Monday, February 24, 2014

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. 

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, February 17, 2014

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

Entry 0330: Reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time 
Pope Benedict XVI 

On five occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 19 February 2006, 18 February 2007, 22 February 2009, 20 February 2011, and 19 February 2012. Here are the texts of five brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 19 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On these Sundays, the liturgy presents the Gospel account of various healings brought about by Christ:  last Sunday, the leper, and today, a paralyzed man lying on his bed, whom four people carried to Jesus. Having noted their faith, he said to the paralytic:  “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2: 5). By so doing he made it clear that first of all he wanted to heal the spirit.

The paralyzed man is the image of every human being whom sin prevents from moving about freely, from walking on the path of good and from giving the best of himself. Indeed, by taking root in the soul, evil binds the person with the ties of falsehood, anger, envy and other sins and gradually paralyzes him.

Jesus, therefore, scandalizing the scribes who were present, first said:  “... your sins are forgiven”. Only later, to demonstrate the authority to forgive sins that God had conferred upon him, did he add:  “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home” (Mk 2: 11), and heals the man completely.

The message is clear:  human beings, paralyzed by sin, need God’s mercy which Christ came to give to them so that, their hearts healed, their whole life might flourish anew.

Today too, humanity is marked by sin which prevents it from rapidly progressing in those values of brotherhood, justice and peace that with solemn declarations it had resolved to practise. Why? What is blocking it? What is paralyzing this integral development?

We know well that there are many historical reasons for this and that the problem is complex. But the Word of God invites us to have a gaze of faith and to trust, like the people who were carrying the paralytic, that Jesus alone is capable of true healing.

The basic choice of my Predecessors, especially of the beloved John Paul II, was to lead the people of our time to Christ the Redeemer so that, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, he might heal them. I too desire to continue on this path.

In particular, with my first Encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, I wanted to point out to believers and to the whole world, God as the source of authentic love. Only God’s love can renew the human heart, and only if he heals the heart of paralyzed humanity can it get up and walk. The love of God is the true force that renews the world.

Let us invoke together the intercession of the Virgin Mary so that every person will be open to the merciful love of God and consequently that the human family will be healed in its depths of the evils that afflict it.



St Peter’s Square,Sunday, 18 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel contains some of the most typical and forceful words of Jesus’ preaching: “Love your enemies (Lk 6: 27). It is taken from Luke’s Gospel but is also found in Matthew’s (5: 44), in the context of the programmatic discourse that opens with the famous “Beatitudes”. Jesus delivered it in Galilee at the beginning of his public life: it is, as it were, a “manifesto” presented to all, in which he asks for his disciples’ adherence, proposing his model of life to them in radical terms.

But what do his words mean? Why does Jesus ask us to love precisely our enemies, that is, a love which exceeds human capacities?

Actually, Christ’s proposal is realistic because it takes into account that in the world there is too much violence, too much injustice, and therefore that this situation cannot be overcome except by countering it with more love, with more goodness. This “more” comes from God: it is his mercy which was made flesh in Jesus and which alone can “tip the balance” of the world from evil to good, starting with that small and decisive “world” which is the human heart.

This Gospel passage is rightly considered the magna carta of Christian non-violence. It does not consist in succumbing to evil, as a false interpretation of “turning the other cheek” (see Lk 6: 29) claims, but in responding to evil with good (see Rom 12: 17-21) and thereby breaking the chain of injustice.

One then understands that for Christians, non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person’s way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God’s love and power that he is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone.

Love of one’s enemy constitutes the nucleus of the “Christian revolution”, a revolution not based on strategies of economic, political or media power: the revolution of love, a love that does not rely ultimately on human resources but is a gift of God which is obtained by trusting solely and unreservedly in his merciful goodness. Here is the newness of the Gospel which silently changes the world! Here is the heroism of the “lowly” who believe in God’s love and spread it, even at the cost of their lives.

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent, which will begin this Wednesday with the Rite of Ashes, is the favourable season in which all Christians are asked to convert ever more deeply to Christ’s love.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, docile disciple of the Redeemer who helps us to allow ourselves to be won over without reserve by that love, to learn to love as he loved us, to be merciful as Our Father in Heaven is merciful (see Lk 6: 36).



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel passage on which the liturgy leads us to meditate on this Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time relates the episode of the paralytic, forgiven and healed (Mk 2: 1-12). While Jesus was preaching, among the many sick people who were brought to him there was a paralytic on a stretcher. On seeing him the Lord said: “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mk 2: 5). And since some of those present were scandalized at hearing these words, he added: ““That you may know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth’, he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home’“ (Mk 2: 10-11). And the paralytic went away healed. This Gospel account shows that Jesus has the power not only to heal a sick body but also to forgive sins; indeed, the physical recovery is a sign of the spiritual healing that his forgiveness produces. Sin is effectively a sort of paralysis of the spirit from which only the power of God’s merciful love can set us free, allowing us to rise again and continue on the path of goodness.

This Sunday is also the Feast of the Chair of Peter, an important liturgical occasion that sheds light on the ministry of the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles. The Chair of Peter symbolizes the authority of the Bishop of Rome, called to carry out a special service to the entire People of God. Immediately after the martyrdom of Sts Peter and Paul, the primatial role of the Church of Rome in the whole Catholic community was recognized. This role was already attested to at the beginning of the second century by St Ignatius of Antioch (Epistula ad Romanos, Pref.: ed. Funk, i, p. 252) and by St Irenaeus of Lyons (Adversus haereses III, 3, 2-3). This singular and specific ministry of the Bishop of Rome was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council. “In the communion of the Church”, we read in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions, without prejudice to the Chair of Peter which presides over the whole assembly of charity (see St Ignatius of Antioch, Ep. ad Rom., Pref.), and protects their legitimate variety while at the same time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute to it” (Lumen gentium, no. 13).

Dear brothers and sisters, this Feast offers me the occasion to ask you to accompany me with your prayers so that I may faithfully carry out this great task that divine Providence has entrusted to me as Successor of the Apostle Peter. For this let us invoke the Virgin Mary who we celebrated yesterday here in Rome with the beautiful title of Our Lady of Trust. Let us also ask her to help us enter with the proper frame of mind into the Season of Lent that will begin next Wednesday with the evocative Rite of Ashes. May Mary open our hearts to conversion and to docile listening to the word of God.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 20 February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time the biblical readings speak to us of God’s desire to make all human beings share in his life: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”, we read in the Book of Leviticus (19:1). With these words and with the consequent precepts the Lord invited the People whom he had chosen to be faithful to the Covenant with him, to walk on his path; and he founded social legislation on the commandment “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18).

