This text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith so powerful that we cannot fail to remain in deep admiration of it. The Church is the trustee of the mystery of Christ: She is so in all humility and without a shadow of pride or arrogance, because it concerns the maximum gift that she has received without any merit and that she is called to offer gratuitously to humanity of every age, as the horizon of meaning and salvation. It is not a philosophy, it is not a gnosis, even though it also comprises wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ, it is Christ himself, the Logos incarnate, dead and risen, made King of the universe. How can one fail to feel a rush of enthusiasm full of gratitude for having been permitted to contemplate the splendour of this revelation? How can one not feel at the same time the joy and the responsibility to serve this King, to witness his Lordship with one's life and word? In a particular way this is our duty, venerable Cardinal-Brothers: to proclaim the truth of Christ, hope of every person and the entire human family. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, my Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, have been authentic heralds of Christ's royalty in today's world. And it is for me a motive of consolation to be able to always count on you, both collegially and individually, to bring to fulfilment with me the Petrine Ministry's fundamental duty.
In conclusion, I would like to mention an aspect that is strongly united to this mission and that I entrust to your prayer: peace among all Christ's disciples, as a sign of the peace that Jesus came to establish in the world. We have heard the great news of the Christological hymn: it pleased God to "reconcile" the universe through the Cross of Christ (cf. Colossians 1: 20)! Well then, the Church is that portion of humanity in whom Christ's royalty is already manifest, who has peace as its privileged manifestation. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect because it is yet a pilgrim in history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem. Lastly, we can here refer to the Responsorial Psalm 121, belonging to the so-called "Song of Ascents". It is a hymn of the pilgrims' joy who, going up toward the holy city and having reached its doors, address the peace-greeting to them: shalom! According to popular etymology Jerusalem is interpreted as a "city of peace", whose peace the Messiah, Son of David, would have established in the fullness of time. We recognize in Jerusalem the figure of the Church, sacrament of Christ and of his Kingdom.
Dear Cardinal-Brothers, this Psalm expresses well the ardent love song for the Church that you certainly carry in your hearts. You have dedicated your life to the Church's service, and now you are called to assume in her a duty of utmost responsibility. May the words of the Psalm find full acceptance in you: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"! (v. 6). Prayer for peace and unity constitutes your first and principal mission, so that the Church may be "solid and compact" (v. 3), a sign and instrument of unity for the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium, n. 1). I place, or rather, let us all place your mission under the vigilant protection of the Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy. To her, united to her Son on Calvary and assumed as Queen at his right hand in glory, we entrust the new Cardinals, the College of Cardinals and the entire Catholic community, committed to sowing in the furrows of history Christ's Kingdom, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
On the Solemnity of Christ the King we have the joy of gathering round the Lord's altar with the 24 new Cardinals whom I added to the College of Cardinals yesterday.
I first address to them my cordial greeting, which I extend to the other Cardinals and all the Prelates present, as well as to the distinguished Authorities, the Ambassadors, the priests, the religious and all the faithful who have come from various parts of the world for this happy occasion which has a distinctly universal character,
Many of you will nave noticed that the last Public Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals, held in November 2007, was also celebrated on the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King. Three years have passed, thus, in accordance with the liturgical cycle for Sundays the word of God comes to us in the same Readings from Bible for this important Feast. It takes place on the last Sunday of the liturgical year and, at the end of the itinerary of faith, presents to us the royal Face of Christ, as the Pantocrator in the apse of an ancient basilica.
This coincidence asks us to meditate deeply on the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and on the ministry of the Cardinals linked to it, in the light of the unique Kingship of Jesus, Our Lord.
The primary service of the Successor of Peter is that of the faith. In the New Testament, Peter becomes the “rock” of the Church insofar as he is the bearer of Faith: the “we” of the Church begins with the name of the first man who professed faith in Christ, it begins with his faith; a faith that was at first immature and still “too human”. Then, however, after Easter it matured and made him capable of following Christ even to the point of giving himself; it developed in the belief that Jesus is truly King; that he is so precisely because he remained on the Cross, and in that way gave his life for sinners.
In the Gospel we see that everyone asks Jesus to come down from the Cross. They mock him, but this is also a way of excusing themselves from blame as if to say: it is not our fault that you are hanging on the Cross; it is solely your fault because if you really were the Son of God, the King of the Jews, you would not stay there but would save yourself by coming down from that infamous scaffold.
Therefore, if you remain there it means that you are wrong and we are right. The tragedy that is played out beneath the Cross of Jesus is a universal tragedy; it concerns all people before God who reveals himself for what he is, namely, Love.
In the crucified Jesus the divinity is disfigured, stripped of all visible glory and yet is present and real. Faith alone can recognize it: the faith of Mary, who places in her heart too this last scene in the mosaic of her Son's life. She does not yet see the whole, but continues to trust in God, repeating once again with the same abandonment: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord” (cf. Luke 1:38).
