Monday, February 28, 2022

Reflections on the First Sunday
of Lent by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0335: Reflections on the First Sunday of Lent  
Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the First Sunday of Lent, on 5 March 2006,  25 February 2007, 10 February 2008, 1 March 2009, 21 February 2010,  13 March 2011, 26 February 2012, and 17 February 2013. Here are the texts of eight brief reflections delivered on these occasions prior to the recitation of the Angelus.



Saint Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 5 March 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This past Wednesday we began Lent, and today we are celebrating the first Sunday of this liturgical season that encourages Christians to set out on a path of preparation for Easter.

Today, the Gospel reminds us that Jesus, after being baptized in the River Jordan and impelled by the Holy Spirit who settled upon him and revealed him as the Christ, withdrew for 40 days into the Desert of Judea where he overcame the temptations of Satan (see Mk 1: 12-13). Following their Teacher and Lord, Christians also enter the Lenten desert in spirit in order to face with him the “fight against the spirit of evil”.

The image of the desert is a very eloquent metaphor of the human condition. The Book of Exodus recounts the experience of the People of Israel who, after leaving Egypt, wandered through the desert of Sinai for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land.

During that long journey, the Jews experienced the full force and persistence of the tempter, who urged them to lose trust in the Lord and to turn back; but at the same time, thanks to Moses’ mediation, they learned to listen to God’s voice calling them to become his holy People.

In meditating on this biblical passage, we understand that to live life to the full in freedom we must overcome the test that this freedom entails, that is, temptation. Only if he is freed from the slavery of falsehood and sin can the human person, through the obedience of faith that opens him to the truth, find the full meaning of his life and attain peace, love and joy.

For this very reason Lent is a favourable time for a diligent revision of life through recollection, prayer and penance. The Spiritual Exercises, which will begin this evening in accordance with tradition and continue until next Saturday here in the Apostolic Palace, will help me and my collaborators in the Roman Curia to enter with greater awareness into this characteristic Lenten atmosphere.

Dear brothers and sisters, as I ask you to accompany me with your prayers, I assure you of my remembrance to the Lord, so that Lent may be for all Christians an opportunity for conversion and a more courageous effort towards holiness. For this, let us invoke the Virgin Mary’s motherly intercession.



St Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 25 February 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year the Message for Lent is inspired by a verse of John’s Gospel, which in turn refers to a messianic prophecy of Zechariah: “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19: 37). The beloved disciple, present at Calvary together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and some other women, was an eyewitness to the thrust of the lance that passed through Christ’s side, causing blood and water to flow forth (see Jn 19: 31-34). That gesture by an anonymous Roman soldier, destined to be lost in oblivion, remains impressed on the eyes and heart of the Apostle, who takes it up in his Gospel. How many conversions have come about down the centuries thanks to the eloquent message of love that the one who looks upon Jesus crucified receives!

Therefore, we enter into the Lenten Season with our “gaze” fixed on the side of Jesus. In the Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est (see no. 12), I wished to emphasize that only by looking at Jesus dead on the Cross for us can this fundamental truth be known and contemplated: “God is love” (I Jn 4: 8, 16). “In this contemplation”, I wrote, “the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move” (no. 12).

Contemplating the Crucified One with the eyes of faith we can understand in depth what sin is, how tragic is its gravity, and at the same time, how immense is the Lord’s power of forgiveness and mercy.

During these days of Lent, let us not distance our hearts from this mystery of profound humanity and lofty spirituality. Looking at Christ, we feel at the same time looked at by him. He whom we have pierced with our faults never tires of pouring out upon the world an inexhaustible torrent of merciful love.

May humankind understand that only from this font is it possible to draw the indispensable spiritual energy to build that peace and happiness which every human being continually seeks.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary, pierced in spirit next to the Cross of her Son, to obtain for us a solid faith. Guiding us along the Lenten journey, may she help us to leave all that distances us from listening to Christ and his saving Word.

To her I entrust in particular the week of Spiritual Exercises that will begin this afternoon here in the Vatican, and in which I will participate along with my collaborators of the Roman Curia.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to accompany us with your prayer, which I willingly reciprocate during the recollection of the retreat, invoking the divine power upon each of you, your families and your communities.



St Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 10 February 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday, we entered Lent with fasting and the Rite of Ashes. But what does “entering Lent” mean? It means we enter a season of special commitment in the spiritual battle to oppose the evil present in the world, in each one of us and around us. It means looking evil in the face and being ready to fight its effects and especially its causes, even its primary cause which is Satan.

