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Monday, June 17, 2013

0284: Reflections on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0284: Reflections on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On seven occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 12 June 2005, 18 June 2006, 17 June 2007, 15 June 2008, 14 June 2009, 13 June 2010, and 17 June 2012. Here are the texts of the seven reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and the two homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year of the Eucharist continues. It was desired by our beloved Pope John Paul II to reawaken ever greater wonder toward this Sacrament in the consciences of believers.

One of the recurring themes in this special Eucharistic period is that of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, a topic that was also at the heart of the recent Italian Eucharistic Congress held in Bari.

At the closing celebration, I too emphasized how participation in Sunday Mass must not be felt as an imposition or burden by Christians, but rather as a necessity and joy. Gathering together with our brothers and sisters to listen to the Word of God and to be nourished by Christ, sacrificed for us, is a beautiful experience that gives life meaning and imbues our hearts with peace. We Christians cannot live without Sunday.

Parents, therefore, are called to help their children to discover the value and importance of responding to the invitation of Christ, who summons the whole Christian family to Sunday Mass. An especially significant stage in this educational journey is First Communion, a true celebration for the parish community which welcomes its smallest children to the Lord’s Table for the first time.

To highlight the importance of this event for families and parishes, next 15 October, God willing, I will be holding a special catechetical meeting in the Vatican for children who have received their First Communion this year, especially those from Rome and Lazio. This festive gathering will be taking place towards the end of the Year of the Eucharist and during the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focused on the Eucharistic mystery. It will be a suitable and beautiful opportunity to reaffirm the essential role of the Eucharist in the formation and spiritual growth of young children.

From this moment I entrust this meeting to the Virgin Mary, so that she may teach us to love Jesus more and more, in constant meditation on his Word and in adoration of his presence in the Eucharist; I also ask her to help us enable the young generations to discover the “precious pearl” of the Eucharist, which gives life true and full meaning. With this intention, we now turn to the Holy Virgin.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 18 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in Italy and in other countries, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is celebrated, which already had its intense moment in Rome in the city’s procession on Thursday. It is the solemn, public feast of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ: on this day, the mystery instituted at the Last Supper and commemorated every year on Holy Thursday is manifested to all, in the midst of the fervour of faith and devotion of the Ecclesial Community.

Indeed, the Eucharist is the “treasure” of the Church, the precious heritage that her Lord has left to her. And the Church preserves it with the greatest care, celebrating it daily in Holy Mass, adoring it in churches and chapels, administering it to the sick, and as viaticum to those who are on their last journey.

However, this treasure that is destined for the baptized, does not exhaust its radius of action in the context of the Church: the Eucharist is the Lord Jesus who gives himself “for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51). In every time and in every place, he wants to meet human beings and bring them the life of God. And this is not all. The Eucharist also has a cosmic property: the transformation of the bread and the wine into Christ’s Body and Blood is in fact the principle of the divinization of creation itself.

For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi is characterized particularly by the tradition of carrying the Most Holy Sacrament in procession, an act full of meaning. By carrying the Eucharist through the streets and squares, we desire to immerse the Bread come down from Heaven in our daily lives. We want Jesus to walk where we walk, to live where we live. Our world, our existence, must become his temple.

On this feast day, the Christian Community proclaims that the Eucharist is its all, its very life, the source of life that triumphs over death. From communion with Christ in the Eucharist flows the charity that transforms our life and supports us all on our journey towards the heavenly Homeland. For this reason the liturgy makes us sing “Good Shepherd, true Bread.... You who know all things, who can do all things, who nourish us while on earth, lead your brethren to the heavenly banquet in the glory of your Saints”.

Mary is the “Woman of the Eucharist” as Pope John Paul II described her in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Let us pray the Virgin that all Christians may deepen their faith in the Eucharistic mystery, to live in constant communion with Jesus and be his effective witness.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY
OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Square outside the Lower Basilica of St Francis, Sunday, 17 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

About eight centuries ago, it would have been hard for the town of Assisi to imagine the role that Providence was to assign it, making it a famous city in the world today, a true “place of the soul”. It was what happened here which gave it this character that impressed on it an indelible mark.

I am referring to the conversion of the young Francis. After 25 years of a mediocre life full of dreams, spent in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and success, he opened himself to grace, came to his senses and gradually recognized Christ as the ideal of his life. My Pilgrimage to Assisi today is intended to recall that event and to relive its significance and importance.

