving me the opportunity to inaugurate on this very day the “House of Charity” at which a culture attentive to life is being built with deeds.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is not hard to see that your community, this portion of the Church which lives round Monte Cassino, is the heir and depositary of the mission steeped in St Benedict’s spirit to proclaim that in our life no one and nothing must take priority over Jesus; the mission to construct, in Christ’s name, a new humanity under the banner of acceptance and assistance to the weakest. May your holy Patriarch help you and accompany you together with St Scholastica, his sister; and may the holy Patrons and especially Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of our Hope protect you. Amen!


WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

St Peter’s Square, Seventh Sunday of Easter, 16 May 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today in Italy and in other countries we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven which occurred on the 40th day after Easter. Likewise, on this Sunday we are also celebrating the World Day of Social Communications on the theme: “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word”. In the Liturgy it narrates of the episode of the final departure of Jesus from his disciples (see Lk 24: 50-51; Acts 1: 2, 9); but it is not an abandonment, because he remains always with them with us but under a new form. St Bernard of Clairvaux explains that Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven is accomplished in three steps: “The first is the glory of the Resurrection; the second is the power to judge; and the third is sitting at the right hand of the Father” (Sermo de Ascensione Domini 60, 2: Sancti Bernardi Opera, t. vi 1, 291, 20-21). Such an event is preceded by the blessing of the disciples, whom he prepares to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order that salvation is proclaimed everywhere. Jesus himself says to them: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you” (see Lk 24: 47, 49).

The Lord draws the gaze of the Apostles our gaze toward Heaven to show how to travel the road of good during earthly life. Nevertheless, he remains within the framework of human history, he is near to each of us and guides our Christian journey: he is the companion of the those persecuted for the faith, he is in the heart of those who are marginalized, he is present in those whom the right to life is denied. We can hear, see and touch our Lord Jesus in the Church, especially through the word and the sacraments. In this regard, I call on children and young people who during this Easter Season are receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, to remain faithful to the Word of God and to the doctrine learnt, and also to assiduously approach Confession and the Eucharist, conscious of having been chosen and constituted to witness to the Truth. I renew my particular invitation to my Brothers in the Episcopate, that “in their life and actions they distinguish themselves by a powerful evangelical witness” (Letter proclaiming the Year for Priests) and know also how to use the means of communication wisely to make known the life of the Church and help the men of today to discover the Face of Christ (see Message for the 44th World Day of Social Communications, 24 January 2010).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the Lord opening the way to Heaven, gives us a foretaste of divine life already on this earth. A 19th-century Russian author wrote in his spiritual testament: “Observe the stars more often. When you have a burden in your soul, look at the stars or the azure of the sky. When you feel sad, when they offend you... converse... with Heaven. Then your soul will find rest” (N. Valentini L. Zák [editor], Pavel A. Florenskij. “Non dimenticatemi. Le lettere dal gulag del grande matematico, filosofo e sacerdote russo, Milan 2000, p. 418). I thank the Virgin Mary, whom I was able to venerate at the Shrine in Fatima in these past days, for her maternal protection during the intense pilgrimage to Portugal. To her, who watches over the witnesses of her beloved Son, let us address our prayer trustingly.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO CROATIA
(JUNE 4-5, 2011)

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Zagreb Hippodrome, Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Before concluding this solemn celebration, I wish to thank you for your fervent and devout participation, through which you express your love and your commitment to the family, as Bishop Župan – to whom I also express my warm gratitude – has just reminded us.

I have come here today to confirm you in your faith. This is the gift I bring you: the faith of Peter, the faith of the Church! But at the same time you give me this same faith, enriched with your experience, your joys and sufferings. In a special way you give me your faith lived in the family, so that I may keep it in the patrimony of the whole Church.

I know that you find great strength in Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother. So we now turn to her, spiritually oriented towards her Shrine at Marija Bistrica, and we entrust to her all Croatian families: parents, children, grandparents; the journey of husband and wife, the task of education, professional activities and home-making. We invoke her intercession that public institutions may always sustain the family, the basic cell of the social fabric.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, within a year we will celebrate the Seventh World Meeting of Families in Milan. We entrust to our Lady the preparation of this important church event.

