Entry 0330: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time
by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On five occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 19 February 2006, 18 February 2007, 22 February 2009, 20 February 2011, and 19 February 2012. Here are the texts of five brief reflections before the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.
Basilica, Sunday, 19 February 2012
Dear brothers and sisters, the gift of this love has been entrusted to us, to every Christian. It is a gift to be passed on to others, through the witness of our lives. This is your task in particular, dear brother Cardinals: to bear witness to the joy of Christ’s love. We now entrust your ecclesial service to the Virgin Mary, who was present among the apostolic community as they gathered in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:14). May she, Mother of the Incarnate Word, protect the Church’s path, support the work of the pastors by her intercession and take under her mantle the entire College of Cardinals. Amen!
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 19 February 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On these Sundays, the liturgy presents the Gospel account of various healings brought about by Christ: last Sunday, the leper, and today, a paralyzed man lying on his bed, whom four people carried to Jesus. Having noted their faith, he said to the paralytic: “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2: 5). By so doing he made it clear that first of all he wanted to heal the spirit.
The paralyzed man is the image of every human being whom sin prevents from moving about freely, from walking on the path of good and from giving the best of himself. Indeed, by taking root in the soul, evil binds the person with the ties of falsehood, anger, envy and other sins and gradually paralyzes him.
Jesus, therefore, scandalizing the scribes who were present, first said: “... your sins are forgiven”. Only later, to demonstrate the authority to forgive sins that God had conferred upon him, did he add: “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home” (Mk 2: 11), and heals the man completely.
The message is clear: human beings, paralyzed by sin, need God’s mercy which Christ came to give to them so that, their hearts healed, their whole life might flourish anew.
Today too, humanity is marked by sin which prevents it from rapidly progressing in those values of brotherhood, justice and peace that with solemn declarations it had resolved to practise. Why? What is blocking it? What is paralyzing this integral development?
We know well that there are many historical reasons for this and that the problem is complex. But the Word of God invites us to have a gaze of faith and to trust, like the people who were carrying the paralytic, that Jesus alone is capable of true healing.
The basic choice of my Predecessors, especially of the beloved John Paul II, was to lead the people of our time to Christ the Redeemer so that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, he might heal them. I too desire to continue on this path.
In particular, with my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to point out to believers and to the whole world, God as the source of authentic love. Only God’s love can renew the human heart, and only if he heals the heart of paralyzed humanity can it get up and walk. The love of God is the true force that renews the world.
Let us invoke together the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that every person will be open to the merciful love of God and consequently that the human family will be healed in its depths of the evils that afflict it.
St Peter’s Square,Sunday, 18 February 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday’s Gospel contains some of the most typical and forceful words of Jesus’ preaching: “Love your enemies” (Lk 6: 27). It is taken from Luke’s Gospel but is also found in Matthew’s (5: 44), in the context of the programmatic discourse that opens with the famous “Beatitudes”. Jesus delivered it in
at the beginning of his public life: it is, as it were, a “manifesto” presented
to all, in which he asks for his disciples’ adherence, proposing his model of life
to them in radical terms.
But what do his words mean? Why does Jesus ask us to love precisely our enemies, that is, a love which exceeds human capacities?
Actually, Christ’s proposal is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This “more” comes from God: it is his mercy which was made flesh in Jesus and which alone can “tip the balance” of the world from evil to good, starting with that small and decisive “world” which is the human heart.
This Gospel passage is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian non-violence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil, as a false interpretation of “turning the other cheek” (see Lk 6: 29) claims, but in responding to evil with good (see Rom 12: 17-21) and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.
One then understands that for Christians, non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.
Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the “Christian revolution”, a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power: the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Here is the newness of the Gospel which silently changes the world! Here is the heroism of the “lowly” who believe in God’s love and spread it, even at the cost of their lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, Lent, which will begin this Wednesday with the Rite of Ashes, is the favourable season in which all Christians are asked to convert ever more deeply to Christ’s love.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, docile disciple of the Redeemer who helps us to allow ourselves to be won over without reserve by that love, to learn to love as he loved us, to be merciful as Our Father in Heaven is merciful (see Lk 6: 36).
