Monday, July 12, 2021

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

Entry 0289: Reflections on the Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 16h Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 17 July 2005, 23 July 2006, 22 July 2007, 20 July 2008, 19 July 2009, 18 July 2010, 17 July 2011, and 22 July 2012. Here are the texts of the eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.



Les Combes (Aosta Valley), Sunday, 17 July 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have been here for some days in the marvellous mountains of the Aosta Valley, where the memory of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II lives on; his stays here over the years were relaxing and invigorating. This summer break is a truly providential gift of God after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that divine Providence has entrusted to me. I warmly thank dear Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta, also the Metropolitan, dear Cardinal Poletto of Turin, and all who have made it possible, as well as those who with their discretion and generous self-denial have enabled everything to go smoothly. I am also grateful to the locals and the tourists for their cordial welcome.

In the world in which we live, the need to be physically and mentally replenished has become as it were essential, especially to those who dwell in cities where the often frenzied pace of life leaves little room for silence, reflection and relaxing contact with nature. Moreover, holidays are days on which we can give even more time to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life in the peaceful context of our own family and loved ones. The vacation period affords unique opportunities for reflection as we face the stirring views of nature, a marvellous “book” within the reach of everyone, adults or children. In contact with nature, individuals rediscover their proper dimension, they recognize that they are creatures but at the same time unique, “capable of God” since they are inwardly open to the Infinite. Driven by the heartfelt need for meaning that urges them onwards, they perceive the mark of goodness and divine Providence in the world that surrounds them and open themselves almost spontaneously to praise and prayer.

As we recite the Angelus together in this delightful Alpine spot, let us ask the Virgin Mary to teach us the secret of silence that becomes praise, of recollection that is conducive to meditation, of love for nature that blossoms in gratitude to God. Thus, we will more easily be able to welcome the light of the Truth into our hearts and practise it in freedom and love.



Les Combes (Aosta Valley), Sunday, 23 July 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thanks to you all for such a warm and cordial welcome. Thank you, Your Excellency [Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta], for your kind words, in which you mentioned that last Thursday, in the face of the worsening situation in the Middle East, I had convoked for this Sunday a special day of prayer and penance, inviting Pastors, faithful and all believers to implore the gift of peace from God.

I strongly renew my appeal to the Parties in conflict to immediately adopt a ceasefire, to permit the sending of humanitarian aid and to seek new ways with the support of the international community to begin negotiations.

I take this opportunity to reaffirm the right of the Lebanese to the integrity and sovereignty of their Country, the right of the Israelis to live in peace in their State and the right of Palestinians to possess a free and sovereign Homeland.

Furthermore, I am particularly close to the defenceless civilian populations, unjustly stricken in a conflict of which they are no more than victims: both those in Galilee who have been forced to live in shelters and the great multitude of Lebanese who are once again seeing their Country destroyed and have had to leave everything to seek safety elsewhere.

I raise a heartfelt prayer to God so that the aspiration to peace of the vast majority of the population will be realized as soon as possible through the unanimous commitment of those in charge.

I also renew my appeal to all charitable organizations to convey to those peoples the material expression of common solidarity.

Yesterday, we celebrated the liturgical Memorial of St Mary Magdalene, a disciple of the Lord who plays a lead role in the Gospels. St Luke lists her among the women who followed Jesus after being “healed of evil spirits and infirmities”, explaining that “seven demons had gone out” from her (Lk 8: 2).

Magdalene would be present beneath the Cross with the Mother of Jesus and other women. In the early morning on the first day after the Sabbath she was to be the one to discover the empty tomb, beside which she stood weeping until the Risen Jesus appeared to her (see Jn 20: 11).

The story of Mary of Magdala reminds us all of a fundamental truth: a disciple of Christ is one who, in the experience of human weakness, has had the humility to ask for his help, has been healed by him and has set out following closely after him, becoming a witness of the power of his merciful love that is stronger than sin and death.

