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HOMILIES, ANGELUS, AND OTHER SPIRITUAL TEXTS

Ultimo Aggiornamento: 26/04/2009 19.14
09/11/2008 15.07
 
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ANGELUS OF 11/9/08

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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.



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12/11/2008 17.45
 
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AUDIENCE OF 11/12/08
#12 - Catechetical Cycle for the Pauline Year



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis today:


Dear brothers and sisters!

The subject of the resurrection, on which we dwelt last week, opens a new prospect - that of awaiting the return of the Lord, and this brings us to reflect on the relationship between the time of the present, the time of the Church and the Kingdom of Christ, and the future (eschaton) which awaits us, when Christ will hand over the Kingdom to the Lord (cfr 1 Cor 15,24).

Every Christian discourse on the 'last things', called eschatology, always starts from the event of the resurrection: in that event, the last things have already begun, and in a sense, are already present.

It was probably the year 52 when Paul wrote the first of the letters - the first Letter to the Thessalonians - where he speaks of this return of Jesus, called parousia - a coming, a new and definitive and manifest presence (cfr 4,13-15).

To the Thessalonians, Paul wrote: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep" (4,14).

He continues: "...The dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord" (4,16-17).

Paul describes Christ's parousia in vivid tones and symbolic imagery that nonetheless convey a simple and profound message: in the end, we shall always be with the Lord.

It is this, beyond the images, that is the essential message: our future is 'to be with the Lord'. As believers, we are already with the Lord in life - our future, eternal life, has begun.

In the second Letter to the Thessalonians, Paul changes his perspective: he speaks of negative events, which must precede that which is final and conclusive. We should not let ourselves be deluded, he says, as though the day of the Lord were truly imminent according to chronological calculation:

"We ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a 'spirit' or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way" (2,1-3).

This passages announces that before the Lord comes, there will be apostasy, revealing a 'lawless one', 'the one doomed to perdition' who is not identified farther (2,3), but which tradition has come to call the Anti-Christ.

But the intention of this letter of St. Paul was above all practical. He writes: "In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food" (3,10-12).

In other words, waiting for the second coming of Jesus does not excuse us from commitment to this world, but on the contrary, creates a responsibility to the divine Judge regarding our conduct in this world. That is why we have a growing responsibility to work in and for this world.

We will see the same ting next Sunday in the Gospel of the 'talents', in which the Lord tells us that he has entrusted talents to everyone and the Judge will ask us for an accounting - Have you borne fruit? Thus, awaiting the Lord's return implies responsibility for this world.

The same thing, the same connection between parousia - the return of the Judge/Savior - and our commitment in life appears in another context and with new aspects in the Letter to the Philippians.

Paul is in prison and awaits the sentence that could condemn him to death. In this situation, he thinks about being with the Lord in the future, but he also thinks of the community in Philippi who need a father, Paul, and he writes them:

"For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

"And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again." (1,21-26)

Paul does not fear death, On the contrary. It means to be completely with Christ. But Paul also participates in the feelings of Christ who did not live for himself but for us. To live for others becomes the program of his life, and therefore, he shows his perfect availability to the will of God, to the God who will decide.

He is available, above all, even in the future, to live on earth for others, to live for Christ, to live for his living presence and thus, for the renewal of the world.

We see that this being with Christ creates a great interior freedom for him: freedom in the face of the threat of death, but freedom, too, for all the commitments and sufferings of life. He is simply available to God and therefore truly free.

And so, after considering the various aspects of awaiting Christ's parousia, we go on to ask ourselves: What are the fundamental attitudes of a Christian towards the last things - death, the end of the world?

The first is the certainty that Jesus has risen, he is with the Father, he is with us. Therefore, we are secure, we are liberated from fear.

This was an essential effect of Christian preaching. Fear of spirits, of divinities, was widespread throughout the ancient world. Even today, missionaries find - along with so many good elements of natural religions - a fear of spirits, of nefarious forces that threaten man.

Christ lives, he conquered death, and he defeated all these forces. We live in this certainty, in this freedom, in this joy. And this is the first aspect of our living with respect to the future.

In the second place, the certainty that Christ is with us, with me. It is as though in Christ, the future world has begun - and this gives us the certainty of hope. The future is not darkness in which no one can orient himself. It is not so.

But without Christ, even today the future is dark for the world, and there is so much fear of the future. The Christian knows that the light of Christ is stronger, and thus, he lives in a hope that is not vague, rather a hope that gives certainty and courage to face the future.

Finally, the third attitude. The Judge who will return - he is judge and savior at the same time - has left us the task of living in this world according to how he lived. He has handed down to us his talents. Therefore, our third attitude is that of responsibility for the world, for our brothers before Christ, and at the same time, certainty of his mercy.

Both are important. We do not live as though good and evil were the same because God can only be merciful. That would be self-deception. In fact, we live a great responsibility. We have the talents and we are charged with working so that the world may open up to Christ, that it may be renewed.

But even as we work and know in our responsibility that God is a true judge, we are also sure that this judge is good, we know his face, the face of the resurrected Christ, of the Christ who was crucified for us. Thus we can be sure of his goodness and move ahead with great courage.

A last given of the Pauline teaching on eschatology is that of the universality of the call to faith, which united Jews and gentiles, that is, the pagans, as a sign and earnest of future reality, for which we can say that we already sit in heaven, as it were, with Jesus Christ, 'that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace' (cfr Eph 2,6ff). The 'after' becomes a 'before' to make evident the state of incipient realization in which we live.

This makes the sufferings of the present tolerable, which are, in any case, not comparable to future glory (cfr Rom 8,18). We walk by faith, not by sight, and even if it would be preferable to leave the body to dwell with the Lord, what counts definitely - whether we still dwell in the body or have left it, is that we please him (cfr 2 Cor 5,7-9).

Finally, a last point which perhaps may be a bit difficult for us. St. Paul, at the end of his second Letter to the Corinthians, repeats and even has the Corinthians say a prayer born in the first Christian communities in Palestine: 'Maranà, thà!' which literally means "Come, our Lord!" (16,22).

It was the prayer of early Christianity, and even the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, closes with this prayer, "Lord, come!"

Can we too pray this? It seems to me that for us today, in our life, in our world, it may be difficult to pray sincerely that this world may perish, that the new Jerusalem may come, that the Last Judgment comes with the Judge, Christ.

I think that if we sincerely dare to pray that way, for many reasons, in a just and correct world, we can still say with the early Christians, "Come, Lord Jesus!"

Certainly, we do not wish for the end of the world to come now. But on the other hand, we want an end to this unjust world. We want the world to be fundamentally changed, that the civilization of love may begin, that the world becomes a world of justice and peace, without violence, without hunger.

All this we want. But how can it happen without the presence of Christ? Without the presence of Christ, a world that is truly just and renewed will never come. In this sense we pray with St. Paul:

Maranà, thà! - Come, Lord!
With great urgency and in the circumstances of our time:
Come, Lord!
Come in your way, in the ways you know.
Come where there is injustice and violence.
Come to the refugee camps, in Darfur, in North Kivu, in so many parts of the world.
Come to a world where drugs can dominate, where you are not known.
Come to the rich who have forgotten you, who live only for themselves.
Come where you are not known.
Come in your own way and renew the world today.
Come to our hearts.
Come and renew the world today, renew our lives -
so that we ourselves may become the light of God, your presence.

Let us pray that Christ may be truly present in our world and renew it.
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16/11/2008 14.46
 
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ANGELUS OF 11/16/08

Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words today:


Dear brothers and sisters!

The Word of God today - the penultimate Sunday of the liturgical year - invites us to be vigilant and industrious while awaiting the return of the Lord Jesus at the end of time. The Gospel narrates the famous parable of the talents reported by St. Matthew (25,14-30).

The 'talent' was an ancient Roman coin of great value, and precisely because of the popularity of this parable, the word 'talent' has become synonymous to a personal gift which everyone is called on to fructify.

In fact, the text tells us of "a man going on a journey (who) called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them." (Mt 25,14).

The man of the parable represents Christ himself, the servants are his disciples, and the talents are the gifts that Jesus entrusts to them. Thus, these gifts, besides their natural qualities, represent the wealth that the Lord Jesus has left us as a legacy so that we may make them bear fruit: his Word, deposited in the holy Gospel; Baptism, which renews us in the Holy Spirit; prayer - the 'Our Father' - which we raise to God as children united in his Son; his forgiveness, which he ordered us to bring to everyone; the Sacrament of his Body that was immolated and his Blood that was shed.

In a word: the Kingdom of God, who is Christ himself, present and living in our midst.

This is the treasure that Jesus entrusted to his friends at the end of his brief earthly existence. The parable emphasizes the interior attitude with which to accept and appreciate this gift.

The wrong attitude is fear: the servant who feared the master and dreaded his return buries the money in the earth and it fails to bear fruit. This is what happens, for example, to him who, having received Baptism, Confirmation and Communion, then buries these gifts under layers of prejudice, under a false image of God who paralyzes faith and good works, and doing so, he betrays the Lord's expectations.

But the parable highlights the good fruits borne by those disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not hide it in fear or envy, but made it bear fruit, sharing it, making it work.

Yes, what Christ gives us will multiply by giving it away. It is a treasure meant to be spent, invested, shared with everyone, as we are taught by that great administrator of Jesus's talents, the Apostle Paul.

The Gospel teaching which the liturgy offers us today has also had an impact on the historico-social plane, promoting among Christian peoples an active and enterprising mentality.

But the central message is about the spirit of responsibility with which we must accept the Kingdom of God - a responsibility to God and to mankind.

This attitude of the heart is perfectly incarnated in the Virgin Mary who, receiving the most precious of all gifts, Jesus himself, offered him to the world with immense love.

let us ask her to aid us to be 'good and faithful servants' so that one day we may take part 'in the joy of our Lord'.

After the Angelus, he said:

Next Friday, November 21, on the liturgical commemoration of the Presentation of the Most Blessed Mary at the temple, is also the Day pro Orantibus, for the cloistered religious communities.

Let us thank the Lord for the brothers and sisters who have embraced this mission, dedicating themselves totally to prayer and who live only on what they get from Providence.

Let us pray in turn for them and for new vocations, and let us commit ourselves to support the monasteries in their material needs.

Dear sisters and dear brothers, your presence in the Church and in the world is indispensable. I am close to you all, and I bless you with great affection.

In the Archdiocese of Milan and other communities who follow the Ambrosian Rite, Advent starts this Sunday. In addressing a special greeting to them, I wish to point out that today, the New Ambrosian Lectionary comes into effect. This is the collection of Biblical readings, renewed in the light of Vatican-II, for that ancient and noble liturgical order.

It is significant that this takes place shortly after the Assembly of the Bishops' Synod that was devoted to the Word of God.

May the Ambrosian Church, nourished with wisdom and abundance by Sacred Scriptures, always walk in truth and charity to render valid testimony to Christ, the Word of salvation for mankind in all times.



In his message to English-speaking people, the Holy Father urged safe driving, making unexpected use of a citation from today's Second Reading from St. Paul. (He earlier used the same citation in the conventional context for his message in French): On this third Sunday of November, we remember in a special way all those who have died as a result of traffic accidents. We pray for their eternal rest and for the consolation of their families who grieve their loss.

Dear brothers and sisters, I implore everyone - drivers, passengers and pedestrians - to heed carefully the words of Saint Paul in the Liturgy of the Word today: "stay sober and alert".

Our behavior on the roads should be characterized by responsibility, consideration and a respect for others. May the Virgin Mary lead us safely along streets and highways throughout the world.



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20/11/2008 00.34
 
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AUDIENCE OF 11/19/08
#13 - Catechetical Cycle for the Pauline Year




Here is a full trabslation of the Holy Father's catechesis at the General Audience today:


Dear brothers and sisters,

In the journey we are taking under the guidance of St. Paul, let us dwell today on a topic which was at the center of the controversies in the century of the Reformation: the question of justification.
How does man become just in the eyes of God?

When Paul encountered the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus, he was a fully 'realized' man: irrepressible as to the justification that comes from the Law (cfr Phil 3,6), he surpassed most of his contemporaries in the observance of the Mosaic prescriptions and he was zealous in sustaining the traditions of the Jewish fathers (cfr Gal 1,14).

The enlightenment of Damascus radically changed his existence: he started to consider all the merits that he had acquired in a most correct religious career as 'rubbish' in the face of knowing Jesus Christ (cfr Phil 3,8).

The Letter to the Philippians offers us a moving testimonial of Paul's passage from justice founded on the Law and acquired by observing prescribed acts, to a justice based on faith in Christ. He understood that what had until then appeared to him as gain was, in fact, a loss in front of God, and therefore, he decided to stake his entire existence on Jesus Christ (cfr Phil 3,7).

The treasure hidden in the field and the precious pearl, into the acquisition of which one must invest everything, were no longer works done under the Law, but Jesus Christ, his Lord.

The relationship between Paul and the Risen Lord became so profound as to lead Paul to maintain that Christ was not only his life but his living [non era più soltanto la sua vita ma il suo vivere], to the point that in order to reach him, even death would be a gain [cfr Phil 1,21). ["For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain".]

It was not that he deprecated life, but he understood that for him, living now had no other purpose - and therefore, he felt no other desire - but to to be with Christ, and as in a race, to be always with him. The Risen Lord had become the beginning and the end of his existence, the reason and the goal of his race.

It was only his concern for the maturation of faith among those he had evangelized and his solicitude for all the Churches he had founded (cfr 2 Cor 11,28) that led him to slow down his pace towards his one Lord, in order to care for the disciples so that together they could all 'race' towards the goal.

If in his previous observance of the Law, he could not be reproved as to his moral integrity, once he met Christ, he preferred not to make judgments about himself (cf 1 Cor 4,3-4) but limited himself to speaking about his pursuit of the One who had conquered him (cfr Phil 3,12). "I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ".]
It is precisely because of his personal experience of a relationship with Jesus Christ that Paul would now place at the center of his Gospel an irreducible opposition between two alternative courses towards justice: one built on the works of the Law, the other founded on the grace of faith in Christ.

The choice between justification by the working of the Law and that by faith in Christ thi\us becomes one of the dominating themes throughout his Letters:

"We, who are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles,
(yet) who know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (Gal 2,15-16).

To the Christians of Rome, he reiterated that "all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3,23-24), adding that "a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (ibid 28).

Luther translated this point as "justified by faith alone". I will return to this point at the end of the catechesis.

First, we must clarify what is this Law from which we have been liberated and what are the 'works of the Law' that do not justify.

Already in the community of Corinth, there existed an opinion that would systematically return throughout history: it consisted in maintaining that the 'Law' referred to moral law, and that Christian freedom thus consisted in being liberated from ethics.

Thus the catch phrase 'For me, everything is allowed' circulated among the Corinthians. It is obvious that this interpretation is wrong; Christian freedom is not libertinism. The liberation St. Paul speaks of is not liberation from doing good.

What then is this 'Law' from which we have been liberated and does not save? For St. Paul, as for all his contemporaries, the word Law meant the Torah in its totality, that is, the five books of Moses.

The Torah implied, in the Pharisaic interpretation - that which Paul had studied and made his own - an ensemble of behavior and actions that ranges from its ethical nucleus down to ritual and cultic observances which substantially determined the identity of the 'just' man.

Especially circumcision, observances with regard to pure food and ritual purity in general, the rules on the observance of the Sabbath, etc. Actions that often figured even in the debates between Jesus and his contemporaries. All these observances which express a social, cultural and religious identity had become singularly important in the era of Hellenistic culture, starting with the third century before Christ.

This culture, which had become the universal culture of that time - and was an apparently rational culture, a polytheistic culture, apparently tolerant - constituted a strong pressure for cultural uniformity and thus threatened the identity of Israel, which was politically constrained to enter the common identity of Hellenistic culture with a consequent loss of its own identity, and therefore also a loss of the precious heritage that was the faith of the Fathers, faith in the one God and God's promises.

Against this cultural pressure, which threatened not only Israelite identity, but also faith in the one God and his promises, it was necessary to create a wall of distinction, a shield of defense, to protect the precious heritage of faith - and this wall consisted of the observance of all the Jewish prescriptions.

Paul, who had learned these observances precisely in their function as a defense of God's gift, of the heritage of faith in the one God, saw this identity threatened by the freedom of the Christians - and that is why he persecuted them.

At the moment of his encounter with the Risen One, he understood that with the resurrection of Christ, the situation had radically changed. With Christ, the God of Israel, the one true God, became the God of all peoples.

The wall - he says in the Letter to the Ephesians - between Israel and the pagans was no longer necessary: it is Christ who protects us against polytheism and all its deviancies. It is Christ who unites us with and in the one God. It is Christ who guarantees our true identity in the diversity of cultures.

The wall was no longer necessary. Our common identity in the diversity of cultures is Christ, and it is him who makes us just. To be just simply means to be with Christ and in Christ. And that is enough. Other observances were no longer necessary.

Therefore Luther's expression 'sola fide' (faith only) is true, if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look to Christ, entrust oneself to Christ, attach oneself to Christ, conform to Christ, to his life. And the form of Christ, the life of Christ, is love: therefore, to believe in Christ and to conform to him is to enter his love.

That is why St. Paul, in his Letter to the Galatians - where he developed above all his doctrine on justification - speaks of faith that works through charity (cfr Gal 5,14).

Paul knows that the Law is present and fulfilled in the double love of God and of neighbor. Thus, in the communion with Christ, in the faith that creates charity, all of the Law is realized. We become just by entering into communion with Christ who is love.

We will see this in the Gospel next Sunday, the solemnity of Christ the King. It is the Gospel of the judge whose only criterion is love. All he asks is this: Did you visit me when I was sick? When I was in prison? Did you give me food when I was hungry, did you clothe me when I was naked? Thus, justice is decided in charity, and at the end of that Gospel, we can almost say: sola carita, only love.

But there is no contradiction between this Gospel and St. Paul. It is the same vision - that vision according to which communion with Christ, faith in Christ, creates charity. And charity is the realization of communion with Christ. Thus, united with him, we are just, and in no other way.

