Entry 0326: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 22 January 2006, 21 January 2007, 27 January 2008, 25 January 2009, 24 January 2010, 23 January 2011, 22 January 2012, and 27 January 2013. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections delivered before the recitation of the Angelus on these occasions.
May the Virgin Mary always be our model and our guide in knowing how to recognize and welcome the presence of God our Savior and of all humanity every day of our lives.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 January 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday falls in the middle of the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”, celebrated every year from 18-25 January. It is an initiative that began at the start of the last century and which has undergone a positive development, becoming more and more an ecumenical reference point where Christians of the various confessions worldwide pray and reflect on the same biblical text.
The passage chosen this year is taken from Chapter 18 of the Gospel of St Matthew, which refers to some of Jesus’ teachings regarding the community of disciples. Among other things, he affirms: “If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18: 19-20).
How much trust and hope these words of the Lord Jesus inspire! They especially spur Christians to ask God together for that full unity among them, for which Christ himself prayed to the Father with heartfelt insistence during the Last Supper (see Jn 17: 11, 21, 23).
We understand well, therefore, how important it is that we Christians invoke the gift of unity with persevering fidelity. If we do so with faith, we can be sure that our request will be granted. We do not know when or how, as it is not for us to know; but we must not doubt that one day we will be “one”, as Jesus and the Father are united in the Holy Spirit.
The prayer for unity is the soul of the ecumenical movement which, thanks be to God, advances throughout the world. Certainly, difficulties and trials are not lacking; but these too have their spiritual usefulness because they push us to exercise patience and perseverance and to grow in fraternal charity.
God is love, and only if we are converted to him and accept his Word will we all be united in the one Mystical Body of Christ.
The expression “God is love”, in Latin “Deus caritas est”, is the title of my first Encyclical, which will be published this Wednesday, 25 January, Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. I am pleased that it coincides with the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
On that day, I will be going to
Basilica to preside at Vespers, in which Representatives of the other churches and
ecclesial communities will take part. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church,
intercede for us.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 21 January 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday occurs during the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity”, which, as is well known, is celebrated each year in our hemisphere between 18 and 25 January. The theme for 2007 is a citation from Mark’s Gospel and refers to people’s amazement at the healing of the deaf-mute accomplished by Jesus: “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mk 7: 37).
I intend to comment more broadly on this biblical theme this 25 January, the liturgical Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, when at 5: 30 p.m. I will preside at the celebration of Vespers for the conclusion of the “Week of Prayer” in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls. I expect many of you to come to that liturgical encounter because unity is achieved above all by praying, and the more unanimous the prayer, the more pleasing it is to the Lord.
This year the initial project for the “Week”, subsequently adapted by the Joint International Committee, was prepared by the faithful in
a very poor town where AIDS has acquired pandemic proportions and human hopes are
few and far between. But the Risen Christ is hope for everyone. He is so especially
for Christians. Umlazi, South Africa
As heirs of the divisions that came about in past epochs, on this occasion they have wished to launch an appeal: Christ can do all things, “he makes the deaf hear and the mute speak” (Mk 7: 37). He is capable of imbuing Christians with the ardent desire to listen to the other, to communicate with the other and, together with him, speak the language of reciprocal love.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity thus reminds us that ecumenism is a profound dialogical experience, a listening and speaking to one another, knowing one another better; it is a task within everyone’s reach, especially when it concerns spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and sharing which is now possible among Christians.
I hope that the longing for unity, expressed in prayer and brotherly collaboration to alleviate human suffering, may spread increasingly in parishes and ecclesial movements as well as among Religious institutes.
I take this opportunity to thank the Ecumenical Commission of the Vicariate of Rome and the city’s parish priests who encourage the faithful to celebrate the “Week”.
