| 03/09/2008 18.07
|AUDIENCE OF 9/3/08
Aula Paolo VI
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today, continuing his catechetical cycle on St. Paul.
Peter Paul Rubens, 'Conversion of St. Paul', 1601-1602.
The catechesis today will be dedicated to the experience that St. Paul had on the road to Damascus, that which is commonly called his conversion.
It was on the road to Damascus, in the early years of the third decade of the first century, and after a time during which he had persecuted the Church, that the decisive moment came in Paul's life.
Much has been written about this and of course, from different points of view. What is sure is that what took place there was a turning point, or more properly, a complete reversal of perspective.
From then on, unexpectedly, Paul started to consider as 'loss' and 'rubbish' all that had previously constituted for him the maximum ideal, almost the very reason for his being (cfr Phm, 3,7-8). What had happened?
For this, we have two types of sources. The first type, and best known, are the accounts written by Luke, who three times narrates the event in the Acts of the Apostles (cfr 9,1-19; 22,3-21; 26,4-23).
The average reader may perhaps be tempted to linger too much on some details, such as the light from heaven, Paul collapsing to the ground, the voice that spoke, his sudden blindness, its subsequent healing by scales falling from his eyes and his fasting.
But all these details all point back to the center of the event: the resurrected Christ appeared like a resplendent light and spoke to Saul, transforming his thinking and his very life.
The splendor of the Risen Lord blinded him: what appears externally is what happens in his interior reality, blinded in the face of truth, of the light which Christ is. Thereafter, his definitive Yes to Christ in baptism opens his eyes anew, makes him truly see again.
In the early Church, Baptism was also called 'illumination', because this sacrament gives light, makes us truly see. What is thus indicated theologically is physically realized in Paul: the healing of his interior blindness.
St. Paul was as therefore transformed not by a thought but by an event, by the irresistible presence of the Risen Lord, of which he could never again doubt, so strong was the evidence of the event, of that encounter.
It fundamentally changed the life of Paul - and in this sense, one can and must speak of a conversion. This encounter is the center of St. Luke's narrative, who probably used an account born in the (Christian) community of Damascus, given the local color of the presence of Ananias, the name of the street where Paul first stayed and the name of the owner of the house (cfr Acts 9,11).
The second type of source on this conversion are the Letters of St. Paul himself. He never spoke in detail about the event - perhaps because he thought everyone was aware of the essentials of the story, that everyone knew he was the persecutor transformed into a fervent apostle of Christ.
This did not happen as a consequence of his own reflection , but to a powerful event, an actual encounter with the Risen Lord. Even without speaking in detail, he referred several times to these most important fact, that even he was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus, which revelation he received from Jesus himself along with the mission to be his apostle.
The clearest statement on this point comes in his account of what constitutes the center of the history of salvation: the death and resurrection of Jesus and his apparitions to witnesses (cfr. 1 Cor 15).
Using words from the oldest tradition, as he received them from the Church of Jerusalem, he says that Jesus - who had died on the Cross, was buried and resurrected - appeared after the Resurrection, first to Cephas, that is, Peter; then to the Twelve, then to 500 brothers , most of whom were still alive in Paul's time; then to James, then to all the Apostles.
To this traditional account , he added: "Last of all, he appeared to me" (1 Cor 15,8). thus he makes it understood that it was the foundation of his apostolate and his new life.
There are other passages in which he says the same things: "Through Jesus, we received the grace of Apostolate" (cfr Rm 1,5); and "Have I not myself seen Jesus, our Lord?" (1 Cor 9,1), words which which he referred to something everyone knew.
Finally, the most widely known passage is found in Galatians 1, 15-17: "But when (God), who from my mother's womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus".
In this 'auto-apologia' (self-explanation), he underscores definitively that even he was a true witness of the Risen Lord, that he had received his own mission directly from the Risen Lord.
Thus we can see that both sources - the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of St. Paul - converge and agree on the fundamental point: the Risen Christ spoke to Paul, he called him to the apostolate, he made him a true Apostle, witness of the resurrection, with the specific task of announcing the Gospel to the pagans, to the Greco-Roman world.
At the same time, Paul also learned that despite the immediacy of his experience with the Risen Lord, he had to enter into the communion of the Church, he should be baptized, he should live in tune with the other apostles.
Only in communion with everyone could he be a true apostle, as he writes explicitly in the first letter to the Corinthians: "Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (15,11). There is only one announcement to be made, before Christ is one alone.
As we can see, in all these passages, Paul never interprets the event as a fact of conversion. Why? There are so many hypotheses, but for me, the reason is very evident. This turning-point in his life, the transformation of all his being, was not the fruit of a psychological process, of an intellectual and moral maturation or evolution, but something that came from without: it was not the fruit of his thinking, but of the encounter with Christ Jesus.
In this sense, it was not simply a conversion, a maturation of his 'I', but it was his own death and resurrection - one existence died, and another was born with the Risen Christ. Paul's renewal cannot be explained any other way.
Not all the psychological analyses can clarify and resolve the question. Only the event itself, that powerful encounter with Christ, is the key for understanding what happened: death and resurrection, a renewal by the very one who had appeared and spoken to him. In this more profound sense then yes, we can and should speak of conversion.
This encounter was a real renewal which changed all his parameters. Thus he could say that what had once been essential and fundamental for him had become 'rubbish', no longer a 'gain' but a loss, because from then on, only the life of Christ mattered.
Nonetheless, we should not think that Paul was then trapped or enclosed by that one event. The contrary is true, since the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This opened up his heart, made it open to all.
At that moment, he did not lose what there was of goodness and truth in his life, his his heredity, but he understood in a new way the wisdom the truth and the profundity of the Laws and the Prophets, he re-appropriated them in a new way.
At the same time, his reason opened up to the wisdom of the pagans: being open to Christ with all his heart, he became capable of an ample dialog with everyone, he became capable of doing everything for everyone. Thus he could truly be an apostle of the pagans.
As for us, we ask what can all this mean for us? It means that even for us, Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us irresistibly, luminously, as he did to Paul, to make him the apostle for all Gentiles.
But even we can encounter Christ, in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch the heart of Christ and feel that he touches ours.
Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen Lord, do we truly become Christians. In this way, our mind opens up to all the wisdom of Christ and the richness of truth.
Let us therefore pray to the Lord that he may illumine us, that he gives our world this meeting with his presence, and thus grant us a living faith, an open heart, great charity for all, able to renew the world.
In English, he said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s catechesis focuses on Saint Paul’s conversion.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Saint Luke recounts for us the dramatic episode on the road to Damascus which transformed Paul from a fierce persecutor of the Church into a zealous evangelizer.
In his own letters, Paul describes his experience not so much in terms of a conversion, but as a call to apostleship and a commission to preach the Gospel.
In the first instance, this was an encounter not with concepts or ideas but with the person of Jesus himself.
In fact, Paul met not only the historical Jesus of the past, but the living Christ who revealed himself as the one Saviour and Lord.
Similarly, the ultimate source of our own conversion lies neither in esoteric philosophical theories nor abstract moral codes, but in Christ and his Gospel. He alone defines our identity as Christians, since in him we discover the ultimate meaning of our lives.
Paul, because Christ had made him his own (cf. Phil 3:12), could not help but preach the Good News he had received (cf. 1 Cor 9:16). So it is with us.
Transfixed by the greatness of our Saviour, we – like Saint Paul – cannot help but speak of him to others. May we always do so with joyful conviction!
I welcome all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience including the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit and a group of Maltese altar boys currently serving in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings of joy and peace.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 03/09/2008 23.05]
| 10/09/2008 18.35
|ANGELUS ON 9/7/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words before leading the Angelus at the end of the Papal Mass in front of the shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria in Cagliari:
Dear brothers and sisters,
At the end of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, let us turn our eyes again towards the 'sweet Queen of the Sards' who is venerated on this hill of Bonaria.
In the course of centuries, how many illustrious personages have come to render homage to her! How many of my predecessors have honored her with particular affection!
Blessed Pius IX decreed her coronation. St. Pius X, 100 years ago, proclaimed her Patron of all Sardinia. Pius XI attributed to the new church the title of Minor Basilica. Pius XII, 50 years ago, came here in spirit with a special message broadcast directly by Vatican Radio.
And Blessed John XXIII, in 1960, sent a letter to reopen the Shrine to worship, after a period of restoration.
The first Pope to come back to the island after 1650 years was the Servant of God Paul VI, who visited the Shrine on April 24, 1970. And before the sacred image of Our Lady, the beloved John Paul II came in prayer on October 20, 1985.
In the footsteps of the Popes who preceded me, I too have chosen the Shrine of Bonaria to carry out a pastoral visit which ideally embraces all of Sardinia.
To Mary, we wish to entrust anew the city of Cagliari, Sardinia and every inhabitant. May the Holy Virgin watch over everyone and each one, so that the patrimony of evangelical values may be transmitted integrally to the new generations, and so that Christ may reign in families, in communities and the various spheres of society.
In particular, may Our Lady protect all who, at this moment, most need her maternal intervention: children and youth, older people and families, the sick and all who suffer.
Knowing the important role that Mary has in the existence of each one of us, as her devoted children, we celebrate her birth today. This event constitutes a fundamental event for the Family of Nazareth, cradle of our redemption, an event which concerns us all, because every gift that God gave her, the Mother, was given thinking of each of us, his children.
Thus, with immense acknowledgment, let us ask Mary, Mother of the incarnate Word and our Mother, to protect every mother on earth: those who, together with their husbands, educate their children in a harmonious familial context, and those who, for various reasons, find themselves facing this arduous task alone. May all of them carry out with dedication and faithfulness their daily service in the family, in the Church and in society.
May Our Lady be support, comfort and hope for everyone!
Under Mary's eyes, I wish to rcall attention to the beloved peoples of Haiti, who have been sorely tried in recent days by the passage of three hurricanes.
I pray for the victims, unfortunately numerous, and for those left homeless. I am close to the entire nation and hope that all necessary help may reach them as soon as possible.
I entrust everyone to the maternal protection of Our Lady of Bonaria.
| 10/09/2008 18.35
|AUDIENCE OF 9/10/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis on St. Paul, #4 in the current cycle, at the General Audience today:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Last Wednesday, I spoke of the great turnaround that took place in the life of St. Paul following his encounter with the Risen Christ.
Jesus entered his life and transformed him from persecutor to apostle. That encounter marked the start of his mission: Paul could not continue to live as before - he now felt invested by the Lord with the task of announcing his Gospel as an apostle.
It is precisely about this new life condition of his - of being an apostle of Christ - that I wish to speak today.
Normally, when we read the Gospels, we identify The Twelve with the title of Apostles, intending thereby to indicate those who were Jesus's companions in life who had personally listened to his teaching.
But even Paul felt himself to be a true apostle, and it seems clear that the Pauline concept of the Apostolate was not limited to the group of Twelve.
Obviously, Paul distinguishes his own case from those "who were Apostles before" him (Gal 1,17) - he acknowledges in them a very special place in the life of the Church.
And yet, as everyone knows, even St. Paul considered himself an Apostle in the strict sense. Certainly, at the time of the beginnings of Christianity, no one travelled as many miles as he did, by land and sea, for the sole purpose of announcing the Gospel.
Therefore, his concept of Apostolate went beyond what was solely linked to the group of Twelve, and handed down, above all, by St. Luke in the Acts (cfr Acts 1,2-26; 6,2).
In fact, in the first Letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes a clear distinction between "the Twelve" and "all the apostles", cited as two different groups of beneficiaries of the apparitions of the Risen Lord (cfr 14,5-7).
In that same text, he goes on to name himself humbly as "the least of the apostles", even likening himself to an abortus and saying textually: "For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me" (1 Cor 15,9-10).
The metaphor of abortion expresses extreme humility: it is also found in the Letter to the Romans of St. Ignatius of Antioch: "I am the last among all, I am an abortus; but it will be granted to me to be something, if I reach God" (9,2).
What the Bishop of Antioch would say about his imminent martyrdom, foreseeing that it would reverse his condition of dignity, St. Paul says in relation to his own apostolic commitment: it is there that the fecundity of God's grace is manifested, for God can transform a failed man into a splendid apostle.
From persecutor to founder of (local) Churches: God has done this for someone who, from the evangelical point of view, would have been considered a reject.
What then, according to St. Paul, makes him and the others Apostles? In his Letters, there appear three principal characteristics that make up an apostle.
The first is having 'seen the Lord' (cfr 1 Cor 9,1), that is, having had an encounter that was decisive for one's life. Similarly, in the Letter to the Galatians (cfr 1,15-16) he would say that he was called, almost selected, by the grace of God, with the revelation of his Son to announce the 'happy news' to the pagans.
When all is said and done, it is the Lord who makes an apostle, not one's own presumption. The apostle is not self-made, but is made into one by the Lord, therefore, the apostle must relate to the Lord constantly.
That is why Paul says he is an 'apostle by vocation' (Rom 1,1), an apostle "not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father" (Gal 1,1). This then is the first characteristic: to have seen the Lord, to have been called by him.
The second characteristic is that of 'being sent'. The Greek term apostolos means precisely "someone who is sent or ordered', that is, an ambassador and message bearer - he should therefore act as the delegate and representative of the one who sent him.
In this sense, too, Paul defines himself as 'an apostle of Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1,1; 2 Cor 1,1) - that is, his delegate, totally in his service - as much as to call himself also "the servant of Jesus Christ" (Rom 1,1).
Once again there comes to the foreground the idea of an initiative from someone else, God in Jesus Christ, to whom one is fully obliged. But above all, this underscores the fact that one has received a mission from him, to be carried out in his name, putting aside every personal interest.
The third requisite is the exercise of 'announcing the Gospel', with the consequent founding of churches. Indeed, the title of 'Apostle' is not and cannot be an honorific. It demands concretely - and even tragically - the entire existence of the person concerned.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul exclaims: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (9,1).
Likewise, in the second Letter to the Corinthians, he states: "You are our letter, written on our hearts... a letter of Christ written not in ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (3,2-3).
We should not be surprised, then, that the Chrysostom (St. John Chrysostom) speaks of Paul as 'a soul of diamond' (Panegyrics, 1,8) and goes on to say: "In the same way that fire, kindled out of different materials, blazes even more... so Paul's words gained to his cause all those with whom he came into contact, and those who made war against him, captivated by his discourses, became fuel for this spiritual fire" (ibid, 71,11).
This explains why Paul defines apostles as 'collaborators of God" (1 Cor 3,9; 2 Cor 6,1). whose grace acts in them.
A typical element of the true Apostle that Paul brings to light very well is a sort of identification between the Gospel and the evangelizer, both destined for the same fate.
Indeed, no one more than Paul has shown how the announcement of the Cross of Christ appears to be 'scandal and foolishness' (1 Cor 1,23), to which many react with incomprehension and rejection. This happened then, and we should not be surprised that it happens now.
An apostle is destined to such a fate - to seem 'scandalous and foolish' - and Paul knew it: it was the experience of his life.
To the Corinthians he wrote, not without a trace of irony:
"For as I see it, God has exhibited us apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and human beings alike.
"We are fools on Christ's account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands.
"When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world's rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment" (1 Cor 1,9-13)
It is a self-portrait of Paul's apostolic life: over all these sufferings prevails the joy of being a bearer of God's blessing and the grace of the Gospel.
