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Monday, June 10, 2024


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



Entry 0284: Reflections on the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  


On seven occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 12 June 2005, 18 June 2006, 17 June 2007, 15 June 2008, 14 June 2009, 13 June 2010, and 17 June 2012. Here are the texts of the seven reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and the two homilies delivered on these occasions.



BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year of the Eucharist continues. It was desired by our beloved Pope John Paul II to reawaken ever greater wonder toward this Sacrament in the consciences of believers.

One of the recurring themes in this special Eucharistic period is that of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, a topic that was also at the heart of the recent Italian Eucharistic Congress held in Bari.

At the closing celebration, I too emphasized how participation in Sunday Mass must not be felt as an imposition or burden by Christians, but rather as a necessity and joy. Gathering together with our brothers and sisters to listen to the Word of God and to be nourished by Christ, sacrificed for us, is a beautiful experience that gives life meaning and imbues our hearts with peace. We Christians cannot live without Sunday.

Parents, therefore, are called to help their children to discover the value and importance of responding to the invitation of Christ, who summons the whole Christian family to Sunday Mass. An especially significant stage in this educational journey is First Communion, a true celebration for the parish community which welcomes its smallest children to the Lord’s Table for the first time.

To highlight the importance of this event for families and parishes, next 15 October, God willing, I will be holding a special catechetical meeting in the Vatican for children who have received their First Communion this year, especially those from Rome and Lazio. This festive gathering will be taking place towards the end of the Year of the Eucharist and during the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, focused on the Eucharistic mystery. It will be a suitable and beautiful opportunity to reaffirm the essential role of the Eucharist in the formation and spiritual growth of young children.

From this moment I entrust this meeting to the Virgin Mary, so that she may teach us to love Jesus more and more, in constant meditation on his Word and in adoration of his presence in the Eucharist; I also ask her to help us enable the young generations to discover the “precious pearl” of the Eucharist, which gives life true and full meaning. With this intention, we now turn to the Holy Virgin.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 18 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, in Italy and in other countries, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi is celebrated, which already had its intense moment in Rome in the city’s procession on Thursday. It is the solemn, public feast of the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ: on this day, the mystery instituted at the Last Supper and commemorated every year on Holy Thursday is manifested to all, in the midst of the fervour of faith and devotion of the Ecclesial Community.

Indeed, the Eucharist is the “treasure” of the Church, the precious heritage that her Lord has left to her. And the Church preserves it with the greatest care, celebrating it daily in Holy Mass, adoring it in churches and chapels, administering it to the sick, and as viaticum to those who are on their last journey.

However, this treasure that is destined for the baptized, does not exhaust its radius of action in the context of the Church: the Eucharist is the Lord Jesus who gives himself “for the life of the world” (Jn 6: 51). In every time and in every place, he wants to meet human beings and bring them the life of God. And this is not all. The Eucharist also has a cosmic property: the transformation of the bread and the wine into Christ’s Body and Blood is in fact the principle of the divinization of creation itself.

For this reason, the Feast of Corpus Christi is characterized particularly by the tradition of carrying the Most Holy Sacrament in procession, an act full of meaning. By carrying the Eucharist through the streets and squares, we desire to immerse the Bread come down from Heaven in our daily lives. We want Jesus to walk where we walk, to live where we live. Our world, our existence, must become his temple.

On this feast day, the Christian Community proclaims that the Eucharist is its all, its very life, the source of life that triumphs over death. From communion with Christ in the Eucharist flows the charity that transforms our life and supports us all on our journey towards the heavenly Homeland. For this reason the liturgy makes us sing “Good Shepherd, true Bread.... You who know all things, who can do all things, who nourish us while on earth, lead your brethren to the heavenly banquet in the glory of your Saints”.

Mary is the “Woman of the Eucharist” as Pope John Paul II described her in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia. Let us pray the Virgin that all Christians may deepen their faith in the Eucharistic mystery, to live in constant communion with Jesus and be his effective witness.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY
OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Square outside the Lower Basilica of St Francis, Sunday, 17 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

About eight centuries ago, it would have been hard for the town of Assisi to imagine the role that Providence was to assign it, making it a famous city in the world today, a true “place of the soul”. It was what happened here which gave it this character that impressed on it an indelible mark.

I am referring to the conversion of the young Francis. After 25 years of a mediocre life full of dreams, spent in the pursuit of worldly pleasures and success, he opened himself to grace, came to his senses and gradually recognized Christ as the ideal of his life. My Pilgrimage to Assisi today is intended to recall that event and to relive its significance and importance.

I stopped with special emotion at the little Church of San Damiano, in which Francis heard the Crucifix say these programmatic words: “Francis, go and repair my house” (see 2 Cel 1, 6, 10). It was a mission that began with the complete conversion of his heart, to become subsequently a Gospel leaven, generously distributed by the handful in the Church and in society.

At Rivotorto I saw the place where tradition has it that lepers were confined whom the Saint approached with mercy, thus beginning his life as a penitent. And I also saw the Shrine which calls to mind the poor dwelling place of Francis and his first friars.

I went to the Basilica of St Clare, Francis’ “plantlet”, and this afternoon, after my Visit to the Cathedral of Assisi, I shall stop at the Portiuncula from which, in Mary’s shadow, Francis guided the steps of his expanding brotherhood and where he breathed his last. I will meet the youth there because there the young Francis, converted to Christ, spoke to their hearts.

From the Basilica of St Francis in which his mortal remains repose, I would now like above all to make his tones of praise my own: “Most High, All Powerful, All Good Lord, All praise is yours, all glory, all honour and all blessing” (see Canticle of the Sun 1). Francis of Assisi is a great teacher of our faith and praise. By falling in love with Jesus Christ he encountered the Face of God-Love, of whom he became an impassioned bard and sang his praise passionately like a real “minstrel of God”.

In the light of the Gospel Beatitudes we can understand the gentleness with which St Francis was able to live his relations with others, presenting himself in humility to all and becoming a witness and artisan of peace.

From this city of peace, I would like to send a greeting to the representatives of the other Christian denominations and of the other religions who, in 1986, accepted the invitation of my venerable Predecessor to take part in a World Day of Prayer for Peace here in the homeland of St Francis.

I consider it my duty to launch from here a pressing and heartfelt appeal to stop all the armed conflicts which bathe the earth in blood. May weapons be silenced and may hatred everywhere give way to love, offence to forgiveness and discord to union!

We feel here the spiritual presence of all those whom war and its tragic consequences cause to weep, suffer and die in any part of the world.

We are thinking in particular of the Holy Land, so loved by St Francis; and of Iraq, Lebanon and the entire region of the Middle East. For too long now the peoples of those countries have been experiencing the horrors of war, terrorism, blind violence, the illusion that force can resolve conflicts, the refusal to listen to the reasoning of others and the refusal to do them justice.

Only a responsible and sincere dialogue, backed by the generous support of the International Community, will be able to put an end to all this suffering and restore life and dignity to individuals, institutions and peoples.

May St Francis, a man of peace, obtain for us from the Lord an increasing number of people who accept to make themselves “instruments of his peace” through thousands of small acts in daily life; and that all who have roles of responsibility be motivated by a passionate love for peace and an indomitable determination to achieve it, choosing the appropriate means to obtain it.

May the Blessed Virgin, whom the “Poverello” loved tenderly and praised in inspired tones, help us discover the secret of peace in the miracle of love which was fulfilled in her womb with the Incarnation of the Son of God.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO ASSISI
ON THE EIGHTH CENTENARY
OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT FRANCIS

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Lower Basilica of St Francis, Sunday, 17 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What is the Lord saying to us today while we celebrate the Eucharist in the evocative setting of this square, in which eight centuries of holiness, devotion, art and culture linked to the name of Francis of Assisi are gathered?

Today, everything here speaks of conversion, as Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino recalled and whom I warmly thank for his kind words. With him, I greet the entire Church of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, as well as the Pastors of the Churches of Umbria.

I extend a grateful thought to Cardinal Attilio Nicora, my Legate for the two Papal Basilicas of this Town.

I address an affectionate greeting to the sons of Francis of the various Orders present here with their Ministers General. I express my cordial respects to the President of the Council of Ministers and to all the Civil Authorities who have wished to honour us with their presence.

Speaking of conversion means going to the heart of the Christian message, and at the same time to the roots of human existence. The Word of God just proclaimed enlightens us by holding up to our gaze three converted figures.

The first is David. The passage concerning him, taken from the Second Book of Samuel, presents to us one of the most dramatic conversations in the Old Testament. A burning verdict lies at the heart of this dialogue, with which the Word of God, uttered by the Prophet Nathan, exposes a king who had reached the summit of his political fortune but had also fallen to the lowest level of his moral life.

To grasp the dramatic tension of this dialogue, it is necessary to bear in mind its historical and theological horizon. This horizon is outlined by the event of love with which God chooses Israel as his People, establishing a Covenant with them and taking care to assure them a land and freedom.

David is a link in this history of God’s continuing concern for his People. He was chosen in a difficult period and placed beside King Saul, then to become his successor. God’s design also concerns his descendants connected with the messianic project, which was to find its complete fulfilment in Christ, “Son of David”.

The figure of David is thus an image of both historical and religious importance. In even starker contrast with this is the abjection into which he falls. Blinded by his passion for Bathsheba, he wrenches her from her husband, one of his most faithful warriors, and then orders his assassination in cold blood. This is something that makes one shudder: how could a man chosen by God fall so low?

The human being is truly greatness and wretchedness: he is great because he bears in himself God’s image and is the object of his love; he is wretched because he can make evil use of the freedom which is his great privilege, ending by setting himself against his Creator.

God’s verdict on David, pronounced by Nathan, sheds light on the intimate fibres of the conscience where armies, power and public opinion count for nothing but where one is alone with God himself.

“You are that man” are the words that nailed David to his responsibilities. Deeply struck by them, the king developed sincere repentance and opened himself to the offer of mercy. This is the path of conversion.

Today, it is Francis who invites us to make this journey beside David. From what the Saint’s biographers have said of his youthful years, nothing would lead us to imagine actions as serious as those imputed to the ancient King of Israel. Yet, in the Testament he compiled during the last months of his life, Francis himself regarded the first 25 years of his existence as a time when he “was in sin” (see Testament 1).

Over and above its individual manifestations, he conceived of sin as organizing one’s whole life around oneself, pursuing vain dreams of earthly glory.

While he was the “king of feasts” among the young men of Assisi (see 2 Cel I, 3, 7), he was not without spontaneous generosity. But this was still far from the Christian love that is given to the other without reserve.

As he himself recalled, the sight of lepers seemed bitter to him. Sin prevented him from overcoming his physical repugnance to recognize them as so many brothers to love. Conversion led him to show them mercy and at the same time obtained mercy for him.