In the end, we can only pray to the Lord that he may help us to believe. To truly believe - believing thus becomes life, union with Christ, a transformation of our life. Thus, transformed by his love, by the love of God and our neighbor, we can truly be just in the eyes of the Lord.


Here is how he synthesized the lesson in English:


In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on our justification.

Paul’s experience of the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus led him to see that it is only by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own, that we are made righteous before God.

Our justification in Christ is thus God’s gracious gift, revealed in the mystery of the Cross. Christ died in order to become our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (cf. 1 Cor 1:30), and we in turn, justified by faith, have become in him the very righteousness of God (cf. 2 Cor 5:21).

In the light of the Cross and its gifts of reconciliation and new life in the Spirit, Paul rejected a righteousness based on the Law and its works. For the Apostle, the Mosaic Law, as an irrevocable gift of God to Israel, is not abrogated but relativized, since it is only by faith in God’s promises to Abraham, now fulfilled in Christ, that we receive the grace of justification and new life.

The Law finds its end in Christ (cf. Rom 10:4) and its fulfilment in the new commandment of love.

With Paul, then, let us make the Cross of Christ our only boast (cf. Gal 6:14), and give thanks for the grace which has made us members of Christ’s Body, which is the Church.




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23/11/2008 16.48
 
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ANGELUS OF 11/23/08
SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at Angelus today:


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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

We know from the Gospels that Jesus rejected the title of King when it was intended in the political sense, as 'chief of nations' (cfr Mt 20,24 - the chapter/verse citation must be a misprint!).

Instead, during his passion, he claimed only one kingship in front of Pilate, who asked him explicitly: "Are you a king?", and Jesus answered: "You say I am a king", but shortly before, he had said: "My kingdom is not here" (Jn 18,36).

Christ's kingship is, in fact, the revelation and actualization of that of God the Father, who governs all things with love and justice. The Father entrusted to the Son the mission of giving men eternal life, loving them to the point of supreme sacrifice, but at the same time, he also conferred him with the power to judge them, since he became the Son of man, who is equal in everything to us (cfr Jn 5,21-22.26-27). ["He gave him power to exercise judgment, because he is the Son of Man".]

Today's Gospel stresses the universal kingship of Christ the Judge, with the stunning parable of the Last Judgment, which St. Matthew narrates immediately before his account of the Passion (25,31-46).

The images are simple, the language is popular, but the message is extremely important: it is the truth about our ultimate destiny and the criterion on which we shall be judged.

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me" (Mt 25,35).

Who does not know this page? It is part of our civilization. It has marked the history of the peoples of Christian culture: the hierarchy of values, the institutions, the multiple social and beneficial works.

Indeed, the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but brings to fulfillment all the good that, thanks to God, exists in man and in history.

If we put love for our neighbor into practice, according to the Gospel message, then we make room for God's Lordship, and his Kingdom is realized in our midst. If instead, each of us thinks only of his own interests, then the world can only go to ruin.

Dear friends, the Kingdom of God is not a question of honors and appearances, but as St. Paul writes, it is "jsutice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom 14,17).


The Lord has our good at heart, that every man may have life, and that especially the 'least' among his children may have access to the banquet that he has prepared for everyone. That is why he did not know what to do with the forms of hypocrisy in those who say "Lord, Lord' and then ignore his commandments (cfr Mt 7,21).

In his eternal kingdom, God welcomes those who try day by day to put his word into practice. For this, the Virgin Mary, the most humble of his creatures, is the greatest in his eyes and sits as Queen at the right of Christ the King.

To her heavenly intercession, let us entrust ourselves once more with filial confidence in order to be able to realize our Christian mission in the world.


After the prayers, he said this:

Tomorrow, in the city of Nagasaki, Japan, the beatification will take place of 188 martyrs, men and women, all Japanese who were killed in the first part of the 17th century.

On this occasion, so significant for the Catholic community and the entire nation of the Rising Sun, I assure my spiritual closeness.

Moreover, next Saturday, Brother Jose Olalio Valdez of the Hospitalier Order of St. John of God will also be proclaimed Blessed.

I entrust the Cuban people to his heavenly protection, especially the sick and health care workers.



In English, he said:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus.

In today’s Solemnity of Christ the King we pray that the Lord may reign in our hearts. Sustained by his grace in faith and love, we trust that by bearing witness to him on earth we may be found worthy of his promises in heaven.

I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome and a blessed Sunday!

Let us also rejoice in anticipation with our brothers and sisters in Japan, who celebrate tomorrow in Nagasaki the beatification of the Venerable Servants of God Peter Kibe Kasui and his 187 companion martyrs. May their victory in Christ over sin and death fill us all with hope and courage!


He also had a special message for the people of Ukraine:

I address a special greeting to Ukrainian pilgrims. Dear brothers and sisters, these days mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor - the great famine - which in the years 1932-1933 caused millions of deaths in the Ukraine and other regions of the Soviet Union druing the Communist regime.

In wishing sincerely that no poltical order can ever again, in the name of an ideology, negate the rights of the human person and his freedom and dignity, I aasure you of my praters for all the innocent victims of that enormous tragedy, and I invoke the Holy Mother of God to aid the nation to proceed along the ways of reconciliation and construct the present and the future in reciprocal respect and in the sincere quest for peace.

Praise be to Jesus Christ!!
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26/11/2008 16.34
 
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AUDIENCE OF 11/26/08
Catechesis #14
Pauline Year catechetical cycle



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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's catechesis at teh General Audience today:


Dear brothers and sisters:

In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of how man becomes just before God. Following St. Paul, we saw that man is not capable of making himself 'just' by his own actions alone, but becomes truly 'just' in the eyes of God only because God confers this 'justification' on him by uniting him with Christ, his Son. And this union with Christ is obtained my man through faith.

In this sense, St. Paul tells us: it is not our works but our faith that makes us 'just'. But this faith is not a thought, an opinion or an idea. This faith is communion with Christ, whom the Lord gives us, and thus faith becomes life, it becomes conformity with him.

In other words, faith - if it is real, if it is true - becomes love, it becomes charity, it is expressed in charity. A faith without charity, without this fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.

Thus we saw two levels in the last catechesis: that of the non-relevance of our actions, of our works, in order to reach salvation; and that of 'justification' through faith which produces the fruit of the Spirit.

Confusing these two levels has caused, in the course of the centuries, not a few misunderstandings among Christians.

In this context, it is important to note that St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, stresses quite radically, on the one hand, the gratuitousness of justification not through our own works, but at the same time, also underscores the relationship between faith and charity, between faith and works: "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love" (Gal 5,6).

Consequently, there are, on the one hand, 'the works of the flesh' such as 'fornication, impurity, dissoluteness, idolatry...' (Gal 5,19-21) - all works contrary to faith. On the other hand, there is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian life by inspiring 'love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5,22) - these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit that blossom from faith.

At the start of this list of virtues is agape, love, and at the end, is self-control. In truth, the Spirit, which is the love of the Father and the Son, pours forth its first gift, agape, into our hearts (cfr Rom 5,5). And agape, love, requires self-control in order to be expressed.

I wrote about the love of the Father and the Son, which reaches and transforms our existence profoundly, in my first encyclical, Deus caritas est. Believers know that the love of God and Christ is embodied in reciprocal love through the Spirit.

Let us return to St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. In it, St. Paul says that, in bearing one another's burdens, believers fulfill the commandment of love (cfr Gal 6,2).

Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in Christ's love for our neighbor, because it is by this criterion that we shall be judged at the end of our existence.

Actually, St. Paul only repeats what Jesus himself said, re-proposed to us by the Gospel last Sunday in the parable of the Last Judgment.

In the first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive in a famous eulogy to love. It is the so-called hymn to love.

For convenience, here is the entire 'hymn', in the translation of the New American Bible.
1 Corinthians
Chapter 13


1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
2 And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over
so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous.
(love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
6 it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
7 It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
9 For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
12 At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.
At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
13 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal... Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
5 it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests.." (1 Cor 13,1.4-5).

Christian love is demanding because it gushes from the total love of Christ for us: the love that reclaims us, welcomes us, embraces us, supports us - to the point of tormenting us, because it impels each one to live no longer for himself, closed up in his own ego, but 'for him who died and was resurrected for us' (cfr 2 Cor 5,17).

The love of Christ makes us, in him, that new creature (cfr 2 Cor 5,17) who becomes part of his mystical Body which is the Church.

Seen in this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, the primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with faith working in love - rather, it demands that our faith itself be expressed in a life according to the Spirit.

Often an unfounded opposition is seen between the theology of St. Paul and that of St. James, who in his Letter, writes: "For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2,26).

In fact, while Paul is concerned above all to show that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James places the emphasis on the consequential relationship between faith and works (cfr James 2,2-4).

Nonetheless, for Paul as for James, faith working through love attests to the free gift of justification in Christ. The salvation received in Christ needs to be protected and witnessed to "with fear and trembling. For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning...as you hold on to the word of life" (cfr Phil 2,12-14.16).

Often we are led to fall into the same misunderstandings that characterized the community of Corinth: those Christians thought that, having been gratuitously 'justified' in Christ by faith, 'everything was allowed to them'.

And they thought - as, it seems, even Christians today think - that it was permissible to create divisions in the Church - the Body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without being brothers to the most needy, to aspire to better charisms without taking into account of being members among others, etc.

The consequences of faith which is not embodied in love are disastrous, because it is reduced to arbitrariness and to a subjectivism that is more harmful to ourselves and to our brothers.

Instead, following St. Paul, we should have a renewed consciousness of the fact that precisely because we are justified in Christ, we no longer belong to ourselves, but we have become a temple of the Spirit, and therefore we are called on to glorify God in our body with all our existence (cfr 1 Cor 6,19).

It would be selling out the inestimable value of justification, bought at the dear cost of the Blood of Christ, if we do not glorify him in ourselves. In fact, it is precisely our worship, which is 'reasonable' as well as 'spiritual', about which Paul exhorts us to "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12,1).

What would liturgy be reduced to, when it is addressed only to God without becoming, at the same time, service to our brothers? What would faith be that is not expressed in charity?

The apostle himself often places before his communities the image of the Last Judgment, at which "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Cor 5,10; cfr also Rom 2,16). This thought of the Last Judgment should illuminate our life each day.

If the ethic that Paul proposes to believers is not to regress into a form of moralism, and is actual and relevant for us, it is because it always starts off from personal and communitarian relationship with Christ, in order to become real in a life lived according to the Spirit.

This is essential: Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but it is a consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: if it is true, it is embodied and realized in love for our neighbor.

That is why, any decay in ethics is not limited to the individual sphere - it is at the same time a devaluation of personal and communitarian faith: it derives from such faith, and it affects it decisively.

Thus, let us allow ourselves to receive the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, out of God's 'foolish' love for us: nothing and no one can ever separate us from his love (cfr Rom 78,39).

In that certainty, we live. It is this certainty that gives us the strength to live concretely a faith that works in love.


Here is what he said in English:

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching on faith and works in the process of our justification.

Paul insists that we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our own. Yet he also emphasizes the relationship between faith and those works which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action within us.

The first gift of the Spirit is love, the love of the Father and the Son poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Our sharing in the love of Christ leads us to live no longer for ourselves, but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15); it makes us a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) and members of his Body, the Church.

Faith thus works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). Consequently, there is no contradiction between what Saint Paul teaches and what Saint James teaches regarding the relationship between justifying faith and the fruit which it bears in good works. Rather, there is a different emphasis.

Redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we are called to glorify him in our bodies (cf. 1 Cor 6:20), offering ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God. Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called, as individuals and as a community, to treasure that gift and to let it bear rich fruit in the Spirit.

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England and the United States of America.

I pray that your stay in Rome will renew your love for the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen you in his service. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


The audience today started with an exchange of greetings in English between the Pope and Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, and his delegation of bishops and faithful who are in Rome for a five-day visit.

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Here is the text of the Pope's greeting:

BENEDICT XVI'S GREETING
TO ARAM I OF THE ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC CHURCH


This morning I greet with great joy His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians, together with the distinguished delegation accompanying him, and the Armenian pilgrims from various countries.

This fraternal visit is a significant occasion for strengthening the bonds of unity already existing between us, as we journey towards that full communion which is both the goal set before all Christ’s followers and a gift to be implored daily from the Lord.

For this reason, Your Holiness, I invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit on your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I invite all present to pray fervently to the Lord that your visit, and our meetings, will mark a further step along the path towards full unity.

Your Holiness, I wish to express my particular gratitude for your constant personal involvement in the field of ecumenism, especially in the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and in the World Council of Churches.

On the exterior façade of the Vatican Basilica is a statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church, whom one of your historians has called "our progenitor and father in the Gospel".

The presence of this statue evokes the sufferings he endured in bringing the Armenian people to Christianity, but it also recalls the many martyrs and confessors of the faith whose witness bore rich fruit in the history of your people.

Armenian culture and spirituality are pervaded by pride in this witness of their forefathers, who suffered with fidelity and courage in communion with the Lamb slain for the salvation of the world.

Welcome, Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends! Together let us invoke the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and above all the Virgin Mother of God, so that they will enlighten our way and guide it towards the fullness of that unity which we all desire.


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01/12/2008 13.44
 
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HOMILY ON 11/29/08
First Vespers for the First Sunday of Advent



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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at St. Peter's Basilica:


Dear brothers and sisters!

With this Vespertine liturgy, we begin the itinerary of a new liturgical year, entering the first of the seasons that make it up: Advent.

In the Biblical reading we just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul used that very word - advent, or coming, which in Greek is parousia and in Latin, adventus (1 Thess 5,23).

According to the common tradition about this text, Paul was exhorting the Christians of Thessalonica to keep themselves irreproachable 'for the coming' of the Lord. But in the original text, its written 'in the coming', almost as though the coming of the Lord is, more than a future point in time, a spiritual place in which to walk even in the present, during the waiting, and within which we must keep ourselves perfect in every personal dimension.

In fact, this is precisely that we live in liturgy. Celebrating the liturgical seasons, we actualize the mystery - in this case, the coming of the Lord - in such a way that we can, so to speak, walk in it on the way to its full realization, to the end of time, but already drawing from it its sanctifying virtue, inasmuch as the 'end of time' has begin with the death and resurrection of Christ.

The word that summarizes this particular state, in which we await something that should manifest itself, but which at the same time is already glimpsed and tasted, is 'hope'.

Advent is, par excellence, the spiritual season of hope, and in it, the entire Church is called on to become hope, for itself and for the world. The entire spiritual organism of the Mystical Body takes on, so to speak, the color of hope.

All the people of God are on their way, drawn by this mystery: that our God is 'the God who is coming' and who calls us to come forward and meet him.

In what way? Above all in that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer, which finds its eminent expression in the Psalms - human words in which God himself placed and continually places on the lips and in the hearts of believers the invocation of his coming.

And so let us dwell a few moments on the two Psalms which we prayed earlier and which are consecutive even in the Biblical book - Psalms 141 and 142, according to the Jewish numbering.

"LORD, I call to you; come quickly to help me; listen to my plea when I call. Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice" (Ps 141,1-2).

Thus begins the first Psalm of the First Vespers in the first week of the Psaltery - words which at the beginning of Advent acquire a new 'color', because the Holy Spirit always makes them resound anew in us, in the Church which is midway between human time and God's time.

"Lord...come quickly to help me" (v. 1). It is the cry of a person who feels himself in grave danger, but it is also the cry of the Church caught among the multiple traps that surround her, that threaten her holiness, that irreproachable integrity that St. Paul referred to, that which must be conserved for the coming of the Lord.

This invocation also echoes the cry of all just men, all who want to resist evil, the seductions of iniquitous wellbeing and pleasures that are offensive to human dignity and to the condition of the poor.

At the beginning of Advent, the liturgy of the Church takes up this cry anew, and raises it to God 'like incense' (v. 2). Indeed, the Vespertine offering of incense is the symbol of prayer, of the effusion of hearts addressed to God, to the Most High, as are the 'uplifted hands' of the evening sacrifice (V. 2).

In the Church, we no longer offer material sacrifices, as they did in the temple of Jerusalem, but we raise up the spiritual offering of prayer in union with that of Jesus Christ, who is at the same time Sacrifice and Priest of the new and eternal Alliance.

In the cry of the Mystical Body, we recognize the voice of the Head himself - the Son of God who took upon himself our trials and our temptations in order to give us the grace of his victory.

This identification of Christ with the psalmist is particularly evident in the second Psalm (142). Here, every word, every invocation, makes us think of Jesus in his passion, particularly his prayer to the Father at Gethsemane.

In his first coming, in the Incarnation, the Son of God wished to share fully our human condition. Of course, he did not share our sin, but for our salvation, he suffered all the consequences of sin.

Every time it prays Psalm 142, the Church relives the grace of Christ's 'com-passion', the 'coming' of our Lord to human anguish to the point of knowing it to its very depths.

Thus the cry of hope at Advent expresses, from the beginning and in the strongest way, all the gravity of our condition, our extreme need of salvation.

It's as if we await the Lord not as a beautiful decoration in a world that has been saved, but as the only way of liberation from a mortal danger - knowing that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die in order to bring us out of imprisonment (cfr v. 8). ["Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name".]

In short, these two Psalms shield us from any temptation of evasion and flight from reality. They keep us from false hope, that of entering Advent looking to Christmas while forgetting the tragedies of our personal and collective existence.

Indeed, hope that is reliable, not deceptive, cannot be other than 'Paschal' hope, as we are reminded every Saturday evening by the canticle from the Letter to the Philippians, with which we praise Christ who was incarnated, crucified, resurrected, Christ the universal Lord.

Let us turn our eyes and our hearts to him, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent. Let us put our hand in hers and joyfully enter this new time of grace that God gives his Church for the good of all mankind.

Like Mary and with her maternal help, let us make ourselves obedient to the action of the Holy Spirit so that the God of peace may sanctify us fully and the Church may be a sign and instrument of hope for all men. Amen.

For convenience, here are the two Psalms chanted at Vespers today:

Psalm 141

LORD, I call to you; come quickly to help me; listen to my plea when I call.

Let my prayer be incense before you; my uplifted hands an evening sacrifice.

Set a guard, LORD, before my mouth, a gatekeeper at my lips.