Moreover, Paul shared with the Stoic philosophy of his time the idea of a tenacious constancy through all the difficulties that present themselves. But he goes beyond the merely humanistic perspective, calling on the component of the love of God and Christ:
"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
"As it is written: 'For your sake we are being slain all the day; we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.
"For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, 10 nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8,35-39).
This is the certainty, the profound joy that guided the apostle Paul through all these events: Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And this love is the true richness of human life.
As we see, St. Paul gave himself to the Gospel with all his being, we can say 24 hours of the day. And he carried out his ministry with faithfulness and joy, "to save everyone at any cost" (1 Cor 9,22).
And with respect to the churches, knowing that what he had with them was not a relationship of fatherhood (cfr 1 Cor 4,15), but rather of outright motherhood (cfr Gal 4,19), he placed himself in an attitude of complete service, declaring admirably: "Not that we lord it over your faith; rather, we work together for your joy, for you stand firm in the faith" (2 Cor 1,24).
This remains the mission of all apostles of Christ in all the ages: to be collaborators in true joy.
In English, he said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In today’s catechesis we turn to Saint Paul’s view of what it means to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
Though he did not belong to the group of the Twelve, called by Jesus during his ministry, Paul nevertheless claims the title for himself because he was chosen and transformed by the grace of God, and shared the three principal characteristics of the true apostle.
The first is to have seen the Lord (1 Cor 9:1) and to have been called by him. One becomes an apostle by divine vocation, not by personal choice.
The second characteristic also underlines the divine initiative: an apostle is someone who is sent and therefore acts and speaks as a delegate of Christ, placed totally at his service.
The third characteristic is dedication to the work of proclaiming the Gospel and founding Christian communities. Saint Paul can point to his many trials and sufferings that speak clearly of his courageous dedication to the mission (cf. 2 Cor 11:23-28).
In this context he sees an identification between the life of the apostle and the Gospel that he preaches; the apostle himself is despised when the Gospel is rejected.
Saint Paul was steadfast in his many difficulties and persecutions, sustained above all by the unfailing love of Christ (cf. Rom 8:35-39). May the example of his apostolic zeal inspire and encourage us today!
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s audience, including the All Party Parliamentary Group from the United Kingdom, and the participants in the seminar on Social Communications at the Santa Croce Pontifical University.
I also greet the groups from England, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Zambia, India and the United States of America. May your pilgrimage renew your love for the Lord and his Church, and may God bless you all!
After his greetings to various language groups, the Holy Fathered delivered this message for the French people on the eve of his visit to their country:
Dear brothers and sisters,
On Friday I will undertake my first pastoral visit to France as the Successor of Peter. On the eve of my departure, I wish to extend my heartfelt greetings to the French people and all the inhabitants of this well-beloved nation.
I come to you as a messenger of peace and brotherhood. Your country is not unknown to me. I have had the joy of being there several times and to appreciate its generous tradition of welcome and tolerance, as well as the solidity of its Christian faith and its exalted human and spiritual culture.
This time, the occasion for my visit is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. After visiting Paris, your capital, it will be a great joy for me to join the crowds of pilgrims who have come to follow the Jubilee Way, in the footsteps of St. Bernadette, to the Grotto of Massabielle.
I will offer intense prayers at the foot of Our Lady for the intentions of the entire Church, particularly for the sick and those who are most needy, but also for the peace of the world.
May Mary be, for all of you, particularly for the young people, the Mother who is always there for the needs of her children, a light of hope who illumines and guides your way.
Dear friends in France, I invite you to join me in prayer that this trip may bring abundant fruits. In the happy anticipation of being among you soon, I invoke on everyone, on your families and your communities, the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes.
God bless you!
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 03/10/2008 02.36]
| 17/09/2008 16.03
|AUDIENCE OF 9/17/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's discourse at the General Audience today held in Aula Paolo VI, in which he reports on his trip to France:
Dear brothers and sisters!
Our encounter today gives me the welcome opportunity to review the various moments of the pastoral visit that I made recently to France. A visit that culminated, as you know, with a pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the appearances of Our Lady to St. Bernadette.
As I give fervent thanks to the Lord who has granted me this providential opportunity, I express again my sincere acknowledgements to the Archbishop of Paris, the Bishop of Tarbes-Lourdes, to their respective co-workers and to all who cooperated in various ways to the success of my pilgrimage.
I also extend my heartfelt thanks to the President of the Republic [of France] and the other authorities who welcomed me with such courtesies.
The visit began in Paris, where I symbolically met with the entire French people, rendering homage to a beloved nation in which the Church, as early as the second century A.D., has played a fundamental role in its development.
It is interesting that it is precisely in this context that the need matured for a healthy distinction between the political sphere and the religious, according to Jesus's famous saying: "Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God" (Mk 12,17).
If Caesar's image was impressed on Roman coins meaning that they were to be given to him, the imprint on the Creator, the only Lord of our life, is in the heart of man.
Authentic secularity is, therefore, not to do without the spiritual dimension, but to acknowledge that it is precisely this, at the root, which is the guarantee of our freedom and of the autonomy of earthly realities, thanks to the dictates of the creative Wisdom that the human conscience can grasp and act upon.
This is the same context for the ample reflection I developed on "The origins of Western theology and the roots of European culture" in a meeting with the world of culture, in a place that was chosen for its symbolic value.
This was at the College des Bernardins, which the lamented Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, had envisioned as a center for cultural dialog - a 12th century edifice constructed by the Cistercian monks, where young people came to study. It was the very presence of this monastic theology that was at the origin of our Western culture.
My address started with a reflection on monasticism, whose purpose was to search for God - quaerere Deum. In a time of profound crisis for ancient civilization, the monks, oriented by the light of faith, chose the master way (via maestra): that of listening to the Word of God.
Thus they became the great custodians of Sacred Scriptures, and the monasteries became schools of wisdom and schools 'dominici servitii' - in the service of the Lord - as St. Benedict called them.
The search for God, by its very nature, thus brought the monks to a culture of words. Quaerere Deum, to search for God - in the wake of his own Word. Therefore, they had to seek to know this Word ever more and profoundly. They had to penetrate the secret of language and understand it in its structure.
To search for God, revealed to us in Sacred Scriptures, the 'profane' sciences became important in trying to grasp the secret of languages. Thus, the monasteries developed that eruditio
which allowed the formation of a culture.
Because of this, 'quarere Deum', to be on the way towards God, remains today as in the past the 'via maestra' and the foundation of every true culture.
Architecture is an artistic expression of the search for God, and there is no doubt that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris constitutes an architectural model of universal value.
Within that magnificent temple, where I had the joy of presiding at the celebration of the Vespers for the Blessed Virgin Mary, I called on the priests, deacons, religions and seminarians who had come from all parts of France, to give priority to a religious listening to the divine Word, looking at the Virgin Mary as the sublime model.
In front of Notre Dame, I later greeted the young people, who came in large numbers and with enthusiasm. To them, who were about to start a long night vigil of prayer, I indicated two treasures of the Christian faith: the Holy Spirit and the Cross.
The Spirit opens human intelligence to horizons which are beyond it and makes it understand the beauty and truth of the love of God as revealed in the Cross. It is a love from which nothing can ever separate us,and which we can experience in giving our own life following the example of Christ.
Then, I made a brief visit to the Institut de France, seat of the country's five national academies. Being a member of one of the academies, it was with great joy that I visited my colleagues.
My visit to Paris was culminated by the Eucharistic Celebration on the Esplanade of the Invalides. Echoing the words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, I invited the faithful of Paris and all of France to search anew for the living God who showed us his true face in Jesus who is present in the Eucharist, urging us to love our brothers just as he has loved us.
I then went to Lourdes, where I was able to join thousands of faithful on the Jubilee Way along the sites connected to the life of St, Bernadette: the parish church with the baptismal font where she was baptized; the 'Cachot' where, as a girl, she lived in great poverty; the Grotto of Massabielle, where the Virgin appeared to her 18 times.
In the evening, I took part in the traditional torchlight procession ('aux flambeaux'), a stunning manifestation of faith in God and devotion to his Mother and ours. Lourdes is truly a place of light, of prayer, hope and conversion, founded on the rock of God's love, which had its culminating revelation in the glorious Cross of Christ.
By happy coincidence, last Sunday, the liturgy commemorated the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the sign of hope par excellence, because it is the highest testimonial of love.
In Lourdes, at the school of Mary, the first and perfect disciple of the Crucified Lord, the pilgrims learn to consider the crosses of their own life in the light of Christ's glorious Cross.
Appearing to Bernadette in the grotto of Massabielle, the first act of Mary was to make the Sign of the Cross, in silence, without words. And Bernadette imitated her, making the Sign of the Cross herself, with trembling hand.
Thus, Our Lady provided a first initiation to the essence of Christianity: The Sign of the Cross is the sum of our faith, and in doing it with attentive heart, we enter into the full mystery of our salvation. In that act of the Madonna is found the entire message of Lourdes: God so loved us that he gave himself for us - this is the message of the Cross, "mystery of death and of glory".
The Cross reminds us that there is no true love without suffering, there is no gift in life without pain. Many learn this truth in Lourdes, which is a school of faith and hope, because it is also a school of charity and of service to one's brothers.
It was in this context of faith and prayer that I had an important meeting with the French bishops - it was a moment of intense spiritual communion, during which together we entrusted to the Virgin our common pastoral expectations and concerns.
The next event was the Eucharistic procession with thousands of faithful among whom were so many sick pilgrims. Before the Blessed Sacrament, our spiritual communion with Mary became even more intense and profound because she makes our eyes and heart capable of contemplating her Divine Son in the Holy Eucharist.
The silence of those thousands of people in front of the Lord was moving - not an empty silence, but one that was filled with prayer and awareness of the presence of the Lord, who loved us to the point of getting on the Cross for us.
On Monday, Sept. 15, liturgical commemoration of Our Blessed Lady of Sorrows, was dedicated especially for the sick. After a brief visit to the chapel of the hospital where Bernadette received her First Communion, I presided at the celebration of Mass in front of the Basilica of the Rosary, during which I administered unction to some of the sick.
With the sick pilgrims and those who were present, I wanted to meditate on the tears that Mary shed under the Cross and on her smile which lit up Easter morning.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord together for this apostolic voyage that was rich in so many spiritual gifts. In particularly, let us give him praise because Mary, appearing to St. Bernadette, opened to the world a privileged space for encountering the divine love that heals and saves.
In Lourdes, the Virgin Mary invites us all to consider the earth as a place of our pilgrimage towards our final homeland, which is Heaven. In truth, we are all pilgrims, and we need our Mother to guide us. In Lourdes, her smile invites us to go ahead with great confidence, in the knowledge that God is good, and God is love.
In English, he said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our encounter today gives me the opportunity to retrace the steps of my recent Pastoral Visit to France.
After a warm welcome in Paris, I met with men and women from the world of culture, with whom I reflected on the monastic ideal of seeking God — quaerere Deum
— as the bedrock of European culture.
I wished to emphasize that meditation on the Scriptures opens our minds and hearts to the Logos, God’s Creative Reason in the flesh.
In the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame, I gathered with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians, sharing with them the treasures of the Holy Spirit and the Cross.
My brief stop at the Institut de France was followed by the joyful Eucharistic celebration on the Esplanade des Invalides.
I then made my way to Lourdes to join thousands of pilgrims in this Jubilee year commemorating the apparitions of Our Lady to Saint Bernadette.
The Holy Mass near the Grotto of Massabielle providentially coincided with the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the perennial sign of the "mystery of death and of glory".
The Cross demonstrates that God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son. It teaches us that there is no genuine love without suffering, and no gift of life without pain.
Lourdes is thus a school of faith and hope because it is a school of charity and service. I am deeply grateful to God and to all who made this trip a blessed, memorable success. Thank you!
I happily greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including pilgrims from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, Burma, Japan, and the United States of America. God bless you all!
| 21/09/2008 17.27
|ANGELUS OF 9/21/08
Returning from the adjoining town of Albano Laziale where he celebrated Mass and dedicated the new main altar of the Cathedral of San Pancrazio, the Holy Father led the noontime Angelus from the balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo. Here is a translation of his words before and after the prayers.
Dear brothers and sisters:
Perhaps you may recall that on the day of my election, when I addressed the crowd in St. Peter's Square, it came spontaneously to me to present myself as a worker in the vineyard of the Lord.
In today's Gospel (cfr Mt 20,1-16a), Jesus narrates the parable of the vineyard owner who, at different times of the day, called laborers to work in his vineyard. And at the end of the day, he gave them all the same pay - a denarium - raising protest from those who had worked from the first hour.
It is clear that the pay represents eternal life, a gift that God reserves for everyone. And those who are considered "the last", if they accept it, can become 'the first', while the 'first' risk ending up 'the last'.
A first message in this parable is the fact itself that the owner does not tolerate, so to speak, unemployment - he wants everyone to be employed working on his vineyard.
In truth, to be called is already the first compensation: to be able to work in the vineyard of the Lord, to place oneself in his service, constitutes in itself an inestimable gift which repays every effort. But this can be understood only by those who love the Lord and his Kingdom. He who works only for the pay will never be aware of the value of this inestimable treasure.
Narrating the parable is St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, whose liturgical feast comes today. I am happy to underscore that Matthew himself, lived firsthand the experience of this parable (cfr Mt 9,9).
In fact, before Jesus called him, he was a publican [tax collector for the Romans]
and so he was considered a public sinner [by the Jews]
, excluded from 'the vineyard of the Lord'.
But everything changed when Jesus, passing by his tax collector's post, looked at him and said, "Follow me". Matthew got up and followed him. From being a publican, he immediately became a disciple of Christ. From being 'last', he found himself 'first', thanks to the logic of God which, fortunately for us, is different from that of the world.
"My thoughts are not your thoughts," says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, "nor are your ways my ways" (Is 55,8).
Even St. Paul, of whom we are celebrating a special Jubilee Year, experienced the joy of being called by the Lord to work in his vineyard. And how much work he did! But, as he himself confesses, it was the grace of God working in him, that grace which transformed him from a persecutor of the Church into the Apostle of the Gentiles.
So much as to make him say: "For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain." And he adds right after, "If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose" (Phil 1,21-22). Paul understood well that to work for the Lord is already reward on this earth.
The Virgin Mary, whom I had the joy of venerating in Lourdes one week ago, is a perfect shoot of the Lord's vine. In her was germinated the blessed fruit of divine love - Jesus, our Savior.
May she help us to always answer with joy to the Lord's call, and to find our happiness in being able to labor for the Kingdom of heaven.
After the Angelus prayers, he made the following special appeal:
In recent weeks, the Caribbean nations - particularly Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic - and southern United States, especially Texas, were severely struck by violent hurricanes.
I wish to renew my assurances to all those beloved people that I remember them specially in prayer. I also hope that all the assistance needed will reach the most affected areas promptly. God grant that, at least in these circumstances, solidarity and brotherhood may prevail over every other motive.
On Thursday, September 25, in the context of the coming 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, a high-level meeting will take place to verify fulfillment of objectives established by the Millennium Declaration of September 8, 2000.
On the occasion of this important meeting, which will gather together the leaders of all the nations of the world, I wish to call on them anew to take and apply with courage the measures that are necessary to eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, ignorance and the scourge of pandemics, which strike the most vulnerable.
