Monday, November 11, 2013

Reflections on the Thirty-Second Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0307: Reflections on the Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary 

Time by Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 6 November 2005, 12 November 2006, 11 November 2007, 9 November 2008, 8 November 2009, 7 November 2010, 6 November 2011, and 11 November 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 6 November 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 18 November 1965, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council approved the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum. This Document is one of the pillars on which the entire Council is built. It addresses Revelation and its transmission, the inspiration and interpretation of Sacred Scripture and its fundamental importance in the life of the Church.

Gathering the fruits of the theological renewal that preceded it, Vatican II put Christ at the centre, presenting him as “both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation” (no. 2). Indeed, the Lord Jesus, the Word made flesh who died and rose, brought to completion the work of salvation, consisting of deeds and words, and fully manifested the face and will of God so that no new public revelation is to be expected until his glorious return (see no. 3).

The Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, are depositories of the message that Christ entrusted to his Church so that it might be passed on in its integrity to all generations. Sacred Scripture of the Old and New Testaments and sacred Tradition contain this message, whose understanding develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit.

This same Tradition makes known the integral canon of the sacred Books. It makes them directly understandable and operative so that God, who has spoken to the Patriarchs and Prophets, does not cease to speak to the Church and through her, to the world (see no. 8).

The Church does not live for herself but for the Gospel, and it is always in the Gospel that she finds the direction for her journey.

The conciliar Constitution Dei Verbum emphasized appreciation for the Word of God, which developed into a profound renewal for the life of the Ecclesial Community, especially in preaching, catechesis, theology, spirituality and ecumenical relations. Indeed, it is the Word of God which guides believers, through the action of the Holy Spirit, towards all truth (see Jn 16: 13).

Among the many fruits of this biblical springtime I would like to mention the spread of the ancient practice of Lectio divina or “spiritual reading” of Sacred Scripture. It consists in pouring over a biblical text for some time, reading it and rereading it, as it were, “ruminating” on it as the Fathers say and squeezing from it, so to speak, all its “juice”, so that it may nourish meditation and contemplation and, like water, succeed in irrigating life itself.

One condition for Lectio divina is that the mind and heart be illumined by the Holy Spirit, that is, by the same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures, and that they be approached with an attitude of “reverential hearing”.

This attitude was typical of Mary Most Holy, as the icon of the Annunciation symbolically portrays: the Virgin receives the heavenly Messenger while she is intent on meditating upon the Sacred Scriptures, usually shown by a book that Mary holds in her hand, on her lap or on a lectern.

This is also the image of the Church which the Council itself offered in the Constitution Dei Verbum: “Hearing the Word of God with reverence...” (no. 1).

Let us pray that like Mary, the Church will be a humble handmaid of the divine Word and will always proclaim it with firm trust, so that “the whole world... through hearing it may believe, through belief... may hope, through hope... may come to love” (ibid.).



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 November 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In Italy, the annual Day of Thanksgiving is being celebrated today. Its theme is:  “The earth: a gift for the whole human family”.

In our Christian families, children are taught to always thank the Lord prior to eating with a short prayer and the Sign of the Cross. This custom should be preserved or rediscovered, for it teaches people not to take their “daily bread” for granted but to recognize it as a gift of Providence.

We should become accustomed to blessing the Creator for all things: for air and water, precious elements on which life on our planet depends, as well as for the food that through the earth’s fertility God offers to us for our sustenance.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray by asking the Heavenly Father not for “my” but for “our” daily bread. Thus, he desired every person to feel co-responsible for his brothers so that no one would want for what he needs in order to live. The earth’s produce forms a gift which God has destined “for the entire human family”.

And here we touch on a very sore point: the drama of hunger which, although it has recently been addressed at the most important institutions such as the United Nations and in particular at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), continues to be very serious.

The last annual report of the FAO has confirmed what the Church knows very well from her direct experience of the communities and missions:  more than 800 million people are living in a condition of undernourishment and too many, especially children, die of hunger.

How should we cope with this situation which, though repeatedly renounced, shows no sign of a solution and indeed, in some respects is worsening?

