Monday, August 8, 2022

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

Entry 0294: Reflections on the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary 

Time by Pope Benedict XVI 

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 14 August 2005, 20 August 2006, 19 August 2007, 17 August 2008, 16 August 2009, 15 August 2010, 14 August 2011, and 19 August 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 14 August 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, the liturgy presents a rare example of faith to us: a Canaanite woman who asks Jesus to heal her daughter who was “terribly troubled by a demon”. The Lord resisted her insistent entreaties and seemed impervious to them even when the disciples themselves interceded for her, as the Evangelist Matthew relates.

In the end, however, confronted by the perseverance and humility of this unknown woman, Jesus consented: “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass” (see Mt 15: 21-28).

“Woman, you have great faith!”. Jesus singles out this humble woman as an example of indomitable faith.

Her insistence in imploring Christ’s intervention is an encouragement to us never to lose heart and not to despair, even in the harshest trials of life.

The Lord does not close his eyes to the needs of his children, and if he seems at times insensitive to their requests, it is only in order to test them and to temper their faith.

This is the witness of saints, this is especially the witness of martyrs, closely associated with the redeeming sacrifice of Christ.

In recent days, we have commemorated some of them: the Pontiffs, Pontianus and Sixtus II, the priest Hippolytus, Lawrence the Deacon with his companions, killed in Rome at the dawn of Christianity.

We have also commemorated a martyr of our time, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, Co-Patroness of Europe, who died in a concentration camp; and on this very day the liturgy presents to us a martyr of charity who sealed his witness of love for Christ in the bunker of starvation at Auschwitz: St Maximilian Maria Kolbe, who willingly sacrificed himself in place of a father with a family.

I invite every baptized person and especially the young people who will be taking part in World Youth Day to look at this shining example of Gospel heroism. I invoke upon them all their protection and in particular, that of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who spent several years of her life at the Carmelite convent in Cologne.

May Mary, Queen of Martyrs, whom we will contemplate tomorrow in her glorious Assumption into Heaven, watch over each one.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 20 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the calendar mentions among the day’s saints Bernard of Clairvaux, a great Doctor of the Church who lived between the 11th and 12th centuries (1091-1153). His example and teachings are proving more useful than ever, even in our time.

Having withdrawn from the world after a period of intense inner travail, he was elected abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Clairvaux at age 25, remaining its guide for 38 years until his death. His dedication to silence and contemplation did not prevent him from carrying out intense apostolic activity.

He was also exemplary in his commitment to battle against his impetuous temperament, as well as his humility by which he recognized his own limitations and shortcomings.

The riches and merits of his theology do not lie in having taken new paths, but rather in being able to propose the truths of the faith in a style so clear and incisive that it fascinated those listening and prepared their souls for recollection and prayer. In every one of his writings, one senses the echo of a rich interior experience, which he succeeded in communicating to others with a surprising capacity for persuasion.

For him, love is the greatest strength of the spiritual life. God, who is love, creates man out of love and out of love redeems him. The salvation of all human beings, mortally wounded by original sin and burdened by personal sins, consists in being firmly attached to divine love which was fully revealed to us in Christ Crucified and Risen.

In his love, God heals our will and our sick understanding, raising them to the highest degree of union with him, that is, to holiness and mystical union. St Bernard deals with this, among other things, in his brief but substantial Liber de Diligendo Deo.

There is then another writing of his that I would like to point out, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugene III. Here, in this very personal book, the dominant theme is the importance of inner recollection - and he tells this to the Pope -, an essential element of piety.

It is necessary, the Saint observes, to beware of the dangers of excessive activity whatever one’s condition and office, because, as he said to the Pope of that time and to all Popes, to all of us, many occupations frequently lead to “hardness of heart”, “they are none other than suffering of spirit, loss of understanding, dispersion of grace” (II, 3).

This warning applies to every kind of occupation, even those inherent in the government of the Church. In this regard, Bernard addresses provocative words to the Pontiff, a former disciple of his at Clairvaux: “See”, he writes, “where these accursed occupations can lead you, if you continue to lose yourself in them... without leaving anything of yourself to yourself” (ibid).