Such a commitment, although it will involve particular sacrifices in this time of worldwide economic difficulties, will not fail to produce important benefits bot for the development of nations which need foreign assistance and for the peace and well0being of the entire planet.
In English, he said:
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches that God is always generous in his dealings with us. The Kingdom of Heaven will come to us not as a reward for our good deeds, based on strict justice, but as a grace, a gift of God’s mercy and abounding love.
Let us ask the Lord to keep us always in his love! I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
| 24/09/2008 22.10
|AUDIENCE OF 9/24/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today held in St. Peter's Square, in which he resumes his catechetical cycle on St. Paul.
ST. PAUL CYCLE
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like to speak today on the relationship between St. Paul and the Apostles who had preceded him in following Jesus.
These relations were always marked with profound respect and that frankness which in Paul derived from the defense of Gospel truth.
Even if he was practically a contemporary of Jesus of Nazareth, he never had the opportunity to meet him during Jesus's public life. Thus, after the lightning bolt on the road to Damascus, he felt the need to consult the first disciples of the Master, who were chosen by him to bring the Gospel to the very ends of the world.
In the Letter to the Galatians, Paul writes an important account of the contacts he had with some of the Twelve: above all with Peter who had been chosen to be Kephas, the Aramaic word which means 'rock', on which the Church was being built (cfr Gal 1,18); with James, 'the brother of the Lord' (cfr Gal, 1,19); and with John (cfr Gal 2,9). Paul does not hesitate to acknowledge them as the 'pillars' of the Church.
Particularly significant is his meeting with Cephas (Peter) in which took place in Jerusalem: Paul stayed 15 days with him to 'consult him' (cfr Gal 1,19), that is, to be informed about the early life of the Resurrected One, who had 'seized' him on the road to Damascus and was changing his existence in a radical way. From persecutor of the Church of God, he had become an evangelizer of that faith in the Crucified Messiah and Son of God whom he had sought to destroy in the past (cfr Gal 1,23).
What kind of information did Paul have about Jesus Christ in the three years that followed the encounter in Damascus? In the first Letter to the Corinthians, we can recognize two items which Paul learned in Jerusalem and which had already been formulated as central elements of the Christian tradition, its constitutive tradition.
He transmits these literally, as he had received them , with a very solemn formula: "I transmit to you what I have received". Therefore, he insists on faithfulness to whatever he himself had received and which he faithfully hands down to new Christians.
They are constitutive elements about the Eucharist and the Resurrection - both of which had already been formulated in the (decade of the) 30s, at the time of the death, burial in the heart of the earth, and the resurrection of Jesus (cfr 1 Cor 15,3-4).
Let us take them one by one. The words of Jesus at the Last Supper (cfr 1 Cor 11,23-25) are for Paul the real center of the life of the Church: the Church is built starting from this center, to become what it is.
Beyond this Eucharistic center,in which the Church is always born anew - in all of St. Paul's theology and in all his thought - these words had a remarkable impact on Paul's personal relationship with Jesus.
On the one hand, they attest that the Eucharist illuminates the curse of the Cross, making it a blessing (Gal 3,13-14); and on the other, they explain the very significance of Jesus's death and resurrection.
In his Letters, the words 'for you' in the institution of the Eucharist becomes 'for me' (Gal 2,20), personalizing it, knowing that in that 'you', he himself was acknowledged and loved by Jesus, as well as 'for all' (2 Cor 5,14): the 'for you' [that Jesus said] becomes 'for me' and 'for the Church' (Eph 5,25), and even 'for all', in the expiatory sacrifice of the Cross (cfr Rom 3,25).
From and in the Eucharist, the Church builds itself and knows itself to be the "Body of Christ' (1 Cor 12,27), nourished everyday by the power of the Spirit of Christ resurrected.
The other text, on the Resurrection, transmits to us again the same formula of faithfulness. St. Paul writes: "I have transmitted to you, therefore, above all that which even I received: that is, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve" (1 Cor 15,3-5).
Even in this tradition transmitted to Paul, the words 'for our sins' returns, which places the accent of the offering that Jesus made of himself to the Father to liberate us from sin and death.
From Christ's giving himself, Paul would derive the most engaging and fascinating expressions of our relationship with Christ:
- "For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor 5,21).
- "For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for your sake he became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8,9).
It is worthwhile recalling the comment of Martin Luther when he was still an Augustinian monk, to these paradoxical statements by Paul: "this is the grand mystery of divine grace towards sinners: that with a miraculous exchange our sins are no longer ours, but Christ's, and Christ's justice is no longer Christ's but ours" (Comments on the Psalms, 1513-1515). And that is how we are saved.
In the original kerygma (announcement), transmitted from mouth to mouth, one must note the use of the very 'has resurrected' instead of 'was resurrected' which would have been more logical to use, in continuity with "he died...and was buried".
The verbal form 'has resurrected" was chosen to underline the fact that the resurrection of Christ cuts into the present existence of the believer. We can translate it to mean: "He has resurrected and continues to live" in the Eucharist and in the Church.
Thus, all of Scriptures give testimony of the death and resurrection of Christ, because - as Ugo di San Vittore wrote - "all of divine Scripture constitutes one book, and this one book is Christ, because all of Scripture speaks of Christ and finds in Christ its fulfillment" De arca Noe, 2,8).
If St. Ambrose of Milan could say that "in Scripture, we read Christ". it is because the early Church had re-read all the Scriptures of Israel starting from Christ and returning to him.
The rhythm of the apparitions of the Resurrected Lord to Peter, to the Twelve, to more than 500 brothers, and to James closes with the personal apparition received by Paul on the road to Damascus: "Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me" (1 Cor 15,8).
Because he had persecuted the Church of God, he expresses in this confession his unworthiness to be considered an apostle, at the same level as those who had preceded him: but the grace of God in him was not in vain ['his grace to me has not been ineffective'] (1 Cor 15,10).
That is why his affirmation that he was overwhelmed by God's grace brings Paul into the community of the first witnesses of Christ's resurrection: "Whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Cor 15,11).
The identity [sameness] and uniqueness of the Gospel announcement is important: they as well as I preach the same faith, the same Gospel of Jesus Christ who died and resurrected and who gives himself to us in the Most Holy Eucharist.
The importance that Paul gives to the living Tradition of the Church, that he transmits to her communities, shows how wrong is the view that attributes to Paul the 'invention' of Christianity. Before evangelizing Jesus Christ, his Lord, he met him on the road to Damascus, and he met him in the Church, observing him in the life of the Twelve and those who had followed him through the roads of Galilee.
In the next catecheses, we will have the opportunity to look deeper into the contributions that Paul made to the early Church. But the mission he received from the Resurrected Lord regarding the evangelization of the Gentiles needed to be confirmed and guaranteed by those who gave him and Barnabas their right hand, as a sign of approval for their apostolate and their evangelization, and of welcome into the one communion of the Church of Christ (cfr Gal 2,9).
We can understand then that the statement "Even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh" (2 Cor 5,16) does not mean that his earthly life had little importance for our maturation in the faith. but rather that from the moment of his Resurrection, our way of relating to him changes.
he is, at the same time, the Son of God, "descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead", as Paul recalls at the start of the Letter to the Romans (1,3-4).
The more we seek to retrace the steps of Jesus of Nazareth through the roads of Galilee, the more we can understand that he took charge of our humanity, sharing it in everything except sin.
Our faith was not born from a myth nor from an idea, but from the encounter with the Resurrected Lord in the life of the Church.
Here are the words the Pope said in English:
In today’s catechesis we turn again to the life of Saint Paul and consider his relationship with the Twelve Apostles.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks of his visits to Jerusalem where he consulted Peter, James and John, reputed to be the "pillars" of the Church.
Paul’s mission to the Gentiles needed to be confirmed and guaranteed by those who had been disciples of Jesus during his earthly life, and they offered to him and to Barnabas the right hand of fellowship.
Paul passed on the living tradition that he had received: the words of Jesus at the Last Supper, his death and resurrection, and his appearances to Peter and to the Twelve.
Paul emphasizes that Jesus died "for our sins", he offered himself to the Father in order to deliver us from sin and death. And now that Jesus has risen from the dead, he is living in his Church and in the Eucharist, where we continue to encounter him.
Just as Paul’s teaching is rooted in his experience on the road to Damascus, and in his knowledge of Christ acquired through the Church, so too our faith is grounded, not on myths or pious legends, but on the words and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth, and on our encounter with the risen Lord, present in the life of his Church.
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today, including the choir from New Zealand and the groups from Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia and the Far East.
I greet in particular the new students from the Venerable English College and the priests from Ireland who are taking part in a renewal course.
May your pilgrimage renew your faith in Christ present in his Church, after the example of the Apostle Saint Paul. May God bless you all!
| 28/09/2008 16.21
|ANGELUS OF 9/27/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words before and after the noontime Angelus today, which he led from his balcony overlooking the inner courtyard of the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo:
Dear brothers and sisters!
The liturgy today proposes the Gospel parable of the two sons sent by their father to work in his vineyard. One of them immediately said Yes, but does not go. The other first refuses, and then repentant, follows his father's wish.
With this parable, Jesus shows once again his inclination towards sinners who are converted, and teaches us that one needs humility to accept the gift of salvation.
Even St. Paul, in the passage from the Letter to the Philippians that we meditated on today, exhorts us to be humble. "Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves" (Phil 2,3).
These are the every sentiments of Christ, who having stripped himself of divine glory out of love for us, became man and humbled himself to death by crucifixion (cfr Phil 2,5-8).
The verb used - ekendsen
- literally means that he 'emptied himself', which places in clear light Jesus's profound humility and infinite love, the humble servant par excellence.
Reflecting on these Biblical texts made me think right away of Pope John Paul I, whom we remember today on the 30th anniversary of his death.
He had chosen as his episcopal motto that of St. Charles Borromeo - 'Humilitas'. A single word that summarizes the essence of Christian life and indicates that indispensable virtue which, in the Church, is called service to authority.
In one of the four General Audiences that he held during his very brief Pontificate, he said, among other things, in that informal way that characterized him: "I will limit myself to recommending one virtue which was so dear to the Lord, who said, 'Learn from me to be am gentle and humble of heart... Even if you do great things, say, 'We are humble servants'".
He observed further: "Instead the tendency, in all of us, is rather the contrary: to show ourselves off" (Teachings of John Paul I, p. 51-52). Humility can be considered his spiritual testament.
Thanks to that virtue, 33 days sufficed for Papa Luciani to enter the hearts of the faithful. In his speeches, he used examples taken from the concrete life of everyday, from his memories of family life, and from popular wisdom.
His simplicity was the vehicle for a solid and rich teaching, which, thanks to an exceptional memory and vast culture, he enriched with numerous citations from ecclesiastical as well as lay writers.
Thus, he was an unequalled catechist, in the footsteps of St. Pius X, his fellow northerner and predecessor, first in the See of St. Mark (Venice) and then on Peter's Chair.
"We should feel ourselves small before God," he said in that same audience. "I am not ashamed to feel like a child before my mother - one believes in Mama, I believe in the Lord, and what he has revealed to me" (ivi, p. 49). These words demonstrate the weight of his faith.
As we thank God for having given him to the Church and to the world, let us cherish his example as a treasure, committing ourselves to cultivate the same humility which made him capable of speaking to everyone, especially to the little ones and those who are said to be 'distant' from the Church.
For this, let us pray to the Most Blessed Mary, humble servant of the Lord.
After the Angelus, the Pope had a special message:
Summertime has gone and the day after tomorrow, I will return to the Vatican. I thank the Lord for all the gifts he has given me during this time.
I think, in particular, of World Youth Day in Sydney, the holiday rest in Bressanone, the visit to Sardinia and the apostolic visit to Paris and Lourdes.
I am also grateful for the opportunity for me to stay in this home, where I can best work and rest during the hottest months of the year.
I address an affectionate greeting to the community of Castel Gandolfo, with heartfelt thanks to the Bishop, the Mayor and the forces of law and order.
Thank you all, and Arrivederci!
In English, he said:
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 the spread of the Gospel. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace!
He had special words for the people of Poland:
I affectionately greet all the Poles who have come to Castel Gandolfo. I specially address today the faithful who are gathered in Bialystok, Poland, for the beatification of the Servant of God Michał Sopoćko, confessor and spiritual guide of St. Faustina Kowalska.
On his suggestion, the saint described her mystic experiences and the apparitions of Merciful Jesus in her well-known 'Diary'. It was also thanks to his efforts that the image of Divine Mercy with the words, "Jesus, I trust you', was created and shared with the world. This Servant of God became known as a zealous priest, educator and propagator of devotion to Divine Mercy.
I share the joy of the Diocese of Bialystok and Vilnius and all those who hold dear the message of Divine Mercy.
My beloved predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, must be rejoicing in the house of the Lord at this beatification. It was he who entrusted the world to Divine Mercy and so, I repeat to all his hope: "May God who is rich in mercy bless you!"
To Italians, he said:
As I extend my best wishes to all students who have just begun the academic year, I express my appreciation for the campaign started by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul called "Fatemi studiare, conviene a tutti" (Let me study - it will be good for everyone).
In the spirit of St. Vincent, whom we remembered in the liturgy yesterday, this initiative aims to prevent the poverty of illiteracy.
I wish everyone a good month of October, month of the Holy Rosary, during which, God willing, I will make a pilgrimage to the Shrine in Pompeii on Sunday, October 19.
| 01/10/2008 18.25
|AUDIENCE OF 10/1/08
Catechesis #6 on St. Paul
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today in St. Peter's Square. He continues his present teaching cycle on St. Paul.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The respect and veneration that St. Paul always cultivated for the Twelve Apostles were not any less when he defended with frankness the truth of the Gospel, which is none other than Jesus Christ, the Lord.
We wish today to consider two episodes which demonstrate the veneration and, at the same time, the freedom with which the Apostle Paul addressed Cephas (Peter) and the other Apostles: the so-called 'Council' of Jerusalem and the incident at Antioch of Syria, reported in the Letter to the Galatians (cfr 2,1-10; 2,11-14).
Every Council and Synod of the Church is 'an event of the Spirit' and represents the collective judgments of all the People of God - those who received the gift of participating in the Second Vatican Council experienced this personally.
Thus, St. Luke, informing us about the first Council of the Church, which took place in Jerusalem, introduced the letter which the Apostles sent under those circumstances to the Christian communities in diaspora, in this manner: "'It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us..."(At 15,28).
The Spirit, who operates in the whole Church, leads the Apostles by the hand in undertaking new paths to realize his plans: it is he who is the principal artisan in the edification of the Church.
And yet, the assembly of Jerusalem took place at a time of not insignificant tension within the original (Christian) community. It had to do with whether circumcision should be required of pagans who were professing adherence to Jesus Christ, the Lord; or whether it would be licit to consider them unbound by Mosaic Law - that is, the observance of the [Jewish] norms for being 'just men' who comply with the Law - and above all, whether they were free of the Jewish norms governing ritual purification, pure and impure foods, and the Sabbath.
St. Paul himself refers to the Jerusalem assembly in Gal 2,1-10. Fourteen years after his encounter with the Risen Lord in Damascus -
we are now in the second half of the decade of the 40s after Christ - Paul leaves with Barnabas from Antioch of Syria, and is accompanied by Titus, his faithful collaborator who, although of Greek origin, did not have to be circumcised upon entering the Church.
