Monday, June 17, 2024

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

Entry 0285: Reflections on the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time 

by Pope Benedict XVI  

On eight occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, on 19 June 2005, 25 June 2006, 24 June 2007, 22 June 2008, 21 June 2009, 20 June 2010, 19 June 2011, and 24 June 2012. Here are the texts of the eight reflections prior to the recitation of the Angelus and four homilies delivered on these occasions.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 19 June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tomorrow, 20 June, we will be celebrating World Refugee Day, promoted by the United Nations to keep attention focussed on the problems of those who are forced to leave their Homeland. This year’s theme: “The courage to be a refugee”, lays the emphasis on the strength of spirit demanded of those who have to leave everything, sometimes even their family, to escape grave problems and dangers.

The Christian Community feels close to all who are experiencing this painful condition; it endeavours to encourage them and in various ways shows them its interest and love, which is expressed in concrete gestures of solidarity so that everyone who is far from his own Country will feel the Church as a homeland where no one is a stranger.

The loving attention of Christians to those in difficulty and their commitment to a more supportive society are continually nourished by active and conscious participation in the Eucharist. Anyone nourished with the faith of Christ at the Eucharistic Table assimilates his same style of life, which is the style of service especially attentive to the weakest and most underprivileged persons. In fact, practical charity is a criterion that proves the authenticity of our liturgical celebrations (see Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, no. 28).

May the Year of the Eucharist which we are living in help the diocesan and parish communities to revive this capacity of going out to relieve the many forms of poverty in our world.

Today let us entrust the men, women and children who are living the plight of refugees to the motherly protection of Mary Most Holy who, together with her spouse, St Joseph and the Child Jesus experienced the bitterness of exile when Herod’s senseless persecution obliged the Holy Family to flee to Egypt (Mt 2: 13-23).

Let us pray to the Blessed Virgin that these brothers and sisters of ours will meet with acceptance and understanding on their journey.



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 25 June 2006

This Sunday, the 12th in Ordinary Time, is as though “surrounded” by significant liturgical solemnities. Last Friday we celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an event that felicitously unites this popular devotion with theological depth. It was traditional - and in some countries, still is - to consecrate families to the Sacred Heart, whose image they would keep in their homes.

The devotion is rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation; it is precisely through the Heart of Jesus that the Love of God for humanity is sublimely manifested.

This is why authentic devotion to the Sacred Heart has retained all its effectiveness and especially attracts souls thirsting for God’s mercy who find in it the inexhaustible source from which to draw the water of Life that can irrigate the deserts of the soul and make hope flourish anew. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests: I take the opportunity to invite all of you, dear brothers and sisters, to pray for priests always, so that they will be effective witnesses of Christ’s love.

Yesterday, the liturgy enabled us to celebrate the Birth of St John the Baptist, the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfilment of the divine promises: John is that “prophet”, identified with Elijah, who was destined to be the immediate precursor of the Messiah, to prepare the people of Israel for his coming (see Mt 11: 14; 17: 10-13). His Feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are (see Jn 1: 1, 23; 1: 7-8; 3: 29). “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3: 30): the Baptist’s words are a programme for every Christian.

Allowing the “I” of Christ to replace our “I” was in an exemplary way the desire of the Apostles Peter and Paul, whom the Church venerates with solemnity on 29 June. St Paul wrote of himself: “It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20).

Before them and before any other saint, it was Mary Most Holy who lived this reality and cherished in her heart the words of her Son Jesus. Yesterday we contemplated her Immaculate Heart, the heart of a mother that continues to watch tenderly over us all. May her intercession enable us to remain ever faithful to our Christian vocation.



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 24 June, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist, whose life was totally directed to Christ, as was that of Mary, Christ’s Mother.

John the Baptist was the forerunner, the “voice” sent to proclaim the Incarnate Word. Thus, commemorating his birth actually means celebrating Christ, the fulfilment of the promises of all the prophets, among whom the greatest was the Baptist, called to “prepare the way” for the Messiah (see Mt 11: 9-10).

All the Gospels introduce the narrative of Jesus’ public life with the account of his baptism by John in the River Jordan. St Luke frames the Baptist’s entrance on the scene in a solemn historical setting.

My book Jesus of Nazareth also begins with the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, an event which had enormous echoes in his day. People flocked from Jerusalem and every part of Judea to listen to John the Baptist and have themselves baptized in the river by him, confessing their sins (see Mk 1: 5).

The baptizing prophet became so famous that many asked themselves whether he was the Messiah. The Evangelist, however, specifically denied this: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1: 20).

Nevertheless, he was the first “witness” of Jesus, having received instructions from Heaven: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1: 33).

This happened precisely when Jesus, after receiving baptism, emerged from the water: John saw the Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove. It was then that he “knew” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1: 31), pointing him out as the Son of God and Redeemer of man: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1: 29).

As an authentic prophet, John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced transgressions of God’s commandments, even when it was the powerful who were responsible for them. Thus, when he accused Herod and Herodias of adultery, he paid with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ who is Truth in person.

Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, so that also in our day the Church will remain ever faithful to Christ and courageously witness to his truth and his love for all.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 22 June 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In this Sunday’s Gospel we find two invitations from Jesus: on the one hand to “have no fear” of human beings, and on the other, to “fear” God (see Mt 10: 26, 28). We are thus encouraged to reflect on the difference that exists between human fears and the fear of God. Fear is a natural dimension of life. In childhood we experience forms of fear that subsequently are revealed to be imaginary and disappear; other fears emerge later which are indeed founded in reality: these must be faced and overcome with human determination and trust in God. However, especially today, there is a deeper form of fear of an existential type and which sometimes borders on anguish: it is born from a sense of emptiness, linked to a certain culture permeated with widespread theoretical and practical nihilism.