Serving lepers, even to the point of kissing them, was not merely a philanthropic gesture, a “social” conversion, so to speak, but a true religious experience commanded by the initiative of God’s grace and love: “The Lord himself”, he said, “led me among them” (Test. 2). It was then that what had seemed bitter was changed into “sweetness in (his) soul and body” (Test. 3).

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, converting to love means passing from bitterness to “sweetness”, from sorrow to true joy. Man is truly himself and fulfils himself completely to the extent that he lives with God and of God, recognizing him and loving him in his brethren.

Another aspect of the journey of conversion emerges in the passage from the Letter to the Galatians. It is explained to us by another great convert, the Apostle Paul. The discussion in which the primitive community found itself involved is the immediate context of his words: in this discussion, many Christians who came from Judaism tended to link salvation to fulfilling the requirements of the ancient Law, thereby making the newness of Christ and the universality of his message vain.

Paul stood as a witness and champion of grace. On the road to Damascus, Christ’s radiant face and strong voice had snatched him from his violent zeal as a persecutor and had kindled within him the new zeal of the Crucified One, who reconciles in his Cross those who are near and far (see Eph 2: 11-22).

Paul realized that in Christ the whole of the law is fulfilled and that those who adhere to Christ are united with him and fulfil the law. Bringing Christ, and with Christ the one God, to all peoples became his mission. Christ “is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2: 14).

At the same time, Paul’s very personal confession of love also expresses the common essence of Christian life: “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2: 20b). And how can one respond to this love except by embracing the Crucified Christ to the point of living his very life? “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20a).

In speaking of being crucified with Christ, St Paul was not only referring to his new birth in Baptism, but to the whole of his life at the service of Christ. This connection with his apostolic life appears clearly in the final words of his defence of Christian freedom at the end of the Letter to the Galatians: “Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (6: 17).

This is the first time in the history of Christianity that the words “the marks of Jesus” [stigmata] appear. In the dispute on the right way of seeing and living the Gospel, it is not, in the end, the arguments that decide our thought: it is the reality of life that decides, communion lived and suffered with Jesus, not only in ideas or words but in the depths of our existence, also involving the body, the flesh.

The bruises that the Apostle received in the long history of his passion are the witness of the presence of the Cross of Jesus in St Paul’s body; they are his stigmata. Thus, one can say that it is not circumcision that saves: these stigmata are the consequence of his Baptism, the expression of his dying with Jesus, day after day, the sure sign of his being a new creature (see Gal 6: 15).

Moreover, by using the word “marks”, Paul is referring to the ancient practice of branding the slave with his owner’s mark. Thus, the servant was “marked” as the property of his owner and was under his protection. The sign of the Cross, stamped on Paul’s skin through long drawn-out suffering, was his boast. It legitimized him as a true servant of Jesus, protected by the Lord’s love.

Today, dear friends, Francis of Assisi presents all of these words of Paul anew, together with the power of his witness. Since the time when the faces of lepers, loved through love of God, made him understand in a certain way the mystery of kenosis (see Phil 2: 7) - the humbling of God in the flesh of the Son of Man -, from the time when the voice of the Crucifix in San Damiano put in his heart the programme for his life, “Go, Francis, repair my house” (2 Cel I, 6, 10), his journey was none other than the daily effort to put on Christ.

He fell in love with Christ. The wounds of the Crucified One wounded his heart before leaving their marks on his body on Mount La Verna. He could truly say with Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.

And so we come to the evangelical heart of today’s Word of God. Jesus himself, in the passage from Luke’s Gospel which has just been read, explains to us the dynamism of authentic conversion, pointing out to us as a model the sinful woman redeemed by love. It should be recognized that this woman had ventured much.

The manner in which she chose to come before Jesus, bathing his feet with tears and drying them with her hair, kissing them and sprinkling scented oil upon them, was done to shock those who viewed people in her condition with the merciless eye of the judge.

What is striking, on the other hand, is the tenderness with which Jesus treated this woman, exploited and judged by so many. In Jesus she found at last a pure eye, a heart capable of loving without exploiting. In the gaze and heart of Jesus she received the revelation of God-Love!

To avoid any misunderstanding, it should be noted that Jesus’ mercy was not expressed by putting moral law in parentheses. For Jesus, good is good and evil is evil. Mercy does not change the connotations of sin but consumes it in a fire of love.

This purifying and healing effect is achieved if within the person there is a corresponding love which implies recognition of God’s law, sincere repentance and the resolution to start a new life.

The sinful woman in the Gospel was pardoned greatly because she loved greatly. In Jesus, God comes to give love to us and to ask love of us.

My dear brothers and sisters, what was the life of the converted Francis if not a great act of love? This is revealed by his passionate prayers, rich in contemplation and praise, his tender embrace of the Divine Child at Greccio, his contemplation of the Passion at La Verna, his living “according to the form of the Holy Gospel” (2 Test. 14), his choice of poverty and his quest for Christ in the faces of the poor.

This was his conversion to Christ, to the point that he sought to be “transformed” into him, becoming his total image; and this explains his typical way of life by virtue of which he appears to us to be so modern, even in comparison with the great themes of our time such as the search for peace, the safeguard of nature, the promotion of dialogue among all people. In these things Francis was a true teacher. However, he was so by starting from Christ.

Indeed, Christ is “our peace” (see Eph 2: 14). Christ is the very principle of the cosmos, since through him all things were made (see Jn 1: 3). Christ is the divine truth, the eternal “Logos”, in which, in time, every “dia-logos” finds its ultimate foundation. Francis profoundly embodies this “Christological” truth which is at the root of human existence, the cosmos and history.

I cannot forget in today’s context the initiative of John Paul II, my Predecessor of holy memory, who in 1986 wanted to gather here at a Prayer Meeting for Peace representatives of the Christian denominations and of the different world religions.

It was a prophetic intuition and a moment of grace, as I said a few months ago in my Letter to the Bishop of this Town on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of that event. The choice of celebrating the meeting at Assisi was prompted precisely by the witness of Francis as a man of peace to whom so many people, even from other cultural and religious positions, look with sympathy.

At the same time, the light of the “Poverello” on that initiative was a guarantee of Christian authenticity, since his life and message are so visibly based on Christ’s choice to reject a priori any temptation of religious indifferentism which would have nothing to do with authentic interreligious dialogue.

The “spirit of Assisi”, which has continued to spread throughout the world since that event, counters the spirit of violence and the abuse of religion as a pretext for violence. Assisi tells us that faithfulness to one’s own religious conviction, and especially faithfulness to the Crucified and Risen Christ, is not expressed in violence and intolerance but in sincere respect for the other, in dialogue, in a proclamation that appeals to freedom and reason and in the commitment to peace and reconciliation.

The failure to combine acceptance, dialogue and respect for all with the certainty of faith which every Christian, like the Saint of Assisi, is bound to foster, proclaiming Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life of man (see Jn 14: 6), the one Saviour of the World, can be neither an evangelical nor a Franciscan attitude.

May Francis of Assisi obtain the grace of an authentic and full conversion to the love of Christ for this particular Church, for the Churches in Umbria, for the whole of the Church in Italy whose Patron he is, together with St Catherine of Siena, and for the many people in the world who refer to him.


PASTORAL VISIT
TO SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA AND BRINDISI (APULIA - ITALY)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Apollinaris Wharf, Brindisi, Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Before concluding this celebration, I express my gratitude to all those who prepared it with such care and enlivened it with music and song. I thank those who organized my Visit and who are making their contribution to ensuring its success: I am thinking of the various local Authorities, the police, the volunteers and you, the inhabitants of Brindisi. I invite you all, as on every Sunday, to join me in the prayer of the Angelus. The place where we are - the port - is charged with a eloquent symbolic significance. Every port speaks of welcome, of shelter, of safety; it speaks of a longed-for haven after what may have been a long and difficult navigation. It also speaks of departures, of plans and aspirations, of the future. The port of Brindisi in particular has a primary role in communications between the Mediterranean Sea and the East, and for this reason it is also host to a United Nations Base that performs an important function in humanitarian terms.

Thus, from this most evocative place, not far from the town called the “good morning” (Calimera) of Italy, I would like to renew the Christian message of cooperation and peace among all peoples, especially among those around this sea coast, the ancient cradle of civilization, and those of the Near and Middle East. Moreover, I am pleased to do this with the words I used two months ago in my Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York: “The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. “On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation” (Address, 18 April 2008).

From this corner of Europe which juts into the Mediterranean between East and West, let us turn once again to Mary, the Mother who “shows us the way” - Odegitria -, giving us Jesus, the Way of peace. Let us invoke her in spirit with all the titles by which she is venerated in the Shrines of Apulia and especially here, from this ancient port, let us pray to her as the “Port of salvation” for every person and for the whole of humanity. May her maternal protection always defend this city of yours, the Region, Italy, Europe and the whole world from the storms that threaten the faith and true values; may she enable the young generations to put out into the deep without fear, to face the journey of life with Christian hope. Mary, Port of Salvation, pray for us!


PASTORAL VISIT
TO SANTA MARIA DI LEUCA AND BRINDISI (APULIA - ITALY)

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Apollinaris Wharf, Port of Brindisi, Sunday, 15 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the Lord’s Day, in the middle of my Visit to Brindisi, we are celebrating the mystery which is the source and summit of the Church’s whole life. We are celebrating Christ in the Eucharist, the greatest gift that flowed from his divine and human Heart, the Bread of Life, broken and shared to enable us to become one with him and with one another. I greet with affection all of you who have gathered at the port, this deeply symbolic place which calls to mind the missionary journeys of Peter and Paul. I rejoice to see the many young people who enlivened last night’s vigil in preparation for the Eucharistic celebration. And I also greet you, who are taking part in spirit by means of radio and television. I address a special greeting to Archbishop Rocco Talucci, the Pastor of this beloved Church, and thank him for his words at the beginning of Holy Mass. I also greet the other Bishops of Apulia who have desired to be here with us with sentiments of fraternal communion. The presence of Metropolitan Gennadios gives me special pleasure and I offer him my cordial greeting, which I extend to all the Orthodox brethren and those of the other Denominations, from this Church of Brindisi which, because of her ecumenical vocation, invites us to pray and to work for the full unity of all Christians. With gratitude I greet the Civil and Military Authorities who are taking part in this liturgy, and wish them every good for their service. My affectionate thoughts then go to the priests and deacons, to the women and men religious and to all the faithful. I address a special greeting to the sick in hospital and to the prisoners in jail, to whom I assure my remembrance in prayer. Grace and peace on the part of the Lord to everyone and to the entire city of Brindisi!