On this occasion, Paul explains to the Twelve, defined as the persons most appropriate to be consulted on the matter, his gospel about freedom from the (Mosaic) Law (cfr Gal 2,6).
In the light of his encounter with the Risen Christ, he understood that at the moment of passage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pagans no longer need circumcision, dietary laws and (observance of) the Sabbath, as signs of being just: Christ is our justice, and 'just' is everyone who conforms to him. No other signs are needed to be considered just.
In the Letter to the Galatians, he describes in some lines how the Jerusalem assembly went. Enthusiastically, he recalls that the gospel of freedom from the Law was approved by James, Cephas and John, the 'pillars', who offered the right hand of ecclesial communion to him and Barnabas (cfr Gal 2,9).
If, as we noted, for Luke the Council of Jerusalem expressed the action of the Holy Spirit, for Paul, it represented the decisive acknowledgment of the freedom shared by all those who took part: a freedom from the obligations deriving from circumcision and the Law -
that freedom for which "Christ liberated us so that we may remain free" and so we may no longer allow the yoke of slavery to be imposed on us (cfr Gal 5,1).
The two modalities with which Paul and Luke describe the assembly in Jerusalem have in common the liberating action of the Spirit, because "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there freedom is", Paul would say in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cfr 3,17).
Nonetheless, as it appears with great clarity in the Letters of St. Paul, Christian freedom is never identical to libertinage, the arbitrary freedom to do as we please.
Christian freedom is realized in conformity with Christ, and therefore in authentic service for our brothers, especially those who are most needy.
That is why Paul's account of the assembly closes with a reminder of the recommendation that he addressed to the Apostles: "Only, we were to be mindful of the poor, which is the very thing I was eager to do" (Gal 2,10).
Every Council is born from the Church and turns back to the Church. On that occasion, it turned back with attention for the poor, which, from Paul's comments in his Letters, meant, above all, those belonging to the Church of Jerusalem.
In his concern for the poor, attested in particular in the second Letter to the Corinthians (cfr 8-9), and in the concluding part of the Letter to the Romans (cfr Rm 15), Paul shows his faithfulness to the decisions that had matured in the (Jerusalem) assembly.
Perhaps we are no longer able to fully comprehend the significance that Paul and his communities attributed to collecting money for the poor of Jerusalem. It was an initiative that was completely new in the panorama of religious activities (known till then): it was not obligatory, but free and spontaneous.
All the Churches founded by Paul in the West took part in it. The collection expressed the debt owed by these communities to the mother Church in Palestine, from whom they had received the unutterable gift of the Gospel.
Paul attached so much value to this gesture of sharing that he rarely called it simply 'collection' - for him it was rather 'service', 'blessing', 'love', 'grace', even 'liturgy' (2 Cor 9).
Particularly surprising is that last term, which confers on the collection of money a cultural value as well: on the one hand, it is a liturgical gesture or 'service', offered by every community to God; on the other, it is an act of love done for the benefit of the people.
Love for the poor and divine liturgy go together - love for the poor is liturgy. The two horizons are present in every liturgy celebrated and lived within the Church, which by its nature opposes separation between worship and life, between faith and good works, between prayer and charity for our brothers.
Thus, the Council of Jerusalem started out to discuss the question of how to deal with pagans joining the faith - choosing to free them from circumcision and observances imposed by Mosaic Law, and ended with the ecclesial and pastoral decision that the Church must be centered on faith in Jesus Christ, and love for the poor of Jerusalem and of the whole church.
The second episode is the well-known incident in Antioch of Syria, which attests to the interior freedom that Paul enjoyed: how to act during communion at table among believers of Jewish origin and Gentiles.
What emerges is the other epicenter of Mosaic observance: the distinction between pure and impure foods, which profoundly divided observant Jews from the pagans.
Initially, Cephas-Peter shared the meal with one or the other. But with the arrival of some Christians connected to James, 'the brother of the Lord' (Gal 1,19), Peter started to avoid contacts at table with the pagans, in order not to scandalize those who continued to observe the laws of dietary purity, a choice which was shared by Barnabas.
This profoundly divided the Christians who had been circumcised and those who had been pagan. This behavior, which genuinely threatened the unity and freedom of the Church, aroused a heated reaction from Paul who came to accuse Peter and the others of hypocrisy: "If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Gal 2,14).
Actually, they had different preoccupations - Paul, on the one hand; Peter and Barnabas, on the other. For the latter, separation from the pagans represented a way to protect and not scandalize believers who had come from Judaism. For Paul, instead, it meant the danger of misunderstanding (the idea of) universal salvation in Christ which is offered to Jews as well as pagans.
If justification can be realized only by virtue of faith in Christ, of conformity to him, without any working of the Law, what sense was there in continuing to observe dietary purity when sharing the (Communion) meal?
Very likely, Peter and Paul's perspectives were different: for the first, it was not to lose the Jews who had adhered to Christ's Gospel; for the second, it was not to diminish the redemptive value of the death of Christ for all believers.
Strangely, when writing to the Christians of Rome some years later (around the middle of the 50s decade A.D.), Paul found himself in an analogous situation and he would ask the 'strong' not to eat impure food in order not to lose or scandalize the 'weak': "It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble" (Rom 14, 21).
So the incident at Antioch was a lesson for Peter as well as for Paul. Only sincere dialog, open to the truth of the Gospel, can orient the path of the Church: "The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit" (Rom 14,17).
It is a lesson that we, too, should learn: With the different charisms given to Peter and to Paul let us all be guided by the Holy Spirit, seeking to live in that freedom which finds its orientation in faith in Christ and is made concrete by service to our brothers.
What is essential is to conform always to Christ. It is thus that one becomes truly free, and that we ourselves express the most profound nucleus of the Law: love for God and neighbor.
Let us pray the Lord that he teach us to share his sentiments, to learn from him true freedom and evangelical love which embraces every human being.
In English, he said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider two events which illustrate Paul’s relationship to the Twelve, which combined respect for their authority with frankness in the service of the Gospel.
At the Council of Jerusalem Paul defended before the Twelve his conviction that the grace of Christ had freed the Gentiles from the obligations of the Mosaic Law.
Significantly, the Church’s decision in this matter of faith was accompanied by a gesture of concrete concern for the needs of the poor (cf. Gal 2:10).
By endorsing Paul’s collections among the Gentiles, the Council thus set its teaching on Christian freedom within the context of the Church’s communion in charity.
Later, in Antioch, when Peter, to avoid scandalizing Jewish Christians, abstained from eating with the Gentiles, Paul rebuked him for compromising the freedom brought by Christ (cf. Gal 2:11-14).
Yet, writing to the Romans years later, Paul himself insisted that our freedom in Christ must not become a source of scandal for others (cf. Rom 14:21).
Paul’s example shows us that, led by the Spirit and within the communion of the Church, Christians are called to live in a freedom which finds its highest expression in service to others.
I offer a warm welcome to the new students of the Pontifical Irish College. May your priestly formation in the Eternal City prepare you to be generous and faithful servants of God’s People in your native land.
I also greet the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary on the occasion of their General Chapter. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims, especially those from Ireland, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and the United States, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/10/2008 23.27]
| 05/10/2008 16.54
|ANGELUS OF 10/5/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today:
Dear brothers and sisters:
This morning, the Holy Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls marked the start of the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be held at the Vatican over the nest three weeks on the theme "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church".
You know the value and function of this particular assembly of bishops, who were chosen to represent the entire episcopate and have been convoked to bring effective assistance to Peter's Successor, at the same time manifesting and consolidating ecclesial communion.
It is an important organism instituted in September 1965 by my venerated predecessor, the Servant of God Paul VI (cfr Lett. ap. motu proprio data "Apostolica sollicitudo"), during the last phase of the Second Vatican Council, in accordance with a recommendation contained in the Decree on the Ministry of Bishops (cfr Decr. Christus Dominus, 5).
These are the objectives of the Synod of Bishops: to favor close unity and collaboration between the Pope and the Bishops of the whole world; to furnish direct and precise information on the situation and problems of the Church; to facilitate agreement on doctrine and pastoral action; to deal with matters of great importance and relevance.
These diverse tasks are coordinated by a Permanent Secretariat which works directly under the immediate authority of the Bishop of Rome.
The synodal dimension is constitutive of the Church. It consists in coming together from every people and culture to become one in Christ and to walk together after him who said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14,6).
In fact, the Greek word 'synodos'- composed of the preposition 'syn' (with), and 'odos', meaning way or road - suggests the idea of 'walking together', which is the precise experience of the People of God in the history of salvation.
For the Ordinary General Assembly which began today, I chose, after getting authoritative opinions about it, as the theme to be examined in depth the Word of God in the pastoral perspective, in the life and mission of the Church.
The local Churches around the world had ample participation in the preparatory phase, having sent their contributions to the Secretariat of the Synod, which on this basis prepared the Instrumentum laboris
, the document which will be discussed by the 253 Synodal fathers: 51 from Africa, 62 from the Americas, 41 from Asia, 90 from Europe, and 9 from Oceania.
In addition, there will be a number of experts and auditors, men and women, as well as fraternal delegates from the other churches and ecclesial communities, and some specially invited persons.
Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you all to support the work of the Synod with your prayers, specially invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who was the perfect Disciple of the Divine Word.
After the Angelus, he said:
Tonight, a singular initiative entitled "The Bible night and day', promoted by RAI (Italian state TV), will be realized.
It involves the continuous reading of the entire Bible for seven days and seven nights, starting today until Saturday, October 11, broadcast live on television.
The broadcasts will originate from the Roman Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, with some 1,200 readers from 50 different nations, some chosen according to ecumenical criteria, and many from voluntary applicants.
This event complements the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God, and I myself will start the readings, from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. tonight on RAI-1.
This way, the Word of God may enter homes to accompany the life of families and individuals - a seed which, if well received, cannot fail to bear abundant fruits.
This was his greeting in English:
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Sunday Angelus prayer.
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his death at the hands of those who did not heed the voice of God and progressively closed their hearts to truth, justice and love.
Let us pray with confidence that the Lord will guide our steps and grant us patience and constancy in doing God’s holy will!
I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!
| 08/10/2008 23.26
|AUDIENCE OF 10/8/08
Catechesis #7 on St. Paul
In his catechesis at the General Audience today, the Holy Father spoke on St. Paul's relation with the historical Jesus. Here is a translation:
Illustration in 10/908 OR for this catechesis. Artwork not identified
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the last catecheses on St. Paul, I spoke of his encounter with the Risen Christ, which profoundly changed his life, and then his relations with the twelve Apostles called by Jesus - particularly with James, Kephas/Peter and John - and his relation with the Church of Jerusalem.
Now there is the question of what Paul knew about the earthly Jesus, his life, his teachings, his passion.
Before getting into this, it may be useful to bear in mind that St. Paul himself distinguishes two modes of knowing Jesus, and more generally, two modes of knowing a person.
He writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "From now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer" (5,16).
To know 'according to the flesh', in a physical way, means to know only in an exterior way, with exterior criteria: one can see a person several times, know his features and the different details of his behavior - how he talks, how he moves, etc. Nevertheless, even if we know another person in this way, we do not really know him, we do not know the nucleus of the person.
In fact, the Pharisees and the Sadducees knew Jesus in an exterior way, they learned his teaching, so many details about him, but they did not know him in his truth.
There is an analogous distinction in a statement made by Jesus. After the Transfiguration, he asks the apostles: "Who do people say I am?" and "Who will you say that I am?"
The people knew him, but superficially; they knew many things about him, but they did not really know him. On the contrary, the Twelve, thanks to friendship that involves the heart, at least understood his essence and had started to know Jesus.
Even today there exist these two modes of knowledge. There are well-educated persons who know Jesus in many details, and simple persons who do not know these details, but have known him in his truth: "heart speaks to heart".
Paul wants to tell us he knew Jesus that way: with the heart, and in this way, to know the person essentially in his truth; only later, to get to know details.
That said, the question remains: what did St. Paul know of the concrete life, the words, the passion, the miracles of Jesus? It seems certain that he never met him during his earthly life. Through the Apostles and the early Church, he surely learned of details about that life.
In his Letters, we can find three forms of references to the pre-Paschal Jesus. In the first place, there are explicit and direct references.
Paul speaks of the Davidic ancestry of Jesus (cfr Rm 1,3); he knows the existence of his 'brothers' or blood relatives (1 Cor 9,5; Gal 1,19); he knows the events of the Last Supper (cfr 1 Cor 11,23); he knows other statements by Jesus, for example, about the indissolubility of matrimony (cfr 1 Cor 7,10; Mk 10,11-12); on the necessity that whoever announces the Gospel should be maintained by the community as a worker worthy of his keep (cfr 1 Cor 9,14); Lk 10,7).
Paul knows the words said by Jesus at the last Supper (cfr 1 Cor 11,24-25; Lk 22,19-20, and he even knows the Cross of Jesus. These are direct references to the words and events in the life of Jesus.
In the second place, we can see in some sentences of the Pauline letters various allusions to the tradition attested to by the synoptic Gospels.
For example, the words which we read in the first Letter to the Thessalonians, according to which "the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night" (5,2), cannot be explained by referring to Old Testament prophecies, because the metaphor of the thief in the night is only found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, therefore it comes directly from synoptic tradition.
So, when we read that "God chose the foolish of the world..." (1 Cor 1,27-28), we hear the faithful echo of Jesus's teaching on the simple and the poor (cfr Mt 5,3; 11,25; 19,30).
Then, there are the words pronounced by Jesus in Messianic rejoicing: "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, because you have kept these hidden from the wise and to the intelligent, and have revealed them to the little ones".
Paul knows - it is his missionary experience - how true these words are, that it is the simple who have their hearts open to Jesus.
Even the reference to Jesus being obedient 'unto death' that we read in Phil 2,8, cannot but hark back to the total willingness of the earthly Jesus to fulfill the will of his Father (cfr Mk 3,55; Jn 4,34).
Thus Paul knew about the Passion of Jesus, his Cross, the way he lived the last moments of his life, The Cross of Jesus and the tradition about the event on the Cross is at the center of the Pauline kerygma (announcement).
Another pillar of Jesus's life that was known to St. Paul is the Sermon on the Mount, of which he cites some elements almost to the letter when he writes to the Romans: "Love one another... Blessed are those who are persecuted.. Live in peace with everyone.. Conquer evil with good..." So, in his letters, there is a faithful reflection of the Sermon on the Mount (cfr Mt 5-7).
Finally, it is possible to find a third way in which Jesus's words are present in the Letters of St. Paul: it is when he works a sort of transposition in the pre-paschal tradition and the situation after Easter.
A typical case is the subject of the Kingdom of God. That is certainly in the center of the preaching of the historical Jesus (cfr Mt 3,2; Mk 1,15; Lc 4,43). In Paul we can see a transposition of this theme, because after the Resurrection, it is evident that Jesus in person, the Risen Jesus, is the Kingdom of God.
Thus the Kingdom arrives wherever Jesus is. Thus necessarily, the subject of the Kingdom of God, in which the mystery of Christ was anticipated, is transformed to Christology [knowledge of Jesus].
Nonetheless, the very same conditions Christ stated for entering the Kingdom of God were exactly the same for Paul in justification through faith: both entrance into the Kingdom and justification require an attitude of great humility and willingness, free of presumptions, in order to receive the grace of God.