How useful this appeal to the primacy of prayer and contemplation is also for us! May we too be helped to put this into practice in our lives by St Bernard, who knew how to harmonize the monk’s aspiration to the solitude and tranquillity of the cloister with the pressing needs of important and complex missions at the service of the Church.

Let us entrust this desire, not easy to find, that is, the equilibrium between interiority and necessary work, to the intercession of Our Lady, whom he loved from childhood with such a tender and filial devotion as to deserve the title: “Marian Doctor”. Let us now invoke her so that she may obtain the gift of true and lasting peace for the whole world.

In one of his famous discourses, St Bernard compares Mary to the Star that navigators seek so as not to lose their course: “Whoever you are who perceive yourself during this mortal existence to be drifting in treacherous waters at the mercy of the winds and the waves rather than walking on firm ground, turn your eyes not away from the splendour of this guiding star, unless you wish to be submerged by the storm!... Look at the star, call upon Mary.... With her for a guide, you will never go astray; ...under her protection, you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you will not grow weary; if she shows you favour you will reach the goal (Hom. Super Missus Est, II, 17).



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 19 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel there is an expression of Jesus that always attracts our attention and needs to be properly understood.

While he is on his way to Jerusalem, where death on a cross awaits him, Christ asked his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division”. And he adds: “[H]enceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Lk 12: 51-53).

Anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of Christ’s Gospel knows that it is a message of peace par excellence; as St Paul wrote, Jesus himself “is our peace” (Eph 2: 14), the One who died and rose in order to pull down the wall of enmity and inaugurate the Kingdom of God which is love, joy and peace.

So how can his words be explained? To what was the Lord referring when he said he had come - according to St Luke’s version - to bring “division” or - according to St Matthew’s - the “sword” (Mt 10: 34)?

Christ’s words mean that the peace he came to bring us is not synonymous with the mere absence of conflicts. On the contrary, Jesus’ peace is the result of a constant battle against evil. The fight that Jesus is determined to support is not against human beings or human powers, but against Satan, the enemy of God and man.

Anyone who desires to resist this enemy by remaining faithful to God and to good, must necessarily confront misunderstandings and sometimes real persecutions.

All, therefore, who intend to follow Jesus and to commit themselves without compromise to the truth, must know that they will encounter opposition and that in spite of themselves they will become a sign of division between people, even in their own families. In fact, love for one’s parents is a holy commandment, but to be lived authentically it can never take precedence over love for God and love for Christ.

Thus, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus, in accordance with St Francis of Assisi’s famous words, Christians become “instruments of peace”; not of a peace that is inconsistent and only apparent but one that is real, pursued with courage and tenacity in the daily commitment to overcome evil with good (see Rom 12: 21) and paying in person the price that this entails.

The Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, shared until his martyrdom her Son Jesus’ fight with the Devil and continues to share in it to the end of time. Let us invoke her motherly intercession so that she may help us always to be witnesses of Christ’s peace and never to sink so low as to make compromises with evil.



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 17 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the liturgy offers to us for reflection the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him... these will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer... for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56: 6-7). In the Second Reading the Apostle Paul also refers to the universality of salvation, as does the Gospel passage that recounts the episode of the Canaanite woman, a foreigner for the Jews, whose wish was granted by Jesus because of her great faith. The Word of God thus gives us an opportunity to reflect on the universality of the mission of the Church which is made up of people of every race and culture. From precisely this stems the great responsibility of the ecclesial community which is called to be a hospitable home for all, a sign and instrument of communion for the entire human family.

How important it is, especially in our time, that every Christian community increasingly deepens its awareness of this in order also to help civil society overcome every possible temptation to give into racism, intolerance and exclusion and to make decisions that respect the dignity of every human being! One of humanity’s great achievements is in fact its triumph over racism. However, unfortunately disturbing new forms of racism are being manifested in various Countries. They are often related to social and economic problems which can, however, never justify contempt and racial discrimination. Let us pray that respect for every person everywhere will increase, together with a responsible awareness that only in the reciprocal acceptance of one and all is it possible to build a world distinguished by authentic justice and true peace.

