Les Combes (Aosta Valley)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
First of all, a word of cordial thanks to Bishop Giuseppe Anfossi of Aosta for his words. He rightly spoke of the joy of this life, of the beauty of creatures and of the Creator, but he also mentioned suffering: we see violence, the power of hatred in the world, and suffer from it. Let us entrust all our sufferings and the sufferings of the world to the goodness of Our Lady. And let us also find strength in thinking of the great figures of the Saints who lived their lives in similar circumstances and show us the path to take.
Let us start with tomorrow's Saint, the Apostle St James, John's brother, who was the first martyr among the Apostles. He was one of the three closest to the Lord and took part in both the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor - with its beauty in which the splendour of the Lord's divinity shone out - and the anguish, the distress of the Lord on the Mount of Olives. Thus, he also learned that to bear the burden of the world the Son of God experienced all our suffering and is in solidarity with us. You know that the relics [of St James] are venerated at the famous Shrine of Compostela in Galicia, Spain, the destination of numerous pilgrimages from every part of Europe. Yesterday, we commemorated St Bridget of Sweden, a Patroness of Europe. Last 11 July we celebrated St Benedict, another great Patron of the "Old Continent" and, as you know, my Patron since my election to the Petrine ministry. In looking at these Saints, it comes to us spontaneously, at this particular moment in history with all its problems, to reflect on the contribution that Christianity has made and is continuing to make to building Europe.
I would like to do so by thinking back to the pilgrimage in 1982 of my beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, to Santiago de Compostela, where he made a solemn "Declaration to Europe" (Address, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 9 November 1982, L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 29 November, p. 6), in which he spoke these memorable words of the greatest timeliness which I now repeat: "I, Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the universal Church, from Santiago, utter to you, Europe of the ages, a cry full of love: Find yourself again. Be yourself. Discover your origins, revive your roots. Return to those authentic values which made your history a glorious one and your presence so beneficent in the other continents" (ibid., n. 4). John Paul II then introduced the project of a Europe conscious of its own spiritual unity, founded on the Christian values.
He returned to this topic on the occasion of the World Youth Day in 1989, which took place precisely in Santiago de Compostela. He said that he hoped for a Europe without borders that would renounce neither the Christian roots that gave it life nor the authentic humanism of Christ's Gospel! (cf. Mass at the Marian Basilica of Covadonga, 21 August 1989, n. 6; ORE, 11 September, p. 5). How timely his appeal remains in the light of recent events on the Continent of Europe!
In less than a month, I too will be going on pilgrimage to a historic European cathedral, the Cathedral of Cologne, where young people will be gathering for their 20th World Youth Day. Let us pray that by drawing vitality from Christ the new generations will be the leaven of a renewed humanism in European societies in which faith and reason cooperate in fruitful dialogue for the advancement of human beings and the construction of true peace. Let us ask this of God through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, who watches as Mother and Queen over all the nations as they journey on.
After the Angelus, the Pope said:
Even these days of tranquility and rest have been disturbed by the tragic news of the despicable terrorist attacks that have caused death, destruction and suffering in various countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Great Britain. As we entrust to divine goodness the deceased, the injured and their loved ones, victims of these acts that offend God and man, let us invoke the Almighty so that he may stop the murderous hand of those motivated by fanaticism and hatred who have committed them, and convert their hearts to thoughts of reconciliation and peace.
I offer a cordial greeting to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who join us for this Angelus prayer. Upon you and your families I invoke God's Blessings of wisdom, joy and peace.
Have a good Sunday! Have a good week! Have a good holiday!
Courtyard of the Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, in the liturgy, the Old Testament Reading presents to us the figure of King Solomon, the son and successor of David. It presents him at the beginning of his reign, when he was still very young. Solomon inherited a very demanding task and the responsibility that lay heavily on his shoulders was great for a young king. He first of all offered God a solemn sacrifice, “a thousand burnt offerings”, as the Bible says. Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night and promised to grant him what he asked in prayer. And here we see the greatness of Solomon’s soul. He did not ask for a long life, nor wealth, nor the elimination of his enemies; instead he said to the Lord: “Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong” (1 Kings 3:9). And the Lord heard him, so that Solomon became famous throughout the world for his wisdom and his right judgements.
Therefore he prayed God to grant him “an understanding heart”. What do these words mean? We know that the “heart” in the Bible does not only indicate a part of the body, but also the centre of the person, the seat of his intentions and opinions. We might say: the conscience. Thus an “understanding heart” means a conscience that knows how to listen, that is sensitive to the voice of truth and for this reason can discern right from wrong.
In Solomon’s case, the request was motivated by the responsibility of leading a nation, Israel, the people whom God chose to show the world his plan of salvation. The King of Israel, therefore, had to try always to be in tune with God, listening to his word, in order to guide the people on the paths of the Lord, the path of justice and of peace.