For example, the parable of the Pharisee and the publican (cfr Lk 18,9014) imparts a teaching that is found as such in Paul, when he insists on the obligatory exclusion of any boasting before God.
Even Jesus's statement on publicans and prostitutes, who were more willing to accept the Gospel (cfr Mt 21,31; Lk 7,36-50), and his choices to share a meal with them (cfr Mt 9,10-13; Lk 15,1-2), finds full correspondence in Paul's doctrine of God's merciful love towards sinners (cfr Rm 5,8-10; Eph 2,3-5).
Thus, the theme of the Kingdom of God is proposed in a new form, but always in complete faithfulness to the tradition of the historical Jesus.
Another example of the faithful transformation of the doctrinal nucleus intended by Jesus is found in the 'titles' used to refer to him. Before Easter, he called himself the Son of Man; after Easter, it becomes evident that the Son of Man is also the Son of God. That is why the title preferred by Paul to define Jesus is Kýrios - Lord -(cfr Phil 2,9-11), which indicates the divinity of Jesus.
On the Mount of Olives, at the moment of Jesus's supreme agony (cfr Mk 14,36), the disciples, before falling asleep, heard him speak to the Father, calling him 'Abba' - Father. It is a very informal term equivalent to our 'Papa', used only by children with their father.
Up till then, it was unthinkable that a Jew could use such a term for addressing God. But Jesus, being True Son, speaks thus at this hour of intimacy, and says "Abbà", Father.
In the Letters of St. Paul to the Romans and to the Galatians, surprisingly this word Abba, which expresses the exclusivity of the Son-ship of Jesus, appears on the mouths of the baptized (cfr Rm 8,15; Gal 4,6), because they had received the 'Spirit of the Son' and therefore carried that Spirit within, and could speak, like Jesus and with Jesus, as true sons to their Father - they could say "Abbà" because they had become children in the Son.
Finally, I wish to point out the salvific dimension of the death of Jesus, which we find in the Gospel passage that "the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10,45); Mt 20,28).
The faithful reflection of this statement by Jesus appears in the Pauline doctrine about the death of Jesus as ransom (cfr 1 Cor 6,20), as redemption (cfr Rm 3,24), as liberation (cfr Gal 5,1) and as reconciliation (cfr Rm 5,10; 2 Cor 5,18-20). Here is the center of Pauline theology which is based on the words of Jesus.
In conclusion, St. Paul did not think of Jesus as a historical figure, as a person of the past. He certainly knew the great tradition about the life, words, death and resurrection of Jesus, but he does not treat all this as a thing of the past. He proposes them as the reality of the living Christ.
For Paul, the words and acts of Jesus do not belong to historic time, to the past. Jesus lives now and speaks to us now, and lives with us. This is the true way to know Jesus and to accept the tradition about him.
Even we should learn to know Jesus not 'according to flesh', as a person of the past, but as our Lord and brother, who is with us today and who shows us how to live and how to die.
In English, he said:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider Paul’s relationship to the so-called "historical" Jesus.
In a celebrated passage Paul states that "even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we no longer know him in that way" (2 Cor 5:16). Here the Apostle does not claim that he knew Jesus during his earthly ministry, but rather that he once considered Jesus from a merely human standpoint.
Significantly, Paul’s knowledge of Christ came from the preaching of the early Church. Both his initial rejection of Jesus and – after his conversion on the road to Damascus – his preaching of the glorified Christ were based on the Gospel as proclaimed by the first Christian community.
In his Letters, Paul refers explicitly to the facts of Jesus’s earthly life, as well as to his teaching. His Letters also reflect many central themes and images drawn from the preaching of Jesus.
Paul’s teaching on Jesus’s identity as the Son of the Father, in whom we receive redemption and adoptive sonship, is clearly derived from the Lord’s own experience and teaching. In a word, Paul’s knowledge of Jesus and his proclamation of the risen Lord as God’s Son and our Saviour, was grounded in the life and preaching of Jesus himself.
I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims, and in a special way, diaconal candidates from the Pontifical North American College with their families: may the grace of Holy Orders enliven you to preach the Gospel of Christ with conviction and love! I also welcome pilgrims from the Diocese of Hamilton, members of Christ Teens Malaysia, ecumenical pilgrims from Norway, as well as visitors from Indonesia, China, Japan, Australia, Sweden, England, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands. God bless you all!
He had special messages for the Italian pilgrims:
...I greet the faithful from the Diocese of Savona-Noli who have come with their Pastor, Mons. Vittorio Lupi, and with priests and civilian authorities, to return the visit that I had the joy of making last May, in the ever-living memory of the presence there of my illustrious predecessor Pius VII, to whom the Savonesi have constantly shown their affection. Dear friends, thank you once again for the hospitality that you extended to me. I call on you to continue being generous witnesses for Christ.
I likewise address a heartfelt thought to the participants of the pilgrimage promoted by the diocese of Vigevano and the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Queen of Peace, on the occasion of the beatification of the priest Francesco Pianzola.
A wise preacher, he knew how to renew hearts with the light of the Gospel and the power of the Eucharist, from which he drew that ardor for charity which made him particularly attentive to the needs of young people, becoming their friend, brother and father.
Dear friends, emulate the example of the new Blessed One and like him, be luminous signs of the presence of Christ, through a convincing faithfulness to the Church...
Finally, I greet the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear brothers and sisters, the month of October, dedicated to the Holy Rosary, is a precious occasion to appreciate this traditional Marian prayer. I call on everyone to recite the Rosary every day, abandoning yourself trustingly in the hands of Mary.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 08/10/2008 23.35]
| 12/10/2008 20.16
|ANGELUS OF 10/12/08
Posted earlier in
NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's multi-lingual message before the Angelus today:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Before we conclude this celebration with the recital of the Angelus, I wish to address my greetings to the pilgrims who have come from various places to pay homage to our new saints.
In English, he said:
I cordially greet the English-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Official Delegation from India, and all those who have come to celebrate the canonization of Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception.
Her heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial.
As the Christian faithful of India give thanks to God for their first native daughter to be presented for public veneration, I wish to assure them of my prayers during this difficult time.
Commending to the providential care of Almighty God those who strive for peace and reconciliation, I urge the perpetrators of violence to renounce these acts and join with their brothers and sisters to work together in building a civilization of love. God bless you all!
In German, he said:
I joyously welcome all the German-speaking faithful, especially the official delegation and the numerous pilgrims from Switzerland, as well as the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mariahilf.
St. Maria Bernarda dedicated her entire life to the Lord. She became an instrument of the love of God, whom she announced to the ends of the earth.
In her example we, too, wish to act in order to bring the God of love and hope to men. To this end, may the Lord grant you the fullness of his graces.
In Spanish, he said:
I address a warm greeting to the pilgrims who came to Rome to participate in the joyous celebration of proclaiming our new saints, especially to the Archbishops and Bishops who accopmany them, to the Sister Missionaries of Mary Help of Christians, and to the delegations and other authorities from Colombia and Ecuador who are here to represent those lands that are so fertile in the fruits of sanctity.
May the new saints intercede for all their fellow citizens of today so that, following the saints' examples of consistency in the faith and charity towards their brothers, they may constantly bear witness to the love of Christ for all men, thus bringing new vigor to the Christian roots of their countries, and illuminating the construction of a soiety that is more just and fraternally solid, inspired by the values of the Gospel. Many thanks.
He next spoke in French:
I heartily greet the French-speaking pilgrims. Today, following the call of the Lord and the example of the saints who have just been canonized, we are led, at the crossroads, to be daring witnesses to the Word of God in order to invite to the wedding banquet of the Gospel all those whom we meet.
May our prayers go with the General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod during the duration of their work. With my Apostolic Blessing...
In Polish, he said:
Among the participants at these solemn canonization rites, I greet the pilgrims from Poland. Your country today celebrates the day dedicated to the memory of my beloved predecessor, John Paul II. I bless every intiative that commemorates his figure. In prayer, I entrust you all to God.
He concluded in Italian:
Finally, my heartfelt greeting to Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the spiritual sons of St. Gaetano Errico and the faithful coming from Naples and Campania.
Dear friends, in the lives of the saints, one always finds the strong spiritual presence of the Virgin Mary. I am happy to note, in this month of October, their attachment to praying the Rosary as a means of daily union with Jesus, as a source of inspriation and comfort, and as an instrument of intercession for the needs of the Church according to the Pope's intentions.
In this regard, I invite you all to pray for reconciliation and peace in some situations which have caused alarm and great sufferings. I think of the people of Northern Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the violences against Christians in Iraq and India, whom I remember daily to the Lord.
Let us invoke the protection of Mary, Queen of Saints, for these, as well as for the work of the Bishops' Synod meeting these days at the Vatican.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 12/10/2008 20.17]
| 15/10/2008 20.22
|AUDIENCE OF 10/15/08
Catechesis #8, Pauline Year cycle
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today on "The ecclesiastical dimension in the thinking of St. Paul."
Dear brothers and sisters,
In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of St. Paul's relationship with the pre-Paschal Jesus in his earthly life. The question was, "What did Paul know about the life of Jesus, his words, and his Passion?"
Today, I wish to speak about St. Paul's teachings on the Church. We should start from the observation that this word, 'chiesa' in Italian - 'eglise' in French, 'Iglesia' in Spanish - is taken from the Greek word "ekklēsía".
It comes from the Old Testament and meant the assembly of the people of Israel, called together by God, in particular, the exemplary assembly at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
This word now means the new community of believers in Christ, who feel themselves to bethe assembly of God, the new convocation of all the peoples before God, by God himself.
The word ekklēsía
then appears in the writing of Paul, who is the first author of a Christian writing. This is found in the incipit (start) of the Letter to the Thessalonians, which Paul textually addresses "To the Church of the Thessalonians" (cfr afterwards 'the Church of the Laodiceans' in Col 4,16).
In other Letters, he speaks of the Church of God that is in Corinth (1 Cor 1,2; 2 Cor 1,1), in Galatia (Gal 1,2 ecc.) – local Churches, in short - but he also writes of having persecuted 'the Church of God' - not a specific local community, but 'the Church of God'.
So we see that the word "Church' has a pluridimensional meaning: on the one hand, it indicates the assemblies of God in specific places (a city, a country, a house), but it also means the whole Church in its entirety.
We see then that 'the Church of God' is not merely the sum of different local Churches, but that the different local Churches are, in turn, a realization of the one Church of God. Altogether they are 'the Church of God', which precedes the individual local Churches, and which is expressed and realized in them.
It is important to note that almost always, the word 'Church' appears with the added qualification 'of God' - it is not a human association, born of common ideas or interests, but a convocation by God.
He has called peoples together (convoked them) and therefore, it is one in all its manifestations. The unity of God creates the unity of the Church in all the places where it is found.
Later, in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul would elaborate abundantly on the concept of unity in the Church, in continuity with the concept of the People of God, Israel, considered by the prophets as 'the spouse of God' and called on to live a spousal relation with Him.
Paul presents the one Church of God as 'the bride of Christ' in love - one body and one spirit with Christ himself.
It is known how the young Paul had been a dogged adversary of the new movement constituted by the Church of Christ. He was its adversary because he saw that this new movement threatened loyalty to the tradition of the People of God, inspired by faith in the one God. Such loyalty was expressed above all in circumcision, in the observance of the rules for ritual purity, in the abstention from certain foods, in respect for the Sabbath.
The Israelis had paid for this loyalty with the blood of martyrs, during the period of the Maccabees, when the Hellenistic regime obligated all peoples to conform to the one Hellenistic culture. Many Israelites had defended Israel's own calling with their blood. The martyrs paid with their lives to keep the identity of their people, which was expressed through those particular elements.
After his encounter with the Risen Lord, Paul understood that Christians were not traitors; that, on the contrary, in the new situation, the God of Israel, through Christ, had extended his call to all peoples, becoming the God of all peoples.
This was the way of loyalty to the one God. It was no longer necessary to show distinctive signs by specific norms and observances, because everyone is called, in their variety, to be part of the one people of God, of the 'Church of God' in Christ.
One thing was immediately clear to Paul about the new situation: the fundamental and founding value of Christ and the 'word' that he announced. Paul knew not only that one does not become Christian through coercion, but that in the internal configuration of the new community, the institutional component was inevitably linked to the living 'word', to announcing the living Christ in whom God opens himself to all peoples and unites them in the one People of God.
It is emblematic that Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, uses several times, even in reference to Paul, the syntagma (sequence of words) "announce the word" (Acts 4,29.31; 8,25; 11,19; 13,46; 14,25; 16,6.32), with the evident intention of highlighting maximally the decisive weight of the 'word' announced.
Concretely, this word is made up of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ, in which the Scriptures had been realized. The Paschal mystery, which had caused Paul's life to change on the road to Damascus, is obviously at the center of the Apostle's preaching (cfr 1 Cor 2,2;15,14).
This mystery, announced in the word, is realized in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, and becomes reality in Christian charity. Paul's evangelizing work had no other end but to firmly implant the community of believers in Christ.
This idea is contained in the etymology itself of the word ekklēsía, which Paul, and with him, all Christianity, preferred to the other term 'synagogue' - not just because, originally, the first term is more secular (having come from the Greek practice of political assemblies which were not religious), but because it directly implies the more theological idea of a call ab extra
, from outside, therefore, not a simple gathering together. Rather, believers are called by God, who brings them together in one community, his Church.
Along this line, we can also understand the original concept, exclusively Pauline, of the Church as 'the Body of Christ". One must keep in mind that the concept has two dimensions.
One is a sociological character, according to which the body is made up of its components and would not exist without them. This interpretation appears in the Letter to the Romans and the first Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul adapts an image that already existed in Roman sociology: He says that a people is like a body with different members, which each has its function, and that everything, including the smallest and apparently most insignificant part, is necessary so that the body can live and carry out its functions.
At the same time, the Apostle observes that in the Church, there are so many vocations: prophets, apostles, teachers, simple people - all called to live every day in charity, all necessary to make up the living unity of this spiritual organism.
The other interpretation refers to the Body of Christ himself. Paul maintains that the Church is not just an organism, but truly becomes the Body of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist, where we all receive his Body and we really become his Body.
Thus is realized the spousal mystery that everyone becomes one body and one spirit in Christ. Thus, reality goes far beyond the sociological image, expressing its true profound essence, namely, the unity of all who are baptized in Christ, whom the apostle considered 'one' in Christ, conformed to the sacrament of his Body.
Saying this, Paul shows he knows well - and makes us all understand -that the Church is neither his nor ours: the Church is the Body of Christ, it is the 'Church of God', "field of God, edifice of God... temple of God" (1 Cor 3,9.16).
This last designation is particularly interesting, because it attributes to a whole fabric of interpersonal relationships a term that commonly served to refer to a physical place considered sacred.
The relationship between Church and temple thus assumes two complementary dimensions: on the one hand, it confers on the ecclesial community the characteristic of separateness and purity which are attributes of a sacred place; but on the other hand, it goes beyond the idea of a material space, to transfer its valency to the reality of a living community of faith.
If originally, temples were considered places with the presence of God, now it is known and seen that God does not inhabit edifices made of stone, but that the place of God's presence in the world is the living community of believers.
The description 'the people of God' deserves a separate discourse. In Paul it substantially applies to the people of the Old Testament, and then to the pagans, who were the 'non-people', but who had also become the people of God, thanks to their insertion in Christ through the word and the sacraments.