In the face of the broad and diversified panorama of human fears, the Word of God is clear: those who “fear” God “are not afraid”. Fear of God, which the Scriptures define as “the beginning of knowledge” coincides with faith in him, with sacred respect for his authority over life and the world.

To be without “fear of God” is equivalent to putting ourselves in his place, to feeling we ourselves are lords of good and evil, of life and death. Instead, those who fear God feel within them the safety that an infant in his mother’s arms feels (see Ps 130: 2). Those who fear God are tranquil even in the midst of storms for, as Jesus revealed to us, God is a Father full of mercy and goodness. Those who love him are not afraid: “There is no fear in love”, the Apostle John wrote, “but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn 4: 18). Believers, therefore, are not afraid of anything because they know they are in the hands of God, they know that it is not evil and the irrational which have the last word, but rather that the one Lord of the world and of love is Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, who loved us to the point of sacrificing himself for us, dying on the Cross for our salvation.

The more we grow in this intimacy with God, imbued with love, the more easily we overcome any form of fear. In the passage of today’s Gospel, Jesus repeats several times the exhortation to have no fear. Jesus reassures us, as he reassured the Apostles and as he did St Paul by appearing to him one night in a vision at a particularly difficult moment in his preaching: “Do not be afraid”, he said, “for I am with you” (Acts 18: 9). Strong in the presence of Christ and comforted by his love, the Apostle to the Gentiles, the 2,000th anniversary of whose birth we are preparing to celebrate with a special Jubilee Year, did not even fear martyrdom. May this great spiritual and pastoral event inspire in us too a renewed trust in Jesus Christ who calls us to proclaim and witness to his Gospel without being afraid of anything. I therefore invite you, dear brothers and sisters, to prepare yourselves to celebrate with faith the Pauline Year, which, please God, I shall solemnly inaugurate next Saturday at 6: 00 o’clock in the evening in the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, with the liturgy for First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul. Let us immediately entrust this ecclesial initiative to the intercession of St Paul and of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Apostles and Mother of Christ, the source of our joy and our peace.



Foconi Hall, Sunday, 22 June 2008

Your Eminences,

Your Excellencies,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While you are gathered for the 49th International Eucharistic Congress, I am glad to join you via television and thus to participate in your prayer. I would first like to greet Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Archbishop of Quebec, and Cardinal Jozef Tomko, my Special Envoy to the Congress, as well as all the Cardinals and Bishops present. I also extend my cordial greetings to the important figures of civil society who have desired to take part in the liturgy. I extend affectionate thoughts to the priests, the deacons and all the faithful present, and likewise to all the Catholics of Quebec, of the whole of Canada and of the other continents. I do not forget that your City is celebrating the 400th anniversary of its foundation. It is an occasion for each one to remember the values that inspired the pioneers and missionaries in your Country.

“The Eucharist, gift of God for the life of the world” is the theme chosen for this new International Eucharistic Congress. The Eucharist is our most beautiful treasure. It is the Sacrament par excellence; it ushers us into eternal life in advance; it contains the entire mystery of our salvation; it is the source and summit of the action and life of the Church as the Second Vatican Council recalled (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 8). It is therefore particularly important that pastors and faithful be constantly committed to deepening their knowledge of this great Sacrament. In this way each one will be able to affirm his faith and carry out his mission in the Church and in the world ever better, remembering that the Eucharist bears fruit in one’s personal life, in the life of the Church and the world. The Spirit of truth bears witness in your hearts; may you too witness to Christ among men and women, as the Gospel acclamation of this Mass says. Thus, participation in the Eucharist does not distance our contemporaries. On the contrary, since it is the expression par excellence of God’s love, it calls us to join forces with all our brothers and sisters to confront today’s challenges and make the earth a place that is pleasant to live in. This requires that we constantly fight to ensure that everyone is respected, from conception until natural death, that our rich societies welcome the poorest and restore dignity to all, that everyone has food and can enable his family to survive and that peace and justice shine out on all the continents. These are some of the challenges that must mobilize all our contemporaries, and from the Eucharistic mystery Christians must draw the strength to confront them.

The “Mystery of Faith”: this we proclaim at every Mass. I would like everyone to make a commitment to study this great mystery, especially by revisiting and exploring, individually and in groups, the Council’s text on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, so as to bear witness courageously to the mystery. In this way, each person will arrive at a better grasp of the meaning of every aspect of the Eucharist, understanding its depth and living it with greater intensity. Every sentence, every gesture has its own meaning and conceals a mystery. I sincerely hope that this Congress will serve as an appeal to all the faithful to make a similar commitment to a renewal of Eucharistic catechesis, so that they themselves will gain a genuine Eucharistic awareness and will in turn teach children and young people to recognize the central mystery of faith and build their lives around it. I urge priests especially to give due honour to the Eucharistic rite, and I ask all the faithful to respect the role of each individual, both priest and lay, in the Eucharistic action. The liturgy does not belong to us: it is the Church’s treasure.