Do not let my heart incline to evil, or yield to any sin.
I will never feast upon the fine food of evildoers.

Let the just strike me; that is kindness; let them rebuke me; that is oil for my head.
All this I shall not refuse, but will pray despite these trials.

When their leaders are cast over the cliff, all will learn that my prayers were heard.

As when a farmer plows a field into broken clods, so their bones will be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.

My eyes are upon you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I take refuge; do not strip me of life.

Guard me from the trap they have set for me, from the snares of evildoers.

Into their own nets let all the wicked fall, while I make good my own escape.


Psalm 142

With full voice I cry to the LORD; with full voice I beseech the LORD.

Before God I pour out my complaint, lay bare my distress.

My spirit is faint within me, but you know my path.
Along the way I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

I look to my right hand, but no friend is there.
There is no escape for me; no one cares for me.

I cry out to you, LORD, I say,
You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.

Listen to my cry for help, for I am brought very low.
Rescue me from my pursuers, for they are too strong for me.

Lead me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name.
Then the just shall gather around me because you have been good to me.




HOMILY ON 11/30/08
First Sunday of Advent
Pastoral Visit to San Lorenzo fuori Le Mura



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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at the basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls:



Dear brothers and sisters:

With the first Sunday of Advent today, we enter that period of four weeks that starts the liturgical year and which directly prepares us for the feast of the Nativity, commemorating the incarnation of Christ in history.

The spiritual message of Advent, however, is more profound, because it projects us towards the glorious return of the Lord at the end of history.

Adventus is a Latin word, which can be translated as arrival, coming, presence. In the language of the ancient world, it was a technical term which referred to the arrival of a functionary, particularly that of a visit by the king or the emperor to the provinces, but it could also be used to mean the appearance of a divinity emerging from his hidden dwelling and thus manifesting his divine power: his presence was solemnly celebrated in [an act of] worship.

In adopting the term Advent, Christians meant to express the special relation that united them with the crucified and resurrected Christ. He is the King, who, having entered this poor province called earth, made a gift to us of his visit; who, after his resurrection and ascension to heaven, nonetheless wanted to stay with us - we perceive his mysterious presence in our liturgical assembly.

In celebrating the Mass, we are proclaiming, in fact, that He has not retreated from the world and he has not left us, and even if we cannot see and touch him as we do can do with material and sensory realities, He is nevertheless with us and among us.

Indeed, he is in us, because he can draw towards him and communicate his own life to every believer who opens his heart to him.

Advent therefore means remembering the first coming of the Lord in the flesh, while thinking now of his definitive return. At the same time, it means acknowledging that Christ present among us makes himself our travelling companion in the life of the Church which celebrates his mystery.

This awareness, dear brothers and sisters, nourished by listening to the Word of God, should help us see the world with different eyes, to interpret the single events of life and history as words addressed to us by God, as signs of his love which assure us of his nearness in every situation.

This awareness, in particular, should prepare us to welcome him when "once again he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom shall have no end", as we will proclaim soon in the Credo.

In this perspective, Advent becomes for all Christians a time of waiting and hope, a favored time for listening and reflection if we allow ourselves to be guided by the liturgy which invites us to go forward to meet the coming Lord.

"Come Lord Jesus" - that ardent invocation of the first Christian community should become, dear friends, our constant aspiration as well, the aspiration of the Church in every age, which yearns and prepares for the encounter with her Lord.

"Come today, Lord - help us, enlighten us, grant us peace, help us defeat violence. Come Lord, we pray to you especially during these weeks. Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved."

Thus we prayed earlier with the responsorial Psalm. And the prophet Isaiah revealed to us, in the first Reading, that the face of our Lord is that of a kind and merciful Father, who cares for us in every circumstance because we are his handiwork: "You LORD are our father, our redeemer.." (63,16).

Our God is a father ready to forgive all sinners who repent and to welcome those who believe in his mercy (cfr Is 64,4). We were estranged from him because of sin, falling into the dominion of death, but he took pity on us, and of his own initiative, without any merit on our part, he decided to come to us, sending his only Son as our Redeemer.

Before such a great mystery of love, our gratitude rises spontaneously, and our invocation is more confident: "Show us your mercy, Lord, today, in our time, in all parts of the world, and grant us your salvation" (cfr Canto al Vangelo).

Dear brothers and sisters, the thought of the presence of Christ and of his certain return at the end of time, is even more significant in this, your Basilica, next to the monumental cemetery of Verano, where so many of our dear departed repose, awaiting the resurrection.

How many times funeral liturgies have been celebrated here! How many times the words have resounded full of consolation: "In Christ your Son, our savior, may the hope of blessed resurrection shine on us, and as we are saddened by the thought of certain death, we are comforted by the promise of future immortality" (cfr Preface for the Dead I).

But this monumental Basilica of yours, which leads us to think of the primitive church ordered built by the Emperor Constantine which was subsequently transformed to what it is today, speaks to us above all of the glorious martyr St. Lawrence, arch-deacon of Pope Sixtus II, and his trustee in the administration of the assets of the Church.

I came to celebrate the Holy Eucharist today to join you in rendering homage during a singular event, the occasion of the Lawrentian Jubilee Year, declared to commemorate 1750 years since the birth in heaven of the holy Deacon.

History confirms how glorious the name of this saint is, at whose tomb we are gathered. His solicitude for the poor, the generous service he rendered to the Church of Rome in the field of social assistance and charity, his loyalty to the Pope, who inspired him to want to follow him in the supreme trial of martyrdom and the heroic testimony by blood, which he shed just a few days later, are universally known.

St. Leo the Great, in a beautiful homily, commented on the atrocious martyrdom of this 'illustrious hero': "The flames could not conquer the charity of Christ; and the fire which burned him was weaker than that which blazed within him".

He added: "The Lord wished to exalt his glorious name in all the world, that from East to West, in the vivid brilliance of the light radiated by the greatest of deacons, the same glory that came to Jerusalem from Stephen also came to Rome thanks to Lawrence's merit" (Homily 55,4: PL 54,486).

This year is also the 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pius XII, and this recalls to us an event that was particularly dramatic in the pluricentennial history of your Basilica. It took place during the Second World War, when on July 19, 1943, a violent bombardment inflicted very serious damages on the Church and on the entire neighborhood, sowing death and destruction.

Never can that generous gesture by my venerated predecessor be erased from historical memory, in coming immediately to the aid and comfort of the people who had been so severely struck, meeting them among still-smoking ruins.

Neither can I forget that this Basilica also houses the remains of two other great personages. In the hypogeum [underground crypt], the mortal remains of Blessed Pius IX have been placed for the veneration of the faithful; and in the atrium is the tomb of Alcide De Gasperi, a wise and fair-minded leader for Italy in the difficult years of postwar reconstruction, who was, at the same time, an illustrious statesman who was capable of looking at Europe with wide-ranging Christian vision.

While we are gathered together in prayer, I am pleased to greet you all with affection, starting with the Cardinal Vicar; the Vice Regent, who is also the Abbot of the Basilica; the Auxiliary Bishop of the North Sector; and your parish priest, Fr. Bruno Mustacchio, whom I thank for the kind words he addressed to me before the start of the Mass.

I greet the Minister General of the Capuchin Order and the brothers of the Community who have been carrying out their service with seal and dedication - welcoming the numerous pilgrims, assisting the pooer in charity, and testifying to hope in the resurrected Christ to all who visit the cemetery of Verano. I wish to assure you of my appreciation, and above all, of remembrance in my prayers.

I also greet the various groups involved in catechesis, liturgy and charity; the members of the two polyphonic choirs, and the local and regional branches of the Third Franciscan Order.

I particularly appreciate the fact that for many years now, this parish has been home to the 'diocesan missionary laboratory' to educate the parish communities in missionary awareness, and I gladly join you in hoping that this initiative in our Diocese may contribute to inspire a courageous pastoral missionary activity, which will bring the message of God's merciful love to every corner of Rome, involving above all the young people and families.

Finally, I wish to extend my greeting to all the inhabitants of this quarter, especially the aged, the sick, the people who are alone and in difficulty. I pray for each and everyone in this Holy Mass.

Dear brothers and sisters, at the start of Advent, what better message to draw from St. Lawrence than that of sanctity? He repeats to us that sanctity - that is, walking forward to Christ who is always coming to visit us, is never out of fashion, but, with the passing of time, it shines more luminously and shows the perennial tendency of man to reach out to God.

Therefore, may this jubilee commemoration be an occasion for your parish community for a renewed adherence to Christ, for a greater examination in depth of your sense of belonging to his Mystical Body which is the Church, and for a constant commitment to evangelization through charity.

May St. Lawrence, heroic witness to the crucified and resurrected Christ, be for each one an example of obedient adherence to the divine will, in order that, as we heard the apostle Paul remind the Corinthians, we too can live in a way that we may be found 'irreproachable' on the day of the coming of the Lord (cfr 1 Cor 1,7-9).

To prepare ourselves for the advent of Christ is also the exhortation we gather from today's Gospel: "Be watchful", Jesus tells us in the brief parable of the master who leaves home but does not know when he will return (cfr Mk 13,33-37).

To be watchful means to follow the Lord, to choose what he chose, love as he loved, conform our own life to his. To be watchful means to pass every moment of our time within the horizon of his love without allowing ourselves to be beaten by the inevitable difficulties and problems of daily life.

That is what St. Lawrence did. This we should do, and let us ask the Lord to give us the grace so that Advent may be a stimulus for everyone to walk in this direction.

May we be guided and accompanied by the intercession of the humble Virgin of Nazareth, Mary, chosen by God to become the Mother of the Redeemer; by St. Andrew, whose feast we celebrate today; and by St. Lawrence, example of intrepid Christian faithfulness unto martyrdom. Amen.



Angelus of 11/30/08


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the Angelus today:



Dear brothers and sisters:

Today, with the first Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which always exercises a great fascination on us.


As Jesus liked to do, I wish nonetheless to start from a very concrete observation: we all say "We do not have time" because the rhythm of daily life has become so frenetic for everyone. But even in this respect, the Church brings 'good news': God gives us his time.

We always have too little time. Especially for the Lord, we do not know how to find the time - or sometimes, we don't want to.

Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the start of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with fresh wonder. Yes, God gives us his time, because he entered history with his Word and his work of salvation, to open it up to the eternal, to make it become a story of alliance with him.

In this perspective, time is already in itself a fundamental sign of God's love - a gift which man, as he can with any other thing, can either value or waste; he can comprehend its significance, or ignore it out of obtuse superficiality.

There are three great 'hinges' of time that mark the story of salvation: in the beginning is creation; in the center, incarnation-redemption; and in the end, parousia, the Final Coming of the Lord which also includes the Universal Judgment.

But these three instances are not to be understood simply as a chronological succession.

Indeed, creation is at the beginning of everything, but it is also continuous and takes place along the entire course of cosmic becoming, to the very end of time.

Likewise, incarnation-redemption took place at a specific historical moment - Jesus's passage through earth - but its range of action extends to the preceding time and to that which follows.

In their turn, the Final Coming and the last Judgment - which were anticipated decisively on the Cross of Christ - exercise their influence on the conduct of men in every age.

The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God, in both its instances: First, it invites us to reawaken our expectation of the glorious return of Christ. Thus, as Christmas approaches, it calls us to welcome the Word-made-flesh for our salvation.

But the Lord continually comes into our life. How very timely then is Jesus's appeal which is powerfully re-proposed to us on this first Sunday of Advent: "Be watchful!" (Mk 13,33.35.37) It was addressed to his disciples, but also 'to everyone", because each of us, at a time known only to God, will be called to account for our own existence.

This implies proper detachment from earthly goods, sincere repentance for our errors, active charity towards our neighbor, and above all, a humble and confident entrusting of oneself into the hands of God, our kind and merciful Father.

The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Let us invoke her so that she may help us to become an extension of mankind for the Lord who is coming.


After the Angelus prayers, he said this:

November 20 is the Feast Day of the Apostle St. Andrew, brother of Simon Peter. Both were followers of John the Baptist, but after the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, they became his disciples, having recognized in him the Messiah.

St. Andrew is the patron of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and therefore the Church of Rome feels itself bound to that of Constantinople by a bond of special brotherhood.

Following what has now become a tradition on this happy occasion, a delegation of the Holy See, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is visiting Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

With all my heart, I address my greeting and my best wishes to him and the faithful of the Patriarchate, invoking on all the abundance of heavenly blessings.

I wish to invite you now to join in prayers for the numerous victims of the brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and of the deadly encounters that have just erupted in Jos, Nigeria, for all those who were injured and who were in any way affected by these events.

The causes and the circumstances of these tragic events are diverse, but the horror and deploration for the explosion of such cruel and senseless violence must be common.

Let us ask the Lord to touch the hearts of those who delude themselves that violence is the way to resolve local or international problems, and let us feel impelled to give an example of kindness and love in order to build a society that is worthy of God and of man.


In English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. I offer a special welcome to the participants in the Youth Meeting at the European University of Rome.

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new liturgical year. The Gospel invites to be prepared as faithful servants for the coming of Christ.

May Advent be a time of preparation that leads us to a life centred on our Christian hope. May God bless you all!


To Polish-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I welcome the Poles, with a particular greeting to the participants in the Roman Encounter of Youth, who have gathered here from different countries in order to seek together from the teachings of John Paul II inspiration and perspectives for a fruitful life.

In this effort to construct a future of ha[[happiness, may you be sustained by the protection of Mary. May God bless all present.





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04/12/2008 03.15
 
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AUDIENCE OF 12/3/08
Catechesis #15, Pauline Year Catechetical Cycle



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Here is a translation of the full catechesis:


Dear brothers and sisters,

In today's catechesis, we will dwell on the relationship between Adam and Christ, delineated by St. Paul in the famous page of the Letter to the Romans (5,12-21), in which he hands down to the Church the essential lines of the doctrine on original sin.

For convenience, here is the full citation:
12 Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned --
13 for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
15 But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by that one person's transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many.
16 And the gift is not like the result of the one person's sinning. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
17 For if, by the transgression of one person, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ.
18 In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act acquittal and life came to all.
19 For just as through the disobedience of one person the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one the many will be made righteous.
20 The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Actually, in the first letter to the Corinthians, writing on faith in the resurrection, Paul had already introduced the comparison between the progenitor and Christ. "For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life...'The first man, Adam, became a living being', the last Adam a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15,22.45).

With Rom 5,15-21, the comparison between Christ and Adam is more articulated and illuminating: Paul reviews the story of salvation from Adam to the Law and from there to Christ. At the center is not so much Adam with the consequences of sin on mankind, as much as Jesus Christ and the grace which, through him, is poured in abundance on mankind.

The repetition of 'how much more' about Christ underlines how the gift received in him surpasses by far the sin of Adam and the consequences it produced on mankind, such that Paul can conclude with "But where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more" (Rm 5,20). Thus, the comparison that Paul traces between Adam and Christ highlights the inferiority of the first man with respect to the prevalence of Christ.

On the other hand, it is precisely to place in evidence the incommensurable gift of grace, in Christ, that Paul refers to Adam's sin: one might say that if it were not to demonstrate the centrality of grace, he would not have put off discussing sin which "through one person, entered the world, and with sin, death" (Rm 5,12).

Thus, if in the faith of the Church, the awareness of the dogma of original sin matured, it is because it is connected inseparably with the other dogma, that of salvation and of freedom in Christ.

The consequence is that we should never consider the sin of Adam and mankind in a way detached from the salvific context, that is, without understanding it within the horizon of justification in Christ.

But as men of today we should ask ourselves: what is original sin? What does St. Paul teach, what does the Church say? Is this doctrine still sustainable today?

many think that, in the light of the story of evolution, there is no longer place for the doctrine of original sin that then spreads itself over the whole history of mankind. Consequently, even the question of redemption and the Redeemer would lose its foundation.

So, does original sin exist or not? To be able to answer, we should distinguish two aspects of the doctrine on original sin. There is an empirical aspect, that is, a concrete reality, that is visible, I would say tangible to all. And there is the aspect of mystery which concerns the ontological basis of this fact.

The empirical fact is that there exists a contradiction in our being. On the one hand, man knows that he must do good, and intimately, he wants to do good. But at the same time, he also feels the impulse of doing the opposite, of following the road of selfishness, of violence, of doing what he pleases even if he knows it would be acting against good, against God, against neighbor.

St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans, expressed this contradiction in our being thus: "The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want" (7,18-19). This interior contradiction in our being is not a theory. Each of us experiences it everyday. And above all, we always see around us the prevalence of this second will. Just think of the daily news on injustice, violence, lies and lust. We see it everyday; it is a fact".

As a consequence of this power of evil on our spirits, a dirty river has formed which poisons the geography of human history. The great French thinker Blaise Pascal spoke of a 'second nature' which is superimposed on our original nature which is good. This 'second nature' makes the bad appear as normal to man. Thus even the usual expression "This is human" has a double meaning.

"This is human" Can mean: this man is good, he acts as a man should act. But it can also mean falsehood: evil is normal, it is human. Evil seems to have become second nature.

This contradiction in the human being, in our history, should provoke, and does provoke, even today, a desire for redemption. I fact, the desire that the world may change and that the promise that a world of justice, peace, good will be created is everywhere. In politics, for instance, everyone speaks of this need to change the world, to create a more just world. This in itself is an expression of the desire for a liberation from the contradiction that we experience in ourselves.

Thus, the fact of the power of evil on the human heart and in human history is undeniable. The question is: how do we explain this evil? In the history of ideas, outside the Christian faith, there is a principal explanation, with many variations. This model says: being itself is contradictory, it carries good as well as evil. In the ancient world, this idea implied that there were two equal and original principles: a good principle and a bad one. This dualism was supposedly insurmountable. The two principles are on the same level, therefore there would always be, from the origin of being, this contradiction.

And so the contradiction in our being simply reflects the opposition of the two divine principles, so to say. In the evolutionist atheist version of the world the same vision returns in a new way.
even if, in this concept, the vision of being is monistic, it supposes that the being as such carries in itself both good and bad from the very start. Being itself is not simply good, but open to both good and bad. Evil is just as original as good. And human history would develop only the model already present all preceding evolution.