Finally, one last nuance. In the Letter to Timothy, Paul describes the Church as 'house of God' (1 Tim 3,15). This is a truly original definition, because it refers to the Church as a communitarian structure in which there are warm inter-personal relationships of a familial character.
The Apostle helps us to understand ever more deeply the mystery of the Church in its different dimensions as the assembly of God in the world.
This is the greatness of the Church and the greatness of our calling. We are the temple of God in the world, the place where God truly lives; and at the same time, we are also a community, the family of God, who is Love.
As family and house of God, we must realize God's charity in the world, and thus become, with the power that comes from faith, both the place as well as the sign of his presence.
Let us pray to the Lord so that he may grant us to be ever more his Church, his Body, the place where his charity is present in this world and in our history.
This is how he synthesized the catechesis in English:
In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on the Church.
It was "the Church of God" which Paul persecuted before his conversion, and throughout his Letters he uses the term "Church" both with reference to local Christian communities and to the Church as a whole.
For Paul, faith in the person of Jesus Christ and his Gospel is at the heart of the Church. Paul’s entire work of evangelization, centred on the proclamation of the Paschal mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, was aimed at establishing new communities of those who believe in the Lord and share in the life of the Spirit.
The Church thus takes shape as an "ekklesía", a concrete assembly called into being by God’s word. For Paul, the Church is also the "Body of Christ", a living body endowed with a complex of ministries which are spiritual in their origin and purpose.
In the variety and the theological richness of his teaching on the Church, Paul invites us to understand and love the Church ever more deeply, and to work for her upbuilding in faith and charity.
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience including the members of the English and Welsh Bishops’ Committee for Christian Unity and the representation of government officials from the Philippines. I also greet the Mill Hill missionaries, and school groups present from England and Scotland.
May your visit to Rome strengthen your commitment to share God’s word with others. Upon all of you, I invoke the Lord’s blessings of peace and joy.
He had a special message for Polish pilgrims:
I warmly greet all the Poles who have come to visit the tomb of the Servant of God John Paul II, on the anniversary of his election to the Chair of Peter (Oct. 16, 1978). In thanking you for your presence, I also join you all spiritually in your prayers at his tomb.
I also greet the pilgrims from Bialystok who have come here in gratitude for the beatification of Fr. Michał Sopoćko. I bless you all from my heart. Praise be to Jesus Christ.
And in his final greeting to Italians:
Dear friends, we celebrate today the feast of St. Teresa of Avila. May this great saint testify to you, dear young people, that authentic love cannot be separated from truth. And may she show you, dear people who are afflicted, that the Cross of Christ is they mystery of redemptive love. And to the newlyweds, look on her as a model of faithfulness to God, who entrusts to each of us a special mission.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 15/10/2008 20.23]
| 23/10/2008 02.42
|ANGELUS OF 10/19/08
Dear brothers and sisters,
After the solemn Eucharistic celebration and the traditional 'Supplica' to Our Lady of Pompeii, let us once again turn our gaze on Mary, as we do every Sunday at this time, in the recital of the Angelus, and entrust to her the intentions of the Church and mankind.
Let us pray in particular for for the Ordinary General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod which is taking place in Rome on the theme of "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church", that it may bear fruits of authentic renewal in every Christian community.
Another special prayer intention is offered to us by the observance today of World Missionary Day which, in this Pauline Year, proposes for our meditation a famous statement by the Apostle of the Gentiles: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9,1 6).
In this month of October, month of the missions and of the Rosary, how many faithful and how many communities are offering the Holy Rosary for missionaries and evangelization!
I am particularly happy to be here today, on this occasion, in Pompeii, the most important shrine dedicated to the Virgin of the Holy Rosary.
This gives me the opportunity to underscore very forcefully that the first missionary task for each of us is prayer itself. Above all, it is by praying that we open the way for the Gospel. It is by praying that we open our hearts to the mystery of God and our spirit to receive his Word of salvation.
There is yet another happy coincidence today: right now, in Lisieux, beatification rites are taking place for Louis Martin and Zelie Guerin, parents of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, who was declared patroness of Missions by Pope Pius XI.
These new Blessed Ones accompanied and shared, with their prayer and their evangelical testimony, the path of their daughter who was called by the Lord to consecrate herself to him without reservations behind the walls of a Carmelite monastery.
It was there, behind cloistered walls, that St. Therese realized her vocation: "In the heart of the Church, I will be love" (Manuscrits autobiographiques, Lisieux 1957, 229).
Thinking of the beatification of the Martin couple, I would also like to bring up another intention which is very close to my heart: the family, whose role is fundamental in the education of children to a universal spirit that is open and responsible towards the world and its problems; and in the formation of vocations for missionary life.
Therefore, almost as though following ideally the pilgrimage which so many families made a month ago to this shrine, let us invoke the maternal protection of Our Lady of Pompeii on all the nuclear families of the world, looking forward also to the VI World Encounter of Families which will take place in Mexico City in January 2009.
He spoke his concluding words in French:
On this World Missionary Day, we join ourselves particularly to the pilgrims gathered in Lisieux for the beatification of Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus, patroness of missions.
Through their life as an exemplary couple, they announced the Gospel of Christ. They lived their faith ardently and transmitted this to their family and those around them.
May their common prayer be a source of joy and hope for all parents and all families.
[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 23/10/2008 02.54]
| 23/10/2008 02.54
|AUDIENCE OF 10/22/08
Catechesis #9, Pauline Year Cycle
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today, on the Christology in St. Paul's teachings.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the catecheses of the past weeks we have meditated on the 'conversion' of St. Paul, fruit of his personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ, and we also looked into what relations the Apostle of the Gentiles had with the earthly Jesus.
Today, I would like to talk about the teaching St. Paul has left us on the centrality of the Risen Christ in the mystery of salvation, and in his Christology.
In fact, Jesus Christ resurrected, "exalted over every name', is at the center of each of his reflections. For the apostle, Christ is the criterion against which to judge events and things, the end of every effort he exerted to announce the Gospel, the great passion that sustained his steps through the roads of the world.
And for him, it was a living and concrete Christ: The Christ, he says, "who loved me and gave himself for me" (gal 2,20). This person who loves me, with whom I can talk, who listens to me and who responds, this is truly the principle to understand the world and to find our way in history.
Whoever has read the writings of St. Paul knows well that he was not concerned with narrating the individual facts of Jesus's life, even if we can think that in his catecheses, he would have recounted much more of the pre-Easter Jesus than what he writes in the Letters, which are admonitions on specific situations.
His pastoral and theological intention was so projected towards building the nascent communities that he spontaneously concentrated everything on the announcement of Jesus as 'Lord', living and present amidst his followers.
From this comes the characteristic essentiality of the Pauline Christology, which develops the profundity of mystery with a constant and precise concern: to announce the living Christ, certainly, and his teaching, but to announce above all the central reality of his death and resurrection, as the culmination of his earthly life and the root of the successive development of the entire Christian faith, of the whole reality of the Church.
For the Apostle, the resurrection is not an event by itself, detached from death: the Risen Lord is always he who was first crucified. Even resurrected, he bears his wounds: the passion is present in him, and we can say with Pascal that he suffers to the end of the world, even as he is the Risen one who lives with us and for us.
Paul understood it - this identity of the Risen Lord and the crucified Christ - in that encounter on the road to Damascus. At that moment, it was revealed to him that the Crucified Jesus is the Resurrected Lord, and vice versa, the same who asked him, "Why do you persecute me?" (acts 9,4).
Paul was persecuting Christ in the Church, and he understood now that the cross is a 'curse of God' (Deut 21,23) but a sacrifice for our redemption.
The Apostle contemplated with fascination the secret of the Crucified-and-Resurrected Christ - that through the suffering experienced by Christ in his humanity (his earthly dimension), he has gone back to that eternal existence in which he is one with the Father (pre-temporal dimension).
"But when the fullness of time had come," he writes, "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption" (Gal 4,4-5).
These two dimensions - the eternal pre-existence with the Father and the descent of the Son through the Incarnation - are already announced in the Old Testament, in the figure of Wisdom.
We find in the Wisdom books of the Old Testament some texts which exalt the role of Wisdom that was pre-existent to the creation of the world. It is in this sense that we must read passages like this from Psalm 90: "Before the mountains were born, the earth and the world brought forth, from eternity to eternity you are God" (v. 2).
Or passages like that which speaks of creative Wisdom: "The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago; From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth" (Prov 8, 22-23).
Also suggestive is the eulogy of Wisdom, contained in the book of Wisdom: "Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well" (Wisdom 8,1).
The same Wisdom texts that speak of the eternal pre-existence of Wisdom, also speak of the descent, the coming down of this Wisdom, which has created a tent over men. So we already hear an echo of the Gospel of John that speaks of the tent of the Lord's flesh.
A tent was created in the Old Testament: it indicated the temple - worship according to the Torah. But from the perspective of the New Testament, we understand that this was only a pre-figuration of the tent that is much more real and significant - the tent of Christ's flesh.
We already see in the books of the Old Testament that this coming down of Wisdom, its descent into flesh, also implies the possibility that it can be rejected.
St. Paul, developing his Christology, refers back precisely to this sapiential perspective: he recognized in Jesus the eternal wisdom that has always existed, the wisdom that came down and creates a tent among us. Thus, he could describe Christ as "the power and wisdom of God". He could say that Christ became for us 'wisdom for the work of God, justice, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1,24-30).
Likewise, Paul clarifies that Christ, like Wisdom, may be rejected, especially by the dominators of this world (cfr 1 Cor 2,6-9), so that in God's plans, a paradoxical situation could be created, the Cross, which would be turned into the way of salvation for the entire human species.
A further development if this sapiential cycle, which sees Wisdom abased to be exalted later despite rejection, we can find in the famous hymn contained in the Letter to the Philippians (cfr 2, 6-11). This is one of the most exalted texts in the New Testament.
NB: For convenience, here are those verses:
6 Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
7 Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance,
8 he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
9 Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Exegetes in the overwhelming majority have agreed to consider this excerpt as a composition that preceded the actual text of the Letter to the Philippians. This is of great importance, because it means that Judeo-Christianity, before St. Paul, already believed in the divinity of Jesus.
In other words, faith in the divinity of Jesus was not a Hellenistic invention that emerged long after the earthly life of Jesus, an invention that, forgetting his humanity, made him divine. We see that the initial Christianity, Judeo-Christianity, believed in the divinity of Jesus.
Indeed, we can say that the Apostles themselves, in the great moments of the life of their Master, understood that he was the Son of God, as Peter said in Caesarea Philippi: "You are Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16).
But let us return to the hymn in the Letter to the Philippians. The structure of the text can be articulated into three parts, which illustrate the principal moments of the trajectory completed by Christ.
His pre-existence is expressed in the words: "Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped" (v. 6); then follows the voluntary abasement of the Son in the second verse: "he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (v. 7), to the point of humiliating himself "becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (v. 8).
The third verse of the hymn announces the response of the Father to the humiliation of the Son: "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name" (v. 9).
What is striking is the contrast between the radical abasement and the consequent glorification in the glory of God. It is obvious that the second verse is in contrast to Adam's presumption in wanting to make himself God, and in contrast also to the act of those who built the Tower of Babel, who wanted to construct by themselves a bridge to heaven and make themselves their own divinities.
But this initiative of arrogance ended in self-destruction. That is not the way to get to heaven, to true happiness, to God.
The actions of the Son of God are the exact opposite: not pride but humility, which is the realization of love - and love is divine. The initiative of abasement, the radical humility of Jesus, in contrast to human pride, is a true expression of divine love. It is followed by that elevation to heaven, to which God draws us with his love.
Beyond the Letter to the Philippians, there are other places in the Pauline literature where the themes of pre-existence and the descent of the Son of God to earth are linked.
A reaffirmation of the assimilation between Wisdom and Christ, with all the connected cosmic and anthropological implications, comes in the first Letter to Timothy: "He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory" (3,16).
It is above all on this premise that one can best define the function of Christ as the unique Mediator, with the background of the one God in the Old Testament (cfr 1 Tm 2,5, in relation to Is 43,10-11; 44,6). It is Christ who is the true bridge that leads to heaven, to communion with God.
Finally, just a reference to the last developments in the Christology of St. Paul, seen in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians. In the first, Christ is described as " the firstborn among all creatures" (1,15-20).
The word 'firstborn' implies that the first among so many sons, the first among so many brothers and sisters, had come down to draw us to him and make us his brothers and sisters.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, we find a beautiful exposition of the divine plan of salvation, when Paul says that in Christ, God wanted to recapitulate everything (cfr Eph 1,23). Thus he implicates us in this movement of descent and ascent, inviting us to take part in his humility - that means, his love for neighbor - so that we may participate in his glorification, becoming with him Children in the Son.
Let us pray that the Lord help us to conform ourselves to his humility. to his love, so that we too, may be made to take part in his divinization.
This is how he synthesized the catechesis in English:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the centrality of Jesus Christ in his teaching. Paul preaches Christ as the crucified and glorified Lord, alive and present within the Church.
He proclaims Christ’s incarnation and exaltation, but also his pre-existence with the Father before all time. His affirmation of Christ’s pre-existence evokes those Old Testament texts which portray God’s Wisdom as being with him before creation and coming down to dwell among men (e.g., Pr 8:22-23).
Paul thus presents Christ as "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24), the centre and fulfilment of the Father’s eternal plan of salvation. The hymn found in his Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6-11) contrasts Christ’s pre-existence "in the form of God" and his subsequent "kenosis" or self-emptying, "even to death, death on a Cross".
Paul also appeals to Christ’s pre-existence and incarnation in proclaiming Jesus as "the one mediator between God and man" (1 Tim 3:16), the firstborn of all creation and the head of the Church (cf. Col 1:15-20).
Paul’s "sapiential" Christology invites us to welcome the salvation offered by the crucified and risen Lord, the Eternal Son, who is the very wisdom and power of God.
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Ghana, Guam, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Canada and the United States. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
In his greetings in other languages, he mentioned World Missionary Day, In Croatian, he said:
Yesterday we celebrated World Missionary Day. It is an invitation for us to renew our active cooperation in the missionary works of the Church.
Be missionaries yourselves of the Good News of Christ, especially through your prayers and works.
And in Italian:
The month of October invites us to renew our active cooperation in the mission of the Church.
With the fresh energies of youth, with the spiritual support of prayer and sacrifice and the potential of conjugal life, be missionaries of the Gospel everywhere, offering your concrete assistance to all who labor to bring it to those who do not know it yet.
| 26/10/2008 15.57
|ANGELUS of 10/26/08
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words before the noontime Angelus today:
Dear brothers and sisters,
With the Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter's Basilica, we concluded this morning the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Bishops' Synod on the theme "The word of God in the life and mission of the Church".
Every Synodal assembly is a powerful experience of ecclesial communion, but this one more so because the center of attention was that which lights and guides the Church: the Word of God, who is Christ himself.
We lived every day in religious attention, conscious of all the grace and beauty of being his disciples and servants.
According to the original meaning of the word 'church', we experienced the joy of being called together by the Word, and, especially in liturgy, we found ourselves walking within it, as in our promised land, that allows us a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven.
An aspect that was much reflected on is the relationship between the Word and words, that is, between the divine Word and the writings that express it.