Reception of the Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament - by this we mean deepening our Communion, preparing for it and prolonging it - is also about allowing ourselves to enter into communion with Christ, and through him with the whole of the Trinity, so as to become what we receive and to live in communion with the Church. It is by receiving the Body of Christ that we receive the strength “of unity with God and with one another” (St Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioannis Evangelium, 11: 11; see St Augustine, Sermo 577). We must never forget that the Church is built around Christ and that, as St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas and St Albert the Great have all said, following St Paul (see 1 Cor 10: 17), the Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Church’s unity, because we all form one single body of which the Lord is the head. We must go back again and again to the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, where we were given a pledge of the mystery of our redemption on the Cross. The Last Supper is the locus of the nascent Church, the womb containing the Church of every age. In the Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice is constantly renewed, Pentecost is constantly renewed. May all of you become ever more deeply aware of the importance of the Sunday Eucharist, because Sunday, the first day of the week, is the day when we honour Christ, the day when we receive the strength to live each day the gift of God.

I would also like to invite pastors and the faithful to take a renewed interest in their preparation for receiving the Eucharist. Despite our weakness and sin, Christ wants to make his dwelling place in us. This is why we must do everything in our power to receive him with a pure heart, continuously rediscovering through the Sacrament of forgiveness that purity which sin has stained, “that [our] minds be attuned to [our] voices” (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 11), according to the Council’s invitation. Sin in fact, especially serious sin, impedes the action of Eucharistic grace within us. Moreover, those who cannot receive Communion because of their situation will find a saving power and effectiveness in a Communion of desire and from participation at the Eucharist.

The Eucharist has a very special place in the life of Saints. Let us thank God for the history of holiness of Quebec and of Canada, which has contributed to the missionary life of the Church. Your Country honours in particular its Canadian martyrs, John Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions who were able to give their lives for Christ, thereby associating themselves with his sacrifice on the Cross. They belong to the generation of men and women who founded and developed the Church in Canada, with Marguerite Bourgeoys, Marguerite of Youville, Marie of the Incarnation, Marie Catherine of St Augustine, Bishop François de Laval, founder of the first diocese in North America, Dina Bélanger and Kateri Tekakwitha. Learn from them and, like them, be fearless; God accompanies and protects you; every day make an offering for the glory of God the Father and play your part in the construction of the world, proudly remembering your religious heritage and its social and cultural outreach, and taking care to spread around you the moral and spiritual values that come to us from the Lord.

The Eucharist is not a meal with friends. It is the mystery of a covenant. “The prayers and rites of the Eucharistic sacrifice revive the whole history of salvation continuously before the eyes of our soul, in the course of the liturgical cycle and make us enter its significance ever more deeply” (St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross [Edith Stein], Wege zu inneren Stille, Aschaffenburg, 1987, p. 67). We are called to enter into this mystery of a covenant by conforming our lives ever more closely each day to the gift received in the Eucharist. It has a sacred character, as the Second Vatican Council recalls: “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of his Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 7). In a certain way, it is a “heavenly liturgy”, an anticipation of the banquet in the eternal Kingdom, announcing the death and Resurrection of Christ “until he comes” (1 Cor 11: 26).

In order that the People of God may never lack ministers to give them the Body of Christ, we must ask the Lord to make the gift of new priests to his Church. I also ask you to pass on the call to the priesthood to young men, so that they will joyfully and fearlessly respond to the Lord. They will not be disappointed. May the family be the origin and cradle of vocations. Before I conclude, I joyfully announce to you the venue of the next International Eucharistic Congress. It will be held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. I ask the Lord to enable each one of you to discover the depth and grandeur of the mystery of faith. May Christ, present in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit invoked upon the bread and the wine, accompany you on your daily journey and in your mission. May you be ready for God to work within you, after the example of the Virgin Mary. As I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady, of St Anne, Patronness of Quebec, and of all your Country’s Saints, I impart an affectionate Apostolic Blessing to you all, as well as to all those present who have come from the different countries of the world.

Dear friends, as this significant event in the life of the Church draws to a conclusion I invite you all to join me in praying for the success of the next International Eucharistic Congress, which will take place in 2012 in the city of Dublin! I take this opportunity to greet warmly the people of Ireland, as they prepare to host this ecclesial gathering. I am confident that they, together with all the participants at the next Congress, will find it a source of lasting spiritual renewal.



Square outside the Church of St Pio of Pietrelcina, Sunday, 21 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of this solemn Celebration, as on every Sunday, I invite you to recite with me the Marian prayer of the Angelus. But here, at the Shrine of St Pio of Pietrelcina it seems we can hear his very voice, urging us to turn with the hearts of children to the Blessed Virgin: “Love Our Lady and make her loved!”. He would repeat this to everyone and even more effective than his words was the exemplary witness of his deep devotion to the heavenly Mother. Baptized in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Pietrelcina with the name of Francis, like the Poverello of Assisi he always felt the most tender love for the Virgin. Then Providence led him here, to San Giovanni Rotondo, to the Shrine of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where he stayed until his death and where his mortal remains were laid to rest. Thus he lived his whole life and his apostolate under the motherly gaze of Our Lady and with the power of her intercession. He also considered the House for the Relief of Suffering to be a work of Mary, “Health of the sick”. Therefore, dear friends, after the example of Padre Pio, today I too wish to entrust you all to the maternal protection of the Mother of God. In a particular way I invoke her protection for the community of the Capuchin Friars, for the sick in the Hospital and for all those who care for them lovingly, as well as for the Prayer Groups which perpetuate in Italy and in the world the spiritual bequest of their Holy Founder.

I would like to entrust in a special way to the intercession of Our Lady and of St Pio of Pietrelcina the Year for Priests that I inaugurated last Friday, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May it be a privileged opportunity to shed light on the value of the mission and of the holiness of priests at the service of the Church and of humanity in the third millennium!

