Monday, July 27, 2020

Reflections on the Eighteenth Sunday of
Ordinary Time by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0291: Reflections on the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 31 July 2005, 6 August 2006, 5 August 2007, 3 August 2008, 2 August 2009, 1 August 2010, 31 July 2011, and 5 August 2012. Here are the texts of eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus that the Pope delivered on these occasions.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 31 July 2005

After the days I spent in the mountains in the Aosta Valley, I am glad to be with you today, dear people of Castel Gandolfo, who are always so hospitable to the Pope. I greet you all with affection, starting with the Bishop of Albano, the Parish Priests and the other Priests of Castel Gandolfo. I greet the Mayor, the Municipal Board and the other Authorities present, and extend my affectionate thoughts to the Director and Staff of the Pontifical Villas, as well as to the entire population of this delightful and peaceful little town.

I offer an especially warm greeting to the pilgrims from so many places who have come to pay me a visit. It is my first summer stay here in Castel Gandolfo: I thank you for your festive welcome last Thursday, which you are repeating today.

The 20th World Youth Day is approaching, and we are already on our way. This Day, as we know, will be held in Cologne, and, please God, I shall be taking part in it - even if I am not young, but my heart is young - from Thursday to Sunday, 18 to 21 August. In the upcoming days, groups of young men and women will be setting out for Germany from every corner of Europe and of the world, following the example of the Holy Magi, as the theme suggests: “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2: 2).

I would like to invite young believers from all over the world, also those who will be unable to take part in this extraordinary ecclesial event, to join forces in a common spiritual pilgrimage to the wellsprings of our faith. In accordance with a felicitous intuition of our beloved Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day is a privileged encounter with Christ, in the firm awareness that he alone offers human beings fullness of life, joy and love.

Every Christian is called to enter into profound communion with the Crucified and Risen Lord, to adore him in prayer, meditation and above all, in devout participation in the Eucharist, at least on Sunday, the little “weekly Easter”. In this way one truly becomes his disciple, ready to proclaim and to witness at every moment to the Gospel’s beauty and power of renewal.

May the Virgin Mother of the Redeemer, whose Assumption into Heaven we commemorate in the month of August, watch over all who are preparing to take part in World Youth Day. May she who always goes before us on the pilgrimage of faith, guide young people in a special way in their search for true good and authentic joy.

As you know, in these past days the Irish Republic Army (IRA) of Northern Ireland has announced that it has formally ordered the end of armed conflict in favour of the exclusive use of peaceful negotiations. This is wonderful news, which contrasts with the sorrowful events in many parts of the world that we are witnessing daily, and has rightly given rise to pleasure and hope in that Island and the entire International Community.

For my part, I am particularly glad to join in these sentiments. In addition, I encourage everyone, without exception, to continue to walk courageously on the path marked out and to take further steps that will make it possible to strengthen mutual trust, promote reconciliation and consolidate the negotiations for a just and lasting peace.

I do so as vigorously as my venerable Predecessor, John Paul II when, in Drogheda in September 1979, he implored people to desert the paths of violence and return to the ways of peace. Let us entrust our common prayer for this intention to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, to St Patrick and all the Saints of Ireland.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 6 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday, Mark the Evangelist recounts that Jesus took Peter, James and John with him up a high mountain and was transfigured before them, becoming so dazzlingly bright that they were “whiter than the work of any bleacher could make them” (Mk 9: 2-10).

Today, the liturgy invites us to focus our gaze on this mystery of light. On the transfigured face of Jesus a ray of light which he held within shines forth. This same light was to shine on Christ’s face on the day of the Resurrection. In this sense, the Transfiguration appears as a foretaste of the Paschal Mystery.

The Transfiguration invites us to open the eyes of our hearts to the mystery of God’s light, present throughout salvation history. At the beginning of creation, the Almighty had already said: “Fiat lux - let there be light!” (Gn 1: 2), and the light was separated from the darkness. Like the other created things, light is a sign that reveals something of God: it is, as it were, a reflection of his glory which accompanies its manifestations. When God appears, “his brightness was like the light, rays flashed from his hand” (Heb 3: 3ff.).

