Monday, July 20, 2020

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

Entry 0290: Reflections on the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 24 July 2005, 30 July 2006, 29 July 2007, 27 July 2008, 26 July 2009, 25 July 2010, 24 July 2011, and 29 July 2012. Here are the texts of eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus that the Pope delivered on these occasions.



Les Combes (Aosta Valley), Sunday, 24 July 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First of all, a word of cordial thanks to Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta for his words. He rightly spoke of the joy of this life, of the beauty of creatures and of the Creator, but he also mentioned suffering: we see violence, the power of hatred in the world, and suffer from it. Let us entrust all our sufferings and the sufferings of the world to the goodness of Our Lady. And let us also find strength in thinking of the great figures of the Saints who lived their lives in similar circumstances and show us the path to take.

Let us start with tomorrow’s Saint, the Apostle St James, John’s brother, who was the first martyr among the Apostles. He was one of the three closest to the Lord and took part in both the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor - with its beauty in which the splendor of the Lord’s divinity shone out - and the anguish, the distress of the Lord on the Mount of Olives. Thus, he also learned that to bear the burden of the world the Son of God experienced all our suffering and is in solidarity with us. You know that the relics [of St James] are venerated at the famous Shrine of Compostela in Galicia, Spain, the destination of numerous pilgrimages from every part of Europe. Yesterday, we commemorated St Bridget of Sweden, a Patroness of Europe. Last 11 July we celebrated St Benedict, another great Patron of the “Old Continent” and, as you know, my Patron since my election to the Petrine ministry. In looking at these Saints, it comes to us spontaneously, at this particular moment in history with all its problems, to reflect on the contribution that Christianity has made and is continuing to make to building Europe.

I would like to do so by thinking back to the pilgrimage in 1982 of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, to Santiago de Compostela, where he made a solemn “Declaration to Europe” (Address, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 9 November 1982, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 29 November, p. 6), in which he spoke these memorable words of the greatest timeliness which I now repeat: “I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents” (ibid., no. 4). John Paul II then introduced the project of a Europe conscious of its own spiritual unity, founded on the Christian values.

He returned to this topic on the occasion of the World Youth Day in 1989, which took place precisely in Santiago de Compostela. He said that he hoped for a Europe without borders that would renounce neither the Christian roots that gave it life nor the authentic humanism of Christ’s Gospel! (see Mass at the Marian Basilica of Covadonga, 21 August 1989, no. 6; L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 11 September, p. 5). How timely his appeal remains in the light of recent events on the Continent of Europe!

In less than a month, I too will be going on pilgrimage to a historic European cathedral, the Cathedral of Cologne, where young people will be gathering for their 20th World Youth Day. Let us pray that by drawing vitality from Christ the new generations will be the leaven of a renewed humanism in European societies in which faith and reason cooperate in fruitful dialogue for the advancement of human beings and the construction of true peace. Let us ask this of God through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who watches as Mother and Queen over all the nations as they journey on.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 30 July 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Two days ago, at the end of my stay in the Aosta Valley, I came directly here to Castel Gandolfo where I am planning to remain until the end of the summer, with a brief interruption in September for the Apostolic Journey to Bavaria.

I would first of all like to address my affectionate greeting to the ecclesial and civil community of this beautiful little town, which I am always very glad to visit.

I cordially thank the Bishop, the parish priest and the priests of Albano, as well as the Mayor, the Municipal Administration and the other civil Authorities. I address a special thought to the management and staff of the Pontifical Villas as well as to the police force, whom I thank for their valuable service.

In addition, I greet the numerous pilgrims who, with their warm presence, also contribute in the familiar atmosphere of the Summer Residence to highlighting the universal ecclesial horizon of our gathering for the Marian prayer.

At this time, I cannot but think of the increasingly grave and tragic situation which the Middle East is experiencing: hundreds of dead, numerous injured, a huge number of homeless people and evacuees, houses, towns and infrastructures destroyed, while in many hearts, hatred and the desire for revenge seems to be growing. This clearly shows that it is impossible to re-establish justice, create a new order and build authentic peace with recourse to violent means.

