Entry 0286: Reflections on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 26 June 2005, 2 July 2006, 1 July 2007, 29 June 2008, 28 June 2009, 27 June 2010, 26 June 2011, and 1 July 2012. Here are the texts of the eight reflections that the Pope delivered on these occasions before the recitation of the Angelus.
We call upon the Virgin Mary to accompany our journey of faith and our commitment to practical love, especially to those in need, as we invoke her maternal intercession for our brothers who live with suffering in body or spirit.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 June 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We are preparing to celebrate with great solemnity the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, who in
sealed the proclamation of the Gospel with their blood. At 9: 30 a.m. on 29
June, I will preside at Holy Mass in the Vatican Basilica: it will be an
important opportunity to emphasize the unity and catholicity of the Church.
As in the past, a special Delegation sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople will be taking part in the celebration. I invite the faithful of
Rome, who venerate the Apostles Saints Peter and
Paul as their special Patrons, the pilgrims and the entire People of God to
invoke their heavenly protection upon the Church and her Pastors.
For countries in the northern hemisphere the end of June marks the beginning of the summer season and, for many, the beginning of vacations. I hope that everyone will be able to live serenely a few days of well-earned rest and relaxation and I would like to address an appeal for prudence to those who are setting out for their various vacation sites. Every day, unfortunately, especially on the weekend, road accidents are recorded with so many human lives tragically cut short, and more than half the victims are young people.
In recent years much has been done to prevent these tragic events but more can and must be done, with the contribution and involvement of all. It is necessary to combat distraction and superficiality which, in an instant, can ruin one’s own future and that of others. Life is precious and unique: it must always be respected and protected, also by proper and careful conduct on the roads.
May the Virgin Mary, who accompanies us on our daily journey through life, watch over travellers and obtain mercy for road victims. With the upcoming Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, let us entrust the Church and her missionary action throughout the world to Her, the heavenly Queen of the Apostles.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 July 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Next Saturday and Sunday, the Fifth World Meeting of Families will be held in
Spain, in the city of Valencia. The first of these meetings was
held in Rome in
1994, on the occasion of the International Year of Families promoted by the
United Nations. On that occasion, our beloved John Paul II wrote a long and
passionate meditation on the family that he addressed in the form of a “Letter”
to the families of the whole world. This great gathering of families was
followed by others: in Rio de Janeiro in 1997,
in Rome in 2000 for the Jubilee of Families, and
in Manila in
2003 where, however, he was unable to go in person but sent an audiovisual
Message. It is important that families today also receive the memorable appeal
that John Paul II addressed to them 25 years ago in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris
Consortio: “Family, become what you are!” (see no. 17).
The theme of the upcoming Meeting in
is the transmission of the faith in the family. This commitment has inspired
the motto of my Apostolic Visit to this city: “Family: live and transmit the
faith!”. In so many secularized communities, the first urgent need for
believers in Christ is indeed the renewal of the faith of adults so that they
can communicate it to the new generations.
Moreover, the process of the Christian initiation of children and young people can become a useful opportunity for parents to renew their ties with the Church and learn even more about the beauty and truth of the Gospel.
In short, the family is a living organism in which there is a reciprocal exchange of gifts. The important thing is that the Word of God, which keeps the flame of faith alive, never be lacking.
In a most significant gesture, during the rite of Baptism the father or godfather lights a candle from the great Paschal Candle, the symbol of the Risen Christ, and turning to the relatives of the child, the celebrant says: [this child] of yours has been enlightened by Christ. [He/she is] to walk always as [a child] of the light”. If it is to be authentic, this gesture, in which there is all the meaning of the transmission of faith in the family, must be preceded and accompanied by the commitment of the parents to deepen their knowledge of their own faith, reviving its flame through prayer and the assiduous reception of the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist.
Let us pray to the Virgin Mary for the success of the upcoming great Meeting in Valencia and for all the families in the world so that they may be genuine communities of love and life, in which the flame of the faith is passed on from generation to generation.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1st July 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The biblical Readings of Mass this Sunday invite us to meditate on a fascinating theme which can be summed up like this: “freedom and following Christ”. The Evangelist Luke tells us that “as the time approached when he was to be taken from this world”, Jesus “firmly resolved to proceed toward
(Lk 9: 51). In the phrase “firmly resolved”, we can glimpse Christ’s freedom.
Indeed, he knows that in
death on a cross awaits him, but in obedience to the Father’s will, he offers
himself for love. It is in his very obedience to the Father that Jesus achieves
his own freedom as a conscious decision motivated by love.
