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Monday, September 30, 2013

0300: Reflections on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



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.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 25 September 2005

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.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 1st October 2006

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”. St Paul, 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.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 30 September 2007

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.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 28 September 2008

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. St Paul 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.


APOSTOLIC VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC

(SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2009)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Tuřany Airport, Brno, Sunday, 27 September 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 Olomouc 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.

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.


APOSTOLIC VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE CZECH REPUBLIC

(SEPTEMBER 26-28, 2009)

HOLY MASS

HOMILY BY THE HOLY FATHER

Tuřany Airport, Brno, Sunday, 27 September 2009

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!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel 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 Kingdom of God” (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.

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 France, 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 in Paris. 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 GERMANY

22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

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 GERMANY

22-25 SEPTEMBER 2011

HOLY MASS

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 Germany 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 Israel. 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 Israel, 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 Kingdom of God 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.

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 Kingdom of God. 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 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.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 30 September 2012

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 Arles 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.

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. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, September 23, 2013

0299: Reflections on the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0299: Reflections on the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 18 September 2005, 24 September 2006, 23 September 2007, 21 September 2008, 20 September 2009, 19 September 2010, 18 September 2011, and 23 September 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and three homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 18 September 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As the Year of the Eucharist draws to a close, I would like to return to a particularly important subject that was also very dear to my Predecessor, John Paul II: the relationship between holiness, the way and destination of the Church and of every Christian, and the Eucharist.

I am thinking in particular today of priests, in order to emphasize that the secret of their sanctification lies precisely in the Eucharist. By virtue of sacred Orders, the priest receives the gift of and commitment to repeating in the Sacrament the gestures and words with which Jesus instituted the memorial of his Pasch at the Last Supper.

This great miracle of love, which the priest is called ever more faithfully to witness and proclaim (see Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, no. 30), is renewed in his hands. This is the reason why the priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist, starting from the very moment in which he celebrates it.

We are well aware that the validity of the Sacrament does not depend on the holiness of the celebrant, but its effectiveness for him and for others will be all the greater the deeper the faith, the more ardent the love and the more fervent the spirit of prayer with which he lives it.

Throughout the year, the liturgy presents to us as examples holy ministers of the Altar who have drawn strength from the imitation of Christ in daily intimacy with him in the celebration and adoration of the Eucharist.

A few days ago, we commemorated St John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople at the end of the fourth century. He was described as “golden mouthed” because of his extraordinary eloquence; he was also called “Doctor of the Eucharist” because of the vastness and depth of his teaching on the Most Holy Sacrament. The “Divine liturgy” which is most frequently celebrated in the Eastern Church and which bears his name as well as his motto: “a man full of zeal suffices to transform a people”, shows the effectiveness of Christ’s action through his ministers.

In our own age, the figure of Padre Pio, St Pius of Pietrelcina, whom we will commemorate this Friday [23 September], stands out. When he celebrated Holy Mass he relived the mystery of Calvary with such intensity so as to edify the faith and devotion of all. Moreover, the stigmata, which God gave to him showed how closely he was conformed to the Crucified Jesus.

Thinking of priests in love with the Eucharist, we cannot in addition forget St John Mary Vianney, the humble parish priest of Ars at the time of the French Revolution. With the holiness of his life and his pastoral zeal, he succeeded in making that little village a model Christian community, enlivened by the Word of God and by the sacraments.

Let us now address Mary, praying especially for priests across the world that they may find in this Year of the Eucharist the fruit of renewed love for the Sacrament which they celebrate. Through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of God, may they always live and witness to the mystery that is placed in their hands for the world’s salvation.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 24 September 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel, for the second time Jesus proclaims his passion, death and Resurrection to the disciples (see Mk 9: 30-31). The Evangelist Mark highlights the strong contrast between his mindset and that of the Twelve Apostles, who not only do not understand the Teacher’s words and clearly reject the idea that he is doomed to encounter death (see Mk 8: 32), but also discuss which of them is to be considered “the greatest” (Mk 9: 34).

Jesus patiently explains his logic to them, the logic of love that makes itself service to the point of the gift of self: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9: 35).