It means not off-loading the problem of evil on to others, on to society or on to God but rather recognizing one’s own responsibility and assuming it with awareness. In this regard Jesus’ invitation to each one of us Christians to take up our “cross” and follow him with humility and trust (see Mt 16: 24) is particularly pressing. Although the “cross” may be heavy it is not synonymous with misfortune, with disgrace, to be avoided on all accounts; rather it is an opportunity to follow Jesus and thereby to acquire strength in the fight against sin and evil. Thus, entering Lent means renewing the personal and community decision to face evil together with Christ. The way of the Cross is in fact the only way that leads to the victory of love over hatred, of sharing over selfishness, of peace over violence. Seen in this light, Lent is truly an opportunity for a strong ascetic and spiritual commitment based on Christ’s grace.

This year the beginning of Lent providentially coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions in Lourdes. Four years after the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pius IX, Mary appeared to St Bernadette Soubirous for the first time on 11 February 1858 in the Grotto of Massabielle. Another three Apparitions accompanied by extraordinary events followed in succession and finally the Blessed Virgin took her leave of the young seer, in the local dialect, by disclosing to her: “I am the Immaculate Conception”. The message that Our Lady continues to spread in Lourdes recalls the words that Jesus spoke at the very beginning of his public mission, which we hear several times during these days of Lent:  “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, pray and do penance. Let us accept Mary’s invitation which echoes Christ’s and ask her to obtain for us that we may “enter” Lent with faith, to live this season of grace with inner joy and generous commitment.

Let us also entrust to the Virgin the sick and all who take loving care of them. Indeed, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated tomorrow, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. I wholeheartedly greet the pilgrims who will be gathering in St Peter’s Basilica, led by Cardinal Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. Unfortunately I shall not be able to meet them because this evening I will begin Spiritual Exercises, but in silence and recollection I will pray for them and for all the needs of the Church and of the world. To all who desire to remember me to the Lord, I offer my sincere thanks from this moment.



Saint Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 1 March 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today is the First Sunday of Lent and the Gospel, in the sober and concise style of St Mark, introduces us into the atmosphere of this liturgical season: “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1: 12). In the Holy Land the Judean desert, which lies to the west of the River Jordan and the Oasis of Jericho, rises over stony valleys to reach an altitude of about 1,000 metres at Jerusalem. After receiving Baptism from John, Jesus entered that lonely place, led by the Holy Spirit himself who had settled upon him, consecrating him and revealing him as the Son of God. In the desert, a place of trial as the experience of the People of Israel shows, the dramatic reality of the kenosis, the self-emptying of Christ who had stripped himself of the form of God (see Phil 2: 6-7), appears most vividly. He who never sinned and cannot sin submits to being tested and can therefore sympathize with our weaknesses (see Heb 4: 15). He lets himself be tempted by Satan, the enemy, who has been opposed to God’s saving plan for humankind from the outset.

In the succinct account, angels, luminous and mysterious figures, appear almost fleetingly before this dark, tenebrous figure who dares to tempt the Lord. Angels, the Gospel says, “ministered” to Jesus (Mk 1: 13); they are the antithesis of Satan. “Angel” means “messenger”. Throughout the Old Testament we find these figures who help and guide human beings on God’s behalf. It suffices to remember the Book of Tobit, in which the figure of the Angel Raphael appears and assists the protagonist in every vicissitude. The reassuring presence of the angel of the Lord accompanies the People of Israel in all of their experiences, good and bad. On the threshold of the New Testament, Gabriel is dispatched to announce to Zechariah and to Mary the joyful events at the beginning of our salvation; and an angel we are not told his name warns Joseph, guiding him in that moment of uncertainty. A choir of angels brings the shepherds the good news of the Saviour’s birth; and it was also to be angels who announced the joyful news of his Resurrection to the women. At the end of time, angels will accompany Jesus when he comes in his glory (see Mt 25: 31). Angels minister to Jesus, who is certainly superior to them. This dignity of his is clearly, if discreetly, proclaimed here in the Gospel. Indeed, even in the situation of extreme poverty and humility, when he is tempted by Satan he remains the Son of God, the Messiah, the Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, we would be removing an important part of the Gospel were we to leave out these beings sent by God, who announce and are a sign of his presence among us. Let us invoke them frequently, so that they may sustain us in our commitment to follow Jesus to the point of identifying with him. Let us ask them, especially today, to watch over me and my collaborators in the Roman Curia; this afternoon we shall be beginning a week of Spiritual Exercises, as we do every year. Mary, Queen of Angels, pray for us!



St Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 21 February 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday, with the penitential Rite of Ashes we began Lent, a Season of spiritual renewal in preparation for the annual celebration of Easter. But what does it mean to begin the Lenten journey? The Gospel for this First Sunday of Lent illustrates it for us with the account of the temptations of Jesus in the desert. The Evangelist St Luke recounts that after receiving Baptism from John, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil” (Lk 4: 1). There is a clear insistence on the fact that the temptations were not just an incident on the way but rather the consequence of Jesus’ decision to carry out the mission entrusted to him by the Father to live to the very end his reality as the beloved Son who trusts totally in him. Christ came into the world to set us free from sin and from the ambiguous fascination of planning our life leaving God out. He did not do so with loud proclamations but rather by fighting the Tempter himself, until the Cross. This example applies to everyone: the world is improved by starting with oneself, changing, with God’s grace, everything in one’s life that is not going well.

The first of the three temptations to which Satan subjects Jesus originates in hunger, that is, in material need: “If you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread”. But Jesus responds with Sacred Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Lk 4: 3-4; see Dt 8: 3). Then the Devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and says: all this will be yours if, prostrating yourself, you worship me. This is the deception of power, and an attempt which Jesus was to unmask and reject: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (see Lk 4: 5-8; Dt 6: 13). Not adoration of power, but only of God, of truth and love. Lastly, the Tempter suggests to Jesus that he work a spectacular miracle: that he throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple and let the angels save him so that everyone might believe in him. However, Jesus answers that God must never be put to the test (see Dt 6: 16). We cannot “do an experiment” in which God has to respond and show that he is God: we must believe in him! We should not make God “the substance” of “our experiment”. Still referring to Sacred Scripture, Jesus puts the only authentic criterion obedience, conformity to God’s will, which is the foundation of our existence before human criteria. This is also a fundamental teaching for us: if we carry God’s word in our minds and hearts, if it enters our lives, if we trust in God, we can reject every kind of deception by the Tempter. Furthermore, Christ’s image as the new Adam emerges clearly from this account. He is the Son of God, humble and obedient to the Father, unlike Adam and Eve who in the Garden of Eden succumbed to the seduction of the evil spirit, of being immortal without God.

Lent is like a long “retreat” in which to re-enter oneself and listen to God’s voice in order to overcome the temptations of the Evil One and to find the truth of our existence. It is a time, we may say, of spiritual “training” in order to live alongside Jesus not with pride and presumption but rather by using the weapons of faith: namely prayer, listening to the Word of God and penance. In this way we shall succeed in celebrating Easter in truth, ready to renew our baptismal promises. May the Virgin Mary help us so that, guided by the Holy Spirit, we may live joyfully and fruitfully this Season of grace. May she intercede in particular for me and for my collaborators of the Roman Curia, who begin the Spiritual Exercises this evening.



St Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Lent, 13 March 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is the First Sunday of Lent, the liturgical Season of 40 days which constitutes a spiritual journey in the Church of preparation for Easter. Essentially it is a matter of following Jesus who is walking with determination towards the Cross, the culmination of his mission of salvation. If we ask ourselves: “Why Lent? Why the Cross?”, the answer in radical terms is this: because evil exists, indeed sin, which according to the Scriptures is the profound cause of all evil. However this affirmation is far from being taken for granted and the very word “sin” is not accepted by many because it implies a religious vision of the world and of the human being.

In fact it is true: if God is eliminated from the world’s horizon, one cannot speak of sin. As when the sun is hidden, shadows disappear. Shadows only appear if the sun is out; hence the eclipse of God necessarily entails the eclipse of sin. Therefore the sense of sin — which is something different from the “sense of guilt” as psychology understands it — is acquired by rediscovering the sense of God. This is expressed by the Miserere Psalm, attributed to King David on the occasion of his double sin of adultery and homicide: “Against you”, David says, addressing God, “against you only have I sinned” (Ps 51(50):6).

In the face of moral evil God’s attitude is to oppose sin and to save the sinner. God does not tolerate evil because he is Love, Justice and Fidelity; and for this very reason he does not desire the death of the sinner but wants the sinner to convert and to live. To save humanity God intervenes: we see him throughout the history of the Jewish people, beginning with the liberation from Egypt. God is determined to deliver his children from slavery in order to lead them to freedom. And the most serious and profound slavery is precisely that of sin.

For this reason God sent his Son into the world: to set men and women free from the domination of Satan, “the origin and cause of every sin”. God sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become a victim of expiation, dying for us on the Cross. The Devil opposed this definitive and universal plan of salvation with all his might, as is shown in particular in the Gospel of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness which is proclaimed every year on the First Sunday of Lent. In fact, entering this liturgical season means continuously taking Christ’s side against sin, facing — both as individuals and as Church — the spiritual fight against the spirit of evil each time (Ash Wednesday, Opening Prayer).

