Entry 0300: Reflections on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 25 September 2005, 1 October 2006, 30 September 2007, 28 September 2008, 27 September 2009, 26 September 2010, 25 September 2011, and 30 September 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 25 September 2005
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 1st October 2006
27 September 2009 Brno
Moravia is blessed with
a number of Marian shrines that are visited by crowds of pilgrims throughout
the year. At this moment I should like to make a pilgrimage in spirit to the
mountainous forest shrine of Hostýn, where you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary
as your protectress. May Mary keep the flame of faith alive in all of you, a
faith that is nourished by traditions of popular piety with deep roots in the
past, which you rightly take care to maintain, so that the warmth of family
conviviality in villages and towns may not be lost. At times one cannot help
noticing, with a certain nostalgia, that the pace of modern life tends to
diminish some elements of a rich heritage of faith. Yet it is important not to
lose sight of the ideal expressed by traditional customs, and above all to
maintain the spiritual patrimony inherited from your forebears, to guard it and
to make it answer to the needs of the present day. May the Virgin Mary assist
you in this, as we renew the entrustment to her of your Church and of the
entire Czech nation.
27 September 2009 Brno
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 30 September
Dear friends, let us pray through the intercession of Mary Most Holy that we may be able to rejoice in every act and initiative for good without envy or jealousy and that we may use earthly goods wisely, in the constant search for heavenly goods.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this last Sunday that I spend in
Castel Gandolfo, I
would like to cordially greet all of the community’s citizens, wholeheartedly
thanking you again for the welcome you have given me.
Continuing the reflection on the Mystery of the Eucharist, heart of the Christian life, I would like to highlight today the link between the Eucharist and charity.
“Charity” - agape in Greek, caritas in Latin - does not primarily mean an act or positive sentiment; rather, it means the spiritual gift, the love of God that the Holy Spirit effuses in the human heart, moving it to give [this love] to God and to neighbour (see Rom 5: 5).
Jesus’ entire earthly existence, from conception to death on the Cross, was a single act of love, so much so that we can summarize our faith in these words: Jesus Caritas, Jesus Love.
At the Last Supper, knowing that “his hour had come” (Jn 13: 1), the divine Teacher offered his disciples the supreme example of love, washing their feet and entrusting to them the most precious inheritance, the Eucharist, where the entire Paschal Mystery is concentrated, as the Venerable Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (see no. 5).
“Take this and eat it, this is my body... all of you must drink from it, for this is my blood” (Mt 26: 26-27). Jesus’ words in the Upper Room are a prelude to his death and manifest the awareness with which he faced it, transforming it into a gift of self in the act of love that gives completely.
In the Eucharist the Lord gives himself to us in his body, soul and divinity, and we become one with him and with others. Our response to his love must then be concrete and expressed in an authentic conversion to love, in forgiveness, in welcoming one another and being attentive to the needs of everyone.
The kinds of service that we can render to our neighbour in everyday life, with a bit of attention, are many and varied. The Eucharist thus becomes the source of spiritual energy that renews our life each day, and in this way also renews the world in Christ’s love.
The saints are exemplary witnesses of this love; from the Eucharist they drew the strength of living a charity that was difficult and oftentimes heroic.
I think of St Vincent de Paul, whose liturgical memorial we celebrate the day after tomorrow. St Vincent de Paul said: “What a joy it is to serve the person of Christ in his poor members!”. And this he did with his entire life.
I also think of Bl. Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity; she loved Jesus in the poorest of the poor, and received and contemplated him every day in the consecrated Host.
Before and more than all the saints, divine charity filled the heart of the Virgin Mary. After the Annunciation, moved by the One she carried in her womb, the Mother of the Word-made-flesh hurriedly set out to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth. Let us pray so that every Christian, nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, may ever more grow in their love towards God and in generous service towards one’s neighbours.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the first day of October, I would like to reflect on two aspects which characterize this month in the Ecclesial Community: the prayer of the Rosary and the commitment to the Missions. This Saturday, 7 October, we will be celebrating the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and it is as though Our Lady invites us every year to rediscover the beauty of this prayer, so simple and so profound.