Today, I would like to suggest another prayer intention, given the current news of numerous serious road accidents - especially in this period. We must not resign ourselves to this sad reality! Human life is too precious a good and death or incapacitation by causes which in most cases could have been avoided is most unworthy of man. A greater sense of responsibility is certainly essential, first and foremost on the part of drivers since accidents are often due to excessive speed or rash conduct. Driving a vehicle on public roads demands a moral and a civic sense. To encourage the latter, the constant work of prevention, watchfulness and penalization by the authorities in charge is indispensable. On the other hand, we as Church feel directly challenged on the ethical level: Christians must first of all make a personal examination of conscience regarding their own behaviour as car-drivers. Furthermore, may communities teach every man and woman to consider driving as another area in which to defend life and put love of neighbour into practice.

Let us entrust the social problems I have mentioned to the motherly intercession of Mary, whom we shall now call upon together with the recitation of the Angelus.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 16 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of Mary taken up into Heaven, and today we read these words of Jesus in the Gospel: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6: 51).

One cannot but be struck by this parallel that rotates around the symbol of “Heaven”: Mary was “taken up” to the very place from which her Son had “come down”. Of course, this language, which is biblical, expresses in figurative terms something that never completely coincides with the world of our own concepts and images. But let us pause for a moment to think! Jesus presents himself as the “living bread”, that is, the food which contains the life of God itself which it can communicate to those who eat it, the true nourishment that gives life, which is really and deeply nourishing. Jesus says: “if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6: 51). Well, from whom did the Son of God take his “flesh”, his actual, earthly humanity? He took it from the Virgin Mary. In order to enter our mortal condition, God took from her a human body. In turn, at the end of her earthly life, the Virgin’s body was taken up into Heaven by God and brought to enter the heavenly condition. It is a sort of exchange in which God always takes the full initiative but, in a certain sense, as we have seen on other occasions, he also needs Mary, her “yes” as a creature, her very flesh, her actual existence, in order to prepare the matter for his sacrifice: the Body and the Blood, to offer them on the Cross as a means of eternal life and, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, as spiritual food and drink.

Dear brothers and sisters, what happened in Mary also applies in ways that are different yet real to every man and to every woman because God asks each one of us to welcome him, to put at his disposal our heart and our body, our entire existence, our flesh the Bible says so that he may dwell in the world. He calls us to be united with him in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Bread broken for the life of the world, to form together the Church, his Body in history. And if we say “yes”, like Mary, indeed to the extent of our “yes”, this mysterious exchange is also brought about for us and in us. We are taken up into the divinity of the One who took on our humanity. The Eucharist is the means, the instrument of this reciprocal transformation which always has God as its goal, and as the main actor. He is the Head and we are the limbs, he is the Vine and we the branches. Whoever eats of this Bread and lives in communion with Jesus, letting himself be transformed by him and in him, is saved from eternal death: naturally he dies like everyone and also shares in the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, but he is no longer a slave to death and will rise on the Last Day to enjoy the eternal celebration together with Mary and with all the Saints.

This mystery, this celebration of God, begins here below: it is the mystery of faith, hope and love that is celebrated in life and in the liturgy, especially that of the Eucharist, and is expressed in fraternal communion and in service for our neighbour. Let us pray the Blessed Virgin to help us always to nourish ourselves faithfully with the Bread of eternal life, so that, already on this earth, we may experience the joy of Heaven.




Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, on the Solemnity of the Assumption into Heaven of the Mother of God, we celebrate the passage from the earthly condition to heavenly blessedness of the One who engendered in the flesh and received in faith the Lord of Life. The veneration of the Virgin Mary has accompanied the path of the Church from the beginning; Marian feast days began to appear already in the fourth century: in some the role of the Virgin in the History of Salvation is exalted; in others the principal moments of her earthly life are celebrated. The meaning of today’s Feast is contained in the final words of the dogmatic definition, proclaimed by Venerable Pius XII on 1 November 1950, the 60th anniversary of which is celebrated this year: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the Ever Virgin, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus, AAS 44 [1950], 770).

