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Monday, August 26, 2013

0295: Reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0295: Reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 21 August 2005, 27 August 2006, 26 August 2007, 24 August 2008, 23 August 2009, 22 August 2010, 21 August 2011, and 26 August 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.



APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO COLOGNE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XX WORLD YOUTH DAY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Cologne – Marienfeld, Sunday, 21 August 2005

Dear Friends,

We have come to the conclusion of this marvellous celebration and indeed of the 20th World Youth Day. In my heart I sense welling up within me a single thought: “Thank you!”. I am sure - and I feel - that this thought finds an echo in each one of you. God himself has implanted it in our hearts and he has sealed it with this Eucharist, which literally means “thanksgiving”.

Yes, dear young people, our gratitude, born from faith, is expressed in our song of praise to him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who has offered to us a great sign of his immense love.

Our “thank you”, to begin with, rises up to God - only he could have given it to us in this way, as it was -, and our thanks are now extended to all those who have been involved in its preparation and organization.

World Youth Day was a gift, but, as it developed, was also the result of much work. For this I must renew my gratitude particularly to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, under its President Archbishop Stanis³aw Ry³ko, ably assisted by the Secretary, Bishop Josef Clemens, who for years was my Secretary, and also to my Confrères from the German Bishops’ Conference, in the first place, of course, to the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner. I am grateful to the political and administrative Authorities, who have made a great contribution, who have generously helped and who have ensured that each event has run smoothly.

In a particular way I thank the many volunteers from all of the German Dioceses and from all the nations. A cordial word of thanks goes also to the many contemplative communities who have supported us in prayer during this World Youth Day.

And now, as the living presence of the Risen Christ in our midst nourishes our faith and hope, I am pleased to announce that the next World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. We entrust to the maternal guidance of Mary Most Holy, the future course of the young people of the whole world. Let us now recite the Angelus.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO COLOGNE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XX WORLD YOUTH DAY

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Cologne – Marienfeld, Sunday, 21 August 2005

Prior to Mass, the Pope said the following:

Dear Cardinal Meisner,

Dear Young People,

I would like to thank you, dear Confrère in the Episcopate, for the touching words you have addressed to me which introduced us so appropriately into the Eucharistic celebration.

I would have liked to tour the hill in the Popemobile and to be closer to each one of you, individually. Unfortunately, this has proved impossible, but I greet each one of you from the bottom of my heart. The Lord sees and loves each individual person and we are all the living Church for one another, and let us thank God for this moment in which he is giving us the gift of the mystery of his presence and the possibility of being in communion with him.

We all know that we are imperfect, that we are unable to be a fitting house for him. Let us therefore begin Holy Mass by meditating and praying to him, so that he will take from us what divides us from him and what separates us from each other and enable us to become familiar with the holy mysteries.

***

Dear Young Friends,

Yesterday evening we came together in the presence of the Sacred Host, in which Jesus becomes for us the bread that sustains and feeds us (see Jn 6: 35), and there we began our inner journey of adoration. In the Eucharist, adoration must become union.

At the celebration of the Eucharist, we find ourselves in the “hour” of Jesus, to use the language of John’s Gospel. Through the Eucharist this “hour” of Jesus becomes our own hour, his presence in our midst. Together with the disciples he celebrated the Passover of Israel, the memorial of God’s liberating action that led Israel from slavery to freedom. Jesus follows the rites of Israel. He recites over the bread the prayer of praise and blessing.

But then something new happens. He thanks God not only for the great works of the past; he thanks him for his own exaltation, soon to be accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection, and he speaks to the disciples in words that sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets: ”This is my Body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood”. He then distributes the bread and the cup, and instructs them to repeat his words and actions of that moment over and over again in his memory.

What is happening? How can Jesus distribute his Body and his Blood?

By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart, and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence - the Crucifixion - from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (see I Cor 15: 28).

In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world:  violence is transformed into love, and death into life.

Since this act transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered from within, the Resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to speak, mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word.

To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being - the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world.

All other changes remain superficial and cannot save. For this reason we speak of redemption:  what had to happen at the most intimate level has indeed happened, and we can enter into its dynamic. Jesus can distribute his Body, because he truly gives himself.

This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood.

But it must not stop there; on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own Flesh and Blood.

We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us as the One who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world.

I like to illustrate this new step urged upon us by the Last Supper by drawing out the different nuances of the word “adoration” in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it.

We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio - mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence, ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.

Let us return once more to the Last Supper. The new element to emerge here was the deeper meaning given to Israel’s ancient prayer of blessing, which from that point on became the word of transformation, enabling us to participate in the “hour” of Christ. Jesus did not instruct us to repeat the Passover meal, which in any event, given that it is an anniversary, is not repeatable at will. He instructed us to enter into his “hour”.

We enter into it through the sacred power of the words of consecration - a transformation brought about through the prayer of praise which places us in continuity with Israel and the whole of salvation history, and at the same time ushers in the new, to which the older prayer at its deepest level was pointing.

The new prayer - which the Church calls the “Eucharistic Prayer” - brings the Eucharist into being. It is the word of power which transforms the gifts of the earth in an entirely new way into God’s gift of himself, and it draws us into this process of transformation. That is why we call this action “Eucharist”, which is a translation of the Hebrew word beracha - thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and a transformation worked by the Lord:  the presence of his “hour”. Jesus’ hour is the hour in which love triumphs. In other words:  it is God who has triumphed, because he is Love.

Jesus’ hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about. The Eucharist must become the centre of our lives.

If the Church tells us that the Eucharist is an essential part of Sunday, this is no mere positivism or thirst for power. On Easter morning, first the women and then the disciples had the grace of seeing the Lord. From that moment on, they knew that the first day of the week, Sunday, would be his day, the day of Christ the Lord. The day when creation began became the day when creation was renewed. Creation and redemption belong together. That is why Sunday is so important.

It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a “week-end” of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present.

Dear friends! Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time.

Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it.

Let us pledge ourselves to do this - it is worth the effort! Let us discover the intimate riches of the Church’s liturgy and its true greatness:  it is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the living God himself who is preparing a banquet for us.

Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives.

Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on.

In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him.

But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything.

People tend to exclaim:  “This cannot be what life is about!”. Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. But to tell the truth, religion often becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it.

But religion sought on a “do-it-yourself” basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves.

Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us:  Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction.

This is why love for Sacred Scripture is so important, and in consequence, it is important to know the faith of the Church which opens up for us the meaning of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church as her faith grows, causing her to enter ever more deeply into the truth (see Jn 16: 13).

Beloved Pope John Paul II gave us a wonderful work in which the faith of centuries is explained synthetically: the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I myself recently presented the Compendium of the Catechism, also prepared at the request of the late Holy Father. These are two fundamental texts which I recommend to all of you.

Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on faith!

In recent decades, movements and communities have come to birth in which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt. Seek communion in faith, like fellow travellers who continue together to follow the path of the great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us. The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the Bishops. It is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but instead are living as God’s great family, founded by the Lord through the Twelve Apostles.

Once again, I must return to the Eucharist. “Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body”, says St Paul (I Cor 10: 17). By this he meant:  since we receive the same Lord and he gathers us together and draws us into himself, we ourselves are one.

This must be evident in our lives. It must be seen in our capacity to forgive. It must be seen in our sensitivity to the needs of others. It must be seen in our willingness to share. It must be seen in our commitment to our neighbours, both those close at hand and those physically far away, whom we nevertheless consider to be close.

Today, there are many forms of voluntary assistance, models of mutual service, of which our society has urgent need. We must not, for example, abandon the elderly to their solitude, we must not pass by when we meet people who are suffering. If we think and live according to our communion with Christ, then our eyes will be opened. Then we will no longer be content to scrape a living just for ourselves, but we will see where and how we are needed.

Living and acting thus, we will soon realize that it is much better to be useful and at the disposal of others than to be concerned only with the comforts that are offered to us.

I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world. Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers.

Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshippers of God! Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 27 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 27 August, we commemorate St Monica and tomorrow we will be commemorating St Augustine, her son: their witnesses can be of great comfort and help to so many families also in our time.

Monica, who was born into a Christian family at Tagaste, today Souk-Aharàs in Algeria, lived her mission as a wife and mother in an exemplary way, helping her husband Patricius to discover the beauty of faith in Christ and the power of evangelical love, which can overcome evil with good.

After his premature death, Monica courageously devoted herself to caring for her three children, including Augustine, who initially caused her suffering with his somewhat rebellious temperament. As Augustine himself was to say, his mother gave birth to him twice; the second  time  required  a  lengthy  spiritual travail of prayers and tears, but it was crowned at last with the joy of seeing him not only embrace the faith and receive Baptism, but also dedicate himself without reserve to the service of Christ.

How many difficulties there are also today in family relations and how many mothers are in anguish at seeing their children setting out on wrong paths! Monica, a woman whose faith was wise and sound, invites them not to lose heart but to persevere in their mission as wives and mothers, keeping firm their trust in God and clinging with perseverance to prayer.

As for Augustine, his whole life was a passionate search for the truth. In the end, not without a long inner torment, he found in Christ the ultimate and full meaning of his own life and of the whole of human history. In adolescence, attracted by earthly beauty, he “flung himself” upon it - as he himself confides (see Confessions, 10, 27-38) - with selfish and possessive behaviour that caused his pious mother great pain.

But through a toilsome journey and thanks also to her prayers, Augustine became always more open to the fullness of truth and love until his conversion, which happened in Milan under the guidance of the Bishop, St Ambrose.

He thus remained the model of the journey towards God, supreme Truth and supreme Good. “Late have I loved you”, he wrote in the famous book of the Confessions, “beauty, ever ancient and ever new, late have I loved you. You were within me and I was outside of you, and it was there that I sought you.... You were with me and I was not with you.... You called, you cried out, you pierced my deafness. You shone, you struck me down, and you healed my blindness” (ibid.).

May St Augustine obtain the gift of a sincere and profound encounter with Christ for all those young people who, thirsting for happiness, are seeking it on the wrong paths and getting lost in blind alleys.

St Monica and St Augustine invite us to turn confidently to Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Let us entrust Christian parents to her so that, like Monica, they may accompany their children’s progress with their own example and prayers. Let us commend youth to the Virgin Mother of God so that, like Augustine, they may always strive for the fullness of Truth and Love which is Christ: he alone can satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 26 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s liturgy presents to us enlightening yet at the same time disconcerting words of Christ.

On his last journey to Jerusalem someone asked him: “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And Jesus answered: “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk 13: 23-24).

What does this “narrow door” mean? Why do many not succeed in entering through it? Is it a way reserved for only a few of the chosen?

Indeed, at close examination this way of reasoning by those who were conversing with Jesus is always timely: the temptation to interpret religious practice as a source of privileges or security is always lying in wait.

Actually, Christ’s message goes in exactly the opposite direction: everyone may enter life, but the door is “narrow” for all. We are not privileged. The passage to eternal life is open to all, but it is “narrow” because it is demanding: it requires commitment, self-denial and the mortification of one’s selfishness.

Once again, as on recent Sundays, the Gospel invites us to think about the future which awaits us and for which we must prepare during our earthly pilgrimage.

Salvation, which Jesus brought with his death and Resurrection, is universal. He is the One Redeemer and invites everyone to the banquet of immortal life; but on one and the same condition: that of striving to follow and imitate him, taking up one’s cross as he did, and devoting one’s life to serving the brethren. This condition for entering heavenly life is consequently one and universal.

In the Gospel, Jesus recalls further that it is not on the basis of presumed privileges that we will be judged but according to our actions. The “workers of iniquity” will find themselves shut out, whereas all who have done good and sought justice at the cost of sacrifices will be welcomed.

Thus, it will not suffice to declare that we are “friends” of Christ, boasting of false merits: “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets” (Lk 13: 26).

True friendship with Jesus is expressed in the way of life: it is expressed with goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love for justice and truth, a sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation.

