Monday, August 7, 2023

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

Entry 0292: Reflections on the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 7 August 2005, 13 August 2006, 12 August 2007, 10 August 2008, 9 August 2009, 8 August 2010, 7 August 2011, and 12 August 2012. Here are the texts of eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus that the Pope delivered on these occasions.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 7 August 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thousands of young people are about to leave or have already set out for Cologne for the 20th World Youth Day, whose theme, as you know, is: “We have come to worship him” (Mt 2: 2).

One might say that the whole Church has been spiritually mobilized to live this extraordinary event, looking to the Magi as unique models of people seeking Christ, before whom to kneel in adoration. But what does “worship” mean? Might it be an expression of past times, meaningless to our contemporaries? No! A well-known prayer that many recite in the morning and the evening begins precisely with these words: “I adore you, my God, and I love you with all my heart...”.

Every day, at sunrise and sunset, believers renew their “adoration” or acknowledgement of the presence of God, Creator and Lord of the Universe. This recognition is full of gratitude that wells up from the depths of their heart and floods their entire being, for it is only by adoring and loving God above all things that human beings can totally fulfil themselves.

The Magi adored the Child of Bethlehem, recognizing him as the promised Messiah, the Only-begotten Son of the Father in whom, as St Paul says, “the fullness of the deity resides in bodily form” (Col 2: 9). The disciples Peter, James and John, to whom Jesus revealed his divine glory - as the feast of the Transfiguration celebrated yesterday reminds us -, predicting his definitive victory over death, experienced something similar on Mount Tabor. Subsequently, with Easter, the crucified and Risen Christ was fully to manifest his divinity and offer to all men and women the gift of his redeeming love. Saints are those who accepted this gift and became true worshippers of the living God, loving him without reserve at every moment of their lives. With the forthcoming meeting in Cologne, the Church wants once again to present this holiness, the peak of love, to all the young people of the Third Millennium.

Who can accompany us better on this demanding journey of holiness than Mary? Who can teach us to adore Christ better than she? May she help especially the new generations to recognize the true face of God in Christ and to worship, love and serve him with total dedication.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 13 August 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this summer period many have left the city and find themselves at tourist sites or in their homeland for their vacations. My wish for them is that this awaited rest serves to strengthen their mind and body, which, given the hectic course of modern existence, daily undergoes a continuous fatigue and strain.

The holidays also afford a precious opportunity to spend more time with relatives, to visit family and friends, in a word, to give more space to those human contacts whose desired cultivation is impeded by the rhythm of daily duties.

Certainly, not everyone can take advantage of vacation time and many must bypass it for various motives. I think in a particular way of those who are alone, of the elderly and the sick who often experience solitude even more during this time. To these our brothers and sisters, I would like to manifest my spiritual closeness, heartily wishing that none of them lack the support and comfort of friendly people.

For many, vacation time becomes a profitable occasion for cultural contacts, for prolonged moments of prayer and of contemplation in contact with nature or in monasteries and religious structures. Having more free time, one can dedicate oneself more easily to conversation with God, meditation on Sacred Scripture and reading some useful, formative book.

Those who experience this spiritual repose know how useful it is not to reduce vacations to mere relaxation and amusement.

Faithful participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration helps one to feel a living part of the Ecclesial Community even when one is outside his or her own parish. Wherever we find ourselves, we always need to be nourished by the Eucharist.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of this by presenting Jesus as the Bread of life. He himself, according to what the Evangelist John writes, proclaims himself as “the living bread come down from heaven” ( see Jn 6: 31), bread that feeds our faith and nourishes communion among all Christians.

Vacation time does not allow us to forget the grave conflict in the Middle East. The latest developments give hope that the conflicts will cease and that ready and effective humanitarian aid will be assured for the populations.

The hope of all is that peace will finally prevail over violence and the force of arms. Let us ask this with trusting insistence from Mary, always ready from her heavenly glory - into which we will contemplate her assumed the day after tomorrow - to intercede for her sons and daughters and to assist their needs.



Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 12 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Liturgy on this 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time prepares us in a certain way for the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, which we will be celebrating on 15 August. Indeed, it is fully oriented to the future, to Heaven, where the Blessed Virgin Mary has preceded us in the joy of Paradise.

In particular, the Gospel passage, continuing last Sunday’s message, asks Christians to detach themselves from material goods, which are for the most part illusory, and to do their duty faithfully, constantly aspiring to Heaven. May the believer remain alert and watchful to be ready to welcome Jesus when he comes in his glory.

By means of examples taken from everyday life, the Lord exhorts his disciples, that is, us, to live with this inner disposition, like those servants in the parable who were waiting for their master’s return. “Blessed are those servants”, he said, “whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Lk 12: 37). We must therefore watch, praying and doing good.

It is true, we are all travellers on earth, as the Second Reading of today’s liturgy from the Letter to the Hebrews appropriately reminds us. It presents Abraham to us in the clothes of a pilgrim, as a nomad who lives in a tent and sojourns in a foreign land. He has faith to guide him.

“By faith”, the sacred author wrote, “Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Heb 11: 8).

Indeed, Abraham’s true destination was “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11: 10). The city to which he was alluding is not in this world but is the heavenly Jerusalem, Paradise.

This was well known to the primitive Christian community, which considered itself “alien” here below and called its populated nucleuses in the cities “parishes”, which means, precisely, colonies of foreigners [in Greek, pároikoi] ( see I Pt 2: 11). In this way, the first Christians expressed the most important characteristic of the Church, which is precisely the tension of living in this life in light of Heaven.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word, therefore, desires to invite us to think of “the life of the world to come”, as we repeat every time we make our profession of faith with the Creed. It is an invitation to spend our life wisely and with foresight, to consider attentively our destiny, in other words, those realities which we call final: death, the last judgement, eternity, hell and Heaven. And it is exactly in this way that we assume responsibility for the world and build a better world.

May the Virgin Mary, who watches over us from Heaven, help us not to forget that here on earth we are only passing through, and may she teach us to prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus, who is “seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”.



Piazza Duomo, Bressanone, Sunday, 10 August 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

There is a point in Mark’s Gospel where he recounts that after days of stress the Lord said to the disciples: ”Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while” (6: 31). And since the Word of Christ is never connected solely to the moment in which it was spoken I have applied this invitation to the disciples also to myself, and I came to this beautiful, tranquil place to rest for a while. I must thank Bishop Egger and all his collaborators, the whole City and Region of Bressanone, for preparing this beautiful quiet place for me in which, during the past two weeks I have been able to relax, to think of God and of humanity, and thus to recover fresh energy. May God reward you!

I ought to thank many individuals but I shall do something simpler:  I commend you all to God’s Blessing. He knows each one of you by name and his Blessing will touch each of you personally. I ask this with all my heart, and may it be my “thank you” to you all!

This Sunday’s Gospel brings us back from this place of rest to daily life. It tells how, after the multiplication of the loaves, the Lord withdraws to the mountain to be alone with the Father. In the meantime, the disciples are on the lake and with their poor little boat are endeavouring in vain to stand up to a contrary wind. To the Evangelist this episode may have seemed an image of the Church of his time:  like the small barque which was the Church of that period, he found himself buffeted by the contrary wind of history and it may have seemed that the Lord had forgotten him. We too can see this as an image of the Church of our time which in many parts of the earth finds herself struggling to make headway in spite of the contrary wind, and it seems the Lord is very remote. But the Gospel gives us an answer, consolation and encouragement and at the same time points out a path to us. It tells us, in fact:  yes, it is true, the Lord is with the Father but for this very reason he is not distant but sees everyone, for whoever is with God does not go away but is close to his neighbour. And, in fact, the Lord sees them and at the proper time comes towards them. And when Peter, who was going to meet him, risks drowning, the Lord takes him by the hand and brings him to safety on the boat. The Lord is continuously holding out his hand to us too. He does so through the beauty of a Sunday; he does so through the solemn liturgy; he does so in the prayer with which we address him; he does so in the encounter with the Word of God; he does so in many situations of daily life - he holds his hand out to us. And only if we take the Lord’s hand, if we let ourselves be guided by him, will the path we take be right and good.

