Entry 0329: Reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time
by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On six occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 12 February 2006, 11 February 2007, 15 February 2009, 14 February 2010, 13 February 2011, and 12 February 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections delivered on these occasions before the recitation of the Angelus.
Dear friends, let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday commemorating her Apparitions in
. Our Lady gave St Bernadette an ever timely
message: the invitation to prayer and penance. Through his Mother it is always Jesus
who comes to meet us to set us free from every sickness of body and of soul. Let
us allow ourselves to be touched and cleansed by him and to treat our brethren with
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 February 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday, 11 February, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we celebrated World Day of the Sick. This year its most important events took place in
and included an international Congress on the ever pressing topic of mental health.
Illness is a typical feature of the human condition, to the point that it can become a realistic metaphor of it, as
expresses clearly in his prayer: “Have
mercy on me, Lord! See: I do not hide my
wounds from you. You are the doctor, I am the sick person; you are merciful, I am
wretched” (Conf. X, 39).
Christ is the true “Doctor” of humanity whom the heavenly Father sent into the world to heal man, marked in body and mind by sin and its consequences. On these very Sundays, Mark’s Gospel presents Jesus to us at the beginning of his public ministry, totally involved with preaching and healing the sick in the villages of
The countless miraculous signs that he worked for the sick confirmed the “Good News”
of the . Kingdom of
Today’s Gospel tells of the healing of a leper and expresses most effectively the intensity of the relationship between God and man, summed up in a wonderful dialogue: “If you will, you can make me clean”, the leper says. “I do will it; be clean”, Jesus answers him, touching him with his hand and healing him of leprosy (see Mk 1: 40-42).
We see here in a concise form the entire history of salvation: that gesture of Jesus who stretches out his hand and touches the body covered with sores of the person who calls upon him, perfectly manifesting God’s desire to heal his fallen creature, restoring to him “life in abundance” (see Jn 10: 10), eternal life, full and happy. Christ is “the hand” of God stretched out to humanity, to rescue it from the quicksands of illness and death so that it can stand on the firm rock of divine love (see Ps 39: 2-3).
Today, I would like to entrust all the sick to Mary, “Salus infirmorum”, especially sick persons in every part of the world who, in addition to the lack of health, are also suffering loneliness, poverty and marginalization. I also address a special thought to those in hospitals and every other health centre who care for the sick and spare no effort for their recovery.
May the Blessed Virgin help each one find comfort in body and spirit through satisfactory health-care assistance and fraternal charity, expressed by means of practical and supportive attention.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the Church recalls the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette, which took place on 11 February 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near
Lourdes. It was a miraculous event which made
that town, located in the French Pyrenees, a world centre of pilgrimages and intense
In that place, now almost 150 years ago, the Blessed Mother’s call to prayer and penance resounds strongly, almost as a permanent echo of Jesus’ invitation which inaugurated his preaching in Galilee: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1: 15).
Moreover, that Shrine has become the goal of numerous sick pilgrims who are encouraged by listening to Mary Most Holy to accept their sufferings and offer them for the world’s salvation, uniting them to those of Christ Crucified.
Precisely because of the bond that exists between
and suffering humanity, 15 years ago our beloved John Paul II willed that, on the
occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick would also
This year the heart of this celebration is in the city of
Seoul, South Korea,
where I sent as my representative Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of
the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. I address a cordial greeting to
him and to all those gathered there. I would like to extend a greeting to the health-care
workers of the entire world, knowing well of their important service to the sick
persons in our society.
Above all, I would like to express my spiritual closeness and affection to our sick brothers and sisters, with a particular remembrance for those struck by graver illnesses and pain: to them, our attention is dedicated in a special way on this Day.
It is necessary to maintain the development of palliative care that offers an integral assistance and furnishes the incurably ill with that human support and spiritual guide they greatly need.
This afternoon, in St Peter’s Basilica, many sick will gather around Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who will preside at the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of Holy Mass, I will have the joy, as last year, to spend some time with them, reliving the spiritual climate that I experienced at the Grotto of Massabielle.
I would now like to entrust to the maternal protection of the Immaculate Virgin, with the prayer of the Angelus, the sick and suffering in body and spirit of the entire world.