We might say that this is the “identity card” that qualifies us as his real “friends”; this is the “passport” that will give us access to eternal life.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we too want to pass through the narrow door, we must work to be little, that is, humble of heart like Jesus, like Mary his Mother and our Mother. She was the first, following her Son, to take the way of the Cross and she was taken up to Heaven in glory, an event we commemorated a few days ago. The Christian people invoke her as Ianua Caeli, Gate of Heaven. Let us ask her to guide us in our daily decisions on the road that leads to the “gate of Heaven”.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 24 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s liturgy addresses to us Christians but also at the same time to every man and every woman the double question that one day Jesus put to his disciples. He first asked them: “Who do men say that the Son of man is?”. They answered him saying that some of the people said John the Baptist restored to life, others Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. The Lord then directly questioned the Twelve: “But who do you say that I am?”. Peter spoke enthusiastically and authoritatively on behalf of them all: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. This solemn profession of faith the Church continues to repeat since then. Today too, we long to proclaim with an innermost conviction: “Yes, Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”. Let us do so in the awareness that Christ is the true “treasure” for whom it is worth sacrificing everything; he is the friend who never abandons us for he knows the most intimate expectations of our hearts. Jesus is the “Son of the living God”, the promised Messiah who came down to earth to offer humanity salvation and to satisfy the thirst for life and love that dwells in every human being. What an advantage humanity would have in welcoming this proclamation which brings with it joy and peace!

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus answers Peter’s inspired profession of faith: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”. This is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church, whose mission is the actuation of God’s great design to gather the whole of humanity into a single family in Christ. Peter’s mission, and that of his Successors, is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God formed of Jews and pagans of all peoples; his indispensable ministry is to ensure that she is never identified with a single nation, with a single culture, but is the Church of all peoples - to make present among men and women, scarred by innumerable divisions and conflicts, God’s peace and the renewing power of his love. This, then, is the special mission of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter: to serve the inner unity that comes from God’s peace, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

In the face of the enormous responsibility of this task, I am increasingly aware of the commitment and importance of the service to the Church and the world that the Lord has entrusted to me. I therefore ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to support me with your prayers so that, faithful to Christ, we may proclaim and bear witness together to his presence in our time. May Mary, whom we invoke with trust as Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, obtain this grace for us.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

You see my hand, it is free of the plaster cast but it is still a bit lazy: I shall have to remain for a while at the school of patience, but we are making progress!

You know that for several Sundays the Liturgy has proposed for our reflection Chapter Six of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus presents himself as the “Bread of life... which came down from Heaven”, and, he adds: “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever: and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6: 51). To the Jews who were arguing heatedly among themselves, questioning: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v. 52) and the world still debates it Jesus replies in every age: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (v. 53). We too should reflect on whether we have really understood this message. Today, the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us meditate on the last part of this chapter in which the Fourth Evangelist mentions the reaction of the people and of the disciples themselves. They were shocked by the Lord’s words to the point that having followed him until then they exclaimed: “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (v. 60). After this, “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (v. 66) and the same thing has happened over and over again in various periods of history. One might expect Jesus to seek compromises to make himself better understood, but he does not mitigate what he says. On the contrary, he turns directly to the Twelve and asks them: “Will you also go away?” (v. 67).

This provocative question is not only addressed to listeners in his time, but also reaches the believers and people of every epoch. Today too, many are “shocked” by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus’ teaching seems “hard”, too difficult to accept and to put into practice. Then there are those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who seek to “adapt his” word to the fashions of the times, misrepresenting its meaning and value. “Will you also go away?” This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and expects a personal answer from each one; it is a question addressed to each one of us. Jesus is not content with superficial and formal belonging, a first and enthusiastic adherence is not enough for him; on the contrary, what is necessary is to take part for one’s whole life “in his thinking and in his willing”. Following him fills our hearts with joy and gives full meaning to our existence, but it entails difficulties and sacrifices because very often we must swim against the tide.

“Will you also go away?”. Peter answers Jesus’ question on the Apostles’ behalf, and in the name of believers of every century: “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” (vv. 68-69).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, at this moment we too can and want to repeat Peter’s answer, aware of course of our human frailty, of our problems and difficulties, but trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit which is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus. Faith is a gift of God to man and at the same time man’s free and total entrustment to God; faith is docile listening to the word of the Lord who is the “lamp” for our feet and a “light” for our path (see Ps 119[118]: 105). If we open our hearts to Christ with trust, if we let ourselves be won over by him, we can also experience, like, for example, the holy Curé d’Ars, that “our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us”. Let us ask the Virgin Mary always to keep awake within us this faith imbued with love, which made her, a humble girl of Nazareth, the Mother of God and Mother and model of all believers.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 22 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A week after the Solemnity of her Assumption into Heaven the Liturgy invites us to venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary with the title of “Queen”. We contemplate the Mother of Christ crowned by her Son, in other words associated with his universal kingship, as she is portrayed in numerous mosaics and paintings. This year too the Memorial falls on a Sunday, receiving a greater light from the word of God and from the celebration of the weekly Easter. In particular, the image of the Virgin Mary as Queen finds important confirmation in today’s Gospel, where Jesus declares: “Behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” (Lk 13: 30). This expression is typical of Christ as it clearly reflects a theme dear to his prophetic teaching, because the Evangelists recorded it several times although differently formulated. Our Lady is the perfect example of this Gospel truth, namely that God brings down the proud of this world and raises the humble. (see Lk 1: 52).

The small and simple young girl of Nazareth became Queen of the world! This is one of the marvels that reveal God’s Heart. Of course, Mary’s queenship is totally relative to Christ’s kingship. He is the Lord whom after the humiliation of death on the Cross the Father exalted above any other creature in Heaven and on earth and under the earth (see Phil 2: 9-11). Through a design of grace, the Immaculate Mother was fully associated with the mystery of the Son: in his Incarnation; in his earthly life, at first hidden at Nazareth and then manifested in the messianic ministry; in his Passion and death; and finally, in the glory of his Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven. The Mother did not only share the human aspects of this mystery with the Son. She also shared, through the work of the Holy Spirit within her, his profound intention, the divine will, so that the whole of her poor and lowly life was exalted, transformed and glorified, passing through the “narrow door” which is Jesus himself (see Lk 13: 24). Yes, Mary was the first person to take the “way” to enter the Kingdom of God that Christ opened, a way that is accessible to the humble, to all who trust in the word of God and endeavour to put it into practice.