Light, it is said in the Psalms, is the mantle with which God covers himself (see Ps 104[103]: 2). In the Book of Wisdom, the symbolism of light is used to describe the very essence of God: wisdom, an outpouring of his glory, is “a reflection of eternal light” superior to any created light (see Wis 7: 27, 29ff.).

In the New Testament, it is Christ who constitutes the full manifestation of God’s light. His Resurrection defeated the power of the darkness of evil forever. With the Risen Christ, truth and love triumph over deceit and sin. In him, God’s light henceforth illumines definitively human life and the course of history: “I am the light of the world”, he says in the Gospel, “he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8: 12).

In our time too, we urgently need to emerge from the darkness of evil, to experience the joy of the children of light! May Mary, whom we commemorated yesterday with special devotion on the annual Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, obtain this gift for us. May the Blessed Virgin also obtain peace for the peoples of the Middle East, overwhelmed by fratricidal fighting! We know well that peace is first and foremost God’s gift to be implored insistently in prayer, but at this time let us also remember that it is a commitment for all people of good will. May no one shirk this duty!

Thus, in the face of the bitter observation that so far the voices asking for an immediate ceasefire in that tormented region have gone unheard, I feel the urgent need to renew my pressing appeal in this regard, asking everyone to make an effective contribution to build a just and lasting peace. I entrust this renewed appeal to the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin.



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 5 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Word of God spurs us to reflect on what our relationship with material things should be.

Although wealth is a good in itself, it should not be considered an absolute good. Above all, it does not guarantee salvation; on the contrary, it may even seriously jeopardize it.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus puts his disciples on guard precisely against this risk. It is wisdom and virtue not to set one’s heart on the goods of this world for all things are transient, all things can suddenly end.

For us Christians, the real treasure that we must ceaselessly seek consists in the “things above... where Christ is seated at God’s right hand”; St Paul reminds us of this today in his Letter to the Colossians, adding that our life “is hid with Christ in God” (see 3: 1-3).

The Solemnity of the Transfiguration of the Lord, which we shall be celebrating tomorrow, invites us to turn our gaze “above”, to Heaven. In the Gospel account of the Transfiguration on the mountain, we are given a premonitory sign that allows us a fleeting glimpse of the Kingdom of the Saints, where we too at the end of our earthly life will be able to share in Christ’s glory, which will be complete, total and definitive. The whole universe will then be transfigured and the divine plan of salvation will at last be fulfilled.

The day of the Solemnity of the Transfiguration remains linked to the memory of my venerable Predecessor, Servant of God Paul VI, who in 1978 completed his mission in this very place, here at Castel Gandolfo, and was called to enter the house of the Heavenly Father. May his commemoration be an invitation to us to look on high and to serve the Lord and the Church faithfully, as he did in the far-from-easy years of the last century.

May the Virgin Mary, whom we remember today in particular while we celebrate the liturgical Memorial of the Basilica of St Mary Major, obtain this grace for us. As is well known, this is the first Western Basilica to have been built in honour of Mary; it was rebuilt in 432 by Pope Sixtus III to celebrate the divine motherhood of the Virgin, a Dogma that had been solemnly proclaimed the previous year at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus.

May the Virgin, who was more closely involved in Christ’s mystery than any other creature, sustain us on our pilgrimage of faith so that, as the liturgy invites us to pray today, “we do not let ourselves be dominated by greed or selfishness as we toil with our efforts to subdue the earth but seek always what is worthwhile in God’s eyes” (see Entrance Antiphon).



Piazza Duomo, Bressanone, Sunday, 3 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