For this reason let us pray to him that we may succeed ever anew in finding his hand. And at the same time, this implies an exhortation:  that, in his Name we hold our own hand out to others, to those in need of it, to lead them through the waters of our history.

In these days, dear friends, I have also been thinking over my experience in Sydney, where I encountered the joyful faces of so many young men and women from every part of the world. So it was that a reflection on this event developed in me which I would like to share with you. In the great metropolis of the young Australian nation, those youth were a sign of authentic joy, at times boisterous but always peaceful and positive. Although they were so numerous, they caused neither disorder nor damage of any kind. In order to be happy they did not need to have recourse to vulgar or violent ways, to alcohol or narcotics. In them was the joy of meeting one another and of discovering a new world together. How is it possible not to compare them to their peers who, in search of false escapes, have degrading experiences that all too often result in overwhelming tragedies? This is a typical product of today’s so-called “society of well-being”, which, to fill inner emptiness and the boredom that goes with it induces people to try new experiences, more exciting, more “extreme”. Even holidays risk evaporating into a vain pursuit of mirages of pleasure. Yet in this way the spirit does not rest, the heart does not find joy or peace; on the contrary, it ends even wearier and sadder than it was at the start. I have referred to young people because it is they who thirst most after life and new experiences and are therefore the most at risk. The reflection, however, applies to us all: the human person is truly regenerated only in the relationship with God and God is encountered by learning to listen to his voice in inner stillness and silence ( see 1 Kgs 19: 12).

Let us pray that in a society where everyone is always in a rush, holidays may be days of true relaxation during which it is possible to carve out times for recollection and prayer that are indispensable in order to rediscover in depth both oneself and others. We ask this through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Virgin of silence and listening.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 9 August 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Like last Sunday, today too in the context of the Year for Priests that we are celebrating we shall pause to meditate on some of the men and women Saints that the liturgy commemorates in these days. Except for the Virgin Clare of Assisi, who was consumed with divine love in her daily sacrifice of prayer and community life, the others are martyrs, two of whom were killed in the concentration camp at Auschwitz: St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, who, born into the Jewish faith and won over by Christ as an adult, became a Carmelite nun and sealed her existence with martyrdom; and St Maximilian Kolbe, a son of Poland and of St Francis of Assisi, a great apostle of Mary Immaculate. We shall then encounter other splendid figures, martyrs of the Church of Rome, such as Pope St Pontianus, St Hippolytus, a priest, and St Lawrence the Deacon. What marvellous models of holiness the Church presents to us! These saints are witnesses of that charity which loves “to the end”, which does not take into account a wrong suffered but instead combats it with good ( see 1 Cor 13: 4-8). From them we can learn especially we priests the evangelical heroism that impels us to give our life fearlessly for the salvation of souls. Love triumphs over death!

All the saints, but especially martyrs, are witnesses of God, who is Love: Deus Caritas est. The Nazi concentration camps, like all extermination camps, can be considered extreme symbols of evil, of hell that opens on earth when man forgets God and supplants him, usurping his right to decide what is good and what is evil, to give life and death. However, this sad phenomenon is unfortunately not limited to concentration camps. Rather, they are the culmination of an extensive and widespread reality, often with shifting boundaries. The Saints whom I have briefly recalled lead us to reflect on the profound divergences that exist between atheistic humanism and Christian humanism. This antithesis permeates the whole of history but with the contemporary nihilism, at the end of the second millennium, it has reached a crucial point, as great literary figures and thinkers have perceived and as events have amply demonstrated. On the one hand, there are philosophies and ideologies, but there are also always more ways of thinking and acting that exalt freedom as the unique principle of the human being, as an alternative to God, and which in this way transform the human being into a god, but an erroneous god who makes arbitrariness his own system of behaviour. On the other hand, we have the Saints who, in practising the Gospel of charity, account for their hope. They show the true Face of God who is Love and, at the same time, the authentic face of man, created in the divine image and likeness.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray the Virgin Mary to help all of us and in the first place priests to be holy like these heroic witnesses of faith and of self-dedication to the point of martyrdom. And charity in truth is the only credible and exhaustive response one can offer to the profound human and spiritual crisis of the contemporary world.



