PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH OF
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Sunday, 4 March 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of St John Baptist de La Salle,
First of all I would like to say a heartfelt thank you for this most cordial and warm welcome. I am grateful to the good Parish Priest for his beautiful words, and for the spirit of familiarity that I am encountering. We really are a family of God and the fact that you also see the Pope as a father is something very lovely that encourages me! However we must now remember that the Pope is not the highest authority to appeal to. The highest is the Lord and let us look to the Lord in order to perceive, to understand — as far as we can — something of the message of this Second Sunday of Lent.
Today’s liturgy prepares us both for the mystery of the Passion — as we heard in the First Reading — and for the joy of the Resurrection.
The First Reading refers us to the episode in which God puts Abraham to the test (cf. Genesis 22:1-18). He had an only son, Isaac, who was born to him in his old age. He was the son of the promise, the son who would also bring salvation to the peoples. Nevertheless one day Abraham received from God the order to sacrifice him as an offering.
The elderly patriarch found himself facing the prospect of a sacrifice which for him, as a father, was without any doubt the greatest imaginable. Yet not even for a moment did he hesitate and having made the necessary preparations, he set out with Isaac for the arranged place.
And we can imagine this journey toward the mountaintop, and what happened in his own heart and in his son’s. He builds an altar, lays the wood upon it and having bound the boy, grasps the knife, ready to sacrifice him. Abraham trusts totally in God, to the point of being ready even to sacrifice his own son and, with his son the future, for without a child the promised land was as nothing, ends in nothing. And in sacrificing his son he is sacrificing himself, his whole future, the whole of the promise. It really is the most radical act of faith. At that very moment he is restrained by an order from on high: God does not want death, but life, the true sacrifice does not bring death but life, and Abraham’s obedience became the source of an immense blessing to this day. Let us end here now, but we can meditate upon this mystery.
In the Second Reading, St Paul says that God himself has made a sacrifice: he has given us his own Son, he gave him on the Cross to triumph over sin and death, to triumph over the Evil One and to overcome all the evil that exists in the world. And God’s extraordinary mercy inspires the Apostle’s admiration and profound trust in the power of God’s love for us; indeed, St Paul says: “He [God] who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” (Romans 8:32).
If God gives himself in the Son, he gives us everything. And Paul insists on the power of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice against every other force that can threaten our life.
He wonders: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?” (vv. 33-34).
We are in God’s heart, this is our great trust. This creates love and in love we go towards God. If God has given his own Son for all of us, no one can accuse us, no one can condemn us, no one can separate us from his immense love. Precisely the supreme sacrifice of love on the Cross, which the Son of God accepted and chose willingly, becomes the source of our justification, of our salvation. Just think that this act of the Lord’s endures in the Blessed Eucharist, and in his heart, for eternity, and this act of love attracts us, unites us with him.
Lastly, the Gospel speaks to us of the episode of the Transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:2-10): Jesus manifests himself in his glory before the sacrifice of the Cross and God the Father proclaims his beloved Son, the one he loves, and commands the disciples to listen to him. Jesus goes up a high mountain and takes three Apostles with him — Peter, James and John — who will be particularly close to him in his extreme agony, on another mountain, the Mount of Olives.
A little earlier the Lord had announced his Passion and Peter had been unable to understand why the Lord, the Son of God, should speak of suffering, rejection, death, a Cross, indeed he had opposed the prospect of all this with determination.
Jesus now takes the three disciples with him to help them to understand that the path to attaining glory, the path of luminous love that overcomes darkness, passes through the total gift of self, passes through the folly of the Cross. And the Lord must take us with him too ever anew; at least if we are to begin to understand that this is the route to take.
The Transfiguration is a moment of light in advance, which also helps us see Christ’s Passion with a gaze of faith. Indeed, it is a mystery of suffering but it is also the “blessed Passion” because — in essence — it is a mystery of God’s extraordinary love; it is the definitive exodus that opens for us the door to the freedom and newness of the Resurrection, of salvation from evil. We need it on our daily journey, so often also marked by the darkness of evil.