In the history of the cities and peoples evangelized by the Christian message there are many testimonies of public veneration in some cases even institutional of the queenship of the Virgin Mary. Today, however, let us as children of the Church above all renew our devotion to the One whom Jesus bequeathed to us as Mother and Queen. Let us entrust to her intercession the daily prayer for peace, especially in places where the senseless logic of violence is most ferocious; so that all people may be convinced that in this world we must help each other, as brothers and sisters, to build the civilization of love. Maria, Regina pacis, ora pro nobis!


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO MADRID
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 26th WORLD YOUTH DAY

18-21 AUGUST 2011

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid, Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dear Friends,

You are now about to go back home. Your friends will want to know how you have changed after being in this lovely city with the Pope and with hundreds of thousands of other young people from around the world. What are you going to tell them? I invite you to give a bold witness of Christian living to them. In this way you will give birth to new Christians and will help the Church grow strongly in the hearts of many others.

During these days, how often I have thought of the young people at home who are waiting for your return! Take my affectionate greetings to them, to those less fortunate, to your families and to the Christian communities that you come from.

Let me also express my gratitude to the Bishops and priests who are present in such great numbers at this Day. To them all I extend my deepest thanks, encouraging them to continue to work pastorally among young people with enthusiasm and dedication.

[Spanish] I greet the Archbishop of the Forces affectionately and I warmly thank the Spanish Air Force, which very generously permitted Cuatro Vientos Air Base on this, the centenary of the foundation of the Spanish Air Force. I place all Spanish Air Force personnel and their families under the maternal protection of Our Lady of Loreto.

In this context, I recall that yesterday marked the third anniversary of the grave accident at Barajas Airport which caused many deaths and injuries, and I express my spiritual closeness and my deep affection for all those touched by that unfortunate event, and well as for the families of the victims, whose souls we commend to the mercy of God.

I am pleased now to announce that the next World Youth Day will be held in 2013, in Rio de Janeiro. Even now, let us ask the Lord to assist all those who will organize it, and to ease the journey there of young people from all over the world, so that they will be able to join me in that beautiful city of Brazil.

Dear friends, before we say good-bye, and while the young people of Spain pass on the World Youth Day cross to the young people of Brazil, as Successor of Peter I entrust all of you present with this task: make the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ known to the whole world! He wants you to be the apostles of the twenty-first century and the messengers of his joy. Do not let him down! Thank you very much.

[French] My dear young people of the French-speaking world, today Christ asks you to be rooted in him and with him, to build your lives upon him who is our rock. He sends you out to be his witnesses, courageous and without anxiety, authentic and credible! Do not be afraid to be Catholic, and to be witnesses to those around you in simplicity and sincerity! Let the Church find in you and in your youthfulness joyful missionaries of the Good News of salvation!

[English] I greet all the English-speaking young people present here today! As you return home, take back with you the good news of Christ’s love which we have experienced in these unforgettable days. Fix your eyes upon him, deepen your knowledge of the Gospel and bring forth abundant fruit! God bless all of you until we meet again!

[German] My dear friends! Faith is not a theory. To believe is to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus and to live in friendship with him in fellowship with others, in the communion of the Church. Entrust the whole of your lives to Christ and bring your friends to find their way to the source of life, to God. May the Lord make you happy and joy-filled witnesses of his love.

[Italian] My dear young Italians! Greetings to all of you. The Eucharist that we have celebrated is the risen Christ present and living in our midst: through him, your lives are rooted and built upon Christ, strong in faith. With this confidence, depart from Madrid and tell everyone what you have seen and heard. Respond with joy to the Lord’s call, follow him and remain always united to him: you will bear much fruit!

[Portuguese] Dear Portuguese-speaking young people and friends, you have met Jesus Christ! You will be swimming against the tide in a society with a relativistic culture which wishes neither to seek nor hold on to the truth. But it was for this moment in history, with its great challenges and opportunities, that the Lord sent you, so that, through your faith, the Good News of Jesus might continue to resound throughout the earth. I hope to see you again in two years’ time at the nest World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Till then, let us pray for each other, witnessing to the joy that brings forth life, rooted in and built upon Christ. Until we meet again, my dear young people! God bless you all!

[Polish] Dear young Poles, strong in the faith, rooted in Christ! May the gifts you have received from God during these days bear in you abundant fruit. Be his witnesses. Take to others the message of the Gospel. With your prayers and example of life, help Europe to rediscover its Christian roots.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO MADRID
ON THE OCCASION OF THE 26th WORLD YOUTH DAY

18-21 AUGUST 2011

FINAL MASS

WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid, Sunday, 21 August 2011

Dear Young Friends:

I have been thinking a lot about you during this time in which we have been separated. I hope you have been able to get some sleep in spite of the weather. I am sure that since dawn you have raised up your eyes more than once, and not only your eyes but above all your hearts, turning this occasion into prayer. God turns all things into good. With this confidence and trusting in the Lord who never abandons us, let us begin our Eucharistic celebration, full of enthusiasm and strong in our faith.

***

HOMILY

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (see Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (see Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing Christ. The first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (see 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affection. I commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 26 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the past few Sundays we have meditated on the “Bread of Life” discourse, which Jesus gave in the Synagogue of Capernaum after satisfying the hunger of thousands of people with five loaves and two fish. The Gospel today presents the disciples’ reaction to this discourse, a reaction which Christ himself deliberately provoked.

First of all, the Evangelist John — who was present with the other Apostles — says: “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (Jn 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe in the words of Jesus who said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven... he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (see Jn 6:51, 54); words that were truly difficult to accept, incomprehensible. This revelation — as I have said — was incomprehensible to them because they understood it in a purely literal sense, whereas these words foretold the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, in which he was to give himself for the world’s salvation: the new presence of the Blessed Eucharist.