A cordial welcome to you all! I would first like to say a word of profound thanks to you, dear Bishop Egger: you have made possible here this celebration of faith. You have ensured that once again I could, as it were, return to my past and at the same time advance into my future; and once again spend my vacation in beautiful Bressanone, this land where art and culture and the goodness of the people are interconnected: a heartfelt “thank you” for all of this! And of course, I thank all who, together with you, have contributed to ensuring that I could spend peaceful and serene days here: my thanks to all those who shared in the organization of this celebration! I cordially thank all the Authorities of the City, of the Region and of the State, for all they have done by way of organization, the volunteers who are offering their help, the doctors, so many people who have been necessary, especially the Police Force; I am grateful for everyone’s collaboration... I am sure I have left out many people! May the Lord reward you all for it: you are all in my prayers. This is the only way in which I can thank you. And, naturally, above all let us thank the good Lord who has given us this earth and has also given us this Sunday bathed in sunshine. Thus we arrive at the Liturgy of the day. The first Reading reminds us that the greatest things in this life of ours can neither be purchased nor paid for because the most important and elementary things in our life can only be given: the sun and its light, the air that we breathe, water, the earth’s beauty, love, friendship, life itself. We cannot buy any of these essential and central goods but they are given to us. The Second Reading then adds that this means they are also things that no one can take from us, of which no dictatorship, no destructive force can rob us. Being loved by God who knows and loves each one of us in Christ; no one can take this away and, while we have this, we are not poor but rich. The Gospel adds a third consideration. If we receive such great gifts from God, we in turn must give them: in a spiritual context giving kindness, friendship and love, but also in a material context - the Gospel speaks of the multiplication of the loaves. These two things must penetrate our souls today: we must be people who give, because we are people who receive; we must pass on to others the gifts of goodness and love and friendship, but at the same time we must also give material gifts to all who have need of us, whom we can help, and thus seek to make the earth more human, that is, closer to God.

Now, dear friends, I ask you to join me in a devout and filial commemoration of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, the 30th anniversary of whose death we shall be celebrating in a few days. Indeed, he gave up his spirit to God on the evening of 6 August 1978, the evening of the Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus, a mystery of divine light that always exercised a remarkable fascination upon his soul. As Supreme Pastor of the Church, Paul VI guided the People of God to contemplation of the Face of Christ, the Redeemer of man and Lord of history. And it was precisely this loving orientation of his mind and heart toward Christ that served as a cornerstone of the Second Vatican Council, a fundamental attitude that my venerable Predecessor John Paul II inherited and relaunched during the great Jubilee of the Year 2000. At the centre of everything, always and only Christ: at the centre of the Sacred Scriptures and of Tradition, in the heart of the Church, of the world and of the entire universe. Divine Providence summoned Giovanni Battista Montini from the See of Milan to that of Rome during the most sensitive moment of the Council - when there was a risk that Blessed John XXIII’s intuition might not materialize. How can we fail to thank the Lord for his fruitful and courageous pastoral action? As our gaze on the past grows gradually broader and more aware, Paul VI’s merit in presiding over the Council Sessions, in bringing it successfully to conclusion and in governing the eventful post-conciliar period appears ever greater, I should say almost superhuman. We can truly say, with the Apostle Paul, that the grace of God in him “was not in vain” (see 1 Cor 15: 10): it made the most of his outstanding gifts of intelligence and passionate love for the Church and for humankind. As we thank God for the gift of this great Pope, let us commit ourselves to treasure his teachings.

In the last period of the Council, Paul VI wanted to pay a special tribute to the Mother of God and solemnly proclaimed her “Mother of the Church”. Let us now address the prayer of the Angelus to her, the Mother of Christ, the Mother of the Church, our Mother.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 2 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I returned a few days ago from the Val d’Aosta and it is with great pleasure that I am with you once again, dear friends of Castel Gandolfo. To the Bishop, the parish priest and the parish community, to the civil Authorities and the entire population of Castel Gandolfo, along with the pilgrims as well as the holiday-makers, I renew my affectionate greeting together with a heartfelt “thank you” for your ever cordial welcome. I also thank you for the spiritual closeness that many people expressed to me in Les Combes at the time of the small accident to my right wrist.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Year for Priests that we are celebrating is a precious opportunity to deepen our knowledge of the value of the mission of priests in the Church and in the world. In this regard, useful ideas for reflection can be found in remembering the saints whom the Church holds up to us daily. In these first days of the month of August, for example, we commemorate some who are real models of spirituality and priestly devotion. Yesterday was the liturgical Memorial of St Alphonsus Mary de’ Liguori, a Bishop and Doctor of the Church, a great teacher of moral theology and a model of Christian and pastoral virtues who was ever attentive to the religious needs of the people. Today we are contemplating St Francis of Assisi’s ardent love for the salvation of souls which every priest must always foster. In fact today is the feast of the “Pardon of Assisi”, which St Francis obtained from Pope Honorious III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula. Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a “full and generous pardon” for all those who would visit that church who “repented and confessed their sins”. Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: “Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!”. Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one.