It is certainly necessary to eliminate the structural causes linked to the system for regulating the world economy, which destines the majority of the planet’s resources to a minority of the population. This injustice was stigmatized on various occasions by my venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II. To be effective on a wide scale, it is necessary “to convert” the model of global development, required not only due to the scandal of hunger but also by environmental and energy emergencies.

Yet, every person and every family can and must do something to alleviate hunger in the world by adopting a lifestyle and consumption compatible with the safeguarding of creation and with criteria of justice for those who cultivate the land in every country.

Dear brothers and sisters, today’s Thanksgiving Day invites us, on the one hand, to give thanks to God for the fruits of agricultural work; and on the other, it encourages us to commit ourselves concretely to defeat the scourge of hunger.

May the Virgin Mary help us to be grateful for the benefits of Providence and to foster justice and solidarity in every part of the globe.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 November 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 11 November, the Church remembers St Martin, Bishop of Tours, one of the most celebrated and venerated Saints of Europe. Born of pagan parents in Pannonia, in what is today Hungary, he was directed by his father to a military career around the year 316. Still an adolescent, Martin came into contact with Christianity and, overcoming many difficulties, he enrolled as a catechumen in order to prepare for Baptism. He would receive the Sacrament in his 20s, but he would still stay for a long time in the army, where he would give testimony of his new lifestyle: respectful and inclusive of all, he treated his attendant as a brother and avoided vulgar entertainment. Leaving military service, he went to Poitiers in France near the holy Bishop Hilary. He was ordained a deacon and priest by him, chose the monastic life and with some disciples established the oldest monastery known in Europe at Ligugé. About 10 years later, the Christians of Tours, who were without a Pastor, acclaimed him their Bishop. From that time, Martin dedicated himself with ardent zeal to the evangelization of the countryside and the formation of the clergy. While many miracles are attributed to him, St Martin is known most of all for an act of fraternal charity. While still a young soldier, he met a poor man on the street numb and trembling from the cold. He then took his own cloak and, cutting it in two with his sword, gave half to that man. Jesus appeared to him that night in a dream smiling, dressed in the same cloak.

Dear brothers and sisters, St Martin’s charitable gesture flows from the same logic that drove Jesus to multiply the loaves for the hungry crowd, but most of all to leave himself to humanity as food in the Eucharist, supreme Sign of God’s love, Sacramentum caritatis. It is the logic of sharing which he used to authentically explain love of neighbour. May St Martin help us to understand that only by means of a common commitment to sharing is it possible to respond to the great challenge of our times: to build a world of peace and justice where each person can live with dignity. This can be achieved if a world model of authentic solidarity prevails which assures to all inhabitants of the planet food, water, necessary medical treatment, and also work and energy resources as well as cultural benefits, scientific and technological knowledge.

Let us turn now to the Virgin Mary so that all Christians may be like St Martin, generous witnesses of the Gospel of love and tireless builders of jointly responsible sharing.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 9 November 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgy today has us celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called the “mother and head of all the Churches of the Urbe and Orbe”. Actually, this Basilica was the first to be built after the Edict of the Emperor Constantine who, in 313, conceded to Christians the freedom to practice their religion. The same Emperor gave Pope Miltiades the ancient estate of the Laterani family and had the Basilica, the Baptistery and the Patriarchate built for him, the latter being the Bishop of Rome’s residence, where Popes resided until the Avignon era. The dedication of the Basilica was celebrated by Pope Silvester in about 324 and the temple was dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour; only after the 6th century were the names of Sts John the Baptist and John the Evangelist added, from which came its common name. This occasion initially only involved the city of Rome; then, from 1565 onwards, it extended to the entire Church of the Roman rite. Hence, honouring the holy building is meant as an expression of love and veneration for the Roman Church “which”, as St Ignatius of Antioch affirms, “presides in charity” over the entire Catholic communion (see Epistula ad Romanos, 1, 1).