Then if we listen to Jesus in whom God took a mortal body to make himself close to every human being and reveal his infinite love for us, we find that same call, that same audacious objective. Indeed, the Lord says: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

But who could become perfect? Our perfection is living humbly as children of God, doing his will in practice. St Cyprian wrote: “that the godly discipline might respond to God, the Father, that in the honour and praise of living, God may be glorified in man (De zelo et livore [On jealousy and envy], 15: CCL 3a, 83).

How can we imitate Jesus? He said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 5:44-45). Anyone who welcomes the Lord into his life and loves him with all his heart is capable of a new beginning. He succeeds in doing God’s will: to bring about a new form of existence enlivened by love and destined for eternity.

The Apostle Paul added: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (I Cor 3:16). If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is profoundly shaped by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and effective. A medieval author wrote: “When the whole of man’s being is, so to speak, mingled with God’s love, the splendour of his soul is also reflected in his external aspect” (John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, XXX: PG 88, 1157 B), in the totality of life.

“Love is an excellent thing”, we read in the book the Imitation of Christ. “It makes every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with equanimity…. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low… love is born of God and cannot rest except in God” (III, V, 3).

Dear friends, the day after tomorrow, 22 February, we shall celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St Peter. Christ entrusted to him, the first of the Apostles, the task of Teacher and Pastor for the spiritual guidance of the People of God, so that it might be uplifted to Heaven. I therefore urge all pastors to “assimilate that ‘new style of life’ which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles” (Letter inaugurating the Year for Priests, 16 June 2009).

Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, so that she may teach us to love each other and accept each other as brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father.



St. Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Chair of St. Peter

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday is particularly festive here in the Vatican because of the Consistory held yesterday at which I created 22 new Cardinals. This morning I have had the joy of concelebrating the Eucharist with them in St Peter’s Basilica, around the tomb of the Apostle whom Jesus called the “rock” on which to build his Church (see Mt 16:18).

I therefore invite all of you to join in with your prayers too for these venerable Brothers, who are now more committed to working with me in the guidance of the universal Church and to bearing witness to the Gospel, even to the point of sacrificing life. This is what the red colour of their habits means: the colour of blood and love.

Some of them work in Rome at the service of the Holy See, others are Pastors of important diocesan Churches; yet others are distinguished by their long and appreciated work of study and teaching. They now belong to the College that more closely assists the Pope in his ministry of communion and evangelization: let us welcome them with joy, remembering what Jesus said to the Twelve Apostles: “Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:44-45).

This ecclesial event is set against the liturgical backdrop of the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, brought forward to today because next 22 February — the date of this Feast — will be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. The “chair” [in Latin: cattedra] is the seat reserved to the bishop. From this term comes the name “cathedral”, given to the church in which, precisely, the bishop presides at the liturgy and teaches the people.

The Chair of St Peter, represented in the apse of the Vatican Basilica is a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It is a symbol of the special mission of Peter and his Successors to tend Christ’s flock, keeping it united in faith and in charity. At the beginning of the second century St Ignatius of Antioch attributed a special primacy to the Church which is in Rome, greeting her in his Letter to the Romans as the one which “presides in charity”. It is because the Apostles Peter and Paul, together with many other martyrs, poured out their blood in this City, that this special task of service depends on the Community of Rome and on its Bishop. Let us, thus, return to the witness of blood and of charity. The Chair of Peter is therefore the sign of authority, but of Christ’s authority, based on faith and on love.

Dear friends, let us entrust the new Cardinals to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy, so that she may always help them in their ecclesial service and sustain them in their trials. May Mary, Mother of the Church, help me and my co-workers to work tirelessly for the unity of the People of God and to proclaim to all peoples the message of salvation, humbly, valiantly carrying out the service of truth in charity.




Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 19 February 2012

Dear Cardinals,
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this solemnity of the Chair of Saint Peter, we have the joy of gathering around the altar of the Lord together with the new Cardinals whom yesterday I incorporated into the College of Cardinals. It is to them, first of all, that I offer my cordial greetings and I thank Cardinal Fernando Filoni for the gracious words he has addressed to me in the name of all. I extend my greetings to the other Cardinals and all the Bishops present, as well as to the distinguished authorities, ambassadors, priests, religious and all the faithful who have come from different parts of the world for this happy occasion, which is marked by a particular character of universality.

In the second reading that we have just heard, Saint Peter exhorts the “elders” of the Church to be zealous pastors, attentive to the flock of Christ (see 1 Pet 5:1-2). These words are addressed in the first instance to you, my dear venerable brothers, who have already shown great merit among the people of God through your wise and generous pastoral ministry in demanding dioceses, or through presiding over the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, or in your service to the Church through study and teaching. The new dignity that has been conferred upon you is intended to show appreciation for the faithful labour you have carried out in the Lord’s vineyard, to honour the communities and nations from which you come and which you represent so worthily in the Church, to invest you with new and more important ecclesial responsibilities and finally to ask of you an additional readiness to be of service to Christ and to the entire Christian community. This readiness to serve the Gospel is firmly founded upon the certitude of faith. We know that God is faithful to his promises and we await in hope the fulfilment of these words of Saint Peter: “And when the chief shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet 5:4).

Today’s Gospel passage presents Peter, under divine inspiration, expressing his own firm faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah. In response to this transparent profession of faith, which Peter makes in the name of the other Apostles as well, Christ reveals to him the mission he intends to entrust to him, namely that of being the “rock”, the visible foundation on which the entire spiritual edifice of the Church is built (see Mt 16:16-19). This new name of “rock” is not a reference to Peter’s personal character, but can be understood only on the basis of a deeper aspect, a mystery: through the office that Jesus confers upon him, Simon Peter will become something that, in terms of “flesh and blood”, he is not. The exegete Joachim Jeremias has shown that in the background, the symbolic language of “holy rock” is present. In this regard, it is helpful to consider a rabbinic text which states: “The Lord said, ‘How can I create the world, when these godless men will rise up in revolt against me?’ But when God saw that Abraham was to be born, he said, ‘Look, I have found a rock on which I can build and establish the world.’ Therefore he called Abraham a rock.” The prophet Isaiah makes reference to this when he calls upon the people to “look to the rock from which you were hewn ... look to Abraham your father” (51:1-2). On account of his faith, Abraham, the father of believers, is seen as the rock that supports creation. Simon, the first to profess faith in Jesus as the Christ and the first witness of the resurrection, now, on the basis of his renewed faith, becomes the rock that is to prevail against the destructive forces of evil.

Dear brothers and sisters, this Gospel episode that has been proclaimed to us finds a further and more eloquent explanation in one of the most famous artistic treasures of this Vatican Basilica: the altar of the Chair. After passing through the magnificent central nave, and continuing past the transepts, the pilgrim arrives in the apse and sees before him an enormous bronze throne that seems to hover in mid air, but in reality is supported by the four statues of great Fathers of the Church from East and West. And above the throne, surrounded by triumphant angels suspended in the air, the glory of the Holy Spirit shines through the oval window. What does this sculptural composition say to us, this product of Bernini’s genius? It represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.