The biblical texts we have heard on this 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time help us to understand the reality of the Church: the First Reading (see Ex 19: 2-6a) recalled the Covenant made on Mount Sinai, during the Exodus from Egypt; the Gospel (see Mt 9: 36-10: 8) consisted of the account of the call and mission of the Twelve Apostles. We find the “constitution” of the Church presented here: how can we fail to perceive the implicit invitation addressed to every Community to renew its own vocation and missionary drive? In the First Reading the sacred author tells of God’s Covenant with Moses and with Israel on Sinai. This is one of the great milestones in salvation history, one of those moments that transcend history itself in which the boundary between the Old and New Testaments disappears and the eternal plan of the God of the Covenant is manifest: the plan for the salvation of all men and women through the sanctification of a people to which God proposes to become “my own possession among all peoples” (Ex 19: 5). In this perspective, the people is called to become a “holy nation”, not only in the moral sense, but first and above all in its own ontological reality, in its being as a people. Already in the Old Testament, how the identity of this people is to be understood is gradually made clear in the course of the salvific events; then it was fully revealed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Today’s Gospel presents us with a decisive moment for this revelation. In fact, when Jesus called the Twelve he desired to refer symbolically to the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to the 12 sons of Jacob. Thus, by placing the Twelve at the centre of his new community, he makes it understood that he came to bring the heavenly Father’s design to completion, even if the new face of the Church was to appear only at Pentecost when the Twelve, “filled with the Holy Spirit” proclaimed the Gospel, and spoke in all the languages (Acts 2: 3-4). It was then that the universal Church was to be made manifest, gathered in a single Body of which the Risen Christ is Head yet, at the same time, sent by him to all the nations, even to the very ends of the earth (see Mt 28: 19).

Jesus’ style is unmistakeable: it is the characteristic style of God who likes to do great things in a poor and humble manner. The solemnity of the accounts of the Covenant in the Book of Exodus leaves room in the Gospels for humble and discreet gestures which nevertheless contain an enormous potential for renewal. It is the logic of the Kingdom of God, not by chance represented by the tiny seed that becomes a great tree (see Mt 13: 31-32). The Covenant of Sinai was accompanied by cosmic signs that terrified the Israelites; the beginnings of the Church in Galilee, on the contrary, were exempt from such manifestations and reflect the docility and compassion of Christ’s Heart although they foretold another battle, another upheaval, inspired by the forces of evil. Christ gave to the Twelve, we heard, “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 10: 1). The Twelve must cooperate with Jesus in establishing the Kingdom of God, that is, his beneficial, life-giving lordship, and life in abundance for the whole of humanity. The Church in essence, like Christ and together with him, is called and sent out to establish the Kingdom of life and to drive out the dominion of death so that the life of God may triumph in the world; so that God who is Love may triumph. Christ’s work is always silent, it is not spectacular; the great tree of true life grows even in the humility of being Church, of living the Gospel every day. Precisely with these humble beginnings the Lord encourages us so that in the humility of the Church today too, in the poverty of our Christian lives, we may see his presence and thus have the courage to go to meet him and make his love, this force of peace and of true life, present on our earth. So this was God’s plan: to spread over humanity and throughout the cosmos his love that generates life. It was not a spectacular process; it was a humble process, yet it brought with it the true power of the future and of history.

Thus it is a plan that the Lord desires to implement with respect for our freedom, for love, by its nature, cannot be imposed. The Church in Christ then is the place in which to accept and mediate God’s love. In this perspective it is clear that the Church’s holiness and missionary character are two sides of the same coin: only because she is holy, that is, filled with divine love, can the Church carry out her mission, and it is precisely in terms of this task that God chose her and sanctified her as his property. Our first duty, therefore, precisely in order to heal this world, is to be holy, configured to God; in this way we emanate a healing and transforming power that also acts on others, on history. Your Ecclesial Community, dear brothers and sisters, involved as it is in the Diocesan Synod in this period, is measuring itself at this moment against the double term, “holiness-mission” - holiness is always a force that transforms others. In this regard, it is useful to reflect that the Twelve Apostles were not perfect men, chosen for their moral and religious irreproachability. They were indeed believers, full of enthusiasm and zeal but at the same time marked by their human limitations, which were sometimes even serious. Therefore Jesus did not call them because they were already holy, complete, perfect, but so that they might become so, so that they might thereby also transform history, as it is for us, as it is for all Christians. In the Second Reading we heard the Apostle Paul’s synthesis: “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rm 5: 8). The Church is the community of sinners who believe in God’s love, letting themselves be transformed by him and thus become holy, sanctifying the world.

In the light of God’s providential words, today I have the joy of strengthening your Church on her way. It is a way of holiness and mission on which your Archbishop has invited you to reflect in his recent Pastoral Letter; it is a way he has thoroughly examined in the course of his Pastoral Visit and which he now intends to promote through the Diocesan Synod. Today’s Gospel suggests to us the style of the mission, in other words the interior attitude that is expressed in life lived. It can only be Jesus’ style: that of “compassion”. The Evangelist highlights this by focusing attention on Christ looking at the crowd. He wrote: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9: 36). And after the call of the Twelve, this attitude is once again apparent in the order he gives them to go “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 10: 6). Christ’s love for his people, especially the lowly and the poor, can be felt in these words. Christian compassion has nothing to do with pietism or the culture of dependency. Rather, it is synonymous with solidarity and sharing and is enlivened by hope. Were not Jesus’ words to the Apostles born from hope: “Preach as you go, saying, “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’“ (Mt 10: 7)? This is hope founded on Christ’s coming and ultimately coincides with his Person and his mystery of salvation - where Christ is, there is the Kingdom of God, there is the newness of the world - as the theme of the Fourth Ecclesial Convention of Italy celebrated in Verona clearly recalled: the Risen Christ is the “hope of the world”.

Enlivened by the hope in which you have been saved, may you too, brothers and sisters of this ancient Church of Brindisi, be signs and instruments of the compassion and mercy of Christ. To the Archbishop and priests I fervently repeat the words of the divine Teacher: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay” (Mt 10: 8). This mandate is once again addressed in the first place to you today. The Spirit who acted in Christ and in the Twelve, is the same as the One who works in you and enables you to perform among your people, in this territory, signs of the Kingdom of love, justice and peace that is coming, indeed, that is already in the world. Yet, through the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, all the members of the People of God participate in Jesus’ mission if in different ways. I am thinking of consecrated people who profess the vows of poverty, virginity and obedience; I am thinking of Christian married couples and of you, lay faithful committed to the Ecclesial Community and to society, both personally and as a group. Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus’ desire to increase the number of workers in the Lord’s harvest (see Mt 9: 38) is addressed to you all. This desire, which is asking to be made a prayer, reminds us in the first place of seminarians and of the new Seminary in this Archdiocese; it makes us realize that in a broad sense the Church is one great “seminary”, beginning with the family and extending to the parish communities, the associations and movements of apostolic commitment. We are all, with the variety of our charisms and ministries, called to work in the Lord’s vineyard.

Dear brothers and sisters of Brindisi, continue in this spirit on the way on which you have set out. May your Patrons, St Leucius and St Oronzo, both of whom arrived from the East in the second century to water this land with the living water of the Word of God, watch over you. May the relics of St Theodore of Amasea, venerated in the Cathedral of Brindisi, remind you that giving one’s life for Christ is the most effective preaching. May St Lawrence, a son of this City who, in Francis of Assisi’s footsteps, became an apostle of peace in a Europe torn apart by wars and disputes, obtain for you the gift of authentic brotherhood. I entrust you all to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Hope and Star of Evangelization. May the Blessed Virgin help you to remain in the love of Christ, so that you may bear abundant fruit for the glory of God the Father and the salvation of the world. Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Corpus Christi, the feast of the Eucharist in which the Sacrament of the Body of the Lord is solemnly carried in procession, is being celebrated today in various countries, including Italy. What does this feastday mean to us? It does not make us think of the liturgical aspect alone; actually Corpus Christi is a day that involves the cosmic dimension, the heavens and the earth. It calls to mind first of all at least in our hemisphere this season which is so beautiful and fragrant, in which Spring is already turning into Summer, the sun is high in the sky and the wheat is ripening in the fields. The Church’s feasts like the Jewish feasts are associated with the phases of the solar year, the sowing and the reaping. This is particularly evident in today’s Solemnity, at the heart of which is the sign of bread, a fruit of the earth and of Heaven. The Eucharistic Bread is thus a visible sign of the One in whom Heaven and earth, God and man, became one. And this shows that the relationship with the seasons is not something merely external to the liturgical year.

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi is closely linked to Easter and Pentecost: the death and Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are its premises. Furthermore, it is directly linked to the Feast of the Trinity that was celebrated last Sunday. It is only because God himself is relationship that there can be a relationship with him; and only because he is love can he love and be loved. Thus, Corpus Christi is a manifestation of God, an attestation that God is love.

This feast speaks to us in a unique and special way of divine love, of what it is and of what it does. It tells us, for example, that it is regenerated in self-giving, that it is received in self-giving, that it is never lacking nor can it be consumed as a hymn by St Thomas Aquinas sings: “nec sumptus consumitur”. Love transforms all things and we therefore understand that the centre of today’s Feast of Corpus Christi is the mystery of transubstantiation, a sign of Jesus Christ who transforms the world. Looking at him and worshipping him, we say: “yes, love exists and because it exists things can change for the better and we can hope”. It is hope that comes from Christ’s love which gives us the strength to live and to deal with difficulties. For this reason let us sing as we carry the Most Holy Sacrament in procession; let us sing and praise God who revealed himself concealing himself in the sign of the Bread broken. We are all in need of this Bread, as the journey to freedom, justice and peace is long and difficult.

We can imagine with what great faith and love Our Lady must have received and adored the Blessed Eucharist in her heart! For her it must have been every time like reliving the whole mystery of her Son Jesus: from his Conception to his Resurrection. The “Woman of the Eucharist”, my venerable and beloved Predecessor John Paul II called her. Let us learn from her to renew our communion with the Body of Christ ceaselessly so that we may love one another as he loved us.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Year for Priests came to an end a few days ago. Here in Rome we lived unforgettable days, with the presence of more than 15,000 priests from across the world. Therefore, today I would like to thank God for all the benefits that this Year has brought to the universal Church. No one will ever be able to measure them but they can certainly be seen and their fruits will be even easier to see.

The Year for Priests ended on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, which is traditionally the “day of priestly sanctification”; and it was so this time in a quite special way. In fact, dear friends, the priest is a gift of the Heart of Christ: a gift for the Church and for the world. From the Heart of the Son of God, brimming with love, flow all the goods of the Church. In particular, originates in it the vocation of those men who, won over by the Lord Jesus, leave all things to devote themselves without reserve to the service of the Christian people, after the example of the Good Shepherd. The priest is moulded by the charity of Christ himself, that love which impelled him to lay down his life for his friends and also to forgive his enemies. For this reason all priests are first and foremost workers of the civilization of love. And here I am thinking of so many priests, known and less known figures, some of whom have been raised to the honour of the altars, others whose memory lives on indelibly in the faithful, even in a small parish community, as happened at Ars, the French village where St John Mary Vianney exercised his ministry. There is no need to add further words to what has been said in these past months. However, from now on this Saint’s intercession must accompany us even more frequently. May his prayer, his “Act of Love”, which we have so often recited during this Year for Priests continue to nurture our conversation with God.