Dear brothers and sisters, as I have said, I am very happy to be with you today to celebrate the Lord’s Day. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Fr Giampaolo Perugini, your parish priest, whom I thank once again for his kind words on behalf of you all and also for the pleasing gifts you have offered me.
I greet the Parochial Vicars. And I greet the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who have been here for so many years. They deserve praise for having fostered the life of this parish, because their house immediately offered generous hospitality to it, during the first three years of its life.
I then extend my greeting to the Brothers of the Christian Schools, who are naturally attached to this parish church dedicated to their Founder. I greet in addition all those who are active in the parish context. I am referring to the catechists, the members of the associations and movements, as well as the various parish groups. Lastly I would like to embrace in spirit all the inhabitants of the district, and especially the elderly, the sick, and people who are lonely or in difficulty.
In coming to you today I noticed the special position of this church, set at the highest point in the district and endowed with a slender spire, as if it were a finger or an arrow pointing towards heaven. It seems to me that this is an important indication: like the three Apostles of the Gospel, we also need to climb the mountain of the Transfiguration to receive God’s light, so that his Face may illuminate our face. And it is in personal and community prayer that we encounter the Lord, not as an idea or a moral proposal but, rather, as a Person who wishes to enter into a relationship with us, who wants to be a friend and to renew our life to make it like his.
This encounter is not solely a personal event; your church, set at the highest point in the neighbourhood, reminds you that the Gospel must be communicated and proclaimed to all. We do not expect others to bring different messages, that do not lead to true life. Make yourselves missionaries of Christ to your brothers and sisters wherever they live, work, study or just spend their leisure time.
I know about the many important evangelization projects that you undertake, in particular through the after-school prayer and recreation centre called “Pole-star” — I am also glad to wear this shirt (the centre’s shirt) — where, thanks to the volunteer work of competent and generous people and the involvement of families, the gathering of young people through sports is encouraged, without however neglecting their cultural formation, through art and music. Above all the relationship with God, the Christian values and an increasingly aware participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration, are inculcated in them here.
I rejoice that the sense of belonging to the parish community has continued to develop and been consolidated down the years. Faith must be lived together and the parish is a place in which we learn to live our own faith in the “we” of the Church. And I would like to encourage you to promote pastoral co-responsibility too, in a perspective of authentic communion among all the realities present, which are called to walk together, to live complementarity in diversity, to witness to the “we” of the Church, of God’s family.
I know how committed you are in preparing the children and young people for the sacraments of Christian life. May the upcoming “Year of Faith” be a favourable opportunity also for this parish to increase and to reinforce the experience of catechesis on the great truths of the Christian faith, so as to enable the whole neighbourhood to know and to deepen its knowledge of the Church’s Creed, and to surmount that “religious illiteracy” which is one of the greatest difficulties of our day.
Dear friend, yours is a young community — it is made up of young families and, thanks be to God, of the numerous children and youth who live in it. In this regard, I would like to recall the task of the family and of the entire Christian community to educate in faith, assisted in this by the theme of the current Pastoral Year, by the Pastoral Guidelines proposed by the Italian Episcopal Conference and without forgetting the profound and ever up to date teaching of St John Baptist de La Salle.
You in particular, dear families, are the environment in which the first steps of faith are taken; may you be communities in which one learns to know and love the Lord more and more, communities in which each enriches the other in order to live a truly adult faith.
Lastly, I would like to remind all of you of the importance and centrality of the Eucharist in personal and community life. May the heart of your Sunday be Holy Mass which should be rediscovered and lived as a day of God and of the community, a day on which to praise and celebrate the One who died and was raised for our salvation, a day on which to live together the joy of an open community, ready to receive every person who is lonely or in difficulty.
Indeed, gathered around the Eucharist in fact, we more easily realize that the mission of every Christian community is to bring the message of God’s love to everyone. This is why it is important that the, just as it is today. Eucharist always be at the heart of the faithful’s life.