Let us also pray today for the difficult and at times dramatic situation of refugees. The World Day for Refugees, promoted by the United Nations, was celebrated yesterday. Many people fleeing from situations of war, persecution and natural disasters are seeking refuge in other countries and their reception gives rise to many difficulties, yet it is only right. May God ordain that with the efforts of all, we may be as successful as possible in removing the causes of such a sad phenomenon.

I greet all the pilgrims gathered here with great affection. I express my gratitude to the civil Authorities and to all those who have helped to organize my Visit. A heartfelt “thank you”! I repeat to all: walk on the path that Padre Pio pointed out to you, the path of holiness in accordance with the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Virgin Mary always go before you on this path and guide you with her motherly hand to the heavenly homeland.




Square outside the Church of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, Sunday, 21 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the heart of my pilgrimage to this place where everything speaks of the life and holiness of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, I have the joy of celebrating for you and with you the Eucharist, a mystery that was the centre of his whole life, the origin of his vocation, the power of his witness, the consecration of his sacrifice. With deep affection I greet all of you who have gathered here in large numbers, and all those who have joined us via radio and television. In the first place, I greet Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio who after years of faithful service to this diocesan community is preparing to take over the care of the Archdiocese of Lecce. I cordially thank him too for having expressed your sentiments. I greet the other Bishops who are concelebrating. I address a special greeting to the Capuchin Friars with the Minister General Fra Mauro Jöhri, the Definitor General, the Minister Provincial, the Father Guardian of the Convent, the Rector of the Shrine and the Capuchin Fraternity of San Giovanni Rotondo. I also greet with gratitude all those who make their contribution by serving the Shrine and the annexed institutions; I greet the civil and military Authorities; I greet the priests, the deacons, the other religious, men and women, and all the faithful. I address an affectionate thought to everyone in the House for the Relief of Suffering, to people who are all alone and to all the inhabitants of your town.

We have just heard the Gospel reading of the calming of the storm, which was presented with a brief but incisive passage from the Book of Job, in which God reveals himself as the Lord of the sea. Jesus rebukes the wind and orders the sea to be calm, he speaks to it as if it were identified with the power of the devil. In fact, according to what the First Reading and Psalm 107[106] tell us, in the Bible the sea is considered a threatening, chaotic and potentially destructive element which God the Creator alone can dominate, govern and calm.

Yet, there is another force a positive force that moves the world, capable of transforming and renewing creatures: the power of “Christ’s love” (2 Cor 5: 14) as St Paul calls it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians not, therefore essentially a cosmic force, but rather divine, transcendent. It also acts on the cosmos but, in itself, Christ’s love is “another” power and the Lord manifested this transcendent otherness in his Pasch, in the “holiness” of the “way” he chose to free us from the dominion of evil, as happened for the Exodus when he brought the Jews out of Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea. “Your way, O God, is holy”, the Psalmist exclaims, “Your way was through the sea/ your path through the great waters” (Ps 77[76]: 13, 19). In the Paschal Mystery, Jesus passed through the abyss of death, because in this way God wanted to renew the universe through the death and Resurrection of his Son, who “died for all”, that all might live “for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5: 15), and not live for their own sake alone.

The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea was a clear sign of Christ’s lordship over negative powers and induces one to think of his divinity: “Who then is this”, his own Disciples asked fearfully, “that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mk 4: 41). Their faith is not yet firm, it is being formed; it is a mingling of fear and trust; on the other hand, Jesus’ confidant abandonment to the Father is total and pure. This is why he could sleep during the storm, completely safe in God’s arms. The time would come, however, when Jesus too would feel fear and anguish, when his hour came he was to feel the full burden of humanity’s sins upon him, like a wave at high tide about to break over him. That was indeed to be a terrible tempest, not cosmic but spiritual. It was to be the final, extreme assault of evil against the Son of God.

Yet, in that hour Jesus did not doubt in the power of God the Father or in his closeness, even though he had to experience to the full the distance of hatred from love, of falsehood from the truth, of sin from grace. He experienced this drama in himself with excruciating pain, especially in Gethsemane, before his arrest, and then throughout his Passion until his death on the Cross. In that hour, Jesus on the one hand was one with the Father, fully abandoned to him; on the other, since he showed solidarity to sinners, he was as it were separated and felt abandoned by him.

Some Saints have lived Jesus’ experience intensely and personally. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one such. A simple man, of humble origin, whom “Christ made... his own” (Phil 3: 12) as the Apostle Paul wrote of himself to make him a chosen instrument of the eternal power of his Cross: a power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual fatherhood, of effective solidarity with the suffering. The stigmata that marked his Body closely united him with the Crucified and Risen One. A genuine follower of St Francis of Assisi, like the Poverello he made St Paul’s experience his own, as he described it in his Letters: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2: 20); or: “death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Cor 4: 12). This does not mean alienation, the loss of one’s personality: God never annihilates human beings but transforms them with his Spirit and orientates them to serving his plan of salvation. Padre Pio retained his own natural gifts and his own temperament, but he offered all things to God, who was able to make free use of them to extend Christ’s work: to proclaim the Gospel, to forgive sins and to heal the sick in body and in mind.