This is the logic of Christianity, which responds to the truth about man created in the image of God, but at the same time contrasts with human selfishness, a consequence of original sin. Every human person is attracted by love - which ultimately is God himself - but often errs in the concrete ways of loving; thus, an originally positive tendency but one polluted by sin can give rise to evil intentions and actions.

In today’s Liturgy, this is also recalled in the Letter of St James: “Wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity”. And the Apostle concludes: “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas 3: 16-18).

These words call to mind the witness of so many Christians who humbly and silently spend their lives serving others for the sake of the Lord Jesus, behaving in practice as servants of love, and hence, “artisans” of peace.

Sometimes, certain people are asked for the supreme testimony of blood, which also happened a few days ago to the Italian Religious, Sr Leonella Sgorbati, who died a victim of violence. This Sister, who served the poor and the lowly in Somalia for many years, died with the words “I forgive” on her lips: this is the most genuine Christian witness, a peaceful sign of contradiction that demonstrates the victory of love over hatred and evil.

There is no doubt that following Christ is difficult, but, as he says, only those who lose their life for his sake and the Gospel’s will save it (see Mk 8: 35), giving full meaning to their existence. There is no other way of being his disciples, there is no other way of witnessing to his love and striving for Gospel perfection. May Mary, whom we call upon today as Our Lady of Mercy, open our hearts ever wider to the love of God, a mystery of joy and holiness.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning I made a Visit to the Diocese of Velletri of which I had been titular Cardinal for a number of years. It was a friendly meeting that allowed me to relive moments of the past, rich with spiritual and pastoral experiences.

During the solemn Eucharistic celebration, by commenting on the liturgical texts, I was able to pause and reflect on the correct use of earthly goods, a theme the Evangelist Luke reproposes for our attention this Sunday in various ways.

Telling the Parable of the dishonest but very crafty administrator, Christ teaches his disciples the best way to use money and material riches, that is, to share them with the poor, thus acquiring their friendship, with a view to the Kingdom of Heaven. “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon,” Jesus says, “so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations” (Lk 16: 9).

Money is not “dishonest” in itself, but more than anything else it can close man in a blind egocentrism. It therefore concerns a type of work of “conversion” of economic goods: instead of using them only for self-interest, it is also necessary to think of the needs of the poor, imitating Christ himself, who, as St Paul wrote: “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (II Cor 8: 9).

It seems paradoxical: Christ has not enriched us with his richness but with his poverty, with his love that brought him to give himself totally to us.

Here one could open up a vast and complex field of reflection on the theme of poverty and riches, also on a world scale, in which two logics of economics oppose each other: the logic of profit and that of the equal distribution of goods, which do not contradict each other if their relationship is well ordered.

Catholic social doctrine has always supported that equitable distribution of goods is a priority. Naturally, profit is legitimate and, in just measure, necessary for economic development.

In his Encyclical Centesimus Annus, John Paul II wrote: “The modern business economy has positive aspects. Its basis is human freedom exercised in many other fields” (no. 32). Yet, he adds that capitalism must not be considered as the only valid model of economic organization (see ibid., no. 35).

Starvation and ecological emergencies stand to denounce, with increasing evidence, that the logic of profit, if it prevails, increases the disproportion between rich and poor and leads to a ruinous exploitation of the planet.

Instead, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it towards an equitable, sustainable development.

May Mary Most Holy, who in the Magnificat proclaimed: the Lord “has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away” (Lk 1: 53), help Christians to use earthly goods with Gospel wisdom, that is, with generous solidarity, and inspire politicians and economists with farsighted strategies that favour the authentic progress of all peoples.


PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE SUBURBICARIAN DIOCESE OF VELLETRI-SEGNI

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Clement’s Square, Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I willingly return among you to preside at this solemn Eucharistic celebration, responding to one of your repeated invitations. I have come back with joy to meet your diocesan community, which for several years has been mine, too, in a special way, and is always dear to me. I greet you all with affection. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Francis Arinze who has succeeded me as titular Cardinal of this Diocese; I greet your Pastor, dear Bishop Vincenzo Apicella, whom I thank for his beautiful words of welcome with which he has desired to greet me in your name. I greet the other Bishops, priests and men and women religious, the pastoral workers, young people and all who are actively involved in parishes, movements, associations and the various diocesan activities. I greet the Commissioner of the Prefecture of Velletri-Segni and the other civil and military Authorities who honour us with their presence. I greet all those who have come from other places, in particular from Bavaria, from Germany, to join us on this festive day. Bonds of friendship bind my native Land to yours, as is testified by the bronze pillar presented to me in Marktl am Inn in September last year on the occasion of my Apostolic Visit to Germany. As has been said, 100 municipalities of Bavaria have recently given me, as it were, a “twin” of that pillar which will be set up here in Velletri as a further sign of my affection and goodwill. It will be the sign of my spiritual presence among you. In this regard, I would like to thank the donors, the sculptor and the mayors whom I see present here with numerous friends. I thank you all!

Dear brothers and sisters, I know that you have prepared for my Visit today with an intense spiritual itinerary, adopting a very important verse of John’s First Letter as your motto: “We know and believe the love God has for us” (4: 16). Deus caritas est, God is love: my first Encyclical begins with these words that concern the core of our faith: the Christian image of God and the consequent image of man and his journey. I rejoice that you have chosen these very words to guide you on the spiritual and pastoral journey of the Diocese: “We know and believe the love God has for us”. We have believed in love: this is the essence of Christianity. Therefore, our liturgical assembly today must focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, capable of impressing an absolutely new orientation and value on human life. Love is the essence of Christianity, which makes the believer and the Christian community a leaven of hope and peace in every environment and especially attentive to the needs of the poor and needy. This is our common mission: to be a leaven of hope and peace because we believe in love. Love makes the Church live, and since it is eternal it makes her live for ever, to the end of time.

Last Sunday, St Luke the Evangelist, who was more concerned than others to show Jesus’ love for the poor, offered us various ideas for reflection on the danger of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that prevents us from living to the full our vocation to love God and neighbour. Today too, through a parable that inspires in us a certain surprise since it speaks of a dishonest steward who is praised (see Lk 16: 1-13), a close look reveals that here the Lord has reserved a serious and particularly salutary teaching for us. As always, the Lord draws inspiration from the events of daily life: he tells of a steward who is on the point of being dismissed for dishonest management of his master’s affairs and who, to assure a future for himself, cunningly seeks to come to an arrangement with his master’s debtors. He is undoubtedly dishonest but clever: the Gospel does not present him to us as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but rather as an example to be imitated for his farsighted guile. The short parable ends, in fact, with these words: “The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence” (Lk 16: 8).

But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of this Gospel passage is incisive and peremptory: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other”. Ultimately, Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Lk 16: 13). Mammon is a term of Phoenician origin that calls to mind economic security and success in business; we might say that riches are shown as the idol to which everything is sacrificed in order to attain one’s own material success; hence, this economic success becomes a person’s true god. As a result, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision between God and mammon, it is necessary to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action, and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as increasing the ruinous exploitation of the planet. On the other hand, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it to a fair development for the common good of all. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. If loving Christ and one’s brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.

We could then say, paraphrasing one of St Augustine’s thoughts, that through earthly riches we must procure for ourselves those true and eternal riches: indeed, if people exist who are prepared to resort to every type of dishonesty to assure themselves an always unpredictable material well-being, how much more concerned we Christians must be to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (see Discourses, 359, 10). Now, the only way of bringing our personal talents and abilities and the riches we possess to fruition for eternity is to share them with our brethren, thereby showing that we are good stewards of what God entrusts to us. Jesus said: “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Lk 16: 10).