Today, we are celebrating the Feast of St Bridget, one of the women Saints whom John Paul II proclaimed Patroness of Europe. St Bridget travelled from Sweden to Italy, lived in Rome and also went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. With her witness she speaks of openness to different peoples and civilizations. Let us ask her to help humanity today to create large spaces for peace. May she obtain from the Lord in particular peace in the Holy Land, for which she felt such deep affection and veneration.

I also entrust the whole of humanity to the power of divine love, as I invite everyone to pray that the beloved populations of the Middle East may be able to abandon the way of armed conflict and, with the daring of dialogue, build a just and lasting peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!



Lorenzago di Cadore (Belluno), Sunday, 22 July 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these days of rest which thanks to God I am spending here in Cadore, I feel even more acutely the sorrowful impact of the news I am receiving about the bloodshed from conflicts and the episodes of violence happening in so many parts of the world. This prompts me to reflect once again today on the drama of human freedom in the world.

The beauty of nature reminds us that we have been appointed by God to “tend and care for” this “garden” which is the earth (see Gn 2: 8-17), and I see that you truly tend and take care of this beautiful garden of God, a true paradise. So, when people live in peace with God and one another, the earth truly resembles a “paradise”.

Unfortunately, sin ruins ever anew this divine project, causing division and introducing death into the world. Thus, humanity succumbs to the temptations of the Evil One and wages war against itself. Patches of “hell” are consequently also created in this marvellous “garden” which is the world. In the midst of this beauty, we must never forget the situations in which our brothers and sisters at times find themselves.

War, with its aftermath of bereavement and destruction, has always been deemed a disaster in opposition to the plan of God, who created all things for existence and particularly wants to make the human race one family.

I cannot avoid here calling to mind a significant date: 1 August 1917 - exactly 90 years ago - on which my venerable Predecessor, Pope Benedict XV, addressed his famous Note to the Heads of Belligerent Peoples, calling for an end to the First World War (see AAS 9 [1917], 417-420). While that inhuman conflict was raging, the Pope had the courage to call it a “senseless slaughter”. His words are engraved in history. They were justified in the actual situation of that summer of 1917, especially on this Venetian front.

But these words, “senseless slaughter”, also contain a broader, more prophetic value and can be applied to many other conflicts that have struck down countless human lives. These very regions where we are, which themselves speak of peace, harmony and the Creator’s goodness, were the theatre of the First World War, as so many testimonies and several moving Alpine songs still recall. These events must not be forgotten! We must remember the negative experiences our forebears unfortunately suffered in order not to repeat them.

Pope Benedict XV’s Note was not limited to condemning the war; it also pointed out in a juridical perspective ways to build a just and lasting peace: the moral force of law, balanced and controlled disarmament, arbitration in disputes, the freedom of the seas, reciprocal amnesty for the costs of war, the restitution of occupied territories and fair negotiations to settle problems.

The Holy See’s proposal was oriented to the future of Europe and the world. It complied with a project that was Christian in inspiration but could be shared by all since it was based on the rights of peoples. This was the same structure to which the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II adhered in their memorable Discourses to the United Nations Assembly, repeating on the Church’s behalf: “War never again!”.

From this place of peace, where one is even more vividly aware of how unacceptable the horrors of “senseless slaughters” are, I renew my appeal to adhere tenaciously to the path of law, to consistently ban the arms race and, more generally, to reject the temptation to tackle new situations with old systems.

With these thoughts and hopes in my heart that this may always be, as it is now thanks be to God, a place of peace and hospitality, let us now raise a special prayer for peace in the world, entrusting it to Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace. I wish you all a good Sunday and good vacation. Thank you for everything!


(JULY 12 - 21, 2008)



Randwick Racecourse, Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dear Young Friends,

In the beautiful prayer that we are about to recite, we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.


(JULY 12 - 21, 2008)



Randwick Racecourse, Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dear Friends,

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8). We have seen this promise fulfilled! On the day of Pentecost, as we heard in the first reading, the Risen Lord, seated at the right hand of the Father, sent the Spirit upon the disciples gathered in the Upper Room. In the power of that Spirit, Peter and the Apostles went forth to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. In every age, and in every language, the Church throughout the world continues to proclaim the marvels of God and to call all nations and peoples to faith, hope and new life in Christ.