Who is freer than the One who is the Almighty? He did not, however, live his freedom as an arbitrary power or as domination. He lived it as a service. In this way he “filled” freedom with content, which would otherwise have remained an “empty” possibility of doing or not doing something.
Like human life itself, freedom draws its meaning from love. Indeed, who is the freest? Someone who selfishly keeps all possibilities open for fear of losing them, or someone who expends himself “firmly resolved” to serve and thereby finds himself full of life because of the love he has given and received?
The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Galatia, today in Turkey, said: “You were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another” (Gal 5: 13).
Living according to the flesh means following the selfish tendencies of human nature. Living according to the Spirit, on the other hand, means allowing oneself to be guided in intentions and works by God’s love which Christ has given to us. Therefore, Christian freedom is quite the opposite of arbitrariness; it consists in following Christ in the gift of self even to the sacrifice of the Cross.
It may seem a paradox, but the Lord lived the crowning point of his freedom on the Cross as a summit of love. When they shouted at him on
“If you are the Son of God, come down from the Cross!”, he showed his freedom
as the Son precisely by remaining on that scaffold, to do the Father’s merciful
will to the very end.
Other witnesses to the truth have shared this experience, men and women who showed that they remained free even in a prison cell and under the threat of torture. “The truth will set you free”. Those who side with the truth will never be slaves of any power but will always make themselves freely servants of their brothers and sisters.
Let us look at Mary Most Holy. A humble Handmaid of the Lord, the Virgin is the model of a spiritual person who is totally free because she is immaculate, immune to sin and all holy, dedicated to the service of God and neighbour. May she help us with her motherly care to follow Jesus, to know the truth and to live freedom in love.
Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Sunday, 29 June 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul occurs on a Sunday, so that the whole Church, and not only the Church of Rome, is celebrating it with solemnity. This coincidence is also conducive to giving greater emphasis to an extraordinary event: the Pauline Year, which I opened officially yesterday evening at the tomb of the Apostle to the Gentiles and which will continue until 29 June 2009. Indeed, historians date the birth of Saul, who later became Paul, back to between the years 7 and 10 A.D. Consequently, since approximately 2,000 years have now passed, I wished to establish this special Jubilee which will naturally have
as its centre and, in particular, the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls and
the Tre Fontane [Three Fountains], the place of his martyrdom. However, it will
involve the entire Church, beginning with Tarsus, the town of Saul’s birth, and
with the other Pauline sites which are pilgrimage destinations in present-day
Turkey, as well as in the Holy Land and on the Island of Malta where the
Apostle landed after being shipwrecked and scattered the fertile seed of the
Gospel. In fact, the horizon of the Pauline Year can only be universal because
St Paul was par excellence the Apostle to those who compared with the Jews,
were “far-off”, and had been “brought near”, through “the Blood of Christ” (see
Eph 2: 13). For this reason, today too, in a world which has become “smaller”,
but in which a great many people have still not yet encountered the Lord Jesus,
the Jubilee of St Paul invites all Christians to be Gospel missionaries.
This missionary dimension must always be accompanied by the dimension of unity, represented by St Peter, the “rock” upon which Jesus Christ built his Church. As the liturgy emphasizes, the charisms of the two great Apostles are complementary for building the one People of God, and Christians cannot bear an effective witness to Christ unless they are united among themselves. The theme of unity is highlighted today by the traditional rite of the Pallium, which, during Holy Mass, I imposed upon the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during this past year. There are 40 of them and two others will receive the pallium in their own archdioceses. To them too I once again extend my cordial greeting. Moreover, on today’s Solemnity it is a cause of special joy to the Bishop of Rome to welcome the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in the beloved person of His Holiness Bartholomew I, to whom I renew my fraternal greeting which I extend to the entire Delegation of the Orthodox Church that he has led here.
The Pauline Year, evangelization, communion in the Church and the full unity of all Christians: let us now pray for these great intentions, entrusting them to the heavenly intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of Apostles.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 28 June 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With the celebration of First Vespers of Saints Peter and Paul at which I shall preside this evening in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, the Pauline Year, established to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of the Apostle of the Gentiles, is drawing to a close. It has been a true time of grace in which, through pilgrimages, catecheses, numerous publications and various initiatives, the figure of
has been presented anew throughout the Church and his vibrant message has
revived in Christian communities everywhere a passion for Christ and for the
Gospel. Let us, therefore, thank God for the Pauline Year and for all the
spiritual gifts that it has brought us.