Today, in the First Reading, the Prophet Amos speaks of the same fundamental decision to be made day by day. Using strong words, he stigmatizes a lifestyle typical of those who allow themselves to be absorbed by a selfish quest for profit in every possible form and which is expressed in the thirst for gain, contempt for the poor and their exploitation, to one’s own advantage (see Am 8: 5). The Christian must energetically reject all this, opening his heart on the contrary to sentiments of authentic generosity. It must be generosity which, as the Apostle Paul exhorts in the Second Reading, is expressed in sincere love for all and is manifested in prayer. Actually, praying for others is a great act of charity. The Apostle invites us in the first place to pray for those who have tasks of responsibility in the civil community because, he explains, if they aspire to do good, positive consequences derive from their decisions, assuring peace and “a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way” (I Tm 2: 2). Thus, may our prayer never be lacking, a spiritual contribution to building an Ecclesial Community that is faithful to Christ and to the construction of a society in which there is greater justice and solidarity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray in particular that your diocesan community, which is undergoing a series of transformations due to the transfer of many young families from Rome to the development of the “service sector” and to the settlement of many immigrants in historical centres, may lead to an increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the instructions that your Bishop continues to give you with outstanding pastoral sensitivity. His Pastoral Letter of last December proved more timely than ever in this regard, with the invitation to listen with attention and perseverance to God’s Word, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and to the Church’s Magisterium. Let us place your every intention and pastoral project in the hands of Our Lady of Grace, whose image is preserved and venerated in your beautiful Cathedral. May Mary’s maternal protection accompany the journey of you who are present here and all those who have been unable to participate in our Eucharistic celebration today. May the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, children, everyone who feels lonely or neglected or who is in particular need. May Mary deliver us from the greed for riches and ensure that in raising to Heaven hands that are free and pure, we may glorify God with our whole life (see Collect). Amen!


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 21 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

You may remember that when I addressed the crowd in St Peter’s Square on the day of my election it came naturally to me to introduce myself as a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. Well, in today’s Gospel (see Mt 20: 1-16), Jesus recounted the very same parable of the owner of the vineyard who at different hours of the day hires labourers to work in it. And in the evening he gives them all the same wages, one denarius, provoking protests from those who began work early. That denarius clearly represents eternal life, a gift that God reserves for all. Indeed those who are considered the “last”, if they accept, become the “first”, whereas the “first” can risk becoming the “last”. The first message of this parable is inherent in the very fact that the landowner does not tolerate, as it were, unemployment: he wants everyone to be employed in his vineyard. Actually, being called is already the first reward: to be able to work in the Lord’s vineyard, to put oneself at his service, to collaborate in his work, is in itself a priceless recompense that repays every effort. Yet only those who love the Lord and his Kingdom understand this: those who instead work only for the pay will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure.

It is St Matthew who recounts this parable, an apostle and an evangelist, whose liturgical feast day we are celebrating on this very day. I like to emphasize that Matthew lived this experience in the first person (see Mt 9: 9). Indeed, before Jesus called him he worked as a tax collector and was therefore seen as a public sinner, excluded from “the Lord’s vineyard”. But everything changed when Jesus passed by his table, looked at him and said to him: “Follow me”. Matthew rose and followed him. From a publican he immediately became a disciple of Christ. From being “last” he found himself “first”, thanks to God’s logic, which - for our good fortune! - is different from the logic of the world. “My thoughts are not your thoughts”, the Lord says, speaking through the mouth of Isaiah, “neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55: 8). St Paul, for whom we are celebrating a special Jubilee Year, also experienced the joy of feeling called by the Lord to work in his vineyard. And what a lot of work he accomplished! Yet, as he himself confessed, it was God’s grace which worked in him, that grace which from persecutor of the Church transformed him into an Apostle to the Gentiles, to the point of saying: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” However he immediately added: “If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell” (Phil 1: 21-22). Paul clearly understood that working for the Lord is already a reward on this earth.

The Virgin Mary, whom I had the joy of venerating in Lourdes a week ago, is the perfect branch of the Lord’s vine. In her germinated the blessed fruit of divine love: Jesus, our Saviour. May she help us to respond constantly and joyously to the Lord’s call and to find our happiness in toiling for the Kingdom of Heaven.


EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION AND DEDICATION OF THE NEW ALTAR
IN THE CATHEDRAL OF ALBANO

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Pancratius’ Cathedral, Albano, Sunday, 21 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s celebration is particularly rich in symbols and the Word of God that has been proclaimed helps us to understand the meaning and value of what we are doing. In the First Reading we heard the account of the purification of the Temple and of the dedication of the new altar of burned offering built by Judas Machabee in 164 B.C., three years after the profanation of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (see 1 Mc 4: 52-59). The Feast of Dedication which lasted eight days was established to commemorate the event. This feast, initially associated with the Temple to which the people would go in procession to offer sacrifices, was observed with manifestations of joy with the illumination of houses and in this form survived the destruction of Jerusalem.