Seeing that many of his disciples were deserting him, Jesus turned to the Apostles, asking them: “Will you also go away?” (Jn 6:67). As on other occasions it was Peter who answered on behalf of the Twelve: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”. We, too, might wonder: to whom should 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).

We have a beautiful comment of St Augustine on this passage. In one of his sermons on John 6 he says: “See how Peter, by the gift of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, understood Him. How other than because he believed? ‘You have the words of eternal life’. For You have eternal life in the ministration of Your body [Risen] and Your blood [Yourself]. ‘And we have believed and have known’. He does not say: ‘we have known and then believed’, but ‘we have believed and then known’. We believed in order to know; for if we wanted to know first, and then to believe, we should not be able either to know or to believe. What have we believed and known? ‘That You are Christ, the Son of God’; that is, that You are that very eternal life, and that You give in Your flesh and blood only that which You are” (In Evangelium Johannis tractatus, 27, 9). St Augustine addressed this homily to his believers.

Finally, Jesus knew that among the Twelve Apostles there was also one who did not believe: Judas. Judas could have gone away too, as did many of the disciples; indeed, perhaps if he had been honest he would have been bound to leave. Instead he stayed on with Jesus. He did not stay out of faith or out of love, but rather with the secret intention of taking revenge on the Teacher. Why? Because Judas felt let down by Jesus and decided that he, in his turn, would betray Jesus. Judas was a zealot and he wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus had not measured up to these expectations. The problem was that Judas did not go away and his greatest sin was his deceitfulness, which is the mark of the Devil. For this reason Jesus said to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” (Jn 6:70). Let us pray to the Virgin Mary to help us believe in Jesus, like St Peter, and always to be sincere with him and with everyone. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, August 19, 2013

0294: Reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0294: Reflections on the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 20h Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 14 August 2005, 20 August 2006, 19 August 2007, 17 August 2008, 16 August 2009, 15 August 2010, 14 August 2011, and 19 August 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 14 August 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the liturgy presents a rare example of faith to us: a Canaanite woman who asks Jesus to heal her daughter who was “terribly troubled by a demon”. The Lord resisted her insistent entreaties and seemed impervious to them even when the disciples themselves interceded for her, as the Evangelist Matthew relates.

In the end, however, confronted by the perseverance and humility of this unknown woman, Jesus consented: “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass” (see Mt 15: 21-28).

“Woman, you have great faith!”. Jesus singles out this humble woman as an example of indomitable faith.

Her insistence in imploring Christ’s intervention is an encouragement to us never to lose heart and not to despair, even in the harshest trials of life.

The Lord does not close his eyes to the needs of his children, and if he seems at times insensitive to their requests, it is only in order to test them and to temper their faith.

This is the witness of saints, this is especially the witness of martyrs, closely associated with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ.

In recent days, we have commemorated some of them: the Pontiffs, Pontianus and Sixtus II, the priest Hippolytus, Lawrence the Deacon with his companions, killed in Rome at the dawn of Christianity.

We have also commemorated a martyr of our time, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, Co-Patroness of Europe, who died in a concentration camp; and on this very day the liturgy presents to us a martyr of charity who sealed his witness of love for Christ in the bunker of starvation at Auschwitz: St Maximilian Maria Kolbe, who willingly sacrificed himself in place of a father with a family.

I invite every baptized person and especially the young people who will be taking part in World Youth Day to look at this shining example of Gospel heroism. I invoke upon them all their protection and in particular, that of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who spent several years of her life at the Carmelite convent in Cologne.

May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, whom we will contemplate tomorrow in her glorious Assumption into Heaven, watch over each one.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 20 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the calendar mentions among the day’s saints Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries (1091-1153). His example and teachings are proving more useful than ever, even in our time.

Having withdrawn from the world after a period of intense inner travail, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Clairvaux at age 25, remaining its guide for 38 years until his death. His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out intense apostolic activity.

He was also exemplary in his commitment to battle against his impetuous temperament, as well as his humility by which he recognized his own limitations and shortcomings.

The riches and merits of his theology do not lie in having taken new paths, but rather in being able to propose the truths of the faith in a style so clear and incisive that it fascinated those listening and prepared their souls for recollection and prayer. In every one of his writings, one senses the echo of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in communicating to others with a surprising capacity for persuasion.

For him, love is the greatest strength of the spiritual life. God, who is love, creates man out of love and out of love redeems him. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and burdened by personal sins, consists in being firmly attached to divine love which was fully revealed to us in Christ Crucified and Risen.

In his love, God heals our will and our sick understanding, raising them to the highest degree of union with him, that is, to holiness and mystical union. St Bernard deals with this, among other things, in his brief but substantial Liber de Diligendo Deo.

There is then another writing of his that I would like to point out, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugene III. Here, in this very personal book, the dominant theme is the importance of inner recollection - and he tells this to the Pope -, an essential element of piety.

It is necessary, the Saint observes, to beware of the dangers of excessive activity whatever one’s condition and office, because, as he said to the Pope of that time and to all Popes, to all of us, many occupations frequently lead to “hardness of heart”, “they are none other than suffering of spirit, loss of understanding, dispersion of grace” (II, 3).

This warning applies to every kind of occupation, even those inherent in the government of the Church. In this regard, Bernard addresses provocative words to the Pontiff, a former disciple of his at Clairvaux: “See”, he writes, “where these accursed occupations can lead you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... without leaving anything of yourself to yourself” (ibid).

How useful this appeal to the primacy of prayer and contemplation is also for us! May we too be helped to put this into practice in our lives by St Bernard, who knew how to harmonize the monk’s aspiration to the solitude and tranquillity of the cloister with the pressing needs of important and complex missions at the service of the Church.

Let us entrust this desire, not easy to find, that is, the equilibrium between interiority and necessary work, to the intercession of Our Lady, whom he loved from childhood with such a tender and filial devotion as to deserve the title: “Marian Doctor”. Let us now invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world.