Providence disposed only a
few days ago that on 19 June, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
another special Year be inaugurated, the Year for Priests, on the occasion of
the 150th anniversary of the death dies natalis of John Mary Vianney,
the Holy Curé d’Ars. This is a further spiritual and pastoral incentive, which
I am sure will not fail to bring numerous benefits to the Christian people and
especially to the clergy. What is the purpose of the Year for Priests? As I
wrote in my special Letter addressed to priests, it is meant to encourage the
commitment of all priests to interior renewal for a stronger and more effective
Gospel witness in today’s world. In this regard the Apostle Paul is a splendid
model to imitate, not so much in the practical details of his life which was
truly extraordinary but rather in his love for Christ, in his zeal to proclaim
the Gospel, in his dedication to the communities and in his elaboration of
effective syntheses of pastoral theology. St Paul is the example of a priest
who identified totally with his ministry as the Holy Curé d’Ars would also be
aware that he was carrying a priceless treasure, namely, the message of
salvation, but in “earthen vessels” (see 2 Cor 4: 7). Thus he is simultaneously
strong and humble, deeply convinced that everything is God’s doing, everything
is his grace. “The love of Christ impels us”, the Apostle writes, and this
could well be the motto of every priest, whom the Spirit has “compelled” (see
Acts 20: 22) to be a faithful steward of the mysteries of God (see 1 Cor 4:
1-2): the priest should belong completely to Christ and completely to the
Church, to whom he is called to dedicate himself with undivided love like a
faithful husband to his wife.
Dear friends, let us now invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, together with that of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, so that she may obtain from the Lord abundant Blessings for priests during this Year for Priests which has just begun. May Our Lady, whom St John Mary Vianney so deeply loved and made loved by his parishioners, help every priest to revive the gift of God that is in him by virtue of his Holy Ordination, so that he may grow in holiness and be prepared to bear witness, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom, to the beauty of his total and definitive consecration to Christ and to the Church.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 June 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The biblical Readings of Holy Mass this Sunday give me the opportunity to take up the theme of Christ’s call and its requirements, a topic on which I also reflected a week ago, on the occasion of the ordinations of the new priests for the Diocese of Rome. In fact, those who have the good fortune to know a young man or woman who leaves the family and studies and works in order to consecrate him- or herself to God know well what is involved, for they have before them a living example of a radical response to the divine call. This is one of the most beautiful experiences one can have in the Church: seeing and actually touching the Lord’s action in people’s lives; experiencing that God is not an abstract entity but a reality so great and strong that it fills human hearts to overflowing, he is a Person, alive and close, who loves us and asks to be loved.
The Evangelist Luke presents to us Jesus, walking to
Jerusalem, who meets some men on the road
probably young men who promise they will follow him wherever he goes. Jesus
proves very demanding with them and warns them that “the Son of Man”, namely,
the Messiah, “has nowhere to lay his head” that is to say, he has no permanent
dwelling place of his own and that those who choose to work with him in God’s
field cannot turn back (see Lk 9:57-58; 61-62). On the other hand Christ says
to someone else: “Follow me”, asking him to sever completely his ties with his
family (see Lk 9:59-60). These requirements may seem too harsh but in fact they
express the newness and absolute priority of the
that is made present in the very Person of Jesus Christ. All things considered,
it is a question of that radicalism that is due to the Love of God, whom Jesus
himself was the first to obey. Those who give up everything, even themselves,
to follow Jesus, enter into a new dimension of freedom that Kingdom of God St Paul defines as “walk[ing] by the Spirit”
(see Gal 5:16). “For freedom Christ has set us free”, the Apostle writes, and
he explains that this new form of freedom acquired from Christ consists in
being “servants of one another” (Gal 5:1, 13). Freedom and love coincide! On the
contrary, complying with one’s own egoism leads to rivalry and conflict.
Dear friends, the month of June, characterized by the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ, is now coming to an end. On the Feast of the Sacred Heart we renewed our commitment to sanctification together with the priests of the whole world. Today, I would like to invite everyone to contemplate the mystery of the divine and human Heart of the Lord Jesus, to draw from the very source of God’s Love. Those who fix their gaze on that pierced Heart that is ever open for our love sense the truth of this invocation: “You are my inheritance O Lord” (Responsorial Psalm), and are prepared to leave everything to follow the Lord. O Mary, who answered the divine call without reserve, pray for us!