In these days I too have come, as the Successor of Saint Peter, to this magnificent land of Australia. I have come to confirm you, my young brothers and sisters, in your faith and to encourage you to open your hearts to the power of Christ’s Spirit and the richness of his gifts. I pray that this great assembly, which unites young people “from every nation under heaven” (see Acts 2:5), will be a new Upper Room. May the fire of God’s love descend to fill your hearts, unite you ever more fully to the Lord and his Church, and send you forth, a new generation of apostles, to bring the world to Christ!

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you”. These words of the Risen Lord have a special meaning for those young people who will be confirmed, sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, at today’s Mass. But they are also addressed to each of us – to all those who have received the Spirit’s gift of reconciliation and new life at Baptism, who have welcomed him into their hearts as their helper and guide at Confirmation, and who daily grow in his gifts of grace through the Holy Eucharist. At each Mass, in fact, the Holy Spirit descends anew, invoked by the solemn prayer of the Church, not only to transform our gifts of bread and wine into the Lord’s body and blood, but also to transform our lives, to make us, in his power, “one body, one spirit in Christ”.

But what is this “power” of the Holy Spirit? It is the power of God’s life! It is the power of the same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation and who, in the fullness of time, raised Jesus from the dead. It is the power which points us, and our world, towards the coming of the Kingdom of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims that a new age has begun, in which the Holy Spirit will be poured out upon all humanity (see Lk 4:21). He himself, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin May, came among us to bring us that Spirit. As the source of our new life in Christ, the Holy Spirit is also, in a very real way, the soul of the Church, the love which binds us to the Lord and one another, and the light which opens our eyes to see all around us the wonders of God’s grace.

Here in Australia, this “great south land of the Holy Spirit”, all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: “charged”, as the poet says, “with the grandeur of God”, filled with the glory of his creative love. Here too, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what she truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord.

The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life! Through the grace of the Church’s sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ. Saint Ignatius of Antioch, who died a martyr in Rome at the beginning of the second century, has left us a splendid description of the Spirit’s power dwelling within us. He spoke of the Spirit as a fountain of living water springing up within his heart and whispering: “Come, come to the Father” (see Ad Rom., 6:1-9).

Yet this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift. God’s love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires. That is why prayer is so important: daily prayer, private prayer in the quiet of our hearts and before the Blessed Sacrament, and liturgical prayer in the heart of the Church. Prayer is pure receptivity to God’s grace, love in action, communion with the Spirit who dwells within us, leading us, through Jesus, in the Church, to our heavenly Father. In the power of his Spirit, Jesus is always present in our hearts, quietly waiting for us to be still with him, to hear his voice, to abide in his love, and to receive “power from on high”, enabling us to be salt and light for our world.

At his Ascension, the Risen Lord told his disciples: “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Here, in Australia, let us thank the Lord for the gift of faith, which has come down to us like a treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the Church. Here, in Oceania, let us give thanks in a special way for all those heroic missionaries, dedicated priests and religious, Christian parents and grandparents, teachers and catechists who built up the Church in these lands witnesses like Blessed Mary MacKillop, Saint Peter Chanel, Blessed Peter To Rot, and so many others! The power of the Spirit, revealed in their lives, is still at work in the good they left behind, in the society which they shaped and which is being handed on to you.

Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?

The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God’s Kingdom. What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today’s Gospel! Saint Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God’s promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind. The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity (see Lk 4:18-19; Is 61:1-2). This power can create a new world: it can “renew the face of the earth” (see Ps 104:30)!

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (see Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.

The Church also needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that she can always be young in the Spirit (see Lumen Gentium, no. 4)! In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul reminds us that each and every Christian has received a gift meant for building up the Body of Christ. The Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Open your hearts to that power! I address this plea in a special way to those of you whom the Lord is calling to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Do not be afraid to say “yes” to Jesus, to find your joy in doing his will, giving yourself completely to the pursuit of holiness, and using all your talents in the service of others!