In one of his famous discourses, St Bernard compares Mary to the Star that navigators seek so as not to lose their course: “Whoever you are who perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be drifting in treacherous waters at the mercy of the winds and the waves rather than walking on firm ground, turn your eyes not away from the splendour of this guiding star, unless you wish to be submerged by the storm!... Look at the star, call upon Mary.... With her for a guide, you will never go astray; ...under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favour you will reach the goal (Hom. Super Missus Est, II, 17).


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 19 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel there is an expression of Jesus that always attracts our attention and needs to be properly understood.

While he is on his way to Jerusalem, where death on a cross awaits him, Christ asked his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division”. And he adds: “[H]enceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Lk 12: 51-53).

Anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of Christ’s Gospel knows that it is a message of peace par excellence; as St Paul wrote, Jesus himself “is our peace” (Eph 2: 14), the One who died and rose in order to pull down the wall of enmity and inaugurate the Kingdom of God which is love, joy and peace.

So how can his words be explained? To what was the Lord referring when he said he had come - according to St Luke’s version - to bring “division” or - according to St Matthew’s - the “sword” (Mt 10: 34)?

Christ’s words mean that the peace he came to bring us is not synonymous with the mere absence of conflicts. On the contrary, Jesus’ peace is the result of a constant battle against evil. The fight that Jesus is determined to support is not against human beings or human powers, but against Satan, the enemy of God and man.

Anyone who desires to resist this enemy by remaining faithful to God and to good, must necessarily confront misunderstandings and sometimes real persecutions.

All, therefore, who intend to follow Jesus and to commit themselves without compromise to the truth, must know that they will encounter opposition and that in spite of themselves they will become a sign of division between people, even in their own families. In fact, love for one’s parents is a holy commandment, but to be lived authentically it can never take precedence over love for God and love for Christ.

Thus, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, in accordance with St Francis of Assisi’s famous words, Christians become “instruments of peace”; not of a peace that is inconsistent and only apparent but one that is real, pursued with courage and tenacity in the daily commitment to overcome evil with good (see Rom 12: 21) and paying in person the price that this entails.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, shared until his martyrdom her Son Jesus’ fight with the Devil and continues to share in it to the end of time. Let us invoke her motherly intercession so that she may help us always to be witnesses of Christ’s peace and never to sink so low as to make compromises with evil.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 17 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the liturgy offers to us for reflection the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him... these will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer... for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56: 6-7). In the Second Reading the Apostle Paul also refers to the universality of salvation, as does the Gospel passage that recounts the episode of the Canaanite woman, a foreigner for the Jews, whose wish was granted by Jesus because of her great faith. The Word of God thus gives us an opportunity to reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church which is made up of people of every race and culture. From precisely this stems the great responsibility of the ecclesial community which is called to be a hospitable home for all, a sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family.

How important it is, especially in our time, that every Christian community increasingly deepens its awareness of this in order also to help civil society overcome every possible temptation to give into racism, intolerance and exclusion and to make decisions that respect the dignity of every human being! One of humanity’s great achievements is in fact its triumph over racism. However, unfortunately disturbing new forms of racism are being manifested in various Countries. They are often related to social and economic problems which can, however, never justify contempt and racial discrimination. Let us pray that respect for every person everywhere will increase, together with a responsible awareness that only in the reciprocal acceptance of one and all is it possible to build a world distinguished by authentic justice and true peace.

Today, I would like to suggest another prayer intention, given the current news of numerous serious road accidents - especially in this period. We must not resign ourselves to this sad reality! Human life is too precious a good and death or incapacitation by causes which in most cases could have been avoided is most unworthy of man. A greater sense of responsibility is certainly essential, first and foremost on the part of drivers since accidents are often due to excessive speed or rash conduct. Driving a vehicle on public roads demands a moral and a civic sense. To encourage the latter, the constant work of prevention, watchfulness and penalization by the authorities in charge is indispensable. On the other hand, we as Church feel directly challenged on the ethical level: Christians must first of all make a personal examination of conscience regarding their own behaviour as car-drivers. Furthermore, may communities teach every man and woman to consider driving as another area in which to defend life and put love of neighbour into practice.

Let us entrust the social problems I have mentioned to the motherly intercession of Mary, whom we shall now call upon together with the recitation of the Angelus.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 16 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of Mary taken up into Heaven, and today we read these words of Jesus in the Gospel: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6: 51).

One cannot but be struck by this parallel that rotates around the symbol of “Heaven”: Mary was “taken up” to the very place from which her Son had “come down”. Of course, this language, which is biblical, expresses in figurative terms something that never completely coincides with the world of our own concepts and images. But let us pause for a moment to think! Jesus presents himself as the “living bread”, that is, the food which contains the life of God itself which it can communicate to those who eat it, the true nourishment that gives life, which is really and deeply nourishing. Jesus says: “if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6: 51). Well, from whom did the Son of God take his “flesh”, his actual, earthly humanity? He took it from the Virgin Mary. In order to enter our mortal condition, God took from her a human body. In turn, at the end of her earthly life, the Virgin’s body was taken up into Heaven by God and brought to enter the heavenly condition. It is a sort of exchange in which God always takes the full initiative but, in a certain sense, as we have seen on other occasions, he also needs Mary, her “yes” as a creature, her very flesh, her actual existence, in order to prepare the matter for his sacrifice: the Body and the Blood, to offer them on the Cross as a means of eternal life and, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as spiritual food and drink.

Dear brothers and sisters, what happened in Mary also applies in ways that are different yet real to every man and to every woman because God asks each one of us to welcome him, to put at his disposal our heart and our body, our entire existence, our flesh the Bible says so that he may dwell in the world. He calls us to be united with him in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Bread broken for the life of the world, to form together the Church, his Body in history. And if we say “yes”, like Mary, indeed to the extent of our “yes”, this mysterious exchange is also brought about for us and in us. We are taken up into the divinity of the One who took on our humanity. The Eucharist is the means, the instrument of this reciprocal transformation which always has God as its goal, and as the main actor. He is the Head and we are the limbs, he is the Vine and we the branches. Whoever eats of this Bread and lives in communion with Jesus, letting himself be transformed by him and in him, is saved from eternal death: naturally he dies like everyone and also shares in the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, but he is no longer a slave to death and will rise on the Last Day to enjoy the eternal celebration together with Mary and with all the Saints.