Then there is the faith of the Good Thief: a faith barely outlined but sufficient to assure him salvation: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” . This “with me” is crucial. Yes, it is this that saves him. Of course, the good thief is on the cross like Jesus, but above all he is on the Cross with Jesus. And, unlike the other evildoer and all those who taunt him, he does not ask Jesus to come dowe from the Cross nor to make him come down. Instead he says: “remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
The Good Thief sees Jesus on the Cross, disfigured and unrecognizable and yet he entrusts himself to him as to a king, indeed as to the King. The good thief believes what was written on the tablet over Jesus' head: “The King of the Jews”. He believed and entrusted himself. For this reason he was already, immediately, in the “today” of God, in Paradise, because Paradise is this: being with Jesus, being with God.
So here, dear Brothers, is the first and fundamental message that the word of God clearly tells us today: to me, the Successor of Peter, and to you, Cardinals.
It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the Cross but rather to stay there with him. And by reason of our ministry we must do this not only for ourselves but for the whole Church, for the whole People of God.
We know from the Gospels that the Cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles. It is clear and it could not be otherwise: they were men and thought “according to men”; they could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah.
Peter's “conversion” is fully achieved when he stops wanting “to save” Jesus and accepts to be saved by him. He gives up wanting to save Jesus from the Cross and allows Jesus' Cross to save him.
“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32), the Lord says. Peter's ministry consists first of all in his faith, a faith that Jesus immediately recognizes, from the outset, as genuine, as a gift of the heavenly Father; but a faith that must pass through the scandal of the Cross to become authentic, truly “Christian”, to become a “rock” on which Jesus can build his Church.
Participation in the lordship of Christ is only brought about in practice in the sharing of his self-abasement, with the Cross. My ministry too, dear Brothers, and consequently also yours, consists wholly of faith. Jesus can build his Church on us as long as that true, Paschal faith is found in us, that faith which does not seek to make Jesus come down from the Cross but entrusts itself to him on the Cross. In this regard the true place of the Vicar of Christ is the Cross, it lies in persisting in the obedience of the Cross.
This ministry is difficult because it is not in line with the human way of thinking — with that natural logic which, moreover, continues to be active within us too. But this is and always remains our primary service, the service of faith that transforms the whole of life: believing that Jesus is God, that he is the King precisely because he reached that point, because he loved us to the very end.
And we must witness and proclaim this paradoxical kingship as he, the King, did, that is, by following his own way and striving to adopt his same logic, the logic of humility and service, of the ear of wheat which dies to bear fruit.
The Pope and the Cardinals are called to be profoundly united first of all in this: all together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, they must remain in the lordship of Christ, thinking and working in accordance with the logic of the Cross — and this is never easy or predictable.
In this we must be united and we are, because it is not an idea or a strategy that unites us but love of Christ and his Holy Spirit. The effectiveness of our service to the Church, the Bride of Christ, depends essentially on this, on our fidelity to the divine kingship of crucified Love.
For this reason on the ring that I am consigning to you today, the seal of your nuptial covenant with the Church, is the image of the Crucifixion. And for the same reason the colour of your robe alludes to blood, the symbol of life and of love. The Blood of Christ which, according to an ancient iconography, Mary collected from the pierced side of the Son, who died on the Cross; and that the Apostle John contemplated while it gushed out with water, according to the prophetic Scriptures.
Dear Brothers, it is from this that our wisdom derives: sapientia Crucis. On this St Paul reflected profoundly. He was the first to outline Christian thought in an organized way, centred precisely on the paradox of the Cross (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:1-8).
In the Letter to the Colossians, of which today's Liturgy proposes the Christological Hymn — the Pauline reflection, made fertile by the grace of the Spirit, already reaches an impressive level of synthesis in expressing an authentic Christian concept of God and of the world, of personal and universal salvation; and it is all centred on Christ, the Lord of hearts, of history and of the cosmos: “In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross” (Colossians1:19-20).
Dear Brothers, we are always called to proclaim this to the world: Christ “the image of the invisible God”, Christ “the first-born of all creation”, and “the first-born from the dead”, as the Apostle writes, so “that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Colossians 1:15. 18). The primacy of Peter and his Successors is totally at the service of this primacy of Jesus Christ, the one Lord; at the service of his Kingdom, that is, of his Kingship of love, so that it might come and be spread, renew men and things, transform the earth and cause peace and justice to germinate in it.
The Church fits into this plan that transcends history and, at the same time, is revealed and fulfilled in it, as the “Body” of which Christ is “the Head” (cf. Colossians 1:18).
In the Letter to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks explicitly of the lordship of Christ and sets it in relation to the Church. He formulates a prayer of praise to the “greatness of the power of God” who raised Christ and made him the universal Lord and concludes, “and he [God] has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22-23).
Here, Paul attributes to the Church the very word “fullness”, which applies to Christ, for participation: the body, in fact, participates in the fullness of the Head. This, Venerable Brother Cardinals — and I am also addressing all of you who share with us the grace of being Christian — this is what our joy is: participating, in the Church in the fullness of Christ through the obedience of the Cross, of being qualified “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”, of being “transferred” to the Kingdom of the Son of God (cf. Colossians 1:12-13).
For this reason we live in perennial thanksgiving, and even in trials do not lack the joy and peace that Christ bequeathed to us as a guarantee of his Kingdom which already exists among us, who wait with faith and hope, and of which we have a foretaste in love. Amen.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter's Square
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.
With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Colossians 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.
2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Samuel 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.
Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.
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1 December 2013