And that which Christians call original sin is only the mixed nature of being, a mixture of good and evil which, according to this theory, belongs to the same matter as being.

This is a vision which is basically desperate: if it were so, then evil is invincible. At the end, all that counts is self-interest. And every progress would necessarily have to be paid with a river of evil, and whoever would like to serve progress must agree to pay this price.

Politics, basically, is based on these premises - and we see the effects. This modern thinking can, in the end, only create sadness and cynicism.

So we ask again: what does faith tell us, as testified by St. Paul ? First, it confirms the fact of competition between the two natures, the fact of this evil who shadow hand over all creation.

We heard Chapter 7 of the Letter to the Romans, and we can add Chapter 8. Evil exists, simply. As an explanation, and in contrast with the dualisms and monisms that we briefly looked at and found desolating, faith tells us: there are two mysteries of light and one of night, which, however, is wrapped up in the mysteries of light.

The first mystery of light is this: faith tells us that there are not two principles, one good and one evil, but only one principle, the Creator God, and this principle is good, , only good, without a shadow of evil. And so, even being is not a mixture of good and evil; being as such is good, and therefore, it is good to be, it is good to live.

This is the happy announcement of faith: there is only a good source, the Creator. And therefore to live is good, it is good to be a man, a woman. Life is good.

Then comes the mystery of darkness, of night. Evil does not come from the source of being itself - it is not equally original. Evil comes from a created freedom, from an abused freedom.

How was it possible? How did it happen? This remains obscure. Evil is not logical. Only God and good are logical - they are light. Evil remains mysterious. It is presented in great images, as in Chapter 5 of Genesis, with the image of the two trees, the serpent, the sinning man. A great image that makes us guess but cannot explain what is in itself illogical.

We can guess but not explain. Nor can we say why one is next to the other, because it is a more profound reality. It remains mystery of darkness, of night.

But there is soon another mystery of light. Evil comes from a subordinate source. God with his light is stronger. And so, evil can be overcome. And the creature, man, can be healed.

The dualistic visions, even the monism of evolutionism, cannot say that man can be healed; but if evil comes only from a subordinate source, it remains true that man can be healed. And the Book of Wisdom says, "The creatures of the world are wholesome' (1,14).

Finally, man not only can be healed, He is healed, in fact. God introduced healing. He entered history in person. To the permanent source of evil he opposes a source of pure goodness. Christ crucified and resurrected, the new Adam, opposes the dirty river of evil with a river of light.

And this river is present in history: we see the saints, the great ones but also the humble saints, the simple faithful. We see that the river of light that comes from Christ is present and is strong.

Brothers and sisters, it is Advent time, In the language of the Church, the word Advent has two meanings: presence and waiting. Presence: light is present, Christ is the new Adam, he is with us and among us. Already the light shines, and we should open the eyes of the heart to see the light and to introduce ourselves into the river of light.

Above all, be grateful for the fact that God himself entered history as the new source of good.

But Advent also means waiting. The dark night of evil is still strong. And so, let us pray in Advent with the ancient people of God: 'Rorate caeli desuper' [Drop down, dew from heaven].

And let us pray with insistence: Come, Jesus. Come, give strength to the light and to goodness; come where lies, ignorance of God, violence and injustice dominate; come Lord Jesus, give strength good in this world and help us to be bearers of your light, workers of peace, witnesses of truth. Come Lord Jesus!


In English, he said:

In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider the Apostle’s teaching on the relation between Adam, the first man, and Christ, the second Adam (cf. 1 Cor 15:22.45; Rom 5:12-21).

Paul’s teaching on the sin of Adam and its disastrous consequences for the human family is meant to emphasize the surpassing gift of grace bestowed on humanity by Jesus Christ.

Seen in this light, the doctrine of original sin explains the misery of our human condition, yet Paul also underlines the moral responsibility of each man and woman for this tragic reality.

"All have sinned", the Apostle tells us, "and all fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Yet now, by faith in Christ, we have been justified and are at peace with God (cf. Rom 5:1).

Christ, the new Adam, by his obedience to the Father’s will, has set mankind free from the ancient burden of sin and death. In Baptism, he has given us a share in his saving death and resurrection, and made us adoptive children of the Father.

The new life and freedom which we have received by the grace of Christ impels us to bear witness to the sure hope that all creation will be freed from its bondage to corruption, and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19ff.).

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from Malta, Australia, South Korea and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke an abundance of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.


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07/12/2008 15.28
 
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ANGELUS OF 12/7/08


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's messages today:


Dear brothers and sisters!

For a week now, we have been living the liturgical time of Advent - a time of opening to the future of God, a time of preparing for the Holy Nativity, when he, the Lord - the absolute novelty - came to live in the midst of decadent mankind to renew it from within.

The liturgy of Advent resonates with a message full of hope, which invites us to raise our eyes to the ultimate horizon, but at the same time, to recognize in the present the signs of God-with-us.

In this second Sunday of Advent, the Word of God takes on the moving words of the so-called Second Isaiah, who announced liberation to the Israelites after decades of their exile in Babylonia: "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end" (Is 40,1-2).

This is what the Lord wants to do in Advent: to speak to the heart of his People, and through them, to all of mankind, in order to announce salvation.

Even today, the Church raises its voice: "In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!" (Is 40,3).

For the populations worn down by poverty and hunger, for the ranks of refugees, for all those who suffer grave and systematic violations of their rights - the Church makes herself the sentinel on the mountain of faith who announces: "Here is your God! Here comes with power
the Lord GOD" (Is 40,11).

This prophetic announcement was realized in Jesus Christ. With his preaching and later with his death and resurrection, he brought to fulfillment the ancient promises, revealing a more profound and universal perspective.

He inaugurated an exodus that is not only earthly and historical - and therefore provisional - but that is radical and definitive: the passage from the kingdom of evil to the Kingdom of God, from the dominion of evil and death to that of love and life.

Therefore, Christian hope goes beyond the legitimate expectation of social and political liberation, because what Jesus initiated was a new humanity, which comes 'from God', but at the same time sprouts here on earth, to the degree in which it allows itself to be made fruitful by the Spirit of the Lord.

But this implies entering fully into the logic of faith: to believe in God, in his plan of salvation, and at the same time, to be committed to the construction of his Kingdom.

Justice and peace, in fact, are a gift of God, but they require men and women who are the 'good earth', ready to welcome the good seed of his Word.

The first fruit of the new humanity was Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary. She, the Virgin Mother, was the 'way' that the Lord himself prepared for his coming into the world.

With all her humility, Mary walks at the head of the New Israel in the exodus from every exile, from every oppression, from every moral and material slavery, towards "new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Pt 3,13).

To her maternal intercession, let us entrust this hope of peace and salvation for the men of our time.

After the prayers, he said:

In the past week, the Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias, His Holiness Alexei-II, passed away. We join our Orthodox brothers in prayer to commend his soul to the goodness of the Lord so that he may welcome him to his Kingdom of light and peace.

Next Thursday afternoon, Dec. 1l, I will meet students of the Roman universities in St. Peter's Basilica, after Holy Mass which will be presided by Cardinal Agostino Vallini.

On the occasion of the Pauline Year, I will hand to the young students the Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul, and it will be my pleasure to greet them, along with the rectors, professors, and technical and administrative staff of the universities of Rome, in this traditional encounter preparatory to the Holy Nativity.

It is also my pleasure to address a special greeting to the Chierici Mariani dell’Immacolata Concezione, who will start tomorrow the centenary jubilee of the rebirth and reformation of their Congregation.

Dear brothers, may the Virgin Mary obtain abundant graces for you and help you to remain faithful to your charism.


In English, he said:

I greet the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are gathered here today.

The Church puts before us, on this second Sunday of Advent, the figure of John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness: "Prepare a way for the Lord". During this Advent season, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of Christ, let us prepare a place for him in our hearts.

I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.



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09/12/2008 16.51
 
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ANGELUS OF 12/8/08
SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noontime Angelus:


Dear brothers and sisters!

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception of Mary that we celebrate solemnly today reminds us of two fundamental truths of our faith: original sin, first of all; and then the victory over it, thanks to Christ, a victory which shines sublimely in the most Blessed Mary.

The existence of what the Church calls 'original sin' is unfortunately too crushingly evident if we look around us and, above all, within us.

The experience of evil is in fact so consistent as to impose itself and lead us to ask: Where does it come from? The question is even more profound for a believer: If God, who is absolute Good, created everything, then where does evil come from?

The first pages of the Bible (Gn 1-3) answer this fundamental question, which every generation raises, with the story of creation and of the fall of our first parents: God created everything, and in particular, he created the human being in his own image

He did not create death, but this came into the world through the devil's envy (cfr Wis 1,13-14; 2,23-24) who, having rebelled against God, drew even men towards deceit, leading them to rebellion.

It is the tragedy of freedom, which God accepted to the ultimate out of love, but promising that there would be a son of woman who would crush the head of the serpent (Gn 3,15).

From the beginning, then, 'the eternal counsel' - as Dante said - had a 'pre-ordained condition' (Paradise, XXXIII,3): the Woman predestined to be the mother of the Redeemer, mother of he who humbled himself to the extreme in order to lead us back to our original dignity.

This Woman, in the eyes of God, always had a face and a name: 'full of grace' (Lk 1,28) as the Angel called her, when he visited her in Nazareth. She is the new Eve, spouse of the new Adam, destined to be the mother of all the redeemed.

Thus St. Andrew of Crete wrote: "The Theotokos [God bearer] Mary, common refuge of all Christians, was the first to be freed from the original fall of our ancestors" (Homily IV on the Nativity, PG 97, 880a).

And the liturgy today affirms that God "prepared a worthy dwelling for his Son and, in advance of his death, preserved her from every stain of sin" (Collect Prayer).

Dearest ones, in Mary the Immaculate, we contemplate the reflection of the Beauty which saves the world: the beauty of God which shines on the face of Christ. In Mary, this beauty is totally pure, humble, free of any pride and presumption.

It was thus the Virgin showed herself to St. Bernadette 150 years ago at Lourdes, and thus she is venerated in so many shrines. This afternoon, following tradition, I too will render homage at the monument dedicated to her in {Piazza di Spagna.

Let us now invoke the Immaculate Virgin with confidence, repeating in the Angelus the words of the Gospel which the liturgy proposes for our meditation today.


After the prayers, he said:

It is my pleasure to greet the Pontifical Academy of the Immacolata and its president, Cardinal Andrea Maria Deskur.

Dear friends, 20 years since the approval of the Academy's new Statute, I invoke the Blessed Virgin so that she may always watch over you and your activities.


In French, he said:

I am happy to greet all the dear French-speaking people present for this Angelus prayer, here in Rome, or through radio and television.

On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we join the pilgrims gathered in all Marian shrines, most especially those in Lourdes for the closing of the Jubilee Year of the Apparitions; and those gathered in Ars for the opening of the Jubilee Year marking the 150th anniversary of the death of St. Jean-Marie Vianney.

May Our Lady of Advent help us to say Yes to the Lord who will fulfill our life. We can, following her example, live in trust. With my Apostolic Blessing!


In English, he said:

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who are present today.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an occasion for us all to rejoice in the radiant purity of the Mother of our Redeemer.

She was chosen from among all women to be our pattern of holiness, a sign of favour to the Church at its beginning and the promise of its perfection as the spotless bride of Christ.

May God bless you, your families and all those you love.




HOMILY AND PRAYER AT THE ACT OF VENERATION
TO THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, 12/08/08


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the traditional Act of Veneration by the Pope before the Pillar of the Immaculate Conception in Rome's Piazza Spagna:


Dear brothers and sisters:

Three months ago, I had the joy of making a pilgrimage to Lourdes, on the 150th anniversary year of the historic apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette.

The celebrations of this singular anniversary conclude today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, because the 'beautiful Lady' -as Bernadette called her - when she showed herself for the last time at the grotto in Massabielle, revealed her name, saying, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

She spoke in the local dialect, and the young seer reported her words to her parish priest, an expression that was unknown and incomprehensible to her.

Immaculate Conception - even we say that mysterious name with emotion. We say it again here, at the foot of this monument in the heart of Rome. And countless of our brothers and sisters do the same in thousands of other places around the world, in shrines and chapels, and in the homes of Christian families.

Wherever there is a Catholic community, there the Madonna is venerated today with this stupendous and wonderful title: Immaculate Conception.

Certainly, the belief in the immaculate conception of Mary already existed centuries before the apparitions at Lourdes, but it acquired something like a celestial seal after my venerated predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, defined it as dogma on December 8, 1854.

In today's feast, so dear to the Christian people, this expression comes from our hearts and touches our lips as the name of our celestial Mother.

Just as a child raises his eyes to the face of his mother, and seeing her smile, forgets every fear and every pain, we too, turning our eyes to Mary, recognize in her 'the smile of God', the immaculate reflection of divine light. We find in her new hope even in the midst of the problems and tragedies of the world.

It has become tradition that the Pope joins in the homage of the city by bringing Mary a basket of roses. These flowers indicate our love and our devotion: the love and devotion of the Pope, of the Church of Rome, and of the inhabitants of this city, who feel themselves spiritual children of Mary.

Symbolically, roses can express the good and the beautiful that we have achieved during the year, because in this event that has now become traditional, we wish to offer everything to our Mother, convinced that we could not have done anything without her protection and without the graces that she obtains daily for us from God.

But as the saying goes, there are no roses without thorns, and even the stems of these wonderful white roses do not lack thorns, which represents for us the difficulties, the sufferings and the bad things that have also marked and continue to mark the lives of persons and of our communities.

To the Mother, we present not only our joys, but we also confide our concerns, sure of finding in her comfort for the struggle and support for moving ahead.

O Immaculate Virgin, at this moment, I wish to entrust specially to you the 'little ones' of our city: the children, first of all, and those whoa re gravely ill, the disadvantaged children and those who are experiencing the consequences of difficult family situations. Watch over them and make them feel, in the affection and assistance of those who are near them, the warmth of God's love.

I entrust to you, o Mary, the aged who are alone, the sick, the immigrants who are doing their best to settle in, nuclear families who are struggling to make ends meet, and those who are unemployed or have lost jobs indispensable for getting on with life.

Teach us, Mary to be one with whose who are in difficulty, and to make up up for ever-widening social disparities. help us to cultivate a better sense of the common good, of respect for what is public. Impel us to feel that the city - more than ever, our city of Rome - as the patrimony of all, and for each of us to do our part, with conscientiousness and commitment, to build a more just and fraternal society.

O Immaculate Mother, who are a sign of sure hope and comfort for all, makes us be drawn to your immaculate purity. Your Beauty - Tota Pulchra, we sing today - assures us that the triumph of love is possible - that it is certain. It assures us that grace is stronger than sin, and that rescue from any slavery is possible.

Yes, o Mary, help us to believe with more trust in goodness, to take ourselves on generosity, on service, on non-violence, on the power of truth. Encourage us to remain watchful, not to yield to the temptation of easy escapes, to face reality and its problems, with courage and responsibility.

Thus you did, as a young girl, when you were called to risk everything on the Word of the Lord. Be a loving mother to our young people, so that they may have the courage to be 'the sentinels of dawn', and give this virtue to all Christians so that they may be the soul of the world in this none too easy season of history.

Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!



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Utente Gold
AUDIENCE OF 12/10/08
Catechesis #16 of the Pauline Year Cycle


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Here is a translation of the official text of the Holy Father's catechesis at his Wednesday audience this week. The release of the text was delayed overnight, apparently to transcribe the actual text delivered by the Pope who extemporized in a number of places.



Dear brothers and sisters,
Following St. Paul, we saw two things in the catechesis last Wednesday. The first is that our human history was poisoned from the start by the abuse of freedom which aimed to emancipate man from divine will.

Thus, he does not find true freedom but places himself in opposition to the truth, and consequently, falsifies our human realities. Above all, it (the abuse of freedom) falsifies fundamental relations - with God, between man and woman, between man and the earth.

We said that this poisoning of our history has spread throughout its fabric and that this inherited defect has been growing and is now visible everywhere.

The second was this: We learned from St. Paul that in Jesus Christ - he who is God and man - there came to be a new beginning in history and to history. With him, who came from God, a new story began that started with his Yes to the Father, founded not on the arrogance of false emancipation, but on love and truth.

Now the question is: how can we enter into this new beginning, into this new story? How does this new story get to me?

With the first poisoned story we are inevitably linked by our biological descendance [the official text corrects the 'theological' that was used in the OR article] since we all belong to the single body of mankind.

But the communion with Jesus, the new birth, the new humanity, how are they realized? How does Jesus come into my life, into my being?
The fundamental response of St. Paul, of the entire New Testament is - through the Holy Spirit.

If the first story comes to us, so to speak, through biology, the second comes in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Risen Christ. This Spirit created at Pentecost the start of a new humanity, of the new community - the Church, the Body of Christ.

But we must be even more concrete: this Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, how can it become my Spirit? The answer is that in happens through three modalities that are intimately connected to each other.

The first is this: the Spirit of Christ knocks at the doors of my heart, it touches me intimately. But in order that the new humanity should be a true body, so that the spirit can unite us and truly create a community - since the new beginning is characterized by overcoming divisions and creating the aggregation of what is dispersed - this Spirit of Christ visibly avails itself of two elements of visible aggregation: the word of announcement, and the sacraments, particularly Baptism and the Eucharist.

In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (10,9), that is, you will have entered into a new history - a story of life and not of death.

Then St. Paul continues: "But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?" (10,14-15). In a succeeding passage, he says: "Faith comes from listening" (Rom 10,17).

Faith is not a product of our thinking, of our reflection - it is something new that we cannot invent but can only receive as a gift, as a novelty produced by God.

Faith does not come from reading but from listening. It is not just an internal thing but a relationship with Someone. It presupposes an encounter with the announcement, it presupposes the existence of an 'other' who announces and creates communion.

Finally, he who makes the announcement does not speak for himself, but is sent. He is within a structure of mission that starts with Jesus sent by the Father, and goes down to the apostles - the word 'apostles' means 'messengers' - and continues in the ministry, in the missions handed down by the apostles.

