"Christ: Alpha and Omega" is the title of the closing paragraph of Part I of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council, promulgated 40 years ago.
In that beautiful passage which borrows some words from the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, we read: "The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all hearts and the fulfilment of all aspirations. It is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead. Animated and drawn together in his Spirit we press onwards on our journey towards the consummation of history which fully corresponds to the plan of his love: "to unite all things in him, things in Heaven and things on earth'" (Gaudium et Spes, n. 45).
In light of the centrality of Christ, Gaudium et Spes interprets the condition of contemporary men and women, their vocation and their dignity, and also the milieus in which they live: the family, culture, the economy, politics, the international community. This is the Church's mission, yesterday, today and for ever: to proclaim and witness to Christ so that the human being, every human being, may totally fulfil his or her vocation.
May the Virgin Mary, whom God uniquely associated with the kingship of his Son, obtain that we welcome him as the Lord of our lives, in order to cooperate faithfully with the coming of his Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
After the Angelus:
I am pleased to offer a cordial greeting to the Spanish-speaking pilgrims who are present for the prayer of the Angelus. Today, I greet in particular my Brother Bishops of Mexico, the priests, Religious and faithful who are taking part in the Beatification in the Archdiocese of Guadalajara of the Martyrs Anacleto González Flores and eight Companions, and of José Trinidad Rangel, Andrés Solá Molist, Leonardo Pérez and Darío Acosta Zurita, who faced martyrdom to defend their Christian faith. On this Solemnity of Christ the King, whom they called upon at the supreme moment of giving up their lives, they are a permanent example and an incentive to us to give a consistent witness to our own faith in contemporary society. With these sentiments and with deep affection, I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you and to all the Mexican faithful.
Tomorrow, the liturgical Memorial of the Presentation of Mary Most Holy at the temple, we will be celebrating Pro Orantibus Day, that is, the day for religious communities of contemplative life. On behalf of the whole Church, I express gratitude to those who, in the cloister, dedicate their lives to prayer, offering us an eloquent witness of the primacy of God and of his Kingdom. I recommend closeness to them with our spiritual and material support.
I warmly welcome the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. May the Blessed Virgin Mary be close to all of you during your time in Rome, and may Christ, our Lord and King, bless you and your families with joy and peace.
I wish you all a good Christ the King Sunday!
SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we are celebrating the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. We know from the Gospels that Jesus refused the title of king when it was meant in the political sense, by the standards of the "rulers of the Gentiles" (Matthew 20: 25). On the other hand, during his Passion, he claimed a unique kingship before Pilate, who explicitly asked him "So you are a king?", and Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king" (John 18: 37); however just previously he had declared, "My kingship is not of this world" (John 18: 36).
Christ's kingship is in fact a revelation and actuation of that of God the Father, who governs all things with love and justice. The Father entrusted to the Son the mission of giving mankind eternal life by loving it to the point of supreme sacrifice and, at the same time, conferred upon him the power of judging humanity, since he made himself Son of man, like us in all things (cf. John 5: 21-22, 26-27).
Today's Gospel insists precisely on the universal kingship of Christ the Judge, with the stupendous parable of the Last Judgment, which St Matthew placed immediately before the Passion narrative (25: 31-46). The images are simple, the language is popular, but the message is extremely important: it is the truth about our ultimate destiny and about the criterion by which we will be evaluated. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25: 35) and so forth. Who does not know this passage? It is part of our civilization. It has marked the history of the peoples of Christian culture: the hierarchy of values, the institutions, the multiple charitable and social organizations. In fact, the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but it brings to fulfilment all the good that, thank God, exists in man and in history. If we put love for our neighbour into practice in accordance with the Gospel message, we make room for God's dominion and his Kingdom is actualized among us. If, instead, each one thinks only of his or her own interests, the world can only go to ruin.
Dear friends, the Kingdom of God is not a matter of honours and appearances but, as St Paul writes, it is "righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14: 17). The Lord has our good at heart, that is, that every person should have life, and that especially the "least" of his children may have access to the banquet he has prepared for all. Thus he has no use for the forms of hypocrisy of those who say: "Lord, Lord" and then neglect his commandments (cf. Matthew 7: 21). In his eternal Kingdom, God welcomes those who strive day after day to put his Word into practice. For this reason the Virgin Mary, the humblest of all creatures, is the greatest in his eyes and sits as Queen at the right of Christ the King. Let us once again entrust ourselves to her heavenly intercession with filial trust, to be able to carry out our Christian mission in the world.