In a few moments, we will celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Spirit will descend upon the confirmands; they will be “sealed” with the gift of the Spirit and sent forth to be Christ’s witnesses. What does it mean to receive the “seal” of the Holy Spirit? It means being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation. For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being “baptized” in the one Spirit (see 1 Cor 12:13) means being set on fire with the love of God. Being “given to drink” of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord’s plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being “sealed with the Spirit” means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.

As we pray for the confirmands, let us ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will revive the grace of our own Confirmation. May he pour out his gifts in abundance on all present, on this city of Sydney, on this land of Australia and on all its people! May each of us be renewed in the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of wonder and awe in God’s presence!

Through the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, may this Twenty-third World Youth Day be experienced as a new Upper Room, from which all of us, burning with the fire and love of the Holy Spirit, go forth to proclaim the Risen Christ and to draw every heart to him! Amen.



Romano Canavese (Piedmont), Sunday, 19 July 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I have come to your beautiful town and your beautiful Church with great joy; it is the native town of my most important collaborator, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, with whom I formerly worked for years at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As you see, because of my accident, my movements are somewhat limited, but I am wholeheartedly present and among you with great joy!

At this moment I would like to say “thank you” with all my heart to you all. Many people have expressed their closeness, sympathy and affection for me and have prayed for me in this situation, and so the network of prayer that unites us in every part of the world has been strengthened. I would like first of all to thank the doctors and the medical personnel of Aosta who treated me with such care, with such competence and friendship and, in the end we hope! with success. I would also like to say “thank you” to the State and Church Authorities and to all the rest who have written to me or who have shown me their affection and closeness. Lastly, I would especially like to greet your Bishop and likewise Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, Bishop emeritus of this diocese. I greet the Mayor, who has given me a very beautiful gift, and the civil and military Authorities; I greet the parish priest and the other priests, the men and women religious, the leaders of the ecclesial associations and movements and all the citizens, with a special thought for the children, young people, families, the sick and the needy. To you all, each and every one, I extend my most heartfelt gratitude for making me so welcome in this short stay with you.

This morning you celebrated the Eucharist and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone must certainly have explained to you the word of God which the liturgy offers for our meditation on this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Just as the Lord asks the disciples to stay apart to listen to him in private, so I too would like to speak with you, recalling that it was precisely by listening to and welcoming the Gospel that your municipal community whose name recalls Canavese’s 2,000-year-old links with Rome came to life. As your Bishop said, very early on your region was bathed in the blood of martyrs, including St Solutor I must confess that until now I had never heard his name, but I am always grateful to become acquainted with new intercessor Saints after whom, together with St Peter the Apostle, your church is named. Your impressive parish church is an eloquent testimony of a long history of faith. It dominates a large part of the area of Canavese, whose people are well known for their predilection for hard work. Currently, however, I know that here too, in the district of Ivrea, many families are experiencing financial difficulty because of unemployment. I have spoken of this problem on various occasions, as your Bishop also mentioned, and I have now addressed it more deeply in the Encyclical Caritas in veritate. I hope that this will mobilize positive efforts to renew the world!

Dear friends, do not be downhearted! Providence always helps those who do good and who strive for justice. Providence helps all who think not only of themselves but also of those in worse situations. And you know this well, because lack of work also obliged your grandparents to emigrate. Then, however, financial development led to well-being and others immigrated here, from Italy and from abroad. The basic values of the family and respect for human life, sensitivity to social justice, the capacity to confront fatigue and sacrifice, the strong bond with Christian faith through parish life and especially participation in Holy Mass have been your real strength down the centuries. It will be these same values that enable today’s generations to build their future with hope, giving life to a truly supportive and fraternal society, in which all the various contexts, the institutions and the economy are imbued with a Gospel spirit. I address the youth in particular, whose educational prospective we must take into account. Dear young people, here, as everywhere, it is necessary to ask yourselves what type of culture is being presented to you, what examples and models are recommended to you, and to evaluate them to see whether they encourage you to follow the paths of the Gospel and of authentic freedom. Youth is resourceful but must be helped to overcome the temptations of easy and deceptive ways in order to find the road to a true and full life.