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 June 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Corpus Christi is being celebrated in Italy
and in other countries. It is the Feast of the Eucharist, the Sacrament of the
Body and Blood of the Lord, which he instituted at the Last Supper and which is
the Church’s most precious treasure. The Eucharist is, as it were, the beating
heart that gives life to the whole mystical body of the Church: a social
organism wholly based on the spiritual yet concrete link with Christ. As the
Apostle Paul said: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body,
for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17).
Without the Eucharist the Church quite simply would not exist. Indeed, it is the Eucharist which makes a human community into a mystery of communion that can bring God to the world and the world to God. The Holy Spirit, who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, also transforms whoever receives it with faith into a member of the body of Christ so that the Church is truly the sacrament of unity, of human beings with God and among themselves.
In an ever more individualistic culture, such as the one in which we are immersed in western society and which tends to spread throughout the world, the Eucharist constitutes a sort of “antidote” that works in the minds and hearts of believers and continually sows in them the logic of communion, service and sharing, in short, the logic of the Gospel. The first Christians in
Jerusalem were a visible sign of this new lifestyle,
because they lived in brotherhood and shared their possessions so that no one
was in need (see Acts 2:42-47). What does all this derive from? From the
Eucharist, that is, from the Risen Christ, really present in the midst of his
disciples and acting with the power of the Holy Spirit.
And also in the following generations, in spite of human limitations and errors, the Church has continued down the centuries to be a force of communion in the world. Let us think especially of the most difficult and trying periods, for example, of what the possibility of gathering together at Sunday Mass meant to countries subjected to totalitarian regimes! As the ancient martyrs of Abitene said: “Sine Dominico non possumus” — without “Dominicum” [Sunday], that is, without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live. But the void produced by false freedom can be equally dangerous, then communion with the Body of Christ is a medicine for the mind and the will, to rediscover the taste for the truth and the common good.
Dear friends, let us invoke the Virgin Mary, whom my Predecessor, Bl. John Paul II defined the “Woman of the Eucharist” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, nos. 53-58). At her school, may our life too become fully “Eucharistic”, open to God and to others and capable of transforming evil into good with the power of love, reaching out to foster unity, communion and brotherhood.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1st July 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday, the evangelist Mark presents us with a tale of two miraculous healings that Jesus performs in favour of two women: the daughter of Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue; and a woman who suffered from haemorrhage (see Mk 5 0.21 to 43). Here are two episodes in which there are two levels of interpretation – the purely physical: Jesus bends down to meet human suffering and heals the body; and the spiritual: Jesus came to heal the human heart and to give salvation, and He asks for faith in Him.
In the first episode, in fact, at the news that the daughter of Jairus was dead, Jesus says to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid, but have faith!” (v. 36). Jesus takes him with Him to the place where the girl was, and exclaims: “Little girl, I say to you: Get up!” (v. 41). And she got up and walked.
St. Jerome comments on
these words, emphasizing the saving power of Jesus: “Little girl, get up
through Me: not on account of your own merits, but through My grace. Rise,
therefore, through Me: being cured does not depend on your virtue” (Homilies on
the Gospel of Mark, 3).
The second episode, about the woman suffering from a haemorrhage, re-emphasizes how Jesus came to liberate the human being in its totality. Indeed, the miracle takes place in two phases: the first is the physical healing, but this is closely tied to deeper healing, that which bestows the grace of God to those who are open to Him in faith. Jesus tells her: “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mk 5.34).
These two stories of healing are an invitation for us to overcome a purely horizontal and materialistic view of life. So often we ask God to cure our problems, to relieve our concrete needs – and this is right. But what we should ask for even more is an ever stronger faith, because the Lord renews our lives; and a firm trust in His love, in His providence that does not abandon us.
Jesus who is attentive to human suffering makes us think also of all those who help the sick to carry their crosses, and in particular physicians, health care professionals and those who provide pastoral care in nursing homes. They are the “reserves of love,” which bring peace and hope to the suffering. In the Encyclical Deus Caritas est, I noted that, in this invaluable service, one must first be professionally competent - it is a primary, fundamental requirement - but this alone is not enough. This service, in fact, is first and foremost about human beings who need humanity and heartfelt attention. “Therefore, in addition to professional training, a certain ‘formation of the heart’ is necessary above all for such workers: This should lead them to that encounter with God in Christ that sustains that love in them, and opens their soul to others” (no. 31).
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