Our beloved John Paul II was a great Apostle of the Rosary: we remember him on his knees, his rosary beads in his hands, immersed in the contemplation of Christ as he himself invited us to do in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae.
The Rosary is a contemplative and Christocentric prayer, inseparable from meditation on Holy Scripture. It is the prayer of the Christian who advances on his pilgrimage of faith, following Jesus and preceded by Mary.
Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to invite you during this month to recite the Rosary in the family, in the community and in parishes, for the Pope’s intentions, for the Church’s mission and for world peace.
October is also the missionary month, and on Sunday, the 22nd, we will be celebrating World Mission Day. The Church is, by her very nature, missionary. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20: 21), the Risen Jesus said to the Apostles at the Last Supper.
The Church’s mission is the extension of Christ’s mission: to bring God’s love to all, proclaiming it with words and with the concrete testimony of charity.
In my Message for the upcoming World Mission Day, I wanted to present charity precisely as “the soul of the mission”.
the Apostle to the Gentiles, wrote: “The love of Christ impels us” (II
Cor 5: 14). May every Christian make these words his own, in the joyful
experience of being a missionary of Love wherever Providence has placed him,
with humility and courage, serving his neighbour with no ulterior motives and
drawing strength from prayer for a cheerful and industrious charity (see Deus
Caritas Est, nos. 32-39).
St Teresa of the Child Jesus, the Carmelite virgin and doctor of the Church whom we are commemorating this very day, is universal Co-Patroness of the Missions, together with St Francis Xavier. May she, who pointed out trusting abandonment to God’s love as the “simple” way to holiness, help us to be credible witnesses of the Gospel of charity. May Mary Most Holy, Virgin of the Rosary and Queen of Missions, lead us all to Christ the Saviour.
Papal Summer Residence,
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 30
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, Luke’s Gospel presents to us the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Lk 16: 19-31). The rich man personifies the wicked use of riches by those who spend them on uncontrolled and selfish luxuries, thinking solely of satisfying themselves without caring at all for the beggar at their door.
The poor man, on the contrary, represents the person whom God alone cares for: unlike the rich man he has a name: “Lazarus”, an abbreviation of “Eleazarus”, which means, precisely, “God helps him”.
God does not forget those who are forgotten by all; those who are worthless in human eyes are precious in the Lord’s. The story shows how earthly wickedeness is overturned by divine justice: after his death, Lazarus was received “in the bosom of Abraham”, that is, into eternal bliss; whereas the rich man ended up “in Hades, in torment”. This is a new and definitive state of affairs against which no appeal can be made, which is why one must mend one’s ways during one’s life; to do so after serves no purpose.
This parable can also be interpreted in a social perspective. Pope Paul VI’s interpretation of it 40 years ago in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio remains unforgettable. Speaking of the campaign against hunger he wrote: “It is a question... of building a world where every man... can live a fully human life... where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man” (no. 47).
The cause of the numerous situations of destitution, the Encyclical recalls, is on the one hand “servitude imposed.... by other men”, and on the other, “natural forces over which [the person] has not sufficient control” (ibid.).
Unfortunately, some populations suffer from both these factors. How can we fail to think at this time especially of the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, affected by serious floods in the past few days? Nor can we forget the many other humanitarian emergencies in various regions of the planet, in which conflicts for political and economic power contribute to exacerbating existing, oppressive environmental situations.
The appeal voiced by Paul VI at that time, “Today the peoples in hunger are making a dramatic appeal to the peoples blessed with abundance” (ibid., no. 3), is still equally pressing today.
We cannot say that we do not know which way to take: we have the Law and the Prophets, Jesus tells us in the Gospel. Those who do not wish to listen to them would not change even if one of the dead were to return to admonish them.
May the Virgin Mary help us to make the most of the present time to listen to and put into practice these words of God. May she obtain for us that we become more attentive to our brethren in need, to share with them the much or the little that we have and to contribute, starting with ourselves, to spreading the logic and style of authentic solidarity.