I stopped with special emotion at the little Church of San Damiano, in which Francis heard the Crucifix say these programmatic words: “Francis, go and repair my house” (see 2 Cel 1, 6, 10). It was a mission that began with the complete conversion of his heart, to become subsequently a Gospel leaven, generously distributed by the handful in the Church and in society.

At Rivotorto I saw the place where tradition has it that lepers were confined whom the Saint approached with mercy, thus beginning his life as a penitent. And I also saw the Shrine which calls to mind the poor dwelling place of Francis and his first friars.

I went to the Basilica of St Clare, Francis’ “plantlet”, and this afternoon, after my Visit to the Cathedral of Assisi, I shall stop at the Portiuncula from which, in Mary’s shadow, Francis guided the steps of his expanding brotherhood and where he breathed his last. I will meet the youth there because there the young Francis, converted to Christ, spoke to their hearts.

From the Basilica of St Francis in which his mortal remains repose, I would now like above all to make his tones of praise my own: “Most High, All Powerful, All Good Lord, All praise is yours, all glory, all honour and all blessing” (see Canticle of the Sun 1). Francis of Assisi is a great teacher of our faith and praise. By falling in love with Jesus Christ he encountered the Face of God-Love, of whom he became an impassioned bard and sang his praise passionately like a real “minstrel of God”.

In the light of the Gospel Beatitudes we can understand the gentleness with which St Francis was able to live his relations with others, presenting himself in humility to all and becoming a witness and artisan of peace.

From this city of peace, I would like to send a greeting to the representatives of the other Christian denominations and of the other religions who, in 1986, accepted the invitation of my venerable Predecessor to take part in a World Day of Prayer for Peace here in the homeland of St Francis.

I consider it my duty to launch from here a pressing and heartfelt appeal to stop all the armed conflicts which bathe the earth in blood. May weapons be silenced and may hatred everywhere give way to love, offence to forgiveness and discord to union!

We feel here the spiritual presence of all those whom war and its tragic consequences cause to weep, suffer and die in any part of the world.

We are thinking in particular of the Holy Land, so loved by St Francis; and of Iraq, Lebanon and the entire region of the Middle East. For too long now the peoples of those countries have been experiencing the horrors of war, terrorism, blind violence, the illusion that force can resolve conflicts, the refusal to listen to the reasoning of others and the refusal to do them justice.

Only a responsible and sincere dialogue, backed by the generous support of the International Community, will be able to put an end to all this suffering and restore life and dignity to individuals, institutions and peoples.

May St Francis, a man of peace, obtain for us from the Lord an increasing number of people who accept to make themselves “instruments of his peace” through thousands of small acts in daily life; and that all who have roles of responsibility be motivated by a passionate love for peace and an indomitable determination to achieve it, choosing the appropriate means to obtain it.

May the Blessed Virgin, whom the “Poverello” loved tenderly and praised in inspired tones, help us discover the secret of peace in the miracle of love which was fulfilled in her womb with the Incarnation of the Son of God.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY
OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Lower Basilica of St Francis, Sunday, 17 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What is the Lord saying to us today while we celebrate the Eucharist in the evocative setting of this square, in which eight centuries of holiness, devotion, art and culture linked to the name of Francis of Assisi are gathered?

Today, everything here speaks of conversion, as Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino recalled and whom I warmly thank for his kind words. With him, I greet the entire Church of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, as well as the Pastors of the Churches of Umbria.

I extend a grateful thought to Cardinal Attilio Nicora, my Legate for the two Papal Basilicas of this Town.

I address an affectionate greeting to the sons of Francis of the various Orders present here with their Ministers General. I express my cordial respects to the President of the Council of Ministers and to all the Civil Authorities who have wished to honour us with their presence.

Speaking of conversion means going to the heart of the Christian message, and at the same time to the roots of human existence. The Word of God just proclaimed enlightens us by holding up to our gaze three converted figures.

The first is David. The passage concerning him, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, presents to us one of the most dramatic conversations in the Old Testament. A burning verdict lies at the heart of this dialogue, with which the Word of God, uttered by the Prophet Nathan, exposes a king who had reached the summit of his political fortune but had also fallen to the lowest level of his moral life.

To grasp the dramatic tension of this dialogue, it is necessary to bear in mind its historical and theological horizon. This horizon is outlined by the event of love with which God chooses Israel as his People, establishing a Covenant with them and taking care to assure them a land and freedom.

David is a link in this history of God’s continuing concern for his People. He was chosen in a difficult period and placed beside King Saul, then to become his successor. God’s design also concerns his descendants connected with the messianic project, which was to find its complete fulfilment in Christ, “Son of David”.