This mystery, this celebration of God, begins here below: it is the mystery of faith, hope and love that is celebrated in life and in the liturgy, especially that of the Eucharist, and is expressed in fraternal communion and in service for our neighbour. Let us pray the Blessed Virgin to help us always to nourish ourselves faithfully with the Bread of eternal life, so that, already on this earth, we may experience the joy of Heaven.


SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption into Heaven of the Mother of God, we celebrate the passage from the earthly condition to heavenly blessedness of the One who engendered in the flesh and received in faith the Lord of Life. The veneration of the Virgin Mary has accompanied the path of the Church from the beginning; Marian feast days began to appear already in the fourth century: in some the role of the Virgin in the History of Salvation is exalted; in others the principal moments of her earthly life are celebrated. The meaning of today’s Feast is contained in the final words of the dogmatic definition, proclaimed by Venerable Pius XII on 1 November 1950, the 60th anniversary of which is celebrated this year: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the Ever Virgin, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 44 [1950], 770).

Artists of every epoch have painted and sculpted the sanctity of the Lord’s Mother adorning churches and shrines. Poets, writers and musicians have paid tribute to the Virgin with liturgical hymns and songs. From the East to the West the All Holy is invoked as Heavenly Mother, who holds the Son of God in her arms and under whose protection the whole of humanity finds refuge, with the very ancient prayer, “We shelter under your protection, Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our needs, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and Blessed Virgin”.

And in the Gospel of today’s Solemnity, St Luke describes the fulfilment of Salvation through the Virgin Mary. She, in whose womb the Almighty became small, after the Angel’s announcement, without any hesitation, makes haste to visit to her cousin Elizabeth to bring to her the Saviour of the world. And, in fact, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and [she] was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1: 41). She recognized the Mother of God in the One “who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1: 45). The two women, who were waiting for the fulfilment of the Divine Promises, had already a foretaste of the joy of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the joy of Salvation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us trust in the One who as the Servant of God Paul VI affirmed “having been assumed into Heaven, she has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation” (Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus, no. 18). To her, guide of the Apostles, support of Martyrs, light of the Saints, let us address our prayers, imploring that she accompany us in this earthly life, that she help us look to Heaven and that she welcome us one day together with her Son Jesus.


HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church is celebrating one of the most important feasts of the Liturgical Year dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the Assumption. At the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven, that is, into the glory of eternal life, into full and perfect communion with God.

It is 60 years since Venerable Pope Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, solemnly defined this Dogma and although it is somewhat complicated I would like to read the formula of dogmatization. The Pope says: “Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, no. 40, 1950).

This then is the nucleus of our faith in the Assumption: we believe that Mary, like Christ her Son, overcame death and is already triumphant in heavenly glory, in the totality of her being, “in body and soul”.

In today’s Second Reading St Paul helps us to shed a little more light on this mystery starting from the central event of human history and of our faith: that is, the event of Christ’s Resurrection which is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Immersed in his Paschal Mystery, we are enabled to share in his victory over sin and death. Here lies the startling secret and key reality of the whole human saga. St Paul tells us that we are “incorporated” Adam, the first man and the old man, that we all possess the same human heritage to which belong suffering, death and sin. But every day adds something new to this reality that we can all see and live: not only are we part of this heritage of the one human being that began with Adam but we are also “incorporated” in the new man, in the Risen Christ, and thus the life of the Resurrection is already present in us. Therefore this first biological “incorporation” is incorporation into death, it is an incorporation that generates death. The second, new “incorporation”, that is given to us in Baptism is an “incorporation” that gives life. Again, I cite today’s Second Reading: St Paul says: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15: 21-24).

Now, what St Paul says of all human beings the Church in her infallible Magisterium says of Mary in a precise and clear manner: the Mother of God is so deeply integrated into Christ’s Mystery that at the end of her earthly life she already participates with her whole self in her Son’s Resurrection. She lives what we await at the end of time when the “last enemy” death will have been destroyed (see 1 Cor 15: 26); she already lives what we proclaim in the Creed: “We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”.

We can then ask ourselves: what are the roots of this victory over death wonderfully anticipated in Mary? Its roots are in the faith of the Virgin of Nazareth, as the Gospel passage we have heard testifies (Lk 1: 39-56): a faith that is obedience to the word of God and total abandonment to the divine action and initiative, in accordance with what the Archangel announced to her. Faith, therefore, is Mary’s greatness, as Elizabeth joyfully proclaims: Mary is “blessed among women” and “blessed is the fruit of [her] womb”, for she is Mother of the Lord” because she believed and lived uniquely the “first” of the Beatitudes, the Beatitude of faith. Elizabeth confesses it in her joy and in that of her child who leaps in her womb: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). Dear friends, let us not limit ourselves to admiring Mary in her destiny of glory, as a person very remote from us. No! We are called to look at all that the Lord, in his love, wanted to do for us too, for our final destiny: to live through faith in a perfect communion of love with him and hence to live truly.

In this regard I would like to reflect on an aspect of the affirmation of the dogma where assumption into heavenly glory is mentioned. All of us today are well aware that by the term “Heaven” we are not referring to somewhere in the universe, to a star or such like; no. We mean something far greater and far more difficult to define with our limited human conceptions. With this term “Heaven” we wish to say that God, the God who made himself close to us, does not abandon us in or after death but keeps a place for us and gives us eternity. We mean that in God there is room for us. To understand this reality a little better let us look at our own lives. We all experience that when people die they continue to exist, in a certain way, in the memory and heart of those who knew and loved them. We might say that a part of the person lives on in them but it resembles a “shadow” because this survival in the heart of their loved ones is destined to end. God, on the contrary, never passes away and we all exist by virtue of his love. We exist because he loves us, because he conceived of us and called us to life. We exist in God’s thoughts and in God’s love. We exist in the whole of our reality, not only in our “shadow”. Our serenity, our hope and our peace are based precisely on this: in God, in his thoughts and in his love, it is not merely a “shadow” of ourselves that survives but rather we are preserved and ushered into eternity with the whole of our being in him, in his creator love. It is his Love that triumphs over death and gives us eternity and it is this love that we call “Heaven”: God is so great that he also makes room for us. And Jesus the man, who at the same time is God, is the guarantee for us that the being-man and the being-God can exist and live, the one within the other, for eternity.