Papal Summer Residence,
Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 28
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the liturgy presents to us the Gospel parable of the two sons sent by their father to work in his vineyard. One of them immediately agrees to go but then does not; the other instead refuses but later repents and complies with his father’s wishes. With this parable Jesus reaffirms his predilection for sinners who convert and teaches us that humility is necessary in order to accept the gift of salvation.
too, in the passage from his Letter to the Philippians on which we are
meditating today, urges us to be humble: “Do nothing from selfishness or
conceit”, he writes, “but... let each of you... in humility count others better
than yourselves” (Phil 2: 3). These are the same sentiments as those of Christ
who, emptying himself of divine glory out of love for us, became a man and
humbled himself even to dying on a Cross (see Phil 2: 5-8). The verb used - ekenôsen
- means literally that he “emptied himself” and sheds clear light on the deep
humility and infinite love of Jesus, the humble Servant par excellence.
In reflecting on these biblical texts, I immediately thought of Pope John Paul I, the 30th anniversary of whose death we are commemorating today. John Paul I chose as his episcopal motto the same motto as St Charles Borromeo, namely: Humilitas. This single word sums up the essential of Christian life and indicates the indispensable virtue of those in the Church who are called to the service of authority. At one of the four General Audiences held during his extremely short Pontificate, he said, among other things, with that familiar tone that distinguished him: “I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, “Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart’.... Even if you have done great things, say: “We are useless servants’“. And he observed: “On the contrary the tendency in all of us, is rather the opposite: to show off” (Homily, General Audience, 6 September 1978). Humility can be considered his spiritual testament.
Because of this virtue of his, it only took 33 days for Pope Luciani to win people’s hearts. In his Addresses he always referred to events in practical life, from his family memories and from popular wisdom. His simplicity was a vehicle for a solid, rich teaching which, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and a vast knowledge, he embellished with numerous citations from ecclesiastical and secular writers. Thus, he was an incomparable catechist, following in the footsteps of St Pius X, who came from the same region and was his Predecessor first on the throne of St Mark and then on that of St Peter. “We must feel small before God”, he said during the same Audience. And he added, “I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one’s mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me” (ibid., p. 1). These words reveal the full depth of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us treasure his example, striving to cultivate his same humility which enabled him to talk to everyone, especially the small and the “distant”. For this, let us invoke Mary Most Holy, the humble Handmaid of the Lord.
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
(SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2009)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have come to the end of this solemn celebration, and the midday hour invites us to pray the Angelus. I am pleased to do so here, in the heart of Moravia,
Bohemia’s sister territory, a land marked
for many centuries by the Christian faith, a land that reminds us of the
courageous mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius.
Twenty years ago, when Pope John Paul II decided to visit Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of Communist totalitarianism, he chose to being his pastoral journey in Velehrad, the place where the famous Unionist Congresses were held, those precursors of ecumenism among the Slav peoples, a place known throughout the Christian world. I am sure you also remember another of his visits, in 1995, when he went to Svatý Kopeček near
for an unforgettable meeting with young people. I should like to make my own
the ideas put forward by my venerable predecessor, as I invite you to remain
faithful to your Christian vocation and to the Gospel, so as to build together
a future of solidarity and peace.
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
(SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2009)
HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Jesus invites each of his disciples to spend time with him, to find comfort, sustenance and renewal in him. This invitation is addressed in a special way to our liturgical assembly which, in accordance with the ecclesial ideal, brings the whole of your local Church together with the Successor of Peter. I greet each and every one of you: firstly the Bishop of
Brno, to whom I am
grateful for the kind words he addressed to me at the start of the Mass, and
also the Cardinals and the other Bishops present. I greet the priests, deacons,
seminarians, men and women religious, the catechists and pastoral workers, the
young people and the many families here. I pay my respects to the civil and
military authorities, particularly to the President of the Republic and the
First Lady, to the Mayor of the City of Brno
and the President of the Region of Southern Moravia, a land rich in history and
in cultural, industrial and commercial activity. I should also like to extend
warm greetings to the pilgrims from the entire region of Moravia
and the nearby dioceses of Slovakia,
Poland, Austria and Germany.