The figure of David is thus an image of both historical and religious importance. In even starker contrast with this is the abjection into which he falls. Blinded by his passion for Bathsheba, he wrenches her from her husband, one of his most faithful warriors, and then orders his assassination in cold blood. This is something that makes one shudder: how could a man chosen by God fall so low?

The human being is truly greatness and wretchedness: he is great because he bears in himself God’s image and is the object of his love; he is wretched because he can make evil use of the freedom which is his great privilege, ending by setting himself against his Creator.

God’s verdict on David, pronounced by Nathan, sheds light on the intimate fibres of the conscience where armies, power and public opinion count for nothing but where one is alone with God himself.

“You are that man” are the words that nailed David to his responsibilities. Deeply struck by them, the king developed sincere repentance and opened himself to the offer of mercy. This is the path of conversion.

Today, it is Francis who invites us to make this journey beside David. From what the Saint’s biographers have said of his youthful years, nothing would lead us to imagine actions as serious as those imputed to the ancient King of Israel. Yet, in the Testament he compiled during the last months of his life, Francis himself regarded the first 25 years of his existence as a time when he “was in sin” (see Testament 1).

Over and above its individual manifestations, he conceived of sin as organizing one’s whole life around oneself, pursuing vain dreams of earthly glory.

While he was the “king of feasts” among the young men of Assisi (see 2 Cel I, 3, 7), he was not without spontaneous generosity. But this was still far from the Christian love that is given to the other without reserve.

As he himself recalled, the sight of lepers seemed bitter to him. Sin prevented him from overcoming his physical repugnance to recognize them as so many brothers to love. Conversion led him to show them mercy and at the same time obtained mercy for him.

Serving lepers, even to the point of kissing them, was not merely a philanthropic gesture, a “social” conversion, so to speak, but a true religious experience commanded by the initiative of God’s grace and love: “The Lord himself”, he said, “led me among them” (Test. 2). It was then that what had seemed bitter was changed into “sweetness in (his) soul and body” (Test. 3).

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, converting to love means passing from bitterness to “sweetness”, from sorrow to true joy. Man is truly himself and fulfils himself completely to the extent that he lives with God and of God, recognizing him and loving him in his brethren.

Another aspect of the journey of conversion emerges in the passage from the Letter to the Galatians. It is explained to us by another great convert, the Apostle Paul. The discussion in which the primitive community found itself involved is the immediate context of his words: in this discussion, many Christians who came from Judaism tended to link salvation to fulfilling the requirements of the ancient Law, thereby making the newness of Christ and the universality of his message vain.

Paul stood as a witness and champion of grace. On the road to Damascus, Christ’s radiant face and strong voice had snatched him from his violent zeal as a persecutor and had kindled within him the new zeal of the Crucified One, who reconciles in his Cross those who are near and far (see Eph 2: 11-22).

Paul realized that in Christ the whole of the law is fulfilled and that those who adhere to Christ are united with him and fulfil the law. Bringing Christ, and with Christ the one God, to all peoples became his mission. Christ “is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2: 14).

At the same time, Paul’s very personal confession of love also expresses the common essence of Christian life: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2: 20b). And how can one respond to this love except by embracing the Crucified Christ to the point of living his very life? “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20a).

In speaking of being crucified with Christ, St Paul was not only referring to his new birth in Baptism, but to the whole of his life at the service of Christ. This connection with his apostolic life appears clearly in the final words of his defence of Christian freedom at the end of the Letter to the Galatians: “Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (6: 17).

This is the first time in the history of Christianity that the words “the marks of Jesus” [stigmata] appear. In the dispute on the right way of seeing and living the Gospel, it is not, in the end, the arguments that decide our thought: it is the reality of life that decides, communion lived and suffered with Jesus, not only in ideas or words but in the depths of our existence, also involving the body, the flesh.

The bruises that the Apostle received in the long history of his passion are the witness of the presence of the Cross of Jesus in St Paul’s body; they are his stigmata. Thus, one can say that it is not circumcision that saves: these stigmata are the consequence of his Baptism, the expression of his dying with Jesus, day after day, the sure sign of his being a new creature (see Gal 6: 15).

Moreover, by using the word “marks”, Paul is referring to the ancient practice of branding the slave with his owner’s mark. Thus, the servant was “marked” as the property of his owner and was under his protection. The sign of the Cross, stamped on Paul’s skin through long drawn-out suffering, was his boast. It legitimized him as a true servant of Jesus, protected by the Lord’s love.