The holy author rightly stresses the joy and gladness characteristic of this event. Yet, dear brothers and sisters, how much greater must be our joy in knowing that on the altar we are preparing to dedicate the sacrifice of Christ that will be offered every day. On this altar he will continue to sacrifice himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist, for our salvation and for that of the whole world.

Jesus makes himself truly present in the Eucharistic Mystery, which is renewed on every altar. His is a dynamic presence that takes hold of us to make us his, to liken us to him. He attracts us with the force of his love, bringing us out of ourselves to be united with him, making us one with him.

The Real Presence of Christ makes each one of us his “house” and all together we form his Church, the spiritual building of which St Peter speaks. “Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious”; the Apostle writes, “and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 2: 4-5). St Augustine remarks, developing, as it were, this beautiful metaphor that through faith people are like the wood and stones collected in the forests and on the mountains for building; then through Baptism, catechesis and preaching they are rough-shaped, squared, and polished; but they become houses of the Lord only when they are put together with love. When believers are interconnected in accordance with a specific order, mutually close and cohesive, when they are joined by love, they truly become a dwelling of God that is in no danger of collapsing (see Serm., 336).

Thus the love of Christ is the love that “never ends” (1 Cor 13: 8), the spiritual energy that unites all who share in the same sacrifice and are nourished by the one Bread, broken for the world’s salvation. Indeed, how is it possible to communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another? How can we present ourselves divided, distant from one another, at God’s altar? May this altar on which the Lord’s sacrifice will shortly be renewed, be a constant invitation to you, dear brothers and sisters, to love; you will always approach it disposed to accept love in your hearts, to spread it and to receive and grant forgiveness.

In this regard the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed offers us an important lesson for life (see Mt 5: 23-24). It is a brief but pressing and incisive appeal for brotherly reconciliation, a reconciliation that is indispensable if we are to present the offering at the altar with dignity; an appeal that takes up the teaching already clearly present in the preaching of the prophets. Indeed, the prophets also forcefully denounced the uselessness of acts of worship that are not accompanied by a corresponding moral approach, especially in relations with others (Is 1: 10-20; Am 5: 21-27; Mi 6: 6-8). Thus, every time you approach the altar for the Eucharistic Celebration, may your soul be open to forgiveness and fraternal reconciliation, ready to accept the apologies of those who have injured you and ready, in turn, to forgive others.

In the Roman liturgy, when the priest has made the offering of the bread and the wine, he bows to the altar and prays quietly: “Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts”. In this way, together with the whole assembly of the faithful, he prepares to enter into the heart of the Eucharistic Mystery, into the heart of that heavenly liturgy to which the Second Reading from Revelation refers. St John presents an Angel who offers “much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne” of God (see Rv 8: 3). The altar of the sacrifice becomes in a certain way the meeting point between Heaven and earth; the centre, we might say, of the One Church that is heavenly yet at the same time a pilgrim on this earth where, amidst the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, disciples of the Lord proclaim his Passion and his death until he comes in glory (see Lumen Gentium, no. 8). Indeed, every Eucharistic Celebration already anticipates Christ’s triumph over sin and over the world and in the mystery shows the radiance of the Church, “the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb. It is she whom Christ loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her’“ (ibid., no. 6).

These reflections generate within us the rite we are preparing to celebrate in this cathedral of yours which today we admire in its renewed beauty, and which you rightly wish to continue to make ever more welcoming and decorous. This is a commitment that involves you all and, in the first place, asks the entire diocesan community to increase in charity and in apostolic and missionary dedication. In practice, it is a question of witnessing with your lives to your faith in Christ and to the total trust that you place in him. It is also a question of fostering ecclesial communion, which is first and foremost a gift, a grace, a fruit of God’s freely given love, something, that is, which is divinely effective, ever present and active in history, over and above anything that might appear to the contrary. Ecclesial communion, however, is also a task entrusted to the responsibility of each person. May the Lord grant that you live an ever more convinced and active communion in collaboration and co-responsibility at every level: among priests, consecrated men and women and lay people, among the different Christian communities in your territory and among the various lay associations.