Artists of every epoch have painted and sculpted the sanctity of the Lord’s Mother adorning churches and shrines. Poets, writers and musicians have paid tribute to the Virgin with liturgical hymns and songs. From the East to the West the All Holy is invoked as Heavenly Mother, who holds the Son of God in her arms and under whose protection the whole of humanity finds refuge, with the very ancient prayer, “We shelter under your protection, Holy Mother of God: despise not our petitions in our needs, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and Blessed Virgin”.

And in the Gospel of today’s Solemnity, St Luke describes the fulfilment of Salvation through the Virgin Mary. She, in whose womb the Almighty became small, after the Angel’s announcement, without any hesitation, makes haste to visit to her cousin Elizabeth to bring to her the Saviour of the world. And, in fact, “when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and [she] was filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1: 41). She recognized the Mother of God in the One “who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1: 45). The two women, who were waiting for the fulfilment of the Divine Promises, had already a foretaste of the joy of the coming of the Kingdom of God, the joy of Salvation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us trust in the One who as the Servant of God Paul VI affirmed “having been assumed into Heaven, she has not abandoned her mission of intercession and salvation” (Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus, no. 18). To her, guide of the Apostles, support of Martyrs, light of the Saints, let us address our prayers, imploring that she accompany us in this earthly life, that she help us look to Heaven and that she welcome us one day together with her Son Jesus.



St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 15 August 2010

Your Eminence, Your Excellency, Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the Church is celebrating one of the most important feasts of the Liturgical Year dedicated to Mary Most Holy: the Assumption. At the end of her earthly life Mary was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven, that is, into the glory of eternal life, into full and perfect communion with God.

It is 60 years since Venerable Pope Pius XII, on 1 November 1950, solemnly defined this Dogma and although it is somewhat complicated I would like to read the formula of dogmatization. The Pope says: “Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of Heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendour at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, no. 40, 1950).

This then is the nucleus of our faith in the Assumption: we believe that Mary, like Christ her Son, overcame death and is already triumphant in heavenly glory, in the totality of her being, “in body and soul”.

In today’s Second Reading St Paul helps us to shed a little more light on this mystery starting from the central event of human history and of our faith: that is, the event of Christ’s Resurrection which is “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Immersed in his Paschal Mystery, we are enabled to share in his victory over sin and death. Here lies the startling secret and key reality of the whole human saga. St Paul tells us that we are “incorporated” Adam, the first man and the old man, that we all possess the same human heritage to which belong suffering, death and sin. But every day adds something new to this reality that we can all see and live: not only are we part of this heritage of the one human being that began with Adam but we are also “incorporated” in the new man, in the Risen Christ, and thus the life of the Resurrection is already present in us. Therefore this first biological “incorporation” is incorporation into death, it is an incorporation that generates death. The second, new “incorporation”, that is given to us in Baptism is an “incorporation” that gives life. Again, I cite today’s Second Reading: St Paul says: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the first fruits, then at his coming, those who belong to Christ” (1 Cor 15: 21-24).

Now, what St Paul says of all human beings the Church in her infallible Magisterium says of Mary in a precise and clear manner: the Mother of God is so deeply integrated into Christ’s Mystery that at the end of her earthly life she already participates with her whole self in her Son’s Resurrection. She lives what we await at the end of time when the “last enemy” death will have been destroyed (see 1 Cor 15: 26); she already lives what we proclaim in the Creed: “We look for the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”.

We can then ask ourselves: what are the roots of this victory over death wonderfully anticipated in Mary? Its roots are in the faith of the Virgin of Nazareth, as the Gospel passage we have heard testifies (Lk 1: 39-56): a faith that is obedience to the word of God and total abandonment to the divine action and initiative, in accordance with what the Archangel announced to her. Faith, therefore, is Mary’s greatness, as Elizabeth joyfully proclaims: Mary is “blessed among women” and “blessed is the fruit of [her] womb”, for she is Mother of the Lord” because she believed and lived uniquely the “first” of the Beatitudes, the Beatitude of faith. Elizabeth confesses it in her joy and in that of her child who leaps in her womb: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (v. 45). Dear friends, let us not limit ourselves to admiring Mary in her destiny of glory, as a person very remote from us. No! We are called to look at all that the Lord, in his love, wanted to do for us too, for our final destiny: to live through faith in a perfect communion of love with him and hence to live truly.