Today, dear friends, Francis of Assisi presents all of these words of Paul anew, together with the power of his witness. Since the time when the faces of lepers, loved through love of God, made him understand in a certain way the mystery of kenosis (see Phil 2: 7) - the humbling of God in the flesh of the Son of Man -, from the time when the voice of the Crucifix in San Damiano put in his heart the programme for his life, “Go, Francis, repair my house” (2 Cel I, 6, 10), his journey was none other than the daily effort to put on Christ.

He fell in love with Christ. The wounds of the Crucified One wounded his heart before leaving their marks on his body on Mount La Verna. He could truly say with Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.

And so we come to the evangelical heart of today’s Word of God. Jesus himself, in the passage from Luke’s Gospel which has just been read, explains to us the dynamism of authentic conversion, pointing out to us as a model the sinful woman redeemed by love. It should be recognized that this woman had ventured much.

The manner in which she chose to come before Jesus, bathing his feet with tears and drying them with her hair, kissing them and sprinkling scented oil upon them, was done to shock those who viewed people in her condition with the merciless eye of the judge.

What is striking, on the other hand, is the tenderness with which Jesus treated this woman, exploited and judged by so many. In Jesus she found at last a pure eye, a heart capable of loving without exploiting. In the gaze and heart of Jesus she received the revelation of God-Love!

To avoid any misunderstanding, it should be noted that Jesus’ mercy was not expressed by putting moral law in parentheses. For Jesus, good is good and evil is evil. Mercy does not change the connotations of sin but consumes it in a fire of love.

This purifying and healing effect is achieved if within the person there is a corresponding love which implies recognition of God’s law, sincere repentance and the resolution to start a new life.

The sinful woman in the Gospel was pardoned greatly because she loved greatly. In Jesus, God comes to give love to us and to ask love of us.

My dear brothers and sisters, what was the life of the converted Francis if not a great act of love? This is revealed by his passionate prayers, rich in contemplation and praise, his tender embrace of the Divine Child at Greccio, his contemplation of the Passion at La Verna, his living “according to the form of the Holy Gospel” (2 Test. 14), his choice of poverty and his quest for Christ in the faces of the poor.

This was his conversion to Christ, to the point that he sought to be “transformed” into him, becoming his total image; and this explains his typical way of life by virtue of which he appears to us to be so modern, even in comparison with the great themes of our time such as the search for peace, the safeguard of nature, the promotion of dialogue among all people. In these things Francis was a true teacher. However, he was so by starting from Christ.

Indeed, Christ is “our peace” (see Eph 2: 14). Christ is the very principle of the cosmos, since through him all things were made (see Jn 1: 3). Christ is the divine truth, the eternal “Logos”, in which, in time, every “dia-logos” finds its ultimate foundation. Francis profoundly embodies this “Christological” truth which is at the root of human existence, the cosmos and history.

I cannot forget in today’s context the initiative of John Paul II, my Predecessor of holy memory, who in 1986 wanted to gather here at a Prayer Meeting for Peace representatives of the Christian denominations and of the different world religions.

It was a prophetic intuition and a moment of grace, as I said a few months ago in my Letter to the Bishop of this Town on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that event. The choice of celebrating the meeting at Assisi was prompted precisely by the witness of Francis as a man of peace to whom so many people, even from other cultural and religious positions, look with sympathy.

At the same time, the light of the “Poverello” on that initiative was a guarantee of Christian authenticity, since his life and message are so visibly based on Christ’s choice to reject a priori any temptation of religious indifferentism which would have nothing to do with authentic interreligious dialogue.

The “spirit of Assisi”, which has continued to spread throughout the world since that event, counters the spirit of violence and the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence. Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one’s own religious conviction, and especially faithfulness to the Crucified and Risen Christ, is not expressed in violence and intolerance but in sincere respect for the other, in dialogue, in a proclamation that appeals to freedom and reason and in the commitment to peace and reconciliation.

The failure to combine acceptance, dialogue and respect for all with the certainty of faith which every Christian, like the Saint of Assisi, is bound to foster, proclaiming Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life of man (see Jn 14: 6), the one Saviour of the World, can be neither an evangelical nor a Franciscan attitude.

May Francis of Assisi obtain the grace of an authentic and full conversion to the love of Christ for this particular Church, for the Churches in Umbria, for the whole of the Church in Italy whose Patron he is, together with St Catherine of Siena, and for the many people in the world who refer to him.