Dear brothers and sisters, in this land of yours, rich in Christian traditions and human values, numerous male and female vocations have flourished, particularly for the Salesian Family: like that of Cardinal Bertone, who was born precisely here in your parish. He was baptized in this church and grew up in a family in which he assimilated a genuine faith. Your diocese is deeply indebted to the sons and daughters of Don Bosco for their widespread and fertile presence throughout the region since the years when the Holy Founder was still alive. May this be a further encouragement to your diocesan community to work increasingly in the field of education and vocational guidance. For this let us invoke the protection of Mary, the Virgin of the Assumption, Patroness of the Diocese, Help of Christians, and our beloved Mother. She is venerated in a special way in the numerous shrines dedicated to her that are found in the mountains of the Gran Paradiso and the Plain of Lombardy. May her motherly presence indicate to you all the path of hope and lead you along it, like the star that guided the Holy Magi. May Our Lady of the Star watch over all of you from the hills that dominate Ivrea, Monte Stella [Star Mountain], dedicated to her and to the Three Kings. Let us now entrust ourselves to Our Lady, with filial confidence, invoking her with the prayer of the Angelus.



Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 18 July 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are now in the heart of summer, at least in the northern hemisphere. This is the period in which schools are closed and the greater part of the holidays are concentrated. Even the pastoral activities in parishes are reduced and I myself have suspended the Audiences for a while. It is therefore a favourable time to give priority to what is effectively most important in life, that is to say, listening to the word of the Lord. We are also reminded of this by this Sunday’s Gospel passage with the well known episode of Jesus’ visit to the house of Martha and Mary, recounted by St Luke (10: 38-42).

Martha and Mary are two sisters; they also have a brother, Lazarus, but he does not appear on this occasion. Jesus is passing through their village and, the text says, Martha received him at her home (see 10: 38). This detail enables us to understand that Martha is the elder of the two, the one in charge of the house. Indeed, when Jesus has been made comfortable, Mary sits at his feet and listens to him while Martha is totally absorbed by her many tasks, certainly due to the special Guest.

We seem to see the scene: one sister bustling about busily and the other, as it were, enraptured by the presence of the Teacher and by his words. A little later Martha, who is evidently resentful, can no longer resist and complains, even feeling that she has a right to criticize Jesus: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me”. Martha would even like to teach the Teacher! Jesus on the other hand answers her very calmly: “Martha, Martha”, and the repetition of her name expresses his affection, “you are anxious and troubled about many things; only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her” (10: 41-42). Christ’s words are quite clear: there is no contempt for active life, nor even less for generous hospitality; rather, a distinct reminder of the fact that the only really necessary thing is something else: listening to the word of the Lord; and the Lord is there at that moment, present in the Person of Jesus! All the rest will pass away and will be taken from us but the word of God is eternal and gives meaning to our daily actions.

Dear friends, as I said, this Gospel passage is more than ever in tune with the vacation period, because it recalls the fact that the human person must indeed work and be involved in domestic and professional occupations, but first and foremost needs God, who is the inner light of Love and Truth. Without love, even the most important activities lose their value and give no joy. Without a profound meaning, all our activities are reduced to sterile and unorganised activism. And who, if not Jesus Christ, gives us Love and Truth? Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us learn to help each other, to collaborate, but first of all to choose together the better part which is and always will be our greatest good.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 17 July 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel parables are brief accounts that Jesus uses to proclaim the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. Using imagery from situations of daily life, the Lord “wants to show us the real ground of all things.... He shows us... the God who acts, who intervenes in our lives, and wants to take us by the hand” (Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, English edition, Doubleday, 2007, p. 192).

