St Peter's Square
On these Sundays in Lent the liturgy takes us on a true and proper baptismal route through the texts of John's Gospel: last Sunday, Jesus promised the gift of "living water" to the Samaritan woman; today, by healing the man born blind, he reveals himself as "the light of the world"; next Sunday, in raising his friend Lazarus, he will present himself as "the resurrection and the life". Water, light and life are symbols of Baptism, the Sacrament that "immerses" believers in the mystery of the death and Resurrection of Christ, liberating them from the slavery of sin and giving them eternal life.
Let us reflect briefly on the account of the man born blind (John 9: 1-41). According to the common mentality of the time, the disciples take it for granted that his blindness was the result of a sin committed by him or his parents. Jesus, however, rejects this prejudice and says: "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him" (John 9: 3).
What comfort these words offer us! They let us hear the living voice of God, who is provident and wise Love! In the face of men and women marked by limitations and suffering, Jesus did not think of their possible guilt but rather of the will of God who created man for life. And so he solemnly declares: "We must work the works of him who sent me.... As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9: 5).
And he immediately takes action: mixing a little earth with saliva he made mud and spread it on the eyes of the blind man. This act alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts using the symbol of dust from the ground, fashioned and enlivened by God's breath (Genesis 2: 7). In fact, "Adam" means "ground" and the human body was in effect formed of particles of soil. By healing the blind man Jesus worked a new creation.
But this healing sparked heated debate because Jesus did it on the Sabbath, thereby in the Pharisees' opinion violating the feast-day precept. Thus, at the end of the account, Jesus and the blind man are both cast out, the former because he broke the law and the latter because, despite being healed, he remained marked as a sinner from birth.
Jesus reveals to the blind man whom he had healed that he had come into the world for judgement, to separate the blind who can be healed from those who do not allow themselves to be healed because they consider themselves healthy. Indeed, the temptation to build himself an ideological security system is strong in man: even religion can become an element of this system, as can atheism or secularism, but in letting this happen one is blinded by one's own selfishness.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow ourselves to be healed by Jesus, who can and wants to give us God's light! Let us confess our blindness, our short-sightedness, and especially what the Bible calls the "great transgression" (cf. Psalm 19: 13): pride. May Mary Most Holy, who by conceiving Christ in the flesh gave the world the true light, help us to do this.
In the past few days the tension between Israel and the Gaza Strip has unfortunately reached very serious levels. I renew my pressing invitation to both the Israeli and Palestinian Authorities to stop this spiral of violence, unilaterally and without conditions: only by showing absolute respect for human life, even the life of one's enemy, can we hope to give a future of peaceful coexistence to the young generations of these peoples who both have roots in the Holy Land. I invite the entire Church to raise supplications to the Almighty for peace in the Land of Jesus, and to show attentive and effective solidarity to both the Israeli and Palestinian Peoples.
I have been following with deep sorrow the dramatic event of the kidnapping in Iraq of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mossul for Chaldeans. I join in the appeal of the Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and his collaborators so that the beloved Prelate, who is furthermore in a precarious state of health, may be released without delay. At the same time, I raise prayers of suffrage for the souls of the three young men killed, who were with him at the time of the kidnapping. In addition, I express my closeness to the whole Church in Iraq and in particular to the Chaldean Church which has once again received a heavy blow, while I encourage Pastors and all the faithful to be strong and steadfast in hope. May those who govern the destinies of the beloved Iraqi People redouble their efforts so that, through the commitment and wisdom of all, it may rediscover peace and security and not be denied the future to which it has a right.
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus, the light of the world, who cures the man born blind. By opening our eyes to faith, to the light that comes from God, Jesus continues to cure us from the darkness of confusion and sin present in this world. May his light always purify our hearts and renew our Christian love as we journey with him to Eternal Life. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Lenten journey that we are taking is a special time of grace during which we can experience the gift of the Lord’s kindness to us. The Liturgy of this Sunday, called “Laetare”, invites us to be glad and rejoice as the Entrance Antiphon of the Eucharistic celebration proclaims: “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts” (cf. Isaiah 66: 10-11).
What is the profound reason for this joy? Today’s Gospel in which Jesus heals a man blind from birth tells us. The question which the Lord Jesus asks the blind man is the high point of the story: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35). The man recognizes the sign worked by Jesus and he passes from the light of his eyes to the light of faith: “Lord, I believe!” (J0hn 9:38).
It should be noted that as a simple and sincere person he gradually completes the journey of faith. In the beginning he thinks of Jesus as a “man” among others, then he considers him a “prophet” and finally his eyes are opened and he proclaims him “Lord”. In opposition to the faith of the healed blind man is the hardening of the hearts of the Pharisees who do not want to accept the miracle because they refuse to receive Jesus as the Messiah. Instead the crowd pauses to discuss the event and continues to be distant and indifferent. Even the blind man’s parents are overcome by the fear of what others might think.
And what attitude to Jesus should we adopt? Because of Adam’s sin we too are born “blind” but in the baptismal font we are illumined by the grace of Christ. Sin wounded humanity and destined it to the darkness of death, but the newness of life shines out in Christ, as well as the destination to which we are called. In him, reinvigorated by the Holy Spirit, we receive the strength to defeat evil and to do good.