The new fabric of history appears in this structure of missions, in which ultimately we hear God himself speaking, his personal word - his Son - speaks to us, comes down to us.

The Word was made flesh - Jesus - in order to truly create a new humanity. Therefore, the word of announcement becomes a sacrament in Baptism, which is a rebirth from water and the Spirit, as St. John would say.

In Chapter 6 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks very profoundly of Baptism - we heard the text but it is useful to repeat it here: "Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (6,3-4).

Naturally, in this catechesis, I cannot enter into a detailed interpretation of a text that is not easy. I wish to note briefly three things.

The first: "We have been baptized" is a passive statement. No one can baptize himself, he needs somebody else. No one can make himself Christian all by himself. To become Christian is a passive process. Only from another can we become Christians. And that 'other' that makes us Christians, which gives us the gift of faith, is first of all, the community of believers, the Church.

From the Church, we receive our faith in Baptism. Without allowing ourselves to be formed by this community, we do not become Christians. An autonomous, self-made Christianity is a self-contradiction.

In the first instance then, this other is the community of believers, the Church, but even this community does not act by itself, according to its own ideas and desires. Even the community lives in the same passive process: only Christ can constitute the Church. Christ is the true giver of the Sacraments. This is the first point: No one baptizes himself, no one makes himself Christian. We become Christians.

The second point is this: Baptism is more than just a cleansing: it is death and resurrection. Paul himself, speaking in the letter to the Galatians about the turning point in his life realized in his encounter with the Risen Christ, describes it with the words, "I died". At that point, a new life really starts for him.

To become a Christian is not a cosmetic operation that would add something beautiful to an existence that is already more or less complete. It is a new beginning and a rebirth: death and resurrection. Obviously, in resurrection, what was good in the preceding existence re-emerges.

The third point: Matter is part of the sacrament. Christianity is not something that is purely spiritual. It involves the body. It involves the cosmos. It extends towards the new earth and new heavens.

Let us return to the last words in the text of St. Paul, who says, we can "walk in a new life". An element for examination of conscience by us all: to walk in a new life. That is Baptism.

Now we come to the sacrament of the Eucharist. I have shown in earlier catecheses with what profound respect St. Paul verbally transmits the tradition on the Eucharist which he received from the witnesses of that last night. He transmits these words like a precious treasure entrusted to his faithfulness.

And so, we really hear in these words the witnesses of the Last Supper: "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11, 23-25).

It is an inexhaustible text. Even here, two brief observations. Paul transmits the words of the Lord over the chalice: this chalice is 'the new covenant in my blood'. In these words are hidden a reference to two fundamental texts from the Old Testament.

The first reference is to the promise of a new covenant in the book of the prophet Jeremiah (cfr 31,31-34). Jesus tells the apostles and tells us: Now, at this hour, with me and in my death, the new covenant will be realized; from my blood will start the new story of mankind.

But there is also another reference, in these words, to the moment of the covenant on Sinai, where Moses said, "This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his"(Ex 24,8).

In this case, it was the blood of animals. The blood of animals can only be an expression of a desire, an anticipation of the true sacrifice, of the true worship. With the gift of the chalice, the Lord gives us the true sacrifice. The only true sacrifice is the love of the Son. With his gift of love, eternal love, the world enters into the new covenant.

Celebrating the Eucharist means that Christ gives himself to us, his love, so we may conform ourselves to him and thus create a new world.

The second important aspect of the doctrine on the Eucharist appears in the same First Letter to the Corinthians where St. Paul says: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (10,16-17).

These words show both the personal as well as the social character of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Christ unites personally with each of us, but he also unites with the man and the woman next to me. The bread is for me as well as for others. Thus, he unites us all to him, and all of us with each other.

We receive Christ in communion. But Christ unites equally with my neighbor. Christ and my neighbor are inseparable in the Eucharist. Thus we are all one bred, one body.

Eucharist without solidarity with others is an abuse of the Eucharist. Here we are at the root which is also the center of the doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ. We can also see all the realism of this doctrine.

Christ gives us his Body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body, and so he makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body. If man eats ordinary bread, the bread becomes, through the process of digestion, part of his body, transformed to the substance of human life.

In Holy Communion, the inverse process happens. Christ the Lord assimilates us into himself, he introduces us into his glorious body, and thus all of us together become his body.

Whoever reads only Chapter 12 of the First Letter to the Corinthians and Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans may think that the image of the body of Christ as an organism is only a kind of sociological-theological parable.

Actually, in Roman politology, this symbol of the body with different members that form a unity was used for the State itself, to say that the State is an organism in which everyone has a function: the multiplicity and diversity of functions together make up a body in which everyone has his place.

Just reading Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Corinthians, one might think that Paul was translating this (symbol) only to the Church, and that even here, it only implies a sociology of the Church.

But if we keep the Pauline text in mind (Chapter 10), we will see that the realism of the Church is something else - much more profound and true than that of a State-organism. Because Christ really gives his body and makes us his body. We become truly united with the resurrected body of Christ, and thus united with one another.

The Church is not a corporation like the State - it is a body. It is not an organization but an organism.

Finally, just a brief word about the sacrament of matrimony. In the first Letter to the Corinthians, we find only a few references, whereas the Letter to the Ephesians truly develops a profound theology of matrimony.

Paul defines matrimony as 'a great mystery' (6,32). He says it in reference to Christ and his Church. This passage highlights a reciprocity which is configured in a vertical dimension. The language of love should adopt a reciprocal submission which has its model in the love of Christ for the Church.

This relationship between Christ and the Church makes the theological aspect of matrimonial love primary - it exalts the affective relationship between spouses. An authentic matrimony will be lived best if in its constant human and affective growth, it always remains linked to the efficacy of the Word and the significance of Baptism.

Christ has sanctified the Church, purifying it through a washing with water accompanied by the Word. Participation in the body and blood of the Lord cements and makes visible a union that has been rendered indissoluble by grace.

Finally, let us listen to the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: "The Lord is near" (4,5). I think we have understood that through the Word and through the sacraments, in all our life, the Lord is near.

Let us pray to him so that we may always be touched in the intimacy of our being by this, his nearness, so that joy may be born, since it must be born wherever Jesus is truly near.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For comparison purposes, I am keeping this translation of the 'provisional' text and earlier comments here.

As mentioned earlier, tomorrow's issue of L'Osservatore Romano does not contain the 'official text' of the Holy Father's catechesis today but what amounts to a lengthy paraphrase.

Actually, thanks to Vatican Radio's podcast of the catechesis
media01.vatiradio.va/podcast/00141619.MP3
which enables me to listen to it over and over on a loop, I followed the Pope's delivery against the text published in OR.

It turns out that the 'paraphrase' actually uses the Pope's prepared text, because he substantially delivered it as reported. Except that here and there in delivery, he interjected a few additional phrases or sentences, or altered the syntax of a few sentences, but obviously, never in any way that substantially alters the message - only to emphasize a point better or to express it more colloquially.

Therefore I will translate the OR article - which studiously avoids using quotation marks - as the Pope's basic text, thus avoiding the attributive phrases like "the Pope said' or 'the Pope underlined' or 'the Pope emphasized' that it necesssarily uses. But I will use suspension points at the places where he inserts something that I cannot transcribe faithfully because his voice fades at certain points, and italics for the additions I am positive about.



The theology of the sacraments
according to St. Paul:
The Church is a Body
not an organization

Translated from
the 12/11/08 issue of

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The catechesis of the Holy Father at the General Audience of December 10 at the Aula Paolo VI was dedicated to St. Paul's theology of the sacraments.

Provisional Text
CATECHESIS #16 OF THE PAULINE CYCLE


Following St. Paul, we saw two things in the catechesis last Wednesday. The first is that our human history was poisoned from the start by the abuse of freedom which aimed to emancipate man from divine will.

Thus, he does not find true freedom but places himself in opposition to the truth, and consequently, falsifies our human realities. Above all, it (the abuse of freedom) falsifies fundamental relations - with God, between man and woman, between man and the earth.

We said that this poisoning of our history has spread throughout its fabric and that this inherited defect is permanently growing and visible everywhere.

The second was this: We learned from St. Paul that in Jesus Christ, there came to be a new beginning in history and to history. With him, who came from God, a new story began that started with his Yes to the Father, not from the arrogance of false emancipation, but from love and truth.

Now the question is: how can we enter into this new beginning, into this new story? How does this new story get to me?

With the first poisoned story we are inevitably linked by our biological descendance [wrongly transcribed in the OR article as 'theological', which makes no sense] since we all belong to the single body of mankind.

But the communion with Jesus, the new birth, the new humanity, how are they realized? How does Jesus come into my life, into my being?
The fundamental response of St. Paul, of the entire New Testament is - through the Holy Spirit.

If the first story comes to us, so to speak, through biology [again, the OR transcription is 'theology'; in both cases, the Pope clearly says 'biologica' and 'biologia'], the second comes in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Risen Christ. This Spirit created at Pentecost the start of a new humanity, of the new community - the Church, the Body of Christ.

But we must be even more concrete: this Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, how can it become my Spirit? The answer is through three modalities that are intimately connected to each other.

The first: the Spirit of Christ knocks at the doors of my heart, it touches me intimately. But in order that the new humanity should be a true body, so that the spirit can unite us and truly create a community...., this Spirit of Christ visibly avails itself of two instruments, completely dissimilar: the word of announcement, and the sacraments, particularly Baptism and the Eucharist.

In the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul says: "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (10,9), that is, you will have entered into a new history - a story of life and not of death.

Then St. Paul continues: "But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?" (10,14-15).

In another text, he says briefly: faith comes from listening. If faith is not a product of our thinking, of our reflection, it is something new that we cannot invent but can only receive as a gift, as a novelty made by God.

Faith does not come from reading but from listening. It is not just an internal thing but a relationship.... [Here, he has his longest insertion - that it presupposes an encounter between the one who announces and the one who listens, it presupposes therefore an 'other' who makes the announcement]

Because finally, the announcement does not speak for itself but it is something sent, It is within a structure of mission that starts with Jesus sent by the Father, and goes down to the apostles - the word 'apostles' means 'messengers' - and continues in the ministry, in the missions handed down by the apostles.

The new fabric of history appears in this structure of missions, in which ultimately we hear God himself speaking, his personal word - his Son - speaks to us; the Word of God comes down to us.

The Word was made flesh in Jesus, to truly create a new humanity. Therefore, the announcement becomes a sacrament in Baptism - a rebirth from water and the Spirit, as St. John would say.

In Chapter 6 of the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul speaks very profoundly of Baptism - we heard this in the text that was read earlier, but it is useful to repeat it here: "Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life" (6,3-4).

[He then remarks that 'Obviously I cannot enter here into a detailed interpretation of a text that is 'not so easy'] Briefly, let us just note three points. The first: the verb 'to be baptized' is passive. No one can baptize himself, he needs somebody else. No one can make himself Christian all by himself. To become Christian is also passive. Only from another can we become Christians. And that 'other' that makes us Christians, which gives us the gift of faith, is first of all, the community of believers, the Church.

From the Church, we receive our faith in Baptism. Without allowing ourselves to be formed by this community, we do not become Christians. An autonomous, self-made Christianity is a self-contradiction.

Not only is the community of believers, the Church, needed by the individual, but even this community does not act by itself, according to its own ideas and desires... The community itself is also 'passive' - only Christ can constitute the Church....

The second point: Baptism is more than just a cleansing: it is death and resurrection. Paul himself describes in the letter to the Galatians the turning point in his life realized in his encounter with the Risen Christ, with the words, "I died"... At that point, a new life really starts for him.

To become a Christian is not a cosmetic operation that would add something beautiful to an existence that is already more or less complete. It is a new beginning and a rebirth: death and resurrection....

The third point: Matter is part of the sacrament. Christianity is not something that is purely spiritual. It involves the body. It involves the cosmos. It extends towards the new earth and new heavens.

Returning to St. Paul...let us see what he says about the Eucharist. I have shown in earlier catecheses with what profound respect St. Paul verbally transmits the tradition on the Eucharist which he received from the witnesses of that last night. He transmits these words like a precious treasure entrusted to his faithfulness.

And so, we really hear in these words the testimony of the Last Supper: "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11, 23-25).

Let me make two observations on this inexhaustible text. Paul transmits the words of the Lord over the chalice: this chalice is 'the new covenant in my blood'. In these words are hidden a reference two two fundamental texts from the Old Testatment.

The first reference is to the promise of a new covenant in the book of the prophet Jeremiah (cfr 31,31-34). Jesus tells the apostles and tells us: Now, at this hour, with me and in my death, the new covenant will be realized; from my blood will start the new story of mankind.

But there is also another reference, in these words, to the moment of the covenant on Sinai, where Moses said, here is the blood of the covenant tnat the Lord has concluded with you on the basis of these words.

In this case, it was the blood of animals. The blood of animals can only be... an anticipation of the true sacrifice, the true worship. With the gift of the chalice, the Lord gives us the true sacrifice. The only true sacrifice is the love of the Son. With his gift of love, eternal love, the world enters into the new covenant.

Celebrating the Eucharist means that Christ gives himself to us, his love, so we may conform ourselves to him and thus create a new world.

The second important aspect of the doctrine on the Eucharist sppears in the same First Letter to the Corinthians where St. Paul says: "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (10,16-17).

These words show both the personal as well as the social character of the sacrament of the Eucharist. Christ unites personally with each of us, but he also unites with the man and the woman next to me. The bread is for me as well as for others. Thus, he unites us all to him, and all of us with each other.

Eucharist without solidarity with others is an abuse of the Eucharist. Here we are at the root which is also the center of the doctrine of the Church as the Body of Christ, of the Risen Christ. We can also see all the realism of this doctrine.

Christ gives us his Body in the Eucharist, he gives himself in his body, and so he makes us his body, he unites us to his risen body. If man eats ordinary bread, the bread becomes, through the process of digestion, part of his body, transformed to the substance of human life.

In Holy Communion, the inverse process happens. Christ the Lord assimilates us into himself, he introduces us into his glorious body, and thus all of us together become his body.

Whoever reads only Chapter 12 of the First Letter to the Corinthians and Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Romans may think that the image of the body of Christ as an organism is only a kind of sociological-theological parable.

Actually, in Roman politology, this symbol of the body with different members that form a unity was used for the State itself, to say that the State is an organism in which everyone has a function: the multiplicity and diversity of functions together make up a body in which everyone has his place.

Just reading Chapter 12 of the Letter to the Corinthians, one might think that Paul was translating this (symbol) only to the Church, and that even here, it only implies a sociology of the Church.

But if we keep the Pauline text in mind, we will see that the realism of the Church is something else - much more profound and true than that of a State-organism. Because Christ really gives his body and makes us his body. We become truly united with the resurrected body of Christ, and thus united with one another.

The Church is not a corporation like the State - it is a body. It is not an organization but an organism.

Finally, let us look at what Paul says about marriage. In the first Letter to the Corinthians, we find only a few references, whereas the Letter to the Ephesians truly develops a profound theology of matrimony.

Paul defines matrimony as 'a great mystery' (6,32). He says it in reference to Christ and his Church. This passage highlights a reciprocity which is configured in a vertical dimension. The language of love should adopt a reciprocal submission which has its model in the love of Christ for the Church.

This relationship between Christ and the Church makes the theological aspect of matrimonial love primary - it exalts the affective relationship between spouses. An authentic matrimony will be lived best if in its constant human and affective growth, it always remains linked to the efficacy of the Word and the significance of Baptism.

Christ has sanctified the Church, purifying it through a washing with water accompanied by the Word. Participation in the body and blood of the Lord cements and makes visible a union that has been rendered indissoluble by grace.

Finally, let us listen to the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: "The Lord is near" (4,5)... Through the Word and through the sacraments, in all our life, the Lord is near.

Let us pray to him so that we may always be touched in the intimacy of our being by this, his nearness, so that joy may be born, since it must be born wherever Jesus is truly near.




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17/12/2008 15.50
 
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ANGELUS OF 12/14/08


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words today:


Dear brothers and sisters,

This Sunday, the third in Advent, is called Gaudete Sunday, from the opening word, "Gaudete" - Rejoice! - in the entry antiphon of today's Holy Mass.

It is taken from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, where he writes: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!" (Phil 4,4). Immediately afterwards, he says why: "The Lord is near" (Phil 4,5).

That is the reason for joy. But what does it mean - "The Lord is near"? In what sense should we understand this 'nearness' of God?

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Philippi, was evidently thinking about the return of Christ, and invites them to rejoice because that is a certainty.

Nonetheless, St. Paul himself, in his Letter to the Thessalonians, points out that no one can know the moment of the Lord's coming (cfr 1 Ts 5,1-2), and warns against every alarmism, as though the return of Christ were imminent (cfr 2 Ts 2,1-2).

And so, even at that time, the Church, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, understood quite well that the 'nearness' of God is not a question of space or time, but rather a question of love: love brings closeness.

The Nativity of Christ reminds us of this fundamental truth of our faith, and before the Christmas manger, we can taste Christian joy, contemplating in the newborn Jesus the face of God who made himself be among us out of love.

In this light, it is a true pleasure for me to renew the beautiful tradition of blessing the Bambinelli, the statuettes of the Baby Jesus to lay in the manger.

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I particularly address myself to you, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come this morning with your Bambinelli, which I will now bless.

I invite you to join me by following this prayer attentively:

God, our Father,
you so loved men
that you sent us your only Son Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.

We pray to you, that with your blessing,
these images of Jesus,
who is about to come among us,
may be, in our homes,
the sign of your presence and your love.

Good Father,
give your blessing to us, as well,
to our parents, to our families, to our friends.

Open our heart,
so that we may receive Jesus in joy,
do always what he asks of us
and see him in all those
who have need of our love.

We ask this of you in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son who comes
to bring peace to the world.

He lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

And now, let us recite together the Angelus Domini, invoking the intercession of Mary so that Jesus, who in being born, brings men the blessing of God, may be received with love in all the homes of Rome and around the world.

After the Angelus, he said:

Today, in the Diocese of Rome, we celebrate the day for the construction of new churches. In recent years, some new parochial complexes have been completed, but there are still communities which continue to avail only of provisional and inadequate structures.