As the Second Vatican Council teaches in the constitution Dei Verbum
, good Biblical exegesis or interpretation requires both the historico-critical method and the theological, because Sacred Scripture is the Word of God in human words.
This means that every text must be read and interpreted keeping in mind the unity of all Scripture, the living tradition of the Church and the light of faith.
While it is true that the Bible is also a literary work - indeed, it is the great code of universal culture - it is also true that it cannot be stripped of the divine element, but that it must be read in the same Spirit in which it was written.
Scientific exegeses and lectio divina are therefore both necessary and complementary to find, through its literal meaning, the spiritual meaning that God wants to communicate to us.
At the end of the Synodal assembly, the patriarchs of the oriental Churches sent forth an appeal that I also make mine, to call the attention of the international community, of religious leaders and all men of good will, to the tragedy that is devastating some countries in the East, where Christians are victims of intolerance and cruel violations, where they are killed, threatened and forced to leave their homes and wander about in search of refuge.
I refer above all to Iraq and India today. I am sure that the ancient and noble peoples of these nations have learned, in the course or centuries of respectful coexistence, to appreciate the contributions that the small but industrious and able Christian minorities give towards the growth of their common homeland.
They do not ask for privileges but only to continue to live in their own country and together with their fellow citizens, as they have always done before.
I ask the civilian and religious authorities concerned not to spar any effort so that lawfulness and civilian coexistence may soon be restored, and that honest and loyal citizens will know they can count on adequate protection from the institutions of the State.
I therefore hope that civilian and religious authorities in all nations, in the consciousness of their role as leaders and reference points for the population, may carry out significant and explicit acts of friendship and consideration towards the religious minorities - Christian and others - and make the defense of their legitimate rights a point of honor.
I am also happy to inform you who are present here what I announced earlier during the Mass. In October next year, the II Special Assembly of the Bishops Synod for Africa will take place in Rome.
Before that, God willing, in March I intend to visit Africa, first to Cameroon, where I will bring the bishops of the continent the Instrumentum laboris
(working agenda) for the Synod; and then to Angola, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of that nation's evangelization.
Let us entrust the sufferings we earlier recalled, as well as the hopes we carry in our hearts, particularly the prospects for the Synod on Africa, to the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary.
| 30/10/2008 14.07
|AUDIENCE OF 10/29/08
Catechesis #10, Pauline Year Cycle
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis on the Cross as the central point in St. Paul's preaching.
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the personal experience of St. Paul, there is an incontrovertible date. While at the beginning, he was a persecutor and had used violence against Christians, from the moment of his conversion on the road to Damascus, he went over to the side of the Crucified Christ, making him the reason for his life and the purpose of his preaching.
His was an existence completely consumed in behalf of souls (cfr. 2 Cor 12, 15), which was far from tranquil nor safe from snares and difficulties. In the encounter with Jesus, the central significance of the Cross was made clear to him: he understood that Christ died and was resurrected for everyone including himself.
Both things were important: universality – Jesus truly died for everyone; and subjectivity – He died for me, too. In the Cross, then, was manifested God’s freely given and merciful love.
Paul experienced this love in himself above all (cfr Gal 2,20), and from a sinner, he became a believer; from a persecutor, to an apostle.
Day after day, in his new life, he experienced salvation as ‘grace’ - that everything came from the death of Christ and not from his merits, of which, moreover, he said he had none.
Thus the ‘gospel of grace’ became for him the only way of understanding the Cross, the criterion not only for his new existence, but also the answer for his interlocutors.
Among these were, first of all, the Jews who placed their hope in good works and hoped for salvation thereby. And there were the Greeks who opposed their human wisdom to the Cross. Finally, there were the groups of heretics who had formed their own idea of Christianity according to ther respective ways of life.
For St. Paul, the Cross had a fundamental primacy in the history of mankind. It represented the focal point of his theology, because to say Cross meant to say ‘salvation as grace’ given to every creature.
The subject of the Cross of Christ became an essential and primary element in the Apostle’s preaching: the clearest example had to do with the community of Corinth.
In the face of a Church where disorders and scandals were most disturbingly present, where communion was threatened by parties and internal divisions that cracked the unity of the Body of Christ, Paul presented himself not with sublime or 'wise' words, but with the announcement of Christ, the crucified Christ.
His strength was not in persuasive language but, paradoxically, in the weakness and trepidation of someone who trusted only in the ‘power of God’ (cfr Cor 2,1-4). The Cross, for everything it represents, and therefore, even for the theological message it contains, is scandal and foolishness.
The Apostle proclaims this with such impressive power that it is well to listen to his own words: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … It was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1,18-23).
The first Christian communities, to whom Paul addressed himself, knew very well that Jesus had resurrected, and that he lives. The Apostle wished to remind not just the Corinthians or the Galatians, but all of us, that the Risen Lord, is at the same time, always him who was also crucified.
The ‘scandal’ and ‘foolishness’ of the Cross are precisely in the fact that where there seems to be nothing but failure, sorrow, and defeat, there is where one finds all the power of God’s boundless love, because the Cross is the expression of love, and love is the true power that reveals itself precisely in this apparent weakness.
For the Jews, the Cross is a skandalon
, meaning a trap or a stumbling block: it was seen as an obstacle to the faith of the pious Israelite, who tries to find a similar hope in Sacred Scriptures.
Paul, with not little courage, seems to say here that the stake is very high: for the Jews, the Cross contradicts the essence of God himself, who had shown himself previously with prodigious signs. Therefore, to accept the Cross of Christ meant operating a profound change in one’s way of relating to God.
If for the Jews, the reason for rejecting the Cross is found in Revelation, that is, in their faithfulness to the God of their Fathers, for the Greeks, the criterion for opposing the Cross was reason. For them, in fact, Cross is moria
, foolishness, literally, insipience - food without salt; therefore, worse than an error, it was an insult to good sense.
Paul himself on more than one occasion had the bitter experience of the rejection of the Christian announcement, judged ‘insipient’, devoid of relevance, not even worthy of being taken into consideration on the basis of rational logic.
For those who, like the Greeks, saw perfection in the spirit, in pure thought, it was already unacceptable that God should become man, immersing himself in all the limitations of time and space.
It was decidedly inconceivable then to believe in a God who could end up on the Cross! And we see that this Greek logos is also the common logic of our time. With the concept of apatheia
, indifference, as absence of passion in God, how could one understand a God, who became man and was defeated, who would then take up his body again and live as someone resurrected?
"We should like to hear you on this some other time" (Acts 17, 32), the Athenians told Paul scornfully, when they heard him speak about the resurrection of the dead. They considered it perfection to be liberated from the body, which they conceived as a prison, How could they not consider it an aberration to take it up again?
In the ancient culture, there did not seem to be room for the message of an incarnate God. The whole event of Jesus of Nazareth seemed to be marked by total insipience and certainly, the Cross was its most emblematic point.
But why did St. Paul make of this precisely, the word Cross, the fundamental point of his preaching? The answer is not difficult: the Cross reveals ‘the power of God’ (cfr I Cor 1,24), which is different from human power.
In fact, it reveals his love: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (ivi v. 25).
Centuries away from Paul, we see that in history, the Cross has triumphed, not the conventional wisdom that opposed itself to the Cross. The Crucified Lord is wisdom, because he truly manifests who God is, namely, the power of love which arrives at the Cross in order to save man.
God uses ways and instruments that can seem weakness to us at first glance. The Cross reveals, on the one hand, the weakness of man, and on the other, the true power of God, that is, the gratuitousness of love – and it is this total gratuitousness of love that is true wisdom.
St. Paul experienced this in his own flesh, and he attests to it in various passages of his spiritual journey, that have become precise reference points for every disciple of Jesus:
- "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12,9); and
- “ God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor 1,28).
The Apostle has identified himself with Christ to the point where even in the midst of so many trials, he lives his faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave himself for his sins and the sins of everyone (cfr Gal 1,4;2,20). This autobiographical given of the Apostle becomes paradigmatic for all of us.
St. Paul has offered a wonderful synthesis of the theology of the Cross in the second Letter to the Corinthians (5,14-21), where everything is contained in two fundamental affirmations: on the one hand, Christ, whom God “for our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin” (v. 21), died for all (v. 14). And on the other hand, God has reconciled us with him, not imputing our sins to us (vv 18-20).
It is from this ‘ministry of reconciliation’ that every slavery has now been ransomed (cfr 1 Cor 6,20; 7,23). Here it appears how everything is relevant for our life. Even we should enter this ‘ministry of reconciliation’, which always presupposes that we renounce our 'superiority' and choose the foolishness of love.
St. Paul renounced his own life. giving himself totally to and for the ministry of reconciliation, of the Cross which is salvation for all of us. We should know how to do this ourselves: we can find our strength in the very humility of love, and our wisdom in the weakness of renunciation in order to enter into God’s strength.
All of us should shape our life on this true wisdom: not to live for ourselves, but to live in our faith in that God about whom we can all say: “He has loved me and given himself for me”.
Later, during his plurilingual greetings, he had this special message for Polish pilgrims:
The XII assembly of the Bishops’ Synod which ended last Sunday on the subject of ‘The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church”, has reminded us of the need to nourish ourselves constantly on the word inspired by God. May the daily reading of the Bible be for you an occasion to encounter God and an encouragement to renew your life.
He also had a special message to the Italian-speaking public:
I now address a heartfelt greeting to all Italian-speaking pilgrims, particularly to the faithful from the diocese of Bergamo, who have come with their bishop, Mons. Roberto Amadei, to remember the 50th anniversary of the election of my beloved predecessor, Blessed John XIII.
I hope that the memory of Papa Roncalli, still alive among Christians, may urge everyone, especially his countrymen from his home diocese, to follow the Gospel with enthusiasm.
Yesterday, the liturgy commemorated the Holy Apostles Simon and Jude Thaddeus.
May their example sustain you, dear young people in the commitment of daily loyalty to Christ; encourage you, dear sick people, to always follow Jesus in the path of trial and suffering; and help you, dear newlyweds, to make your families the place for a constant encounter with the love of God and of your brothers.
| 01/11/2008 15.53
|ANGELUS OF 11/1/08
Here is a translation of the All Saints' Day homily given by the Holy Father today before the noontime Angelus at St. Peter's Square:
Dear brothers and sisters:
Today we celebrate with great joy the Feast of All Saints.
Visiting a botanical garden, one is amazed amid the variety of plants and flowers, and we spontaneously think of the imagination of the Creator who made the world a wondrous garden.
We feel something analogous when we consider the spectacle of sainthood: The world appears like a garden where the Spirit of God has raised with miraculous imagination a multitude of saints, men and women of every age and social condition, from every race, people and culture.
Each is different from the other, with the singularity of their individual human personalities and their personal spiritual charism. But all bear the 'seal' of Jesus (cfr Ap 7,3), the imprint of his love as he testified it on the Cross.
All are in a state of joy, an endless feast, but like Jesus, they conquered this goal by undergoing great distress and trials (cfr Ap 7, 14), each one facing his part of the sacrifice [of Christ] in order to participate in the glory of Resurrection.
The Solemnity of All Saints arose in the course of the first Christian millennium as a collective celebration of the martyrs. Already in 609, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome, dedicating it to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs.
We can also understand martyrdom in its collateral sense, as a love for Christ without reservations, a love that is expressed in giving oneself totally to God and to our brothers.
This spiritual goal, towards which all baptized persons aspire, is reached following the way of the Gospel 'beatitudes' indicated by the liturgy for today's solemnity (Mt 5,1-12a). It is the same way followed by Jesus, and which the saints attempted to emulate in full awareness of their human limitations.
In fact, in their earthly existence, they were poor in spirit; sorrowful for sin; kind, hungry and thirsty for justice; merciful, pure of heart, makers of peace, persecuted for justice.
And God has shared his happiness with them - they had a foretaste of it on earth, and enjoy it in fullness beyond. Now, they are comforted, heirs of the earth, sated, forgiven - and they are with God, whose children they are. In short, 'theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" (cfr Mt 5,10).
On this day, we feel that attraction to God revived in us, urging us to step up the pace of our earthly pilgrimage. We feel the desire rekindled in our hearts to unite us for always with the family of saints, with whom we already have the grace of communion.
In the words of a famous Gospel spiritual*: "When the saints come marching in, Lord, how I want to be in that number!"
May this beautiful aspiration burn in all Christians and help them to overcome every difficulty, every pear, every tribulation!
Dear friends, let us put our hand in the maternal hand of Mary, Queen of All Saints, and allow ourselves to be led by her towards the heavenly homeland, in the company of the blessed spirits 'from every nation, people and language" (ap 7.9). And let us join to this prayer our dear departed whom we commemorate tomorrow.
After the prayers, he said this in English:
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer.
Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints invites us to rejoice in our communion with the Saints in heaven, to implore their intercession for the Church on earth, and to follow their footsteps in the way of holiness.
May the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints strengthen us in faith and fervent hope in the fulfilment of Christ’s promises. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s richest blessings!
The Pope had a special message for the Italian faithful:
I greet particularly the thousands from every part of Italy who took part in the first 'Corso dei Santi' (Saints' Race) promoted by the Salesian congregation, who are here today with the Mayor of Rome. Gianni Alemanno.
Dear friends, starting from St. Peter's Square and ending here, you have followed a route passing through St. John Lateran, St. Paul outside the Walls and Santa Maria Maggiore [Along with St. Peter's, these are the four Papal Basilicas in Rome]. I am happy for this new initiative, which expresses both the joy and the effort of 'running' together on the way of saintliness.
May all our life be a 'race' in faith and love, inspired by the examples of the great witnesses to the Gospel.
I wish everyone a happy All Saints Day.
| 03/11/2008 08.32
|ANGELUS OF 11/2/08
ALL SOULS DAY
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's Angelus message for All Souls' Day.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Yesterday, the Feast of All Saints allowed us to contemplate "the city of heaven, the celestial Jerusalem which is our mother" (Preface for All Saints' Day).
Today, with our spirit still focused on this ultimate reality, we commemorate all the faithful departed, who "have preceded us in the sign of faith and sleep the sleep of peace" (Eucharistic Prayer I).
it is very important that we Christians live a relationship with the departed in the truth of the faith, and that we look at death and the afterlife in the light of Revelation.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the first Christian communities, exhorted the faithful "not to grieve like those who have no hope".
"For if we believe," he wrote, "that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thess 4,13-14).
It is necessary even today to evangelize on the reality of death and eternal life, a reality that is particularly subject to superstitious beliefs and syncretisms, so that Christian truth does not risk being mixed up with all sorts of mythologies.
In my encyclical on Christian hope, I asked myself about the mystery of eternal life (cfr Spe salvi, 10-12): Is Christian faith still a hope that transforms and sustains the life of men today? (cfr, ivi 10).
More radically, do the men and women of our time still desire eternal life? Or has earthly existence perhaps become their only horizon?
In fact, as St. Augustine has observed, we all want a 'blessed life', happiness. We don't know exactly what it is and how it is, but we are attracted towards it.
And this is a universal hope, common to men of all times and in all places. The expression 'eternal life' is meant to give a name to this irrepressible expectation: which is not of an endless succession, but an immersion into the ocean of infinite love, in which time - before and after - no longer is.
A fullness of life and of joy - this is what we hope for and await from being with Christ (cfr, ivi, 12).
Today let us renew this hope of eternal life which is founded on the death and resurrection of Christ. "I have resurrected and now, I am always with you", the Lord tells us, "and my hand will hold you up."