I now address my cordial greeting to your Pastor, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, whom I thank for his invitation and for the courteous words of welcome with which he received me on behalf of you all. I would also like to express to him my sentiments of fervent good wishes on the 10th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. I address a special thought to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, titular of your Suburbicarian Diocese, who joins in our joy today. I greet the other Prelates present, the priests, the consecrated people, the young and the elderly, the families, the children and the sick, embracing with affection all the faithful of the diocesan community who are spiritually united here. I also extend a greeting to the Authorities who have honoured us with their presence, and in the first place to the Mayor of Albano, to whom I am also grateful for his courteous words at the beginning of holy Mass. Upon everyone I invoke the heavenly protection of St Pancratius from whom this cathedral takes its name, and of the Apostle Matthew, who is commemorated in today’s liturgy.

In particular, I invoke the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, which crowns your efforts, sacrifices and hard work to endow the cathedral with a renewed space for the liturgy by means of the appropriate renovation of the episcopal throne, the ambo and the altar, may Our Lady obtain that you write another page of daily and popular holiness in our time, to add to those that have marked the life of the Church of Albano through the centuries. Of course, as your Pastor recalled, difficulties, challenges and problems are not lacking, but there are also great hopes and opportunities to proclaim and to witness to God’s love. May the Spirit of the Risen Lord, who is the Spirit of Pentecost, open you to his horizons of hope and nourish within you a missionary impetus to the vast horizons of the new evangelization. Let us pray for this as we continue our Eucharistic celebration.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 20 September 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, for the customary Sunday Reflection I am drawing inspiration from the passage of the Letter of James which is offered to us in today’s Liturgy (3: 15-4, 3) and I linger in particular over a phrase whose beauty and timeliness are striking. It is the description of true wisdom, with which the Apostle counters false wisdom. Whereas the latter is “earthly, unspiritual, devilish”, and can be recognized by the fact that it provokes jealousy, disputes, disorder and every vile practice (see 3: 16), on the contrary, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3: 17). These seven qualities are listed in accordance with biblical usage; among them stand out the perfection of authentic wisdom and the positive effects it produces. St James mentions “purity” that is, holiness, the transparent reflection, so to speak, of God in the human soul as the first and principal quality, placed almost as a premise of the others. And, like God from whom it comes, wisdom does not need to be forcefully imposed for it possesses the invincible power of truth and love that are assertive in themselves. It is therefore peaceful, gentle and compliant. It has no use for partiality, nor even less does it resort to lies; it is indulgent and generous, it is recognized from the fruits of good which it generates in abundance.

Why not stop and contemplate the beauty of this wisdom every now and then? Why not draw from the uncontaminated source of God’s love that wisdom of heart which purges us from the scum of falsehood and selfishness? This applies to one and all, but in the first place to those who are called to be advocates and “weavers” of peace in religious and civil communities, in social and political affairs and in international relations. In our day, perhaps also because of certain dynamics proper to the mass society, not infrequently we note a lack of respect for the truth and the word given, together with a widespread tendency to aggression, hatred and revenge. “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace” St James writes, “by those who make peace” (Jas 3: 18). But to do deeds of peace it is necessary to be people of peace, learning from “wisdom... such as comes down from above” in order to assimilate its qualities and produce its effects. If each one in his own environment were to succeed in rejecting falsehood and violence in his intentions, words and actions, taking pains to foster sentiments of respect, understanding and esteem for others, perhaps not all the problems of daily life would be solved but it would be possible to deal with them more serenely and effectively.

Dear friends, once again Sacred Scripture has led us to reflect on the moral aspects of human existence, but on the basis of a reality that precedes morality itself, that is, on the basis of true wisdom. Let us ask God with confidence for wisdom of heart through the intercession of the One who welcomed and conceived in her womb Wisdom incarnate, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO THE UNITED KINGDOM

(SEPTEMBER 16-19, 2010)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Cofton Park of Rednal – Birmingham, Sunday, 19 September 2010

Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

I am pleased to send my greetings to the people of Seville where, just yesterday, Madre María de la Purísima de la Cruz was beatified. May Blessed María be an inspiration to young women to follow her example of single-minded love of God and neighbour.

