View Articles

Monday, June 24, 2013

0285: Reflections on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0285: Reflections on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 19 June 2005, 25 June 2006, 24 June 2007, 22 June 2008, 21 June 2009, 20 June 2010, 19 June 2011, and 24 June 2012. Here are the texts of the eight reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and four homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 19 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow, 20 June, we will be celebrating World Refugee Day, promoted by the United Nations to keep attention focussed on the problems of those who are forced to leave their Homeland. This year’s theme: “The courage to be a refugee”, lays the emphasis on the strength of spirit demanded of those who have to leave everything, sometimes even their family, to escape grave problems and dangers.

The Christian Community feels close to all who are experiencing this painful condition; it endeavours to encourage them and in various ways shows them its interest and love, which is expressed in concrete gestures of solidarity so that everyone who is far from his own Country will feel the Church as a homeland where no one is a stranger.

The loving attention of Christians to those in difficulty and their commitment to a more supportive society are continually nourished by active and conscious participation in the Eucharist. Anyone nourished with the faith of Christ at the Eucharistic Table assimilates his same style of life, which is the style of service especially attentive to the weakest and most underprivileged persons. In fact, practical charity is a criterion that proves the authenticity of our liturgical celebrations (see Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, no. 28).

May the Year of the Eucharist which we are living in help the diocesan and parish communities to revive this capacity of going out to relieve the many forms of poverty in our world.

Today let us entrust the men, women and children who are living the plight of refugees to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy who, together with her spouse, St Joseph and the Child Jesus experienced the bitterness of exile when Herod’s senseless persecution obliged the Holy Family to flee to Egypt (Mt 2: 13-23).

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin that these brothers and sisters of ours will meet with acceptance and understanding on their journey.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 June 2006

This Sunday, the 12th in Ordinary Time, is as though “surrounded” by significant liturgical solemnities. Last Friday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an event that felicitously unites this popular devotion with theological depth. It was traditional - and in some countries, still is - to consecrate families to the Sacred Heart, whose image they would keep in their homes.

The devotion is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation; it is precisely through the Heart of Jesus that the Love of God for humanity is sublimely manifested.

This is why authentic devotion to the Sacred Heart has retained all its effectiveness and especially attracts souls thirsting for God’s mercy who find in it the inexhaustible source from which to draw the water of Life that can irrigate the deserts of the soul and make hope flourish anew. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests: I take the opportunity to invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for priests always, so that they will be effective witnesses of Christ’s love.

Yesterday, the liturgy enabled us to celebrate the Birth of St John the Baptist, the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (see Mt 11: 14; 17: 10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (see Jn 1: 1, 23; 1: 7-8; 3: 29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3: 30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian.

Allowing the “I” of Christ to replace our “I” was in an exemplary way the desire of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whom the Church venerates with solemnity on 29 June. St Paul wrote of himself: “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20).

Before them and before any other saint, it was Mary Most Holy who lived this reality and cherished in her heart the words of her Son Jesus. Yesterday we contemplated her Immaculate Heart, the heart of a mother that continues to watch tenderly over us all. May her intercession enable us to remain ever faithful to our Christian vocation.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 24 June, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist, whose life was totally directed to Christ, as was that of Mary, Christ’s Mother.

John the Baptist was the forerunner, the “voice” sent to proclaim the Incarnate Word. Thus, commemorating his birth actually means celebrating Christ, the fulfilment of the promises of all the prophets, among whom the greatest was the Baptist, called to “prepare the way” for the Messiah (see Mt 11: 9-10).

All the Gospels introduce the narrative of Jesus’ public life with the account of his baptism by John in the River Jordan. St Luke frames the Baptist’s entrance on the scene in a solemn historical setting.

My book Jesus of Nazareth also begins with the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, an event which had enormous echoes in his day. People flocked from Jerusalem and every part of Judea to listen to John the Baptist and have themselves baptized in the river by him, confessing their sins (see Mk 1: 5).

The baptizing prophet became so famous that many asked themselves whether he was the Messiah. The Evangelist, however, specifically denied this: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1: 20).

Nevertheless, he was the first “witness” of Jesus, having received instructions from Heaven: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1: 33).

This happened precisely when Jesus, after receiving baptism, emerged from the water: John saw the Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove. It was then that he “knew” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1: 31), pointing him out as the Son of God and Redeemer of man: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1: 29).

As an authentic prophet, John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced transgressions of God’s commandments, even when it was the powerful who were responsible for them. Thus, when he accused Herod and Herodias of adultery, he paid with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ who is Truth in person.

Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, so that also in our day the Church will remain ever faithful to Christ and courageously witness to his truth and his love for all.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find two invitations from Jesus: on the one hand to “have no fear” of human beings, and on the other, to “fear” God (see Mt 10: 26, 28). We are thus encouraged to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God. Fear is a natural dimension of life. In childhood we experience forms of fear that subsequently are revealed to be imaginary and disappear; other fears emerge later which are indeed founded in reality: these must be faced and overcome with human determination and trust in God. However, especially today, there is a deeper form of fear of an existential type and which sometimes borders on anguish: it is born from a sense of emptiness, linked to a certain culture permeated with widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.