PASTORAL VISIT
TO SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA AND BRINDISI (APULIA - ITALY)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Apollinaris Wharf, Brindisi, Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding this celebration, I express my gratitude to all those who prepared it with such care and enlivened it with music and song. I thank those who organized my Visit and who are making their contribution to ensuring its success: I am thinking of the various local Authorities, the police, the volunteers and you, the inhabitants of Brindisi. I invite you all, as on every Sunday, to join me in the prayer of the Angelus. The place where we are - the port - is charged with a eloquent symbolic significance. Every port speaks of welcome, of shelter, of safety; it speaks of a longed-for haven after what may have been a long and difficult navigation. It also speaks of departures, of plans and aspirations, of the future. The port of Brindisi in particular has a primary role in communications between the Mediterranean Sea and the East, and for this reason it is also host to a United Nations Base that performs an important function in humanitarian terms.

Thus, from this most evocative place, not far from the town called the “good morning” (Calimera) of Italy, I would like to renew the Christian message of cooperation and peace among all peoples, especially among those around this sea coast, the ancient cradle of civilization, and those of the Near and Middle East. Moreover, I am pleased to do this with the words I used two months ago in my Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York: “The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. “On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation” (Address, 18 April 2008).

From this corner of Europe which juts into the Mediterranean between East and West, let us turn once again to Mary, the Mother who “shows us the way” - Odegitria -, giving us Jesus, the Way of peace. Let us invoke her in spirit with all the titles by which she is venerated in the Shrines of Apulia and especially here, from this ancient port, let us pray to her as the “Port of salvation” for every person and for the whole of humanity. May her maternal protection always defend this city of yours, the Region, Italy, Europe and the whole world from the storms that threaten the faith and true values; may she enable the young generations to put out into the deep without fear, to face the journey of life with Christian hope. Mary, Port of Salvation, pray for us!


PASTORAL VISIT
TO SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA AND BRINDISI (APULIA - ITALY)

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Apollinaris Wharf, Port of Brindisi, Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Lord’s Day, in the middle of my Visit to Brindisi, we are celebrating the mystery which is the source and summit of the Church’s whole life. We are celebrating Christ in the Eucharist, the greatest gift that flowed from his divine and human Heart, the Bread of Life, broken and shared to enable us to become one with him and with one another. I greet with affection all of you who have gathered at the port, this deeply symbolic place which calls to mind the missionary journeys of Peter and Paul. I rejoice to see the many young people who enlivened last night’s vigil in preparation for the Eucharistic celebration. And I also greet you, who are taking part in spirit by means of radio and television. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rocco Talucci, the Pastor of this beloved Church, and thank him for his words at the beginning of Holy Mass. I also greet the other Bishops of Apulia who have desired to be here with us with sentiments of fraternal communion. The presence of Metropolitan Gennadios gives me special pleasure and I offer him my cordial greeting, which I extend to all the Orthodox brethren and those of the other Denominations, from this Church of Brindisi which, because of her ecumenical vocation, invites us to pray and to work for the full unity of all Christians. With gratitude I greet the Civil and Military Authorities who are taking part in this liturgy, and wish them every good for their service. My affectionate thoughts then go to the priests and deacons, to the women and men religious and to all the faithful. I address a special greeting to the sick in hospital and to the prisoners in jail, to whom I assure my remembrance in prayer. Grace and peace on the part of the Lord to everyone and to the entire city of Brindisi!

The biblical texts we have heard on this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time help us to understand the reality of the Church: the First Reading (see Ex 19: 2-6a) recalled the Covenant made on Mount Sinai, during the Exodus from Egypt; the Gospel (see Mt 9: 36-10: 8) consisted of the account of the call and mission of the Twelve Apostles. We find the “constitution” of the Church presented here: how can we fail to perceive the implicit invitation addressed to every Community to renew its own vocation and missionary drive? In the First Reading the sacred author tells of God’s Covenant with Moses and with Israel on Sinai. This is one of the great milestones in salvation history, one of those moments that transcend history itself in which the boundary between the Old and New Testaments disappears and the eternal plan of the God of the Covenant is manifest: the plan for the salvation of all men and women through the sanctification of a people to which God proposes to become “my own possession among all peoples” (Ex 19: 5). In this perspective, the people is called to become a “holy nation”, not only in the moral sense, but first and above all in its own ontological reality, in its being as a people. Already in the Old Testament, how the identity of this people is to be understood is gradually made clear in the course of the salvific events; then it was fully revealed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel presents us with a decisive moment for this revelation. In fact, when Jesus called the Twelve he desired to refer symbolically to the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to the 12 sons of Jacob. Thus, by placing the Twelve at the centre of his new community, he makes it understood that he came to bring the heavenly Father’s design to completion, even if the new face of the Church was to appear only at Pentecost when the Twelve, “filled with the Holy Spirit” proclaimed the Gospel, and spoke in all the languages (Acts 2: 3-4). It was then that the universal Church was to be made manifest, gathered in a single Body of which the Risen Christ is Head yet, at the same time, sent by him to all the nations, even to the very ends of the earth (see Mt 28: 19).