Let us therefore invoke the maternal help of Mary Most Holy for the Lenten journey that has just begun, so that it may be rich in fruits of conversion. I ask for special remembrance in prayer for myself and for my co-workers in the Roman Curia, as we shall begin the week of Spiritual Exercises this evening.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 February 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this First Sunday of Lent we meet Jesus who, after receiving Baptism from John the Baptist in the River Jordan (see Mk 1:9), is subjected to temptation in the wilderness (see Mk 1:12-13). St Mark’s concise narrative lacks the details we read in the other two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The wilderness referred to has various meanings. It can indicate the state of abandonment and loneliness, the “place” of human weakness, devoid of support and safety, where temptation grows stronger.

However, it can also indicate a place of refuge and shelter — as it was for the People of Israel who had escaped from slavery in Egypt — where it is possible to experience God’s presence in a special way. Jesus “was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk 1:13). St Leo the Great comments that “The Lord wanted to suffer the attack of the tempter in order to defend us with his help and to instruct us with his example (Tractatus XXXIX,3 De ieiunio quadragesimae: CCL 138/A, Turnholti 1973, 214-215).

What can this episode teach us? As we read in the book The Imitation of Christ, “There is no man wholly free from temptations so long as he lives... but by endurance and true humility we are made stronger than all our enemies” (Liber I, C. XIII, Vatican City 1982, 37), endurance and the humility of following the Lord every day, learning not to build our lives outside him or as though he did not exist, but in him and with him, for he is the source of true life.

The temptation to remove God, to arrange things within us and in the world by ourselves, relying on our own abilities, has always been present in human history.

Jesus proclaims that “the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mk 1:15), he announces that in him something new happens: God turns to the human being in an unexpected way, with a unique, tangible closeness, full of love; God is incarnate and enters the human world to take sin upon himself, to conquer evil and usher men and women into the world of God.

However, this proclamation is accompanied by the request to measure up to such a great gift. In fact Jesus adds: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). It is an invitation to have faith in God and to convert all our actions and thoughts to goodness, every day. The season of Lent is a favourable moment for renewing and reinforcing our relationship with God, through daily prayer, acts of penance and works of brotherly charity.

Let us fervently beg Mary Most Holy to accompany us on our Lenten journey with her protection and to help us to impress the words of Jesus Christ in our hearts and in our lives so as to convert to him. In addition, I entrust to your prayers the week of Spiritual Exercises which I shall begin this evening with my co-workers in the Roman Curia.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 17 February 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With the traditional Rite of Ashes last Wednesday we entered Lent, a season of conversion and penance in preparation for Easter. The Church who is mother and teacher calls all her members to renew themselves in spirit and to turn once again with determination to God, renouncing pride and selfishness, to live in love. This Year of Faith Lent is a favourable time for rediscovering faith in God as the basic criterion for our life and for the life of the Church. This always means a struggle, a spiritual combat, because the spirit of evil is naturally opposed to our sanctification and seeks to make us stray from God’s path. For this reason the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness is proclaimed every year on the First Sunday of Lent.

Indeed, after receiving the “investiture” as Messiah “Annointed” with the Holy Spirit at the baptism in the Jordan Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit himself to be tempted by the devil. At the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus had to unmask himself and reject the false images of the Messiah which the tempter was suggesting to him. Yet these temptations are also false images of man that threaten to ensnare our conscience, in the guise of suitable, effective and even good proposals. The Evangelists Matthew and Luke present three temptations of Jesus that differ slightly, but only in their order. Their essential core is always the exploitation of God for our own interests, giving preference to success or to material possessions. The tempter is cunning. He does not directly impel us towards evil but rather towards a false good, making us believe that the true realities are power and everything that satisfies our primary needs. In this way God becomes secondary, he is reduced to a means; in short, he becomes unreal, he no longer counts, he disappears. Ultimately, in temptation faith is at stake because God is at stake. At the crucial moments in life but also, as can be seen at every moment, we stand at a crossroads: do we want to follow our own ego or God? Our individual interests or the true Good, to follow what is really good?

As the Fathers of the Church teach us, the temptations are part of Jesus’ “descent” into our human condition, into the abyss of sin and its consequences; a “descent” that Jesus made to the end, even to death on the Cross and to the hell of extreme remoteness from God. In this way he is the hand that God stretches out to man, to the lost sheep, to bring him back to safety. As St Augustine teaches, Jesus took the temptations from us to give us his victory (see Enarr. in Psalmos, 60, 3: pl 36, 724).

Therefore let us not be afraid either of facing the battle against the spirit of evil: the important thing is to fight it with him, with Christ, the Conqueror. And to be with him let us turn to his Mother, Mary; let us call on her with filial trust in the hour of trial and she will make us feel the powerful presence of her divine Son, so that we can reject temptations with Christ’s word and thus put God back at the centre of our life. 

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, February 21, 2022

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

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

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



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 26 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

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

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

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

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

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

© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, February 14, 2022

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 7, 2022

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