In the face of the broad and diversified panorama of human fears, the Word of God is clear: those who “fear” God “are not afraid”. Fear of God, which the Scriptures define as “the beginning of knowledge” coincides with faith in him, with sacred respect for his authority over life and the world.

To be without “fear of God” is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, to feeling we ourselves are lords of good and evil, of life and death. Instead, those who fear God feel within them the safety that an infant in his mother’s arms feels (see Ps 130: 2). Those who fear God are tranquil even in the midst of storms for, as Jesus revealed to us, God is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Those who love him are not afraid: “There is no fear in love”, the Apostle John wrote, “but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn 4: 18). Believers, therefore, are not afraid of anything because they know they are in the hands of God, they know that it is not evil and the irrational which have the last word, but rather that the one Lord of the world and of love is Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, who loved us to the point of sacrificing himself for us, dying on the Cross for our salvation.

The more we grow in this intimacy with God, imbued with love, the more easily we overcome any form of fear. In the passage of today’s Gospel, Jesus repeats several times the exhortation to have no fear. Jesus reassures us, as he reassured the Apostles and as he did St Paul by appearing to him one night in a vision at a particularly difficult moment in his preaching: “Do not be afraid”, he said, “for I am with you” (Acts 18: 9). Strong in the presence of Christ and comforted by his love, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we are preparing to celebrate with a special Jubilee Year, did not even fear martyrdom. May this great spiritual and pastoral event inspire in us too a renewed trust in Jesus Christ who calls us to proclaim and witness to his Gospel without being afraid of anything. I therefore invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to prepare yourselves to celebrate with faith the Pauline Year, which, please God, I shall solemnly inaugurate next Saturday at 6: 00 o’clock in the evening in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, with the liturgy for First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. Let us immediately entrust this ecclesial initiative to the intercession of St Paul and of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Christ, the source of our joy and our peace.


LIVE BROADCAST VIA SATELLITE
OF THE HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER FOR THE CLOSING
OF THE 49th INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONFERENCE
IN QUÉBEC (CANADA)

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Foconi Hall, Sunday, 22 June 2008

Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While you are gathered for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, I am glad to join you via television and thus to participate in your prayer. I would first like to greet Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, my Special Envoy to the Congress, as well as all the Cardinals and Bishops present. I also extend my cordial greetings to the important figures of civil society who have desired to take part in the liturgy. I extend affectionate thoughts to the priests, the deacons and all the faithful present, and likewise to all the Catholics of Quebec, of the whole of Canada and of the other continents. I do not forget that your City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation. It is an occasion for each one to remember the values that inspired the pioneers and missionaries in your Country.

“The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world” is the theme chosen for this new International Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the Sacrament par excellence; it ushers us into eternal life in advance; it contains the entire mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and life of the Church as the Second Vatican Council recalled (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 8). It is therefore particularly important that pastors and faithful be constantly committed to deepening their knowledge of this great Sacrament. In this way each one will be able to affirm his faith and carry out his mission in the Church and in the world ever better, remembering that the Eucharist bears fruit in one’s personal life, in the life of the Church and the world. The Spirit of truth bears witness in your hearts; may you too witness to Christ among men and women, as the Gospel acclamation of this Mass says. Thus, participation in the Eucharist does not distance our contemporaries. On the contrary, since it is the expression par excellence of God’s love, it calls us to join forces with all our brothers and sisters to confront today’s challenges and make the earth a place that is pleasant to live in. This requires that we constantly fight to ensure that everyone is respected, from conception until natural death, that our rich societies welcome the poorest and restore dignity to all, that everyone has food and can enable his family to survive and that peace and justice shine out on all the continents. These are some of the challenges that must mobilize all our contemporaries, and from the Eucharistic mystery Christians must draw the strength to confront them.

The “Mystery of Faith”: this we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council’s text on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery. I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it. I urge priests especially to give due honour to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church’s treasure.

Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - by this we mean deepening our Communion, preparing for it and prolonging it - is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church. It is by receiving the Body of Christ that we receive the strength “of unity with God and with one another” (St Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, 11: 11; see St Augustine, Sermo 577). We must never forget that the Church is built around Christ and that, as St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas and St Albert the Great have all said, following St Paul (see 1 Cor 10: 17), the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Church’s unity, because we all form one single body of which the Lord is the head. We must go back again and again to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where we were given a pledge of the mystery of our redemption on the Cross. The Last Supper is the locus of the nascent Church, the womb containing the Church of every age. In the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice is constantly renewed, Pentecost is constantly renewed. May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honour Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God.

I would also like to invite pastors and the faithful to take a renewed interest in their preparation for receiving the Eucharist. Despite our weakness and sin, Christ wants to make his dwelling place in us. This is why we must do everything in our power to receive him with a pure heart, continuously rediscovering through the Sacrament of forgiveness that purity which sin has stained, “that [our] minds be attuned to [our] voices” (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 11), according to the Council’s invitation. Sin in fact, especially serious sin, impedes the action of Eucharistic grace within us. Moreover, those who cannot receive Communion because of their situation will find a saving power and effectiveness in a Communion of desire and from participation at the Eucharist.