What can be said of St John Mary Vianney whom we shall commemorate on 4 August? It was precisely to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his death that I announced the Year for Priests. I promise to speak again of this humble parish priest who constitutes a model of priestly life not only for parish priests but for all priests at the Catechesis of the General Audience next Wednesday. Then on 7 August it will be the Memorial of St Cajetan da Thiene, who used to like to say: “it is not with sentimental love but rather with loving actions that souls are purified”. And the following day, 8 August, the Church will point out as a model St Dominic, of whom it has been written that he only “opened his mouth either to speak to God in prayer or to speak of God”. Lastly, I cannot forget to mention the great figure of Pope Montini, Paul VI, the 31st anniversary of whose death, here in Castel Gandolfo, occurs on 6 August. His life, so profoundly priestly and so rich in humanity, continues to be a gift to the Church for which we thank God. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, help priests to be totally in love with Christ, after the example of these models of priestly holiness.



Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 1st August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical commemorations of several Saints occurs in these days. Yesterday we commemorated St Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus. He lived in the 16th century and was converted after reading the life of Jesus and the Saints, during a long convalescence, while recovering from a wound received in battle. He was so impressed by one of the passages he read that he decided to follow the Lord. Today we are commemorating St Alphonsus Mary Liguori, the Founder of the Redemptorists, who lived in the 17th century and was proclaimed Patron of confessors by Venerable Pius XII. He was aware that God wants everyone to be holy, each one in accordance with his own state, of course. Then this week the liturgy proposes St Eusebius, the first Bishop of Piedmont, a strenuous defender of Christ’s divinity, and, lastly, the figure of St John Mary Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, who guided the Year for Priests that has just ended with his example and to whose intercession I once again entrust all the Pastors of the Church. A common commitment of these Saints was to save souls and to serve the Church with their respective charisms, contributing to renew and enrich her. These men acquired “a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90 [89]: 12), setting store by what is incorruptible and discarding what is irremediably changeable in time: power, riches and transient pleasures. By choosing God they possessed everything they needed, with a foretaste of eternity even in life on earth (see Eccles 1-5).

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ teaching concerns, precisely, true wisdom and is introduced by one of the crowd: “Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me” (Lk 12: 13). In answering, Jesus puts him on guard against those who are influenced by the desire for earthly goods with the Parable of the Rich Fool who having put away for himself an abundant harvest stops working, uses up all he possesses, enjoying himself and even deceives himself into thinking he can keep death at an arm’s length. However God says to him “Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Lk 12: 20). The fool in the Bible, the one who does not want to learn from the experience of visible things, that nothing lasts for ever but that all things pass away, youth and physical strength, amenities and important roles. Making one’s life depend on such an ephemeral reality is therefore foolishness. The person who trusts in the Lord, on the other hand, does not fear the adversities of life, nor the inevitable reality of death: he is the person who has acquired a wise heart, like the Saints.

In addressing our prayer to Mary Most Holy, I would like to remember other important occasions: tomorrow it will be possible to profit from the Indulgence known as the Portiuncola Indulgence or the “Pardon of Assisi” that St Francis obtained in 1216 from Pope Honorius III; Thursday, 5 August, in commemorating the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major, we will honour the Mother of God, acclaimed with this title at the Council of Ephesus in 431, and next Friday, the anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s death, we will celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. The date of 6 August, seen as crowned by summer light, was chosen to mean that the splendour of Christ’s Face illuminates the whole world.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 31 July 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel describes the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves that Jesus worked for a great throng of people who had followed him to listen to him and to be healed of various illnesses (see Mt 14:14).

As evening fell the disciples suggested to Jesus that he send the crowds away so that they might take some refreshment. But the Lord had something else in mind: “You give them something to eat” (Mt 14:16). However they had “only five loaves... and two fish”. Jesus’ subsequent action evokes the sacrament of the Eucharist: “He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Mt 14:19).

The miracle consists in the brotherly sharing of a few loaves which, entrusted to the power of God, not only sufficed for everyone but enough was left over to fill 12 baskets. The Lord asked this of the disciples so that it would be they who distributed the bread to the multitude; in this way he taught and prepared them for their future apostolic mission: in fact, they were to bring to all the nourishment of the Word of life and of the sacraments.