(He is saying): Wherever you fall, you will fall into my hands, and I will be with you even at the gate of death. Where no one else can accompany you farther and where you cannot bring anyone or anything, there I will await you to transform shadows into light.
But Christian hope is never simply individual - it is always hope also for others. Our lives are so profoundly linked to each other, that the good and evil that each person does always touches others as well. Thus the prayer of a soul still on its earthly pilgrimage can help another soul which is purifying itself after death.
That is why the Church asks us to pray for our dear departed and to pay a visit to their graves.
May Mary, Star of Hope, make our faith in eternal life stronger and more authentic, and sustain our prayer of suffrage for our departed brothers.
| 05/11/2008 16.38
|AUDIENCE OF 11/5/08
#11 Catechetical Cycle for the Pauline Year
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today on the centrality of the Resurrection in St. Paul's preaching.
Dear brothers and sisters,
"If Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith... (and) you are still in your sins." (1 Cor 15,14-17).
With these powerful words in the first Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul makes us understand the decisive importance that he attributed to the resurrection of Jesus.
In fact, in that event is the solution to the problem posed by the tragedy of the Cross. By itself, the Cross cannot explain the Christian faith, but would simply remain a tragedy, an indication of the absurdity of being.
The Paschal mystery consists in the fact that the Crucified One "was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Cor 15,4) - as early Christian tradition affirmed.
This is the master key to Pauline Christology: everything turns around this center of gravity. The entire teaching of the Apostle Paul always starts from and arrives at the mystery of He whom the Father raised from the dead.
The Resurrection is a fundamental fact, almost like a previous axiom (cfr 1 Cor 15,12) ['But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?']
, on the basis of which Paul could formulate his announcement (kerygma) in brief: He who was crucified, who thus manifested the immense love of God for man, is resurrected and lives in our midst.
It is important to grasp the connection between the announcement of the Resurrection as Paul formulated it, and that which was in use by the first pre-Pauline Christian communities. Here we can really see the importance of the tradition that preceded the Apostle and that he, with great respect and attention, wished in his turn to transmit.
The text on the Resurrection, contained in Chapter 1, verses 1-11, of the first letter to the Corinthians, highlights very well the nexus between 'receiving' and 'transmitting'.
[For convenience, here is the text cited, from the New American Bible:
St. Paul places great importance on the literal formulation of tradition. At the end of the passage mentioned, he underscores: "Whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed" (1 Cor 15,11), thus bringing to light the unity of the kerygma, the announcement for all believers and for all those who will announce the resurrection of Christ.
1 Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand.
2 Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
4 that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures;
5 that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.
6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7 After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.
9 For I am the least 4 of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God (that is) with me.
11 Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
The tradition he refers to is the source he draws from. The originality of his Christology is never at the expense of faithfulness to tradition. The kerygma of the Apostles always precedes Paul's personal re-elaboration. Every argument of his proceeds from the common tradition which expresses the faith shared in all the churches who are but one Church.
Thus, Paul offers a model for all time on how to make theology and how to preach. The theologian, the preacher, does not create new visions of the world and of life, but is at the service of the real facts of Christ, the Cross, the resurrection. His task is to help us understand today, behind the ancient words, the reality of 'God-with-us', and therefore, the reality of true life.
It is a good opportunity to clarify here that St. Paul, in announcing the resurrection, is not concerned with presenting an organic doctrinal exposition of it - he did not intend to write a manual of theology - but confronts the subject by responding to the concrete doubts and questions that the faithful brought him, through discourses dictated by circumstances but full of lived faith and theology.
We find in them a focus on the essential fact that we are 'justified', that is, we are 'made just' and saved, by Christ who died and resurrected for us.
What emerges above all is the fact of the Resurrection, without which Christian life would simply be absurd. On that Easter morning, something extraordinary happened, something new, which was at the same time, very concrete, marked by very precise signs, and reported by many witnesses.
Even for Paul, as for the other authors of the New Testament, the resurrection is linked to the testimony of those who had a direct experience of the resurrected Christ. It meant seeing and feeling not only with the eyes and other senses, but also with an interior light which urges acknowledgment of that which the external senses attest to be objective fact.
Thus Paul, like the four Gospels, gives a fundamental importance to the apparitions [of the risen Christ] which are a basic condition for faith in the Resurrected One who had left his tomb empty.
These two facts are important: the tomb was empty, and Jesus really appeared [to his disciples] afterwards. That is the chain of tradition which, through the testimony of the Apostles and the first disciples, has reached down to successive generations and to us.
The first consequence, or the first way to express this testimony, was to preach the resurrection of Christ as a synthesis of the Gospel announcement and as the culmination of a salvific itinerary.
Paul does all this on different occasions: if we consult the Letters and the Acts of the Apostles, we can see that the essential point for him always was to bear witness to the resurrection.
I wish to cite just one text. Paul, arrested in Jerusalem, stands before the Sanhedrin as an accused person. On this occasion when life and death were at stake for him, he indicates the sense and the content of all his preaching: "(I) am on trial for having hope in the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 23,6).
Paul will repeat this refrain in his Letters (cfr 1 Ts 1,9sl 4,13-18; 5,10), in which he refers to his own personal experience, his personal encounter with the Risen Christ (cfr Gal 1,15-16; 1Cor 9,1).
But we may ask: What was the profound sense of the Resurrection event for Paul? What does he tell us at a distance of 2000 years? Is the affirmation :Christ is risen" actual even for us? Why is the resurrection, for him and for us, a topic that should be so determinative?
Paul solemnly gives an answer to this question at the start of the Letter to the Romans, where he begins by referring to "the gospel of God... the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead" (Rm 1,3-4).
Paul knows well and says so many times that Jesus was always the Son of God, from the moment of his incarnation. The novelty of the Resurrection is in the fact that Jesus, elevated from the humility of his earthly existence, becomes established as the Son of God 'in power'.
The Jesus who was humiliated to the point of death on the Cross can therefore say to the Eleven: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Mt 28,18). Psalm 2,8 has been realized: "Only ask it of me, and I will make your inheritance the nations, your possession the ends of the earth" (Ps 2,8).
That is why the announcement of the Gospel of Christ to all the peoples starts with the Resurrection. With it begins the Kingdom of Christ, the new Kingdom which knows no other power but that of truth and love.
Thus the Resurrection definitively reveals the authentic identity and the extraordinary stature of the Crucified One - an incomparable and supreme dignity: Jesus is God.
For St. Paul, the secret identity of Jesus, more than in the Incarnation, is revealed in the mystery of the resurrection. While the title of Christ, which means Messiah, 'the anointed one', tends to be, in Paul, the proper name of Jesus, and the title of 'Lord' specifies his personal relationship with believers, now the title 'Son of God' illustrates the intimate relationship of Jesus to God, a relationship which is fully revealed in the Paschal mystery.
Thus, it can be said that Jesus was resurrected to be the Lord of the living and the dead (cfr Rm 14,9; 2 Cor 5,15), or in other words, our Savior (cfr Rm 4,25).
All this is pregnant with important consequences for our life of faith: we are called to take part to the very depth of our being in the whole experience of the death and resurrection of Christ.
The Apostle says: "We have died with Christ" and "We believe that we shall also live with him, (knowing) that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him" (Rm 6,8-9).
This translates to a sharing in the suffering of Christ, which precedes that full configuration with him, through the resurrection which we look forward to with hope.
This is what happened even with St. Paul, whose personal experience is described in his Letters with such heartfelt but equally realistic tones: "To know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil 3,10-11; cfr 2 Tm 2,8-12).
The theology of the Cross is not a theory - it is the reality of Christian life. To live in our faith in Jesus Christ, to live truth and love, implies renouncing daily, it implies suffering.
Christianity is not a way of convenience, but a demanding ascent, though one illuminated by the light of Christ and the great hope that is born with him.
St. Augustine says that Christians are not spared from suffering - indeed, a little more of it falls to them, because to live the faith is to express courage in facing life and history more deeply.
Nonetheless, it is only in this way, in experiencing what it is to suffer, that we can know life in its depth, in its beauty, and in the great hope inspired by Christ crucified and resurrected.
Thus, the believer find himself between two poles. On the one hand, the resurrection which in some way is already present and working in us (cfr Col 3,1-4; Eph 2,6); on the other, the urgency of inserting ourselves into that process that leads everything and everyone towards fullness, described in the Letter to the Romans with a daring image: as all creation moans and suffers something like the pain of childbirth, so do we moan in expectation of the redemption of our bodies, of our own redemption and resurrection (cfr Rm 8,18-23).
In summary, we can say with Paul, that the true believer obtains salvation, professing with his own mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and believing in his heart that God has resurrected him from the dead (cfr Rm 10,9).
What is important, first of all, is the heart that believes in Christ and which, in the faith, 'touches' the Resurrected Lord. But it is not enough to carry faith in one's heart - we should confess it and testify to it with our mouth, with our life, thus rendering present the truth of the cross and the resurrection in our history.
This is the way, in fact, whereby the Christian places himself within that process thanks to which the first Adam, earthly and subject to corruption and death, becomes transformed into a new Adam, who is heavenly and incorruptible (cfr 1 Cor 15, 20-22,42-49).
This process began with the resurrection of Christ, on which we base the hope of being able ourselves one day to enter with Christ into our true homeland in heaven. Sustained by this hope, let us proceed with courage and with joy.
Here is how he synthesized it in English:
In our continuing catechesis on the teaching of Saint Paul, we now turn to his proclamation of the resurrection. In preaching Jesus Christ risen from the dead, Paul was concerned to "hand on" what he himself had "received" from the Apostles (cf. 1 Cor 15:3).
He proclaims not only the fact of the resurrection, but its vital significance: in Christ, who died and rose for us, we have been saved, made righteous in the sight of God.
The resurrection reveals Jesus’s true identity as the eternal Son of God and Lord of the living and the dead. We, for our part, are called to become fully configured to him in the mystery of his passover from death to life.
Our present sufferings thus become a sharing in Christ’s own suffering and death, while the hope of the resurrection even now draws us toward the fullness of life with all the saints in his Kingdom.
Salvation, Paul tells us, comes from confessing with our lips that Jesus is Lord, and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead (cf. Rom 10:9).
With the Apostle, then, let us strive ever more fully, in faith and hope, "to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection" (cf. Phil 3:10).
| 09/11/2008 15.07
|ANGELUS OF 11/9/08
Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words at the noontime Angelus today.
Dear brothers and sisters!
The liturgy today celebrates the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, called the "the mother and chief of all the churches of the Urbe (city) and the Orbe (world)".
Indeed, this Basilica was the first church built after the edict of Emperor Constantine in 313 which granted Christians the freedom to practise their religion. The emperor himself gave Pope Melchiades a property of the Lateran family, where he had constructed the Basilica, the Baptistery and the Patriarchy, that is, the residence of the Bishop of Rome, where the Popes lived until the Avignon exile.
The dedication of the Basilica was celebrated by Pope Sylvester around 324, and the temple was named for the Most Holy Redeemer. The titles of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, from which the church gets its familiar name, were added only after the 6th century.
This feast at first was of interest only to the city of Rome, but since 1565, it has been extended to all the Churches following the Roman rite. In honoring the sacred edifice, it is intended to express love and veneration for the Roman Church which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch said, 'presides in charity' over the entire Catholic communion (To the Romans, 1,1).
The Word of God on this solemnity recalls an essential truth: that the temple of bricks is a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, which, already in their letters, the Apostles Peter and Paul understood as a 'spiritual edifice', constructed by God with the 'living stones' that Christians are, on the one foundation of Jesus Christ, compared in turn to the 'cornerstone' (cfr 1 Cor 3,9-11.16-17; 1 Pt 2,4-8, Eph 2,20-22).
"Brothers, you are God's building", St. Paul writes, and adds: "The temple of God, which you are, is holy" (1 Cor 3,9c.17).
The beauty and harmony of churches, destined to render praise to God, invites even us humans, with our limitations and sins, to convert ourselves in order to form a 'cosmos', a well-ordered construction, in close communion with Jesus, who is the true Saint of Saints.
This culminates in the Eucharistic liturgy, during which the 'ekklesia' - the community of baptized persons - are gathered to listen to the Word of God and to nourish themselves with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Around this double meal, the Church of living stones is edified in truth and charity, and becomes interiorly shaped by the Holy Spirit, becoming transformed into one that receives, conforming itself ever closer to its Lord Jesus Christ. The Church itself, if it lives in sincere and fraternal unity, thus becomes a spiritual sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
Dear friends, today's feast celebrates a mystery that is always actual: namely, that God wishes to build in the world a spiritual temple, a community that adores him in spirit and in truth (cfr Jn 4,23-24).
But this occasion also reminds us of the importance of the material edifices in which communities gather to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take good care of their own sacred edifices, which constitute a precious religious and historical patrimony.
Let us now invoke the intercession of the Most Blessed Mary so that she may aid us to become, like herself, the 'house of God', a living temple of his love.
After the Angelus, he had these special messages:
Today is the 70th anniversary of the tragic event [Kristallnacht - the night of glass-smashing]
which took place on the night of November 9-10, 1938, when Nazi fury against the Jews was unleashed in Germany.
Businesses, offices, houses and synagogues were attacked and destroyed, and many persons were killed, opening the way to the systematic and violent persecution of German Jews which ended in the Shoah (Holocaust).
Even today I feel pain over what happened on that tragic occasion, the memory of which should serve to ensure that similar horrors are never repeated again, and that we should commit ourselves, at all levels, against every form of anti-Semitism and discrimination, educating above all the young generations in respect and reciprocal acceptance.
I invite you to pray for the victims then and to join me in showing profound solidarity with the Jewish world.
Disquieting news continue to come from the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bloody armed encounters and systematic atrocities have resulted and continue to result in numerous victims among innocent civilians.
Destruction, sacking and violence of every kind have forced tens of thousands of persons to abandon even the little that they have in order to survive. It is estimated that there are now more than a million and a half refugees.
To all and to each of them, I wish to express my particular closeness, as I encourage and bless all those who are doing their best to relieve their sufferings, among which I must mention in particular, the pastors of the local Churches.
To the families who have lost loved ones, I extend my condolence and assure them of my prayers for the departed. Finally, I renew my fervent appeal so that everyone may work together to restore peace in that land that has been tormented for so long, with respect for the law and, above all, for the dignity of every human being.
Italy today marks Thanksgiving Day which this year is on the theme, "I was hungry and you fed me'. I join my voice to that of the Italian bishops who, with those words of Jesus, call attention to the serious and complex problem of hunger today, made more tragic by the rise in the cost of some basic foods.
The Church, even as it re-proposes the fundamental ethical principle that the goods of the earth have a universal destination, puts this into practice, following the example of Jesus, with multiple initiatives of material sharing.
I pray for the rural world, especially the small cultivators in the developing countries. I encourage and bless all who are committed to the task of seeing to it that no one lacks healthy and adequate alimentation. Whoever helps the poor helps Christ himself.
In his message to the French-speaking faithful, he said:
Let us pray to God, in these days that commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of the First World War, for peace in the world and for all those who work for justice and brotherhood among men.
To German-speaking pilgrim,s he repeated his remembrance of Kristallnacht, adding:
In memory of the victims, let us pray to the Lord for his assistance, so that we can work together in building a society in which men of different religions and races can live together in peace and justice.