Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this last Sunday that I spend in Castel Gandolfo, I would like to cordially greet all of the community's citizens, wholeheartedly thanking you again for the welcome you have given me.
Continuing the reflection on the Mystery of the Eucharist, heart of the Christian life, I would like to highlight today the link between the Eucharist and charity.
"Charity" - agape in Greek, caritas in Latin - does not primarily mean an act or positive sentiment; rather, it means the spiritual gift, the love of God that the Holy Spirit effuses in the human heart, moving it to give [this love] to God and to neighbour (cf. Romans 5: 5).
Jesus' entire earthly existence, from conception to death on the Cross, was a single act of love, so much so that we can summarize our faith in these words: Jesus Caritas, Jesus Love.
At the Last Supper, knowing that "his hour had come" (John 13: 1), the divine Teacher offered his disciples the supreme example of love, washing their feet and entrusting to them the most precious inheritance, the Eucharist, where the entire Paschal Mystery is concentrated, as the Venerable Pope John Paul II wrote in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (cf. n. 5).
"Take this and eat it, this is my body... all of you must drink from it, for this is my blood" (Matthew 26: 26-27). Jesus' words in the Upper Room are a prelude to his death and manifest the awareness with which he faced it, transforming it into a gift of self in the act of love that gives completely.
In the Eucharist the Lord gives himself to us in his body, soul and divinity, and we become one with him and with others. Our response to his love must then be concrete and expressed in an authentic conversion to love, in forgiveness, in welcoming one another and being attentive to the needs of everyone.
The kinds of service that we can render to our neighbour in everyday life, with a bit of attention, are many and varied. The Eucharist thus becomes the source of spiritual energy that renews our life each day, and in this way also renews the world in Christ's love.
The saints are exemplary witnesses of this love; from the Eucharist they drew the strength of living a charity that was difficult and oftentimes heroic.
I think of St Vincent de Paul, whose liturgical memorial we celebrate the day after tomorrow. St Vincent de Paul said: "What a joy it is to serve the person of Christ in his poor members!". And this he did with his entire life.
I also think of Blessed Mother Teresa, foundress of the Missionaries of Charity; she loved Jesus in the poorest of the poor, and received and contemplated him every day in the consecrated Host.
Before and more than all the saints, divine charity filled the heart of the Virgin Mary. After the Annunciation, moved by the One she carried in her womb, the Mother of the Word-made-flesh hurriedly set out to visit and help her cousin Elizabeth. Let us pray so that every Christian, nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord, may ever more grow in their love towards God and in generous service towards one's neighbours.
After the Angelus, the Pope said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The World Day of Tourism will be celebrated the day after tomorrow; it is a social phenomenon very relevant in today's world, as we know. I renew the hope that tourism is always joined by respect for persons and cultures and may favour dialogue and understanding.
This Thursday too, World Maritime Day will be celebrated. I take this occasion to address a cordial greeting, accompanied by prayer, to all those who work at sea.
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Angelus. Our thoughts go especially to those who are affected by the natural disasters in the United States and other parts of the world. I invite you to join me in prayer to the Lord for all who suffer, for the victims and their loved ones, and for the rescue workers. May God grant them consolation and strength in their trials.
A happy Sunday to all!
Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the liturgy presents to us the Gospel parable of the two sons sent by their father to work in his vineyard. One of them immediately agrees to go but then does not; the other instead refuses but later repents and complies with his father's wishes. With this parable Jesus reaffirms his predilection for sinners who convert and teaches us that humility is necessary in order to accept the gift of salvation. St Paul too, in the passage from his Letter to the Philippians on which we are meditating today, urges us to be humble: "Do nothing from selfishness or conceit", he writes, "but... let each of you... in humility count others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2: 3). These are the same sentiments as those of Christ who, emptying himself of divine glory out of love for us, became a man and humbled himself even to dying on a Cross (cf. Philippians 2: 5-8). The verb used - ekenôsen - means literally that he "emptied himself" and sheds clear light on the deep humility and infinite love of Jesus, the humble Servant par excellence.
In reflecting on these biblical texts, I immediately thought of Pope John Paul I, the 30th anniversary of whose death we are commemorating today. John Paul I chose as his episcopal motto the same motto as St Charles Borromeo, namely: Humilitas. This single word sums up the essential of Christian life and indicates the indispensable virtue of those in the Church who are called to the service of authority. At one of the four General Audiences held during his extremely short Pontificate, he said, among other things, with that familiar tone that distinguished him: "I will just recommend one virtue so dear to the Lord. He said, "Learn from me who am meek and humble of heart'.... Even if you have done great things, say: "We are useless servants'". And he observed: "On the contrary the tendency in all of us, is rather the opposite: to show off" (Homily, General Audience, 6 September 1978). Humility can be considered his spiritual testament.