When Blessed John Henry Newman came to live in Birmingham, he gave the name “Maryvale” to his first home here. The Oratory that he founded is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. And the Catholic University of Ireland he placed under the patronage of Mary, Sedes Sapientiae. In so many ways, he lived his priestly ministry in a spirit of filial devotion to the Mother of God. Meditating upon her role in the unfolding of God’s plan for our salvation, he was moved to exclaim: “Who can estimate the holiness and perfection of her, who was chosen to be the Mother of Christ? What must have been her gifts, who was chosen to be the only near earthly relative of the Son of God, the only one whom He was bound by nature to revere and look up to; the one appointed to train and educate Him, to instruct Him day by day, as He grew in wisdom and in stature?” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, ii, 131-2). It is on account of those abundant gifts of grace that we honour her, and it is on account of that intimacy with her divine Son that we naturally seek her intercession for our own needs and the needs of the whole world. In the words of the Angelus, we turn now to our Blessed Mother and commend to her the intentions that we hold in our hearts.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO THE UNITED KINGDOM

(SEPTEMBER 16-19, 2010)

MASS WITH THE BEATIFICATION
OF VENERABLE CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Cofton Park of Rednal – Birmingham, Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This day that has brought us together here in Birmingham is a most auspicious one. In the first place, it is the Lord’s day, Sunday, the day when our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and changed the course of human history for ever, offering new life and hope to all who live in darkness and in the shadow of death. That is why Christians all over the world come together on this day to give praise and thanks to God for the great marvels he has worked for us. This particular Sunday also marks a significant moment in the life of the British nation, as it is the day chosen to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For me as one who lived and suffered through the dark days of the Nazi regime in Germany, it is deeply moving to be here with you on this occasion, and to recall how many of your fellow citizens sacrificed their lives, courageously resisting the forces of that evil ideology. My thoughts go in particular to nearby Coventry, which suffered such heavy bombardment and massive loss of life in November 1940. Seventy years later, we recall with shame and horror the dreadful toll of death and destruction that war brings in its wake, and we renew our resolve to work for peace and reconciliation wherever the threat of conflict looms. Yet there is another, more joyful reason why this is an auspicious day for Great Britain, for the Midlands, for Birmingham. It is the day that sees Cardinal John Henry Newman formally raised to the altars and declared Blessed.

I thank Archbishop Bernard Longley for his gracious welcome at the start of Mass this morning. I pay tribute to all who have worked so hard over many years to promote the cause of Cardinal Newman, including the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory and the members of the Spiritual Family Das Werk. And I greet everyone here from Great Britain, Ireland, and further afield; I thank you for your presence at this celebration, in which we give glory and praise to God for the heroic virtue of a saintly Englishman.

England has a long tradition of martyr saints, whose courageous witness has sustained and inspired the Catholic community here for centuries. Yet it is right and fitting that we should recognize today the holiness of a confessor, a son of this nation who, while not called to shed his blood for the Lord, nevertheless bore eloquent witness to him in the course of a long life devoted to the priestly ministry, and especially to preaching, teaching, and writing. He is worthy to take his place in a long line of saints and scholars from these islands, Saint Bede, Saint Hilda, Saint Aelred, Blessed Duns Scotus, to name but a few. In Blessed John Henry, that tradition of gentle scholarship, deep human wisdom and profound love for the Lord has borne rich fruit, as a sign of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit deep within the heart of God’s people, bringing forth abundant gifts of holiness.

Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231). Today’s Gospel tells us that no one can be the servant of two masters (see Lk 16:13), and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (see Mt 23:10). Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives: he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person: “I have my mission”, he wrote, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling” (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”. His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England, but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world. I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today. Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together. The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject, and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it” (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390). On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls. The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons: “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathized with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels: the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3). He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison. No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here. One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls. What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise;
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius).


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 18 September 2011

Dear brothers and sisters!

In today’s liturgy we have the beginning of St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, that is, to the members of the community that the Apostle himself established at Philippi, an important Roman colony in Macedonia, present day northern Greece. Paul arrived in Philippi during his second missionary journey, sailing from the coast of Anatolia and crossing the Aegean Sea. That was the Gospel’s first entrance into Europe. We are near the year 50, so about 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. And yet, in the Letter to the Philippians there is a hymn to Christ that already presents a complete synthesis of his mystery: incarnation, “kenosis,” that is, humiliation unto death on the cross, and glorification.