Jesus’ style is unmistakeable: it is the characteristic style of God who likes to do great things in a poor and humble manner. The solemnity of the accounts of the Covenant in the Book of Exodus leaves room in the Gospels for humble and discreet gestures which nevertheless contain an enormous potential for renewal. It is the logic of the Kingdom of God, not by chance represented by the tiny seed that becomes a great tree (see Mt 13: 31-32). The Covenant of Sinai was accompanied by cosmic signs that terrified the Israelites; the beginnings of the Church in Galilee, on the contrary, were exempt from such manifestations and reflect the docility and compassion of Christ’s Heart although they foretold another battle, another upheaval, inspired by the forces of evil. Christ gave to the Twelve, we heard, “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 10: 1). The Twelve must cooperate with Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God, that is, his beneficial, life-giving lordship, and life in abundance for the whole of humanity. The Church in essence, like Christ and together with him, is called and sent out to establish the Kingdom of life and to drive out the dominion of death so that the life of God may triumph in the world; so that God who is Love may triumph. Christ’s work is always silent, it is not spectacular; the great tree of true life grows even in the humility of being Church, of living the Gospel every day. Precisely with these humble beginnings the Lord encourages us so that in the humility of the Church today too, in the poverty of our Christian lives, we may see his presence and thus have the courage to go to meet him and make his love, this force of peace and of true life, present on our earth. So this was God’s plan: to spread over humanity and throughout the cosmos his love that generates life. It was not a spectacular process; it was a humble process, yet it brought with it the true power of the future and of history.

Thus it is a plan that the Lord desires to implement with respect for our freedom, for love, by its nature, cannot be imposed. The Church in Christ then is the place in which to accept and mediate God’s love. In this perspective it is clear that the Church’s holiness and missionary character are two sides of the same coin: only because she is holy, that is, filled with divine love, can the Church carry out her mission, and it is precisely in terms of this task that God chose her and sanctified her as his property. Our first duty, therefore, precisely in order to heal this world, is to be holy, configured to God; in this way we emanate a healing and transforming power that also acts on others, on history. Your Ecclesial Community, dear brothers and sisters, involved as it is in the Diocesan Synod in this period, is measuring itself at this moment against the double term, “holiness-mission” - holiness is always a force that transforms others. In this regard, it is useful to reflect that the Twelve Apostles were not perfect men, chosen for their moral and religious irreproachability. They were indeed believers, full of enthusiasm and zeal but at the same time marked by their human limitations, which were sometimes even serious. Therefore Jesus did not call them because they were already holy, complete, perfect, but so that they might become so, so that they might thereby also transform history, as it is for us, as it is for all Christians. In the Second Reading we heard the Apostle Paul’s synthesis: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rm 5: 8). The Church is the community of sinners who believe in God’s love, letting themselves be transformed by him and thus become holy, sanctifying the world.

In the light of God’s providential words, today I have the joy of strengthening your Church on her way. It is a way of holiness and mission on which your Archbishop has invited you to reflect in his recent Pastoral Letter; it is a way he has thoroughly examined in the course of his Pastoral Visit and which he now intends to promote through the Diocesan Synod. Today’s Gospel suggests to us the style of the mission, in other words the interior attitude that is expressed in life lived. It can only be Jesus’ style: that of “compassion”. The Evangelist highlights this by focusing attention on Christ looking at the crowd. He wrote: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9: 36). And after the call of the Twelve, this attitude is once again apparent in the order he gives them to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10: 6). Christ’s love for his people, especially the lowly and the poor, can be felt in these words. Christian compassion has nothing to do with pietism or the culture of dependency. Rather, it is synonymous with solidarity and sharing and is enlivened by hope. Were not Jesus’ words to the Apostles born from hope: “Preach as you go, saying, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’“ (Mt 10: 7)? This is hope founded on Christ’s coming and ultimately coincides with his Person and his mystery of salvation - where Christ is, there is the Kingdom of God, there is the newness of the world - as the theme of the Fourth Ecclesial Convention of Italy celebrated in Verona clearly recalled: the Risen Christ is the “hope of the world”.