In this miraculous sign the incarnation of God and the work of redemption are interwoven. Jesus, in fact, “went ashore” from the boat to meet the men and women (see Mt 14:14). St Maximus the Confessor said that the Word of God made himself present for our sake, by taking flesh, derived from us and conformed to us in all things save sin, in order to expose us to his teaching with words and examples suitable for us” (Ambigua 33: PG 91, 1285 C).

Here the Lord offers us an eloquent example of his compassion for people. We are reminded of all our brothers and sisters in the Horn of Africa who in these days are suffering the dramatic consequences of famine, exacerbated by war and by the lack of solid institutions. Christ is attentive to material needs but he wished to give more, because man always “hungers for more, he needs more” (Jesus of Nazareth, Doubleday, New York 2007, p. 267 (English translation). God’s love is present in the bread of Christ; in the encounter with him “we feed on the living God himself, so to speak, we truly eat the ‘bread from Heaven’” (ibid. p. 268).

Dear friends. “in the Eucharist Jesus also makes us witnesses of God’s compassion towards all our brothers and sisters. The Eucharistic mystery thus gives rise to a service of charity towards neighbour” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 88). St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus whom the Church is commemorating today, also bore witness to this. Indeed Ignatius chose to live “finding God in all things, loving him in all creatures” (see Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, III, 1, 26).

Let us entrust our prayers to the Virgin Mary, so that she may open our hearts to compassion for our neighbour and to fraternal sharing.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 5 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Reading of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel continues in the Liturgy of the Word of this Sunday. We are in the synagogue of Capharnaum where Jesus was giving his well-known discourse after the multiplication of the loaves. The people had sought to make him king but Jesus had withdrawn, first, to the mountain with God, with the Father, and then to Capharnaum. Since they could not see him, they began to look for him, they boarded the boats in order to cross the lake to the other shore and had found him at last. However, Jesus was well aware of the reason for this great enthusiasm in following him and he says so, even clearly: “you seek me, not because you saw signs, [because you were deeply impressed] but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v. 26).

Jesus wants to help the people go beyond the immediate satisfaction — albeit important — of their own material needs. He wants to open them to a horizon of existence that does not consist merely of the daily concerns of eating, of being clothed, of a career. Jesus speaks of a food that does not perish, which it is important to seek and to receive. He says: “do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you” (v. 27).

The crowd does not understand, it believes that Jesus is asking for the observance of precepts in order to obtain the continuation of that miracle, and asks: “what must we do, to be dong the works of God?” (v. 28). Jesus’ answer is unequivocal: “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (v. 29). The centre of existence — which is what gives meaning and certain hope in the all too often difficult journey of life — is faith in Jesus, it is the encounter with Christ.

We too ask: “what must we do to have eternal life?”. And Jesus says: “believe in me”. Faith is the fundamental thing. It is not a matter here of following an idea or a project, but of encountering Jesus as a living Person, of letting ourselves be totally involved by him and by his Gospel. Jesus invites us not to stop at the purely human horizon and to open ourselves to the horizon of God, to the horizon of faith. He demands a single act: to accept God’s plan, namely, to “believe in him whom he has sent” (v. 29).

Moses had given Israel manna, the bread from heaven with which God himself had nourished his people. Jesus does not give some thing, he gives himself: he is the “true bread that which comes down from heaven”. He is the living Word of the Father; in the encounter with him we meet the living God.

“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (v. 28), the crowd asks, ready to act in order to perpetuate the miracle of the loaves. But Jesus, the true bread of life that satisfies our hunger for meaning and for truth, cannot be “earned” with human work; he comes to us only as a gift of God’s love, as a work of God to be asked for and received.

Dear friends, on days that are busy and full of problems, but also on days of rest and relaxation, the Lord asks us not to forget that if it is necessary to be concerned about material bread and to replenish our strength, it is even more fundamental to develop our relationship with him, to reinforce our faith in the One who is the “bread of life” which satisfies our desire for truth and love. May the Virgin Mary, on the day on which we recall the dedication of the Basilica of St Mary Major in Rome, sustain us on our journey of faith. 

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