This mystery itself became one with the life of the Apostle Paul, who wrote this letter while he was in prison, awaiting a sentence of life or death. He writes: “For me to live is Christ and die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). It is a new sense of life, of human existence, that consists in living communion with the living Jesus Christ; not only with a historical person, a master of wisdom, a religious leader, but with a man in whom God dwells personally. His death and resurrection are the Good News that, starting from Jerusalem, is destined to reach all people and nations, and to transform all cultures from within, opening them to the fundamental truth: God is love; he became man in Jesus and with his sacrifice he ransomed humanity from slavery to evil, giving it a trustworthy hope.

St. Paul was a man who brought together three worlds: the Jewish world and the Greek and Roman worlds. It is not by chance that God entrusted to him the mission of bringing the Gospel from Asia Minor to Greece and to Rome, building a bridge that would take Christianity to the very ends of the earth. Today we live in an epoch of new evangelization. Vast horizons open up to the Gospel, while regions of ancient Christian tradition are called to rediscover the beauty of the faith. The protagonists of this mission are the men and women who, like St. Paul, can say: “For me to live is Christ “ -- persons, families, communities, who decide to work in the vineyard of the Lord, according to the image of this Sunday’s Gospel (see Matthew 20:1-16). Humble and generous workers, who do not ask any other recompense than participating in the mission of Jesus and the Church. “If living in the body,” St. Paul continues, “means working and bearing fruit, I do not know which to choose” (Philippians 1:22): full union with Christ beyond death or service to his mystical body on earth.

Dear friends, the Gospel has transformed the world, and it is still transforming it, like a river that waters a great field. Let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary that in the whole Church priestly, religious and lay vocations ripen in service to the new evangelization.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On our way through St Mark’s Gospel last Sunday we entered the second part, that is, the last journey towards Jerusalem and towards the culmination of Jesus’ mission. After Peter, on the disciples’ behalf, had professed his faith in him, recognizing him as the Messiah (see Mk 8:29), Jesus began to speak openly of what was going to happen to him at the end. The Evangelist records three successive predictions of his death and resurrection in chapters 8, 9 and 10. In them Jesus announces ever more clearly the destiny that awaits him and the intrinsic need for it. This Sunday’s passage contains the second of these announcements. Jesus says: “The Son of man” — an expression that designates himself — will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mk 9:31). “But” the disciples “did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him” (v. 32).

In fact, on reading this part of Mark’s account the great inner distance that existed between Jesus and his disciples is clearly apparent; they are, so to speak, on two different wavelengths so that the Teacher’s discourses are either not understood, or are only superficially understood. Straight after professing his faith in Jesus, the Apostle Peter takes the liberty of reproaching the Lord because he predicted that he was to be rejected and killed.

After the second prediction of the passion, the disciples began to discuss with one another who was the greatest among them (see Mk 9:34), and after the third, James and John asked Jesus to sit one at his right hand and one at his left when he would come into glory (cf Mk 10:35-40). However, there are various other signs of this gap: for example, the disciples do not succeed in healing an epileptic boy whom Jesus subsequently heals with the power of prayer (see Mk 9:14-29); and when children are brought to Jesus the disciples admonish them; Jesus on the contrary is indignant, has them stay and says that only those who are like them will enter the Kingdom of God (see Mk 10:13-16).

What does all this tell us? it reminds us that, the logic of God is always “different” from ours, just as God himself revealed through the mouth of Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, / neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8). For this reason following the Lord always demands of human beings — of all of us — a profound con-version, a change in our manner of thinking and living, it demands that the heart be opened to listening, to let ourselves be illuminated and transformed from within.

A key point in which God and man differ is pride: in God there is no pride, for he is wholly fullness and is wholly oriented to loving and giving life instead in we human beings pride is deeply rooted and requires constant vigilance and purification. We, who are small, aspire to appear great, to be among the first, whereas God who is truly great is not afraid of humbling himself and putting himself last. And the Virgin Mary is perfectly “in tune” with God: let us call upon her with trust, so that she may teach us to follow Jesus faithfully on the path of love and humility. 



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