Dear friends, regarding the character of today’s liturgical assembly, I gladly supported the decision, mentioned by your Bishop, to base the Scripture readings for Mass on the theme of hope: I supported it in consideration of the people of this beloved land as well as Europe and the whole of humanity, thirsting as it does for something on which to base a firm future. In my second Encyclical, Spe Salvi, I emphasized that the only “certain” and “reliable” hope (see no. 1) is founded on God. History has demonstrated the absurdities to which man descends when he excludes God from the horizon of his choices and actions, and how hard it is to build a society inspired by the values of goodness, justice and fraternity, because the human being is free and his freedom remains fragile. Freedom has constantly to be won over for the cause of good, and the arduous search for the “right way to order human affairs” is a task that belongs to all generations (see ibid., nos. 24-25). That, dear friends, is why our first reason for being here is to listen, to listen to a word that will show us the way that leads to hope; indeed, we are listening to the only word that can give us firm hope, because it is God’s word.
In the first reading (Is 61:1-3a), the Prophet speaks as one invested with the mission of proclaiming liberation, consolation and joy to all the afflicted and the poor. Jesus took up this text and re-applied it to himself in his preaching. Indeed, he stated explicitly that the prophet’s promise was fulfilled in him (see Lk 4:16-21). It was completely fulfilled when by dying on the cross and rising from the dead he freed us from our slavery to selfishness and evil, to sin and death. And this is the message of salvation, ancient and ever new, that the Church proclaims from generation to generation: Christ crucified and risen, the Hope of humanity!
This word of salvation still resounds with power today, in our liturgical assembly. Jesus addresses himself lovingly to you, sons and daughters of this blessed land, in which the seed of the Gospel has been sown for over a thousand years. Your country, like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope. In fact, in the modern age both faith and hope have undergone a “shift”, because they have been relegated to the private and other-worldly sphere, while in day-to-day public life confidence in scientific and economic progress has been affirmed (see Spe Salvi, no. 17). We all know that this progress is ambiguous: it opens up possibilities for good as well as evil. Technical developments and the improvement of social structures are important and certainly necessary, but they are not enough to guarantee the moral welfare of society (see ibid., no. 24). Man needs to be liberated from material oppressions, but more profoundly, he must be saved from the evils that afflict the spirit. And who can save him if not God, who is Love and has revealed his face as almighty and merciful Father in Jesus Christ? Our firm hope is therefore Christ: in him, God has loved us to the utmost and has given us life in abundance (see Jn 10:10), the life that every person, even if unknowingly, longs to possess.
“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These words of Jesus, written in large letters above the entrance to your Cathedral in
Brno, he now addresses to
each of us, and he adds: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:29-30). Can we remain indifferent
in the face of his love? Here, as elsewhere, many people suffered in past
centuries for remaining faithful to the Gospel, and they did not lose hope;
many people sacrificed themselves in order to restore dignity to man and
freedom to peoples, finding in their generous adherence to Christ the strength
to build a new humanity. In present-day society, many forms of poverty are born
from isolation, from being unloved, from the rejection of God and from a
deep-seated tragic closure in man who believes himself to be self-sufficient,
or else merely an insignificant and transient datum; in this world of ours
which is alienated “when too much trust is placed in merely human projects” (Caritas
in Veritate, no. 53), only Christ can be our certain hope. This is the
message that we Christians are called to spread every day, through our witness.
Proclaim it yourselves, dear priests, as you remain intimately united to Jesus, as you exercise your ministry enthusiastically, certain that nothing can be lacking in those who put their trust in him. Bear witness to Christ, dear religious, through the joyful and consistent practice of the evangelical counsels, indicating where our true homeland lies: in Heaven. And you, dear young people, dear lay faithful, dear families, base on the firm foundation of faith in Christ whatever plans you have for your family, for work, for school, for activities in every sphere of society. Jesus never abandons his friends. He assures us of his help, because nothing can be done without him, but at the same time, he asks everyone to make a personal commitment to spread his universal message of love and peace. May you draw encouragement from the example of Saints Cyril and Methodius, the principal patrons of Moravia, who evangelized the Slavic peoples, and of Saints Peter and Paul, to whom your Cathedral is dedicated. Look to the shining testimony of Saint Zdislava, mother of a family, rich in works of religion and works of mercy; of Saint John Sarkander, priest and martyr; of Saint Clement Maria Hofbauer, priest and religious, born in this diocese and canonized one hundred years ago, and of Blessed Restituta Kafkova, a religious sister born in Brno and killed by the Nazis in Vienna. May you always be accompanied and protected by Our Lady, Mother of Christ our Hope. Amen!