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 February 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During these Sundays the Evangelist Mark has offered for our reflection a sequence of various miraculous cures. Today he presents to us a very special one, the healing of a leper (Mk 1: 40-45) who approached Jesus and, kneeling down begs him: “If you wish, you can make me clean”. Jesus, moved with pity, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: “I do will it. Be made clean!” And the man was instantly healed. Jesus asked him to say nothing about the event but to present himself to the priests to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the Mosaic law. However, the leper who had been healed was not able to keep quiet about it and instead proclaimed what had happened to him to all so that the Evangelist recounts the sick flocked to Jesus in even greater numbers, to the extent of forcing him to remain outside the towns to avoid being besieged by people.
Jesus said to the leper: “Be made clean!” According to the ancient Jewish law (see Lv 13-14), leprosy was not only considered a disease but also the most serious form of ritual “impurity”. It was the priests’ duty to diagnose it and to declare unclean the sick person who had to be isolated from the community and live outside the populated area until his eventual and well-certified recovery. Thus, leprosy constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing a kind of resurrection. It is possible to see leprosy as a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart that can distance us from God. It is not in fact the physical disease of leprosy that separates us from God as the ancient norms supposed but sin, spiritual and moral evil. This is why the Psalmist exclaims: “Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, / whose sin is covered”, and then says, addressing God: “I acknowledged my sin to you, / my guilt I covered not. / I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord’ / and you took away the guilt of my sin” (32: 1, 5). The sins that we commit distance us from God and, if we do not humbly confess them, trusting in divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has a strong symbolic value. Jesus, as Isaiah had prophesied, is the Servant of the Lord who “has borne our griefs / and carried our sorrows” (Is 53: 4). In his Passion he will become as a leper, made impure by our sins, separated from God: he will do all this out of love, to obtain for us reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Crucified and Risen Christ purifies us through his ministers with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and makes us a gift of his love, his joy and his peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Virgin Mary whom God preserved from every stain of sin so that she may help us to avoid sin and to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of forgiveness, whose value and importance for our Christian life must be rediscovered today.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 February 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The liturgical year is a great journey of faith made by the Church, always preceded by her Mother the Virgin Mary. This year, during the Sundays in Ordinary Time, the path is marked by readings from Luke’s Gospel. Today it brings us to “a level place” (Lk 6: 17), where Jesus stops with the Twelve and where a crowd of other disciples and people who had come from everywhere gather to listen to him. This is the setting for the proclamation of the “Beatitudes” (Lk 6: 20-26; see Mt 5: 1-12). Jesus, lifting up his eyes to his disciples, says: “Blessed are you poor.... Blessed are you that hunger.... Blessed are you that weep.... Blessed are you when men hate you... when they cast out your name” on account of me. Why does he proclaim them blessed? Because God’s justice will ensure that they will be satisfied, gladdened, recompensed for every false accusation in a word, because from this moment he will welcome them into his Kingdom. The Beatitudes are based on the fact that a divine justice exists, which exalts those who have been wrongly humbled and humbles those who have exalted themselves (see Lk 14: 11). In fact, the Evangelist Luke, after repeating four times “blessed are you”, adds four admonitions: “Woe to you that are rich.... Woe to you that are full now.... Woe to you that laugh now” and: “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you”, because as Jesus affirms, the circumstances will be reversed; the last will be first, and the first will be last (see Lk 13: 30).
This justice and this Beatitude are realized in the “
of Heaven”, or the “ ”,
which will be fulfilled at the end of times but which is already present in history.
Wherever the poor are comforted and admitted to the banquet of life, there God’s
justice is already manifest. This is the work that the Lord’s disciples are called
to carry out also in today’s society. I am thinking of the Hostel run by the Roman
Caritas at Termini Station, which I visited this morning. I warmly encourage
all who work in that praiseworthy institution and those who, in every part of the
world, volunteer themselves generously to similar works of justice and of love.
Kingdom of God
This year I dedicated my Message for Lent which will begin this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday to the theme of justice. Today I would therefore like to deliver it, in spirit, to all of you, inviting you to read and meditate on it. Christ’s Gospel responds positively to Man’s thirst for justice, but in an unexpected and surprising way. He does not propose a social or political revolution but rather one of love, which he has already brought about with his Cross and his Resurrection. It is on these that are founded the Beatitudes which present a new horizon of justice, unveiled at Easter, thanks to which we can become just and build a better world.