I thank from the heart all those who have supported this commitment which is so important to the Diocese and I renew the invitation to everyone: let us help the parishes of Rome to build their Church.


In English, he said:

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus prayer. On this Third Sunday of Advent we are called to rejoice because the Lord is near. As we renew our hope in Jesus and look forward to his coming, may we experience in our lives the deep joy of his salvation. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!



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17/12/2008 15.51
 
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AUDIENCE OF 12/17/08

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Here is a translation of the Pope's catechesis today:


Dear brothers and sisters!

Today begin the days of Advent which immediately prepare us for the Nativity of the Lord: we are within the Christmas Novena which in many Christian communities is celebrated with liturgies rich with Biblical texts, all oriented to nourish expectation for the birth of the Savior.

In effect, the entire Church concentrates its look of faith on this imminent feast, predisposing us, as it does every year, to join the joyous song of the angels who in the middle of the night announced to shepherds the extraordinary event of the birth of the Redeemer, asking them to go to the cave in Bethlehem. There lay Emmanuel, the Creator who made himself a creature, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a poor manger (cfr Lk 2,13-14).

Christmas is a universal feast because of the atmosphere that distinguishes it. Even those who are not Christian can, in fact, perceive in this annual Christian occasion something extraordinary and transcendent, something intimate that speaks to the heart.

It is the feast that sings about the gift of life. The birth of a baby should always been an event that brings joy. The embrace of a newborn baby normally arouses feelings of attention and concern, of emotion and tenderness.

Christmas is an encounter with a newborn baby wailing inside a miserable cave. Contemplating him in his manger-crib, how can we not think of all the babies who are born today into great poverty in many parts of the world? How can we not think of the many babies who are not welcome and who are rejected, of those who fail to survive for lack of care and attention? How can we not think of couples who would love the joy of having a child but fail to achieve this expectation?

Unfortunately, under the spur of hedonistic consumerism, Christmas risks losing its spiritual significance to be reduced to a mere commercial occasion for acquiring and receiving gifts.

In fact, the difficulties, the uncertainties, and the very economic crisis which so many families are experiencing so directly these days, and which affects all of mankind, can be a stimulus to rediscover the warmth of simplicity, of friendship and of brotherhood, the values which are typical of Christmas.

Stripped of its consumeristic and materialistic incrustations, Christmas can become an occasion for welcoming, as a gift to oneself, the message of hope that comes from the mystery of Christ's birth.

But all this does not suffice to fully grasp the value of the feast that we are awaiting. We know that it celebrates the central event of history: the Incarnation of the Divine Word for the redemption of mankind.

St. Leo the Great, in one of his many Christmas homilies, exclaimed: "Let us exult in the Lord, dear ones, and let us open our hearts to joy most pure. Because the day has come which means for us new redemption, ancient preparation, eternal happiness. In fact, in the recurrent annual cycles, the great mystery of our salvation is renewed for us - that promise made at the beginning for the end of times and destined to last without end" (Homily XXII).

St. Paul returns to this fundamental truth several times in his letters. To the Galatians, for example, he writes: "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law... so that we might receive adoption" (4,4).

In the Letter to the Romans, he points out the logical and demanding consequences of this salvific event: "If (we are) children (of God), then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him (8,17).

But it is above all St. John, in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel, who meditated most profoundly on the mystery of the Incarnation. That is why the Prologue has been part of the Liturgy of the Nativity from the earliest times. In it is found the most authentic expression and the most profound synthesis of this feast, and the foundation of its joy.

St. John writes: "Et Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis" (Jn 1,14) - And the Word was made flesh, and came to dwell among us.

At Christmas then, we are not just commemorating the birthday of a great personage. We are not simply celebrating in the abstract the mystery of man's birth or the mystery of life in general. Much less do we just celebrate the start of a new season.

At Christmas, we remember something very concrete and important to mankind, something essential to the Christian faith, a truth that St. John summarized in these few words, "The Word was made flesh".

It is a historic event that the evangelist Luke took care to situate in a well-determined context: in the days when the decree for the first census under Augustus Caesar was promulgated, when Quirinus was already governor of Syria (cfr Lk 2,1-7).

Therefore, the event that Israel had awaited for centuries took place on a historically datable night. In the dark of night in Bethlehem, a great light was truly lit: the creator of the universe was incarnated, assuming human nature indissolubly - truly "God of God, light of Light" and at the same time, man, true man.

What John calls in Greek 'ho logos' - translated 'Verbum' in Latin - also means 'sense'. We can therefore understand John's expression this way: the 'eternal Sense' of the world became tangible to our senses and to our intelligence; now we could touch it and contemplate it (cfr 1 Jn,1,1).

The 'Sense' that became flesh is not simply a general idea inherent in the world. It is a "Word' addressed to us. The Logos knows us, calls us, leads us.

It is not a universal law, within which we would then carry out some role. It is a Person who is interested in every single person. He is the Son of the living God, who made himself human in Bethlehem.

To many, and in some way to all of us, this may seem too beautiful to be true. In fact, one must reiterate here: Yes, there is a sense (to life), and this sense is not an impotent protest against the absurd.
This Sense has power: it is God.

A good God, who must not be confused with some exalted and remote being, who would never have come down to us, but a God who made himself one of us and is very close to us, who has time for each of us, and who came to stay with us.

We then ask ourselves: "Could something of the kind ever be possible? Is it worthy of God to become a baby?" In order to open the heart to this truth which illuminates the entire human existence, we must bend our minds and recognize the limitations of our intelligence.

In the cave of Bethlehem, God showed himself to us as a humble 'infant' in order to conquer our pride. Perhaps we may yield more easily before power, before wisdom. But he does not want our surrender - he appeals instead to our heart and our free choice to accept his love. He made himself small to liberate us from that human claim to grandeur that comes from pride. He freely incarnated as man to make us truly free - free to love him.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is a favored opportunity to meditate on the sense and value of our existence. May the approach of this feast help us to reflect, on the one hand, on the drama of history in which men, wounded by sin, are perennially in search of happiness and a fulfilling sense of life and death; on the other, it exhorts us to meditate on the merciful goodness of God, who came down to mankind in order to directly communicate the Truth that saves, and to make us take part in his friendship and in his life.

Therefore, let us prepare ourselves for Christmas with humility and simplicity, disposing ourselves to receive as gifts the light, joy and peace which radiate from this mystery.

Let us welcome the Nativity of Christ as an event capable of renewing our existence today. May the encounter with the Baby Jesus make us persons who do not think only of ourselves, but are open to the expectations and needs of our brothers. In this way we too become witnesses of the light that Christmas sheds on mankind in the third millennium.

Let us pray to the Most Blessed Mary, tabernacle of the Word incarnate, and to St. Joseph, silent witness to the events of salvation, to communicate to us the sentiments they felt as they awaited the birth of Jesus, so that we may prepare ourselves and celebrate in a holy way the coming Christmas, in the joy of faith and inspired by a commitment to sincere conversion.

A merry Christmas to everyone!



In English, he said:

Today we commence the Christmas Novena of Advent by contemplating the fulfilment of the ancient prophecies in the coming of the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary in the stable of Bethlehem.

Christmas speaks to everyone; it celebrates the gift of life – often fragile or endangered – and the fulfilment of our deepest hopes for a world renewed. The present economic crisis, causing so much suffering, can however help us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas, and to welcome into our hearts the hope brought by God’s coming among us as man.

The Word became flesh to offer humanity the salvation which can only be received as a gracious gift from God. The same Word by whom the universe was made, the Word which gives all creation its ultimate meaning, has come to dwell among us: he now speaks to us, he reveals the deepest meaning of our life on earth, and he guides us to the Love which is our fulfilment.

In the Christ Child, God humbly knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks us freely to accept his love, his truth, his life.

As Christmas approaches, let us rekindle our hope in God’s promises and, in humility and simplicity, welcome the light, joy and peace which the Saviour brings to us and to our world.







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21/12/2008 14.49
 
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ANGELUS OF 12/21/08


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words at the noontime Angelus today:


Dear brothers and sisters,

The Gospel on this fourth Sunday of Advent offers us once more the story of the Annunciation (Lk 1,26-38), the mystery that we return to daily when we pray the Angelus.

This prayer makes us relive that decisive moment when God knocked on the heart of Mary, and having received her Yes, started to become flesh in her and from her.

The Collect prayer in today's Mass is the same that we recite at the end of the Angelus which says:

"Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen."

In these few days before the feast of the Nativity, we are invited to fix our attention on the ineffable mystery that Mary guarded for nine months in her virginal womb - the mystery of God made man.

This is the first cardinal point of redemption. The second is the death and resurrection of Jesus. And these two inseparable events manifest the one divine design: to save mankind and history, by taking them all on himself in order to take charge of all the evils that oppress man.

This mystery of salvation, beyond the historic, has a cosmic dimension: Christ is the Sun of grace who, with his light, "transfigures and lights up the universe in waiting" (Liturgy).

The occurrence of the feast of the Nativity itself is linked to the winter solstice, when in the northern hemisphere, the days start to lengthen.

In this respect, perhaps not everyone knows that there is a great meridian on St. Peter's Square. In fact, the Obelisk casts its shadow along a line that follows the pavement towards the fountain beneath this window, and these days, is the longest that it casts during the year.

This reminds us of the function of astronomy in marking the times of prayer. For instance, the Angelus is recited in the morning, at midday and in the evening, and clocks and watches are timed to the meridian which in the past served precisely to determine the 'true midday'.

The fact that the winter solstice falls today, December 21, at this hour, gives me the occasion to greet all those who will take part in various ways in the initiatives for the World Astronomy Year in 2009, proclaimed to mark the fourth centenary of Galileo Galilei's first observations through the telescope.

Among my predecessors of venerated memory, there have been those who were dedicated to this science, like Sylvester II who taught it; Gregory XIII to whom we owe our calendar; and St. Pius X who constructed sundials.

If the heavens, according to the beautiful words of the Psalmist, 'narrate the glory of God' (Ps 19[18],2), even the laws of nature, which through the centuries, the men and women of science have made us understand increasingly more, are a great stimulus to contemplate with gratitude the works of the Lord.

Let us now turn our attention to Mary and Joseph, who await the birth of Jesus, and let us learn from them the secret of recollection in order to taste the joy of Christmas.

Let us prepare ourselves to receive with faith the Redeemer who comes to be among us, the Word of God's love for man in every age.


In English, he said:

I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims gathered for this Angelus.

In today’s liturgy, we recall how the Virgin Mary was invited by the Angel to conceive the one in whom the fullness of divinity would dwell: Jesus, the "Son of the Most High".

As we prepare to celebrate his birth, let us not be afraid to say "Yes" to the Lord, so that we may join Our Lady in singing his goodness for ever.

May God bless all of you!


In Italian later, he had this special message:

I am most pleased to greet the 50 new priests of the Legionaries of Christ who yesterday received Holy Orders from the hands of Cardinal Angelo Sodano at the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

Dearest ones, may the love of Christ, which impelled St. Paul in his mission, always inspire your ministry. I bless you from the heart, along with your loved ones.




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26/12/2008 17.07
 
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THE HOLY FATHER'S CHRISTMAS HOMILY
Official translation from
Vatican Radio



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'ET INCARNATUS EST'
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?”

This is what Israel sings in one of the Psalms (113 [112], 5ff.), praising God’s grandeur as well as his loving closeness to humanity.

God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us… God is infinitely great, and far, far above us. This is our first experience of him.

The distance seems infinite. The Creator of the universe, the one who guides all things, is very far from us: or so he seems at the beginning.

But then comes the surprising realization: The One who has no equal, who “is seated on high”, looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees me.

God’s looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees me, that he looks at me, transforms me and the world around me.

The Psalm tells us this in the following verse: “He raises the poor from the dust…” In looking down, he raises me up, he takes me gently by the hand and helps me – me! – to rise from depths towards the heights.

“God stoops down”. This is a prophetic word. That night in Bethlehem, it took on a completely new meaning. God’s stooping down became real in a way previously inconceivable. He stoops down – he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity’s neediness and forsakenness.

God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable.

In the Old Testament the Temple was considered almost as God’s footstool; the sacred ark was the place in which he was mysteriously present in the midst of men and women. Above the temple, hidden, stood the cloud of God’s glory.

Now it stands above the stable. God is in the cloud of the poverty of a homeless child: an impenetrable cloud, and yet – a cloud of glory! How, indeed, could his love for humanity, his solicitude for us, have appeared greater and more pure?

The cloud of hiddenness, the cloud of the poverty of a child totally in need of love, is at the same time the cloud of glory. For nothing can be more sublime, nothing greater than the love which thus stoops down, descends, becomes dependent. The glory of the true God becomes visible when the eyes of our hearts are opened before the stable of Bethlehem.

Saint Luke’s account of the Christmas story, which we have just heard in the Gospel, tells us that God first raised the veil of his hiddenness to people of very lowly status, people who were looked down upon by society at large – to shepherds looking after their flocks in the fields around Bethlehem.

Luke tells us that they were “keeping watch”. This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus’s message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden – the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord’s coming, and to be prepared.

Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly “watchful” people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives.

To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a “watchful” people.

Saint Luke tells us, moreover, that the shepherds themselves were “surrounded” by the glory of God, by the cloud of light. They found themselves caught up in the glory that shone around them. Enveloped by the holy cloud, they heard the angels’ song of praise: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to people of his good will”.

And who are these people of his good will if not the poor, the watchful, the expectant, those who hope in God’s goodness and seek him, looking to him from afar?

The Fathers of the Church offer a remarkable commentary on the song that the angels sang to greet the Redeemer. Until that moment – the Fathers say – the angels had known God in the grandeur of the universe, in the reason and the beauty of the cosmos that come from him and are a reflection of him.

They had heard, so to speak, creation’s silent song of praise and had transformed it into celestial music. But now something new had happened, something that astounded them. The One of whom the universe speaks, the God who sustains all things and bears them in his hands – he himself had entered into human history, he had become someone who acts and suffers within history.

From the joyful amazement that this unimaginable event called forth, from God’s new and further way of making himself known – say the Fathers – a new song was born, one verse of which the Christmas Gospel has preserved for us: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and peace to his people on earth”.

We might say that, following the structure of Hebrew poetry, the two halves of this double verse say essentially the same thing, but from a different perspective.

God’s glory is in the highest heavens, but his high state is now found in the stable – what was lowly has now become sublime. God’s glory is on the earth, it is the glory of humility and love.

And even more: the glory of God is peace. Wherever he is, there is peace. He is present wherever human beings do not attempt, apart from him, and even violently, to turn earth into heaven. He is with those of watchful hearts; with the humble and those who meet him at the level of his own “height”, the height of humility and love.

To these people he gives his peace, so that through them, peace can enter this world.

The medieval theologian William of Saint Thierry once said that God – from the time of Adam – saw that his grandeur provoked resistance in man, that we felt limited in our own being and threatened in our freedom.

Therefore God chose a new way. He became a child. He made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love. Now – this God who has become a child says to us – you can no longer fear me, you can only love me.

With these thoughts, we draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem – to the God who for our sake chose to become a child. In every child we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love.

This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace.

Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul.

The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman.

Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated.

Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night.

And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem, let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease.

Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night.

In Psalm 96 [95], Israel, and the Church, praises God’s grandeur manifested in creation. All creatures are called to join in this song of praise, and so the Psalm also contains the invitation: “Let all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes” (v. 12ff.).

The Church reads this Psalm as a prophecy and also as a task. The coming of God to Bethlehem took place in silence. Only the shepherds keeping watch were, for a moment, surrounded by the light-filled radiance of his presence and could listen to something of that new song, born of the wonder and joy of the angels at God’s coming.

This silent coming of God’s glory continues throughout the centuries. Wherever there is faith, wherever his word is proclaimed and heard, there God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his Body; he makes them his Body. God “comes”.

And in this way our hearts are awakened. The new song of the angels becomes the song of all those who, throughout the centuries, sing ever anew of God’s coming as a child – and rejoice deep in their hearts.

And the trees of the wood go out to him and exult. The tree in Saint Peter’s Square speaks of him, it wants to reflect his splendour and to say: Yes, he has come, and the trees of the wood acclaim him.

The trees in the cities and in our homes should be something more than a festive custom: they point to the One who is the reason for our joy – the God who for our sake became a child.

In the end, this song of praise, at the deepest level, speaks of him who is the very tree of new-found life. Through faith in him we receive life. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist he gives himself to us – he gives us a life that reaches into eternity.

At this hour we join in creation’s song of praise, and our praise is at the same time a prayer: Yes, Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory. And grant peace on earth. Make us men and women of your peace. Amen.




THE HOLY FATHER'S
CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 'URBI ET ORBI'
December 25, 2008

Official English version

"Apparuit gratia Dei Salvatoris nostri omnibus hominibus" (Tit 2,11).
(The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all.)


Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ’s Birth. Today “the grace of God our Saviour” has truly “appeared to all”!

It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It “appeared”, it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face.

Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: “God saves”.

The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born.

Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history.

Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the face of the “God who saves”, did not show himself only for a certain few, but for everyone.

Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone.

Supernatural grace, by God’s will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own “yes”, like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light.

It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will.

Today too those who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother – all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn to see his face and to contribute to the coming of his Kingdom.

Jesus himself would say this in his preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of his love.

Brothers and sisters, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope – the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for all men and women.

Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace.

May the many people who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Lk 1:79) come to know the power of God’s saving grace!

May the divine Light of Bethlehem radiate throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon, Iraq and the whole Middle East.

May it bring forth rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region.

This light, which brings transformation and renewal, is besought by the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps worsening, as well as the men and women of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the war-torn region of Kiv; Darfur, in Sudan; and Somalia - whose interminable sufferings are the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace.

This light is awaited especially by the children living in those countries, and the children of all countries experiencing troubles, so that their future can once more be filled with hope.

- Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are trampled upon;
- Wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails over the common good;
- Wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation of man by man risk being taken for granted;
- Wherever internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful coexistence;
- Wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed for survival are lacking;
- Wherever an increasingly uncertain future is regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations:

In each of these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and encourage all people to do their part in a spirit of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own interests, our world will certainly fall apart.