We see more than ever how prophetic and at the same time realistic the voice of the Church is when, in the face of wars and conflicts of every kind, she points out the path of truth, justice, love and freedom, as was said in Bl. Pope John XXIII’s immortal Encyclical, Pacem in Terris. Humanity must also take this path today if it is to attain the desired good of true peace.

In God’s Name, I appeal to all those responsible for this spiral of violence on all sides to lay down their weapons immediately! I ask Government Leaders and International Institutions to spare no efforts to obtain this necessary cessation of hostilities and thus, through dialogue, be able to begin building the lasting and stable coexistence of all the Middle Eastern peoples.

I invite people of good will to continue to intensify the shipment of humanitarian aid to those peoples, so sorely tried and in need. Especially, however, may every heart continue to raise trusting prayers to our good and merciful God so that he will grant his peace to that region and to the entire world.

Let us entrust this heartfelt plea to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace and Queen of Peace, so widely venerated in the Middle Eastern countries, where we hope we will soon see reigning that reconciliation for which the Lord Jesus offered his precious Blood.



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 29 July 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Having returned yesterday from Lorenzago, I am happy to be here again at Castel Gandolfo in the familiar atmosphere of this beautiful town, where I hope to pause, God willing, for a period of summer rest.

I feel the ardent desire to thank the Lord yet again for having been able to spend serene days in the Cadore mountains, and I am thankful to all those who efficiently organized my stay and carefully watched over it.

With equal affection I wish to greet and express my gratitude to you, dear pilgrims, and above all to you, dear citizens of Castel Gandolfo, who have welcomed me with your typical cordiality and have always discreetly accompanied me during the time I spend with you.

Last Sunday, recalling the “Note” that Pope Benedict XV addressed to the belligerent countries in the First World War on 1 August 90 years ago, I dwelled on the theme of peace.

Now a new occasion invites me to reflect on another important subject connected with this theme. Precisely today, in fact, is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Charter of the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, instituted with the mandate to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world” (art 2).

The Holy See, fully approving the goals of this Organization, is a member of it since its founding and continues to support its activity.

The epochal changes that have occurred in the last 50 years demonstrate how, in the difficult crossroads in which humanity finds itself, the commitment to encourage non-proliferation of nuclear arms, to promote a progressive and agreed upon nuclear disarmament and to support the use of peaceful and safe nuclear technology for authentic development, respecting the environment and ever mindful of the most disadvantaged populations, is always more present and urgent.

I therefore hope that the efforts of those who work with determination to bring about these three objectives may be achieved, with the goal that “[t]he resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor” (Message for the World Day of Peace 2006, L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 21/28 December 2005, nos. 51/52, p. 7).

It is also good on this occasion to repeat how: “In place of... the arms race, there must be substituted a common effort to mobilize resources toward objectives of moral, cultural and economic development, “redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values’“ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2438).

Again we entrust to the intercession of Mary Most Holy our prayer for peace, in particular so that scientific knowledge and technology are always applied with a sense of responsibility and for the common good, in full respect for international rights.

Let us pray so that men live in peace and that they may be as brothers, sons of one Father: God.



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 27 July 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I returned last Monday from Sydney, Australia, the venue of the 23rd World Youth Day. I still have this extraordinary experience in my eyes and heart, during which I experienced the youthful face of the Church: it was like a multicolored mosaic, formed by young men and women from all parts of the world, all gathered together in the one faith in Jesus Christ: “young pilgrims of the world”, as the people called them, using a beautiful expression that captures the essential in these international initiatives first made by John Paul II. In fact, these meetings form the stages of a great pilgrimage across the planet. They show that faith in Christ makes all of us children of the one Father who is in Heaven, and builders of the civilization of love.