More generally, I am grateful to all who pray and work for unity with conviction and constancy in every part of the world. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help all the faithful to allow themselves in their innermost depths to be opened by Christ to reciprocal communication in charity and in truth, to become one heart and one soul (see Acts 4: 32) in him.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 January 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s liturgy the Evangelist Matthew, who will accompany us throughout this liturgical year, presents the beginning of Christ’s public mission. It consisted essentially in preaching the
and healing the sick,
showing that this Kingdom is close at hand and is already in our midst. Jesus began
his preaching in Galilee, the region where he grew up, the “outskirts” in comparison
with the heart of the Jewish Nation which was Judea, and in it, Kingdom
of God Jerusalem. But the Prophet
Isaiah had foretold that this land, assigned to the tribes of Zebulun and Napthali,
would have a glorious future: the people immersed in darkness would see a great
light (see Is 8: 23-9: 2). In Jesus’ time, the term “gospel” was used by Roman emperors
for their proclamations. Independently of their content, they were described as
“good news” or announcements of salvation, because the emperor was considered lord
of the world and his every edict as a portent of good. Thus, the application of
this phrase to Jesus’ preaching had a strongly critical meaning, as if to say God,
and not the emperor, is Lord of the world, and the true Gospel is that of Jesus
The “Good News” which Jesus proclaims is summed up in this sentence: “The
Kingdom of God
- or - is at hand” (see Mt 4: 17; Mk 1:
15). What do these words mean? They do not of course refer to an earthly region
marked out in space and time, but rather to an announcement that it is God who reigns,
that God is Lord and that his lordship is present and actual, it is being realized.
The newness of Christ’s message, therefore, is that God made himself close in
him and now reigns in our midst, as the miracles and healings that he works
demonstrate. God reigns in the world through his Son made man and with the power
of the Holy Spirit who is called “the finger of God” (Lk 11: 20). Wherever Jesus
goes the Creator Spirit brings life, and men and women are healed of diseases of
body and spirit. God’s lordship is thus manifest in the human being’s integral healing.
By this, Jesus wanted to reveal the Face of the true God, the God who is close,
full of mercy for every human being; the God who makes us a gift of life in abundance,
his own life. The Kingdom of Heaven is therefore life that
asserts itself over death, the light of truth that dispels the darkness of ignorance
and lies. Kingdom
Let us pray to Mary Most Holy that she will always obtain for the Church the same passion for God’s Kingdom which enlivened the mission of Jesus Christ: a passion for God, for his lordship of love and life; a passion for man, encountered in truth with the desire to give him the most precious treasure: the love of God, his Creator and Father.
FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF
AND CONCLUSION OF THE WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 January 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Gospel this Sunday the words of Jesus’ first preaching in
resound: “This is the time of fulfilment. The
is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1: 15). And precisely today,
25 January, is the memorial of the “Conversion of St Paul”. It is a happy coincidence,
especially in this Pauline Year, thanks to which we can understand the true significance
of evangelical conversion metanoia by looking at the experience of the Apostle.
In truth, in Paul’s case, some prefer not to use this term because, they say, he
was already a believer, rather a fervent Hebrew, and therefore he did not pass from
no faith to the faith, from the idols to God, nor did he have to abandon the Hebrew
faith to adhere to Christ. Actually, the Apostle’s experience can be the model of
every authentic Christian conversion. Kingdom of God
Paul’s conversion matured in his encounter with the Risen Christ; it was this encounter that radically changed his life. What happened to him on the road to
Damascus is what Jesus asks in today’s Gospel:
Saul is converted because, thanks to the divine light, “he has believed in the Gospel”.
In this consists his and our conversion: in believing in Jesus dead and risen and
in opening to the illumination of his divine grace. In that moment Saul understood
that his salvation did not depend on good works fulfilled according to the law,
but on the fact that Jesus died also for him the persecutor and has risen. This
truth by which every Christian life is enlightened thanks to Baptism completely
overturns our way of life. To be converted means, also for each one of us, to believe
that Jesus “has given himself for me”, dying on the Cross (see Gal 2: 20) and, risen,
lives with me and in me. Entrusting myself to the power of his forgiveness, letting
myself be taken by his hand, I can come out of the quicksands of pride and sin,
of deceit and sadness, of selfishness and of every false security, to know and live
the richness of his love.
Dear friends, the invitation to conversion, confirmed by St Paul’s witness, resounds today, at the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, as particularly important also on the ecumenical level. The Apostle indicates to us the spiritual attitude appropriate to being able to progress along the way of communion. He writes to the Philippians, “It is not that I have reached it yet, or have already finished my course; but I am racing to grasp the prize if possible, since I have been grasped by Christ [Jesus] (3: 12). Certainly, we Christians still have not reached the goal of full unity, but if we let ourselves be continually converted by the Lord Jesus, we will surely reach it. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the one holy Church, obtain for us the gift of a true conversion, so that as soon as possible the desire of Christ “Ut unum sint” will be realized. To you we entrust the prayer meeting at which I will preside this afternoon in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, and in which will participate, as every year, the representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities present at
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 January 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Among the biblical readings in today’s Liturgy is the famous text from the First Letters to the Corinthians, in which
compares the Church to a human body. The Apostle writes: “For just as the body is
one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one
body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body
Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor
12: 12-13). The Church is perceived as a body, of which Christ is the head, and
with him she forms a whole. Yet what the Apostle is eager to communicate is the
idea of unity among the multiplicity of charisms, which are the gifts of the Holy
Spirit. Thanks to these, the Church appears as a rich and vital organism not uniform
fruit of the one Spirit who leads everyone to profound unity, because she welcomes
differences without eliminating them and thus bringing about a harmonious unity.