With this kind of discourse the divine Teacher invites us to recognize first of all the primacy of God the Father: Wherever he is absent, nothing can be good. He is a crucial priority for all things. Kingdom of Heaven means, in fact, lordship of God and this means that his will must be adopted as the guiding criterion of our existence.

The subject of this Sunday’s Gospel is, precisely, the Kingdom of Heaven. “Heaven” should not be understood only in the sense that it towers above us, because this infinite space also takes the form of human interiority. Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a field of wheat to enable us to understand that something small and hidden has been sown within us which, nevertheless, has an irrepressible vital force. In spite of all obstacles, the seed will develop and the fruit will ripen. This fruit will only be good if the terrain of life is cultivated in accordance with the divine will.

For this reason in the Parable of the Weeds [tares] among the good Wheat (Mt 13:24-30). Jesus warns us that, after the owner had scattered the seed, “while men were sleeping, his enemy” intervened and sowed weeds among the wheat. This means that we must be ready to preserve the grace received from the day of our Baptism, continuing to nourish faith in the Lord that prevents evil from taking root. St Augustine commenting on the parable noted “many are at first tares but then become good grain”, and he added: “if these, when they are wicked, are not endured with patience they would not attain their praiseworthy transformation” (Quaest. septend. in Ev. sec. Matth., 12, 4: PL 35, 1371).

Dear friends, the Book of Wisdom — from which today’s First Reading is taken — emphasizes this dimension of the divine Being and states: “Neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all men.... For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all” (Wis 12:13, 16). And Psalm 86 [85] confirms it: “You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you” (v. 5).

Hence if we are children of such a great and good Father, let us seek to be like him! This was the aim Jesus set himself with his preaching; indeed, he said to those who were listening to him: “You... must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). Let us turn with trust to Mary, whom we invoked yesterday with the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel so that she may help us to follow Jesus faithfully, and so live as true children of God.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 22 July 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Word of God this Sunday presents us once again with a fundamental, ever fascinating theme of the Bible; it reminds us that God is the Shepherd of humanity. This means that God wants life for us, he wants to guide us to good pastures where we can be nourished and rest. He does not want us to be lost and to perish, but to reach the destination of our journey which is the fullness of life itself. This is what every father and mother desires for their children: their good, their happiness and their fulfilment.

In today’s Gospel Jesus presents himself as the Shepherd of the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He beholds the people, so to speak, with a “pastoral” gaze. For example, this Sunday’s Gospel says: As he disembarked, “he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34). Jesus embodies God the Shepherd with his manner of preaching and his works, caring for the sick and sinners, for those who are “lost” (see Lk 19:10), in order to bring them back to safety through the Father’s mercy.

Among the “lost sheep” that Jesus rescued there was also a woman called Mary, a native of the village of Magdala on the Sea of Galilee, who for this reason was known as “Magdalene”. It is her liturgical Memorial in the Church Calendar of today. Luke the Evangelist says that Jesus cast out seven demons from her (see Lk 8:2), that is, he saved her from total enslavement to the Evil One. In what does this profound healing which God works through Jesus consist? It consists in true, complete peace, brought about by the inner reconciliation of the person, as well as in every other relationship: with God, with other people and with the world. Indeed, the Evil One always seeks to spoil God’s work, sowing division in the human heart, between body and soul, between the individual and God, in interpersonal, social and international relations, as well as between human beings and creation. The Evil One sows discord; God creates peace. Indeed, as St Paul says, Christ is our peace, he who made us both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh (see Eph 2:14).

In order to carry out this work of radical reconciliation Jesus the Good Shepherd had to become a Lamb, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Only in this way could he keep the marvellous promise of the Psalm: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me / all the days of my life; / and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord / for ever” (Ps 23[22]:6).

Dear friends, these words make our heart beat fast for they express our deepest desire, they say what we are made for: life, eternal life! These are the words of those who, like Mary Magdalene, have experienced God in their life and know his peace. They are words truer than ever on the lips of the Virgin Mary, who already lives for eternity in the pastures of Heaven where the Shepherd-Lamb led her. Mary, Mother of Christ our peace, pray for us! 

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