The window of the apse opens the Church towards the outside, towards the whole of creation, while the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows God as the source of light. But there is also another aspect to point out: the Church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where he comes towards our world. The Church does not exist for her own sake, she is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself, to the realms above. The Church is truly herself to the extent that she allows the Other, with a capital “O”, to shine through her – the One from whom she comes and to whom she leads. The Church is the place where God “reaches” us and where we “set off” towards him: she has the task of opening up, beyond itself, a world which tends to become enclosed within itself, the task of bringing to the world the light that comes from above, without which it would be uninhabitable.

The great bronze throne encloses a wooden chair from the ninth century, which was long thought to be Saint Peter’s own chair and was placed above this monumental altar because of its great symbolic value. It expresses the permanent presence of the Apostle in the Magisterium of his successors. Saint Peter’s chair, we could say, is the throne of truth which takes its origin from Christ’s commission after the confession at Caesarea Philippi. The magisterial chair also reminds us of the words spoken to Peter by the Lord during the Last Supper: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:32).

The chair of Peter evokes another memory: the famous expression from Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, where he says of the Church of Rome that she “presides in charity” (Salutation, PG 5, 801). In truth, presiding in faith is inseparably linked to presiding in love. Faith without love would no longer be an authentic Christian faith. But the words of Saint Ignatius have another much more concrete implication: the word “charity”, in fact, was also used by the early Church to indicate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Sacramentum caritatis Christi, through which Christ continues to draw us all to himself, as he did when raised up on the Cross (see Jn 12:32). Therefore, to “preside in charity” is to draw men and women into a eucharistic embrace – the embrace of Christ – which surpasses every barrier and every division, creating communion from all manner of differences. The Petrine ministry is therefore a primacy of love in the eucharistic sense, that is to say solicitude for the universal communion of the Church in Christ. And the Eucharist is the shape and the measure of this communion, a guarantee that it will remain faithful to the criterion of the tradition of the faith.

The great Chair is supported by the Fathers of the Church. The two Eastern masters, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Athanasius, together with the Latins, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, represent the whole of the tradition, and hence the richness of expression of the true faith of the holy and one Church. This aspect of the altar teaches us that love rests upon faith. Love collapses if man no longer trusts in God and disobeys him. Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the sacraments, the liturgy, evangelization, charity. Likewise the law and the Church’s authority rest upon faith. The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it. Within the ecclesial community, the Fathers of the Church fulfil the function of guaranteeing fidelity to sacred Scripture. They ensure that the Church receives reliable and solid exegesis, capable of forming with the Chair of Peter a stable and consistent whole. The sacred Scriptures, authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium in the light of the Fathers, shed light upon the Church’s journey through time, providing her with a stable foundation amid the vicissitudes of history.

After considering the various elements of the altar of the Chair, let us take a look at it in its entirety. We see that it is characterized by a twofold movement: ascending and descending. This is the reciprocity between faith and love. The Chair is placed in a prominent position in this place, because this is where Saint Peter’s tomb is located, but this too tends towards the love of God. Indeed, faith is oriented towards love. A selfish faith would be an unreal faith. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and enters into the dynamic of love that finds its source in the Eucharist, discovers true joy and becomes capable in turn of living according to the logic this gift. True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love, leads on high, just as the altar of the Chair points upwards towards the luminous window, the glory of the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the true focus for the pilgrim’s gaze as he crosses the threshold of the Vatican Basilica. That window is given great prominence by the triumphant angels and the great golden rays, with a sense of overflowing fullness that expresses the richness of communion with God. God is not isolation, but glorious and joyful love, spreading outwards and radiant with light.

Dear brothers and sisters, the gift of this love has been entrusted to us, to every Christian. It is a gift to be passed on to others, through the witness of our lives. This is your task in particular, dear brother Cardinals: to bear witness to the joy of Christ’s love. We now entrust your ecclesial service to the Virgin Mary, who was present among the apostolic community as they gathered in prayer, waiting for the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:14). May she, Mother of the Incarnate Word, protect the Church’s path, support the work of the pastors by her intercession and take under her mantle the entire College of Cardinals. Amen! 

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, February 10, 2014

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

Entry 0329: Reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time 
Pope Benedict XVI 

On six occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 12 February 2006, 11 February 2007, 15 February 2009, 14 February 2010, 13 February 2011, and 12 February 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections delivered on these occasions prior to the recitation of the Angelus.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday, 11 February, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we celebrated World Day of the Sick. This year its most important events took place in Adelaide, Australia, and included an international Congress on the ever pressing topic of mental health.

Illness is a typical feature of the human condition, to the point that it can become a realistic metaphor of it, as St Augustine expresses clearly in his prayer:  “Have mercy on me, Lord! See:  I do not hide my wounds from you. You are the doctor, I am the sick person; you are merciful, I am wretched” (Conf. X, 39).

Christ is the true “Doctor” of humanity whom the heavenly Father sent into the world to heal man, marked in body and mind by sin and its consequences. On these very Sundays, Mark’s Gospel presents Jesus to us at the beginning of his public ministry, totally involved with preaching and healing the sick in the villages of Galilee. The countless miraculous signs that he worked for the sick confirmed the “Good News” of the Kingdom of God.

Today’s Gospel tells of the healing of a leper and expresses most effectively the intensity of the relationship between God and man, summed up in a wonderful dialogue:  “If you will, you can make me clean”, the leper says. “I do will it; be clean”, Jesus answers him, touching him with his hand and healing him of leprosy (see Mk 1: 40-42).

We see here in a concise form the entire history of salvation:  that gesture of Jesus who stretches out his hand and touches the body covered with sores of the person who calls upon him, perfectly manifesting God’s desire to heal his fallen creature, restoring to him “life in abundance” (see Jn 10: 10), eternal life, full and happy. Christ is “the hand” of God stretched out to humanity, to rescue it from the quicksands of illness and death so that it can stand on the firm rock of divine love (see Ps 39: 2-3).

Today, I would like to entrust all the sick to Mary, “Salus infirmorum”, especially sick persons in every part of the world who, in addition to the lack of health, are also suffering loneliness, poverty and marginalization. I also address a special thought to those in hospitals and every other health centre who care for the sick and spare no effort for their recovery.

May the Blessed Virgin help each one find comfort in body and spirit through satisfactory health-care assistance and fraternal charity, expressed by means of practical and supportive attention.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the Church recalls the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St Bernadette, which took place on 11 February 1858 in the grotto of Massabielle, near Lourdes. It was a miraculous event which made that town, located in the French Pyrenees, a world centre of pilgrimages and intense Marian spirituality.