Enlivened by the hope in which you have been saved, may you too, brothers and sisters of this ancient Church of Brindisi, be signs and instruments of the compassion and mercy of Christ. To the Archbishop and priests I fervently repeat the words of the divine Teacher: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10: 8). This mandate is once again addressed in the first place to you today. The Spirit who acted in Christ and in the Twelve, is the same as the One who works in you and enables you to perform among your people, in this territory, signs of the Kingdom of love, justice and peace that is coming, indeed, that is already in the world. Yet, through the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, all the members of the People of God participate in Jesus’ mission if in different ways. I am thinking of consecrated people who profess the vows of poverty, virginity and obedience; I am thinking of Christian married couples and of you, lay faithful committed to the Ecclesial Community and to society, both personally and as a group. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus’ desire to increase the number of workers in the Lord’s harvest (see Mt 9: 38) is addressed to you all. This desire, which is asking to be made a prayer, reminds us in the first place of seminarians and of the new Seminary in this Archdiocese; it makes us realize that in a broad sense the Church is one great “seminary”, beginning with the family and extending to the parish communities, the associations and movements of apostolic commitment. We are all, with the variety of our charisms and ministries, called to work in the Lord’s vineyard.

Dear brothers and sisters of Brindisi, continue in this spirit on the way on which you have set out. May your Patrons, St Leucius and St Oronzo, both of whom arrived from the East in the second century to water this land with the living water of the Word of God, watch over you. May the relics of St Theodore of Amasea, venerated in the Cathedral of Brindisi, remind you that giving one’s life for Christ is the most effective preaching. May St Lawrence, a son of this City who, in Francis of Assisi’s footsteps, became an apostle of peace in a Europe torn apart by wars and disputes, obtain for you the gift of authentic brotherhood. I entrust you all to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and Star of Evangelization. May the Blessed Virgin help you to remain in the love of Christ, so that you may bear abundant fruit for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of the world. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Corpus Christi, the feast of the Eucharist in which the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord is solemnly carried in procession, is being celebrated today in various countries, including Italy. What does this feastday mean to us? It does not make us think of the liturgical aspect alone; actually Corpus Christi is a day that involves the cosmic dimension, the heavens and the earth. It calls to mind first of all at least in our hemisphere this season which is so beautiful and fragrant, in which Spring is already turning into Summer, the sun is high in the sky and the wheat is ripening in the fields. The Church’s feasts like the Jewish feasts are associated with the phases of the solar year, the sowing and the reaping. This is particularly evident in today’s Solemnity, at the heart of which is the sign of bread, a fruit of the earth and of Heaven. The Eucharistic Bread is thus a visible sign of the One in whom Heaven and earth, God and man, became one. And this shows that the relationship with the seasons is not something merely external to the liturgical year.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is closely linked to Easter and Pentecost: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are its premises. Furthermore, it is directly linked to the Feast of the Trinity that was celebrated last Sunday. It is only because God himself is relationship that there can be a relationship with him; and only because he is love can he love and be loved. Thus, Corpus Christi is a manifestation of God, an attestation that God is love.

This feast speaks to us in a unique and special way of divine love, of what it is and of what it does. It tells us, for example, that it is regenerated in self-giving, that it is received in self-giving, that it is never lacking nor can it be consumed as a hymn by St Thomas Aquinas sings: “nec sumptus consumitur”. Love transforms all things and we therefore understand that the centre of today’s Feast of Corpus Christi is the mystery of transubstantiation, a sign of Jesus Christ who transforms the world. Looking at him and worshipping him, we say: “yes, love exists and because it exists things can change for the better and we can hope”. It is hope that comes from Christ’s love which gives us the strength to live and to deal with difficulties. For this reason let us sing as we carry the Most Holy Sacrament in procession; let us sing and praise God who revealed himself concealing himself in the sign of the Bread broken. We are all in need of this Bread, as the journey to freedom, justice and peace is long and difficult.

We can imagine with what great faith and love Our Lady must have received and adored the Blessed Eucharist in her heart! For her it must have been every time like reliving the whole mystery of her Son Jesus: from his Conception to his Resurrection. The “Woman of the Eucharist”, my venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II called her. Let us learn from her to renew our communion with the Body of Christ ceaselessly so that we may love one another as he loved us.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year for Priests came to an end a few days ago. Here in Rome we lived unforgettable days, with the presence of more than 15,000 priests from across the world. Therefore, today I would like to thank God for all the benefits that this Year has brought to the universal Church. No one will ever be able to measure them but they can certainly be seen and their fruits will be even easier to see.