Let us be united in prayer at this time with all who, in the Cathedral of El Burgo de Osma in Spain, are celebrating the beatification of Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, an outstanding bishop of seventeenth-century Mexico and Spain. He was a man of vast culture and profound spirituality and a great reformer, a tireless pastor and defender of the Indians. May the Lord grant to his Church many holy pastors like Blessed Juan.

I affectionately greet the Slovenian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Serbian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Macedonian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Hungarian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the Albanian-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

I affectionately greet the German-speaking faithful. Thank you for being present. May God bless you all!

Dear families, do not be afraid! The Lord loves the family and he is close to you!

Queen of Heaven, rejoice…


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO CROATIA
(JUNE 4-5, 2011)

HOLY MASS ON THE OCCASION OF THE NATIONAL DAY
OF CROATIAN CATHOLIC FAMILIES

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Zagreb Hippodrome, Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

In this Mass at which it is my joy to preside, concelebrating with numerous brothers in the Episcopate and with a great number of priests, I give thanks to the Lord for all the beloved families gathered here, and for all the others who are linked with us through radio and television. I offer particular thanks to Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb, for his kind words at the beginning of this Mass. I address my greetings to all and express my great affection with an embrace of peace!

We have recently celebrated the Ascension of the Lord and we prepare ourselves to receive the great gift of the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, we saw how the apostolic community was united in prayer in the Upper Room with Mary, the mother of Jesus (see Acts 1:12-14). This is a picture of the Church with deep roots in the paschal event: indeed, the Upper Room is the place where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood during the Last Supper, and where, having risen from the dead, he poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the evening of Easter Sunday (see Jn 20:19-23). The Lord directed his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4); he asked that they might remain together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered together in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, waiting for the promised event (see Acts 1:14). Remaining together was the condition given by Jesus for them to experience the coming of the Paraclete, and prolonged prayer served to maintain them in harmony with one another. We find here a formidable lesson for every Christian community. Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed.

In the Gospel, we heard the first part of the so-called “high-priestly prayer” of Jesus (see Jn 17:1-11a) – at the conclusion of his farewell discourses – full of trust, sweetness and love. It is called “the high-priestly prayer” because in it Jesus is presented as a priest interceding for his people as he prepares to leave this world. The passage is dominated by the double theme of the hour and the glory. It deals with the hour of death (see Jn 2:4; 7:30; 8:20), the hour in which the Christ must pass from this world to the Father (13:1). But at the same time it is also the hour of his glorification which is accomplished by means of the Cross, called by John the Evangelist “exaltation”, namely the raising up, the elevation to glory: the hour of the death of Jesus, the hour of supreme love, is the hour of his highest glory. For the Church too, for every Christian, the highest glory is the Cross, which means living in charity, in total gift to God and to others.

Dear brothers and sisters! I very willingly accepted the invitation given to me by the Bishops of Croatia to visit this country on the occasion of the first National Gathering of Croatian Catholic Families. I express my sincere appreciation for this attention and commitment to the family, not only because today this basic human reality, in your nation as elsewhere, has to face difficulties and threats, and thus has special need of evangelization and support, but also because Christian families are a decisive resource for education in the faith, for the up-building of the Church as a communion and for her missionary presence in the most diverse situations in life. I know the generosity and the dedication with which you, dear Pastors, serve the Lord and the Church. Your daily labour for the faith formation of future generations, as well as for marriage preparation and for the accompaniment of families, is the fundamental path for regenerating the Church anew and for giving life to the social fabric of the nation. May you remain dedicated to this important pastoral commitment!

Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization. Blessed John Paul II, who visited this noble country three times, said that “the Christian family is called upon to take part actively and responsibly in the mission of the Church in a way that is original and specific, by placing itself, in what it is and what it does as an ‘intimate community of life and love’, at the service of the Church and of society” (Familiaris consortio, 50). The Christian family has always been the first way of transmitting the faith and still today retains great possibilities for evangelization in many areas.

Dear parents, commit yourselves always to teach your children to pray, and pray with them; draw them close to the Sacraments, especially to the Eucharist, as we celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Eucharistic miracle of Ludbreg; and introduce them to the life of the Church; in the intimacy of the home do not be afraid to read the sacred Scriptures, illuminating family life with the light of faith and praising God as Father. Be like a little Upper Room, like that of Mary and the disciples, in which to live unity, communion and prayer!