The Word of God during this Solemnity recalls an essential truth: the stone temple is the symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, that the Apostles Peter and Paul had, in their Letters, already understood as a “spiritual building”, constructed by God with the “living stones” that are the Christians, upon the one foundation that is Jesus Christ, who is in turn compared to the “cornerstone” see 1 Cor 3: 9-11, 16-17; 1 Pt 2: 4-8; Eph 2: 20-22). “Brethren,... you are God’s building”, St Paul writes, and he adds, “God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3: 9c, 17). The beauty and the harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites us human beings too, though limited and sinful, to convert ourselves to form a “cosmos”, a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Holy of Holies. This reaches its culmination in the Eucharistic liturgy, in which the “ecclesia” that is, the community of baptized finds itself again united to listen to the Word of God and nourish itself on the Body and Blood of Christ. Gathered around this twofold table, the Church of living stones builds herself up in truth and in love and is moulded interiorly by the Holy Spirit, transforming herself into what she receives, conforming herself ever more to her Lord Jesus Christ. She herself, if she lives in sincere and fraternal unity, thus becomes a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God.

Dear friends, today’s feast celebrates an ever current mystery: that God desires to build himself a spiritual temple in the world, a community that adores him in spirit and truth (see Jn 4: 23-24). But this occasion reminds us also of the importance of the concrete buildings in which the community gathers together to celebrate God’s praises. Every community therefore has the duty to carefully guard their holy structures, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that she might help us to become, like her, a “house of God”, living temple of his love.




Paul VI Square - Brescia, Italy, Sunday, 8 November 2009

At the end of this Solemn Celebration, I thank those who were responsible for the liturgical animation, and everyone who collaborated in various ways in the preparation and realization of my Pastoral Visit to Brescia. Thank you all! I also greet those following us on radio and television, as well as those watching from St Peter’s Square, particularly the many volunteers of the Unione Nazionale Pro Loco d’Italia. At this Angelus prayer, I wish to recall the profound devotion for the Virgin Mary of the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini. He celebrated his first Mass in the Shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Marian heart of your city, not far from this square. In this way he placed his priesthood under the maternal protection of the Mother of Jesus, and this bond accompanied him throughout his life.

As his ecclesial responsibilities grew, he developed an ever broader and more organic concept of the relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the mystery of the Church. In this perspective, his closing Discourse at the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council on 21 November 1964 remains memorable. That session had promulgated the Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium which in the words of Paul VI “has as its summit and crown an entire chapter dedicated to Our Lady”. The Pope noted that it was the most ample synthesis of Marian doctrine ever elaborated by an Ecumenical Council, aimed at “manifesting the face of the Holy Church, to which Mary is intimately bound” (Enchiridion Vaticanum, Bologna 1979, p. 185, nos. 300-302). In that context, he proclaimed Mary Most Holy as “Mother of the Church” (see ibid., no. 306), emphasizing, with great ecumenical sensitivity, that “the devotion to Mary... is a means intended to orient souls towards Christ and thus to unite them with the Father, in the love of the Holy Spirit” (ibid., no. 315).

Echoing the words of Paul VI, today we too pray: O Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, we entrust to you the Church of Brescia and the entire population of this region. Remember all your children; confirm their prayers to God; keep their faith steady; reinforce their hope; make charity grow. O merciful, O pious, O sweet Virgin Mary (see ibid., nos. 317.320.325).




Paul VI Square - Brescia, Italy, Sunday, 8 November 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have great joy in being able to break the Bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist with you here, in the heart of the Diocese of Brescia, where the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini, Pope Paul VI was born and educated in his youth. I greet you all with affection and thank you for your warm welcome! In particular I thank Bishop Luciano Monari, for his words to me at the beginning of the celebration and with him I greet the Cardinals, Bishops, priests and deacons, the men and women religious and all the pastoral workers. I thank the Mayor for his words and his gift, and the other civil and military Authorities. I address a special thought to the sick who have gathered in the Cathedral.

At the heart of the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday the 32nd in Ordinary Time we find the figure of the poor widow or, more precisely, we find her gesture when she dropped her last coins into the collection box of the Temple treasury. Thanks to Jesus’ attentive look it has become the proverbial “widow’s mite” and indeed is synonymous with the generosity of those who give unsparingly the little they possess. However, I would like first of all to emphasize the importance of the atmosphere in which this Gospel episode takes place, that is, the Temple of Jerusalem, the religious centre of the People of Israel and the heart of its whole life. The Temple was the place of public and solemn worship, but also of pilgrimage, of the traditional rites and of rabbinical disputations such as those recorded in the Gospel between Jesus and the rabbis of that time in which, however, Jesus teaches with unique authority as the Son of God. He judges the scribes severely as we have heard because of their hypocrisy: indeed, while they display great piety they are exploiting the poor, imposing obligations that they themselves do not observe. Indeed, Jesus shows his affection for the Temple as a house of prayer but for this very reason wishes to cleanse it from improper practices; actually he wants to reveal its deepest meaning which is linked to the fulfilment of his own Mystery, the Mystery of his death and Resurrection, in which he himself becomes the new and definitive Temple, the place where God and man, the Creator and his creature, meet.