In that place, now almost 150 years ago, the Blessed Mother’s call to prayer and penance resounds strongly, almost as a permanent echo of Jesus’ invitation which inaugurated his preaching in Galilee: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1: 15).

Moreover, that Shrine has become the goal of numerous sick pilgrims who are encouraged by listening to Mary Most Holy to accept their sufferings and offer them for the world’s salvation, uniting them to those of Christ Crucified.

Precisely because of the bond that exists between Lourdes and suffering humanity, 15 years ago our beloved John Paul II willed that, on the occasion of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick would also be celebrated.

This year the heart of this celebration is in the city of Seoul, South Korea, where I sent as my representative Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. I address a cordial greeting to him and to all those gathered there. I would like to extend a greeting to the health-care workers of the entire world, knowing well of their important service to the sick persons in our society.

Above all, I would like to express my spiritual closeness and affection to our sick brothers and sisters, with a particular remembrance for those struck by graver illnesses and pain:  to them, our attention is dedicated in a special way on this Day.

It is necessary to maintain the development of palliative care that offers an integral assistance and furnishes the incurably ill with that human support and spiritual guide they greatly need.

This afternoon, in St Peter’s Basilica, many sick will gather around Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who will preside at the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of Holy Mass, I will have the joy, as last year, to spend some time with them, reliving the spiritual climate that I experienced at the Grotto of Massabielle.

I would now like to entrust to the maternal protection of the Immaculate Virgin, with the prayer of the Angelus, the sick and suffering in body and spirit of the entire world.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 February 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

During these Sundays the Evangelist Mark has offered for our reflection a sequence of various miraculous cures. Today he presents to us a very special one, the healing of a leper (Mk 1: 40-45) who approached Jesus and, kneeling down begs him: “If you wish, you can make me clean”. Jesus, moved with pity, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: “I do will it. Be made clean!” And the man was instantly healed. Jesus asked him to say nothing about the event but to present himself to the priests to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the Mosaic law. However, the leper who had been healed was not able to keep quiet about it and instead proclaimed what had happened to him to all so that the Evangelist recounts the sick flocked to Jesus in even greater numbers, to the extent of forcing him to remain outside the towns to avoid being besieged by people.

Jesus said to the leper: “Be made clean!” According to the ancient Jewish law (see Lv 13-14), leprosy was not only considered a disease but also the most serious form of ritual “impurity”. It was the priests’ duty to diagnose it and to declare unclean the sick person who had to be isolated from the community and live outside the populated area until his eventual and well-certified recovery. Thus, leprosy constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing a kind of resurrection. It is possible to see leprosy as a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart that can distance us from God. It is not in fact the physical disease of leprosy that separates us from God as the ancient norms supposed but sin, spiritual and moral evil. This is why the Psalmist exclaims: “Blessed is he whose fault is taken away, / whose sin is covered”, and then says, addressing God: “I acknowledged my sin to you, / my guilt I covered not. / I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord’ / and you took away the guilt of my sin” (32[31]: 1, 5). The sins that we commit distance us from God and, if we do not humbly confess them, trusting in divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has a strong symbolic value. Jesus, as Isaiah had prophesied, is the Servant of the Lord who “has borne our griefs / and carried our sorrows” (Is 53: 4). In his Passion he will become as a leper, made impure by our sins, separated from God: he will do all this out of love, to obtain for us reconciliation, forgiveness and salvation. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Crucified and Risen Christ purifies us through his ministers with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and makes us a gift of his love, his joy and his peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the Virgin Mary whom God preserved from every stain of sin so that she may help us to avoid sin and to have frequent recourse to the Sacrament of Confession, the sacrament of forgiveness, whose value and importance for our Christian life must be rediscovered today.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The liturgical year is a great journey of faith made by the Church, always preceded by her Mother the Virgin Mary. This year, during the Sundays in Ordinary Time, the path is marked by readings from Luke’s Gospel. Today it brings us to “a level place” (Lk 6: 17), where Jesus stops with the Twelve and where a crowd of other disciples and people who had come from everywhere gather to listen to him. This is the setting for the proclamation of the “Beatitudes” (Lk 6: 20-26; see Mt 5: 1-12). Jesus, lifting up his eyes to his disciples, says: “Blessed are you poor.... Blessed are you that hunger.... Blessed are you that weep.... Blessed are you when men hate you... when they cast out your name” on account of me. Why does he proclaim them blessed? Because God’s justice will ensure that they will be satisfied, gladdened, recompensed for every false accusation in a word, because from this moment he will welcome them into his Kingdom. The Beatitudes are based on the fact that a divine justice exists, which exalts those who have been wrongly humbled and humbles those who have exalted themselves (see Lk 14: 11). In fact, the Evangelist Luke, after repeating four times “blessed are you”, adds four admonitions: “Woe to you that are rich.... Woe to you that are full now.... Woe to you that laugh now” and: “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you”, because as Jesus affirms, the circumstances will be reversed; the last will be first, and the first will be last (see Lk 13: 30).

This justice and this Beatitude are realized in the “Kingdom of Heaven”, or the “Kingdom of God”, which will be fulfilled at the end of times but which is already present in history. Wherever the poor are comforted and admitted to the banquet of life, there God’s justice is already manifest. This is the work that the Lord’s disciples are called to carry out also in today’s society. I am thinking of the Hostel run by the Roman Caritas at Termini Station, which I visited this morning. I warmly encourage all who work in that praiseworthy institution and those who, in every part of the world, volunteer themselves generously to similar works of justice and of love.

This year I dedicated my Message for Lent which will begin this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday to the theme of justice. Today I would therefore like to deliver it, in spirit, to all of you, inviting you to read and meditate on it. Christ’s Gospel responds positively to Man’s thirst for justice, but in an unexpected and surprising way. He does not propose a social or political revolution but rather one of love, which he has already brought about with his Cross and his Resurrection. It is on these that are founded the Beatitudes which present a new horizon of justice, unveiled at Easter, thanks to which we can become just and build a better world.

Dear friends, let us turn now to the Virgin Mary. All the generations call her “blessed”, because she believed the good news that the Lord proclaimed (see Lk 1: 45-48). Let us be guided by her on our Lenten journey, to be freed from the illusion of self-sufficiency, to recognize that we need God and his mercy, and thus to enter into his Kingdom of justice, of love and of peace.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Liturgy we continue to read Jesus’ so-called “Sermon on the Mount”. It is contained in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel. After the Beatitudes, which are the programme of his life, Jesus proclaims the new Law, his Torah, as our Jewish brothers and sisters call it. In fact, on his coming, the Messiah was also to bring the definitive revelation of the Law and this is precisely what Jesus declares: “Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them”.

And addressing his disciples, he adds: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:17, 20). But what do this “fullness” of Christ’s Law and this “superior” justice that he demands consist in?