Like Jesus, Padre Pio did not have to battle with earthly enemies, in radical combat, but rather with the spirit of evil (see Eph 6: 12). The greatest “storms” that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, from which he defended himself with “the armour of God”, with “the shield of faith” and with the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6: 11, 16, 17). By staying united with Jesus, he always focussed on the depth of the human drama, and for this reason offered himself up as well as his many sufferings and could expend himself for the healing and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God’s mercy, of his Kingdom which comes, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. To guide souls and to alleviate suffering; we may thus sum up St Pio of Pietrelcina in the words of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI: “he was a man of prayer and suffering” (Address to the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).

Dear friends, Friars Minor Capuchin, the members of prayer groups and all the faithful of San Giovanni Rotondo, you are the heirs of Padre Pio and the legacy he has bequeathed to you is his holiness. In one of his letters he wrote: “It seems that Jesus had no work for his hands other than to sanctify your soul” (Epist. II, p. 155). This was always his priority concern, his priestly and paternal caring: so that people might return to God, might be able to experience his mercy and, inwardly renewed, rediscover the beauty and joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of putting the Gospel into practice. Padre Pio attracted people to the way of holiness with his own witness, pointing out by his example the “track” that leads to it: prayer and charity.

First of all prayer. Like all great men of God Padre Pio himself had become prayer, body and soul. His days were a Rosary lived, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of Christ’s mysteries in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unique coexistence within him of supernatural gifts and human concreteness.

And it all culminated in the celebration of holy Mass in which he was fully united with the dead and Risen Lord. From prayer, as an ever living source, flowed charity. The love that he carried in his heart and passed on to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of people and families. Especially in the sick and the suffering, he encouraged special love for the Heart of Christ and it was precisely from this that the project of a great work dedicated to “the relief of suffering” took its origin and form. It is not possible to understand or interpret this institution adequately if it is separated from the source that inspired it, which is evangelical charity, enlivened, in its turn, by prayer.

Today, dear friends, Padre Pio presents all this to our attention anew. The risks of activism and secularization are ever present; thus my Visit is also intended to strengthen your fidelity to the mission you have inherited from your most beloved Father. Many of you, men and women religious and lay people, are so taken up by the thousands of tasks demanded of you by the service to pilgrims or to the sick in hospital that you run the risk of neglecting the one truly necessary thing: listening to Christ in order to do God’s will. When you realize that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: at his example, at his suffering, and invoke his intercession so that he may obtain for you from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue your own mission, steeped in love for God and in fraternal charity. And may he continue from Heaven to exercise that exquisite spiritual fatherhood that distinguished him during his earthly existence; may he continue to accompany his confreres, his spiritual children and the entire work that he began. Together with St Francis and with Our Lady whom he so deeply loved and made loved in this world, may he always watch over all of you and protect you. And then, also in the storms that may suddenly break, you will be able to feel the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any contrary wind and impels the Barque of the Church and each one of us onward. This is why we must always live in serenity and cultivate in our hearts joy, giving thanks to the Lord. “His love is for ever” (Responsorial psalm). Amen!



Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning in St Peter’s Basilica I conferred the Order of the Priesthood on 14 deacons for the Diocese of Rome which is why I am late for the Angelus! The sacrament of Orders expresses on God’s part his caring closeness to men and women and, on the part of those who receive it, full readiness to become an instrument of this closeness with radical love for Christ and for his Church. In this Sunday’s Gospel the Lord asks his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Lk 9: 20). The Apostle Peter readily answers this question: “You are the Christ of God”, the Messiah of God (see ibid.), thereby surpassing all the earthly opinions that held Jesus to be one of the prophets. According to St Ambrose, with this profession of faith Peter “embraced all things at the same time, because he expressed the nature and the name” of the Messiah (Exp. in Lucam VI, 93, CCL 14, 207). And Jesus, hearing this profession of faith renews his invitation to Peter and to the other disciples to follow him on the demanding path of love, even to the Cross. To us too, who can get to know the Lord through faith in his word and in the sacraments, Jesus addresses the proposal that we follow him every day and also reminds us that to be his disciples it is necessary to make our own the power of his Cross, the summit of our good and the crown of our hope.

St Maximus Confessor noted that the “distinctive sign of the power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Cross that he carried on his shoulders” (Ambiguorum 32, PG 91, 1284 C). In fact, “he said to all, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’“ (Lk 9: 23). Taking up the Cross means striving to defeat sin that is an obstacle on the way towards God, accepting the Lord’s will every day, increasing faith, especially in the face of problems, difficulties and suffering. The Carmelite Saint, Edith Stein, bore witness to this in a time of persecution. Thus in 1938 she wrote from the Carmelite Convent in Cologne, “Today I understand... what it means to be a Bride of Christ in the sign of the Cross, although this will never be fully understood since it is a mystery.... The darker it grows around us the more we should open our hearts to the light that comes from on high” (La scelta di Dio. Lettere [1917-1942], Rome, 1973, 132-133]. In our day too there are many Christians in the world who, motivated by love for God, take up their cross every day, both the cross of daily trials and the cross caused by human barbarity that sometimes demands the courage of the supreme sacrifice. May the Lord obtain that each one of us always place our firm hope in him, certain that in following him, carrying our own cross, we will reach with him the light of the Resurrection.

Let us entrust to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary the new priests ordained today, who join the ranks of all those whom the Lord has called by name: may they always be faithful disciples, courageous heralds of the word of God and stewards of his gifts of salvation.



Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 20 June 2010

Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,

Very Dear Ordinands,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As Bishop of this Diocese I am particularly glad to welcome 14 new Priests into the “presbyterium” of Rome. Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and all the Priests, I thank the Lord for the gift of these new pastors of the People of God. I would like to address a special greeting to you, beloved ordinands: today you are the centre of attention of the People of God, symbolically represented by the people who fill this Vatican Basilica. They fill it with their prayers and their singing, with their sincere and deep affection, their authentic emotion, their human and spiritual joy. Among this People of God a special place is reserved for your parents and relatives, your friends and companions, the Superiors and teachers at your Seminaries, the various parish communities and the different sectors of the Church from which you come and which have accompanied you on your journey, as well as those to whom you have already offered your pastoral service. Nor should we forget the unique closeness, at this moment, of many other people, humble and simple but great before God such as, for example, the cloistered women religious, the children, the sick and the infirm. They accompany you with the very precious gift of their prayers, their innocence and their suffering.

Thus today it is the whole Church of Rome which is giving thanks and praying for you, which puts such great trust and hope in your future, which expects abundant fruits of holiness and good from your priestly ministry. Yes, the Church relies on you, she relies very heavily on you! The Church needs each one of you, aware as she is of the gifts that God offers you and, at the same time, of the absolute need in every person’s heart to encounter Christ, the one and universal Saviour of the world, to receive from him new and eternal life, true freedom and full joy. We therefore feel we are all invited to enter the “mystery”, the event of grace that is being brought about in your hearts with Ordination to the priesthood, letting ourselves be illuminated by the Word of God that has been proclaimed.

The Gospel we have heard presents to us an important moment in Jesus’ journey, the moment when he asks his disciples what people think of him and their own opinion of him. Peter answers on behalf of the Twelve with a profession of faith substantially different from the people’s opinion of Jesus; in fact he says: You are the Christ of God (see Lk 9: 20). What is the origin of this act of faith? If we go to the beginning of the Gospel passage, we note that Peter’s profession is linked to a moment of Prayer: “as he [Jesus] was praying alone the disciples were with him”, St Luke says (9: 18). In other words the disciples become involved in Jesus’ absolutely unique being and speaking with the Father. And so it is that they are granted to see the Teacher in his intimate condition as Son, they are granted to see what the others do not see; from “being with him”, from “being with him” in prayer, derives a knowledge that goes beyond the people’s opinion to reach the profound identity of Jesus, to reach the truth. Here we are given a very precise instruction for the priest’s life and mission: he is called to rediscover in prayer the ever new face of his Lord and the most authentic content of his mission. Only those who have a profound relationship with the Lord are grasped by him, can take him to others, can be sent out. “Abiding with him” must always accompany the exercise of the priestly ministry. It must be its central part, even and above all in difficult moments when it seems that the “things that need doing” should have priority, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we must always “abide with him”.

I would like to underline a second element of today’s Gospel. Immediately after Peter’s profession, Jesus announces his Passion and Resurrection and follows this announcement with a teaching concerning the journey of the disciples, which means following him, the Crucified One, and following him on the Way of the Cross. And he then adds with paradoxical words that being a disciple means “losing his life”, but in order to save himself fully (see Lk 9: 22-24). What does this mean for every Christian, but what does it mean for a priest in particular? Discipleship; yet we can safely say: the priesthood can never be a means of achieving security in life or of acquiring a position in society. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood to enhance his own prestige and power has misunderstood the meaning of this ministry at its root. Anyone who wishes above all to achieve an ambition of his own, to attain success for himself will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be esteemed, he must flatter, he must say what people want to hear; he will have to adapt to changing fashions and opinions and will thus deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he had praised today. A man who plans his life in this manner, a priest who sees his ministry in these terms does not truly love God and others but only himself and, paradoxically, ends by losing himself. The priesthood let us always remember is based on having the courage to say “yes” to another will, in the awareness that we are growing every day, that precisely by conforming to God’s will, by “immersing ourselves” in this will, not only will our own originality not be obliterated, but on the contrary, we will penetrate ever more deeply into the truth of our being and our ministry.

Dear Ordinands, I would like to propose for your reflection a third thought, closely linked to what I have just explained: Jesus’ invitation to “lose [yourself]”, to take up your cross, recalls the mystery we are celebrating: the Eucharist. Today, with the sacrament of Orders, you are granted to preside over the Eucharist! To you is entrusted the redeeming sacrifice of Christ, to you is entrusted his Body given and his Blood poured out. Of course, on the Cross Jesus offers his sacrifice, his gift of humble and total love to the Church his Bride. It is on that wood that the grain of wheat which the Father let fall on the field of the world dies in order to become a ripe fruit, a giver of life. However, in God’s plan, Christ’s gift of himself is made present in the Eucharist through that potestas sacra, which the sacrament of Orders confers upon you priests. When we celebrate Holy Mass we hold in our hands the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of God, which is Christ, the grain that breaks open in order to increase and to become the true food of life for the world. It is something that cannot but fill you with deep wonder, lively joy and immense gratitude: love and the gift of the Crucified and Glorious Christ now pass through your hands, your voice, your heart! It is an ever new experience of wonder to see that the Lord brings about this mystery of his Presence in my hands, in my voice!

So how can we fail to pray the Lord to give you an ever alert and enthusiastic awareness of this gift which is placed at the centre of your being as priests! And to give you the grace of being able to experience in depth the whole beauty and power of this presbyteral service of yours and, at the same time, the grace of being able to live this ministry with consistency and generosity, every day.