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 February 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel passage on which the liturgy leads us to meditate on this Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time relates the episode of the paralytic, forgiven and healed (Mk 2: 1-12). While Jesus was preaching, among the many sick people who were brought to him there was a paralytic on a stretcher. On seeing him the Lord said: “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2: 5). And since some of those present were scandalized at hearing these words, he added: ““That you may know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth’, he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home’“ (Mk 2: 10-11). And the paralytic went away healed. This Gospel account shows that Jesus has the power not only to heal a sick body but also to forgive sins; indeed, the physical recovery is a sign of the spiritual healing that his forgiveness produces. Sin is effectively a sort of paralysis of the spirit from which only the power of God’s merciful love can set us free, allowing us to rise again and continue on the path of goodness.
This Sunday is also the Feast of the Chair of Peter, an important liturgical occasion that sheds light on the ministry of the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The Chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, called to carry out a special service to the entire People of God. Immediately after the martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul, the primatial role of the Church of Rome in the whole Catholic community was recognized. This role was already attested to at the beginning of the second century by St Ignatius of
Antioch (Epistula ad Romanos, Pref.: ed.
Funk, i, p. 252) and by St Irenaeus of Lyons
(Adversus haereses III, 3, 2-3). This singular and specific ministry of the
Bishop of Rome was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. “In the communion of
the Church”, we read in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “there are also
particular Churches that retain their own traditions, without prejudice to the Chair
of Peter which presides over the whole assembly of charity (see St Ignatius of Antioch,
Ep. ad Rom., Pref.), and protects their legitimate variety while at the same
time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute
to it” (Lumen gentium, no. 13).
Dear brothers and sisters, this Feast offers me the occasion to ask you to accompany me with your prayers so that I may faithfully carry out this great task that divine Providence has entrusted to me as Successor of the Apostle Peter. For this let us invoke the Virgin Mary who we celebrated yesterday here in
Rome with the beautiful title of Our Lady of Trust.
Let us also ask her to help us enter with the proper frame of mind into the Season
of Lent that will begin next Wednesday with the evocative Rite of Ashes. May Mary
open our hearts to conversion and to docile listening to the word of God.
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 20 February 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time the biblical readings speak to us of God’s desire to make all human beings share in his life: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”, we read in the Book of Leviticus (19:1). With these words and with the consequent precepts the Lord invited the People whom he had chosen to be faithful to the Covenant with him, to walk on his path; and he founded social legislation on the commandment “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18).
Then if we listen to Jesus in whom God took a mortal body to make himself close to every human being and reveal his infinite love for us, we find that same call, that same audacious objective. Indeed, the Lord says: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
But who could become perfect? Our perfection is living humbly as children of God, doing his will in practice. St Cyprian wrote: “that the godly discipline might respond to God, the Father, that in the honour and praise of living, God may be glorified in man (De zelo et livore [On jealousy and envy], 15: CCL 3a, 83).
How can we imitate Jesus? He said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 5:44-45). Anyone who welcomes the Lord into his life and loves him with all his heart is capable of a new beginning. He succeeds in doing God’s will: to bring about a new form of existence enlivened by love and destined for eternity.
The Apostle Paul added: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Cor 3:16). If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is profoundly shaped by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and effective. A medieval author wrote: “When the whole of man’s being is, so to speak, mingled with God’s love, the splendour of his soul is also reflected in his external aspect” (John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, XXX: PG 88, 1157 B), in the totality of life.
“Love is an excellent thing”, we read in the book the Imitation of Christ. “It makes every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with equanimity…. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low… love is born of God and cannot rest except in God” (III, V, 3).
Dear friends, the day after tomorrow, 22 February, we shall celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. Christ entrusted to him, the first of the Apostles, the task of Teacher and Pastor for the spiritual guidance of the People of God, so that it might be uplifted to Heaven. I therefore urge all pastors to “assimilate that ‘new style of life’ which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles” (Letter inaugurating the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009).
Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, so that she may teach us to love each other and accept each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father.
St. Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday is particularly festive here in the
because of the Consistory held yesterday at which I created 22 new Cardinals. This
morning I have had the joy of concelebrating the Eucharist with them in St Peter’s
Basilica, around the tomb of the Apostle whom Jesus called the “rock” on which to
build his Church (see Mt 16:18).