Dear friends, let us turn now to the Virgin Mary. All the generations call her “blessed”, because she believed the good news that the Lord proclaimed (see Lk 1: 45-48). Let us be guided by her on our Lenten journey, to be freed from the illusion of self-sufficiency, to recognize that we need God and his mercy, and thus to enter into his Kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 February 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this Sunday’s Liturgy we continue to read Jesus’ so-called “Sermon on the Mount”. It is contained in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel. After the Beatitudes, which are the programme of his life, Jesus proclaims the new Law, his Torah, as our Jewish brothers and sisters call it. In fact, on his coming, the Messiah was also to bring the definitive revelation of the Law and this is precisely what Jesus declares: “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them”.
And addressing his disciples, he adds: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the
” (Mt 5:17, 20).
But what do this “fullness” of Christ’s Law and this “superior” justice that he
demands consist in? Kingdom
Jesus explains it with a series of antitheses between the old commandments and his new way of propounding them. He begins each time: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old…”, and then he asserts: “but I say to you”…. For example, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘you shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment’. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).
And he does this six times. This manner of speaking made a great impression on the people, who were shocked, because those words: “I say to you” were equivalent to claiming the actual authority of God, the source of the Law. The newness of Jesus consists essentially in the fact that he himself “fulfils” the commandments with the love of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. And we, through faith in Christ, can open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit who makes us capable of living divine love.
So it is that every precept becomes true as a requirement of love, and all join in a single commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. “Love is the fulfilling of the Law”,
writes (Rom 13:10).
With regard to this requirement, for example, the pitiful case of the four Rom children, who died last week when their shack caught fire on the outskirts of this city, forces us to ask ourselves whether a more supportive and fraternal society, more consistent in love, in other words more Christian, might not have been able to prevent this tragic event. And this question applies in the case of so many other grievous events, more or less known, which occur daily in our cities and our towns.
Dear friends, perhaps it is not by chance that Jesus’ first great preaching is called the “Sermon on the Mount”! Moses went up
Mount Sinai to receive the
Law of God and bring it to the Chosen People. Jesus is the Son of God himself who
came down from Heaven to lead us to Heaven, to God’s height, on the way of love.
Indeed, he himself is this way; all we have to do in order to put into practice
God’s will and to enter his Kingdom, eternal life, is to follow him.
Only one creature has already scaled the mountain peak: the Virgin Mary. Through her union with Jesus, her righteousness was perfect: for this reason we invoke her as Speculum iustitiae. Let us entrust ourselves to her so that she may guide our steps in fidelity to Christ’s Law.
St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 February 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Sunday we saw that in his public life Jesus healed many sick people, revealing that God wants life for human beings, life in its fullness. This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 1:40-45) shows us Jesus in touch with a form of disease then considered the most serious, so serious as to make the person infected with it “unclean” and to exclude that person from social relations: we are speaking of leprosy. Special legislation (see Lev 13-14) allocated to priests the task of declaring a person to be “leprous”, that is, unclean; and it was likewise the priest’s task to note the person’s recovery and to readmit him or her, when restored to health, to normal life.
While Jesus was going about the villages of
a leper came up and besought him: “If you will, you can make me clean”. Jesus did
not shun contact with that man; on the contrary, impelled by deep participation
in his condition, he stretched out his hand and touched the man — overcoming the
legal prohibition — and said to him: “I will; be clean”.
That gesture and those words of Christ contain the whole history of salvation, they embody God’s will to heal us, to purify us from the illness that disfigures us and ruins our relationships. In that contact between Jesus’ hand and the leper, every barrier between God and human impurity, between the Sacred and its opposite, was pulled down. This was not of course in order to deny evil and its negative power, but to demonstrate that God’s love is stronger than all illness, even in its most contagious and horrible form. Jesus took upon himself our infirmities, he made himself “a leper” so that we might be cleansed.
A splendid existential comment on this Gospel is the well known experience of St Francis of
Assisi, which he
sums up at the beginning of his Testament: “This is how the Lord gave me, Brother
Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin the sight of lepers was too
bitter for me. And the Lord himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them.
And when I left them I discovered that what had seemed bitter to me was changed
into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world”
In those lepers whom Francis met when he was still “in sin” — as he says — Jesus was present; and when Francis approached one of them, overcoming his own disgust, he embraced him, Jesus healed him from his “leprosy”, namely, from his pride, and converted him to love of God. This is Christ’s victory which is our profound healing and our resurrection to new life!
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