The episode of the widow’s mite fits into this context and leads us, through Jesus’ gaze itself, to focus our attention on a transient but crucial detail: the action of the widow, who is very poor and yet puts two coins into the collection box of the Temple treasury. Jesus is saying to us too, just as he said to his disciples that day: Pay attention! Take note of what this widow has done, because her act contains a great teaching; in fact, it expresses the fundamental characteristic of those who are the “living stones” of this new Temple, namely the total gift of themselves to the Lord and to their neighbour; the widow of the Gospel, and likewise the widow in the Old Testament, gives everything, gives herself, putting herself in God’s hands for others. This is the everlasting meaning of the poor widow’s offering which Jesus praises; for she has given more than the rich, who offer part of what is superfluous to them, whereas she gave all that she had to live on (see Mk 12: 44), hence she gave herself.

Dear friends, starting with this Gospel icon I would like to meditate briefly on the mystery of the Church, the living Temple of God, and thereby pay homage to the memory of the great Pope Paul VI who dedicated his entire life to the Church. The Church is a real spiritual organism that prolongs in space and time the sacrifice of the Son of God, an apparently insignificant sacrifice in comparison with the dimensions of the world and of history but in God’s eyes crucial. As the Letter to the Hebrews says and also the text we have just heard Jesus’ sacrifice offered “once” sufficed for God to save the whole world (see Heb 9: 26, 28), because all the Love of the Son of God made man is condensed in that single oblation, just as all the widow’s love for God and for her brethren is concentrated in this woman’s action; nothing is lacking and there is nothing to add. The Church, which is ceaselessly born from the Eucharist, from Jesus’ gift of self, is the continuation of this gift, this superabundance which is expressed in poverty, in the all that is offered in the fragment. It is Christ’s Body that is given entirely, a body broken and shared in constant adherence to the will of its Head.

I am glad that guided by your Bishop’s Pastoral Letter you are examining in depth the Eucharistic nature of the Church, this Church which the Servant of God Paul VI loved passionately and sought with all his might to make understood and loved. Let us reread his Pensiero alla morte, the part where, in the last section, he speaks of the Church. “ I could say”, he writes, “that I have always loved her... and that it seems to me I have lived for her and for nothing else; but I would like the Church to know it”. These are the accents of a palpitating heart and he continues: “Lastly, I would like to understand her fully, in her history, in her divine plan, in her final destiny, in her complex, total and unitary composition, in her human and imperfect consistence, in her adversities and her sufferings, in her weakness and in the wretchedness of so many of her children, in her less sympathetic aspects and in her eternal aspiration to fidelity, love, perfection and charity. The Mystical Body of Christ”. “I would like”, the Pope continues, “to embrace, greet her and love her in every being of whom she is made up, in every Bishop and priest who serves and guides her, in every soul who lives and illustrates her; I would like to bless her”. Moreover, his last words were to her, as to the bride of his whole life: “And what shall I say to the Church, to whom I owe everything and whom was mine? May God’s Blessings be upon you; may you be aware of your nature and your mission; may you have a sense of humanity’s true and profound needs; and walk in poverty, in other words free, strong and in love with Christ”.

What can be added to such lofty and intense words? I would just like to underline this last vision of the Church “poor and free” which evokes the Gospel figure of the widow. If it is to succeed in speaking to contemporary humanity the ecclesial community must be like this. Giovanni Battista Montini had particularly at heart the Church’s encounter and dialogue with the humanity of our time in all the seasons of his life, from the early years of his priesthood until the Pontificate. He dedicated all his energy to serving a Church which would conform as closely as possible to his Lord Jesus Christ so that in encountering her contemporary men and women might encounter him, Christ, because their need for him is absolute. This was the basic desire of the Second Vatican Council with which Paul VI’s reflection on the Church corresponds. He wanted to expound programmatically on some of her salient points in his first Encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam of 6 August 1964, at a time when the conciliar Constitutions Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes had not yet been written.