Because of this virtue of his, it only took 33 days for Pope Luciani to win people's hearts. In his Addresses he always referred to events in practical life, from his family memories and from popular wisdom. His simplicity was a vehicle for a solid, rich teaching which, thanks to the gift of an exceptional memory and a vast knowledge, he embellished with numerous citations from ecclesiastical and secular writers. Thus, he was an incomparable catechist, following in the footsteps of St Pius X, who came from the same region and was his Predecessor first on the throne of St Mark and then on that of St Peter. "We must feel small before God", he said during the same Audience. And he added, "I am not ashamed to feel like a child before his mother; one believes in one's mother; I believe in the Lord, in what he has revealed to me" (ibid., p. 1). These words reveal the full depth of his faith. As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us treasure his example, striving to cultivate his same humility which enabled him to talk to everyone, especially the small and the "distant". For this, let us invoke Mary Most Holy, the humble Handmaid of the Lord.
After the Angelus
The summer period is now over and I shall return to the Vatican the day after tomorrow. I thank the Lord for all the gifts he has granted to me in this season. I am thinking in particular of the World Youth Day in Sydney, of the period of rest that I spent in Bressanone, of my Visit to Sardinia and of my Apostolic Journey to Paris and Lourdes; and I appreciate the possibility of staying here in this house where I could rest and work better during the hottest months.
I address an affectionate greeting to the community of Castel Gandolfo, with a heartfelt "thank you" to the Bishop, the Mayor and the security forces. Thank you everyone, and goodbye!
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. My special greeting goes to the students from Aquinas College in Australia and to the members of the Fatima pilgrimage from the Philippines. In today's Gospel, the Lord asks us to reflect whether we are obedient to the Father in word alone, or truly committed to following his will in our daily lives.
May his words inspire in us a spirit of genuine conversion and an ever more generous commitment to spreading the Gospel. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God's blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!
I wish everyone a good month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary, during which, please God, I shall be going on pilgrimage to the Shrine of Pompeii on Sunday the 19th. Have a good Sunday!
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Touristic airport, Freiburg im Breisgau
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
It is moving for me to celebrate this Eucharist, this Thanksgiving, with so many people from different parts of Germany and the neighbouring countries. We offer our thanks above all to God, in whom we live and move and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28). But I would also like to thank all of you for your prayers that the Successor of Peter may continue to carry out his ministry with joy and faithful hope, and that he may strengthen his brothers in faith.
“Father, you show your almighty power in your mercy and forgiveness”, as we said in today’s Collect. In the first reading we heard how God manifested the power of his mercy in the history of Israel. The experience of the Babylonian Exile caused the people to fall into a deep crisis of faith: Why did this calamity happen? Perhaps God was not truly powerful at all?
There are theologians who, in the face of all the terrible things that happen in the world today, say that God cannot possibly be all-powerful. In response to this we profess God, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. And we are glad and thankful that God is all-powerful. At the same time, we have to be aware that he exercises his power differently from the way we normally do. He has placed a limit on his power, by recognizing the freedom of his creatures. We are glad and thankful for the gift of freedom. However, when we see the terrible things that happen as a result of it, we are frightened. Let us put our trust in God, whose power manifests itself above all in mercy and forgiveness. Let us be certain, dear faithful, that God desires the salvation of his people. He desires our salvation, my salvation, the salvation of every single person. He is always close to us, especially in times of danger and radical change, and his heart aches for us, he reaches out to us. We need to open ourselves to him so that the power of his mercy can touch our hearts. We have to be ready freely to abandon evil, to raise ourselves from indifference and make room for his word. God respects our freedom. He does not constrain us. He is waiting for us to say “yes”, he as it were begs us to say “yes”.
In the Gospel Jesus takes up this fundamental theme of prophetic preaching. He recounts the parable of the two sons invited by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son responded: “‘I will not go’, but afterward he repented and went.” The other son said to the father: “‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.” When asked by Jesus which of the two sons did the father’s will, those listening rightly respond: “the first” (Matthew 21:29-31). The message of the parable is clear: it is not words that matter, but deeds, deeds of conversion and faith. As we heard, Jesus directs this message to the chief priests and elders of the people of Israel, that is, to the religious experts of his people. At first they say “yes” to God’s will, but their piety becomes routine and God no longer matters to them. For this reason they find the message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus disturbing. The Lord concludes his parable with harsh words: “Truly, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Matthew 21:32). Translated into the language of the present day, this statement might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is “routine” and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts.
These words should make all of us stop and reflect, in fact they should disturb us. However, this is by no means to suggest that everyone who lives in the Church and works for her should be considered far from Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Absolutely not! On the contrary, this is a time to offer a word of profound gratitude to the many co-workers, employees and volunteers, without whom life in the parishes and in the entire Church would be hard to imagine. The Church in Germany has many social and charitable institutions through which the love of neighbour is practised in ways that bring social benefits and reach to the ends of the earth. At this moment I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all those working in Caritas Germany and in other church organizations who give their time and effort generously in voluntary service to the Church. In the first place, such service requires objective and professional expertise. But in the spirit of Jesus’ teaching something more is needed – an open heart that allows itself to be touched by the love of Christ, and thus gives to our neighbour, who needs us, something more than a technical service: it gives love, in which the other person is able to see Christ, the loving God. So let us ask ourselves, in the light of today’s Gospel, how is my personal relationship with God: in prayer, in participation at Sunday Mass, in exploring my faith through meditation on sacred Scripture and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Dear friends, in the last analysis, the renewal of the Church will only come about through openness to conversion and through renewed faith.
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19 October 2014