The Eucharist has a very special place in the life of Saints. Let us thank God for the history of holiness of Quebec and of Canada, which has contributed to the missionary life of the Church. Your Country honours in particular its Canadian martyrs, John Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions who were able to give their lives for Christ, thereby associating themselves with his sacrifice on the Cross. They belong to the generation of men and women who founded and developed the Church in Canada, with Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite of Youville, Marie of the Incarnation, Marie Catherine of St Augustine, Bishop François de Laval, founder of the first diocese in North America, Dina Bélanger and Kateri Tekakwitha. Learn from them and, like them, be fearless; God accompanies and protects you; every day make an offering for the glory of God the Father and play your part in the construction of the world, proudly remembering your religious heritage and its social and cultural outreach, and taking care to spread around you the moral and spiritual values that come to us from the Lord.

The Eucharist is not a meal with friends. It is the mystery of a covenant. “The prayers and rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice revive the whole history of salvation continuously before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle and make us enter its significance ever more deeply” (St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein], Wege zu inneren Stille, Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of a covenant by conforming our lives ever more closely each day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 7). In a certain way, it is a “heavenly liturgy”, an anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, announcing the death and Resurrection of Christ “until he comes” (1 Cor 11: 26).

In order that the People of God may never lack ministers to give them the Body of Christ, we must ask the Lord to make the gift of new priests to his Church. I also ask you to pass on the call to the priesthood to young men, so that they will joyfully and fearlessly respond to the Lord. They will not be disappointed. May the family be the origin and cradle of vocations. Before I conclude, I joyfully announce to you the venue of the next International Eucharistic Congress. It will be held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. I ask the Lord to enable each one of you to discover the depth and grandeur of the mystery of faith. May Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit invoked upon the bread and the wine, accompany you on your daily journey and in your mission. May you be ready for God to work within you, after the example of the Virgin Mary. As I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady, of St Anne, Patronness of Quebec, and of all your Country’s Saints, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all, as well as to all those present who have come from the different countries of the world.

Dear friends, as this significant event in the life of the Church draws to a conclusion I invite you all to join me in praying for the success of the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2012 in the city of Dublin! I take this opportunity to greet warmly the people of Ireland, as they prepare to host this ecclesial gathering. I am confident that they, together with all the participants at the next Congress, will find it a source of lasting spiritual renewal.


PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS
BENEDICT XVI
TO SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO

ANGELUS

Square outside the Church of St Pio of Pietrelcina, Sunday, 21 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn Celebration, as on every Sunday, I invite you to recite with me the Marian prayer of the Angelus. But here, at the Shrine of St Pio of Pietrelcina it seems we can hear his very voice, urging us to turn with the hearts of children to the Blessed Virgin: “Love Our Lady and make her loved!”. He would repeat this to everyone and even more effective than his words was the exemplary witness of his deep devotion to the heavenly Mother. Baptized in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Pietrelcina with the name of Francis, like the Poverello of Assisi he always felt the most tender love for the Virgin. Then Providence led him here, to San Giovanni Rotondo, to the Shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where he stayed until his death and where his mortal remains were laid to rest. Thus he lived his whole life and his apostolate under the motherly gaze of Our Lady and with the power of her intercession. He also considered the House for the Relief of Suffering to be a work of Mary, “Health of the sick”. Therefore, dear friends, after the example of Padre Pio, today I too wish to entrust you all to the maternal protection of the Mother of God. In a particular way I invoke her protection for the community of the Capuchin Friars, for the sick in the Hospital and for all those who care for them lovingly, as well as for the Prayer Groups which perpetuate in Italy and in the world the spiritual bequest of their Holy Founder.

I would like to entrust in a special way to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Pio of Pietrelcina the Year for Priests that I inaugurated last Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May it be a privileged opportunity to shed light on the value of the mission and of the holiness of priests at the service of the Church and of humanity in the third millennium!

Let us also pray today for the difficult and at times dramatic situation of refugees. The World Day for Refugees, promoted by the United Nations, was celebrated yesterday. Many people fleeing from situations of war, persecution and natural disasters are seeking refuge in other countries and their reception gives rise to many difficulties, yet it is only right. May God ordain that with the efforts of all, we may be as successful as possible in removing the causes of such a sad phenomenon.

I greet all the pilgrims gathered here with great affection. I express my gratitude to the civil Authorities and to all those who have helped to organize my Visit. A heartfelt “thank you”! I repeat to all: walk on the path that Padre Pio pointed out to you, the path of holiness in accordance with the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Virgin Mary always go before you on this path and guide you with her motherly hand to the heavenly homeland.


PASTORAL VISIT TO SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Church of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Sunday, 21 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the heart of my pilgrimage to this place where everything speaks of the life and holiness of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, I have the joy of celebrating for you and with you the Eucharist, a mystery that was the centre of his whole life, the origin of his vocation, the power of his witness, the consecration of his sacrifice. With deep affection I greet all of you who have gathered here in large numbers, and all those who have joined us via radio and television. In the first place, I greet Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio who after years of faithful service to this diocesan community is preparing to take over the care of the Archdiocese of Lecce. I cordially thank him too for having expressed your sentiments. I greet the other Bishops who are concelebrating. I address a special greeting to the Capuchin Friars with the Minister General Fra Mauro Jöhri, the Definitor General, the Minister Provincial, the Father Guardian of the Convent, the Rector of the Shrine and the Capuchin Fraternity of San Giovanni Rotondo. I also greet with gratitude all those who make their contribution by serving the Shrine and the annexed institutions; I greet the civil and military Authorities; I greet the priests, the deacons, the other religious, men and women, and all the faithful. I address an affectionate thought to everyone in the House for the Relief of Suffering, to people who are all alone and to all the inhabitants of your town.