With that first Encyclical the Pontiff sought to explain to all the Church’s importance for humanity’s salvation and, at the same time, the need to establish a relationship based on mutual knowledge and love between the ecclesial community and society (see Enchiridion Vaticanum, 2, p. 199, no. 164).

“Conscience”, “renewal”, “dialogue”; these were the three words that Paul VI chose to express his principal “policies”, as he himself describes them at the beginning of his Petrine ministry, and all three concern the Church. First of all comes the need for her to increase her self-awareness: of her origins, nature, mission and final destiny; secondly, comes her need to renew herself, to cleanse herself by looking at her model, Christ. Lastly there is the problem of establishing relations with the modern world (see ibid., pp. 203-205, nos. 166-168). Dear friends and I am addressing in a special way my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood how can we fail to see concerning the Church, the need for her in the plan of salvation and her relationship with the world that is still absolutely central today? And, indeed, that the developments of secularization and globalization have made it even more essential, in the confrontation on the one hand with the disregard for God and on the other with the non-Christian religions? Pope Montini’s reflection on the Church is more timely than ever; and even more valuable is his exemplary love for her, inseparable from his love for Christ. “The mystery of the Church”, we read once again in the Encyclical Ecclesiam suam, “is not to be confined to the realms of speculative theology. It must be lived, so that the faithful may have a kind of intuitive experience of it, even before they come to understand it clearly” (ibid., no. 37). This presupposes a robust inner life which, the Pope continues, is thus “the richest source of the Church’s spiritual strength. It is the means, peculiarly its own, whereby the Church receives the sunlight of Christ’s Spirit. It is the Church’s natural and necessary way of expressing her religious and social activity, her surest defence and the cause of her constant renewal of strength amid the difficulties of the secular world” (see ibid., no. 38). It is precisely the Christian who is open, the Church open to the world, that need a robust inner life.

Dear friends what an invaluable gift for the Church the lesson of the Servant of God Paul VI is! And how exciting it is, every time, to learn from him! It is a lesson that concerns all and involves all in accordance with the various gifts and ministries with which the action of the Holy Spirit has enriched the People of God. In this Year for Priests I would like to stress how this lesson concerns and involves priests in particular, for whom Pope Montini always reserved special affection and concern. In his Encyclical on priestly celibacy he wrote: ““Laid hold of by Christ’ unto the complete abandonment of one’s entire self to him, the priest takes on a closer likeness to Christ, even in the love with which the eternal Priest has loved the Church his Body and offered himself entirely for her sake.... In fact “the consecrated celibacy of the sacred ministers manifests the virginal love of Christ for the Church and above all the virginal and supernatural fecundity of this marriage” (Sacerdotalis caelibatus, no. 26). I dedicate the great Pope’s words to the many priests of the Diocese of Brescia, well represented here, as well as to the young men in formation at the Seminary. And I would also like to recall the words that Paul VI addressed to the students at the Lombard Seminary on 7 December 1968, when the difficulties of the post-conciliar period had to contend with the ferment in the world of youth: “So many”, he said, “expect of the Pope sensational work, energetic and decisive interventions. The Pope does not consider he should follow any other line than that of trust in Jesus Christ, whose concern for his Church is greater than for anyone else. It will be he who rides out the storm.... This expectation is neither sterile nor inert; rather, it is attentive watching in prayer. This is the condition Jesus chose for us so that he might fully carry out his work. The Pope too needs the help of prayer” (Insegnamenti VI, [1968], 1189). Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the priestly example of the Servant of God Giovanni Battista Montini always guide you, and may St Arcangelo Tadini whom I have just venerated during my brief stop at Botticino intercede for you.