This means that not only a part of each one of us will continue to exist, as it were pulled to safety, while other parts fall into ruin; on the contrary it means that God knows and loves the whole of the human being, what we are. And God welcomes into his eternity what is developing and becoming now, in our life made up of suffering and love, of hope, joy and sorrow. The whole of man, the whole of his life, is taken by God and, purified in him, receives eternity. Dear Friends! I think this is a truth that should fill us with deep joy. Christianity does not proclaim merely some salvation of the soul in a vague afterlife in which all that is precious and dear to us in this world would be eliminated, but promises eternal life, “the life of the world to come”. Nothing that is precious and dear to us will fall into ruin; rather, it will find fullness in God. Every hair of our head is counted, Jesus said one day (see Mt 10: 30). The definitive world will also be the fulfilment of this earth, as St Paul says: “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8: 21). Then we understand that Christianity imparts a strong hope in a bright future and paves the way to the realization of this future. We are called, precisely as Christians, to build this new world, to work so that, one day, it may become the “world of God”, a world that will surpass all that we ourselves have been able to build. In Mary taken up into Heaven, who fully shares in the Resurrection of the Son, we contemplate the fulfilment of the human creature in accordance with “God’s world”.

Let us pray the Lord that he will enable us to understand how precious in his eyes is the whole of our life; may he strengthen our faith in eternal life; make us people of hope who work to build a world open to God, people full of joy who can glimpse the beauty of the future world amidst the worries of daily life and in this certainty live, believe and hope. Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 14 August 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel passage begins by indicating the district to which Jesus was going: Tyre and Sidon, to the north-west of Galilee, a pagan land. And it was here that he met a Canaanite woman who spoke to him, asking him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon (see Mt 15:22).

In her supplication we can already discern the beginning of a journey of faith, which in her conversation with the divine Teacher grows and becomes stronger.

The woman was not afraid to cry to Jesus “Have mercy on me”, an expression that recurs in the Psalms (see 50:1), she calls him “Lord” and “Son of David” (see Mt 15:22), thus showing a firm hope of being heard. What was the Lord’s attitude to this cry of anguish from a pagan woman?

Jesus’ silence may seem disconcerting, to the point that it prompted the disciples to intervene, but it was not a question of insensitivity to this woman’s sorrow. St Augustine rightly commented: “Christ showed himself indifferent to her, not in order to refuse her his mercy but rather to inflame her desire for it” (Sermo 77, 1: PL 38, 483).

The apparent aloofness of Jesus who said: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24), did not discourage the Canaanite woman who persisted: “Lord, help me” (v. 25). And she did not even desist when she received an answer that would seem to have extinguished any hope: “it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26). She had no wish to take anything from anyone; in her simplicity and humility a little was enough for her, crumbs sufficed, no more than a look, a kind word from the Son of God. And Jesus was struck with admiration for an answer of such great faith and said to her: “Be it done for you as you desire” (v. 28).

Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!”. This is the way that Jesus made his disciples take, as well as the Canaanite woman and men and women of every epoch and nation and each one of us.

Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way and in the end it is a gift of God who does not reveal himself to us as an abstract thing without a face or a name, because faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life.

For this reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (see 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and open their life to his Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore nourish our faith every day with deep attention to the word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a “cry” to him, and with charity to our neighbour.

Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom we shall contemplate tomorrow in her glorious Assumption into Heaven in body and soul, so that she may help us proclaim and witness with our lives to the joy of having encountered the Lord.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel (see Jn 6:51-58) is the concluding part and culmination of the discourse given by Jesus in the Synagogue of Capernaum after he had fed thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes the previous day. Jesus reveals the meaning of this miracle, namely that the promised time had come; God the Father, who had fed the Israelites in the desert with manna, now sent him, the Son, as the true Bread of life; and this bread is his flesh, his life, offered in sacrifice for us. It is therefore a question of welcoming him with faith, not of being shocked by his humanity, and it is about eating his flesh and drinking his blood (see Jn 6:54) in order to obtain for ourselves the fullness of life. It is clear that this address was not given to attract approval. Jesus knew this and gave this speech intentionally. In fact it was a critical moment, a turning point in his public mission. The people, and the disciples themselves, were enthusiastic when he performed miraculous signs; the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was a clear revelation that he was the Messiah, so that the crowd would have liked to carry Jesus in triumph and proclaim him King of Israel. But this was not what Jesus wanted. With his long address he dampens the enthusiasm and incites much dissent. In explaining the image of the bread, he affirms that he has been sent to offer his own life and he who wants to follow him must join him in a deep and personal way, participating in his sacrifice of love. Thus Jesus was to institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, so that his disciples themselves might share in his love — this was crucial — and, as one body united with him, might extend his mystery of salvation in the world.

In listening to this address the people understood that Jesus was not the Messiah they wanted, one who would aspire to an earthly throne. He did not seek approval to conquer Jerusalem; rather he wanted to go to the Holy City to share the destiny of the prophets: to give his life for God and for the people. Those loaves, broken for thousands, were not meant to result in a triumphal march but to foretell the sacrifice on the Cross when Jesus was to become Bread, Body and Blood, offered in expiation. Jesus therefore gave the address to bring the crowds down to earth and mostly to encourage his disciples to make a decision. In fact from that moment many of them no longer followed him.

Dear friends, let us once again be filled with wonder by Christ’s words. He, a grain of wheat scattered in the furrows of history, is the first fruits of the new humanity, freed from the corruption of sin and death. And let us rediscover the beauty of the Sacrament of the Eucharist which expresses all God’s humility and holiness. His making himself small, God makes himself small, a fragment of the universe to reconcile all in his love. May the Virgin Mary, who gave the world the Bread of Life, teach us to live in ever deeper union with him. 



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