Courtyard of the Papal Residence,
Gandolfo, Sunday, 26 September 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 16: 19-31), Jesus tells the Parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The former lives in luxury and egoism and when he dies, he will go to hell. The poor man on the contrary eats the food left over from the table of the rich man, and at his death he will be brought by angels to his eternal dwelling place with God and the saints. “Blessed are you poor”, the Lord proclaimed to his disciples, “for yours is the
(Lk 6: 20). But the message of the parable goes further. It reminds us that
while we are in this world we should listen to the Lord who speaks through the
Sacred Scriptures and to live according to his will, otherwise after death it
will be too late to repent. This parable teaches us two lessons: the first is
that God loves the poor and comforts their humiliation; the second is that our
eternal destiny is conditioned by our attitude, it is up to us to follow the
path that God has laid out for us in order to attain life and this path is
love, not intended as a feeling but as service to others in the charity of
Christ. Kingdom of God
By a happy coincidence, tomorrow we shall be celebrating the Liturgical Memorial of St Vincent de Paul, Patron of Catholic charities, on the 350th anniversary of his death. In 16th-century
he himself keenly perceived the strong contrast between the richest and the
poorest of people. In fact, as a priest, he had the opportunity to experience
the aristocratic life and life in the country, as well as the dregs of society
Encouraged by the love of Christ, Vincent de Paul knew how to organize
permanent forms of service for marginalized people, giving life to the
so-called “Charitées” and “Charities”, that is the groups of
women who gave their time and belongings to the most marginalized people. Some
of these volunteers chose to consecrate themselves completely to God and to the
poor, with St Louise de Marillac, and St Vincent, Founder of the “Daughters of
Charity” the first female congregation to live a consecrated life “in the world”,
with the common people, including the sick and the needy.
Dear friends, only Love with a capital “L” can bring true happiness! This is shown by another witness, a young girl who was proclaimed Blessed yesterday in
Rome. I am speaking of
Chiara Badano, an Italian girl born in 1971, who was afflicted by a disease
that caused her death just before she turned 19. Despite her suffering, she was
a ray of light [luce] as her nickname suggests “Chiara Luce”. Her
parish, the Diocese of Acqui Termi and the Focolare Movement to which she
belonged, are rejoicing today and it is indeed a celebration for all young
people who can discover in her an example of Christian devotion. Fully
accepting the will of God, she spoke her last words: “Bye Mum. Be happy because
I am”. Let us praise God because his love is stronger than evil and death. Let
us thank the Virgin Mary, who leads youth, through difficulty and suffering, to
love Jesus and to discover the beauty of life.
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO
22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011
Airport, Freiburg im Breisgau, Sunday, 25 September 2011
Dear Sisters and Brothers!
At the end of this solemn celebration of holy Mass we now pray the Angelus together. This prayer constantly reminds us of the historical beginnings of our salvation. The Archangel Gabriel presents God’s plan of salvation to the Virgin Mary, by which she was to become the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary was fearful, but the angel of the Lord spoke a word of comfort to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” So Mary is able to respond with her great “yes”. This “yes”, by which she accepts to become the handmaid of the Lord, is the trusting “yes” to God’s plan, to our salvation. And she finally addresses her “yes” to us all, whom she received as her children entrusted to her at the foot of the Cross (see Jn 19:27). She never withdraws this promise. And so she is called happy, or rather blessed, for believing that what was promised her by the Lord would be fulfilled (see Lk 1:45). As we pray this Angelus, we may join Mary in her “yes”, we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God’s plan and to the providence that he has assigned to us in his grace. Then God’s love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible. In all our cares we need have no fear. God is good. At the same time we know that we are sustained by the fellowship of the many believers who are now praying the Angelus with us throughout the world, via radio and television.