Courtyard of the Papal Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 8 August 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage Jesus continues his teaching to the disciples on the value of the person in God’s eyes and on the futility of mundane worries. This does not mean doing nothing. Indeed, on hearing Jesus’ reassuring invitation: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12: 32), our hearts open up to a hope which illumines and animates real life. We have the certainty that “the Gospel is not merely a communication of things that can be known it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. Whoever has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life” ( see Encyclical Spe Salvi, no. 2). As we read in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews in today’s Liturgy, Abraham with a trusting heart entered into the hope that God opened to him, the promise of a land and of “numerous descendants”, and left “not knowing where he was to go”, trusting only in God ( see 11: 8-12). And Jesus in today’s Gospel illustrates through three parables how waiting for the fulfilment of the “blessed hope”, his Coming, should urge one more and more toward a profound life, rich in good works: “Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (Lk 12: 33). It is an invitation to use things unselfishly without thirsting for possession or dominion, but according to the logic of God, the logic of consideration for others, the logic of love: as Romano Guardini succinctly wrote, “in the form of a relationship: beginning with God, in view of God” ( see Accettare se stessi, Brescia 1992, 44).

On that note, I wish to call attention to several Saints whom we are celebrating this week who based their lives on God and in view of God. Today we are commemorating St Dominic Guzmán, Founder in the 12th century of the Dominican Order which carries out the mission of instructing society on the truth of faith, preparing its members through study and prayer. In that same period St Clare of Assisi, whom we shall commemorate on Wednesday, promoted Franciscan works by founding the Order of the Poor Clares. On 10 August, we commemorate the Deacon St Lawrence, a Martyr of the 3rd century whose remains are venerated in the Basilica of St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls. Finally, we shall commemorate two other Martyrs of the 20th century who shared the same fate at Auschwitz. On 9 August we remember the Carmelite St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, and on 14 August, the Franciscan priest St Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Founder of the Militia of Mary Immaculate. Both passed through the dark time of the Second World War without ever losing sight of hope, of the God of Life and of Love.

Let us trust in the motherly support of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Saints, who lovingly shares our pilgrimage. To her we address our prayers.



Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find Jesus who, after withdrawing to the mountain, prays throughout the night. The Lord, having distanced himself from the people and the disciples, manifests his communion with the Father and the need to pray in solitude, far from the commotion of the world.

This distancing, however, must not be seen as a lack of interest in individuals or trust in the Apostles. On the contrary, Matthew recounts, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat, “and go before him to the other side” (Mt 14:22), where he would see them again. In the meantime the boat “was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them” (v. 24). And so in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea” (v. 25); the disciples were terrified, mistaking him for a ghost and “cried out for fear” (v. 26). They did not recognize him, they did not realize that it was the Lord.

Nonetheless Jesus reassured them: “Take heart, it is I; have no fear” (v. 27). This is an episode from which the Fathers of the Church drew a great wealth of meaning. The sea symbolizes this life and the instability of the visible world; the storm points to every kind of trial or difficulty that oppresses human beings. The boat, instead, represents the Church, built by Christ and steered by the Apostles.

Jesus wanted to teach the disciples to bear life’s adversities courageously, trusting in God, in the One who revealed himself to the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb “in a still small voice” [the whispering of a gentle breeze] (1 Kings 19:12).

The passage then continues with the action of the Apostle Peter, who, moved by an impulse of love for the Teacher, asks him to bid him to come to him, walking on the water. “But when he saw the wind [was strong], [Peter] was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Mt 14:30).

St Augustine, imagining that he was addressing the Apostle, commented: the Lord “leaned down and took you by the hand. With your strength alone you cannot rise. Hold tight to the hand of the One who reaches down to you” (En. in Ps. 95, 7: PL 36, 1233), and he did not say this to Peter alone but also to us.