Another figure I wish to remember: Fr Jerzy Popiełuszko, a priest and martyr who was proclaimed Blessed in Warsaw precisely last Sunday. He exercised his generous and courageous ministry beside all those who were working for freedom, for the defence of life and for its dignity. His work at the service of goodness and truth was a sign of contradiction for the regime governing Poland at the time. Love of the Heart of Christ led him to give his life and his witness was the seed of a new springtime in the Church and in society. If we look at history, we can note how many pages of authentic spiritual and social renewal were written with the crucial contribution of Catholic priests, motivated solely by passion for the Gospel and for human beings and for their true freedom, both religious and civil. How many initiatives of integral human promotion have been born from the intuition of a priestly heart!

Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust all the priests in the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose liturgical Memorial we celebrated yesterday, so that they may continue with the power of the Gospel to build everywhere the civilization of love.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 17 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s liturgy presents to us two short parables of Jesus: the parable of the seed that grows of its own accord and the parable of the mustard seed (see Mk 4:26-34). With images taken from the farming world the Lord presents the mystery of the Word and of the Kingdom of God, and points out the reasons for our hope and our dedication.

In the first parable the focus is on the dynamism of the sowing: the seed that was scattered on the land sprouts and grows by itself, whether the peasant is awake or asleep. The man sows with the trust that his work will not be fruitless. What supports the farmer in his daily efforts is specifically trust in the power of the seed and in the goodness of the soil. This parable recalls the mysteries of the creation and of redemption, of God’s fertile work in history. It is he who is the Lord of the Kingdom, man is his humble collaborator who contemplates and rejoices in the divine creative action and patiently awaits its fruits. The final harvest makes us think of God’s conclusive intervention at the end of time, when he will fully establish his Kingdom. The present is the time of sowing, and the growth of the seed is assured by the Lord. Every Christian therefore knows well that he must do all he can, but that the final result depends on God: this awareness sustains him in his daily efforts, especially in difficult situations. St Ignatius of Loyola wrote in this regard: “Act as though everything depended on you, but in the knowledge that really everything depends on God” (see Pedro de Ribadeneira, Vita di S. Ignazio di Loyola, Milan, 1998).

The second parable also uses the image of the seed. Here, however, it is a specific seed, the mustard seed, considered the smallest of all seeds. Yet even though it is so tiny, it is full of life; it breaks open to give life to a sprout that can break through the ground, coming out into the sunlight and growing until it becomes “the greatest of all shrubs” (Mk 4:32): the seed’s weakness is its strength, its breaking open is its power. Thus the Kingdom of God is like this: a humanly small reality, made up of those who are poor in heart, of those who do not rely on their own power but on that of the love of God, on those who are not important in the world’s eyes; and yet it is through them that Christ’s power bursts in and transforms what is seemingly insignificant.

The image of the seed is especially dear to Jesus, because it clearly expresses the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In today’s two parables it represents “growth” and “contrast:” the growth that occurs thanks to an innate dynamism within the seed itself and the contrast that exists between the minuscule size of the seed and the greatness of what it produces.

The message is clear: even though the Kingdom of God demands our collaboration, it is first and foremost a gift of the Lord, a grace that precedes man and his works. If our own small strength, apparently powerless in the face of the world’s problems, is inserted in that of God it fears no obstacles because the Lord’s victory is guaranteed. It is the miracle of the love of God who causes every seed of good that is scattered on the ground to germinate. And the experience of this miracle of love makes us optimists, in spite of the difficulty, suffering and evil that we encounter. The seed sprouts and grows because God’s love makes it grow. May the Virgin Mary, who, like “good soil,” accepted the seed of the divine Word, strengthen within us this faith and this hope. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana








Monday, June 3, 2024


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



Entry 0334: Reflections on the Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time 
by 
Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 



On one occasion during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a reflection on the Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 5 June 2005. Here is the text of the brief reflection which he delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 5 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Friday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that is deeply rooted in the Christian people. In biblical language, “heart” indicates the centre of the person where his sentiments and intentions dwell. In the Heart of the Redeemer we adore God’s love for humanity, his will for universal salvation, his infinite mercy.

Practising devotion to the Sacred Heart of Christ therefore means adoring that Heart which, after having loved us to the end, was pierced by a spear and from high on the Cross poured out blood and water, an inexhaustible source of new life.

The feast of the Sacred Heart is also World Day for the Sanctification of Priests, a favourable opportunity to pray that priests will put nothing before love of Christ. Bl. Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, patron of migrants, was deeply devoted to the Heart of Christ; we commemorated the centenary of his death on 1 June. He founded the men and women Missionaries of St Charles Borromeo, known as the “Scalabrinians”, to proclaim the Gospel among Italian emigrants.

In recalling this great Bishop, I turn my thoughts to those who are far from their homeland and also often from their family, and I hope that on their way they will always meet friendly faces and welcoming hearts that can sustain them in the difficulties of daily life.

The heart that resembles that of Christ more than any other is without a doubt the Heart of Mary, his Immaculate Mother, and for this very reason the liturgy holds them up together for our veneration. Responding to the Virgin’s invitation at Fatima, let us entrust the whole world to her Immaculate Heart, which we contemplated yesterday in a special way, so that it may experience the merciful love of God and know true peace. 



© Copyright 2014 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana








Monday, May 27, 2024


Reflections on Corpus Christi
by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0281: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and 

Blood of Christ by Pope Benedict XVI  


On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Solemnity of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ, on 26 May 2005, 15 June 2006, 7 June 2007, 22 May 2008, 11 June 2009, 3 June 2010, 23 June 2011, and 7 June 2012. Here are the texts of the eight homilies delivered on these occasions.


MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS DOMINI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square before the Basilica of St John Lateran, Thursday, 26 May 2005

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the feast of Corpus Domini, the Church relives the mystery of Holy Thursday in the light of the Resurrection. There is also a Eucharistic procession on Holy Thursday, when the Church repeats the exodus of Jesus from the Upper Room to the Mount of Olives.

In Israel, the night of the Passover was celebrated in the home, within the intimacy of the family; this is how the first Passover in Egypt was commemorated, the night in which the blood of the paschal lamb, sprinkled on the crossbeam and doorposts of the houses, served as protection against the destroyer.

On that night, Jesus goes out and hands himself over to the betrayer, the destroyer, and in so doing, overcomes the night, overcomes the darkness of evil. Only in this way is the gift of the Eucharist, instituted in the Upper Room, fulfilled: Jesus truly gives his Body and his Blood. Crossing over the threshold of death, he becomes living Bread, true manna, endless nourishment for eternity. The flesh becomes the Bread of Life.

In the Holy Thursday procession, the Church accompanies Jesus to the Mount of Olives: it is the authentic desire of the Church in prayer to keep watch with Jesus, not to abandon him in the night of the world, on the night of betrayal, on the night of the indifference of many people.

On the feast of Corpus Domini, we again go on this procession, but in the joy of the Resurrection. The Lord is risen and leads us. In the narrations of the Resurrection there is a common and essential feature; the angels say: the Lord “goes ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him” (Mt 28: 7).

Taking this into deep consideration, we can say that this “going ahead” of Jesus implies a two-way direction.

The first is, as we have heard, Galilee. In Israel, Galilee was considered to be the doorway to the pagan world. And in reality, precisely on the mountain in Galilee, the disciples see Jesus, the Lord, who tells them: “Go... and make disciples of all the nations” (Mt 28: 19).

The other preceding direction of the Risen One appears in the Gospel of St John, in the words of Jesus to Mary Magdalene: “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn 20: 17).

Jesus goes before us next to the Father, rises to the heights of God and invites us to follow him. These two directions on the Risen One’s journey are not contradictory, for both indicate the path to follow Christ.

The true purpose of our journey is communion with God. He himself is the house of many dwelling places (see Jn 14: 2ff.); but we can be elevated to these dwelling places only by going “towards Galilee”, travelling on the pathways of the world, taking the Gospel to all nations, carrying the gift of his love to the men and women of all times.

Therefore, the journey of the Apostles extends to the “ends of the earth” (see Acts 1: 6ff.). In this way, Sts Peter and Paul went all the way to Rome, a city that at that time was the centre of the known world, the true caput mundi.

The Holy Thursday procession accompanies Jesus in his solitude towards the via crucis. The Corpus Domini procession responds instead in a symbolic way to the mandate of the Risen One: I go before you to Galilee. Go to the extreme ends of the world, take the Gospel to the world.

Of course, by faith, the Eucharist is an intimate mystery. The Lord instituted the Sacrament in the Upper Room, surrounded by his new family, by the 12 Apostles, a prefiguration and anticipation of the Church of all times.

And so, in the liturgy of the ancient Church, the distribution of Holy Communion was introduced with the words Sancta sanctis: the holy gift is intended for those who have been made holy.

In this way a response was given to the exhortation of St Paul to the Corinthians: “A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup...” (I Cor 11: 28).

Nevertheless, from this intimacy that is a most personal gift of the Lord, the strength of the Sacrament of the Eucharist goes above and beyond the walls of our Churches. In this Sacrament, the Lord is always journeying to meet the world. This universal aspect of the Eucharistic presence becomes evident in today’s festive procession.

We bring Christ, present under the sign of bread, onto the streets of our city. We entrust these streets, these homes, our daily life, to his goodness. May our streets be streets of Jesus! May our houses be homes for him and with him! May our life of every day be penetrated by his presence.

With this gesture, let us place under his eyes the sufferings of the sick, the solitude of young people and the elderly, temptations, fears - our entire life. The procession represents an immense and public blessing for our city: Christ is, in person, the divine Blessing for the world. May the ray of his blessing extend to us all!

In the Corpus Domini procession, we walk with the Risen One on his journey to meet the entire world, as we said. By doing precisely this, we too answer his mandate: “Take, eat... Drink of it, all of you” (Mt 26: 26ff.).

It is not possible to “eat” the Risen One, present under the sign of bread, as if it were a simple piece of bread. To eat this Bread is to communicate, to enter into communion with the person of the living Lord. This communion, this act of “eating”, is truly an encounter between two persons, it is allowing our lives to be penetrated by the life of the One who is the Lord, of the One who is my Creator and Redeemer.

The purpose of this communion, of this partaking, is the assimilation of my life with his, my transformation and conformation into he who is living Love. Therefore, this communion implies adoration, it implies the will to follow Christ, to follow the One who goes ahead of us. Adoration and procession thereby make up a single gesture of communion; they answer his mandate: “Take and eat”.

Our procession finishes in front of the Basilica of St Mary Major in the encounter with Our Lady, called by the dear Pope John Paul II, “Woman of the Eucharist”. Mary, Mother of the Lord, truly teaches us what entering into communion with Christ is: Mary offered her own flesh, her own blood to Jesus and became a living tent of the Word, allowing herself to be penetrated by his presence in body and spirit.