After the Angelus:
Tomorrow in the city of Nagasaki, Japan, 188 martyrs, all Japanese men and women killed in the first part of the 17th century will be beatified. On this occasion, so significant for the Catholic community and for the entire Country of the Rising Sun, I assure my spiritual closeness. In addition, next Saturday [29 Nov.] Bl. Bro. José Olallo Valdés of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God will be beatified in Cuba. I entrust the Cuban people to his heavenly protection, especially the sick and the health care workers.
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus. In today's Solemnity of Christ the King we pray that the Lord may reign in our hearts. Sustained by his grace in faith and love, we trust that by bearing witness to him on earth we may be found worthy of his promises in heaven. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday! Let us also rejoice in anticipation with our brothers and sisters in Japan, who celebrate tomorrow in Nagasaki the beatification of the Venerable Servants of God Peter Kibe Kasui and his 187 companion martyrs. May their victory in Christ over sin and death fill us all with hope and courage!
HOLY MASS AND CONSIGNMENT
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Amitié Stadium, Cotonou
Dear Brother Bishops and Priests,
Following in the footsteps of my blessed predecessor Pope John Paul II, it is a great joy for me to visit for the second time this dear continent of Africa, coming among you, in Benin, to address to you a message of hope and of peace. I would like first of all to express my cordial gratitude to Archbishop Antoine Ganyé Cotonou, for his words of welcome and to greet the Bishops of Benin, as well as the Cardinals and Bishops from various African countries and from other continents. To all of you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come to this Mass celebrated by the Successor of Peter, I offer my warm greetings. I am thinking certainly of the faithful of Benin, but also of those from other French-speaking countries, such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and others. Our Eucharistic celebration on the Solemnity of Christ the King is an occasion to give thank to God for the one hundred and fifty years that have passed since the beginnings of the evangelization of Benin; it is also an occasion to express our gratitude to him for the Second Special Assembly of the Synod of African Bishops which was held in Rome a few months ago.
The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man, the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned, ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be taken as the way we treat Jesus himself. We do not see here a simple literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus’s entire existence is an example of it. He, the Son of God, became man, he shared our existence, even down to the smallest details, he became the servant of the least of his brothers and sisters. He who had nowhere to lay his head, was condemned to death on a cross. This is the King we celebrate!
Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like two thousand years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power, money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross. And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of Christ revealed; it is in the humility of his earthly existence that he finds his power to judge the world. For him, to reign is to serve! And what he asks of us is to follow him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast. The baptized know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one’s life. However, as Saint Paul reminds us, Christ has overcome death and he brings us with him in his resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy. Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us allow Christ to free us from the world of the past! Our faith in him, which frees us from all our fears and miseries, gives us access to a new world, a world where justice and truth are not a byword, a world of interior freedom and of peace with ourselves, with our neighbours and with God. This is the gift God gave us at our baptism!
“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Let us receive this word of blessing which the Son of Man will, on the Day of Judgement, address to those who have recognized his presence in the lowliest of their brethren, with a heart free and full of the love of the Lord! Brothers and sisters, the words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest. Here I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers. Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor, with the sick; he wanted to share your suffering and to see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.
This morning, I invite you once again to rejoice with me. One hundred and fifty years ago the cross of Christ was raised in your country, and the Gospel was proclaimed for the first time. Today, we give thanks to God for the work accomplished by the missionaries, by the “apostolic workers” who first came from among you or from distant lands, bishops, priests, men and women religious, catechists, all those who, both yesterday and today, enabled the growth of the faith in Jesus Christ on the African continent. I honour here the memory of the venerable Cardinal Bernardin Gantin, an example of faith and of wisdom for Benin and for the entire African continent.
Dear brothers and sisters, everyone who has received this marvellous gift of faith, this gift of an encounter with the risen Lord, feels in turn the need to proclaim it to others. The Church exists to proclaim this Good News! And this duty is always urgent! After 150 years, many are those who have not heard the message of salvation in Christ! Many, too, are those who are hesitant to open their hearts to the word of God! Many are those whose faith is weak, whose way of thinking, habits and lifestyle do not know the reality of the Gospel, and who think that seeking selfish satisfaction, easy gain or power is the ultimate goal of human life. With enthusiasm, be ardent witnesses of the faith which you have received! Make the loving face of the Saviour shine in every place, in particular before the young, who search for reasons to live and hope in a difficult world!
Continue next page …
21 December 2014