I therefore invite all of you to join in with your prayers too for these venerable Brothers, who are now more committed to working with me in the guidance of the universal Church and to bearing witness to the Gospel, even to the point of sacrificing life. This is what the red colour of their habits means: the colour of blood and love.
Some of them work in
Rome at the service
of the Holy See, others are Pastors of important diocesan Churches; yet others are
distinguished by their long and appreciated work of study and teaching. They now
belong to the College that more closely assists the Pope in his ministry of communion
and evangelization: let us welcome them with joy, remembering what Jesus said to
the Twelve Apostles: “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For
the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as
a ransom for many” (Mk 10:44-45).
This ecclesial event is set against the liturgical backdrop of the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, brought forward to today because next 22 February — the date of this Feast — will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The “chair” [in Latin: cattedra] is the seat reserved to the bishop. From this term comes the name “cathedral”, given to the church in which, precisely, the bishop presides at the liturgy and teaches the people.
The Chair of St Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica is a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity. At the beginning of the second century St Ignatius of
Antioch attributed a special
primacy to the Church which is in Rome,
greeting her in his Letter to the Romans as the one which “presides in charity”.
It is because the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with many other martyrs, poured
out their blood in this City, that this special task of service depends on the Community
of Rome and on its Bishop. Let us, thus, return to the witness of blood and of charity.
The Chair of Peter is therefore the sign of authority, but of Christ’s authority,
based on faith and on love.
Dear friends, let us entrust the new Cardinals to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, so that she may always help them in their ecclesial service and sustain them in their trials. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help me and my co-workers to work tirelessly for the unity of the People of God and to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation, humbly, valiantly carrying out the service of truth in charity.
AND FOR THE VOTE ON SEVERAL CAUSES OF CANONIZATION
EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION WITH THE NEW CARDINALS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter, we have the joy of gathering around the altar of the Lord together with the new Cardinals whom yesterday I incorporated into the College of Cardinals. It is to them, first of all, that I offer my cordial greetings and I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for the gracious words he has addressed to me in the name of all. I extend my greetings to the other Cardinals and all the Bishops present, as well as to the distinguished authorities, ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful who have come from different parts of the world for this happy occasion, which is marked by a particular character of universality.
In the second reading that we have just heard, Saint Peter exhorts the “elders” of the Church to be zealous pastors, attentive to the flock of Christ (see 1 Pet 5:1-2). These words are addressed in the first instance to you, my dear venerable brothers, who have already shown great merit among the people of God through your wise and generous pastoral ministry in demanding dioceses, or through presiding over the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, or in your service to the Church through study and teaching. The new dignity that has been conferred upon you is intended to show appreciation for the faithful labour you have carried out in the Lord’s vineyard, to honour the communities and nations from which you come and which you represent so worthily in the Church, to invest you with new and more important ecclesial responsibilities and finally to ask of you an additional readiness to be of service to Christ and to the entire Christian community. This readiness to serve the Gospel is firmly founded upon the certitude of faith. We know that God is faithful to his promises and we await in hope the fulfilment of these words of Saint Peter: “And when the chief shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet 5:4).
Today’s Gospel passage presents Peter, under divine inspiration, expressing his own firm faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. In response to this transparent profession of faith, which Peter makes in the name of the other Apostles as well, Christ reveals to him the mission he intends to entrust to him, namely that of being the “rock”, the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (see Mt 16:16-19). This new name of “rock” is not a reference to Peter’s personal character, but can be understood only on the basis of a deeper aspect, a mystery: through the office that Jesus confers upon him, Simon Peter will become something that, in terms of “flesh and blood”, he is not. The exegete Joachim Jeremias has shown that in the background, the symbolic language of “holy rock” is present. In this regard, it is helpful to consider a rabbinic text which states: “The Lord said, ‘How can I create the world, when these godless men will rise up in revolt against me?’ But when God saw that Abraham was to be born, he said, ‘Look, I have found a rock on which I can build and establish the world.’ Therefore he called Abraham a rock.” The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this when he calls upon the people to “look to the rock from which you were hewn ... look to Abraham your father” (51:1-2). On account of his faith, Abraham, the father of believers, is seen as the rock that supports creation. Simon, the first to profess faith in Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the resurrection, now, on the basis of his renewed faith, becomes the rock that is to prevail against the destructive forces of evil.