Let us pray to her, our holy Mother, so that she may help us to open our entire being, always more, to Christ’s presence; so that she may help us to follow him faithfully, day after day, on the streets of our life. Amen.


HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION ON
THE SOLEMNITY OF THE SACRED BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 15 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the eve of his Passion, during the Passover meal, the Lord took the bread in his hands - as we heard a short time ago in the Gospel passage - and, having blessed it, he broke it and gave it to his Disciples, saying: “Take this, this is my body”. He then took the chalice, gave thanks and passed it to them and they all drank from it. He said: “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out on behalf of many” (Mk 14: 22-24).

The entire history of God with humanity is recapitulated in these words. The past alone is not only referred to and interpreted, but the future is anticipated - the coming of the Kingdom of God into the world. What Jesus says are not simply words. What he says is an event, the central event of the history of the world and of our personal lives.

These words are inexhaustible. In this hour, I would like to meditate with you on just one aspect. Jesus, as a sign of his presence, chose bread and wine. With each one of the two signs he gives himself completely, not only in part. The Risen One is not divided. He is a person who, through signs, comes near to us and unites himself to us.

Each sign however, represents in its own way a particular aspect of his mystery and through its respective manifestation, wishes to speak to us so that we learn to understand the mystery of Jesus Christ a little better.

During the procession and in adoration we look at the consecrated Host, the most simple type of bread and nourishment, made only of a little flour and water. In this way, it appears as the food of the poor, those to whom the Lord made himself closest in the first place.

The prayer with which the Church, during the liturgy of the Mass, consigns this bread to the Lord, qualifies it as fruit of the earth and the work of humans.

It involves human labour, the daily work of those who till the soil, sow and harvest [the wheat] and, finally, prepare the bread. However, bread is not purely and simply what we produce, something made by us; it is fruit of the earth and therefore is also gift.

We cannot take credit for the fact that the earth produces fruit; the Creator alone could have made it fertile. And now we too can expand a little on this prayer of the Church, saying: the bread is fruit of heaven and earth together. It implies the synergy of the forces of earth and the gifts from above, that is, of the sun and the rain. And water too, which we need to prepare the bread, cannot be produced by us.

In a period in which desertification is spoken of and where we hear time and again the warning that man and beast risk dying of thirst in these waterless regions - in such a period we realize once again how great is the gift of water and of how we are unable to produce it ourselves.

And so, looking closely at this little piece of white Host, this bread of the poor, appears to us as a synthesis of creation. Heaven and earth, too, like the activity and spirit of man, cooperate. The synergy of the forces that make the mystery of life and the existence of man possible on our poor planet come to meet us in all of their majestic grandeur.

In this way we begin to understand why the Lord chooses this piece of bread to represent him. Creation, with all of its gifts, aspires above and beyond itself to something even greater. Over and above the synthesis of its own forces, above and beyond the synthesis also of nature and of spirit that, in some way, we detect in the piece of bread, creation is projected towards divinization, toward the holy wedding feast, toward unification with the Creator himself.

And still, we have not yet explained in depth the message of this sign of bread. The Lord mentioned its deepest mystery on Palm Sunday, when some Greeks asked to see him. In his answer to this question is the phrase: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12: 24).

The mystery of the Passion is hidden in the bread made of ground grain. Flour, the ground wheat, presuppose the death and resurrection of the grain. In being ground and baked, it carries in itself once again the same mystery of the Passion. Only through death does resurrection arrive, as does the fruit and new life.

Mediterranean culture, in the centuries before Christ, had a profound intuition of this mystery. Based on the experience of this death and rising they created myths of divinity which, dying and rising, gave new life. To them, the cycle of nature seemed like a divine promise in the midst of the darkness of suffering and death that we are faced with.

In these myths, the soul of the human person, in a certain way, reached out toward that God made man, who, humiliated unto death on a cross, in this way opened the door of life to all of us. In bread and its making, man has understood it as a waiting period of nature, like a promise of nature that this would come to exist: the God that dies and in this way brings us to life.

What was awaited in myths and that in the very grain of wheat is hidden like a sign of the hope of creation - this truly came about in Christ. Through his gratuitous suffering and death, he became bread for all of us, and with this living and certain hope. He accompanies us in all of our sufferings until death. The paths that he travels with us and through which he leads us to life are pathways of hope.

When, in adoration, we look at the consecrated Host, the sign of creation speaks to us. And so, we encounter the greatness of his gift; but we also encounter the Passion, the Cross of Jesus and his Resurrection. Through this gaze of adoration, he draws us toward himself, within his mystery, through which he wants to transform us as he transformed the Host.

The primitive Church discovered yet another symbol in the bread. The Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, a book written around the year 100, contains in its prayers the affirmation: “Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom” (IX, 4).

Bread made of many grains contains also an event of union: the ground grain becoming bread is a process of unification. We ourselves, many as we are, must become one bread, one body, as St Paul says (see I Cor 10: 17). In this way the sign of bread becomes both hope and fulfilment.

In a very similar way the sign of wine speaks to us. However, while bread speaks of daily life, simplicity and pilgrimage, wine expresses the exquisiteness of creation: the feast of joy that God wants to offer to us at the end of time and that already now and always anticipates anew a foretaste through this sign.

But, wine also speaks of the Passion: the vine must be repeatedly pruned to be purified in this way; the grapes must mature with the sun and the rain and must be pressed: only through this passion does a fine wine mature.

On the feast of Corpus Christi we especially look at the sign of bread. It reminds us of the pilgrimage of Israel during the 40 years in the desert. The Host is our manna whereby the Lord nourishes us - it is truly the bread of heaven, through which he gives himself.

In the procession we follow this sign and in this way we follow Christ himself. And we ask of him: Guide us on the paths of our history! Show the Church and her Pastors again and again the right path! Look at suffering humanity, cautiously seeking a way through so much doubt; look upon the physical and mental hunger that torments it! Give men and women bread for body and soul! Give them work! Give them light! Give them yourself! Purify and sanctify all of us! Make us understand that only through participation in your Passion, through “yes” to the cross, to self-denial, to the purifications that you impose upon us, our lives can mature and arrive at true fulfilment. Gather us together from all corners of the earth. Unite your Church, unite wounded humanity! Give us your salvation! Amen.


HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just sung the Sequence: “Dogma datur christianis, / quod in carnem transit panis, / et vinum in sanguinem - this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, to his precious blood the wine”.

Today we reaffirm with great joy our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery that constitutes the heart of the Church. In the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis I recalled that the Eucharistic Mystery “is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman” (no. 1).

Corpus Christi, therefore, is a unique feast and constitutes an important encounter of faith and praise for every Christian community. This feast originated in a specific historical and cultural context: it was born for the very precise purpose of openly reaffirming the faith of the People of God in Jesus Christ, alive and truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a feast that was established in order to publicly adore, praise and thank the Lord, who continues “to love us “to the end’, even to offering us his body and his blood” (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 1).

The Eucharistic celebration this evening takes us back to the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Thursday, the day on which in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, Christ instituted the Most Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi is thus a renewal of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as it were, in obedience to Jesus’ invitation to proclaim from “the housetops” what he told us in secret (see Mt 10: 27). It was the Apostles who received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but it was destined for all, for the whole world. This is why it should be proclaimed and exposed to view: so that each one may encounter “Jesus who passes” as happened on the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea; in order that each one, in receiving it, may be healed and renewed by the power of his love. Dear friends, this is the perpetual and living heritage that Jesus has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. It is an inheritance that demands to be constantly rethought and relived so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, its “inexhaustible effectiveness may be impressed upon all the days of our mortal life” (see Insegnamenti, 25 May 1967, p. 779).

Also in the Post-Synodal Exhortation, commenting on the exclamation of the priest after the consecration: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith!”, I observed: with these words he “proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding” (no. 6).

Precisely because this is a mysterious reality that surpasses our understanding, we must not be surprised if today too many find it hard to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It cannot be otherwise. This is how it has been since the day when, in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus openly declared that he had come to give us his flesh and his blood as food (see Jn 6: 26-58).

This seemed “a hard saying” and many of his disciples withdrew when they heard it. Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a “sign of contradiction” and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis.

However, with humble trust, the Church makes the faith of Peter and the other Apostles her own and proclaims with them, and we proclaim: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6: 68). Let us too renew this evening our profession of faith in Christ, alive and present in the Eucharist. Yes, “this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, / to his precious blood the wine”.

At its culminating point, in the Sequence we sing: “Ecce panis angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum: / vere panis filiorum” - “Lo! The angel’s food is given / to the pilgrim who has striven; / see the children’s bread from heaven”. And by God’s grace we are the children.

The Eucharist is the food reserved for those who in Baptism were delivered from slavery and have become sons; it is the food that sustained them on the long journey of the exodus through the desert of human existence.

Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, parched by the ideological and economic systems that do not promote life but rather humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and possessions prevails rather than that of service and love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.

Yet Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: he himself is “the Bread of life” (Jn 6: 35, 48). He repeated this to us in the words of the Gospel Acclamation: “I am the living bread from Heaven, if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever” (see Jn 6: 51).

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke, narrating the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish with which Jesus fed the multitude “in a lonely place”, concludes with the words: “And all ate and were satisfied” (see Lk 9: 11-17).

I would like in the first place to emphasize this “all”. Indeed, the Lord desired every human being to be nourished by the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is for everyone.

If the close relationship between the Last Supper and the mystery of Jesus’ death on the Cross is emphasized on Holy Thursday, today, the Feast of Corpus Christi, with the procession and unanimous adoration of the Eucharist, attention is called to the fact that Christ sacrificed himself for all humanity. His passing among the houses and along the streets of our city will be for those who live there an offering of joy, eternal life, peace and love.

In the Gospel passage, a second element catches one’s eye: the miracle worked by the Lord contains an explicit invitation to each person to make his own contribution. The two fish and five loaves signify our contribution, poor but necessary, which he transforms into a gift of love for all.

“Christ continues today” I wrote in the above-mentioned Post Synodal Exhortation, “to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged” (Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 88).

Thus, the Eucharist is a call to holiness and to the gift of oneself to one’s brethren: “Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world” (ibid.).

Our Redeemer addressed this invitation in particular to us, dear brothers and sisters of Rome, gathered round the Eucharist in this historical square.

I greet you all with affection. My greeting is addressed first of all to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Auxiliary Bishops, to my other venerable Brother Cardinals and Bishops, as well as to the numerous priests and deacons, men and women religious and the many lay faithful.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration we will join in the procession as if to carry the Lord Jesus in spirit through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse him, so to speak, in the daily routine of our lives, so that he may walk where we walk and live where we live.