Dear brothers and sisters, today, “the grace of God our Saviour has appeared” (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails.

Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son of the Virgin Mary: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, he came down from heaven”.

Let us adore him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying:

- Do not be afraid, “I am God, and there is no other” (Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace. -

Let us go, then, brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night.

God has come to meet us; he has shown us his face, full of grace and mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain!

Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart.

Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!


THE HOLY FATHER'S CHRISTMAS GREETINGS

This year, Benedict XVI delivered the Christmas greetings in 64 languages, starting with Italian:

'BUON NATALE' to all the residents of Rome and all of Italy!

May the great feast of the Nativity of Christ be a source of light and confidence in the life of everyone.

In this time that is marked by a significant economic crisis, may Christmas be an occasion for greater solidarity among families and the communities who make up the beloved nation of Italy.

From the poor and humble cave of Bethlegem, may the light of hope spread everywhere and the proclamation resound that no one is alien to the love of the Redeemer.

His English message:

May the birth of the Prince of Peace remind the world where its true happiness lies; and may your hearts be filled with hope and joy, for the Saviour has been born for us.

The rest of the greetings may be found on
212.77.1.245/news_services/bulletin/news/23101.php?index=23101&po_date=25.12.2008...


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ANGELUS OF 12/26/08
FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN, MARTYR



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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words a weekday Angelus today, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Stephen:


Dear brothers and sisters!

The feast today of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, takes place in the spiritual light of Christ's Nativity.

Stephen, a young man 'full of grace and the Holy Spirit', as he is described in the Acts of the Apostles (6,5), was ordained a deacon in the first Community at Jerusalem, and because of his ardent and courageous preaching, he was arrested and stoned to death.

There is a detail, in the account of his martyrdom, which deserves to be highlighted in this Pauline Year, and that is the remark that "the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul" (Acts 7,58).

St. Paul appears [in the NewTtestament] for the first time, under his Jewish name Saul, as a zealous persecutor of the Church (cfr Phil 3,6), which at the time he considered a duty and cause for pride.

In hindsight, one might say that the testimony of Stephen was decisive for his conversion. Let us see how.

Shortly after Stephen's martyrdom, Saul, still impelled by his zeal against Christians, went to Damascus to arrest those whom he would find there. It was while approaching the city that 'lightning struck' - that singular experience in which the Risen Jesus appeared to him, spoke to him and changed his life (Acts 9,1-9).

When Saul, who had fallen to the ground, heard his name called by a mysterious voice, he asked, "Who are you, Lord?", and he heard the response, "I am Jesus whom you persecuted" (Acts 9,5).

Saul had persecuted the Church and had collaborated at the stoning of Stephen. He saw him die under the hail of stones, and above all, he saw how Stephen died: like Christ in everything, that is, praying, and forgiving his killers (cfr Acts 7,59-60).

On the road to Damascus, Saul came to understand that in persecuting the Church, he had been persecuting Jesus who had died and was truly resurrected - Jesus living in his Church, living in Stephen too, who had seen him die, but who now certainly was with his resurrected Lord.

We can almost say that in the voice of Christ, Saul heard that of Stephen, and that by the intercession of the latter, divine grace had touched his heart.

And that is how Paul's life changed radically. From that time on, Jesus became his 'righteousness, sanctification, and redemption' (cfr 1 Cor 1,30), his everything. And one day, he too would follow in Stephen's footsteps, to shed his own blood, in witness to the Gospel, here in Rome.

Dear brothers and sisters, in St. Stephen, we see the realization of the first fruits of salvation that the Nativity of Christ brought to mankind: the victory of life over death, of love over hate, of the light of truth over the shadows of deceit.

Let us praise God and may this victory allow Christians even today not to answer evil with evil, but with the power of truth and love.

May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Martyrs, obtain that all believers may courageously follow the same path.


After the Angelus prayers, he had these special messages on the international situation:

In the Christmas atmosphere, one feels concern more strongly for those who are in situations of suffering and grave difficulties.

My thoughts go, among others, to the two Italian consecrated sisters, Maria Teresa Oliviero and Caterina Giraudo, of the contemplative missionary order of Fr. de Foucauld, who were kidnapped more than a month a and a half ago, along with some of their local co-workers, from the village of El Waq in northern Kenya.

I would like them to feel the solidarity of the Pope and the whole Church behind them. May the Lord, who in being born as man came to make us a gift of his love, touch the hearts of their abductors, and grant that our sisters may be released soon so they may continue with their disinterested service to their poorer brothers.

For this, dear brothers and sisters, I invite everyone to pray, without forgetting the numerous other persons held captive in other parts of the world, about whom we are not always able to get clear information. I think of the captives for political or other reasons in Latin America, in the Middle East and in Africa.

May our fraternal prayers be of intimate spiritual assistance to all of them.


In English, he said:

In this Christmas season, we rejoice that "the grace of God has appeared!" (Tit 2:11); his mercy and love have been revealed in the face of the Christ-child born in Bethlehem!

Today’s feast of Saint Stephen reminds us that we are also called to follow Jesus to the Cross: though suffering is a part of life, a God who personally enters history has the power to save us through it.

With our eyes fixed on heaven, let us therefore "endure to the end", so that we might gaze upon his face for all eternity (cf. Mt 10:22). God bless you all!






ANGELUS OF 12/28/08
FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY



Here is a translation of the Holy Father's words today:

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The Holy Family, N. Poussin, 1641. Oil on canvas.
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, USA
.



Dear brothers and sisters!

On this Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord, we celebrate the joy of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The context is most appropriate because Christmas is, par excellence, the feast of the family. This is shown by so many social customs and traditions, especially that of family reunions for festive meals and the exchange of gifts and best wishes.

But how can we not also highlight that these circumstances amplify the inconveniences and the pain caused by certain family wounds?

Jesus was born and grew up in a human family: The Virgin Mary was his mother, and Joseph became a father to him. They raised and educated him with immense love.

The family of Jesus truly deserves to be called 'holy' because it was entirely gripped by the desire to do the will of God, incarnated in the adorable presence of Jesus.

On the one hand, it was a family like any other, and as such, is a model of conjugal love, of collaboration, of sacrifice, of trust in divine Providence, of industry and solidarity - in short, of all those values that a family protects and promotes, contributing in a primary way to forming the fabric of every society.

At the same time, the Family of Nazareth is unique, different from all other families, because of its singular calling linked to the mission of the Son of God.

Precisely because of this uniqueness, it shows to every family, primarily Christian families, the horizon of God, the kind but demanding primacy of his will, the prospect of heaven for which we are destined.

For all this, let us give thanks to God, but also to the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who, with such faith and willingness, cooperated in the Lord's plan of salvation.

In order to express the beauty and the value of the family, thousands of families have gathered in Madrid today, and I wish to address them now in Spanish:


I extend a heartfelt greeting to the participants gathered together in Madrid on this intimate holiday, in order to pray for the family and to commit yourselves to work for its sake with fortitude and hope.

The family is certainly a grace from God which allows what he is - Love - to shine through. A love that is completely free, which supports fidelity without limits, even in moments of difficulty or dejection.

These qualities are embodied eminently in the Holy Family, through which Jesus came to the world and 'grew in wisdom', under the exquisite care of Mary and the fathful protection of St. Joseph.

Dear families, do not allow that love, openness to life, and the incomparable links that hold your homes together, be devalued.

Ask the Lord constantly, praying together, so that your plans may be illumined by faith and exalted by divine grace on the path to holiness.

In this way, with the joy of sharing everything in love, you will be giving the world a beautiful testimonial of how important the family is to the human being and to society.

The Pope is beside you, asking the Lord especially for those who most need health, employment, comfort and companionship. At this Angelus prayer, I commend you all to our Mother in heaven, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.


He concluded in Italian:

Dear brothers and sisters, in speaking of the family, I cannot fail to remind you that from January 14-18, 2009, the VI World Encounter of Families will take place in Mexico City.

Let us pray for this important Church event, and entrust every family to the Lord, especially those who are most tried by the difficulties of life and by the wounds of imcomprehension and divisions.

May the Redeemer, born in Bethlehem, give everyone the serenity and the strength to walk together on the path of goodness.


After the prayers, he said:

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Holy Land, which in this Christmas season is at the center of the thoughts and affections of all the faithful in every part of the world, is once again enveloped in an explosion of unprecedented violence.

I am profoundly pained by the deaths, the injuries, the material damage, the sufferings and the tears of the peoples who have been victims of this tragic sequence of attacks and reprisals.

The earthly homeland of Jesus cannot continue to witness such bloodshed repeated endlessly! I implore for an end to such violence, which is to be condemned in every manifestation, and for the resumption of the truce in the Gaza Strip.

I ask for an impulse of humanity and wisdom from all those who have a responsibility for this situation, and I ask the international community to leave nothing undone to help Israelis and Palestinians come out of this dead end, and not to be resigned, as I said two days ago in the message Urbi et Orbi - to the perverse logic of encounter and violence but to take the road of dialog and negotiation.

Let us entrust to Jesus, Prince of Peace, our fervent prayer for these intentions, and to him, to Mary and Joseph, we pray: "Holy Family of Nazareth, trained to suffer, give peace to the world". And give it today, above all, to the Holy Land.

On Christmas Eve in 1968, Pope Paul VI celebrated Holy Mass at the (steel) plant of Italsider, now ILVA, in Taranto. To commemorate that event, the Archbishop of Taranto, Mons. Benigno Papa, presided this morning at a Eucharistic Celebration in that same place.

To him and to all the workers, I address a warm greeting. I take the occasion to express my concern for the increase in the forms of dangerous working conditions, and I make an appeal that working conditions should always be worthy for all.


Finally, in his greeting to Italians, he said:

Today is the centenary of the tragic earthquake that struck Messina, razing it almost completely to the ground and reaping thousands of victims. But the people of Messina did not allow themselves to be defeated and, sustained by extraordinary solidarity, raised themselves again.

My predecessor, St. Pius X, who would have wanted to go to Messina himself, sent the people of Messina enormous amounts of aid and took in their seminarians in Rome.

At a distance of a hundred years, I wish to send all the people of Messina an affectionate thought with the wish that Christian hope may always burn in their hearts.


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VESPERS AND END-OF-YEAR TE DEUM
December 31, 2008


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Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily at the First Vespers for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which was also a thanksgiving service for the year just past.



Dear brothers and sisters!

The year that is closing and that which is on the horizon are both under the consecrating gaze of the Most Holy Mother of God.

We are reminded of her maternal presence even by the polychrome wooden sculpture placed here next to the altar, which shows her on a throne holding the Baby Jesus who is giving his blessing.

We celebrate the first Vespers of this Marian solemnity with its numerous liturgical references to the divine motherhood of the Virgin.

"O admirabile commercium!" - A wonderful exchange - Thus starts the antiphon of the first Psalm which then proceeds: "The creator has taken body and soul - he is born of a virgin".

"When in a unique way you were born of the Virgin, you fulfilled the Scriptures" proclaims the antiphon of the second Psalm, echoed by the antiphon which introduced us to the canticle taken from Paul's Letter to the Ephesians: "Your virginity is intact, Mother of God: we praise you, pray for us".

The divine maternity of Mary is also underscored in the Reading that was just proclaimed, of the well-known verses from the Letter to the Galatians: "When the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law and to enable us to be adopted as sons" (Gal 4,4-5).

And once again, in the traditional Te Deum, which we shall offer at the end of our celebration before the Most Blessed Sacrament solemnly exposed for our adoration, we will sing: "Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem, non horruisti Virginis uterum" - "You, O Christ, were born of the Virgin Mary for the salvation of man".

Thus everything this evening invites us to turn our attention to her who "welcomed in her heart and her body the Word of God and brought life to the world" and because of this, the Second Vatican Council reminded us - "she is recognized and honored as the true Mother of God" (Const. Lumen gentium, 53).

The Nativity of Christ, which we commemorate in these days, is entirely suffused by the light of Mary, and while we pause at the Creche to contemplate the Baby, our attention cannot but turn in acknowledgment to Mary who, with her Yes, made possible the gift of redemption.

This is why the season of the Nativity carries with it a profound Marian connotation. The birth of Jesus, man-God, and the divine maternity of Mary are two realities which are inseparable: the mystery of Mary and the mystery of the only-begotten Son of God who became man, together form a single mystery, in which one helps to better understand the other.

Mary, Mother of God - Theotokos, Dei Genetrix. Since antiquity, our Lady was honored with this title. In the West, however, for centuries there was no specific feast dedicated to the divine motherhood of Mary. Pope Pius XI introduced it into the Latin Church in 1931, on the 15th centenary of the Council of Ephesus, and it was celebrated on October 11. It was on that day that the Second Vatican Council began in 1962.

Then it was the Servant of God Paul VI who, in 1968, reviving an ancient tradition, fixed the solemnity for the first day of January. In the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus of February 2, 1974, he explained his decision and its connection with the World Day for Peace.

"In the revised arrangement of the Christmas season," he wrote, "we should all turn with one mind to the restored Solemnity of the Mother of God... to honor the role of Mary in the mystery of salvation and at the same time to sing the praises of the unique dignity thus coming to the Holy Mother... (It) also offers an excellent opportunity to renew the adoration rightfully to be shown to the newborn Prince of Peace, as we once again hear the good tidings of great joy (cfr Lk 2,14) and pray to God, through the intercession of the Queen of Peace, for the priceless gift of peace." (No. 5, Teachings of Paul VI, XII 1974, pp. 105–106).

This evening, we wish to place into the hands of the heavenly Mother of God our choral hymn of thanksgiving to the Lord for the benefits that he has amply granted us in the course of the past 12 months.

The first sentiment that spontaneously rises from the heart this evening is precisely that of praise and thanksgiving to him who makes us a gift of time, a precious opportunity to do good; but we must also add a request for forgiveness for perhaps not always putting it to good use.

I am happy to share this act of gratitude with you, dear brothers and sisters who represent our entire diocesan community, to whom I extend my heartfelt greetings, as well as to all the residents of Rome.

I address a special greeting to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Mayor, both of whom started their different missions this year - one spiritual and religious, the other civilian and administrative - in the service of our city.

I likewise greet the Auxiliary Bishops, the priests, the religious and all the many lay faithful who have gathered here, as well as all the authorities present.

In coming to the world, the eternal Word of God Revealed to us the closeness of God and the ultimate truth about man and his eternal destiny. He came to stay with us to be our irreplaceable support, especially in the inevitable difficulties of everyday.

This evening, the Virgin herself reminds us what a great gift Jesus made us with his birth, what a precious 'treasure' the Incarnation is for us. With his birth, Jesus came to offer his light as a lamp to guide our steps. He came to offer himself; and from him, our certain hope, we must learn to give reason to our daily life, knowing that "only in the mystery of the Word incarnate does the mystery of man find true light" (Gaudium et spes, 22).

The presence of Christ is a gift that we must learn to share with everyone. This is the aim of the efforts of the diocesan community towards the formation of pastoral workers so that they may be able to respond to the challenges posed by modern culture to the Christian faith.

The presence of numerous and qualified academic institutions in Rome and all the initiatives promoted by the parishes make us look confidently ahead towards the future of Christianity in this city.

The encounter with Christ, you know very well, renews personal existence and helps us contribute to building a just and fraternal society. That is how, as believers, one can make a significant contribution even in overcoming the present educative emergency.

How much more useful it is that the synergy grows among families, schools and parishes for a profound evangelization and for courageous human promotion, able to communicate the possibilities of the richness that comes from an encounter with Christ.

That is why I encourage every component of our diocese to follow the path they have undertaken, while carrying out the program for this year's pastoral activities, which is intended precisely "to educate us in hope through prayer, action and suffering".

In these times, marked by uncertainty and concern for the future, it is necessary to experience the living presence of Christ. Mary, Star of hope, leads us to him. It is she with her maternal love who can lead to Jesus especially the young people, who carry in their hearts the irrepressible question on the sense of human existence.

I know that various parent groups have been meeting to examine their calling more deeply, seeking new ways to help their own children respond to the great existential questions.

I exhort them fullheartedly, and with them, the entire Christian community, to bear witness to the new generations of the joy that comes from an encounter with Jesus who, in being born in Bethlehem, did not come to take anything from us but to give us everything.

On Christmas Eve, I had a special thought for children. Tonight, I wish to turn my attention to young people.

Dear young people, who are responsible for the future of our city, do not be afraid of the apostolic task that the Lord entrusts to you. Do not hesitate to choose a lifestyle that does not follow the current hedonistic current.

The Holy Spirit will assure you of the necessary strength to testify to the joy of the faith and the beauty of being Christian. The growing need for evangelization demands numerous workers in the vineyard of the Lord. Do not hesitate to respond promptly if he calls you.

Society needs citizens who are concerned not only with their own interests, because, as I noted on Christmas Day, "the world would go to ruin if everyone only thought of himself".

Dear brothers and sisters, this year closes with an awareness of the growing social and economic crisis that now involves the entire world. It is a crisis that asks of everyone more moderation and solidarity to come to the aid specially of those persons and families in the most serious difficulties.

The Christian community is already doing this, and I know that the diocesan Caritas and other beneficent organizations are doing what they can, but the collaboration of everyone is necessary because no one can think of constructing his own happiness by himself.

Even if not a few shadows are looming on the horizon of our future, we should not be afraid. Our great hope as believers is eternal life in communion with Christ and the entire family of God.

This great hope gives us the strength to face and to overcome the difficulties of life in this world. The maternal presence of Mary assures us tonight that God never abandons us if we entrust ourselves to him and follow his teachings.

To Mary then, with filial affection and trust, let us present our expectations and hopes, as well as the fears and difficulties which inhabit our heart as we take leave of 2008 and prepare to welcome 2009.

She, the Virgin Mary, offers us the Baby who lies in the manger as our certain hope. Full of confidence, we can sing at the end of the Te Deum: "In te, Domine,speravi: non confundar in aeternum" – You, Lord, are our hope - we will never be confounded!"

Yes, Lord, we hope in you, now and for always. You are our hope. Amen.