A characteristic of the Sydney meeting was the awareness of the centrality of the Holy Spirit, the protagonist of the life of the Church and the Christian. The long process of preparation in the particular Churches followed the theme of the promise that the Risen Christ made to the Apostles: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1: 8). On 16, 17 and 18 July, the numerous Bishops present exercised their ministry in Sydney’s churches, offering catecheses in the various languages: these catecheses are moments of reflection and recollection, indispensable so that the event does not remain merely an external expression but leaves a deep mark on consciences. The evening Vigil, in the heart of the city under the Southern Cross, was a unanimous invocation of the Holy Spirit; and at the end, during the great Eucharistic celebration last Sunday, I administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 24 young people from various continents, 14 of whom were Australian, inviting everyone present to renew their baptismal promises. This World Youth Day was thus transformed into a new Pentecost, from which began the mission of the youth, called to be apostles of their peers, as were so many Saints and Blesseds - and in particular, Bl. Piergiorgio Frassati - whose relics, which had been brought to Sydney Cathedral, were venerated by an uninterrupted stream of young pilgrims. Every young man and woman was invited to follow their example, to share their personal experience of Jesus, who changes the life of his “friends” with the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God’s love.

Today I want to thank once again the Bishops of Australia and, in particular, the Archbishop of Sydney, for their hard work of preparation and for the warm welcome they gave me and all the other pilgrims. I thank the Australian civil authorities for their precious collaboration. I extend my special thanks to all of those who, in every part of the world, prayed for this event, assuring its success. May the Virgin Mary repay each one with the most beautiful graces. I also entrust to Mary the period of rest that, I shall, from tomorrow, be spending in Bressanone, in the mountains of the Alto Adige. Let us remain united in prayer!



Les Combes (Val D’Aosta), Sunday, 26 July 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish you all a good Sunday! We are meeting here in Les Combes near the hospitable house, which the Salesians have put at the Pope’s disposal, where I am coming to the end of a period of rest among the beautiful mountains of Val D’Aosta. I thank God who has given me the joy of these days marked by true relaxation despite the small accident which is well-known to you and also visible! I take this opportunity to thank affectionately all those who have attended to me with discretion and great dedication. I greet Cardinal Poletto and the other Bishops present, in particular Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta, whom I thank for the kind words he addressed to me. I cordially greet the parish priest of Les Combes, the civil and military Authorities, the forces of law and order, and all of you, dear friends, along with those who are following us via radio and television.

Today, on this splendid Sunday, as the Lord shows us all the beauty of his Creation, the liturgy provides us with the Gospel passage at the beginning of Chapter Six of John’s Gospel. It contains, first of all, the miracle of the loaves - when Jesus fed thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish; then, the Lord’s miracle when he walks on the waters of the lake during a storm; and finally, the discourse in which he reveals himself as “the Bread of Life”. In recounting the “sign” of bread, the Evangelist emphasizes that Christ, before distributing the food, blessed it with a prayer of thanksgiving (see v. 11). The Greek term used is eucharistein and it refers directly to the Last Supper, though, in fact, John refers here not to the institution of the Eucharist but to the washing of the feet. The Eucharist is mentioned here in anticipation of the great symbol of the Bread of Life. In this Year for Priests, how can we fail to recall that we priests, especially, may see ourselves reflected in this Johannine text, identifying ourselves with the Apostles when they say: Where can we find bread for all these people? Reading about that unknown boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, we too spontaneously say: But what are they for such a multitude? In other words: Who am I? How can I, with my limitations, help Jesus in his mission? And the Lord gives the answer: By taking in his “holy and venerable” hands the little that they are, priests, we priests, become instruments of salvation for many, for everyone!