Indeed we know, as the Apostle Paul reminded us in his Letter to the Corinthians, that in every Eucharist, also in the Eucharist this evening, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (see I Cor 11: 26). We travel on the highways of the world knowing that he is beside us, supported by the hope of being able to see him one day face to face, in the definitive encounter.

In the meantime, let us listen to his voice repeat, as we read in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rv 3: 20).

The Feast of Corpus Christi wants to make the Lord’s knocking audible, despite the hardness of our interior hearing. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart and asks to enter not only for the space of a day but for ever. Let us welcome him joyfully, raising to him with one voice the invocation of the Liturgy:

“Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, / Jesu, of your love befriend us.... /You who all things can and know, /who on earth such food bestow, / grant us with your saints, though lowest, / where the heav’nly feast you show, / fellow heirs and guests to be”.

Amen!


HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 22 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the strong season of the liturgical year which, focusing on Easter spreads over three months - first the 40 days of Lent, then the 50 days of Eastertide -, the liturgy has us celebrate three Feasts which instead have a “synthetic” character: the Most Holy Trinity, then Corpus Christi, and lastly, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What is the precise significance of today’s Solemnity, of the Body and Blood of Christ? The answer is given to us in the fundamental actions of this celebration we are carrying out: first of all we gather around the altar of the Lord, to be together in his presence; secondly, there will be the procession, that is walking with the Lord; and lastly, kneeling before the Lord, adoration, which already begins in the Mass and accompanies the entire procession but culminates in the final moment of the Eucharistic Blessing when we all prostrate ourselves before the One who stooped down to us and gave his life for us. Let us reflect briefly on these three attitudes, so that they may truly be an expression of our faith and our life.

The first action, therefore, is to gather together in the Lord’s presence. This is what in former times was called “statio”. Let us imagine for a moment that in the whole of Rome there were only this one altar and that all the city’s Christians were invited to gather here to celebrate the Saviour who died and was raised. This gives us an idea of what the Eucharistic celebration must have been like at the origins, in Rome and in many other cities that the Gospel message had reached. In every particular Church there was only one Bishop and around him, around the Eucharist that he celebrated, a community was formed, one, because one was the blessed Cup and one was the Bread broken, as we heard in the Apostle Paul’s words in the Second Reading (see I Cor 10: 16-17). That other famous Pauline expression comes to mind: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3: 28). “You are all one”! In these words the truth and power of the Christian revolution is heard, the most profound revolution of human history, which was experienced precisely around the Eucharist: here people of different age groups, sex, social background, and political ideas gather together in the Lord’s presence. The Eucharist can never be a private event, reserved for people chosen through affinity or friendship. The Eucharist is a public devotion that has nothing esoteric or exclusive about it. Here too, this evening, we did not choose to meet one another, we came and find ourselves next to one another, brought together by faith and called to become one body, sharing the one Bread which is Christ. We are united over and above our differences of nationality, profession, social class, political ideas: we open ourselves to one another to become one in him. This has been a characteristic of Christianity from the outset, visibly fulfilled around the Eucharist, and it is always necessary to be alert to ensure that the recurring temptations of particularism, even if with good intentions, do not go in the opposite direction. Therefore Corpus Christi reminds us first of all of this: that being Christian means coming together from all parts of the world to be in the presence of the one Lord and to become one with him and in him.

The second constitutive aspect is walking with the Lord. This is the reality manifested by the procession that we shall experience together after Holy Mass, almost as if it were naturally prolonged by moving behind the One who is the Way, the Journey. With the gift of himself in the Eucharist the Lord Jesus sets us free from our “paralyses”, he helps us up and enables us to “proceed “, that is, he makes us take a step ahead and then another step, and thus sets us going with the power of the Bread of Life. As happened to the Prophet Elijah who had sought refuge in the wilderness for fear of his enemies and had made up his mind to let himself die (see I Kgs 19: 1-4). But God awoke him from sleep and caused him to find beside him a freshly baked loaf: “Arise and eat”, the angel said, “else the journey will be too great for you” (I Kgs 19: 5,7). The Corpus Christi procession teaches us that the Eucharist seeks to free us from every kind of despondency and discouragement, wants to raise us, so that we can set out on the journey with the strength God gives us through Jesus Christ. It is the experience of the People of Israel in the exodus from Egypt, their long wandering through the desert, as the First Reading relates. It is an experience which was constitutive for Israel but is exemplary for all humanity. Indeed the saying: “Man does not live by bread alone, but... by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8: 3), is a universal affirmation which refers to every man or woman as a person. Each one can find his own way if he encounters the One who is the Word and the Bread of Life and lets himself be guided by his friendly presence. Without the God-with-us, the God who is close, how can we stand up to the pilgrimage through life, either on our own or as society and the family of peoples? The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the God who does not leave us alone on the journey but stays at our side and shows us the way. Indeed, it is not enough to move onwards, one must also see where one is going! “Progress” does not suffice, if there are no criteria as reference points. On the contrary, if one loses the way one risks coming to a precipice, or at any rate more rapidly distancing oneself from the goal. God created us free but he did not leave us alone: he made himself the “way” and came to walk together with us so that in our freedom we should also have the criterion we need to discern the right way and to take it.

At this point we cannot forget the beginning of the “Decalogue”, the Ten Commandments, where it is written: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20: 2-3). Here we find the meaning of the third constitutive element of Corpus Christi: kneeling in adoration before the Lord. Adoring the God of Jesus Christ, who out of love made himself bread broken, is the most effective and radical remedy against the idolatry of the past and of the present. Kneeling before the Eucharist is a profession of freedom: those who bow to Jesus cannot and must not prostrate themselves before any earthly authority, however powerful. We Christians kneel only before God or before the Most Blessed Sacrament because we know and believe that the one true God is present in it, the God who created the world and so loved it that he gave his Only Begotten Son (see Jn 3: 16). We prostrate ourselves before a God who first bent over man like the Good Samaritan to assist him and restore his life, and who knelt before us to wash our dirty feet. Adoring the Body of Christ, means believing that there, in that piece of Bread, Christ is really there, and gives true sense to life, to the immense universe as to the smallest creature, to the whole of human history as to the most brief existence. Adoration is prayer that prolongs the celebration and Eucharistic communion and in which the soul continues to be nourished: it is nourished with love, truth, peace; it is nourished with hope, because the One before whom we prostrate ourselves does not judge us, does not crush us but liberates and transforms us.

This is why gathering, walking and adoring together fills us with joy. In making our own the adoring attitude of Mary, whom we especially remember in this month of May, let us pray for ourselves and for everyone; let us pray for every person who lives in this city, that he or she may know you, O Father and the One whom you sent, Jesus Christ and thus have life in abundance. Amen.


HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 11 June 2009

“This is my Body.... This is my Blood”.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

These words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are repeated every time that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is renewed. We have just heard them in Mark’s Gospel and they resonate with special power today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. They lead us in spirit to the Upper Room, they make us relive the spiritual atmosphere of that night when, celebrating Easter with his followers, the Lord mystically anticipated the sacrifice that was to be consummated the following day on the Cross. The Institution of the Eucharist thus appears to us as an anticipation and acceptance, on Jesus’ part, of his death. St Ephrem the Syrian writes on this topic: during the Supper Jesus sacrificed himself; on the Cross he was sacrificed by others (see Hymn on the Crucifixion, 3, 1).

“This is my Blood”. Here the reference to the sacrificial language of Israel is clear. Jesus presents himself as the true and definitive sacrifice, in which was fulfilled the expiation of sins which, in the Old Testament rites, was never fully completed. This is followed by two other very important remarks. First of all, Jesus Christ says that his Blood “is poured out for many” with a comprehensible reference to the songs of the Servant of God that are found in the Book of Isaiah (see ch. 53). With the addition “blood of the Covenant” Jesus also makes clear that through his death the prophesy of the new Covenant is fulfilled, based on the fidelity and infinite love of the Son made man. An alliance that, therefore, is stronger than all humanity’s sins. The old Covenant had been sealed on Sinai with a sacrificial rite of animals, as we heard in the First Reading, and the Chosen People, set free from slavery in Egypt, had promised to obey all the commandments given to them by the Lord (see Ex 24: 3).

In truth, Israel showed immediately by making the golden calf that it was incapable of staying faithful to this promise and thus to the divine Covenant, which indeed it subsequently violated all too often, adapting to its heart of stone the Law that should have taught it the way of life. However, the Lord did not fail to keep his promise and, through the prophets, sought to recall the inner dimension of the Covenant and announced that he would write a new law upon the hearts of his faithful (see Jer 31: 33), transforming them with the gift of the Spirit (see Ez 36: 25-27). And it was during the Last Supper that he made this new Covenant with his disciples and humanity, confirming it not with animal sacrifices as had happened in the past, but indeed with his own Blood, which became the “Blood of the New Covenant”. Thus he based it on his own obedience, stronger, as I said, than all our sins.

This is clearly highlighted in the Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, in which the sacred author declares that Jesus is the “mediator of a new covenant” (9: 15). He became so through his blood, or, more exactly, through the gift of himself, which gives full value to the outpouring of his blood. On the Cross, Jesus is at the same time victim and priest: a victim worthy of God because he was unblemished, and a High Priest who offers himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and intercedes for the whole of humanity. The Cross is therefore a mystery of love and of salvation which cleanses us as the Letter to the Hebrews states from “dead works”, that is, from sins, and sanctifies us by engraving the New Covenant upon our hearts. The Eucharist, making present the sacrifice of the Cross, renders us capable of living communion with God faithfully.

Dear brothers and sisters whom I greet with affection, starting with the Cardinal Vicar and the other Cardinals and Bishops present like the Chosen People gathered on Sinai, this evening let us too reaffirm our fidelity to the Lord. A few days ago, in opening the annual Diocesan Convention [of Rome] I recalled the importance of remaining, as Church, attentive to the word of God in prayer and in exploring the Scriptures, especially through the practice of lectio divina, that is, through reading the Bible in meditation and veneration. I know that in this respect many initiatives which enrich our diocesan community have been promoted in parishes, seminaries and religious communities, in confraternities and in apostolic associations and movements. I address my fraternal greeting to the members of this multiplicity of Church bodies. Your numerous presence at this celebration, dear friends, highlights the fact that God moulds our community, characterized by a plurality of cultures and by different experiences. God moulds it as “his” People, as the one Body of Christ, thanks to our heartfelt participation in the twofold banquet of the Word and of the Eucharist. Nourished by Christ, we, his disciples, receive the mission to be “the soul” of this City of ours (see Letter to Diognetus, 6: ed. Funk, I, p. 400; see also Lumen Gentium no. 38), a leaven of renewal, bread “broken” for all, especially for those in situations of hardship, poverty or physical and spiritual suffering. Let us become witnesses of his love.