The Year for Priests ended on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which is traditionally the “day of priestly sanctification”; and it was so this time in a quite special way. In fact, dear friends, the priest is a gift of the Heart of Christ: a gift for the Church and for the world. From the Heart of the Son of God, brimming with love, flow all the goods of the Church. In particular, originates in it the vocation of those men who, won over by the Lord Jesus, leave all things to devote themselves without reserve to the service of the Christian people, after the example of the Good Shepherd. The priest is moulded by the charity of Christ himself, that love which impelled him to lay down his life for his friends and also to forgive his enemies. For this reason all priests are first and foremost workers of the civilization of love. And here I am thinking of so many priests, known and less known figures, some of whom have been raised to the honour of the altars, others whose memory lives on indelibly in the faithful, even in a small parish community, as happened at Ars, the French village where St John Mary Vianney exercised his ministry. There is no need to add further words to what has been said in these past months. However, from now on this Saint’s intercession must accompany us even more frequently. May his prayer, his “Act of Love”, which we have so often recited during this Year for Priests continue to nurture our conversation with God.

Another figure I wish to remember: Fr Jerzy Popiełuszko, a priest and martyr who was proclaimed Blessed in Warsaw precisely last Sunday. He exercised his generous and courageous ministry beside all those who were working for freedom, for the defence of life and for its dignity. His work at the service of goodness and truth was a sign of contradiction for the regime governing Poland at the time. Love of the Heart of Christ led him to give his life and his witness was the seed of a new springtime in the Church and in society. If we look at history, we can note how many pages of authentic spiritual and social renewal were written with the crucial contribution of Catholic priests, motivated solely by passion for the Gospel and for human beings and for their true freedom, both religious and civil. How many initiatives of integral human promotion have been born from the intuition of a priestly heart!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust all the priests in the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose liturgical Memorial we celebrated yesterday, so that they may continue with the power of the Gospel to build everywhere the civilization of love.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s liturgy presents to us two short parables of Jesus: the parable of the seed that grows of its own accord and the parable of the mustard seed (see Mk 4:26-34). With images taken from the farming world the Lord presents the mystery of the Word and of the Kingdom of God, and points out the reasons for our hope and our dedication.

In the first parable the focus is on the dynamism of the sowing: the seed that was scattered on the land sprouts and grows by itself, whether the peasant is awake or asleep. The man sows with the trust that his work will not be fruitless. What supports the farmer in his daily efforts is specifically trust in the power of the seed and in the goodness of the soil. This parable recalls the mysteries of the creation and of redemption, of God’s fertile work in history. It is he who is the Lord of the Kingdom, man is his humble collaborator who contemplates and rejoices in the divine creative action and patiently awaits its fruits. The final harvest makes us think of God’s conclusive intervention at the end of time, when he will fully establish his Kingdom. The present is the time of sowing, and the growth of the seed is assured by the Lord. Every Christian therefore knows well that he must do all he can, but that the final result depends on God: this awareness sustains him in his daily efforts, especially in difficult situations. St Ignatius of Loyola wrote in this regard: “Act as though everything depended on you, but in the knowledge that really everything depends on God” (see Pedro de Ribadeneira, Vita di S. Ignazio di Loyola, Milan, 1998).

The second parable also uses the image of the seed. Here, however, it is a specific seed, the mustard seed, considered the smallest of all seeds. Yet even though it is so tiny, it is full of life; it breaks open to give life to a sprout that can break through the ground, coming out into the sunlight and growing until it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32): the seed’s weakness is its strength, its breaking open is its power. Thus the Kingdom of God is like this: a humanly small reality, made up of those who are poor in heart, of those who do not rely on their own power but on that of the love of God, on those who are not important in the world’s eyes; and yet it is through them that Christ’s power bursts in and transforms what is seemingly insignificant.

The image of the seed is especially dear to Jesus, because it clearly expresses the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In today’s two parables it represents “growth” and “contrast:” the growth that occurs thanks to an innate dynamism within the seed itself and the contrast that exists between the minuscule size of the seed and the greatness of what it produces.

The message is clear: even though the Kingdom of God demands our collaboration, it is first and foremost a gift of the Lord, a grace that precedes man and his works. If our own small strength, apparently powerless in the face of the world’s problems, is inserted in that of God it fears no obstacles because the Lord’s victory is guaranteed. It is the miracle of the love of God who causes every seed of good that is scattered on the ground to germinate. And the experience of this miracle of love makes us optimists, in spite of the difficulty, suffering and evil that we encounter. The seed sprouts and grows because God’s love makes it grow. May the Virgin Mary, who, like “good soil,” accepted the seed of the divine Word, strengthen within us this faith and this hope. 



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