We have just heard the Gospel reading of the calming of the storm, which was presented with a brief but incisive passage from the Book of Job, in which God reveals himself as the Lord of the sea. Jesus rebukes the wind and orders the sea to be calm, he speaks to it as if it were identified with the power of the devil. In fact, according to what the First Reading and Psalm 107[106] tell us, in the Bible the sea is considered a threatening, chaotic and potentially destructive element which God the Creator alone can dominate, govern and calm.

Yet, there is another force a positive force that moves the world, capable of transforming and renewing creatures: the power of “Christ’s love” (2 Cor 5: 14) as St Paul calls it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians not, therefore essentially a cosmic force, but rather divine, transcendent. It also acts on the cosmos but, in itself, Christ’s love is “another” power and the Lord manifested this transcendent otherness in his Pasch, in the “holiness” of the “way” he chose to free us from the dominion of evil, as happened for the Exodus when he brought the Jews out of Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea. “Your way, O God, is holy”, the Psalmist exclaims, “Your way was through the sea/ your path through the great waters” (Ps 77[76]: 13, 19). In the Paschal Mystery, Jesus passed through the abyss of death, because in this way God wanted to renew the universe through the death and Resurrection of his Son, who “died for all”, that all might live “for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5: 15), and not live for their own sake alone.

The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea was a clear sign of Christ’s lordship over negative powers and induces one to think of his divinity: “Who then is this”, his own Disciples asked fearfully, “that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mk 4: 41). Their faith is not yet firm, it is being formed; it is a mingling of fear and trust; on the other hand, Jesus’ confidant abandonment to the Father is total and pure. This is why he could sleep during the storm, completely safe in God’s arms. The time would come, however, when Jesus too would feel fear and anguish, when his hour came he was to feel the full burden of humanity’s sins upon him, like a wave at high tide about to break over him. That was indeed to be a terrible tempest, not cosmic but spiritual. It was to be the final, extreme assault of evil against the Son of God.

Yet, in that hour Jesus did not doubt in the power of God the Father or in his closeness, even though he had to experience to the full the distance of hatred from love, of falsehood from the truth, of sin from grace. He experienced this drama in himself with excruciating pain, especially in Gethsemane, before his arrest, and then throughout his Passion until his death on the Cross. In that hour, Jesus on the one hand was one with the Father, fully abandoned to him; on the other, since he showed solidarity to sinners, he was as it were separated and felt abandoned by him.

Some Saints have lived Jesus’ experience intensely and personally. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one such. A simple man, of humble origin, whom “Christ made... his own” (Phil 3: 12) as the Apostle Paul wrote of himself to make him a chosen instrument of the eternal power of his Cross: a power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual fatherhood, of effective solidarity with the suffering. The stigmata that marked his Body closely united him with the Crucified and Risen One. A genuine follower of St Francis of Assisi, like the Poverello he made St Paul’s experience his own, as he described it in his Letters: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20); or: “death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4: 12). This does not mean alienation, the loss of one’s personality: God never annihilates human beings but transforms them with his Spirit and orientates them to serving his plan of salvation. Padre Pio retained his own natural gifts and his own temperament, but he offered all things to God, who was able to make free use of them to extend Christ’s work: to proclaim the Gospel, to forgive sins and to heal the sick in body and in mind.

Like Jesus, Padre Pio did not have to battle with earthly enemies, in radical combat, but rather with the spirit of evil (see Eph 6: 12). The greatest “storms” that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, from which he defended himself with “the armour of God”, with “the shield of faith” and with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6: 11, 16, 17). By staying united with Jesus, he always focussed on the depth of the human drama, and for this reason offered himself up as well as his many sufferings and could expend himself for the healing and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God’s mercy, of his Kingdom which comes, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. To guide souls and to alleviate suffering; we may thus sum up St Pio of Pietrelcina in the words of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI: “he was a man of prayer and suffering” (Address to the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).

Dear friends, Friars Minor Capuchin, the members of prayer groups and all the faithful of San Giovanni Rotondo, you are the heirs of Padre Pio and the legacy he has bequeathed to you is his holiness. In one of his letters he wrote: “It seems that Jesus had no work for his hands other than to sanctify your soul” (Epist. II, p. 155). This was always his priority concern, his priestly and paternal caring: so that people might return to God, might be able to experience his mercy and, inwardly renewed, rediscover the beauty and joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of putting the Gospel into practice. Padre Pio attracted people to the way of holiness with his own witness, pointing out by his example the “track” that leads to it: prayer and charity.

First of all prayer. Like all great men of God Padre Pio himself had become prayer, body and soul. His days were a Rosary lived, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of Christ’s mysteries in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unique coexistence within him of supernatural gifts and human concreteness.