Jesus explains it with a series of antitheses between the old commandments and his new way of propounding them. He begins each time: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old…”, and then he asserts: “but I say to you”…. For example, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘you shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment’. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22).

And he does this six times. This manner of speaking made a great impression on the people, who were shocked, because those words: “I say to you” were equivalent to claiming the actual authority of God, the source of the Law. The newness of Jesus consists essentially in the fact that he himself “fulfils” the commandments with the love of God, with the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within him. And we, through faith in Christ, can open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit who makes us capable of living divine love.

So it is that every precept becomes true as a requirement of love, and all join in a single commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. “Love is the fulfilling of the Law”, St Paul writes (Rom 13:10).

With regard to this requirement, for example, the pitiful case of the four Rom children, who died last week when their shack caught fire on the outskirts of this city, forces us to ask ourselves whether a more supportive and fraternal society, more consistent in love, in other words more Christian, might not have been able to prevent this tragic event. And this question applies in the case of so many other grievous events, more or less known, which occur daily in our cities and our towns.

Dear friends, perhaps it is not by chance that Jesus’ first great preaching is called the “Sermon on the Mount”! Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the Law of God and bring it to the Chosen People. Jesus is the Son of God himself who came down from Heaven to lead us to Heaven, to God’s height, on the way of love. Indeed, he himself is this way; all we have to do in order to put into practice God’s will and to enter his Kingdom, eternal life, is to follow him.

Only one creature has already scaled the mountain peak: the Virgin Mary. Through her union with Jesus, her righteousness was perfect: for this reason we invoke her as Speculum iustitiae. Let us entrust ourselves to her so that she may guide our steps in fidelity to Christ’s Law.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 February 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Sunday we saw that in his public life Jesus healed many sick people, revealing that God wants life for human beings, life in its fullness. This Sunday’s Gospel (Mk 1:40-45) shows us Jesus in touch with a form of disease then considered the most serious, so serious as to make the person infected with it “unclean” and to exclude that person from social relations: we are speaking of leprosy. Special legislation (see Lev 13-14) allocated to priests the task of declaring a person to be “leprous”, that is, unclean; and it was likewise the priest’s task to note the person’s recovery and to readmit him or her, when restored to health, to normal life.

While Jesus was going about the villages of Galilee preaching, a leper came up and besought him: “If you will, you can make me clean”. Jesus did not shun contact with that man; on the contrary, impelled by deep participation in his condition, he stretched out his hand and touched the man — overcoming the legal prohibition — and said to him: “I will; be clean”.

That gesture and those words of Christ contain the whole history of salvation, they embody God’s will to heal us, to purify us from the illness that disfigures us and ruins our relationships. In that contact between Jesus’ hand and the leper, every barrier between God and human impurity, between the Sacred and its opposite, was pulled down. This was not of course in order to deny evil and its negative power, but to demonstrate that God’s love is stronger than all illness, even in its most contagious and horrible form. Jesus took upon himself our infirmities, he made himself “a leper” so that we might be cleansed.

A splendid existential comment on this Gospel is the well known experience of St Francis of Assisi, which he sums up at the beginning of his Testament: “This is how the Lord gave me, Brother Francis, the power to do penance. When I was in sin the sight of lepers was too bitter for me. And the Lord himself led me among them, and I pitied and helped them. And when I left them I discovered that what had seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness in my soul and body. And shortly afterward I rose and left the world” (FF, 110).

In those lepers whom Francis met when he was still “in sin” — as he says — Jesus was present; and when Francis approached one of them, overcoming his own disgust, he embraced him, Jesus healed him from his “leprosy”, namely, from his pride, and converted him to love of God. This is Christ’s victory which is our profound healing and our resurrection to new life!

Dear friends, let us turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, whom we celebrated yesterday commemorating her Apparitions in Lourdes. Our Lady gave St Bernadette an ever timely message: the invitation to prayer and penance. Through his Mother it is always Jesus who comes to meet us to set us free from every sickness of body and of soul. Let us allow ourselves to be touched and cleansed by him and to treat our brethren with compassion! 

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, February 3, 2014

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

Entry 0328: Reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time 
Pope Benedict XVI 

On seven occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 5 February 2006, 4 February 2007, 8 February 2009, 7 February 2010, 6 February 2011, 5 February 2012, and 10 February 2013. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and one homily delivered on these occasions.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 5 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Pro-Life Day is being celebrated today throughout Italy and is a precious opportunity for prayer and reflection on the themes of the defence and promotion of human life, especially when it is found to be in difficult conditions.

Many of the lay faithful who work in this area are present in St Peter’s Square, some of whom are involved in the Pro-Life Movement. I address my cordial greeting to them, with a special thought for Cardinal Camillo Ruini who has accompanied them, and I once again express my appreciation for the work they do to ensure that life is always received as a gift and accompanied with love.

As I invite you to meditate on the Message of the Italian Bishops, which has as its theme “Respecting life,” I think back to beloved Pope John Paul II, who paid constant attention to these problems. I would like in particular to recall the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, which he published in 1995 and which represents an authentic milestone in the Church’s Magisterium on a most timely and crucial issue.

Inserting the moral aspects in a vast spiritual and cultural framework, my venerable Predecessor frequently reasserted that human life has a value of paramount importance which demands recognition, and the Gospel asks that it always be respected.

In the light of my recent Encyclical Letter on Christian love, I would like to underline the importance of the service of love for the support and promotion of human life. In this regard, even before active initiatives, it is fundamental to foster a correct attitude towards the other:  the culture of life is in fact based on attention to others without any forms of exclusion or discrimination. Every human life, as such, deserves and demands always to be defended and promoted.

We are well aware that all too often this truth risks being opposed by the hedonism widespread in the so-called society of well-being:  life is exalted as long as it is pleasurable, but there is a tendency to no longer respect it as soon as it is sick or handicapped. Based on deep love for every person it is possible instead to put into practice effective forms of service to life:  to newborn life and to life marked by marginalization or suffering, especially in its terminal phase.

The Virgin Mary received with perfect love the Word of life, Jesus Christ, who came into the world so that human beings might “have life... abundantly” (Jn 10: 10). Let us entrust to her expectant mothers, families, health-care workers and volunteers who are committed in so many ways to the service of life. Let us pray in particular for people in the most difficult situations.



Parish of Saint Anne, Sunday, 5 February 2006   

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel [passage] we have just listened to begins with a very nice, beautiful episode but is also full of meaning. The Lord went to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew and found Peter’s mother-in-law sick with a fever. He took her by the hand and raised her, the fever left her, and she served them.

Jesus’ entire mission is symbolically portrayed in this episode. Jesus, coming from the Father, visited peoples’ homes on our earth and found a humanity that was sick, sick with fever, the fever of ideologies, idolatry, forgetfulness of God. The Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up and heals us.

