Monday, February 21, 2022

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

Entry 0331: Reflections on the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time 
Pope Benedict XVI 

On two occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 26 February 2006 and 27 February 2011. Here are the texts of the two brief reflections delivered on these occasions prior to the recitation of the Angelus.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel of Mark, which is the theme of the Sunday celebrations of this liturgical year, offers a catechumenal programme which guides the disciple to recognize Jesus as the Son of God.

By a fortunate coincidence, today’s Gospel passage touches on the topic of fasting:  as you know, next Wednesday the Lenten season begins, with the Rite of Ashes and penitential fasting. For this reason, the Gospel is particularly appropriate.

Indeed, it recounts how while Jesus was at table in the house of Levi, the publican, the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples asked why Jesus’ disciples were not fasting as they were. Jesus answered that wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them and that they will fast when the bridegroom is taken away from them (see Mk 2: 18, 20).

With these words, Christ reveals his identity of Messiah, Israel’s bridegroom, who came for the betrothal with his people. Those who recognize and welcome him are celebrating. However, he will have to be rejected and killed precisely by his own; at that moment, during his Passion and death, the hour of mourning and fasting will come.

As I mentioned, the Gospel episode anticipates the meaning of Lent. As a whole, it constitutes a great memorial of the Lord’s Passion in preparation for his Paschal Resurrection. During this season, we abstain from singing the “Alleluia” and we are asked to make appropriate penitential sacrifices.

The season of Lent should not be faced with an “old” spirit, as if it were a heavy and tedious obligation, but with the new spirit of those who have found the meaning of life in Jesus and in his Paschal Mystery and realize that henceforth everything must refer to him.

This was the attitude of the Apostle Paul who affirmed that he had left everything behind in order to know Christ and “the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he might] attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3: 10-11).

May our guide and teacher in our Lenten journey be Mary Most Holy, who followed Jesus with total faith when he set out with determination for Jerusalem, to suffer the Passion. She received like a “fresh skin” the “new wine” brought by the Son for the messianic betrothal (see Mk 2: 22). And so it was that the grace she requested with a motherly instinct for the spouses at Cana, she herself had first received beneath the Cross, poured out from the pierced Heart of the Son, an incarnation of God’s love for humanity (see Deus Caritas Est, nos. 13-15).



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

One of the most moving words of Sacred Scripture rings out in today’s Liturgy. The Holy Spirit has given it to us through the pen of the so-called “Second Isaiah”. To console Jerusalem, broken by misfortunes, he says: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Is 49:15). This invitation to trust in God’s steadfast love is juxtaposed with the equally evocative passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus urges his disciples to trust in the Providence of the heavenly Father, who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field and knows all our needs (see 6:24-34).

This is what the Teacher says: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘what shall we eat?’ or ‘what shall we wear?’. For the Gentiles seek all these things and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all”.

In the face of the situations of so many people, near and far, who live in wretchedness, Jesus’ discourse might appear hardly realistic, if not evasive. In fact, the Lord wants to make people understand clearly that it is impossible to serve two masters: God and mammon [riches]. Whoever believes in God, the Father full of love for his children, puts first the search for his Kingdom and his will. And this is precisely the opposite of fatalism or ingenuous irenics. Faith in Providence does not in fact dispense us from the difficult struggle for a dignified life but frees us from the yearning for things and from fear of the future.

It is clear that although Jesus’ teaching remains ever true and applicable for all it is practiced in different ways according to the different vocations: a Franciscan friar will be able to follow it more radically while a father of a family must bear in mind his proper duties to his wife and children. In every case, however, Christians are distinguished by their absolute trust in the heavenly Father, as was Jesus. It was precisely Christ’s relationship with God the Father that gave meaning to the whole of his life, to his words, to his acts of salvation until his Passion, death and Resurrection. Jesus showed us what it means to live with our feet firmly planted on the ground, attentive to the concrete situations of our neighbour yet at the same time keeping our heart in Heaven, immersed in God’s mercy.

Dear friends, in the light of the word of God of this Sunday I ask you to invoke the Virgin Mary with the title “Mother of divine Providence”. To her let us entrust our life, the journey of the Church and the events of history. In particular, let us invoke her intercession so that we may all learn to live in accordance with a simpler and more modest style, in daily hard work and with respect for creation, which God has entrusted to us for safekeeping. 

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