And it all culminated in the celebration of holy Mass in which he was fully united with the dead and Risen Lord. From prayer, as an ever living source, flowed charity. The love that he carried in his heart and passed on to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of people and families. Especially in the sick and the suffering, he encouraged special love for the Heart of Christ and it was precisely from this that the project of a great work dedicated to “the relief of suffering” took its origin and form. It is not possible to understand or interpret this institution adequately if it is separated from the source that inspired it, which is evangelical charity, enlivened, in its turn, by prayer.

Today, dear friends, Padre Pio presents all this to our attention anew. The risks of activism and secularization are ever present; thus my Visit is also intended to strengthen your fidelity to the mission you have inherited from your most beloved Father. Many of you, men and women religious and lay people, are so taken up by the thousands of tasks demanded of you by the service to pilgrims or to the sick in hospital that you run the risk of neglecting the one truly necessary thing: listening to Christ in order to do God’s will. When you realize that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: at his example, at his suffering, and invoke his intercession so that he may obtain for you from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue your own mission, steeped in love for God and in fraternal charity. And may he continue from Heaven to exercise that exquisite spiritual fatherhood that distinguished him during his earthly existence; may he continue to accompany his confreres, his spiritual children and the entire work that he began. Together with St Francis and with Our Lady whom he so deeply loved and made loved in this world, may he always watch over all of you and protect you. And then, also in the storms that may suddenly break, you will be able to feel the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any contrary wind and impels the Barque of the Church and each one of us onward. This is why we must always live in serenity and cultivate in our hearts joy, giving thanks to the Lord. “His love is for ever” (Responsorial psalm). Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning in St Peter’s Basilica I conferred the Order of the Priesthood on 14 deacons for the Diocese of Rome which is why I am late for the Angelus! The sacrament of Orders expresses on God’s part his caring closeness to men and women and, on the part of those who receive it, full readiness to become an instrument of this closeness with radical love for Christ and for his Church. In this Sunday’s Gospel the Lord asks his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Lk 9: 20). The Apostle Peter readily answers this question: “You are the Christ of God”, the Messiah of God (see ibid.), thereby surpassing all the earthly opinions that held Jesus to be one of the prophets. According to St Ambrose, with this profession of faith Peter “embraced all things at the same time, because he expressed the nature and the name” of the Messiah (Exp. in Lucam VI, 93, CCL 14, 207). And Jesus, hearing this profession of faith renews his invitation to Peter and to the other disciples to follow him on the demanding path of love, even to the Cross. To us too, who can get to know the Lord through faith in his word and in the sacraments, Jesus addresses the proposal that we follow him every day and also reminds us that to be his disciples it is necessary to make our own the power of his Cross, the summit of our good and the crown of our hope.

St Maximus Confessor noted that the “distinctive sign of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Cross that he carried on his shoulders” (Ambiguorum 32, PG 91, 1284 C). In fact, “he said to all, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’“ (Lk 9: 23). Taking up the Cross means striving to defeat sin that is an obstacle on the way towards God, accepting the Lord’s will every day, increasing faith, especially in the face of problems, difficulties and suffering. The Carmelite Saint, Edith Stein, bore witness to this in a time of persecution. Thus in 1938 she wrote from the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, “Today I understand... what it means to be a Bride of Christ in the sign of the Cross, although this will never be fully understood since it is a mystery.... The darker it grows around us the more we should open our hearts to the light that comes from on high” (La scelta di Dio. Lettere [1917-1942], Rome, 1973, 132-133]. In our day too there are many Christians in the world who, motivated by love for God, take up their cross every day, both the cross of daily trials and the cross caused by human barbarity that sometimes demands the courage of the supreme sacrifice. May the Lord obtain that each one of us always place our firm hope in him, certain that in following him, carrying our own cross, we will reach with him the light of the Resurrection.

Let us entrust to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary the new priests ordained today, who join the ranks of all those whom the Lord has called by name: may they always be faithful disciples, courageous heralds of the word of God and stewards of his gifts of salvation.


PRIESTLY ORDINATION
OF THE DEACONS OF THE DIOCESE OF ROME

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Very Dear Ordinands,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Bishop of this Diocese I am particularly glad to welcome 14 new Priests into the “presbyterium” of Rome. Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and all the Priests, I thank the Lord for the gift of these new pastors of the People of God. I would like to address a special greeting to you, beloved ordinands: today you are the centre of attention of the People of God, symbolically represented by the people who fill this Vatican Basilica. They fill it with their prayers and their singing, with their sincere and deep affection, their authentic emotion, their human and spiritual joy. Among this People of God a special place is reserved for your parents and relatives, your friends and companions, the Superiors and teachers at your Seminaries, the various parish communities and the different sectors of the Church from which you come and which have accompanied you on your journey, as well as those to whom you have already offered your pastoral service. Nor should we forget the unique closeness, at this moment, of many other people, humble and simple but great before God such as, for example, the cloistered women religious, the children, the sick and the infirm. They accompany you with the very precious gift of their prayers, their innocence and their suffering.