While I greet and encourage the priests, I cannot forget, especially here in Brescia, the lay faithful in this region who have shown extraordinary vitality in their faith and actions, in the various fields of the associated apostolate and of social commitment. In the Insegnamenti of Paul VI, dear friends of Brescia, you can find ever precious instructions for facing the challenges of the present time including, above all, the financial crisis, immigration and the education of youth. At the same time, Pope Montini did not miss an opportunity to underline the primacy of the contemplative dimension, in other words the primacy of God in human experience and therefore never tired of promoting the consecrated life in the variety of its aspects. He deeply loved the many-facetted beauty of the Church, recognizing in it the infinite beauty of God which shines on Christ’s Face.

Let us pray that the brightness of divine beauty may be resplendent in all our communities and that the Church may be a luminous sign of hope for humanity in the third millennium. May Mary, whom at the end of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI wished to proclaim Mother of the Church, obtain this grace for us. Amen!

(NOVEMBER 6-7, 2010)



Square of the church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Sunday, 7 November 2010

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Yesterday, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, there took place the celebration of the Beatification of the Servant of God, Maria Barbara of the Most Holy Trinity, foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. May the deep faith and fervent charity with which she followed Christ awaken in many the desire to devote their lives completely to the greater glory of God and the generous service of their brothers and sisters, especially the poorest and the most needy.

Today I had the great joy of dedicating this church to him who, being the Son of the Most High, emptied himself and became man, and who, under the watchful care of Joseph and Mary, in the silence of the home of Nazareth, taught us without words of the dignity and the primordial value of marriage and the family, the hope of humanity, in which life finds its welcome from conception to natural death. He has taught us also that the entire Church, by hearing and putting his word into practice, becomes his family. And he has exhorted us to be a seed of fraternity which, sown in every heart, nourishes hope.

Filled with devotion to the Holy Family of Nazareth, a devotion spread among the Catalan people by Saint Joseph Manyanet, the genius of Antoni Gaudí, inspired by the ardour of his Christian faith, succeeded in raising this sanctuary as a hymn of praise to God carved in stone. A praise of God which, as with the birth of Christ, has had as its protagonists the most humble and simple of people. In effect, Gaudí, through his work, sought to bring the Gospel to everyone. For this reason, he conceived of the three porticos of the exterior of the church as a catechesis on the life of Jesus Christ, as a great Rosary, which is the prayer of ordinary people, a prayer in which are contemplated the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of our Lord. In collaboration with the parish priest Gil Parés, he also designed and financed from his own savings the creation of a school for the children of the workers and of the poorest families of the neighbourhood, which was at that time a outlying suburb of Barcelona. He brought concrete reality to the conviction, saying: “The poor must always find a welcome in the Church, which is an expression of Christian charity.”

This morning I also had the satisfaction of declaring this church a minor basilica. In it, men and women of every continent can contemplate the façade of the Nativity. In prayer, let us now consider the mystery of the Incarnation and lift up our prayer to the Mother of God with the words of the Angel, as we entrust our lives and the life of the entire Church to her, while imploring the gift of peace for each and every person of good will.

(NOVEMBER 6-7, 2010)



Barcelona, Sunday, 7 November 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep. … The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:9-11). With these words from the first reading that we have proclaimed, I wish to greet all of you taking part in this celebration. I extend an affectionate greeting to their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain who have graciously wished to be with us. I extend a thankful greeting to Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, for his words of welcome and for his invitation to me to dedicate this Church of the Sagrada Familia, a magnificent achievement of engineering, art and faith. I also greet Cardinal Ricardo María Carles Gordó, Archbishop Emeritus of Barcelona, the other Cardinals present and my brother bishops, especially the auxiliary bishop of this local church, and the many priests, deacons, seminarians, religious men and women, and lay faithful taking part in this solemn ceremony. I also extend a respectful greeting to the national, regional and local authorities present, as well as to the members of other Christian communities, who share in our joy and our grateful praise of God.

Today marks an important step in a long history of hope, work and generosity that has gone on for more than a century. At this time I would like to mention each and every one of those who have made possible the joy that fills us today, from the promoters to the executors of this work, the architects and the workers, all who in one way or another have given their priceless contribution to the building of this edifice. We remember of course the man who was the soul and the artisan of this project, Antoni Gaudí, a creative architect and a practising Christian who kept the torch of his faith alight to the end of his life, a life lived in dignity and absolute austerity. This event is also in a certain sense the high point of the history of this land of Catalonia which, especially since the end of the nineteenth century, has given an abundance of saints and founders, martyrs and Christian poets. It is a history of holiness, artistic and poetic creation, born from the faith, which we gather and present to God today as an offering in this Eucharist.