By the grace of God, many Christian families today are acquiring an ever deeper awareness of their missionary vocation, and are devoting themselves seriously to bearing witness to Christ the Lord. Blessed John Paul II once said: “An authentic family, founded on marriage, is in itself ‘good news’ for the world.” And he added: “In our time the families that collaborate actively in evangelization are ever more numerous [...] the hour of the family has arrived in the Church, which is also the hour of the missionary family” (Angelus, 21 October 2001). In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! Alongside what the Church says, the testimony and commitment of the Christian family – your concrete testimony – is very important, especially when you affirm the inviolability of human life from conception until natural death, the singular and irreplaceable value of the family founded upon matrimony and the need for legislation which supports families in the task of giving birth to children and educating them. Dear families, be courageous! Do not give in to that secularized mentality which proposes living together as a preparation, or even a substitute for marriage! Show by the witness of your lives that it is possible, like Christ, to love without reserve, and do not be afraid to make a commitment to another person! Dear families, rejoice in fatherhood and motherhood! Openness to life is a sign of openness to the future, confidence in the future, just as respect for the natural moral law frees people, rather than demeaning them! The good of the family is also the good of the Church. I would like to repeat something I have said in the past: “the edification of each individual Christian family fits into the context of the larger family of the Church which supports it and carries it with her ... And the Church is reciprocally built up by the family, a ‘small domestic church’” (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, 6 June 2005). Let us pray to the Lord, that families may come more and more to be small churches and that ecclesial communities may take on more and more the quality of a family!

Dear Croatian families, living the communion of faith and charity, be ever more transparent witnesses to the promise that the Lord, ascending into heaven, makes to each one of us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Dear Croatian Christians, hear yourselves called to evangelize with the whole of your life; hear the powerful word of the Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Croatia, accompany you always on your way. Amen! Praised be Jesus and Mary!


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Forty days after the Resurrection — according to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles — Jesus ascended into Heaven, that is he returned to the Father, by whom he had been sent into the world. In many countries this mystery is celebrated not on Thursday but today, the following Sunday. The Ascension of the Lord marks the fulfillment of salvation that started with the Incarnation. After he had instructed his disciples for the last time, Jesus was taken up into Heaven (see Mk 16:19). He, however, “was not separated from our condition” (see Preface); indeed, in his humanity, he took man with him into the intimacy of the Father and thus revealed the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage. As he descended from Heaven for us, and for us suffered and died on the Cross, so for us he rose and ascended to God, who, therefore, is no longer far away.

St Leo the Great explains that with this mystery “not only is the immortality of the soul proclaimed, but also that of the body. Today in fact, not only are we confirmed as possessors of paradise, but in Christ have also penetrated the heights of Heaven” (De Ascensione Domini, Tractatus 73, 2.4: CCL 138 A, 451.453). This is why the disciples, when they saw the Master rise from the ground and ascend upwards, they were not disheartened, as one might expect, instead, they were overcome with joy and felt compelled to proclaim Christ’s victory over death (see Mk 16:20). And the Risen Lord worked in each of them, bestowing on each his own charism. St Paul writes further: “He gave gifts to men ... and his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers ... for building up of the body of Christ ... to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:8, 11-13).

Dear friends, the Ascension tells us that in Christ our humanity is brought to the heights of God; thus, every time we pray, earth is united to Heaven. And like incense, burning, its scent is carried on high, hence, when we raise our prayer to the Lord with confidence in Christ, it travels across Heaven and reaches God himself and is heard and answered by Him. In the well-known work by St John of the Cross, The Ascent of Mount Carmel, we read that “in order to obtain the fulfilment of the petitions which we have in our hearts, there is no better way than to direct the energy of our prayer to the thing that most pleases God. For then not only will He give that which we ask of Him, which is salvation, but also that which He sees to be fitting and good for us, although we pray not for it” (Book III, ch. 44, no. 2).

Finally let us beseech the Virgin Mary, that she may help us to contemplate the heavenly goods, which the Lord promises us, and to become ever more credible witnesses of his Resurrection, of true Life. 



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