Thus today it is the whole Church of Rome which is giving thanks and praying for you, which puts such great trust and hope in your future, which expects abundant fruits of holiness and good from your priestly ministry. Yes, the Church relies on you, she relies very heavily on you! The Church needs each one of you, aware as she is of the gifts that God offers you and, at the same time, of the absolute need in every person’s heart to encounter Christ, the one and universal Saviour of the world, to receive from him new and eternal life, true freedom and full joy. We therefore feel we are all invited to enter the “mystery”, the event of grace that is being brought about in your hearts with Ordination to the priesthood, letting ourselves be illuminated by the Word of God that has been proclaimed.

The Gospel we have heard presents to us an important moment in Jesus’ journey, the moment when he asks his disciples what people think of him and their own opinion of him. Peter answers on behalf of the Twelve with a profession of faith substantially different from the people’s opinion of Jesus; in fact he says: You are the Christ of God (see Lk 9: 20). What is the origin of this act of faith? If we go to the beginning of the Gospel passage, we note that Peter’s profession is linked to a moment of Prayer: “as he [Jesus] was praying alone the disciples were with him”, St Luke says (9: 18). In other words the disciples become involved in Jesus’ absolutely unique being and speaking with the Father. And so it is that they are granted to see the Teacher in his intimate condition as Son, they are granted to see what the others do not see; from “being with him”, from “being with him” in prayer, derives a knowledge that goes beyond the people’s opinion to reach the profound identity of Jesus, to reach the truth. Here we are given a very precise instruction for the priest’s life and mission: he is called to rediscover in prayer the ever new face of his Lord and the most authentic content of his mission. Only those who have a profound relationship with the Lord are grasped by him, can take him to others, can be sent out. “Abiding with him” must always accompany the exercise of the priestly ministry. It must be its central part, even and above all in difficult moments when it seems that the “things that need doing” should have priority, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we must always “abide with him”.

I would like to underline a second element of today’s Gospel. Immediately after Peter’s profession, Jesus announces his Passion and Resurrection and follows this announcement with a teaching concerning the journey of the disciples, which means following him, the Crucified One, and following him on the Way of the Cross. And he then adds with paradoxical words that being a disciple means “losing his life”, but in order to save himself fully (see Lk 9: 22-24). What does this mean for every Christian, but what does it mean for a priest in particular? Discipleship; yet we can safely say: the priesthood can never be a means of achieving security in life or of acquiring a position in society. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood to enhance his own prestige and power has misunderstood the meaning of this ministry at its root. Anyone who wishes above all to achieve an ambition of his own, to attain success for himself will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be esteemed, he must flatter, he must say what people want to hear; he will have to adapt to changing fashions and opinions and will thus deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he had praised today. A man who plans his life in this manner, a priest who sees his ministry in these terms does not truly love God and others but only himself and, paradoxically, ends by losing himself. The priesthood let us always remember is based on having the courage to say “yes” to another will, in the awareness that we are growing every day, that precisely by conforming to God’s will, by “immersing ourselves” in this will, not only will our own originality not be obliterated, but on the contrary, we will penetrate ever more deeply into the truth of our being and our ministry.

Dear Ordinands, I would like to propose for your reflection a third thought, closely linked to what I have just explained: Jesus’ invitation to “lose [yourself]”, to take up your cross, recalls the mystery we are celebrating: the Eucharist. Today, with the sacrament of Orders, you are granted to preside over the Eucharist! To you is entrusted the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, to you is entrusted his Body given and his Blood poured out. Of course, on the Cross Jesus offers his sacrifice, his gift of humble and total love to the Church his Bride. It is on that wood that the grain of wheat which the Father let fall on the field of the world dies in order to become a ripe fruit, a giver of life. However, in God’s plan, Christ’s gift of himself is made present in the Eucharist through that potestas sacra, which the sacrament of Orders confers upon you priests. When we celebrate Holy Mass we hold in our hands the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of God, which is Christ, the grain that breaks open in order to increase and to become the true food of life for the world. It is something that cannot but fill you with deep wonder, lively joy and immense gratitude: love and the gift of the Crucified and Glorious Christ now pass through your hands, your voice, your heart! It is an ever new experience of wonder to see that the Lord brings about this mystery of his Presence in my hands, in my voice!

So how can we fail to pray the Lord to give you an ever alert and enthusiastic awareness of this gift which is placed at the centre of your being as priests! And to give you the grace of being able to experience in depth the whole beauty and power of this presbyteral service of yours and, at the same time, the grace of being able to live this ministry with consistency and generosity, every day.

The grace of the priesthood, which will shortly be given to you, will associate you closely, indeed structurally, with the Eucharist. This is why it will connect you in the depths of your hearts with the sentiments of Jesus who loves to the very end, to the total gift of himself, to the point of his becoming Bread multiplied for the sacred banquet of unity and communion. This is the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, destined to set your heart on fire with the very love of the Lord Jesus. It is an outpouring which, while communicating the absolutely free nature of the gift, sculpts in your being an indelible law the new law, a law that impels you to insert and make flourish anew, in the material context of the attitudes and actions of your every day life, the same love that prompted the self-giving of the Crucified Christ. Let us listen once again to the Apostle Paul’s voice, indeed in this voice we recognize the powerful voice of the Holy Spirit: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3: 27). Already in Baptism, and now by virtue of the sacrament of Orders, you have put on Christ. May care for the Eucharistic celebration always be accompanied by commitment to a Eucharistic life, namely, a life lived in obedience to one great law, that of love which is given without reserve and serves with humility, a life that the grace of the Holy Spirit renders ever closer to the life of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, Servant of God and of humankind.