However, Solomon’s example is valid for every person. Each one of us has a conscience so as to be, in a certain way, “king”, that is, to exercise the great human dignity of acting in accordance with an upright conscience, doing what is right and avoiding wrong.
The moral conscience presupposes the ability to hear the voice of truth and to be docile to its indications. People who are called to the task of government naturally have a further responsibility and, therefore — as Solomon teaches — are in even greater need of God’s help. Yet each one has his own part to play, in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. An erroneous mentality suggests to us that we ask God for favourable things or conditions; in fact, the true quality of our life and of social life depends on the upright conscience of each one, on the capacity of one and all to recognize right, separating it from wrong and seeking patiently to put it into practice, thereby contributing to justice and to peace.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, for help in this. Her “heart” was perfectly docile to the Lord’s will. Even though she was a humble and simple person, Mary was a queen in God’s eyes, and we venerate her as such. May the Blessed Virgin help us to form in ourselves, with God’s grace, a conscience ever open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God.
After the Angelus:
Appeal for Norway
Once again, regrettably, news of death and violence is arriving. We all feel profound sorrow at the serious acts of terrorism perpetrated last Friday in Norway. Let us pray for the victims, for the injured and for their loved ones. I want to repeat again to everyone my heartfelt appeal to abandon the path of hatred for ever and to flee the logic of evil.
* * *
I greet with special affection the faithful gathered in Les Combes, who have taken part in Holy Mass at which Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presided, despite the family bereavement which has befallen him. I greet and thank the Bishop of Aosta, the Rector Major of the Salesians, as well as the civil and military authorities of the Region and the benefactors who have contributed to the renovation of the welcoming residence. I remember with special affection the time I spent in that enchanting place, fashioned by the love of God the Creator and sanctified by the presence of Bl. John Paul ii. I wish the young people and children of the Parish of Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati of Turin and all the holiday-makers a peaceful summer.
I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, the Lord urges us to see the Kingdom of God as the most important thing in our lives, a treasure which will last to life eternal. May we welcome Christ ever more fully into our hearts and allow his grace to transform our lives. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the joy and peace of God’s heavenly Kingdom!
I wish you all a good Sunday. My warm thanks for your prayers. May the Lord bless you.
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.
St. Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The brief similes proposed in today’s liturgy conclude the chapter of the Gospel of Matthew dedicated to the parables of the Kingdom of God (13:44-52). Among these are two small masterpieces: the parables of the treasure hidden in the field and of the pearl of great value. They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can happen suddenly like the farmer who, ploughing, finds an unexpected treasure; or after a long search, like the pearl merchant who eventually finds the most precious pearl, so long dreamt of. Yet, in each case the point is that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other possessions; and therefore when the farmer and the merchant discover them, they give up everything else in order to obtain them. They do not need to rationalize or think about it or reflect: they immediately perceive the incomparable value of what they’ve found and they are prepared to lose everything in order to have it.
This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: those who find it have no doubts, they sense that this is what they have been seeking and waiting for; and this is what fulfills their most authentic aspirations. And it really is like this: those who know Jesus, encounter Him personally, are captivated, attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all with great humility and simplicity. To seek Jesus, to find Jesus: this is the great treasure!
Many people, many saints, reading the Gospel with an open heart, have been so struck by Jesus they convert to Him. Let us think of St Francis of Assisi: he was already a Christian, though a “rosewater” Christian. When he read the Gospel, in that decisive moment of his youth, he encountered Jesus and discovered the Kingdom of God; with this, all his dreams of worldly glory vanished. The Gospel allows you to know the real Jesus, it lets you know the living Jesus; it speaks to your heart and changes your life. And then yes, you leave it all. You can effectively change lifestyles, or continue to do what you did before but you are someone else, you are reborn: you have found what gives meaning, what gives flavour, what gives light to all things, even to toil, even to suffering, and even to death.
Read the Gospel. Read the Gospel. We have spoken about it, do you remember? To read a passage of the Gospel every day; and to carry a little Gospel with us, in our pocket, in a purse, in some way, to keep it at hand. And there, reading a passage, we will find Jesus. Everything takes on meaning when you find your treasure there, in the Gospel. Jesus calls it “the Kingdom of God”, that is to say, God who reigns in your life, in our life; God who is love, peace and joy in every man and in all men. This is what God wants and it is why Jesus gave himself up to death on the cross, to free us from the power of darkness and to move us to the kingdom of life, of beauty, of goodness and of joy. To read the Gospel is to find Jesus and to have this Christian joy, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, the joy of finding the treasure of the Kingdom of God shines through, it’s visible. The Christian cannot keep his faith hidden, because it shines through in every word, in every deed, even the most simple and mundane: the love that God has given through Jesus shines through. Let us pray, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that His Kingdom of love, justice and peace may reign in us and in the whole world.
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10 August 2014