And he does so in all ages; he takes us by the hand with his Word, thereby dispelling the fog of ideologies and forms of idolatry. He takes us by the hand in the sacraments, he heals us from the fever of our passions and sins through absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He gives us the possibility to raise ourselves, to stand before God and before men and women. And precisely with this content of the Sunday liturgy, the Lord comes to meet us, he takes us by the hand, raises us and heals us ever anew with the gift of his words, the gift of himself.

But the second part of this episode is also important. This woman who has just been healed, the Gospel says, begins to serve them. She sets to work immediately to be available to others, and thus becomes a representative of so many good women, mothers, grandmothers, women in various professions, who are available, who get up and serve and are the soul of the family, the soul of the parish.

And here, on looking at the painting above the altar, we see that they do not only perform external services; St Anne is introducing her great daughter, Our Lady, to the Sacred Scriptures, to the hope of Israel, for which she was precisely to be the place of its fulfilment.

Moreover, women were the first messengers of the word of God in the Gospel, they were true evangelists. And it seems to me that this Gospel, with this apparently very modest episode, is offering us in this very Church of St Anne an opportunity to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all the women who care for the parish, the women who serve in all its dimensions, who help us to know the Word of God ever anew, not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

Let us return to the Gospel:  Jesus slept at Peter’s house, but he rose before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted place to pray. And here the true centre of the mystery of Jesus appears.

Jesus was conversing with the Father and raised his human spirit in communion with the Person of the Son, so that the humanity of the Son, united to him, might speak in the Trinitarian dialogue with the Father; and thus, he also made true prayer possible for us. In the liturgy Jesus prays with us, we pray with Jesus, and so we enter into real contact with God, we enter into the mystery of eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity.

Jesus speaks to the Father:  this is the source and centre of all Jesus’ activities; we see his preaching, his cures, his miracles and lastly the Passion, and they spring from this centre of his being with the Father.

And in this way this Gospel teaches us that the centre of our faith and our lives is indeed the primacy of God. Whenever God is not there, the human being is no longer respected either. Only if God’s splendor shines on the human face, is the human image of God protected by a dignity which subsequently no one must violate.

The primacy of God. Let us see how the first three requests in the “Our Father” refer precisely to this primacy of God:  that God’s Name be sanctified, that respect for the divine mystery be alive and enliven the whole of our lives; that “may God’s Kingdom come” and “may [his] will be done” are two sides of the same coin; where God’s will is done Heaven already exists, a little bit of Heaven also begins on earth, and where God’s will is done the Kingdom of God is present.

Since the Kingdom of God is not a series of things, the Kingdom of God is the presence of God, the person’s union with God. It is to this destination that Jesus wants to guide us.

The centre of his proclamation is the Kingdom of God, that is, God as the source and centre of our lives, and he tells us:  God alone is the redemption of man. And we can see in the history of the last century that in the States where God was abolished, not only was the economy destroyed, but above all the souls.

Moral destruction and the destruction of human dignity are fundamental forms of destruction, and renewal can only come from God’s return, that is, from recognition of God’s centrality.

A Bishop from the Congo on an ad limina visit in these days said to me:  Europeans generously give us many things for development, but there is a hesitation in helping us in pastoral ministry; it seems as though they considered pastoral ministry useless, that only technological and material development were important. But the contrary is true, he said; where the Word of God does not exist, development fails to function and has no positive results. Only if God’s Word is put first, only if man is reconciled with God, can material things also go smoothly.

The continuation of the Gospel itself powerfully confirms this. The Apostles said to Jesus:  come back, everyone is looking for you. And he said no, I must go on to the next towns that I may proclaim God and cast out demons, the forces of evil; for that is why I came.

Jesus came - the Greek text says, “I came out from the Father” - not to bring us the comforts of life but to bring the fundamental condition of our dignity, to bring us the proclamation of God, the presence of God, and thus to overcome the forces of evil. He indicated this priority with great clarity:  I did not come to heal - I also do this, but as a sign -, I came to reconcile you with God. God is our Creator, God has given us life, our dignity:  and it is above all to him that we must turn.

And as Fr Gioele has said, today, the Church in Italy is celebrating Pro-Life Day. In their Message, the Italian Bishops have wanted to recall the priority duty to “respect life”, since it is a “unavailable” good. Man is not the master of life; rather, he is its custodian and steward, and under God’s primacy, this priority of administrating and preserving human life, created by God, comes automatically into being.

This truth that man is the custodian and steward of life is a clearly defined point of natural law, fully illumined by biblical revelation. It appears today as a “sign of contradiction” in comparison with the prevalent mindset. Indeed, we note that although there is broad convergence generally on the value of life, yet when this point is reached, that is, the point of the “availability” or “unavailability” to life, the two mindsets are irreconcilably opposed.

In simpler terms, we might say:  one of the two mindsets maintains that human life is in human hands, whereas the other recognizes that it is in God’s hands. Modern culture has legitimately emphasized the autonomy of the human person and earthly realities, thereby developing a perspective dear to Christianity, the Incarnation of God.

However, as the Second Vatican Council clearly asserted, if this autonomy leads us to think that “material being does not depend on God and that man can use it as if it had no relation to its Creator”, a deep imbalance will result, for “without a Creator there can be no creature” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 36).

It is significant that in the passage cited, the conciliar Document states that this capacity to recognize the voice and manifestation of God in the beauty of creation belongs to all believers, regardless of their religion. From this we can conclude that full respect for life is linked to a religious sense, to the inner attitude with which the human being faces reality, as master or as custodian.

Moreover, the word “respect” derives from the Latin word respicere, to look at, and means a way of looking at things and people that leads to recognizing their substantial character, not to appropriate them but rather to treat them with respect and to take care of them.

In the final analysis, if creatures are deprived of their reference to God as a transcendent basis, they risk being at the mercy of the will of man who, as we see, can make an improper use of it.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke together St Anne’s intercession for your parish community, which I greet with affection.

I greet in particular your Parish Priest, Fr Gioele, and I thank him for his words to me at the beginning. I then greet the Augustinian confreres with their Prior General; I greet Archbishop Angelo Comastri, my Vicar General for Vatican City, Archbishop Rizzato, my Almoner, and everyone present, especially the children, young people and all those who regularly use this church.

May St Anne, your heavenly Patroness, watch over you all and obtain for each one the gift of being a witness of the God of life and love.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, Pro-Life Day, organized by the Bishops’ Conference on the theme: “Love and desire life”, is being celebrated in Italy. I cordially greet all those who are gathered in St Peter’s Square to witness their commitment in support of life, from its conception to its natural end. I join the Italian Bishops in renewing the appeal made several times by my venerable Predecessors to all men and women of good will to welcome the great and mysterious gift of life.