The joy which I feel at presiding at this ceremony became all the greater when I learned that this shrine, since its beginnings, has had a special relationship with Saint Joseph. I have been moved above all by Gaudí’s confidence when, in the face of many difficulties, filled with trust in divine Providence, he would exclaim, “Saint Joseph will finish this church”. So it is significant that it is also being dedicated by a Pope whose baptismal name is Joseph.

What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One who is Light, Height and Beauty itself.

In this place, Gaudí desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, he brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudí did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness.

We have dedicated this sacred space to God, who revealed and gave himself to us in Christ so as to be definitively God among men. The revealed Word, the humanity of Christ and his Church are the three supreme expressions of his self-manifestation and self-giving to mankind. As says Saint Paul in the second reading: “Let each man take care how he builds. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 3:10-11). The Lord Jesus is the stone which supports the weight of the world, which maintains the cohesion of the Church and brings together in ultimate unity all the achievements of mankind. In him, we have God’s word and presence and from him the Church receives her life, her teaching and her mission. The Church of herself is nothing; she is called to be the sign and instrument of Christ, in pure docility to his authority and in total service to his mandate. The one Christ is the foundation of the one Church. He is the rock on which our faith is built. Building on this faith, let us strive together to show the world the face of God who is love and the only one who can respond to our yearning for fulfilment. This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord. In this sense, I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him. In this masterpiece, Gaudí shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself. The architect expressed his sentiments in the following words: “A church [is] the only thing worthy of representing the soul of a people, for religion is the most elevated reality in man”.

This affirmation of God brings with it the supreme affirmation and protection of the dignity of each and every man and woman: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Here we find joined together the truth and dignity of God and the truth and dignity of man. As we consecrate the altar of this church, which has Christ as its foundation, we are presenting to the world a God who is the friend of man and we invite men and women to become friends of God. This is what we are taught in the case of Zacchaeus, of whom today’s gospel speaks (Lk 19:1-10), if we allow God into our hearts and into our world, if we allow Christ to live in our hearts, we will not regret it: we will experience the joy of sharing his very life, as the object of his infinite love.

This church began as an initiative of the Association of the Friends of Saint Joseph, who wanted to dedicate it to the Holy Family of Nazareth. The home formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph has always been regarded as a school of love, prayer and work. The promoters of this church wanted to set before the world love, work and service lived in the presence of God, as the Holy Family lived them. Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.

As I contemplate with admiration this sacred space of marvellous beauty, of so much faith-filled history, I ask God that in the land of Catalonia new witnesses of holiness may rise up and flourish, and present to the world the great service that the Church can and must offer to humanity: to be an icon of divine beauty, a burning flame of charity, a path so that the world may believe in the One whom God has sent (see Jn 6:29).

Dear brothers and sisters, as I dedicate this splendid church, I implore the Lord of our lives that, from this altar, which will now be anointed with holy oil and upon which the sacrifice of the love of Christ will be consumed, there may be a flood of grace and charity upon the city of Barcelona and its people, and upon the whole world. May these fruitful waters fill with faith and apostolic vitality this archdiocesan Church, its pastors and its faithful.

Finally, I wish to commend to the loving protection of the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, April Rose, Mother of Mercy, all who enter here and all who in word or deed, in silence and prayer, have made this possible this marvel of architecture. May Our Lady present to her divine Son the joys and tribulations of all who come in the future to this sacred place so that here, as the Church prays when dedicating religious buildings, the poor may find mercy, the oppressed true freedom and all men may take on the dignity of the children of God. Amen.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 6 November 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Biblical Readings of this Sunday’s Liturgy invite us to extend the reflection on eternal life that we began on the occasion of the commemoration of the faithful departed. On this point there is a clear difference between those who believe and those who do not believe or, one might likewise say, between those who hope and those who do not hope.