Dear brothers and sisters, this Gospel episode that has been proclaimed to us finds a further and more eloquent explanation in one of the most famous artistic treasures of this Vatican Basilica: the altar of the Chair. After passing through the magnificent central nave, and continuing past the transepts, the pilgrim arrives in the apse and sees before him an enormous bronze throne that seems to hover in mid air, but in reality is supported by the four statues of great Fathers of the Church from East and West. And above the throne, surrounded by triumphant angels suspended in the air, the glory of the Holy Spirit shines through the oval window. What does this sculptural composition say to us, this product of Bernini’s genius? It represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.
The window of the apse opens the Church towards the outside, towards the whole of creation, while the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows God as the source of light. But there is also another aspect to point out: the Church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where he comes towards our world. The Church does not exist for her own sake, she is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself, to the realms above. The Church is truly herself to the extent that she allows the Other, with a capital “O”, to shine through her – the One from whom she comes and to whom she leads. The Church is the place where God “reaches” us and where we “set off” towards him: she has the task of opening up, beyond itself, a world which tends to become enclosed within itself, the task of bringing to the world the light that comes from above, without which it would be uninhabitable.
The great bronze throne encloses a wooden chair from the ninth century, which was long thought to be Saint Peter’s own chair and was placed above this monumental altar because of its great symbolic value. It expresses the permanent presence of the Apostle in the Magisterium of his successors. Saint Peter’s chair, we could say, is the throne of truth which takes its origin from Christ’s commission after the confession at Caesarea Philippi. The magisterial chair also reminds us of the words spoken to Peter by the Lord during the Last Supper: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).
The chair of Peter evokes another memory: the famous expression from Saint Ignatius of
Antioch’s letter to the Romans,
where he says of the Church of Rome that she “presides in charity” (Salutation,
PG 5, 801). In truth, presiding in faith is inseparably linked to presiding in love.
Faith without love would no longer be an authentic Christian faith. But the words
of Saint Ignatius have another much more concrete implication: the word “charity”,
in fact, was also used by the early Church to indicate the Eucharist. The Eucharist
is the Sacramentum caritatis Christi, through which Christ continues to draw
us all to himself, as he did when raised up on the Cross (see Jn 12:32).
Therefore, to “preside in charity” is to draw men and women into a eucharistic embrace
– the embrace of Christ – which surpasses every barrier and every division, creating
communion from all manner of differences. The Petrine ministry is therefore a primacy
of love in the eucharistic sense, that is to say solicitude for the universal communion
of the Church in Christ. And the Eucharist is the shape and the measure of this
communion, a guarantee that it will remain faithful to the criterion of the tradition
of the faith.
The great Chair is supported by the Fathers of the Church. The two Eastern masters, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Athanasius, together with the Latins, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, represent the whole of the tradition, and hence the richness of expression of the true faith of the holy and one Church. This aspect of the altar teaches us that love rests upon faith. Love collapses if man no longer trusts in God and disobeys him. Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the sacraments, the liturgy, evangelization, charity. Likewise the law and the Church’s authority rest upon faith. The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it. Within the ecclesial community, the Fathers of the Church fulfil the function of guaranteeing fidelity to sacred Scripture. They ensure that the Church receives reliable and solid exegesis, capable of forming with the Chair of Peter a stable and consistent whole. The sacred Scriptures, authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium in the light of the Fathers, shed light upon the Church’s journey through time, providing her with a stable foundation amid the vicissitudes of history.
After considering the various elements of the altar of the Chair, let us take a look at it in its entirety. We see that it is characterized by a twofold movement: ascending and descending. This is the reciprocity between faith and love. The Chair is placed in a prominent position in this place, because this is where Saint Peter’s tomb is located, but this too tends towards the love of God. Indeed, faith is oriented towards love. A selfish faith would be an unreal faith. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and enters into the dynamic of love that finds its source in the Eucharist, discovers true joy and becomes capable in turn of living according to the logic this gift. True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love, leads on high, just as the altar of the Chair points upwards towards the luminous window, the glory of the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the true focus for the pilgrim’s gaze as he crosses the threshold of the Vatican Basilica. That window is given great prominence by the triumphant angels and the great golden rays, with a sense of overflowing fullness that expresses the richness of communion with God. God is not isolation, but glorious and joyful love, spreading outwards and radiant with light.
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