Life, which is a work of God, should not be denied to anyone, even the tiniest and most defenseless unborn child, and far less to a child with serious disabilities. At the same time, echoing the Pastors of the Church in Italy, I advise you not to fall into the deceptive trap of thinking that life can be disposed of, to the point of “legitimizing its interruption with euthanasia, even if it is masked by a veil of human compassion”.

The “Week of life and of the family” begins in our Diocese of Rome today. It is an important opportunity to pray and reflect on the family, which is the “cradle” of life and of every vocation. We are well aware that the family founded on marriage is the natural environment in which to bear and raise children and thereby guarantee the future of all of humanity.

However, we also know that marriage is going through a deep crisis and today must face numerous challenges. It is consequently necessary to defend, help, safeguard and value it in its unrepeatable uniqueness.

If this commitment is in the first place the duty of spouses, it is also a priority duty of the Church and of every public institution to support the family by means of pastoral and political initiatives that take into account the real needs of married couples, of the elderly and of the new generations.

A peaceful family atmosphere, illumined by faith and the holy fear of God also nurtures the budding and blossoming of vocations to the service of the Gospel. I am referring in particular not only to those who are called to follow Christ on the path of the priesthood but also to all men and women religious, the consecrated people we remembered last Friday on the “World Day of Consecrated Life”.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that through a constant effort to promote life and the family institution, our communities may be places of communion and hope in which, despite the many difficulties, the great “yes” to authentic love and to the reality of the human being and the family is renewed in accordance with God’s original plan. Let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, to grant that respect for the sacredness of life will grow so that people will be ever more aware of the real needs of families and that the number of those who help to build the civilization of love in the world will increase.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 8 February 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel today (see Mk 1: 29-39) in close continuity with last Sunday’s presents to us Jesus who, after preaching on the Sabbath in the synagogue of Capernaum, heals many sick people, beginning with Simon’s mother-in-law. Upon entering Simon’s house, he finds her lying in bed with a fever and, by taking her hand, immediately heals her and has her get up. After sunset, he heals a multitude of people afflicted with ailments of every kind. The experience of healing the sick occupied a large part of Christ’s public mission and invites us once again to reflect on the meaning and value of illness, in every human situation. This opportunity is also offered to us by the World Day of the Sick which we shall be celebrating next Wednesday, 11 February, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Despite the fact that illness is part of human experience, we do not succeed in becoming accustomed to it, not only because it is sometimes truly burdensome and grave, but also essentially because we are made for life, for a full life. Our “internal instinct” rightly makes us think of God as fullness of life indeed, as eternal and perfect Life. When we are tried by evil and our prayers seem to be in vain, then doubt besets us and we ask ourselves in anguish: what is God’s will? We find the answer to this very question in the Gospel. For example, in today’s passage we read that Jesus “healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons” (Mk 1: 34); in another passage from St Matthew it says that Jesus “went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people” (Mt 4: 23). Jesus leaves no room for doubt: God whose Face he himself revealed is the God of life, who frees us from every evil. The signs of his power of love are the healings he performed. He thus shows that the Kingdom of God is close at hand by restoring men and women to their full spiritual and physical integrity. I maintain that these cures are signs: they are not complete in themselves but guide us towards Christ’s message, they guide us towards God and make us understand that man’s truest and deepest illness is the absence of God, who is the source of truth and love. Only reconciliation with God can give us true healing, true life, because a life without love and without truth would not be life. The Kingdom of God is precisely the presence of truth and love and thus is healing in the depths of our being. One therefore understands why his preaching and the cures he works always go together: in fact, they form one message of hope and salvation.

Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ work is extended in the Church’s mission. Through the sacraments it is Christ who communicates his life to multitudes of brothers and sisters, while he heals and comforts innumerable sick people through the many activities of health-care assistance that Christian communities promote with fraternal charity. Thus they reveal the true Face of God, his love. It is true: very many Christians around the world priests, religious and lay people - have lent and continue to lend their hands, eyes and hearts to Christ, true physician of bodies and souls! Let us pray for all sick people, especially those who are most seriously ill, who can in no way provide for themselves but depend entirely on the care of others. May each one of them experience, in the solicitude of those who are beside them, the power and love of God and the richness of his saving grace. Mary, health of the sick, pray for us!



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Liturgy on this Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time presents us with the subject of the divine call. In a majestic vision Isaiah finds himself in the presence of the thrice-blessed Lord and is overcome by great awe and a profound feeling of his unworthiness. But a seraph purifies his lips with a burning coal and wipes away his sin. Feeling ready to respond to God’s call, he exclaims: “Here I am, Lord. Command me!” (see Is 6:1-2; 3-8). The same succession of sentiments is presented in the episode of the miraculous catch of which today’s Gospel passage speaks. Asked by Jesus to cast their nets although they had caught nothing during the night, trusting in his word, Simon Peter and the other disciples obtain a superabundant catch. In the face of this miracle Simon Peter does not throw his arms around Jesus to express his joy at the unexpected catch. Rather, as the Evangelist Luke recounts, he falls to his knees saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord”. Jesus, therefore, reassures him: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (see Lk 5:10); and leaving everything, he followed him.

Paul too, remembering that he had been a persecutor of the Church, professed himself unworthy to be called an apostle. Yet he recognized that the grace of God had worked wonders in him and, despite his limitations, God had entrusted him with the task and honor of preaching the Gospel (see 1 Cor 15:8-10). In these three experiences, we see how an authentic encounter with God brings the human being to recognize his poverty and inadequacy, his limitations and his sins. Yet in spite of this weakness the Lord, rich in mercy and forgiveness, transforms the life of human beings and calls them to follow him. The humility shown by Isaiah, Peter and Paul invites all who have received the gift of a divine vocation not to focus on their own limitations but rather to keep their gaze fixed on the Lord and on his amazing mercy so that their hearts may be converted and that they may continue joyfully, “to leave everything” to him. Indeed, the Lord does not look at what is important to human beings. “The Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7) and makes human beings who are poor and weak but have faith in him fearless apostles and heralds of salvation.

In this Year for Priests, let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into his harvest. Let us also pray that all who hear the Lord’s invitation to follow him may be able after due discernment to respond to him generously, not trusting in their own strength but opening themselves to the action of his grace. I ask all priests in particular to revive their generous availability to respond every day to the Lord’s call with the same humility and faith as Isaiah, Peter and Paul.

Let us entrust all vocations to the Blessed Virgin, especially vocations to the religious and priestly life. May Mary inspire in each one the desire to pronounce his or her own “yes” to the Lord with joy and total dedication.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 6 February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel the Lord Jesus tells his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth.... You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13, 14). With these richly evocative images he wishes to pass on to them the meaning of their mission and their witness.