A second point for reflection comes from today’s liturgical commemoration of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of Our Lady, and therefore, grandparents of Jesus. This occasion makes us think of the subject of education which has an important place in the pastoral work of the Church. In particular, it invites us to pray for grandparents, who, in the family, are the depositories and often witnesses of the fundamental values of life. The educational task of grandparents is always very important, and it becomes even more so when, for various reasons, the parents are unable to provide their children with an adequate presence while they are growing up. I entrust to the protection of St Anne and St Joachim all the grandparents of the world and bestow on them a special blessing. May the Virgin Mary who according to a beautiful iconography - learned to read the Sacred Scriptures at her mother Anne’s knee, help them always to nourish their faith and hope at the sources of the Word of God.



Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 25 July 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel presents Jesus to us absorbed in prayer, a little apart from his disciples. When he had finished, one of them said to him: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Lk 11: 1). Jesus had no objection, he did not speak of strange or esoteric formulas but very simply said: “When you pray, say: “Father’ “, and he taught the Our Father (see Lk 11: 2-4), taking it from his own prayer in which he himself spoke to God, his Father. St Luke passes the Our Father on to us in a shorter form than that found in the Gospel according to St Matthew, which has entered into common usage. We have before us the first words of Sacred Scripture that we learn in childhood. They are impressed in our memory, mould our life and accompany us to our last breath. They reveal that “we are not ready-made children of God from the start, but that we are meant to become so increasingly by growing more and more deeply in communion with Jesus. Our sonship turns out to be identical with following Christ” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth [English translation], Doubleday, 2007, p. 138).

This prayer also accepts and expresses human material and spiritual needs: “Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins” (Lk 11: 3-4). It is precisely because of the needs and difficulties of every day that Jesus exhorts us forcefully: “I tell you, ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Lk 11: 9-10). It is not so much asking in order to satisfy our own desires as, rather, to keep a lively friendship with God who, the Gospel continues, “will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11: 13). The ancient “Desert Fathers” experienced this, as did contemplatives of all epochs who became, through prayer, friends of God, like Abraham who begged the Lord to spare the few righteous from the destruction of the city of Sodom (see Gen 18: 21-32). St Teresa of Avila addressed an invitation to her sisters with the words: we must “beseech God to deliver us from these perils for ever and to keep us from all evil! And although our desire for this may not be perfect, let us strive to make the petition. What does it cost us to ask it, since we ask it of One who is so powerful?” (Cammino, 60 (34), 4, in Opere complete, Milan 1998, p. 846) [title in English: The Way of Perfection]. Every time we say the Our Father our voices mingle with the voice of the Church, for those who pray are never alone. “From the rich variety of Christian prayer as proposed by the Church, each member of the faithful should seek and find his own way, his own form of prayer... each person will, therefore, let himself be led... by the Holy Spirit, who guides him, through Christ, to the Father” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation, 15 October 1989, no. 29; L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 2 January 1990, p. 10).

Today is the Feast of the Apostle St James, known as “the Greater”, who left his father and his work as a fisherman to follow Jesus and to give his life for him he was the first of the Apostles to do so. I warmly extend a special thought to the large numbers of pilgrims who have gone to Santiago de Compostela! May the Virgin Mary help us to rediscover the beauty and depth of Christian prayer.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 24 July 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in the liturgy, the Old Testament Reading presents to us the figure of King Solomon, the son and successor of David. It presents him at the beginning of his reign, when he was still very young. Solomon inherited a very demanding task and the responsibility that lay heavily on his shoulders was great for a young king. He first of all offered God a solemn sacrifice, “a thousand burnt offerings”, as the Bible says. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and promised to grant him what he asked in prayer. And here we see the greatness of Solomon’s soul. He did not ask for a long life, nor wealth, nor the elimination of his enemies; instead he said to the Lord: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kings 3:9). And the Lord heard him, so that Solomon became famous throughout the world for his wisdom and his right judgments.

Therefore he prayed God to grant him “an understanding heart”. What do these words mean? We know that the “heart” in the Bible does not only indicate a part of the body, but also the centre of the person, the seat of his intentions and opinions. We might say: the conscience. Thus an “understanding heart” means a conscience that knows how to listen, that is sensitive to the voice of truth and for this reason can discern right from wrong.