In fact the Christian life is a continuous conformation to Christ, image of the new man, in order to reach full communion with God. The Lord Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12), because in him shines “the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) that continues in the complex plot of the story to reveal the meaning of human existence.
In the rite of Baptism, the presentation of the candle lit from the large Paschal candle, a symbol of the Risen Christ, is a sign that helps us to understand what happens in the Sacrament. When our lives are enlightened by the mystery of Christ, we experience the joy of being liberated from all that threatens the full realization.
In these days which prepare us for Easter let us rekindle within us the gift received in Baptism, that flame which sometimes risks being extinguished. Let us nourish it with prayer and love for others. Let us entrust our Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church so that all may encounter Christ, Saviour of the world.
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of the death of my beloved Predecessor Venerable John Paul II. Because of his upcoming Beatification, I did not celebrate the traditional Mass of suffrage for him, but I remembered him with affection in prayer, as I am sure you did too. During the Lenten journey we prepare for Easter, we joyfully approach the day on which we will venerate as Blessed this great Pontiff, a witness to Christ, and rely even more on his intercession.
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I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer. I especially greet the students from the Oratory Preparatory School, Woodcote, and a group of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians studying in Rome. In today’s Gospel Jesus, the light of the world, gives sight to the man born blind. May the light of Christ, received in Baptism, always guide us through this life to the splendour of divine glory. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace! I wish everyone a nice Sunday.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
Today’s Gospel sets before us the story of the man born blind, to whom Jesus gives sight. The lengthy account opens with a blind man who begins to see and it closes — and this is curious — with the alleged seers who remain blind in soul. The miracle is narrated by John in just two verses, because the Evangelist does not want to draw attention to the miracle itself, but rather to what follows, to the discussions it arouses, also to the gossip. So many times a good work, a work of charity arouses gossip and discussion, because there are some who do not want to see the truth. The Evangelist John wants to draw attention to something that also occurs in our own day when a good work is performed. The blind man who is healed is first interrogated by the astonished crowd — they saw the miracle and they interrogated him —, then by the doctors of the law who also interrogate his parents. In the end the blind man who was healed attains to faith, and this is the greatest grace that Jesus grants him: not only to see, but also to know Him, to see in Him “the light of the world” (John 9:5).
While the blind man gradually draws near to the light, the doctors of the law on the contrary sink deeper and deeper into their inner blindness. Locked in their presumption, they believe that they already have the light, therefore, they do not open themselves to the truth of Jesus. They do everything to deny the evidence. They cast doubt on the identity of the man who was healed, they then deny God’s action in the healing, taking as an excuse that God does not work on the Sabbath; they even doubt that the man was born blind. Their closure to the light becomes aggressive and leads to the expulsion from the temple of the man who was healed.
The blind man’s journey on the contrary is a journey in stages that begins with the knowledge of Jesus’ name. He does not know anything else about him; in fact, he says: “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (v. 11). Following the pressing questions of the lawyers, he first considers him a prophet (v. 17) and then a man who is close to God (v. 31). Once he has been banished from the temple, expelled from society, Jesus finds him again and “opens his eyes” for the second time, by revealing his own identity to him: “I am the Messiah”, he tells him. At this point the man who had been blind exclaims: “Lord, I believe!” (v. 38), and he prostrates himself before Jesus. This is a passage of the Gospel that makes evident the drama of the inner blindness of so many people, also our own for sometimes we have moments of inner blindness.
Our lives are sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened himself to the light, who opened himself to God, who opened himself to his grace. Sometimes unfortunately they are similar to that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord! Today, we are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ in order to bear fruit in our lives, to eliminate unchristian behaviours; we are all Christians but we all, everyone sometimes has unchristian behaviours, behaviours that are sins. We must repent of this, eliminate these behaviours in order to journey well along the way of holiness, which has its origin in baptism. We, too, have been “enlightened” by Christ in baptism, so that, as St Paul reminds us, we may act as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), with humility, patience and mercy. These doctors of the law had neither humility, nor patience, nor mercy!
I suggest that today, when you return home, you take the Gospel of John and read this passage from Chapter nine. It will do you good, because you will thus see this road from blindness to light and the other evil road that leads to deeper blindness. Let us ask ourselves about the state of our own heart? Do I have an open heart or a closed heart? It is opened or closed to God? Open or closed to my neighbour? We are always closed to some degree which comes from original sin, from mistakes, from errors. We need not be afraid! Let us open ourselves to the light of the Lord, he awaits us always in order to enable us to see better, to give us more light, to forgive us. Let us not forget this! Let us entrust this Lenten journey to the Virgin Mary, so that we too, like the blind man who was healed, by the grace of Christ may “come to the light”, go forward towards the light and be reborn to new life.
After the Angelus:
I cordially greet families, parish groups, associations and the faithful who have come from Italy and from so many countries, especially those from Ponferrada and Valladolid; students and professors from the colleges of Murcia, Castelfranco de Córdoba and Leganés; alumni from the boarding schools of Paris and the Portuguese emigrants of London.
I greet the Lasalliano Youth Movement, the St. Paolo Frassinetti youth, art and faith group, and students from universities in Venice.
I extend a special greeting to the Italian military who come by foot on pilgrimage from Loreto to Rome, praying for peaceful and just resolutions to conflicts. This is very beautiful: Jesus in the Beatitudes says Blessed are those who work for peace.
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13 April 2014