In this regard I would like to reflect on an aspect of the affirmation of the dogma where assumption into heavenly glory is mentioned. All of us today are well aware that by the term “Heaven” we are not referring to somewhere in the universe, to a star or such like; no. We mean something far greater and far more difficult to define with our limited human conceptions. With this term “Heaven” we wish to say that God, the God who made himself close to us, does not abandon us in or after death but keeps a place for us and gives us eternity. We mean that in God there is room for us. To understand this reality a little better let us look at our own lives. We all experience that when people die they continue to exist, in a certain way, in the memory and heart of those who knew and loved them. We might say that a part of the person lives on in them but it resembles a “shadow” because this survival in the heart of their loved ones is destined to end. God, on the contrary, never passes away and we all exist by virtue of his love. We exist because he loves us, because he conceived of us and called us to life. We exist in God’s thoughts and in God’s love. We exist in the whole of our reality, not only in our “shadow”. Our serenity, our hope and our peace are based precisely on this: in God, in his thoughts and in his love, it is not merely a “shadow” of ourselves that survives but rather we are preserved and ushered into eternity with the whole of our being in him, in his creator love. It is his Love that triumphs over death and gives us eternity and it is this love that we call “Heaven”: God is so great that he also makes room for us. And Jesus the man, who at the same time is God, is the guarantee for us that the being-man and the being-God can exist and live, the one within the other, for eternity.

This means that not only a part of each one of us will continue to exist, as it were pulled to safety, while other parts fall into ruin; on the contrary it means that God knows and loves the whole of the human being, what we are. And God welcomes into his eternity what is developing and becoming now, in our life made up of suffering and love, of hope, joy and sorrow. The whole of man, the whole of his life, is taken by God and, purified in him, receives eternity. Dear Friends! I think this is a truth that should fill us with deep joy. Christianity does not proclaim merely some salvation of the soul in a vague afterlife in which all that is precious and dear to us in this world would be eliminated, but promises eternal life, “the life of the world to come”. Nothing that is precious and dear to us will fall into ruin; rather, it will find fullness in God. Every hair of our head is counted, Jesus said one day (see Mt 10: 30). The definitive world will also be the fulfilment of this earth, as St Paul says: “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8: 21). Then we understand that Christianity imparts a strong hope in a bright future and paves the way to the realization of this future. We are called, precisely as Christians, to build this new world, to work so that, one day, it may become the “world of God”, a world that will surpass all that we ourselves have been able to build. In Mary taken up into Heaven, who fully shares in the Resurrection of the Son, we contemplate the fulfilment of the human creature in accordance with “God’s world”.

Let us pray the Lord that he will enable us to understand how precious in his eyes is the whole of our life; may he strengthen our faith in eternal life; make us people of hope who work to build a world open to God, people full of joy who can glimpse the beauty of the future world amidst the worries of daily life and in this certainty live, believe and hope. Amen!



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 14 August 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel passage begins by indicating the district to which Jesus was going: Tyre and Sidon, to the north-west of Galilee, a pagan land. And it was here that he met a Canaanite woman who spoke to him, asking him to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon (see Mt 15:22).

In her supplication we can already discern the beginning of a journey of faith, which in her conversation with the divine Teacher grows and becomes stronger.

The woman was not afraid to cry to Jesus “Have mercy on me”, an expression that recurs in the Psalms (see 50:1), she calls him “Lord” and “Son of David” (see Mt 15:22), thus showing a firm hope of being heard. What was the Lord’s attitude to this cry of anguish from a pagan woman?

Jesus’ silence may seem disconcerting, to the point that it prompted the disciples to intervene, but it was not a question of insensitivity to this woman’s sorrow. St Augustine rightly commented: “Christ showed himself indifferent to her, not in order to refuse her his mercy but rather to inflame her desire for it” (Sermo 77, 1: PL 38, 483).