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO
22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Touristic airport, Freiburg im Breisgau, Sunday, 25 September 2011
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
It is moving for me to celebrate this Eucharist, this Thanksgiving, with so many people from different parts of
and the neighbouring countries. We offer our thanks above all to God, in whom
we live and move and have our being (see Acts 17:28). But I would also
like to thank all of you for your prayers that the Successor of Peter may
continue to carry out his ministry with joy and faithful hope, and that he may
strengthen his brothers in faith.
“Father, you show your almighty power in your mercy and forgiveness”, as we said in today’s Collect. In the first reading we heard how God manifested the power of his mercy in the history of
The experience of the Babylonian Exile caused the people to fall into a deep
crisis of faith: Why did this calamity happen? Perhaps God was not truly
powerful at all?
There are theologians who, in the face of all the terrible things that happen in the world today, say that God cannot possibly be all-powerful. In response to this we profess God, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. And we are glad and thankful that God is all-powerful. At the same time, we have to be aware that he exercises his power differently from the way we normally do. He has placed a limit on his power, by recognizing the freedom of his creatures. We are glad and thankful for the gift of freedom. However, when we see the terrible things that happen as a result of it, we are frightened. Let us put our trust in God, whose power manifests itself above all in mercy and forgiveness. Let us be certain, dear faithful, that God desires the salvation of his people. He desires our salvation, my salvation, the salvation of every single person. He is always close to us, especially in times of danger and radical change, and his heart aches for us, he reaches out to us. We need to open ourselves to him so that the power of his mercy can touch our hearts. We have to be ready freely to abandon evil, to raise ourselves from indifference and make room for his word. God respects our freedom. He does not constrain us. He is waiting for us to say “yes”, he as it were begs us to say “yes”.
In the Gospel Jesus takes up this fundamental theme of prophetic preaching. He recounts the parable of the two sons invited by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son responded: “‘I will not go’, but afterward he repented and went.” The other son said to the father: “‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.” When asked by Jesus which of the two sons did the father’s will, those listening rightly respond: “the first” (Mt 21:29-31). The message of the parable is clear: it is not words that matter, but deeds, deeds of conversion and faith. As we heard, Jesus directs this message to the chief priests and elders of the people of
that is, to the religious experts of his people. At first they say “yes” to God’s
will, but their piety becomes routine and God no longer matters to them. For
this reason they find the message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus
disturbing. The Lord concludes his parable with harsh words: “Truly, the tax
collectors and the harlots go into the
before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not
believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and even when
you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Mt 21:32).
Translated into the language of the present day, this statement might sound
something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of
God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are
closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is “routine”
and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting it touch
their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts. Kingdom of God
These words should make all of us stop and reflect, in fact they should disturb us. However, this is by no means to suggest that everyone who lives in the Church and works for her should be considered far from Jesus and the
Absolutely not! On the contrary, this is a time to offer a word of profound
gratitude to the many co-workers, employees and volunteers, without whom life
in the parishes and in the entire Church would be hard to imagine. The Church
in Kingdom of God Germany
has many social and charitable institutions through which the love of neighbour
is practised in ways that bring social benefits and reach to the ends of the
earth. At this moment I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to
all those working in Caritas Germany and in other church
organizations who give their time and effort generously in voluntary service to
the Church. In the first place, such service requires objective and
professional expertise. But in the spirit of Jesus’ teaching something more is
needed – an open heart that allows itself to be touched by the love of Christ,
and thus gives to our neighbour, who needs us, something more than a technical
service: it gives love, in which the other person is able to see Christ, the
loving God. So let us ask ourselves, in the light of today’s Gospel, how is my
personal relationship with God: in prayer, in participation at Sunday Mass, in
exploring my faith through meditation on sacred Scripture and study of the
Catechism of the Catholic Church? Dear friends, in the last analysis, the
renewal of the Church will only come about through openness to conversion and
through renewed faith.