In Solomon’s case, the request was motivated by the responsibility of leading a nation, Israel, the people whom God chose to show the world his plan of salvation. The King of Israel, therefore, had to try always to be in tune with God, listening to his word, in order to guide the people on the paths of the Lord, the path of justice and of peace.

However, Solomon’s example is valid for every person. Each one of us has a conscience so as to be, in a certain way, “king”, that is, to exercise the great human dignity of acting in accordance with an upright conscience, doing what is right and avoiding wrong.

The moral conscience presupposes the ability to hear the voice of truth and to be docile to its indications. People who are called to the task of government naturally have a further responsibility and, therefore — as Solomon teaches — are in even greater need of God’s help. Yet each one has his own part to play, in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. An erroneous mentality suggests to us that we ask God for favorable things or conditions; in fact, the true quality of our life and of social life depends on the upright conscience of each one, on the capacity of one and all to recognize right, separating it from wrong and seeking patiently to put it into practice, thereby contributing to justice and to peace.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, for help in this. Her “heart” was perfectly docile to the Lord’s will. Even though she was a humble and simple person, Mary was a queen in God’s eyes, and we venerate her as such. May the Blessed Virgin help us to form in ourselves, with God’s grace, a conscience ever open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday we began by reading Chapter six of John’s Gospel. The chapter opens with the scene of the multiplication of the loaves, which Jesus later comments on in the Synagogue of Capernaum, pointing to himself as the “bread” which gives life. Jesus’ actions are on a par with those of the Last Supper. He “took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated”, the Gospel says (Jn 6:11). The insistence on the topic of “bread”, which is shared out, and on thanksgiving (v. 11, in Greek eucharistesas), recall the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice for the world’s salvation.

The Evangelist observes that the Feast of the Passover is already at hand (see v. 4). His gaze is turned to the Cross, the gift of love, and to the Eucharist, the perpetuation of this gift: Christ makes himself the Bread of Life for humankind. St Augustine comments: “Who is the Bread of heaven, but Christ? But in order that man might eat Angels’ Bread, the Lord of Angels was made Man. For if he had not been made Man, we should not have his Flesh; if we had not his Flesh, we should not eat the Bread of the Altar” (Sermon 130, 2). The Eucharist is the human being’s ongoing, important encounter with God in which the Lord makes himself our food and gives himself to transform us into him.

A boy’s presence is also mentioned in the scene of the multiplication. On perceiving the problem of feeding so many hungry people, he shared the little he had brought with him: five loaves and two fish (see Jn 6:9). The miracle was not worked from nothing, but from a first modest sharing of what a simple lad had brought with him. Jesus does not ask us for what we do not have. Rather, he makes us see that if each person offers the little he has the miracle can always be repeated: God is capable of multiplying our small acts of love and making us share in his gift.

The crowd was impressed by the miracle: it sees in Jesus the new Moses, worthy of power, and in the new manna, the future guaranteed. However the people stopped at the material element, which they had eaten, and the Lord “perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king... withdrew again to the hills by himself” (Jn 6:15). Jesus is not an earthly king who exercises dominion but a king who serves, who stoops down to human beings not only to satisfy their physical hunger, but above all their deeper hunger, the hunger for guidance, meaning and truth, the hunger for God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to enable us to rediscover the importance of feeding ourselves not only on bread but also on truth, on love, on Christ, on Christ’s Body, taking part faithfully and with profound awareness in the Eucharist so as to be ever more closely united with him. Indeed, “It is not the Eucharistic food that is changed into us, but rather we who are mysteriously transformed by it. Christ nourishes us by uniting us to himself; “he draws us into himself” (Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 70).

Let us pray at the same time that the bread necessary for a dignified life may never be lacking and that inequalities may be demolished, not with the weapons of violence but rather with sharing and with love.

Let us entrust ourselves to the Virgin Mary, as we invoke her motherly intercession upon ourselves and upon our loved ones. 

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