Dear brothers and sisters, from Mount Tabor, the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Lenten journey takes us to Golgotha, the hill of the supreme sacrifice of love of the one Priest of the new and eternal Covenant. That sacrifice contains the greatest power of transformation of both the human being and of history. Taking upon himself every consequence of evil and sin, Jesus rose the third day as the conqueror of death and of the Evil One. Lent prepares us to take part personally in this great mystery of faith which we shall celebrate in the Triduum of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Christ.
Let us entrust our Lenten journey and likewise that of the whole Church to the Virgin Mary. May she, who followed her Son Jesus to the Cross, help us to be faithful disciples of Christ, mature Christians, to be able to share with her in the fullness of Easter joy. Amen!
St. Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, is known as the Transfiguration of Christ. Indeed in the Lenten itinerary, having invited us to follow Jesus into the wilderness to face and overcome the temptations with him, the Liturgy now proposes that we climb the “mountain” of prayer with him to contemplate God’s glorious radiance on his human face. The episode of the Transfiguration of Christ is unanimously attested by the Evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke. There are two essential elements: first of all, Jesus leads the disciples Peter, James and John up a high mountain and there “he was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2) and his face and his garments shone with dazzling light while Moses and Elijah appeared beside him; the second, a cloud overshadowed the mountain peak and from it came a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). Thus, light and the voice: the divine radiance on Jesus’ face, and the voice of the heavenly Father that witnesses to him and commands that he be listened to.
The mystery of the Transfiguration must not be separated from the context of the path Jesus is following. He is now decisively oriented to fulfilling his mission, knowing all too well that to arrive at the Resurrection he must pass through the Passion and death on the Cross. He had spoken openly of this to his disciples; but they did not understand, on the contrary they rejected this prospect because they were not reasoning in accordance with God, but in accordance with men (cf. Matthew 16:23).
It is for this reason that Jesus takes three of them with him up the mountain and reveals his divine glory, the splendour of Truth and of Love. Jesus wants this light to illuminate their hearts when they pass through the thick darkness of his Passion and death, when the folly of the Cross becomes unbearable to them. God is light, and Jesus wishes to give his closest friends the experience of this light which dwells within him.
After this event, therefore, he will be an inner light within them that can protect them from any assault of darkness. Even on the darkest of nights, Jesus is the lamp that never goes out. St Augustine sums up this mystery in beautiful words, he says: “what this sun is to the eyes of the flesh, that is [Christ] to the eyes of the heart” (Sermones 78, 2: PL 38, 490).
Dear brothers and sisters, we all need inner light to overcome the trials of life. This light comes from God and it is Christ who gives it to us, the One in whom the fullness of deity dwells (cf. Colossians 2:9). Let us climb with Jesus the mountain of prayer and, contemplating his face full of love and truth, let us allow ourselves to be filled with his light. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, our guide on the journey of faith, to help us to live out this experience in the season of Lent, finding every day a few moments for silent prayer and for listening to the Word of God.
After the Angelus:
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer, especially students from the United States of America. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is transfigured, and shows his disciples that his Passion will lead to the Resurrection. By God’s grace, may our Lenten observance lead to a renewal of his radiance within us. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you for coming. Have a good Sunday!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning.
Last Sunday the Liturgy presented Jesus tempted by Satan in the desert, but victorious over temptation. In the light of this Gospel, we are again made aware of our condition as sinners, but also of the victory over evil for those who undertake the journey of conversion and, like Jesus, want to do the Father’s will. In this second Sunday of Lent, the Church points out to us the end of this journey of conversion, namely participation in the glory of Christ, which shines on the face of the obedient Servant, who died and rose for us.