She extends the presence of the Risen Lord throughout history, specifically through
the Sacraments, the word of God and the charisms and ministries distributed among
the community. Therefore, it is in Christ and in the Spirit that the Church is one
and holy, that is, that she partakes in an intimate communion that transcends and
sustains human intelligence.
I wish to emphasize this aspect as we are currently observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will conclude tomorrow, the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul. In keeping with tradition, I will celebrate Vespers tomorrow afternoon in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, at which Representatives of other Churches and ecclesial Communities present in
will participate. We will ask God for the gift of full unity for all the disciples
of Christ and, in particular, in keeping with this year’s theme, we will renew our
commitment to be witnesses together of the crucified and Risen Lord (see Lk 24:
48). The communion of Christians, in fact, makes the proclamation of the Gospel
more credible and effective, just as Jesus himself affirmed while praying to the
Father on the eve of his death: “That they may all be one... so that the world may
believe” (Jn 17: 21).
In conclusion, dear friends, I wish to recall the figure of St Francis de Sales, whom the Liturgy commemorates on 24 January. Born in
Savoy in 1567,
he studied law in Padua and Paris and then, called by the Lord, became a priest.
He dedicated himself to preaching and to the spiritual formation of the faithful
with great success. He taught that the call to holiness was for everyone and that
each one as St Paul
says in his comparison of the Church to the body has a place in the Church. St Francis
de Sales is the patron Saint of journalists and of the Catholic press. I entrust
to his spiritual assistance the Message for World Communications Day, which
I sign every year on this occasion and that was presented yesterday at the Vatican.
May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, obtain that we may always progress in communion, in order to pass on the beauty of all being one in the unity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 January 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is being held in these days, from 18 to 25 January. This year its theme is a passage from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles that sums up in a few words the life of the first Christian community of Jerusalem: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). It is very significant that this theme was suggested by the Churches and Christian Communities of Jerusalem, reunited in an ecumenical spirit.
We know how many trials our brothers and sisters of the Holy Land and of the
Middle East must face. Their service is therefore all the
more precious, strengthened by a witness which in some cases has even gone so far
as the sacrifice of their life. Therefore, as we joyfully welcome the ideas offered
for reflection by the Communities that live in Jerusalem, we gather round them and this becomes
a further factor of communion for all.
Today too, if we Christians are to be in the world a sign and instrument of close union with God and of unity among men we must found our life on these four “hinges”: a life founded on the faith of the Apostles passed on through the living Tradition of the Church, brotherly communion, the Eucharist and prayer. Only in this way, by remaining firmly united to Christ, can the Church carry out her mission effectively, despite the limitations and shortcomings of her members, despite the divisions which the Apostle Paul already had to face in the community of Corinth as the Second Reading from the Bible this Sunday recalls, where he says: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10).
In fact, the Apostle knew that in the Christian community of
Corinth discord and divisions had developed; therefore,
with great firmness he added: “Is Christ divided?” (1:13). By so saying he affirmed
that every division in the Church is an offence to Christ; and, at the same time,
that it is always in him — the one Head and Lord — that we can find ourselves once
again united, through the inexhaustible power of his grace.
Here then is the ever timely appeal of today’s Gospel: “Repent, for the
is at hand” (Mt 4:17). The serious commitment of conversion to Christ is the way
that leads the Church, in the time that God ordains, to full and visible unity.