Dear friends, the path that today’s Gospel points out to us is the path of your spirituality and of your pastoral action, of its efficacy and effectiveness, even in the most demanding and arid situations. Furthermore, this is the reliable way to finding true joy. May Mary, the Servant of the Lord who conformed her will to that of God, who brought forth Christ, giving him to the world, who followed the Son even to the foot of the Cross in the supreme act of love, accompany you every day of your life and of your ministry. Thanks to the affection of this tender and strong Mother, you will be able to be joyously faithful to the orders that as priests are being conferred on you today: to conform yourselves to Christ the Priest, who was able to obey the Father’s will and to love man to the very end.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE DIOCESE OF SAN MARINO-MONTEFELTRO

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While we are preparing to conclude our celebration the midday hour invites us to turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. In this region too Our Most Holy Mother is venerated in various shrines, both old and new. To her I entrust all of you and the entire population of San Marino and Montefeltro and, in particular, those who are suffering in body and mind. I address a special thought of gratitude at this time to all who cooperated in the preparation and organization of this visit. My heartfelt thanks!

I am pleased to recall that Bl. Sr Marguerite Rutan, a Daughter of Charity, is being beatified today in Dax, France. In the second half of the 18th century she worked with deep dedication at the Hospital in Dax but in the tragic persecutions that followed the Revolution she was sentenced to death for her Catholic faith and her fidelity to the Church.

I am participating in spirit in the joy of the Daughters of Charity and of all the faithful in Dax who are taking part in the beatification of Sr Marguerite Rutan, a shining witness of Christ’s love for the poor.

Lastly, I would like to recall that tomorrow is the World Refugee Day. On this occasion, this year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the international convention which protects all those who are persecuted and forced to flee their countries. I therefore ask the civil authorities and every person of goodwill to guarantee to refugees acceptance and dignified living conditions, while they wait to return in freedom and safety to their homeland.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE DIOCESE OF SAN MARINO-MONTEFELTRO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Great is my joy at being a able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. My special thoughts go to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. I greet with affection your pastor, Bishop Luigi Negri, whom I thank for his courteous words and, with him, I greet all the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro; I greet each one of you and express my heartfelt gratitude for the cordiality and affection with which you have welcomed me. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and duties, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that you are not without difficulties, problems and concerns here. I want to assure you all that I am close to you and remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and its people, with its granitic faith of which the Bishop spoke.

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feast of God, of the centre of our faith: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When one thinks of the Trinity, one usually thinks of the aspect of the mystery: they are Three and they are One, one God in three Persons. Actually God in his greatness cannot be anything but a mystery for us, yet he revealed himself. We can know him in his Son and thus also know the Father and the Holy Spirit. Instead today’s Liturgy draws our attention not so much to this mystery as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one because God is love and love is an absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a unity greater than a purely physical unity. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mutual love of the Father and the Son. The texts of today’s Mass speak of God and thus speak of love; they do not dwell so much on the three Persons, but rather on love which is the substance and, at the same time, the unity and trinity.

The first passage that we heard, taken from the Book of Exodus and which I dwelt on at a recent Wednesday catechesis, is surprising because the revelation of God’s love comes after a very serious sin of the people. They had hardly concluded the oath of the Covenant which they took at Mount Sinai, and already the people were disloyal. In Moses’ prolonged absence, the people said: “but where has this Moses gone, where is his God?” and they asked Aaron to create a god who would be visible, accessible and controllable, within the reach of man instead of this mysterious, invisible and distant God. Aaron complied and made a golden calf. Coming down from Sinai, Moses saw what had happened and broke the tablets of the Covenant which was already broken, shattered, two stones on which were written the “Ten Words”, the concrete contents of the agreement with God. It looked as if all was lost, the friendship, immediately and from the outset, was broken. Yet, despite this most grievous sin of the people, through Moses’ intercession God chose to forgive them and invited Moses to climb the mountain once again to receive anew his law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asked God to reveal himself, to allow him to see his face. However, God did not show his face, but rather revealed his being, full of goodness, with these words: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). This is the Face of God. This self-definition of God expresses his merciful love: a love that triumphs over sin, covers it, eliminates it. We can always be sure of this goodness which does not abandon us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who refuses to destroy sinners and wants to show his love in an even more profound and surprising way to sinners themselves, in order to always offer them the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.

The Gospel completes this revelation, we heard in the First Reading, because it indicates the point to which God has shown his mercy. John the Evangelist refers to these words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the world there is evil, there is selfishness, there is wickedness, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness. Instead, he shows his love for the world and for men and women, despite their sin, and sends what is most precious to him: his Only-Begotten Son. Not only does God send him, but he gives him as a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins and welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave his own life for us: on the cross God’s merciful love reaches its highest expression. And it is on the cross that the Son of God obtains for us participation in eternal life that is communicated to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the mystery of the cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives his Only-Begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who totally fulfils the Father’s plan; the Holy Spirit — poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death — who comes to make us participants in divine life, to transform our existence so that it may be enlivened by divine love.