The Gospel for this Sunday, as we saw, speaks of two sons, but behind them, in a mysterious way, is a third son. The first son says “no,” but does the father’s will. The second son says “yes,” but does not do what he was asked. The third son both says “yes” and does what he was asked. This third son is the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who has gathered us all here. Jesus, on entering the world, said: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:7). He not only said “yes”, he acted on that “yes”, and he suffered it, even to death on the Cross. As the Christological hymn in the second reading says: “Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross” (Phil. 2: 6-8). In humility and obedience, Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father and by dying on the Cross for his brothers and sisters, for us, he saved us from our pride and obstinacy. Let us thank him for his sacrifice, let us bend our knees before his name and proclaim together with the disciples of the first generation: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11).
The Christian life must continually measure itself by Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5), as
Saint Paul says in the
introduction to the Christological hymn. And a few verses before, he exhorts
us: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any
participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by
being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one
mind” (Phil 2:1-2). Just as Christ was totally united to the Father and
obedient to him, so too the disciples must obey God and be of one mind among
themselves. Dear friends, with Paul I dare to exhort you: complete my joy by
being firmly united in Christ. The Church in Germany will overcome the great
challenges of the present and future, and it will remain a leaven in society,
if the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, in fidelity to
their respective vocations, work together in unity, if the parishes,
communities, and movements support and enrich each other, if the baptized and
confirmed, in union with their bishop, lift high the torch of untarnished faith
and allow it to enlighten their abundant knowledge and skills. The Church in Germany
will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world: if she remains
faithfully united with the Successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles, if she
fosters cooperation in various ways with mission countries and allows herself
to be “infected” by the joy that marks the faith of these young Churches.
To his exhortation to unity, Paul adds a call to humility, saying: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:3-4). Christian life is a life for others: existing for others, humble service of neighbour and of the common good. Dear friends, humility is a virtue that does not enjoy great esteem in the world of today, or indeed of any time. But the Lord’s disciples know that this virtue is, so to speak, the oil that makes the process of dialogue fruitful, cooperation possible and unity sincere. The Latin word for humility, humilitas, is derived from humus and indicates closeness to the earth. Those who are humble stand with their two feet on the ground, but above all they listen to Christ, the Word of God, who ceaselessly renews the Church and each of her members.
Let us ask God for the courage and the humility to walk the path of faith, to draw from the riches of his mercy, and to fix our gaze on Christ, the Word, who makes all things new and is for us “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6): he is our future. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday’s Gospel presents one of those episodes in Christ’s life which, even if they are noted, so to speak en passant, contain a profound meaning (see Mk 9:38-41). The event involved someone who was not a follower of Jesus but who had expelled demons in his name. The Apostle John, a young man and ardently zealous as he was, wanted to prevent him but Jesus did not permit this; on on the contrary, he drew inspiration from this circumstance to teach his disciples that God could work good and even miraculous things even outside their circle, and that it is possible to cooperate with the cause of the Kingdom of God in different ways, even by simply offering a missionary a glass of water (v. 41). St Augustine wrote in this regard: “as, therefore, there is in the Catholic — meaning the Church — something which is not Catholic, so there may be something which is Catholic outside the Catholic Church” (see On Baptism, Against the Donatists, PL 43, VII, 39, 77).
Therefore if a stranger to the community does good works in Christ’s name, so long as he does so with upright intentions and with respect, members of the Church must not feel jealous but must rejoice. Even within the Church, people can find it difficult, in the spirit of deep communion, to value and appreciate good things achieved by the different ecclesial entities. Instead, we must all and always be able to appreciate one another, praising God for the infinite “creativity” with which he acts in the Church and in the world.
The stream of invective of the Apostle James against the dishonest rich who rely on wealth accumulated by abuse, rings out in today’s Liturgy (see Jas 5:1-6). St Caesarius of
says in this regard in one of his sermons: “riches can do no harm to a good
man, so long as he gives them compassionately, just as they cannot help a
wicked man, so long as he keeps them greedily for himself or wastes them in
dissipation” (Sermons, 35, 4). While the Apostle James’ words put us on
guard against the worthless desire for material goods, they are a powerful
appeal to use them with a view to solidarity and the common good, always acting
with fairness and morality at all levels.
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