Indeed St Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “but we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4:13). Faith in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ in this sphere too is a crucial divide. St Paul always reminded the Christians of Ephesus that before accepting the Good News they had been “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Indeed the religion of the Greeks, the pagan cults and myths, were unable to shed light on the mystery of death; thus an ancient inscription said: “In nihil ab nihilo quam cito recidmus” which means: “how quickly we fall back from nothing to nothing”. If we remove God, we remove Christ and the world falls back into emptiness and darkness. Moreover, this is also confirmed in the expressions of contemporary nihilism that is often unconscious and, unfortunately, infects a great many young people.

Today’s Gospel is a famous parable that speaks of ten maidens invited to a wedding feast, a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven and of eternal life (Mt 25:1-13). It is a happy image with which, however, Jesus teaches a truth that calls us into question. In fact five of those 10 maidens were admitted to the feast because when the bridegroom arrived they had brought the oil to light their lamps, whereas the other five were left outside because they had been foolish enough not to bring any. What is represented by this “oil”, the indispensable prerequisite for being admitted to the nuptial banquet?

St Augustine (see Discourses 93, 4), and other ancient authors interpreted it as a symbol of love that one cannot purchase but receives as a gift, preserves within one and uses in works. True wisdom is making the most of mortal life in order to do works of mercy, for after death this will no longer be possible. When we are reawoken for the Last Judgement, it will be made on the basis of the love we have shown in our earthly life (see Mt 25:31-46). And this love is a gift of Christ, poured out in us by the Holy Spirit. Those who believe in God-Love bear within them invincible hope, like a lamp to light them on their way through the night beyond death to arrive at the great feast of life.

Let us ask Mary, Sedes Sapientiae, to teach us true wisdom, the wisdom that became flesh in Jesus. He is the Way that leads from this life to God, to the Eternal One. He enabled us to know the Father’s face, and thus gave us hope full of love. This is why the Church addresses the Mother of the Lord with these words: “Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra” [our life, our sweetness and our hope]. Let us learn from her to live and die in the hope that never disappoints.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Liturgy of the Word this Sunday gives us two widows as models of faith. They are presented in parallel: one in the First Book of Kings (17:10-16) and the other in the Gospel of Mark (12:41-44). Both these women are very poor and it is precisely this condition that speaks of their great faith in God. The first appears in the series of narratives about the Prophet Elijah. In a time of famine, he receives an order from the Lord to go to pagan territory near Sidon, outside Israel. There he meets a widow and asks her for water to drink and a little bread. The woman replies that there is only a handful of flour and a drop of oil, but, since the Prophet insists and promises her that, if she listens to him, flour and oil will not be wanting; she listens and is rewarded.

The second widow in the Gospel is noticed by Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, to be precise at the treasury, where men and women are giving alms. Jesus sees this woman throwing two coins into the treasury; he then calls his disciples and explains that her contribution is greater than that of the rich, because, while they gave of their plenty, the widow put in “everything she had, her whole living” (Mk 12:44).

From these two biblical passages, wisely juxtaposed, one can learn a valuable lesson about the faith. It appears as an interior attitude of he who bases his life on God, on the Word, and trusts totally in him. Being a widow in antiquity was in itself a condition of grave need. This is why in the Bible widows and orphans were people whom God cared for in a special way: they have lost their earthly support but God remains their Spouse, their Parent.

Yet, Scripture says that the objective state of need, in this case being a widow, does not suffice: God always asks for our free adherence to faith, that it is expressed in love for him and for our neighbour. No one is so poor that he cannot give something. And, in fact, both of these widows from today demonstrate their faith by carrying out an act of charity: one for the Prophet and the other by almsgiving. Thus they attest to the inseparable unity between faith and love, as between love of God and love of one’s neighbour — as the Gospel of last Sunday reminded us. Pope St Leo the Great, whose memory we celebrated yesterday, affirmed this: “On the scales of divine justice the quantity of gifts is not weighed, but the weight of hearts. The widow deposited in the Temple treasury two small coins and by doing so surpassed the gifts of all the rich. No gesture of goodness is meaningless before God, no mercy is left barren” (Sermo de jejunio dec. mens., 90, 3).

The Virgin Mary is the perfect example of someone who gives gives her whole self by trusting in God; with this faith she proclaims her fiat to the Angel and accepts the Will of Lord. May Mary help each one of us too, during this Year of Faith, to strengthen our faith in God and in his Word. 

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