The grace of the priesthood, which will shortly be given to you, will associate you closely, indeed structurally, with the Eucharist. This is why it will connect you in the depths of your hearts with the sentiments of Jesus who loves to the very end, to the total gift of himself, to the point of his becoming Bread multiplied for the sacred banquet of unity and communion. This is the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, destined to set your heart on fire with the very love of the Lord Jesus. It is an outpouring which, while communicating the absolutely free nature of the gift, sculpts in your being an indelible law the new law, a law that impels you to insert and make flourish anew, in the material context of the attitudes and actions of your every day life, the same love that prompted the self-giving of the Crucified Christ. Let us listen once again to the Apostle Paul’s voice, indeed in this voice we recognize the powerful voice of the Holy Spirit: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3: 27). Already in Baptism, and now by virtue of the sacrament of Orders, you have put on Christ. May care for the Eucharistic celebration always be accompanied by commitment to a Eucharistic life, namely, a life lived in obedience to one great law, that of love which is given without reserve and serves with humility, a life that the grace of the Holy Spirit renders ever closer to the life of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest, Servant of God and of humankind.

Dear friends, the path that today’s Gospel points out to us is the path of your spirituality and of your pastoral action, of its efficacy and effectiveness, even in the most demanding and arid situations. Furthermore, this is the reliable way to finding true joy. May Mary, the Servant of the Lord who conformed her will to that of God, who brought forth Christ, giving him to the world, who followed the Son even to the foot of the Cross in the supreme act of love, accompany you every day of your life and of your ministry. Thanks to the affection of this tender and strong Mother, you will be able to be joyously faithful to the orders that as priests are being conferred on you today: to conform yourselves to Christ the Priest, who was able to obey the Father’s will and to love man to the very end.




Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While we are preparing to conclude our celebration the midday hour invites us to turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. In this region too Our Most Holy Mother is venerated in various shrines, both old and new. To her I entrust all of you and the entire population of San Marino and Montefeltro and, in particular, those who are suffering in body and mind. I address a special thought of gratitude at this time to all who cooperated in the preparation and organization of this visit. My heartfelt thanks!

I am pleased to recall that Bl. Sr Marguerite Rutan, a Daughter of Charity, is being beatified today in Dax, France. In the second half of the 18th century she worked with deep dedication at the Hospital in Dax but in the tragic persecutions that followed the Revolution she was sentenced to death for her Catholic faith and her fidelity to the Church.

I am participating in spirit in the joy of the Daughters of Charity and of all the faithful in Dax who are taking part in the beatification of Sr Marguerite Rutan, a shining witness of Christ’s love for the poor.

Lastly, I would like to recall that tomorrow is the World Refugee Day. On this occasion, this year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the international convention which protects all those who are persecuted and forced to flee their countries. I therefore ask the civil authorities and every person of goodwill to guarantee to refugees acceptance and dignified living conditions, while they wait to return in freedom and safety to their homeland.




Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Great is my joy at being a able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. My special thoughts go to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. I greet with affection your pastor, Bishop Luigi Negri, whom I thank for his courteous words and, with him, I greet all the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro; I greet each one of you and express my heartfelt gratitude for the cordiality and affection with which you have welcomed me. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and duties, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that you are not without difficulties, problems and concerns here. I want to assure you all that I am close to you and remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and its people, with its granitic faith of which the Bishop spoke.

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feast of God, of the centre of our faith: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When one thinks of the Trinity, one usually thinks of the aspect of the mystery: they are Three and they are One, one God in three Persons. Actually God in his greatness cannot be anything but a mystery for us, yet he revealed himself. We can know him in his Son and thus also know the Father and the Holy Spirit. Instead today’s Liturgy draws our attention not so much to this mystery as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one because God is love and love is an absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a unity greater than a purely physical unity. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mutual love of the Father and the Son. The texts of today’s Mass speak of God and thus speak of love; they do not dwell so much on the three Persons, but rather on love which is the substance and, at the same time, the unity and trinity.

The first passage that we heard, taken from the Book of Exodus and which I dwelt on at a recent Wednesday catechesis, is surprising because the revelation of God’s love comes after a very serious sin of the people. They had hardly concluded the oath of the Covenant which they took at Mount Sinai, and already the people were disloyal. In Moses’ prolonged absence, the people said: “but where has this Moses gone, where is his God?” and they asked Aaron to create a god who would be visible, accessible and controllable, within the reach of man instead of this mysterious, invisible and distant God. Aaron complied and made a golden calf. Coming down from Sinai, Moses saw what had happened and broke the tablets of the Covenant which was already broken, shattered, two stones on which were written the “Ten Words”, the concrete contents of the agreement with God. It looked as if all was lost, the friendship, immediately and from the outset, was broken. Yet, despite this most grievous sin of the people, through Moses’ intercession God chose to forgive them and invited Moses to climb the mountain once again to receive anew his law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asked God to reveal himself, to allow him to see his face. However, God did not show his face, but rather revealed his being, full of goodness, with these words: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). This is the Face of God. This self-definition of God expresses his merciful love: a love that triumphs over sin, covers it, eliminates it. We can always be sure of this goodness which does not abandon us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who refuses to destroy sinners and wants to show his love in an even more profound and surprising way to sinners themselves, in order to always offer them the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.

The Gospel completes this revelation, we heard in the First Reading, because it indicates the point to which God has shown his mercy. John the Evangelist refers to these words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the world there is evil, there is selfishness, there is wickedness, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness. Instead, he shows his love for the world and for men and women, despite their sin, and sends what is most precious to him: his Only-Begotten Son. Not only does God send him, but he gives him as a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins and welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave his own life for us: on the cross God’s merciful love reaches its highest expression. And it is on the cross that the Son of God obtains for us participation in eternal life that is communicated to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the mystery of the cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives his Only-Begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who totally fulfils the Father’s plan; the Holy Spirit — poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death — who comes to make us participants in divine life, to transform our existence so that it may be enlivened by divine love.