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HOMILY AT THE MASS
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD and
THE XLIV WORLD DAY OF PEACE
January 1, 2009



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At 10 o'clock today, the Holy Father presided at the Eucharistic Celebration in St. Peter's Basilica of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, in the Octave of Christmas, and the 43rd World Day of Peace, under the theme "Fight poverty, build the peace".

Here is a translation of the Holy Father's homily:



Venerated Brothers,
Distinguished ambassadors,
Dear brothers and sisters!

On the first day of the year, divine Providence has assembled us for a celebration that always moves us because of the wealth and beauty of its correspondences: the civilian New Year takes place at the end of the Christmas Octave, on which we celebrate the Divine Motherhood of Mary, a coincidence that finds a happy synthesis in the World
Day for Peace.

In the light of Christ's Nativity, I am happy to extend my best wishes to everyone for the year that has just begun.

I address my greeting, in particular, to Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and his co-workers in the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace, with a special acknowledgment for their precious service.

I address it as well to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and to the entire Secretariat of State, and with heartfelt wishes, to the many ambassadors who are present today.

My wishes echo that which the Lord has just addressed to us in the Liturgy of the Word. A Word, starting from the event in Bethlehem, which evoked in its historical concreteness in the Gospel of Luke (2,16-21), and re-read in all its salvific importance by the apostle Paul (Gal 4,4=7), that becomes a benediction for the people of God and all mankind.

Thus is fulfilled the old Jewish tradition of benediction (Nm 6,232-27): the priests of Israel blessed the people "placing upon them" the name of the Lord. With a ternary formula - found in the first Reading - the sacred Name is invoked three times by the faithful as a wish for grace and peace.

This remote custom takes us back to an essential reality: in order to walk on the path of peace, men and peoples need to be illuminated by the 'face' of God and to be blessed by his 'name'. This is exactly what happened in the Incarnation: the coming of the Son of God into human flesh and into history brought an irrevocable blessing, a light that cannot be extinguished, and which offers to believers and men of good will the possibility of building a civilization of love and peace.

The Second Vatican Council said, in this regard, that "with the Incarnation, the Son of God is in some way united to every man" (Gaudium et spes, 22). This union confirms the original design of mankind created in the 'image and likeness' of God.

In fact, the incarnated Word is the only perfect and consubstantial image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ is the perfect man.

"In him," the Council notes, "human nature was assumed... therefore, that nature is elevated to a sublime dignity even in us" (ibid). That is why the earthly story of Jesus, which culminates in the Paschal mystery, is the beginning of a new world, because he truly inaugurated a new humanity, capable - always and only with the grace of God - of effecting a peaceful 'revolution'.

The revolution is not ideological but spiritual, not utopian but realistic, and therefore it requires infinite patience, extended time, avoiding any shortcuts and taking the most difficult road - that of the maturation of responsibility in consciences.

Dear friends, this is the evangelical path to peace, the path which even the Bishop of Rome is called on to re-propose constantly every time that he gives the annual message on the World Day for Peace.

Taking this way often means going back to aspects and problems that have already been met before, but which are so important as to always require new attention. And that is the case with the theme that I chose for the Message this year: 'Fight poverty, build peace'.

It is a theme that lends itself to a double order of considerations which I can only indicate briefly at this time. On the one hand, the poverty chosen and proposed by Jesus; on the other, the poverty that must be fought in order to make the world more just and fraternal.

The first aspect finds its ideal context in these days, the season of Christmas. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem tells us that God chose poverty for himself in coming to our midst.

The scene that the shepherds saw first, which confirmed the announcement made to them by the angel, was the stall where Mary and Joseph had found refuge, and the manger on which the Virgin had laid her newborn son wrapped in swaddling clothes (cfr Lk 2,7.12.16).

God chose this poverty. He wanted to be born that way. But we can also add: he wanted to live as well as to die that way. Why?

It is explained in popular terms by St. Alphonse of Liguori in a Christmas carol known to all Italians: "You, who are Creator of the world, lacked clothes and heat, O my Lord. Dear elected little child, how much this poverty makes me love you more because you made yourself poor out of love".

There is the answer: love for us made Jesus not only become man, but also to make himself poor. Along this same line, we can cite what St. Paul wrote in the second Letter to the Corinthians: "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" (8,9).

An exemplary witness of this poverty chosen out of love is St. Francis of Assisi. Franciscanism, in the history of the Church and of Christian civilization, constitutes a widespread current of evangelical poverty that has done so much good and continues to do so for the Church and for the human family.

Going back to St. Paul's amazing synthesis about Jesus, it is significant - even for our reflection today - that the Apostle was inspired to it while he was exhorting the Christians of Corinth to be generous in their collections for the poor. He explains: "Not that others should have relief while you are burdened, but as a matter of equality" (8,13).

This is a decisive point, which leads to the second aspect: there is a poverty, an indigence, that God does not desire and which must be 'fought' - as the theme for today's World Day of Peace says.

It is the poverty that keeps persons and families from living in accordance with their dignity. A poverty that offends justice and equality and, as such, threatens peaceful living together.

These negative connotations also include all the non-material forms of poverty which can be found even in rich and progressive societies: marginalization, a relational, moral and spiritual poverty (cfr, Message for the World Day of Peace, 2009, No. 2).

In my message I wished once again - in the wake of my predecessors - to consider attentively the complex phenomenon of globalization in order to evaluate its relationship with poverty on a large scale.

In the face of widespread scourges such as pandemic diseases (ivi, 4), the poverty of children (ivi, 5), and the food crisis (ivi, 7), I had to denounce again the unacceptable arms race.

On the one hand, we celebrate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and on the other, military spending is on the rise, violating the Charter of the United Nations itself, which commits its member states to reduce arms spending to the minimum (cfr Art. 26).

Moreover, globalization eliminates some barriers but it can also raise new ones (Message, cit., 8), so it is necessary that the international community and single states should always be vigilant. It is necessary that they never let their guard down with respect to the danger of conflicts, indeed, that they commit themselves to keep the level of solidarity high.

The present global economic crisis should be seen in this sense as a test bed: Are we ready to read it. in its complexity, as a challenge for the future, and not only as an emergency to be answered with short-term measures?

Are we willing to work together to profoundly revise the dominant model of development, to correct it in a concerted, farsighted manner?

This is demanded of us, more than by immediate financial difficulties, by the planet's state of ecological health, and above all, by the cultural and social crisis whose symptoms have been evident for some time in every part of the world.

Therefore, we must seek to establish a 'virtuous cycle' between poverty 'to be chosen' and poverty 'to be fought'. This opens a way that can be very fruitful for the present and the future of mankind that may be summarized thus: In order to fight iniquitous poverty, which oppresses so many men and women and threatens the peace for everyone, we must rediscover moderation and solidarity as values that are evangelical as well as universal.

More concretely, one cannot effectively fight poverty without doing what St. Paul suggested to the Corinthians, namely, unless one seeks to 'make equal', reducing the disparity between those who waste the superfluous and those who lack even the essential.

This involves choices of justice and moderation, choices that are obliged by the demand to administer wisely the earth's limited resources.

When he says that Jesus Christ enriches us with his poverty, St. Paul offers an important indication not only on the theological level but also on the sociological. Not in the sense that poverty is a value in itself, but because it is a condition for realizing the solidarity of brotherhood.

When Francis of Assisi stripped himself of all his earthly possessions, he chose a form of witness directly inspired by God but which at the same time showed to everyone the way of trust in Providence.

Thus, in the Church, the vow of poverty taken by some reminds everyone of the (virtue of) detachment from material goods and the primacy of spiritual riches.

Therefore, this is the message we must glean today: The poverty of Christ's birth in Bethlehem, beyond being an object of adoration for Christians, is also a school of life for every man. It teaches us that to fight poverty, material as well as spiritual, the way to follow is that of brotherhood, which led Jesus to share our human condition.

Dear brothers and sisters, I think that the Virgin Mary must have asked herself this question more than once: Why did Jesus want to be born to a simple and humble girl like me? And why then did he want to come into the world in an animal stall and to have the shepherds of Bethlehem as his first visitors?

Mary found the answer fully at the end, after she had laid down the body of Jesus, dead and wrapped in burial clothes, into the sepulchre (cfr Lk 23,53). Then she fully understood the mystery of the poverty of God. She understood that God became poor for us, to enrich us with his poverty full of love, to exhort us to rein in the insatiable greed that gives rise to struggles and divisions, to invite us to moderate our obsession to possess, and thus be open to sharing and reciprocal acceptance.

To Mary, Mother of the Son of God who made himself our brother, let us confidently address our prayers that she may help us to follow in his footsteps, to fight and conquer poverty, to construct true peace, which is opus iustitiae, the work of justice.

To her, let us entrust the profound desire to live in peace which comes from the heart of the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, who are once more placed under great danger through the massive violence that has erupted in the Gaza Strip in response to other violences.

Even violence, hate and distrust are forms of poverty - perhaps the worst - that must be 'fought'. May they not prevail! In this sense, the Pastors of the (local) Churches have made themselves heard. Together with them and their beloved flocks, above all that of the small but fervent parish of Gaza, let us lay at Mary's feet our concerns for the present and our fears for the future, and with these, our well-founded hope that, with the wise and farsighted contribution of everyone, it will not be impossible to listen to each other and come together to give concrete answers to the widespread aspiration to live in peace, in security and in dignity.

We say to Mary: Be with us, heavenly Mother of the Redeemer, throughout all of the year which begins today, and obtain from God the gift of peace for the Holy Land and for all of mankind. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. Amen.



ANGELUS ON 1/1/2009
SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
XLIV WORLD DAY OF PEACE



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After the Mass at St. Peter's Basilica this morning, the Holy Father led the noontime Angelus from his study window, addressing a packed St. Peter's Square, which included members of the Sant'Egidio Community who held a March for Peace despite a very wet morning.

Here is a full translation of his Angelus message.




Dear brothers and sisters:

On this first day of the year, I am glad to address to all of you who are here in St. Peter's Square, and to all those who are with us through radio and television, my warmest wishes for peace and everything good.

These are wishes that the Christian faith makes, so to speak, 'reliable', being anchored in the event which we are celebrating these days: the Incarnation of the Word of God, born of the Virgin Mary.

In effect, with the grace of the Lord - and only with it - we can always hope anew that the future will be better than the past. Indeed, it is not a question of trusting in more favorable luck, or in the modern interlocking of the market and finance, but to try ourselves to be more 'good' and more responsible so we may count on the benevolence of the Lord.

This is always possible because "God has spoken to us through his Son" (Heb 1,2) and continues to talk to us, through the preaching of the Gospel and the voice of our own conscience.

In Jesus Christ, all men were shown the way of salvation, which is first of all, a spiritual redemption, but which involves the human being totally, including his social and historical dimension.

Therefore, while the Church celebrates the divine Motherhood of the Most Blessed Mary, she also calls the attention of everyone on this day, as it has for more than 40 years, that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace.

According to the tradition begun by the Servant of God Paul VI, I wrote for this occasion a special message, choosing the theme 'Fight poverty, build peace".

In this way, I wish to place myself once more in dialog with the responsible authorities of nations and international organizations, offering the contribution of the Catholic Church for the promotion of a world order worthy of man.

At the beginning of a new year, my first objective is to invite everyone - governing powers as well as simple citizens - not to be discouraged in the face of difficulties and failures, but to renew their commitment and efforts.

The second half of 2008 saw the emergence of an economic crisis of vast proportions. This crisis must be read in its profundity, as a grave symptom that requires intervention into its causes.

It is not enough, as Jesus would say, to place new patches on old clothes (cfr Mk 2, 21). To place the poor in first place means to move decisively towards that global brotherhood that John Paul II had said was necessary, bringing together the potentials of the market with those of civilian society (cfr Message, 3), in constant respect of legality, and always aiming for the common good.

Jesus Christ did not organize campaigns against poverty but he announced the Gospel to the poor, towards an integral rescue from material and moral poverty. The Church does the same thing, with its incessant work of evangelization and human promotion.

Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so that she may help all men to walk together along the path of peace.


After the prayers, he said:

I wish to thank everyone who have sent their best wishes for the New Year. In particular, I express my gratitude to the President of the Italian Republic, and from my heart, I renew to him and to the Italian nation my best wishes for peace and prosperity.

I greet with joy the participants in the 'Pacem in terris' March promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome and in 70 countries around the world.

I express my appreciation for the numerous initiatives of prayer and reflection for peace, among them that of the Italian bishops' conference which took place last night in Palermo.

Thus the new year begins with steps taken by peacemakers. I thank you for all these gestures. May the Lord help us and grant us peace!

Finally, in Italian, he addressed special words to "the families of the Movimento dell'Amore Familale, who held a prayer vigil overnight in St. Peter's Square to pray for peace in men's hearts, in families adn among peoples".

He also greeted the youth of the Opera Don Orione who took part in an 'Alternative New Year's Eve', and students and teachers belonging to Comunione e Liberazione.


In English, he said:

I am very pleased to greet the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus, and I wish you all a happy New Year!

I pray that Christians everywhere, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, will be filled with spiritual joy. During this year, may all who believe in Christ promote justice and charity, and bear constant witness to forgiveness, reconciliation and peace!

May the Lord bless you and keep you!
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01/01/2009 21.10
 
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Starting now, I will be posting the Holy Father's homilies along with the Angelus texts (HOMILIES & ANGELUS TEXTS) in order to keep the Pope's primarily liturgy-based texts together. In order to have this more logical arrangement start with the liturgical year, I have already cross-posted into this thread the homilies starting with the the First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent.

I will continue posting translations of the liturgical texts, catecheses and other major texts in NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT first, with the news reports and photos of the event, then cross-post into the other threads.

Until the Pauline catechetical cycle is done, I will post the Audience texts first in the NEWS ABOUT BENEDICT thread and cross-post directly to the PAULINE YEAR thread. I will open a new thread for GENERAL AUDIENCE TEXTS when a new catechetical cycle starts.

Meanwhile, I will keep all other ADDRESSES, DISCOURSES, MESSAGES together in the old Homilies/Discourses/Messages thread.



I will alter the thread headings accordingly.



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04/01/2009 15.12
 
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ANGELUS OF 1/4/09
The Epiphany of Our Lord



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Here is a full translation of the Holy Father's words at Angelus today:

Dear brothers and sisters,

The liturgy today re-proposes for our meditation the same Gospel proclaimed on the Feast of the Nativity, namely, the Prologue to St. John's Gospel.

After the clamor of the preceding days with the race to acquire gifts, the Church invites us to contemplate anew the mystery of the Nativity of Christ, in order to grasp its profound significance and importance for our life.

It is a wonderful text which offers a vertiginous synthesis of the entire Christian faith. It starts from a height: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn 1,1).

Then comes the unheard-of and humanly inconceivable news: "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1,14a). Not as a rhetorical figure but as an experience that had been lived! Conveyed to us by John, an eyewitness: "And we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1,14b).

These were not the learned words of a rabbi or a doctor of the law, but the passionate testimony of a humble fisherman who, attracted as a youth to Jesus of Nazareth, in three years of a shared life with him and with the other apostles, experienced love - so much as to describe himself as 'the disciple whom Jesus loved". He saw him die on the Cross and appear resurrected, and then with the others, received his Spirit.

From all this experience, meditated in his heart, John drew an intimate certainty: Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnate. He is the eternal Word who made himself a mortal man.

For a true Israelite, who knows Holy Scriptures, this was not a contradiction, but rather the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament: In Jesus Christ is the fullness of the mystery of a God who speaks to men as to friends, who revealed himself to Moses in the Law, to the sages and the prophets.

Knowing Jesus, being with him, listening to his preaching, and seeing the signs he worked, the disciples came to recognize that all Scripture was realized in him.

As a Christian author would affirm later: "All of divine Scripture constitutes a single book, and this unique book is Christ - it speaks of Christ and finds its fulfillment in Christ" (Ugo di San Vittore, De arca Noe, 2, 8).

Every man and every woman needs to find a profound sense for his own existence, and for this, books do not suffice, not even the Sacred Scriptures alone.

The Baby of Bethlehem reveals and communicates to us the true 'face' of the good and faithful Lord who loves us and never abandons us even in death.

"No one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is God and who is at the Father's side, has revealed him" (Jn 1,16).

The first to open her heart and to contemplate 'the Word made flesh' was Mary, the mother of Jesus. A humble girl from Galilee thus became the 'Seat of Wisdom'.

Like the apostle John, each of us is invited to 'take her into our home' (cfr Jn 19,27) in order to know Jesus more profoundly and to experience his faithful and inexhaustible love.

This is my wish for each of you, dear brothers and sisters, at the start of this new year.


After the prayers, he said:

The Patriarchs and the Heads of the Christian Churches in Jerusalem today, in all the Churches of the Holy Land, invite the faithful to pray for an end to the conflict in the Gaza Strip and to implore for justice and peace in their land.

I join them in this and I ask you to do the same, remembering, as they tell us, "the victims, the injured, those whose hearts are broken, who live in anguish and fear, so that God may bless them with comfort, patient and peace that come from him".

The tragic news which comes to us from Gaza show how the rejection of dialog leads to situations which weigh unspeakably on populations that are once again the victims of hatred and war.

Hatred and war are not solutions to problems. Even more recent history confirms this.

Let us pray, then that "the Baby in the manger... may inspire the authorities and responsible officials on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian, to immediate action that will put an end to the present tragedy."

I am glad to greet the participants in the international congress on "Don Bosco's preventive system and human rights" organized by the Salesians. This is a very important subject because the educative aspect is very decisive even in the field of human rights. I therefore wish you profitable work and assure you of my prayers.

I also welcome with joy the many seminarians who have come from different countries for a formative encounter by the Focolari movement. Dear young people, I bless your path with all my heart. May the Virgin Mary watch over you always.


In English, he said:

I cordially greet all the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer!

In these first days of the New Year, as the Church celebrates the birth of the Saviour, let us pray that the peace proclaimed by the angels at Bethlehem will take ever deeper root in human hearts, banish all discord and violence, and inspire the human family to live in harmony and solidarity.

Upon you and your loved ones I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings!









[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 04/01/2009 15.13]
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