Peter walks on the water, not by his own effort but rather through divine grace in which he believes. And when he was smitten by doubt, when he no longer fixed his gaze on Jesus but was frightened by the gale, when he failed to put full trust in the Teacher’s words, it means that he was interiorly distancing himself from the Teacher and so risked sinking in the sea of life.

So it is also for us: if we look only at ourselves we become dependent on the winds and can no longer pass through storms on the waters of life. The great thinker Romano Guardini wrote that the Lord “is always close, being at the root of our being. Yet we must experience our relationship with God between the poles of distance and closeness. By closeness we are strengthened, by distance we are put to the test” (Accettare se stessi, Brescia 1992, 71).

Dear friends, the experience of the Prophet Elijah who heard God passing and the troubled faith of the Apostle Peter enable us to understand that even before we seek the Lord or invoke him, it is he himself who comes to meet us, who lowers Heaven to stretch out his hand to us and raise us to his heights; all he expects of us is that we trust totally in him, that we really take hold of his hand.

Let us call on the Virgin Mary, model of total entrustment to God, so that amidst the plethora of anxieties, problems and difficulties which churn up the sea of our life, may our hearts resonate with the reassuring words of Jesus who also says to us “Take heart, it is I; have no fear!”; and may our faith in him grow.



Castel Gandolfo, Sunday, 12 August 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Reading of the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel in the Liturgy of these Sundays has led us to reflect on the multiplication of the loaves, with which the Lord satisfied the hunger of a crowd of five thousand, and on the invitation Jesus addresses to all those whom he had feed to busy themselves seeking a food that endures to eternal life. Jesus wants to help them understand the profound meaning of the miracle he had worked: in miraculously satisfying their physical hunger; he prepares them to receive the news that he is the Bread which has come down from heaven ( see Jn 6:41), which will satisfy hunger for ever. The Jewish people too, during their long journey through the desert, experienced bread which came down from heaven, manna, which kept them alive until they reached the Promised Land. Jesus now speaks of himself as the true Bread come down from heaven, which is capable of keeping people alive not for a moment or on a stretch of a journey but for ever. He is the food that gives eternal life, because he is the Only-Begotten Son of God who is in the Father’s heart, who came to give man life in fullness, to introduce man into the very life of God.

In Jewish thought it was clear that the true bread of heaven, which nourished Israel, was the Law, the word of God. The People of Israel clearly recognized that the Torah, which was Moses’ fundamental and lasting gift, was the basic element that distinguished them from other peoples and consisted in their knowledge of God’s will, thus the right way of life. Now Jesus, in manifesting himself as the bread of heaven, witnesses that he himself is the Word of God in Person, the Incarnate Word, through whom man can make the will of God his food ( see Jn 4:34), which guides and sustains his existence.

Therefore to doubt in the divinity of Jesus, as do the Jews in today’s Gospel passage, means setting oneself against God’s work. Indeed, they say: he is the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know! ( see Jn 6:42). They do not go beyond his earthly origins, and for this reason refuse to accept him as the Word of God made flesh. St Augustine, in his Commentary on John’s Gospel explains it in the following way: “These Jews were far from the bread of heaven, and knew not how to hunger after it. They had the jaws of their heart languid... This bread, indeed, requires the hunger of the inner man” (26, 1).

And we must ask ourselves if we really feel this hunger, the hunger for the Word of God, the hunger to know life’s true meaning. Only those who are drawn by God the Father, who listen to him and let themselves be instructed by him can believe in Jesus, meet him and nourish themselves with him and thereby find true life, the road of life, justice, truth and love. St Augustine adds: “the Lord.... said that he himself was the Bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in him. For to believe in him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly he is born again” to a deeper and truer life. He is reborn from within, from his intimate self he is made new (ibid.).

Invoking Mary Most Holy, let us ask her to guide us to the encounter with Jesus so that our friendship with him may be more and more intense; let us ask her to usher us into full communion of love with her Son, the living Bread come down from heaven, so as to be renewed by him in the depths of our being. 

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