Dear brothers and sisters, faith in the Trinitarian God has characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro, too, throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the holy stonemasons Marinus and Leo who are said to have come to Rimini from Dalmatia in the middle of the third century. Because of the holiness of their lives they were ordained, respectively a priest and a deacon, by Bishop Gaudentius who sent them inland, one to Monte Feretro, later known as San Leo, and the other to Monte Titano, later known as San Marino. Over and above the historical issues — which it is not our task to examine — it is interesting to state that Marinus and Leo brought into the context of this local reality, with the faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, new perspectives and values, determining the birth of a culture and a civilization centred on the human person, the image of God and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of ethnic groups — Romans, Goths and later Lombards — who came into contact with each other, sometimes in very conflictual situations, found in their common reference to faith a powerful factor for ethical, cultural, social and, in a certain way, political, edification. It was obvious to them that they could not consider a project of civilization complete until all the members of the people had become a living and well-structured Christian community built on faith in the Trinitarian God. Therefore one can rightly say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear Sammarinesi, has been and still is faith, and that this faith has created a truly unique civilization. Alongside your faith, we must also recall your absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, whom this Church has always viewed with devotion and affection; likewise the attention shown to the great tradition of the Eastern Church and a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.

You are justly proud of and grateful for all that the Holy Spirit has done in your Church throughout the centuries. However, you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is to cultivate and enrich it. You are called, in fact, to develop this precious deposit in one of the most crucial moments in history. Today your mission is facing profound and rapid cultural, social, economic and political transformations that have determined new directions and changed mentalities, customs and sensitivities. Here too, as elsewhere, there is no lack of difficulties and obstacles, due above all to hedonistic models that obscure minds and risk uprooting all morality. The temptation has crept in to believe that man’s true wealth is not faith, but personal and social power, his intellect, his culture and his capacity to manipulate scientific, technological and social reality. Thus, in these lands too, people have begun to replace faith and Christian values with presumed riches which ultimately prove to be inconsistent and unable to sustain the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just that for centuries your ancestors have identified with the experience of faith. Nor should we forget the crisis into which many families have been plunged, aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual fragility of couples, as well as the struggle experienced by many educators in offering formative continuity to young people, who are conditioned by various types of instability, and in the first place that of their social role and work opportunities.

Dear friends, I am well acquainted with the committed involvement of every member of this particular Church in fostering the various aspects of Christian life. I urge all the faithful to be like leaven in the world, showing that in both Montefeltro and San Marino there are enterprising and consistent Christians present. May priests and religious live in an ever more cordial and active ecclesial communion, helping and listening to the diocesan pastor. May you too feel the urgent need for a resurgence in priestly vocations and to those of special consecration: I appeal to families and to young people to open their hearts to a prompt response to the Lord’s call. No one ever regrets being generous to God! I urge you lay people to be actively involved in the community so that, in addition to your specific civic, political, social and cultural tasks, you may find the time and inclination for a life of faith, for pastoral life. Dear people of San Marino, stay firmly faithful to the heritage built over the centuries under the inspiration of your great patrons, Marinus and Leo. I invoke God’s blessing on your journey, today and in the future, and I commend you all to “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14). Amen!



St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 24 June, we are celebrating the Solemnity of St John the Baptist. He is the only saint — with the exception of the Virgin Mary — whose birth the liturgy celebrates and it does so because it is closely connected with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. In fact, from the time when he was in his mother’s womb John was the precursor of Jesus: the Angel announced to Mary his miraculous conception as a sign that “nothing is impossible to God” (Lk 1:37), six months before the great miracle that brings us salvation, God’s union with man brought about by the Holy Spirit. The four Gospels place great emphasis on the figure of John the Baptist, the prophet who concludes the Old Testament and inaugurates the New, by identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord. In fact, Jesus himself was to speak of John in these terms: “This is he of whom it is written ‘Behold I send my messenger before your face, / who shall prepare your way before you. Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he!” (Mt 11:10-11).

John’s father, Zechariah — Elizabeth’s husband and a relative of Mary — was a priest of Old Testament worship, he did not immediately believe in the announcement of such an unexpected fatherhood. This is why he was left mute until the day of the circumcision of the child to whom he and his wife gave the name God had indicated to them, that is, John, which means “graced by God”. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Zechariah spoke thus of his son’s mission: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins” (Lk 1:76-77).

All this came to pass 30 years later when John began baptizing people in the River Jordan, calling them to prepare themselves with this act of penance for the imminent coming of the Messiah, which God had revealed to them during their wanderings in the desert of Judaea. This is why he was called the “Baptist”, the “Baptizer” (see Mt 3:1-6). When one day Jesus himself came from Nazareth to be baptized, John at first refused but then consented; he saw the Holy Spirit settle on Jesus and heard the voice of the heavenly Father proclaiming him his Son (see Mt 3:13-17). However, the Baptist’s mission was not yet complete. Shortly afterwards he was also asked to precede Jesus in a violent death: John was beheaded in King Herod’s prison and thus bore a full witness to the Lamb of God who had recognized him and publicly pointed him out beforehand.

Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth when she was expecting John to bring her pregnancy to completion. May she help all people to follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, whom the Baptist proclaimed with deep humility and prophetic fervour. 

© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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.



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.



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.



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.




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.




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!




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.



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.



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.



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. 

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