The apparent aloofness of Jesus who said: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (v. 24), did not discourage the Canaanite woman who persisted: “Lord, help me” (v. 25). And she did not even desist when she received an answer that would seem to have extinguished any hope: “it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26). She had no wish to take anything from anyone; in her simplicity and humility a little was enough for her, crumbs sufficed, no more than a look, a kind word from the Son of God. And Jesus was struck with admiration for an answer of such great faith and said to her: “Be it done for you as you desire” (v. 28).

Dear friends, we too are called to grow in faith, to open ourselves in order to welcome God’s gift freely, to have trust and also to cry to Jesus “give us faith, help us to find the way!”. This is the way that Jesus made his disciples take, as well as the Canaanite woman and men and women of every epoch and nation and each one of us.

Faith opens us to knowing and welcoming the real identity of Jesus, his newness and oneness, his word, as a source of life, in order to live a personal relationship with him. Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way and in the end it is a gift of God who does not reveal himself to us as an abstract thing without a face or a name, because faith responds to a Person who wants to enter into a relationship of deep love with us and to involve our whole life.

For this reason our heart must undergo the experience of conversion every day, every day it must see us changing from people withdrawn into themselves to people who are open to God’s action, spiritual people (see 1 Cor 2:13-14), who let themselves be called into question by the Lord’s word and open their life to his Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore nourish our faith every day with deep attention to the word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as a “cry” to him, and with charity to our neighbour.

Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom we shall contemplate tomorrow in her glorious Assumption into Heaven in body and soul, so that she may help us proclaim and witness with our lives to the joy of having encountered the Lord.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel (see Jn 6:51-58) is the concluding part and culmination of the discourse given by Jesus in the Synagogue of Capernaum after he had fed thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes the previous day. Jesus reveals the meaning of this miracle, namely that the promised time had come; God the Father, who had fed the Israelites in the desert with manna, now sent him, the Son, as the true Bread of life; and this bread is his flesh, his life, offered in sacrifice for us. It is therefore a question of welcoming him with faith, not of being shocked by his humanity, and it is about eating his flesh and drinking his blood (see Jn 6:54) in order to obtain for ourselves the fullness of life. It is clear that this address was not given to attract approval. Jesus knew this and gave this speech intentionally. In fact it was a critical moment, a turning point in his public mission. The people, and the disciples themselves, were enthusiastic when he performed miraculous signs; the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was a clear revelation that he was the Messiah, so that the crowd would have liked to carry Jesus in triumph and proclaim him King of Israel. But this was not what Jesus wanted. With his long address he dampens the enthusiasm and incites much dissent. In explaining the image of the bread, he affirms that he has been sent to offer his own life and he who wants to follow him must join him in a deep and personal way, participating in his sacrifice of love. Thus Jesus was to institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, so that his disciples themselves might share in his love — this was crucial — and, as one body united with him, might extend his mystery of salvation in the world.

In listening to this address the people understood that Jesus was not the Messiah they wanted, one who would aspire to an earthly throne. He did not seek approval to conquer Jerusalem; rather he wanted to go to the Holy City to share the destiny of the prophets: to give his life for God and for the people. Those loaves, broken for thousands, were not meant to result in a triumphal march but to foretell the sacrifice on the Cross when Jesus was to become Bread, Body and Blood, offered in expiation. Jesus therefore gave the address to bring the crowds down to earth and mostly to encourage his disciples to make a decision. In fact from that moment many of them no longer followed him.

Dear friends, let us once again be filled with wonder by Christ’s words. He, a grain of wheat scattered in the furrows of history, is the first fruits of the new humanity, freed from the corruption of sin and death. And let us rediscover the beauty of the Sacrament of the Eucharist which expresses all God’s humility and holiness. His making himself small, God makes himself small, a fragment of the universe to reconcile all in his love. May the Virgin Mary, who gave the world the Bread of Life, teach us to live in ever deeper union with him. 

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