A number of ecumenical meetings in these days which are increasing everywhere in
the world is a sign of this. As well as the presence of various ecumenical Delegations
here in Kingdom of Heaven Rome, a meeting session of the Commission
for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the of the East will
begin tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow we shall conclude the Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity with the solemn celebration of Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion
of St Paul. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church always go with us on this
journey. Oriental Orthodox
St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 January 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday falls in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which is celebrated from 18 to 25 January. I cordially invite everyone to join in the prayer that Jesus addressed to the Father on the eve of his Passion: “that they may all be one... so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This year in particular our meditation during the Week of Prayer for Unity refers to a passage of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, from which the theme was formulated: “We will all be changed by the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (see 1 Cor 15:51-58). We are called to contemplate Christ’s victory over sin and death, that is, his Resurrection, as an event that radically transforms all who believe in him and gives them access to incorruptible and immortal life. In addition, recognizing and accepting the transforming power of faith in Jesus Christ sustains Christians in the search for full unity among themselves.
This year the resource material for the Week of Prayer for Unity has been prepared by a Polish group. Indeed
has lived through a long history of courageously fighting various adversities and
time and again has given proof of great determination, motivated by faith. For this
reason the words of the above-mentioned theme have special resonance and effectiveness
Down the centuries Polish Christians have spontaneously perceived a spiritual dimension
in their desire for freedom and have understood that true victory can only be achieved
if it is accompanied by a profound inner transformation. They remind us that our
quest for unity can be realistically conducted if the change takes place within
us first of all and if we let God act, if we let ourselves be transformed into the
image of Christ, if we enter into new life in Christ who is the true victory.
The visible unity of all Christians is always a task that comes from on high, from God, a task that demands the humility of recognizing our weakness and of receiving the gift. However, to use a phrase which Bl. John Paul II liked to repeat, every gift also becomes a commitment. The unity that comes from God therefore demands of us the daily commitment to open ourselves to each other in charity.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been a central feature in the Church’s ecumenical activity for many decades. The time that we devote to prayer for the full communion of Christ’s disciples will enable us to understand more deeply that we will be transformed by his victory, by the power of his Resurrection.
Next Wednesday, as is the custom, we shall conclude the Week of Prayer with the solemn celebration of Vespers on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls at which representatives of other Churches and Christian Communities will also be present. I expect many of you to come to this liturgical encounter to renew together our prayer to the Lord, the source of unity, with filial trust, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 January 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Liturgy brings together two separate passages of Luke’s Gospel and presents them to us. The first (1:1-4) is the Prologue, addressed to a certain “Theophilus”. Since this name in Greek means “friend of God” we can see in him every believer who opens himself to God and wants to know the Gospel. Instead the second passage (4:14-21) presents Jesus who, “in the power of the Spirit”, goes to the Synagogue in
Nazareth on the Sabbath. As
a strict observer, the Lord does not disregard the pattern of the weekly liturgy
and joins the assembly of his fellow citizens in prayer and in listening to the
Scriptures. The ritual provides for the reading of a text from the Torah or the
Prophets, followed by a commentary. That day Jesus stood up to read and found a
passage from the Prophet Isaiah that begins this way: “The spirit of the Lord God
is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted”
(61:1-2). Origen’s comment was: “It is no coincidence that he opened the scroll
and found the chapter of the reading that prophesies about him, this, too, was the
work of God’s providence” (Homilies on the Gospel of Luke, 32, 3). In fact
when the reading was over in a silence charged with attention, Jesus said, “Today
this scripture has [now] been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21). St Cyril of
that “today”, placed between the first and the final coming of Christ, is related
to the believer’s ability to listen and to repent (see PG 69, 1241). But
in an even more radical sense, Jesus himself is “the today” of salvation in history,
because he brings to completion the work of redemption. The word “today”, very dear
to St Luke (see 19:9, 23:43), brings us back to the Christological title preferred
by the Evangelist himself, namely: “Savior” (sōtēr). Already in the infancy
narratives, it is present in the words of the Angel to the shepherds: “For to you
is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).
Dear friends, this Gospel passage also challenges us “today”. First of all, it makes us think about how we live Sunday, a day of rest and a day for the family. Above all, it is the day to devote to the Lord, by participating in the Eucharist, in which we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ and by his life-giving Word. Second, in our diversified and distracted time, this Gospel passage invites us to ask ourselves whether we are able to listen. Before we can speak of God and with God we must listen to him, and the liturgy of the Church is the “school” of this listening to the Lord who speaks to us. Finally, he tells us that every moment can be the propitious “day” for our conversion. Every day (kathçmeran) can become the today of our salvation, because salvation is a story that is ongoing for the Church and for every disciple of Christ. This is the Christian meaning of “carpe diem”: seize the day in which God is calling you to give you salvation!
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