Salt, in the cultures of the Middle East, calls to mind several values such as the Covenant, solidarity, life and wisdom. Light is the first work of God the Creator and is a source of life; the word of God is compared to light, as the Psalmist proclaims: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119[118]:105).

And, again in today’s Liturgy, the Prophet Isaiah says: “If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday” (58:10).

Wisdom sums up in itself the beneficial effects of salt and light: in fact, disciples of the Lord are called to give a new “taste” to the world and to keep it from corruption with the wisdom of God, which shines out in its full splendor on the Face of the Son because he is “the true light that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9).

United to him, in the darkness of indifference and selfishness, Christians can diffuse the light of God’s love, true wisdom that gives meaning to human life and action.

Next 11 February, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, we shall celebrate the World Day of the Sick. It is a favorable opportunity on which to reflect, to pray and to increase the sensitivity that the ecclesial communities and civil society show to our sick brothers and sisters.

In the Message for this Day, inspired by a sentence from the First Letter of Peter, “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24), I invite everyone to contemplate Jesus, the Son of God, who suffered and died but is Risen.

God radically opposes the overbearingness of evil. The Lord takes care of human beings in every situation, he shares in their suffering and opens their hearts to hope. I therefore urge all health-care workers to recognize in the sick person not only a body marked by frailty but first and foremost a person, to whom they should give full solidarity and offer appropriated and qualified help.

In this context I also recall that today in Italy is the “Day for Life”. I hope that everyone will make an effort to increase the culture of life and to make the human being the centre in all circumstances. According to both faith and reason, the dignity of the person cannot be reduced to his or her faculties or visible capacity; thus human dignity is never lacking even when the person is weak, sick or in need of help.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us invoke the motherly intercession of the Virgin Mary so that parents, grandparents, teachers, priests and all who are involved in education may inculcate in the young generations wisdom of heart, to enable them to attain fullness of life.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 5 February 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday’s Gospel presents to us Jesus who heals the sick: first Simon Peter’s mother-in-law who was in bed with a fever and Jesus, taking her by the hand, healed her and helped her to her feet; then all the sick in Capernaum, tried in body, mind and spirit, and he “healed many… and cast out many demons” (Mk 1:34). The four Evangelists agree in testifying that this liberation from illness and infirmity of every kind was — together with preaching — Jesus’ main activity in his public ministry.

Illness is in fact a sign of the action of Evil in the world and in people, whereas healing shows that the Kingdom of God, God himself, is at hand. Jesus Christ came to defeat Evil at the root and instances of healing are an anticipation of his triumph, obtained with his death and Resurrection.

Jesus said one day: “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mk 2:17). On that occasion he was referring to sinners, whom he came to call and to save. It is nonetheless true that illness is a typically human condition in which we feel strongly that we are not self-sufficient but need others. In this regard we might say paradoxically that illness can be a salutary moment in which to experience the attention of others and to pay attention to others!

However illness is also always a trial that can even become long and difficult. When healing does not happen and suffering is prolonged, we can be as it were overwhelmed, isolated, and then our life is depressed and dehumanized. How should we react to this attack of Evil? With the appropriate treatment, certainly — medicine in these decades has taken giant strides and we are grateful for it — but the Word of God teaches us that there is a crucial basic attitude with which to face illness and it is that of faith in God, in his goodness. Jesus always repeats this to the people he heals: your faith has made you well (see Mk 5:34, 36).

Even in the face of death, faith can make possible what is humanly impossible. But faith in what? In the love of God. This is the real answer which radically defeats Evil. Just as Jesus confronted the Evil One with the power of the love that came to him from the Father, so we too can confront and live through the trial of illness, keeping our heart immersed in God’s love.

We all know people who were able to bear terrible suffering because God gave them profound serenity. I am thinking of the recent example of Bl. Chiara Badano, cut off in the flower of her youth by a disease from which there was no escape: all those who went to visit her received light and confidence from her! Nonetheless, in sickness we all need human warmth: to comfort a sick person what counts more than words is serene and sincere closeness.

Dear friends, next Saturday, 11 February, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, is the World Day of the Sick. Let us too do as people did in Jesus’ day: let us present to him spiritually all the sick, confident that he wants to and can heal them. And let us invoke the intercession of Our Lady, especially for the situations of greater suffering and neglect. Mary, Health of the Sick, pray for us!



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 10 February 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In today’s liturgy, the Gospel according to Luke presents the story of the call of the first disciples, with an original version that differs from that of the other two Synoptic Gospels, Matthew and Mark (see Mt 4: 18-22; Mk 1:16-20) . The call, in fact, was preceded by the teaching of Jesus to the crowd and a miraculous catch of fish, carried out by the will of the Lord (Lk 5:1-6). In fact, while the crowd rushes to the shore of Lake Gennesaret to hear Jesus, he sees Simon discouraged because he has caught nothing all night. First Jesus asks to get into Simon’s boat in order to preach to the people standing a short distance from the shore; then, having finished preaching, he commands Simon to go out into the deep with his friends and cast their nets (see v. 5). Simon obeys, and they catch an incredible amount of fish. In this way, the evangelist shows how the first disciples followed Jesus, trusting him, relying on his Word, all the while accompanied by miraculous signs. We note that, before this sign, Simon addresses Jesus, calling him “Master” (v. 5), while afterwards he addresses him as “Lord” (v. 7). This is the pedagogy of God’s call, which does not consider the quality of those who are chosen so much as their faith, like that of Simon that says: “At your word, I will let down the nets” (v. 5).

The image of the fish refers to the Church’s mission. St Augustine says in this regard, “Twice the disciples went out to fish at the Lord’s command: once before the Passion and the other time after the Resurrection. In the two scenes of fishing, the entire Church is depicted: the Church as it is now and as it will be after the resurrection of the dead. Now it gathers together a multitude, impossible to number, comprising the good and the bad; after the resurrection, it will include only the good” (Homily 248.1). The experience of Peter, certainly unique, is nonetheless representative of the call of every apostle of the Gospel, who must never be discouraged in proclaiming Christ to all men, even to the ends of the world. However, today’s text is a reflection on the vocation to the priesthood and the consecrated life. It is the work of God. The human person is not the author of his own vocation but responds to the divine call. Human weakness should not be afraid if God calls. It is necessary to have confidence in his strength, which acts in our poverty; we must rely more and more on the power of his mercy, which transforms and renews.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Word of God revive in us and in our Christian communities courage, confidence and enthusiasm in proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel. Do not let failures and difficulties lead to discouragement: it is our task to cast our nets in faith — the Lord will do the rest. We must trust, too, in the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Queen of Apostles. Well aware of her own smallness, she answered the Lord’s call with total confidence: “Here I am”. With her maternal help, let us renew our willingness to follow Jesus, Master and Lord. 

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