Dear brothers and sisters, faith in the Trinitarian God has characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro, too, throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the holy stonemasons Marinus and Leo who are said to have come to Rimini from Dalmatia in the middle of the third century. Because of the holiness of their lives they were ordained, respectively a priest and a deacon, by Bishop Gaudentius who sent them inland, one to Monte Feretro, later known as San Leo, and the other to Monte Titano, later known as San Marino. Over and above the historical issues — which it is not our task to examine — it is interesting to state that Marinus and Leo brought into the context of this local reality, with the faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, new perspectives and values, determining the birth of a culture and a civilization centred on the human person, the image of God and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of ethnic groups — Romans, Goths and later Lombards — who came into contact with each other, sometimes in very conflictual situations, found in their common reference to faith a powerful factor for ethical, cultural, social and, in a certain way, political, edification. It was obvious to them that they could not consider a project of civilization complete until all the members of the people had become a living and well-structured Christian community built on faith in the Trinitarian God. Therefore one can rightly say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear Sammarinesi, has been and still is faith, and that this faith has created a truly unique civilization. Alongside your faith, we must also recall your absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, whom this Church has always viewed with devotion and affection; likewise the attention shown to the great tradition of the Eastern Church and a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.

You are justly proud of and grateful for all that the Holy Spirit has done in your Church throughout the centuries. However, you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is to cultivate and enrich it. You are called, in fact, to develop this precious deposit in one of the most crucial moments in history. Today your mission is facing profound and rapid cultural, social, economic and political transformations that have determined new directions and changed mentalities, customs and sensitivities. Here too, as elsewhere, there is no lack of difficulties and obstacles, due above all to hedonistic models that obscure minds and risk uprooting all morality. The temptation has crept in to believe that man’s true wealth is not faith, but personal and social power, his intellect, his culture and his capacity to manipulate scientific, technological and social reality. Thus, in these lands too, people have begun to replace faith and Christian values with presumed riches which ultimately prove to be inconsistent and unable to sustain the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just that for centuries your ancestors have identified with the experience of faith. Nor should we forget the crisis into which many families have been plunged, aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual fragility of couples, as well as the struggle experienced by many educators in offering formative continuity to young people, who are conditioned by various types of instability, and in the first place that of their social role and work opportunities.

Dear friends, I am well acquainted with the committed involvement of every member of this particular Church in fostering the various aspects of Christian life. I urge all the faithful to be like leaven in the world, showing that in both Montefeltro and San Marino there are enterprising and consistent Christians present. May priests and religious live in an ever more cordial and active ecclesial communion, helping and listening to the diocesan pastor. May you too feel the urgent need for a resurgence in priestly vocations and to those of special consecration: I appeal to families and to young people to open their hearts to a prompt response to the Lord’s call. No one ever regrets being generous to God! I urge you lay people to be actively involved in the community so that, in addition to your specific civic, political, social and cultural tasks, you may find the time and inclination for a life of faith, for pastoral life. Dear people of San Marino, stay firmly faithful to the heritage built over the centuries under the inspiration of your great patrons, Marinus and Leo. I invoke God’s blessing on your journey, today and in the future, and I commend you all to “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14). Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 24 June, we are celebrating the Solemnity of St John the Baptist. He is the only saint — with the exception of the Virgin Mary — whose birth the liturgy celebrates and it does so because it is closely connected with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, from the time when he was in his mother’s womb John was the precursor of Jesus: the Angel announced to Mary his miraculous conception as a sign that “nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37), six months before the great miracle that brings us salvation, God’s union with man brought about by the Holy Spirit. The four Gospels place great emphasis on the figure of John the Baptist, the prophet who concludes the Old Testament and inaugurates the New, by identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord. In fact, Jesus himself was to speak of John in these terms: “This is he of whom it is written ‘Behold I send my messenger before your face, / who shall prepare your way before you. Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he!” (Mt 11:10-11).

John’s father, Zechariah — Elizabeth’s husband and a relative of Mary — was a priest of Old Testament worship, he did not immediately believe in the announcement of such an unexpected fatherhood. This is why he was left mute until the day of the circumcision of the child to whom he and his wife gave the name God had indicated to them, that is, John, which means “graced by God”. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah spoke thus of his son’s mission: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Lk 1:76-77).

All this came to pass 30 years later when John began baptizing people in the River Jordan, calling them to prepare themselves with this act of penance for the imminent coming of the Messiah, which God had revealed to them during their wanderings in the desert of Judaea. This is why he was called the “Baptist”, the “Baptizer” (see Mt 3:1-6). When one day Jesus himself came from Nazareth to be baptized, John at first refused but then consented; he saw the Holy Spirit settle on Jesus and heard the voice of the heavenly Father proclaiming him his Son (see Mt 3:13-17). However, the Baptist’s mission was not yet complete. Shortly afterwards he was also asked to precede Jesus in a violent death: John was beheaded in King Herod’s prison and thus bore a full witness to the Lamb of God who had recognized him and publicly pointed him out beforehand.

Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth when she was expecting John to bring her pregnancy to completion. May she help all people to follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, whom the Baptist proclaimed with deep humility and prophetic fervour. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana