Entry 0298: Reflections on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 11 September 2005, 17 September 2006, 16 September 2007, 14 September 2008, 13 September 2009, 12 September 2010, 11 September 2011, and 16 September 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and three homilies delivered on these occasions.
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 11 September 2005
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 17 September 2006
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 12 September 2010
Waterfront, Sunday, 16 September 2012 Beirut City Center
Waterfront, Sunday, 16 September 2012 Beirut City Center
And may all of you, my brothers and sisters who have come to take part in this celebration, strive to be ever more fully conformed to the Lord Jesus, who became the Servant of all for the life of the world. May God bless
Lebanon; may he bless all the peoples of this
beloved region of the Middle East, and may he
grant them the gift of his peace. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Next Wednesday, 14 September, we will be celebrating the liturgical Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. In the Year dedicated to the Eucharist this feast acquires a particular significance: it invites us to meditate on the deep and indissoluble bond that unites the Eucharistic Celebration and the mystery of the Cross.
Every Holy Mass, in fact, actualizes the redeeming sacrifice of Christ. “Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass”, our beloved John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit” to Golgotha and to the “hour” of his death on the Cross (no. 4).
The Eucharist is therefore the memorial of the entire Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, descent into hell, Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven; and the Cross is the moving manifestation of the act of infinite love with which the Son of God saved humankind and the world from sin and death.
For this reason, the sign of the Cross is the fundamental act of our prayer, of Christian prayer.
Making the sign of the Cross - as we will do during the Blessing - means saying a visible and public “yes” to the One who died and rose for us, to God who in the humility and weakness of his love is the Almighty, stronger than all the power and intelligence of the world.
After the consecration of Holy Mass, the assembly of the faithful, aware of being in the real presence of the Crucified and Risen Christ, exclaims: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again”. With the eyes of faith, the Community recognizes the living Jesus by the signs of his passion and with Thomas can repeat, full of wonder: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20: 28).
The Eucharist is a mystery of death and of glory like the Crucifixion, which is not an accident on the journey but the way by which Christ entered into his glory (see Lk 24: 26) and reconciled the whole of humanity, overcoming all enmity. This is why the liturgy invites us to pray with trusting hope: Mane nobiscum, Domine! Stay with us, Lord, who has redeemed the world with your Holy Cross!
Mary, present on
Calvary beneath the Cross, is also present
with the Church and as Mother of the Church in each one of our Eucharistic
Celebrations (see Ecclesia de Eucharistia, no. 57). No one better than
she, therefore, can teach us to understand and live Holy Mass with faith and
love, uniting ourselves with Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. When we receive Holy
Communion, like Mary and united to her, we too clasp the wood that Jesus with
his love transformed into an instrument of salvation, and pronounce our “Amen”,
our “Yes” to Love, crucified and risen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Pastoral Visit which I recently made to
was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to
places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective
proclamation of the Gospel for today. I thank God for the interior joy
which he made possible, and I am also grateful to all those who worked hard for
the success of this Pastoral Visit. As is the custom, I will speak more of this
during next Wednesday’s General Audience. At this time, I wish also to add that
I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my
address at the , which were
considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims. These in fact were a
quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal
thought. Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in
this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words. I hope that
this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address,
which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue,
with great mutual respect. This is the meaning of the discourse. University
Now, before the Marian prayer, I would like to reflect on two recent and important liturgical events: the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, celebrated on 14 September, and the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, celebrated the following day.
These two liturgical celebrations can be summed up visually in the traditional image of the Crucifixion, which portrays the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross, according to the description of the Evangelist John, the only one of the Apostles who stayed by the dying Jesus.
But what does exalting the Cross mean? Is it not maybe scandalous to venerate a shameful form of execution? The Apostle Paul says: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (I Cor 1: 23). Christians, however, do not exalt just any cross but the Cross which Jesus sanctified with his sacrifice, the fruit and testimony of immense love. Christ on the Cross pours out his Blood to set humanity free from the slavery of sin and death.
Therefore, from being a sign of malediction, the Cross was transformed into a sign of blessing, from a symbol of death into a symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence and generates immortal life. “O Crux, ave spes unica! O Cross, our only hope!”. Thus sings the liturgy.
The Evangelist recounts: Mary was standing by the Cross (see Jn 19: 25-27). Her sorrow is united with that of her Son. It is a sorrow full of faith and love. The Virgin on
Calvary participates in the
saving power of the suffering of Christ, joining her “fiat”, her “yes”, to that
of her Son.
Dear brothers and sisters, spiritually united to Our Lady of Sorrows, let us also renew our “yes” to God who chose the Way of the Cross in order to save us. This is a great mystery which continues and will continue to take place until the end of the world, and which also asks for our collaboration.
May Mary help us to take up our cross every day and follow Jesus faithfully on the path of obedience, sacrifice and love.
Papal Summer Residence,
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 16
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The liturgy today once again presents for our meditation Chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, one of the loftiest and most moving passages of all Sacred Scripture. It is beautiful to think that on this day throughout the world, wherever the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Sunday Eucharist, the Good News of truth and salvation rings out: God is merciful love.
The Evangelist Luke has gathered in this Chapter three parables on divine mercy: the two shortest ones which he has in common with Matthew and Mark are the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin; the third, lengthy, articulate and proper to him alone, is the famous parable of the merciful Father, commonly known as the parable of the “Prodigal Son”.
In this Gospel passage, we almost seem to hear Jesus’ voice revealing to us the Face of his Father and our Father. Basically, this was the reason he came into the world: to speak to us of the Father; to make him known to us, his lost children, and to revive in our hearts the joy of belonging to him, the hope of being forgiven and restored to our full dignity, the desire to dwell for ever in his house which is also our house.
Jesus recounted the three parables of mercy because the Scribes and Pharisees were muttering bad things about him since they had noticed he permitted sinners to approach him and even eat with him (see Lk 15: 1-3). He then explained in his typical language that God does not want even one of his children to be lost and that his soul overflows with joy whenever a sinner is converted.
True religion thus consists in being attuned to this Heart, “rich in mercy”, which asks us to love everyone, even those who are distant and our enemies, imitating the Heavenly Father who respects the freedom of each one and draws everyone to himself with the invincible power of his faithfulness.
This is the road Jesus points out to all who want to be his disciples: “Judge not... condemn not... forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.... Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 36-38). In these words we find very practical instructions for our daily conduct as believers.
In our time, humanity needs a strong proclamation and witness of God’s mercy. Beloved John Paul II, a great apostle of Divine Mercy, prophetically intuited this urgent pastoral need. He dedicated his Second Encyclical to it and throughout his Pontificate made himself a missionary of God’s love to all peoples.
After the tragic events of 11 September 2001, which darkened the dawn of the third millennium, he invited Christians and people of good will to believe that God’s Mercy is stronger than all evil, and that only in the Cross of Christ is the world’s salvation found.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, whom we contemplated yesterday as Our Lady of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross, obtain for us the gift of always trusting in God’s love and help us to be merciful as our Father in Heaven is merciful.
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
FRANCE ON THE
OCCASION OF THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE APPARITIONS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AT
(SEPTEMBER 12 - 15, 2008)
14 September 2008 Lourdes
Dear Pilgrims, dear brothers and sisters!
Every day, praying the Angelus gives us the opportunity to meditate for a few moments, in the midst of all our activities, on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. At noon, when the first hours of the day are already beginning to weigh us down with fatigue, our availability and our generosity are renewed by the contemplation of Mary’s “yes”. This clear and unreserved “yes” is rooted in the mystery of Mary’s freedom, a total and entire freedom before God, completely separated from any complicity with sin, thanks to the privilege of her Immaculate Conception.
This privilege given to Mary, which sets her apart from our common condition, does not distance her from us, but on the contrary, it brings her closer. While sin divides, separating us from one another, Mary’s purity makes her infinitely close to our hearts, attentive to each of us and desirous of our true good. You see it here in
as in all Marian shrines; immense crowds come thronging to Mary’s feet to
entrust to her their most intimate thoughts, their most heartfelt wishes. That
which many, either because of embarrassment or modesty, do not confide to their
nearest and dearest, they confide to her who is all pure, to her Immaculate
Heart: with simplicity, without frills, in truth. Before Mary, by virtue of her
very purity, man does not hesitate to reveal his weakness, to express his
questions and his doubts, to formulate his most secret hopes and desires. The
Virgin Mary’s maternal love disarms all pride; it renders man capable of seeing
himself as he is, and it inspires in him the desire to be converted so as to
give glory to God.
Thus, Mary shows us the right way to come to the Lord. She teaches us to approach him in truth and simplicity. Thanks to her, we discover that the Christian faith is not a burden: it is like a wing which enables us to fly higher, so as to take refuge in God’s embrace.
The life and faith of believers make it clear that the grace of the Immaculate Conception given to Mary is not merely a personal grace, but a grace for all, a grace given to the entire people of God. In Mary, the Church can already contemplate what she is called to become. Every believer can contemplate, here and now, the perfect fulfilment of his or her own vocation. May each of you always remain full of thanksgiving for what the Lord has chosen to reveal of his plan of salvation through the mystery of Mary: a mystery in which we are involved most intimately since, from the height of the Cross which we celebrate and exalt today, it is revealed to us through the words of Jesus himself that his Mother is our Mother. Inasmuch as we are sons and daughters of Mary, we can profit from all the graces given to her; the incomparable dignity that came to her through her Immaculate Conception shines brightly over us, her children.
Here, close to the grotto, and in intimate communion with all the pilgrims present in Marian shrines and with all the sick in body and soul who are seeking relief, we bless the Lord for Mary’s presence among her people, and to her we address our prayer in faith:
“Holy Mary, you showed yourself here one hundred and fifty years ago to the young Bernadette, you ‘are the true fount of hope’ (Dante, Paradiso, XXXIII:12).
Faithful pilgrims who have gathered here from every part of the world, we come once more to draw faith and comfort, joy and love, security and peace, from the source of your Immaculate Heart. Monstra Te esse Matrem. Show yourself a Mother for us all, O Mary! And give us Christ, the hope of the world! Amen.”
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
FRANCE ON THE
OCCASION OF THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE APPARITIONS OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY AT
(SEPTEMBER 12 - 15, 2008)
EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION ON THE OCCASION
OF THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE APPARITIONS
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
14 September 2008 Lourdes
Dear Bishop Perrier,
Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear pilgrims, brothers and sisters,
“Go and tell the priests that people should come here in procession, and that a chapel should be built here.” This is the message Bernadette received from the “beautiful lady” in the apparition of 2 March 1858. For 150 years, pilgrims have never ceased to come to the grotto of Massabielle to hear the message of conversion and hope which is addressed to them. And we have done the same; here we are this morning at the feet of Mary, the Immaculate Virgin, eager to learn from her alongside little Bernadette.
I would like to thank especially Bishop Jacques Perrier of
and Lourdes for
the warm welcome he has given me, and for the kind words he has addressed to
me. I greet the Cardinals, the Bishops, the priests, the deacons, the men and
women religious, and all of you, dear Lourdes
pilgrims, especially the sick. You have come in large numbers to make this
Jubilee pilgrimage with me and to entrust your families, your relatives and
friends, and all your intentions to Our Lady. My thanks go also to the civil
and military Authorities who are here with us at this Eucharistic celebration.
“What a great thing it is to possess the Cross! He who possesses it possesses a treasure” (Saint Andrew of
Crete, Homily X on the
Exaltation of the Cross, PG 97, 1020). On this day when the Church’s liturgy
celebrates the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Gospel you have
just heard reminds us of the meaning of this great mystery: God so loved the
world that he gave his only Son, so that men might be saved (see Jn
3:16). The Son of God became vulnerable, assuming the condition of a slave,
obedient even to death, death on a cross (see Phil 2:8). By his Cross we
are saved. The instrument of torture which, on Good Friday, manifested God’s
judgement on the world, has become a source of life, pardon, mercy, a sign of
reconciliation and peace. “In order to be healed from sin, gaze upon Christ
crucified!” said Saint Augustine
(Treatise on Saint John, XII, 11). By raising our eyes towards the
Crucified one, we adore him who came to take upon himself the sin of the world
and to give us eternal life. And the Church invites us proudly to lift up this
glorious Cross so that the world can see the full extent of the love of the
Crucified one for mankind, for every man and woman. She invites us to give
thanks to God because from a tree which brought death, life has burst out anew.
On this wood Jesus reveals to us his sovereign majesty, he reveals to us that
he is exalted in glory. Yes, “Come, let us adore him!” In our midst is he who
loved us even to giving his life for us, he who invites every human being to
draw near to him with trust.
This is the great mystery that Mary also entrusts to us this morning, inviting us to turn towards her Son. In fact, it is significant that, during the first apparition to Bernadette, Mary begins the encounter with the sign of the Cross. More than a simple sign, it is an initiation into the mysteries of the faith that Bernadette receives from Mary. The sign of the Cross is a kind of synthesis of our faith, for it tells how much God loves us; it tells us that there is a love in this world that is stronger than death, stronger than our weaknesses and sins. The power of love is stronger than the evil which threatens us. It is this mystery of the universality of God’s love for men that Mary came to reveal here, in
She invites all people of good will, all those who suffer in heart or body, to
raise their eyes towards the Cross of Jesus, so as to discover there the source
of life, the source of salvation.
The Church has received the mission of showing all people this loving face of God, manifested in Jesus Christ. Are we able to understand that in the Crucified One of Golgotha, our dignity as children of God, tarnished by sin, is restored to us? Let us turn our gaze towards Christ. It is he who will make us free to love as he loves us, and to build a reconciled world. For on this Cross, Jesus took upon himself the weight of all the sufferings and injustices of our humanity. He bore the humiliation and the discrimination, the torture suffered in many parts of the world by so many of our brothers and sisters for love of Christ. We entrust all this to Mary, mother of Jesus and our mother, present at the foot of the Cross.
In order to welcome into our lives this glorious Cross, the celebration of the Jubilee of Our Lady’s apparitions in
urges us to embark upon a journey of faith and conversion. Today, Mary comes to
meet us, so as to show us the way towards a renewal of life for our communities
and for each one of us. By welcoming her Son, whom she presents to us, we are
plunged into a living stream in which the faith can rediscover new vigour, in
which the Church can be strengthened so as to proclaim the mystery of Christ
ever more boldly. Jesus, born of Mary, is the Son of God, the sole Saviour of
all people, living and acting in his Church and in the world. The Church is
sent everywhere in the world to proclaim this unique message and to invite
people to receive it through an authentic conversion of heart. This mission,
entrusted by Jesus to his disciples, receives here, on the occasion of this
Jubilee, a breath of new life. After the example of the great evangelizers from
your country, may the missionary spirit which animated so many men and women
over the centuries, continue to be your pride and your commitment!
When we follow the Jubilee Way in the footsteps of Bernadette, we are reminded of the heart of the message of
Bernadette is the eldest daughter of a very poor family, with neither knowledge
nor power, and in poor health. Mary chose her to transmit her message of
conversion, prayer and penance, which fully accord with words of Jesus: “What
you have hidden from the wise and understanding, you have revealed to babes” (Mt
11:25). On their spiritual journey, Christians too are called to render
fruitful the grace of their Baptism, to nourish themselves with the Eucharist,
to draw strength from prayer so as to bear witness and to express solidarity
with all their fellow human beings (see Homage to the Virgin Mary,
Piazza di Spagna, 8 December 2007). It is therefore a genuine catechesis that
is being proposed to us in this way, under Mary’s gaze. Let us allow her to
instruct us too, and to guide us along the path that leads to the Kingdom of
In the course of her catechesis, the “beautiful lady” reveals her name to Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception”. Mary thereby discloses the extraordinary grace that she has received from God, that of having been conceived without sin, for “he has looked on his servant in her lowliness” (see Lk 1:48). Mary is the woman from this earth who gave herself totally to God, and who received the privilege of giving human life to his eternal Son. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1:38). She is beauty transfigured, the image of the new humanity. By presenting herself in this way, in utter dependence upon God, Mary expresses in reality an attitude of total freedom, based upon the full recognition of her true dignity. This privilege concerns us too, for it discloses to us our own dignity as men and women, admittedly marked by sin, but saved in hope, a hope which allows us to face our daily life. This is the path which Mary opens up for man. To give oneself fully to God is to find the path of true freedom. For by turning towards God, man becomes himself. He rediscovers his original vocation as a person created in his image and likeness.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, the primary purpose of the shrine at
Lourdes is to be a place of encounter with
God in prayer and a place of service to our brothers and sisters, notably
through the welcome given to the sick, the poor and all who suffer. In this
place, Mary comes to us as a mother, always open to the needs of her children.
Through the light which streams from her face, God’s mercy is made manifest.
Let us allow ourselves to be touched by her gaze, which tells us that we are
all loved by God and never abandoned by him! Mary comes to remind us that
prayer which is humble and intense, trusting and persevering, must have a
central place in our Christian lives. Prayer is indispensable if we are to
receive Christ’s power. “People who pray are not wasting their time, even
though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone” (Deus
Caritas Est, 36). To allow oneself to become absorbed by activity runs the
risk of depriving prayer of its specifically Christian character and its true
efficacy. The prayer of the Rosary, so dear to Bernadette and to Lourdes pilgrims,
concentrates within itself the depths of the Gospel message. It introduces us
to contemplation of the face of Christ. From this prayer of the humble, we can
draw an abundance of graces.
The presence of young people at
is also an important element. Dear friends, gathered this morning around the
World Youth Day Cross: when Mary received the angel’s visit, she was a young
girl from Nazareth
leading the simple and courageous life typical of the women of her village. And
if God’s gaze focussed particularly upon her, trusting in her, Mary wants to
tell you once more that not one of you is indifferent in God’s eyes. He directs
his loving gaze upon each one of you and he calls you to a life that is happy
and full of meaning. Do not allow yourselves to be discouraged by difficulties!
Mary was disturbed by the message of the angel who came to tell her that she
would become the Mother of the Saviour. She was conscious of her frailty in the
face of God’s omnipotence. Nevertheless, she said “yes”, without hesitating.
And thanks to her yes, salvation came into the world, thereby changing the
history of mankind. For your part, dear young people, do not be afraid to say
yes to the Lord’s summons when he invites you to walk in his footsteps. Respond
generously to the Lord! Only he can fulfil the deepest aspirations of your
heart. You have come to Lourdes
in great numbers for attentive and generous service to the sick and to the
other pilgrims, setting out in this way to follow Christ the servant. Serving
our brothers and sisters opens our hearts and makes us available. In the
silence of prayer, be prepared to confide in Mary, who spoke to Bernadette in a
spirit of respect and trust towards her. May Mary help those who are called to
marriage to discover the beauty of a genuine and profound love, lived as a
reciprocal and faithful gift! To those among you whom he calls to follow him in
the priesthood or the religious life, I would like to reiterate all the joy
that is to be had through giving one’s life totally for the service of God and
others. May Christian families and communities be places where solid vocations
can come to birth and grow, for the service of the Church and the world!
Mary’s message is a message of hope for all men and women of our day, whatever their country of origin. I like to invoke Mary as the star of hope (Spe Salvi, no. 50). On the paths of our lives, so often shrouded in darkness, she is a beacon of hope who enlightens us and gives direction to our journey. Through her “yes”, through the generous gift of herself, she has opened up to God the gates of our world and our history. And she invites us to live like her in invincible hope, refusing to believe those who claim that we are trapped in the fatal power of destiny. She accompanies us with her maternal presence amid the events of our personal lives, our family lives, and our national lives. Happy are those men and women who place their trust in him who, at the very moment when he was offering his life for our salvation, gave us his Mother to be our own!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, in this
, the Mother of
the Lord is venerated in countless shrines which thereby manifest the faith
handed down from generation to generation. Celebrated in her Assumption, she is
your country’s beloved patroness. May she always be honoured fervently in each
of your families, in your religious communities and in your parishes! May Mary
watch over all the inhabitants of your beautiful country and over the pilgrims
who have come in such numbers from other countries to celebrate this Jubilee!
May she be for all people the Mother who surrounds her children in their joys
and their trials! Holy Mary, Mother of God, our Mother, teach us to believe, to
hope and to love with you. Show us the way towards the kingdom of your Son
Jesus! Star of the sea, shine upon us and lead us on our way! (see Spe Salvi,
no. 50). Amen. land
Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence,
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Sunday, the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the word of God calls us into question with two crucial questions that I shall sum up in these words: “Who do you say Jesus of Nazareth is?”. Then: “Is your faith shown in your works, or not?”. We find the first question in today’s Gospel, where Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8: 29). Peter’s answer is loud and clear: “You are the Christ”, in other words the Messiah, the consecrated one of God, sent to save his People. Therefore Peter and the other Apostles, unlike the majority, believe not only that Jesus is a great teacher or a prophet but far more. They have faith: they believe that God is present and active in him. However, directly after this profession of faith when Jesus announces openly for the first time that he must suffer and be killed, Peter himself opposes the prospect of suffering and death. Jesus must then rebuke him sternly, to make him understand that it is not enough to believe that he is God but that, impelled by charity, it is necessary to follow him on the same path, that of the Cross (see Mk 8: 31-33). Jesus did not come to teach us philosophy but to show us a way, indeed the way that leads to life.
This way is love which is an expression of true faith. If someone loves his neighbour with a pure and generous heart it means that he truly knows God. If instead someone says he has faith but does not love his brethren, he is not a true believer. God does not dwell within him. St James clearly affirms this in the Second Reading of this Sunday’s Mass: “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (Js 2: 17). In this regard I would like to cite a passage from St John Chrysostom, one of the great Fathers of the Church, whom the liturgical calendar today invites us to commemorate. In commenting precisely on the verse from the Letter of James quoted above, he writes: “A person moreover may have a righteous faith in the Father and in the Son, as in the Holy Spirit, but if he does not have a righteous life, his faith will not serve him for salvation. Therefore, when you read in the Gospel: “This is eternal life, that they know you as the one true God’ (Jn 17: 3), do not think that this verse suffices to save us: a most pure life and conduct are essential” (cit. in J.A. Cramer, Catenae graecorum Patrum in N.T., Vol. VIII: In Epist. Cath. et Apoc.,
Dear friends, tomorrow we shall be celebrating the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross and the following day, that of Our Lady of Sorrows. The Virgin Mary, who believed in the word of the Lord, did not lose her faith in God when she saw her Son rejected, abused and crucified. Rather she remained beside Jesus, suffering and praying, until the end. And she saw the radiant dawn of his Resurrection. Let us learn from her to witness to our faith with a life of humble service, ready to personally pay the price of staying faithful to the Gospel of love and truth, certain that nothing that we do will be lost.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s Gospel chapter 15 of St Luke Jesus recounts the three “parables of mercy”. When he speaks of “the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, no. 12). In fact, the shepherd who finds the stray sheep is the Lord himself who lays upon his shoulders, with the Cross, sinful humanity, in order to redeem it. The prodigal son, then, in the third parable, is a young man who having obtained his inheritance from his father “took his journey into a far country, and there, he squandered his property in loose living” (Lk 15: 13). Reduced to a penniless state he was obliged to work as a servant, even accepting to satisfy his hunger with food intended for animals. Then, the Gospel says, “He came to himself” (Lk 15: 17). “The speech he prepares for his homecoming reveals to us the full extent of the inner pilgrimage he is now making... leading “home’... to himself and to the father”. (Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, 2007, Chapter 7, p. 205). “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants’” (Lk 15: 18-19).
St Augustine wrote: “The
Word himself calls you to return, and with him is a place of unperturbed rest,
where love is not forsaken unless it first forsakes. “While he was yet at a
distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and
kissed him” (Lk 15: 20) and, full of joy, had a feast prepared.
Dear Friends, how is it possible not to open our hearts to the certainty that in spite of being sinners we are loved by God? He never tires of coming to meet us, he is always the first to set out on the path that separates us from him. The Book of Exodus shows us how Moses, with confident and daring pleas, succeeded, so to speak, in moving God from the throne of judgement to the throne of mercy (see 32: 7-11). Penitence is the measure of faith and through it one returns to the Truth. The Apostle Paul writes: “I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tm 1: 13). Returning to the parable of the son who goes “home”, we note that when the elder brother appears, indignant at the festive welcome given to his brother, it is again the father who reaches out to him and begs him: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Lk 15: 31). Only the faith can transform selfishness into joy and renew true relationships with our neighbour and with God. “It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found” (Lk 15: 32).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, next Thursday I shall be going to the
United Kingdom where I will beatify
Cardinal John Henry Newman. I ask all to accompany me with prayers on this
Apostolic Journey. Let us entrust to the Virgin Mary, whose Most Holy Name is
celebrated in the Church today, our journey of conversion to God.
PASTORAL VISIT TO
Sunday, 11 September 2011 Ancona
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Before concluding this solemn Eucharistic celebration, the prayer of the Angelus invites us to reflect on Mary Most Holy to contemplate the abyss of love from which the sacrament of the Eucharist comes.
Thanks to the Virgin’s “fiat” the Word made flesh came to dwell among us. In meditating on the mystery of the Incarnation, let us all turn, with our minds and hearts, to the Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, only a few kilometres from here. The region of the
is illuminated by Mary’s spiritual presence in her historical Shrine which
makes these hills even more beautiful and delightful! At this moment I entrust
to her the city of Ancona, the Diocese, the Marches and the whole of Italy, so
that faith in the Eucharistic Mystery, which makes present the Risen Christ, a
source of hope and comfort in daily life, especially at the most difficult
moments, may always be alive in every town and in every village, from the Alps
Today our thoughts also turn to September 11th, 10 years ago. In remembering before the Lord of Life the victims of the attacks perpetrated on that day, as well as their families, I invite leaders of nations and people of good will always to reject violence as a solution to problems, to resist the temptation to hate and to work within society, drawing inspiration from the principles of solidarity, justice and peace.
Lastly, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, I pray that the Lord reward all those who have worked for the preparation and organization of this Eucharistic Congress and I cordially address my warmest greeting!
PASTORAL VISIT TO ANCONA
FOR THE CONCLUSION OF THE
25th ITALIAN NATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Sunday, 11 September 2011 Ancona
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Six years ago, the first Apostolic Journey of my pontificate took me to
Bari for the 24th National Eucharistic
Congress. Today I have come to conclude solemnly the 25th, here in Ancona. I thank the Lord
for these intense ecclesial moments that strengthen our love for the Eucharist
and see us united round the Eucharist! Bari and Ancona, two cities facing the
Adriatic Sea; two cities rich in history and in Christian life, two cities open
to the East, to its culture and its spirituality; two cities which the themes
of the Eucharistic Congresses have helped to bring closer to each other: in
Bari we commemorated how “Without Sunday We Cannot Live”; today our
gathering is under the banner of the “Eucharist for Daily Life”.
Before offering you some thoughts, I would like to thank you for your unanimous participation: in you I spiritually embrace the whole of the Church in
Italy. I address a grateful
greeting to Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of the Episcopal Conference,
for the cordial words he addressed to me also on your behalf; to Cardinal
Giovanni Battista Re, my Legate at this Congress; to Archbishop Edoardo
Menichelli of Ancona-Osimo, to the Bishops of the Metropolis and of the Marches
and to those who have come in great numbers from every part of the country.
With them, I greet the priests, deacons and consecrated men and women, as well
as the lay faithful, among whom I see many families and many young people. I
also extend my gratitude to the civil and military authorities and to all
those, in their various capacities, who have contributed to the success of this
“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (Jn 6:60). The reaction of the disciples – many of whom abandoned Jesus – to his discourse on the Bread of Life in the Synagogue of Capernaum is not very different from our own resistance to the total gift he makes of himself. For truly accepting this gift means losing oneself, letting oneself be involved and transformed, as the Apostle Paul reminded us in the Second Reading: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8).
“This is a hard saying”; it is hard because we often confuse freedom with the absence of bonds, in the conviction that we can manage by ourselves, without God who is seen as a restriction of freedom. This is an illusion that does not take long to become a delusion, giving rise to anxiety and fear and, paradoxically, leading to nostalgia for the bonds of the past: “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt…”, the Jews in the wilderness said, as we heard (Ex 16:3). In fact, only in openness to God, in receiving his gift, do we become truly free, free from the slavery of sin that disfigures man’s face, and capable of serving the true good of our brethren.
“This is a hard saying”; it is hard because man often succumbs to the illusion that he can “make stones become bread”. After setting God aside, or after having tolerated him as a private choice that must not interfere with public life, some ideologies have aimed to organize society with the force of power and of the economy. History shows us, dramatically, that the objective of guaranteeing everyone development, material well-being and peace, by leaving out God and his revelation, has been resolved by giving people stones instead of bread.
Bread, dear brothers and sisters, is “a fruit of the work of human hands”, and this truth contains the full responsibility entrusted to our hands and to our ingenuity; but bread is also and before that: “a fruit of the earth”, which receives the sun and the rain from on high: it is a gift to ask for that takes away all our pride and enables us to invoke with the trust of the humble: “Our Father… give us this day our daily bread” (Mt 6:11).
The human being is incapable of giving life to himself, he understands himself only by starting from God: it is the relationship with him that gives our humanity consistence and makes our life good and just. In the “Our Father” we ask that his name be hallowed, that his kingdom come, that his will be done. It is first and foremost God’s primacy that we must recover in our world and in our life, because it is this primacy that enables us to discover the truth of what we are, and it is in knowing and following God’s will that we find our own good; giving time and space to God, so that he may be the vital centre of our existence.
Where should we start from, from what source, in order to recover and to reaffirm the primacy of God? From the Eucharist; here God makes himself so close that he makes himself our food, here he makes himself energy on the often difficult journey, here he makes himself a friendly presence that transforms. The Law given through Moses was already considered as “bread from Heaven”, thanks to which
the People of God, but in Jesus the ultimate and definitive word of God becomes
flesh, comes to meet us as a Person. He, the eternal Word, is the true manna,
the Bread of Life (see Jn 6:32-35) and doing the works of God is believing in
him (see Jn 6:28-29).
At the Last Supper Jesus summed up the whole of his life in an act that is inscribed in the great paschal blessing to God, an act that he lives as Son in thanksgiving to the Father for his immense love. Jesus broke the bread and shared it, but with a new depth, because he was giving himself. He took the cup and shared it so that all might drink from it, but with this gesture he was giving the “new covenant of his Blood”, he was giving himself.
Jesus anticipated the act of supreme love, obedience to the Father’s will: the sacrifice of the Cross. His life will be taken on the Cross, but he was already offering it himself. So it is that Christ’s death is not reduced to a violent execution but was transformed by him into a free act of love, of self-giving, which passed through death itself victoriously and reaffirmed the goodness of creation that came from God’s hands, that was humiliated by sin and redeemed at last. This immense gift is accessible to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. God gives himself to us, to open our life to him, to involve it in the mystery of love of the Cross, to make it share in the eternal mystery from which we come, and to anticipate the new condition of full life in God, of which we in live expectation.
Yet what does starting from the Eucharist in order to reaffirm God’s primacy entail for our daily life? Eucharistic communion, dear friends, wrenches us from our individualism, communicates to us the spirit of Christ dead and risen, and conforms us to him. It closely unites us with our brethren in that mystery of communion, which is the Church, where the one Bread makes many one body (1 Cor 10:17), fulfilling the prayer of the Christian community recorded in the Book of the Didaché: “As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains and after it had been brought together became one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto your kingdom” (ix, 4).
The Eucharist sustains and transforms the whole of daily life. As I recalled in my first Encyclical: “Eucharistic communion includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn”, therefore, “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 14).
The 2,000-year-old history of the Church is spangled with saints whose existence is an eloquent sign of how in communion with the Lord and from the Eucharist a new and intense assumption of responsibility comes into being at all the levels of community life; thus a new positive social development is born which is centred on the person, especially when he or she is poor, sick or in need. Being nourished by Christ is the way not to be foreign or indifferent to the fate of the brethren, but rather to enter into the same logic of love and of the gift of the sacrifice of the Cross; anyone who can kneel before the Eucharist, who receives the Body of the Lord, cannot but be attentive in the ordinary daily routine to situations unworthy of the human being; anyone who can bend over the needy in the first person, who can break his own bread with the hungry and share water with the thirsty, who can clothe the naked and visit the sick person and the prisoner (see Mt 25:34-36).
This person will be able to see in every individual that same Lord who did not hesitate to give the whole of himself for us and for our salvation. A Eucharistic spirituality, then, is the true antidote to the individualism and selfishness that often mark daily life. It leads to the rediscovery of giving freely, to the centrality of relationships, starting with the family, and pays special attention to alleviating the wounds of broken families.
A Eucharistic spirituality is the soul of an ecclesial community which surmounts divisions and antagonism and appreciates the diversity of charisms and ministries, putting them at the service of the Church, of her vitality and mission. A Eucharistic spirituality is the way to restore dignity to the days of human beings, hence to their work, in the quest for its reconciliation with the times of celebration and of the family, and in the commitment to overcome the uncertainty of precarious situations and the problem of unemployment.
A Eucharistic spirituality will also help us to approach the different forms of human frailty, aware that they do not dim the value of a person but require closeness, acceptance and help. A renewed educational ability will draw strength from the Bread of Life, attentive to witnessing to the fundamental values of existence, of knowledge of the spiritual and cultural heritage; its vitality will enable us to dwell in the human city with the readiness to expend ourselves on the horizon of the common good in order to build a fairer and more brotherly society.
Dear friends, let us start out from the
with the power of the Eucharist in a constant osmosis between the mystery we
are celebrating and the contexts of our daily life. There is nothing authentically
human that does not find in the Eucharist the form it needs to be lived to the
full: may daily life therefore become a place of spiritual worship, in order to
live in all circumstances the primacy of God, as part of a relationship with
Christ and as an offering to the Father (see Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 71). Yes, “man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4): we live by
obedience to these words, which are living bread, until, like Peter, we consign
ourselves with the understanding of love: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have
the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that
you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6:68-69).
Like the Virgin Mary, let us too become a “womb”, willing to offer Jesus to the people of our time, reawakening the deep desire for that salvation which comes only from him. I wish the whole Church which is in
Italy a good journey with Christ,
the Bread of Life! Amen.
(14-16 SEPTEMBER 2012)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Let us turn now to Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Lebanon. Let us ask her to intercede with her divine Son for you and, more particularly, for the people of
and the neighbouring countries, imploring the gift of peace. You know all too
well the tragedy of the conflicts and the violence which generates so much
suffering. Sadly, the din of weapons continues to make itself heard, along with
the cry of the widow and the orphan. Violence and hatred invade people’s lives,
and the first victims are women and children. Why so much horror? Why so many
dead? I appeal to the international community! I appeal to the Arab countries
that, as brothers, they might propose workable solutions respecting the
dignity, the rights and the religion of every human person! Those who wish to
build peace must cease to see in the other an evil to be eliminated. It is not
easy to see in the other a person to be respected and loved, and yet this is
necessary if peace is to be built, if fraternity is desired (see 1 Jn
2:10-11; 1 Pet 3:8-12). May God grant to your country, to Syria and to the Middle
East the gift of peaceful hearts, the silencing of weapons and the
cessation of all violence! May men understand that they are all brothers! Mary,
our Mother, understands our concern and our needs. Together with the Patriarchs
and Bishops present, I place the Middle East
under her maternal protection (see Propositio 44). May we, with God’s
help, be converted so as to work ardently to establish the peace that is
necessary for harmonious coexistence among brothers, whatever their origins and
(14-16 SEPTEMBER 2012)
MASS OF THE CONSIGNING
OF THE POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION
FOR THE MIDDLE EAST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Eph 1:3). Blessed be God on this day when I have the joy of being here with you, in
consign to the Bishops of the region my Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia
in Medio Oriente! I offer heartfelt thanks to His Beatitude Bechara Boutros
Raï for his kind words of welcome. I greet the other Patriarchs and Bishops of
the Eastern Churches, the Latin Bishops of the neighbouring regions, and the
Cardinals and Bishops who have come from other countries. I greet all of you
with great affection, dear brothers and sisters from Lebanon
and from throughout this beloved region of the Middle East,
as you join with the Successor of Peter in celebrating Jesus Christ crucified,
dead and risen. My respectful greeting goes also to the President of the
Republic, to the Lebanese authorities, and to the leaders and followers of the
other religious traditions who have elected to be present this morning.
On this Sunday when the Gospel asks us about the true identity of Jesus, we find ourselves transported with the disciples to the road leading to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. Jesus asks them: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8:29). The moment he chose to ask this question is not insignificant. Jesus was facing a decisive turning-point in his life. He was going up to
Jerusalem, to the place where the central
events of our salvation would take place: his crucifixion and resurrection. In Jerusalem too, following
these events, the Church would be born. And at this decisive moment, Jesus
first asks his disciples: “Who do men say that I am?” (Mk 8:27). They
give very different answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets!
Today, as down the centuries, those who encounter Jesus along their own way
give their own answers. These are approaches which can be helpful in finding
the way to truth. But while not necessarily false, they remain insufficient,
for they do not go to the heart of who Jesus is. Only those willing to follow
him on his path, to live in fellowship with him in the community of his
disciples, can truly know who he is. Finally, Peter, who had dwelt with Jesus
for some time, gives his answer: “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29). It is
the right answer, of course, but it is still not enough, since Jesus feels the
need to clarify it. He realizes that people could use this answer to advance
agendas which are not his, to raise false temporal hopes in his regard. He does
not let himself be confined to the attributes of the human saviour which many
By telling his disciples that he must suffer and be put to death, and then rise again, Jesus wants to make them understand his true identity. He is a Messiah who suffers, a Messiah who serves, and not some triumphant political saviour. He is the Servant who obeys his Father’s will, even to giving up his life. This had already been foretold by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading. Jesus thus contradicts the expectations of many. What he says is shocking and disturbing. We can understand the reaction of Peter who rebukes him, refusing to accept that his Master should suffer and die! Jesus is stern with Peter; he makes him realize that anyone who would be his disciple must become a servant, just as he became Servant.
Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and walking in his footsteps, along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it. We are assured that this is the way to the resurrection, to true and definitive life with God. Choosing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who made himself the Servant of all, requires drawing ever closer to him, attentively listening to his word and drawing from it the inspiration for all that we do. In promulgating the Year of Faith, which is due to begin next 11 October, I wanted each member of the faithful to renew his or her commitment to undertaking this path of sincere conversion. Throughout this Year, then, I strongly encourage you to reflect more deeply on the faith, to appropriate it ever more consciously and to grow in fidelity to Christ Jesus and his Gospel.
Brothers and sisters, the path on which Jesus wishes to guide us is a path of hope for all. Jesus’ glory was revealed at the very time when, in his humanity, he seemed weakest, particularly through the incarnation and on the cross. This is how God shows his love; he becomes our servant and gives himself to us. Is this not an amazing mystery, one which is at times difficult to accept? The Apostle Peter himself would only come to understand it later.
In today’s second reading, Saint James tells us to what extent our walking in the footsteps of Jesus, if it is to be authentic, demands concrete actions. “I, by my works, will show you my faith” (Jas 2:18). It is an imperative task of the Church to serve and of Christians to be true servants in the image of Jesus. Service is a foundational element of the identity of Christ’s followers (see Jn 13:15-17). The vocation of the Church and of each Christian is to serve others, as the Lord himself did, freely and impartially. Consequently, in a world where violence constantly leaves behind its grim trail of death and destruction, to serve justice and peace is urgently necessary for building a fraternal society, for building fellowship! Dear brothers and sisters, I pray in particular that the Lord will grant to this region of the
East servants of peace and reconciliation, so that all people can
live in peace and with dignity. This is an essential testimony which Christians
must render here, in cooperation with all people of good will. I appeal to all
of you to be peacemakers, wherever you find yourselves.
Service must also be at the heart of the life of the Christian community itself. Every ministry, every position of responsibility in the Church, is first and foremost a service to God and to our brothers and sisters. This is the spirit which should guide the baptized among themselves, and find particular expression in an effective commitment to serving the poor, the outcast and the suffering, so that the inalienable dignity of each person may be safeguarded.
Dear brothers and sisters who are suffering physically or spiritually, your sufferings are not in vain! Christ the Servant wished to be close to the suffering. He is always close to you. Along your own path, may you always find brothers and sisters who are concrete signs of his loving presence which will never forsake you! Remain ever hopeful because of Christ!
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