I address you in particular, dear priests, whom Christ has chosen so that with him you may be able to live your life as a sacrifice of praise for the salvation of the world. Only from union with Jesus can you draw that spiritual fruitfulness which generates hope in your pastoral ministry. St Leo the Great recalls that “our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ aspires to nothing other than to become what we receive” (Sermo 12, De Passione 3, 7, PL 54). If this is true for every Christian it is especially true for us priests. To become the Eucharist! May precisely this be our constant desire and commitment, so that the offering of the Body and Blood of the Lord which we make on the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our existence. Every day, we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord that free, pure love which makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to his joy. This is what the faithful expect of the priest: that is, the example of an authentic devotion to the Eucharist; they like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus as was the practice of the Holy Curé d’Ars, whom we shall remember in a special way during the upcoming Year for Priests.

St John Mary Vianney liked to tell his parishioners: “Come to communion.... It is true that you are not worthy of it, but you need it” (Bernard Nodet, Le curé d’Ars. Sa pensée - Son coeur, éd. Xavier Mappus, Paris 1995, p. 119). With the knowledge of being inadequate because of sin, but needful of nourishing ourselves with the love that the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic sacrament, let us renew this evening our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We must not take this faith for granted! Today we run the risk of secularization creeping into the Church too. It can be translated into formal and empty Eucharistic worship, into celebrations lacking that heartfelt participation that is expressed in veneration and in respect for the liturgy. The temptation to reduce prayer to superficial, hasty moments, letting ourselves be overpowered by earthly activities and concerns, is always strong. When, in a little while, we recite the Our Father, the prayer par excellence, we will say: “Give us this day our daily bread”, thinking of course of the bread of each day for us and for all peoples. But this request contains something deeper. The Greek word epioúsios, that we translate as “daily”, could also allude to the “super-stantial” bread, the bread “of the world to come”. Some Fathers of the Church saw this as a reference to the Eucharist, the bread of eternal life, the new world, that is already given to us in Holy Mass, so that from this moment the future world may begin within us. With the Eucharist, therefore, Heaven comes down to earth, the future of God enters the present and it is as though time were embraced by divine eternity.

Dear brothers and sisters, as happens every year, at the end of Holy Mass the traditional Eucharistic procession will set out and with prayer and hymns we shall raise a unanimous entreaty to the Lord present in the consecrated host. We shall say, on behalf of the entire City: “Stay with us Jesus, make a gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life! Free this world from the poison of evil, violence and hatred that pollute consciences, purify it with the power of your merciful love”. “And you, Mary, who were the woman “of the Eucharist’ throughout your life, help us to walk united towards the heavenly goal, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, the eternal Bread of life and medicine of divine immortality”. Amen!


HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 3 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The priesthood of the New Testament is closely linked to the Eucharist. For this reason today, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and almost at the end of the Year for Priests, we are invited to meditate on the relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood of Christ. We are also oriented to this direction by the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm that present Melchizedek. The brief passage from the Book of Genesis (see 14: 18-20) says that Melchizedek, King of Salem, was “priest of God Most High” and therefore “brought out bread and wine” and “blessed him [Abram]”, who had just returned after winning a battle. Abram himself gave Melchizedek a tenth of everything. In the last verse, the Psalm in turn contains solemn words, sworn by God himself who declares to the Messiah-King: “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps 110[109]: 4); thus the Messiah is not only proclaimed King but also Priest. It is from this passage that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews drew for his broad and articulate explanation. And we have re-echoed it in the refrain: “You are a priest for ever” Christ the Lord: almost a profession of faith that acquires special significance on today’s Feast. It is the joy of the community, the joy of the whole Church which, in contemplating and adoring the Most Holy Sacrament, recognizes in it the real and permanent presence of Jesus, the Eternal High Priest.

The Second Reading and the Gospel focus attention on the Eucharistic mystery instead. From the First Reading of the Letter to the Corinthians (see 11: 23-26) is taken the fundamental passage in which St Paul reminds this community of the meaning and value of the “Lord’s Supper”, which the Apostle had transmitted and taught and which risked being lost. Whereas the Gospel is St Luke’s version of the account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes: a sign attested to by all the Evangelists and that foretells the gift that Christ was to make of himself in order to give to all humanity eternal life. Both these texts highlight the prayer of Christ, in the act of breaking bread. There is of course a clear difference between the two moments: when he breaks the loaves and fishes for the crowds, Jesus thanks the heavenly Father for his providence, trusting that he will not let the people go hungry. In the Last Supper, instead, Jesus transforms the bread and wine into his own Body and Blood so that the disciples may be nourished by him and live in close and real communion with him.

The first thing always to remember is that Jesus was not a priest in accordance with the Jewish tradition. He did not come from a family of priests. He did not belong to the lineage of Aaron but rather that of Judah and was therefore legally barred from taking the path of the priesthood. Jesus of Nazareth himself and his activities do not follow in the wake of the ancient priests but rather in that of the prophets. And in this line Jesus took his distance from the ritual conception of religion, criticizing the structure that gave value to human precepts linked to ritual purity rather than to the observance of God’s commandments: namely, love of God and of one’s neighbour which, as the Lord says, “is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk 12: 33). Even in the Temple of Jerusalem, a sacred place par excellence, Jesus makes an exquisitely prophetic gesture when he drives out the money changers and livestock vendors, all things that served for offering the traditional sacrifices. Thus Jesus was not recognized as a priestly but rather as a prophetic and royal Messiah. Even his death, which we Christians rightly call a “sacrifice”, had nothing to do with the ancient sacrifices; indeed, it was quite the opposite; it was the execution of a death sentence by crucifixion, the most ignominious punishment, which took place outside the walls of Jerusalem.

In what sense, therefore, was Jesus a priest? The Eucharist itself tells us. We can start with the simple words that describe Melichizedek: He “brought out bread and wine” (Gen 14: 18). This is what Jesus did at the Last Supper: he offered bread and wine and in that action recapitulated the whole of himself and his whole mission. That gesture, the prayer that preceded it and the words with which he accompanied it contain the full meaning of the mystery of Christ, as the Letter to the Hebrews expresses it in a crucial passage that we should quote: “In the days of his flesh”, the author writes of Our Lord, “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek” (5: 8-10). In this text, which clearly alludes to the spiritual agony of Gethsemane, Christ’s Passion is presented as a prayer and an offering. Jesus faces his “hour” which leads him to death on the Cross, immersed in a profound prayer that consists of the union of his own will with that of the Father. This dual yet single will is a will of love. Lived in this prayer, the tragic trial that Jesus faces is transformed into an offering, into a living sacrifice.

The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “was heard”. In what sense? In the sense that God the Father liberated him from death and restored him to life. He was heard precisely because of his total abandonment of himself to the Father’s will: God’s plan of love could be perfectly fulfilled in Jesus who, having obeyed to the end, to his death on the Cross, became a “cause of salvation” for all who obey him. In other words, he became the High Priest for having taken upon himself all the sin of the world, as the “Lamb of God”. It is the Father who confers this priesthood upon him at the very moment in which Jesus passes over from his death to his Resurrection. He is not a priest according to the Mosaic law (see Lev 8-9), but “after the order of Melchizedek”, according to a prophetic order, dependent only on his special relationship with God.

Let us return to the words of the Letter to the Hebrews which say: “Although he was a Son he learned obedience through what he suffered”. Christ’s priesthood entailed suffering. Jesus truly suffered and did so for our sake. He was the Son and did not need to learn obedience but we do, we did need to and we always will. Therefore the Son took upon himself our humanity and for our sake he let himself be “taught” obedience in the crucible of suffering, he let himself be transformed by it like the grain of wheat that has to die in the earth in order to bear fruit. By means of this process Jesus was “made perfect” in Greek, teleiotheis. We must pause to reflect on this term because it is very important. It indicates the fulfilment of a journey, that is, the very journey and transformation of the Son of God through suffering, through his painful Passion. It is through this transformation that Jesus Christ became the “high priest” and can save all who entrust themselves to him. The term teleiotheis, correctly translated by the words “made perfect”, belongs to a verbal root which, in the Greek version of the Pentateuch, that is, the first five Books of the Bible, is always used to mean the consecration of the ancient priests. This discovery is very valuable because it tells us that for Jesus the Passion was like a priestly consecration. He was not a priest according to the Law but became one existentially in his Pasch of Passion, death and Resurrection: he gave himself in expiation and the Father, exalting him above every creature, made him the universal Mediator of salvation.

Let us return in our meditation, to the Eucharist that will shortly be the focus of our liturgical assembly. In it, Jesus anticipated his Sacrifice, a non-ritual but a personal sacrifice. At the Last Supper his actions were prompted by that “eternal spirit” with which he was later to offer himself on the Cross (see Heb 9: 14). Giving thanks and blessing, Jesus transforms the bread and the wine. It is divine love that transforms them: the love with which Jesus accepts, in anticipation, to give the whole of himself for us. This love is nothing other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, who consecrates the bread and the wine and changes their substance into the Body and Blood of the Lord, making present in the Sacrament the same sacrifice that is fulfilled in a bloody way on the Cross. We may therefore conclude that Christ is a true and effective priest because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, he was filled with the whole fullness of God’s love and precisely “in the night on which he was betrayed”, precisely, “in the hour... of darkness” (see Lk 22: 53). It is this divine power, the same power that brought about the Incarnation of the Word, that transformed the extreme violence and extreme injustice into a supreme act of love and justice. This is the work of the priesthood of Christ which the Church inherited and extended in history, in the dual form of the common priesthood of the baptized and the ordained priesthood of ministers, in order to transform the world with God’s love. Let us all, priests and faithful, nourish ourselves with the same Eucharist, let us all prostrate ourselves to adore it, because in it our Master and Lord is present, the true Body of the Jesus is present in it, the Victim and the Priest, the salvation of the world. Come let us exult with joyful songs! Come, let us adore him! Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square outside the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Feast of Corpus Christi is inseparable from Holy Thursday, from the Mass in Caena Domini, in which the Institution of the Eucharist is solemnly celebrated. Whereas on the evening of Holy Thursday we relive the mystery of Christ who offers himself to us in the bread broken and the wine poured out, today, on the day of Corpus Christi, this same mystery is proposed for the adoration and meditation of the People of God, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the streets of the cities and villages, to show that the Risen Christ walks in our midst and guides us towards the Kingdom of Heaven.

What Jesus gave to us in the intimacy of the Upper Room today we express openly, because the love of Christ is not reserved for a few but is destined for all. In the Mass in Caena Domini last Holy Thursday, I stressed that it is in the Eucharist that the transformation of the gifts of this earth takes place — the bread and wine — whose aim is to transform our life and thereby to inaugurate the transformation of the world. This evening I would like to focus on this perspective.

Everything begins, one might say, from the heart of Christ who, at the Last Supper, on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and by so doing, with the power of his love, transformed the meaning of death which he was on his way to encounter. The fact that the Sacrament of the Altar acquired the name “Eucharist” — “thanksgiving” — expresses precisely this: that changing the substance of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, the gift of a Love stronger than death, divine Love which raised him from the dead. This is why the Eucharist is the food of eternal life, the Bread of Life. From Christ’s heart, from his “Eucharistic prayer” on the eve of his passion flows that dynamism which transforms reality in its cosmic, human and historical dimensions. All things proceed from God, from the omnipotence of his Triune Love, incarnate in Jesus. Christ’s heart is steeped in this Love; therefore he can thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and in this way changes things, people and the world.

This transformation is possible thanks to a communion stronger than division, the communion of God himself. The word “communion”, which we also use to designate the Eucharist, in itself sums up the vertical and horizontal dimensions of Christ’s gift.

The words “to receive communion”, referring to the act of eating the Bread of the Eucharist, are beautiful and very eloquent. In fact, when we do this act we enter into communion with the very life of Jesus, into the dynamism of this life which is given to us and for us. From God, through Jesus, to us: a unique communion is transmitted through the Blessed Eucharist.

We have just heard in the Second Reading the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17).

St Augustine helps us to understand the dynamic of Eucharistic communion when he mentions a sort of vision that he had, in which Jesus said to him: “I am the food of strong men; grow and you shall feed on me; nor shall you change me, like the food of your flesh into yourself, but you shall be changed into my likeness” (Confessions, vii, 10, 18).

Therefore whereas food for the body is assimilated by our organism and contributes to nourishing it, in the case of the Eucharist it is a different Bread: it is not we who assimilate it but it assimilates us in itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ, a member of his Body, one with him. This passage is crucial. In fact, precisely because it is Christ who, in Eucharistic communion changes us into him, our individuality, in this encounter, is opened, liberated from its egocentrism and inserted into the Person of Jesus who in his turn is immersed in Trinitarian communion. The Eucharist, therefore, while it unites us to Christ also opens us to others, makes us members of one another: we are no longer divided but one in him. Eucharistic communion not only unites me to the person I have beside me and with whom I may not even be on good terms, but also to our distant brethren in every part of the world.

Hence the profound sense of the Church’s social presence derives from the Eucharist, as is testified by the great social saints who were always great Eucharistic souls. Those who recognize Jesus in the sacred Host, recognize him in their suffering brother or sister, in those who hunger and thirst, who are strangers, naked, sick or in prison; and they are attentive to every person, they work in practice for all who are in need.

Therefore our special responsibility as Christians for building a supportive, just and brotherly society comes from the gift of Christ’s love. Especially in our time, in which globalization makes us more and more dependent on each other, Christianity can and must ensure that this unity is not built without God, that is, without true Love, which would give way to confusion, individualism and the tyranny of each one seeking to oppress the others. The Gospel has always aimed at the unity of the human family, a unity that is neither imposed from the outside nor by ideological or economic interests but on the contrary is based on the sense of reciprocal responsibility, so that we may recognize each other as members of one and the same Body, the Body of Christ, because from the Sacrament of the Altar we have learned and are constantly learning that sharing, love, is the path to true justice.

Let us now return to Jesus’ action at the Last Supper. What happened at that moment? When he said: “this is my body which is given for you, this is the cup of my blood which is poured out for many, what happened? In this gesture Jesus was anticipating the event of Calvary. Out of love he accepted the whole passion, with its anguish and its violence, even to death on the cross. In accepting it in this manner he changed it into an act of giving. This is the transformation which the world needs most, to redeem it from within, to open it to the dimensions of the Kingdom of Heaven.

However, God always wishes to bring about this renewal of the world on the same path followed by Christ, that way which is indeed he himself. There is nothing magic about Christianity. There are no short-cuts; everything passes through the humble and patient logic of the grain of wheat that broke open to give life, the logic of faith that moves mountains with the gentle power of God. For this reason God wishes to continue to renew humanity, history and the cosmos through this chain of transformations, of which the Eucharist is the sacrament. Through the consecrated bread and wine, in which his Body and his Blood are really present, Christ transforms us, conforming us to him: he involves us in his work of redemption, enabling us, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to live in accordance with his own logic of self-giving, as grains of wheat united to him and in him. Thus are sown and continue to mature in the furrows of history unity and peace, which are the end for which we strive, in accordance with God’s plan.

Let us walk with no illusions, with no utopian ideologies, on the highways of the world bearing within us the Body of the Lord, like the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Visitation. With the humility of knowing that we are merely grains of wheat, let us preserve the firm certainty that the love of God, incarnate in Christ, is stronger than evil, violence and death. We know that God prepares for all men and women new heavens and a new earth, in which peace and justice reign — and in faith we perceive the new world which is our true homeland.

This evening too, let us start out: while the sun is setting on our beloved city of Rome: Jesus in the Eucharist is with us, the Risen One who said: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). Thank you, Lord Jesus! Thank you for your faithfulness which sustains our hope. Stay with us because night is falling. “Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, Jesus, of your love befriend us, You refresh us, you defend us, Your eternal goodness send us in the land of life to see”. Amen.


HOLY MASS FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Thursday, 7 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This evening I would like to meditate with you on two interconnected aspects of the Eucharistic Mystery: worship of the Eucharist and its sacred nature. It is important to reflect on them once again to preserve them from incomplete visions of the Mystery itself, such as those encountered in the recent past.

First of all, a reflection on the importance of Eucharistic worship and, in particular, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We shall experience it this evening, after Mass, before the procession, during it and at its conclusion. A unilateral interpretation of the Second Vatican Council penalized this dimension, in practice restricting the Eucharist to the moment of its celebration. Indeed it was very important to recognize the centrality of the celebration in which the Lord summons his people, gathers it round the dual table of the Word and of the Bread of life, nourishes and unites it with himself in the offering of the Sacrifice.

Of course, this evaluation of the liturgical assembly in which the Lord works his mystery of communion and brings it about still applies; but it must be put back into the proper balance. In fact — as often happens — in order to emphasize one aspect one ends by sacrificing another. In this case the correct accentuation of the celebration of the Eucharist has been to the detriment of adoration as an act of faith and prayer addressed to the Lord Jesus, really present in the Sacrament of the Altar.

This imbalance has also had repercussions on the spiritual life of the faithful. In fact, by concentrating the entire relationship with the Eucharistic Jesus in the sole moment of Holy Mass one risks emptying the rest of existential time and space of his presence. This makes ever less perceptible the meaning of Jesus’ constant presence in our midst and with us, a presence that is tangible, close, in our homes, as the “beating Heart” of the city, of the country, and of the area, with its various expressions and activities. The sacrament of Christ’s Charity must permeate the whole of daily life.

Actually it is wrong to set celebration and adoration against each other, as if they were competing. Exactly the opposite is true: worship of the Blessed Sacrament is, as it were, the spiritual “context” in which the community can celebrate the Eucharist well and in truth. Only if it is preceded, accompanied and followed by this inner attitude of faith and adoration can the liturgical action express its full meaning and value. The encounter with Jesus in Holy Mass is truly and fully brought about when the community can recognize that in the Sacrament he dwells in his house, waits for us, invites us to his table, then, after the assembly is dismissed, stays with us, with his discreet and silent presence, and accompanies us with his intercession, continuing to gather our spiritual sacrifices and offer them to the Father.

In this regard I am pleased to highlight the experience we shall be having together this evening too. At the moment of Adoration, we are all equal, kneeling before the Sacrament of Love. The common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood are brought together in Eucharistic worship. It is a very beautiful and significant experience which we have had several times in St Peter’s Basilica, and also in the unforgettable Vigils with young people — I recall, for example, those in Cologne, London, Zagreb and Madrid. It is clear to all that these moments of Eucharistic Vigil prepare for the celebration of the Holy Mass, they prepare hearts for the encounter so that it will be more fruitful.

To be all together in prolonged silence before the Lord present in his Sacrament is one of the most genuine experiences of our being Church, which is accompanied complementarily by the celebration of the Eucharist, by listening to the word of God, by singing and by approaching the table of the Bread of Life together. Communion and contemplation cannot be separated, they go hand in hand. If I am truly to communicate with another person I must know him, I must be able to be in silence close to him, to listen to him and look at him lovingly. True love and true friendship are always nourished by the reciprocity of looks, of intense, eloquent silences full of respect and veneration, so that the encounter may be lived profoundly and personally rather than superficially. And, unfortunately, if this dimension is lacking, sacramental communion itself may become a superficial gesture on our part.

Instead, in true communion, prepared for by the conversation of prayer and of life, we can address words of confidence to the Lord, such as those which rang out just now in the Responsorial Psalm: “O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid. / You have loosed my bonds./ I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving /and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps 116[115]:16-17).

I would now like to move on briefly to the second aspect: the sacred nature of the Eucharist. Here too so we have heard in the recent past of a certain misunderstanding of the authentic message of Sacred Scripture. The Christian newness with regard to worship has been influenced by a certain secularist mentality of the 1960s and 70s. It is true, and this is still the case, that the centre of worship is now no longer in the ancient rites and sacrifices, but in Christ himself, in his person, in his life, in his Paschal Mystery. However it must not be concluded from this fundamental innovation that the sacred no longer exists, but rather that it has found fulfilment in Jesus Christ, divine Love incarnate.

The Letter to the Hebrews, which we heard this evening in the Second Reading, speaks to us precisely of the newness of the priesthood of Christ, “high priest of the good things that have come” (Heb 9:11), but does not say that the priesthood is finished. Christ “is the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb 9:15), established in his blood which purifies our “conscience from dead works” (Heb 9:14). He did not abolish the sacred but brought it to fulfillment, inaugurating a new form of worship, which is indeed fully spiritual but which, however, as long as we are journeying in time, still makes use of signs and rites, which will exist no longer only at the end, in the heavenly Jerusalem, where there will no longer be any temple (see Rev 21:22). Thanks to Christ, the sacred is truer, more intense and, as happens with the Commandments, also more demanding! Ritual observance does not suffice but purification of the heart and the involvement of life is required.

I would also like to stress that the sacred has an educational function and its disappearance inevitably impoverishes culture and especially the formation of the new generations. If, for example, in the name of a faith that is secularized and no longer in need of sacred signs, these Corpus Christi processions through the city were to be abolished, the spiritual profile of Rome would be “flattened out”, and our personal and community awareness would be weakened.

Or let us think of a mother or father who in the name of a desacralized faith, deprived their children of all religious rituals: in reality they would end by giving a free hand to the many substitutes that exist in the consumer society, to other rites and other signs that could more easily become idols.

God, our Father, did not do this with humanity: he sent his Son into the world not to abolish, but to give fulfilment also to the sacred. At the height of this mission, at the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood, the Memorial of his Paschal Sacrifice. By so doing he replaced the ancient sacrifices with himself, but he did so in a rite which he commanded the Apostles to perpetuate, as a supreme sign of the true Sacred One who is he himself. With this faith, dear brothers and sisters, let us celebrate the Eucharistic Mystery today and every day and adore it as the centre of our life and the heart of the world. Amen. 



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