The Gospel page recounts the event of the Transfiguration, which takes place at the height of Jesus’ public ministry. He is on his way to Jerusalem, where the prophecies of the “Servant of God” and his redemptive sacrifice are to be fulfilled. The crowds did not understand this: presented with a Messiah who contrasted with their earthly expectations, they abandoned Him. They thought the Messiah would be the liberator from Roman domination, the emancipator of the homeland, and they do not like Jesus’ perspective and so they leave Him. Neither do the Apostles understand the words with which Jesus proclaims the outcome of his mission in the glorious passion, they do not understand! Jesus thus chooses to give to Peter, James and John a foretaste of his glory, which He will have after the Resurrection, in order to confirm them in faith and encourage them to follow Him on the trying path, on the Way of the Cross. Thus, on a high mountain, immersed in prayer, He is transfigured before them: his face and his entire person irradiate a blinding light. The three disciples are frightened, as a cloud envelops them and the Father’s voice sounds from above, as at the Baptism on the Jordan: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). Jesus is the Son-made-Servant, sent into the world to save us all through the Cross, fulfilling the plan of salvation. His full adherence to God’s will renders his humanity transparent to the glory of God, who is love.
Jesus thus reveals Himself as the perfect icon of the Father, the radiance of his glory. He is the fulfillment of revelation; that is why beside Him appear transfigured, Moses and Elijah appear; they represent the Law and the Prophets, so as to signify that everything finishes and begins in Jesus, in his passion and in his glory.
Their instructions for the disciples and for us is this: “Listen to Him!”. Listen to Jesus. He is the Saviour: follow Him. To listen to Christ, in fact, entails taking up the logic of his Pascal Mystery, setting out on the journey with Him to make of oneself a gift of love to others, in docile obedience to the will of God, with an attitude of detachment from worldly things and of interior freedom. One must, in other words, be willing to “lose one’s very life” (cf. Mark 8:35), by giving it up so that all men might be saved: thus, we will meet in eternal happiness. The path to Jesus always leads us to happiness, don’t forget it! Jesus’ way always leads us to happiness. There will always be a cross, trials in the middle, but at the end we are always led to happiness. Jesus does not deceive us, He promised us happiness and will give it to us if we follow His ways.
With Peter, James and John we too climb the Mount of the Transfiguration today and stop in contemplation of the face of Jesus to retrieve the message and translate it into our lives; for we too can be transfigured by Love. In reality, love is capable of transfiguring everything. Love transfigures all! Do you believe this? May the Virgin Mary, whom we now invoke with the prayer of the Angelus, sustain us on this journey.
After the Angelus:
Appeal for peace in Syria, Iraq and Venezuela:
Dear brothers and sisters, dramatic news of violence, kidnapping and harassment aimed at Christians and other groups continues to arrive from Syria and Iraq. I want to assure those suffering in these situations that we will not forget them, we are close to them and we are praying that a stop be put to this intolerable violence of which they are victims. Together with members of the Roman Curia last Friday I offered the last Mass of the Spiritual Exercises for this intention. At the same time I ask all, according to their capacities, to work to alleviate the suffering of those being tried, often only because of the faith they profess. Let us pray for these our brothers and sisters who are suffering for the faith in Syria and Iraq.... Let us pray in silence....
I would also like to call to mind Venezuela, which is again undergoing moments of acute tension. I pray for the victims and, in particular, for the boy killed a few days ago in San Cristóbal. I exhort everyone to reject violence and to respect the dignity of every person and the sacredness of human life and I encourage them to take up the common path for the good of the Country, opening again space for encounter and sincere and constructive dialogue. I entrust that beloved nation to the motherly intercession of Our Lady of Coromoto.
I address a cordial greeting to all of you — families, parish groups, associations — pilgrims from Rome, from Italy and from different countries.
I wish a good Sunday to all. Don’t forget, please, to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
12 April 2015, 3:00pm
Third Sunday of Lent, Gospel Reading:
Extracted from the holy Gospel according to John 2:13-25
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there.
Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’
Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me.
The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’
Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’
The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’
But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
During his stay in Jerusalem for the Passover many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he gave, but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.
20 April 2015, 6:00am SGT
Third Sunday of Lent, First Reading: Extracted from the Book of Exodus 20:1-17
God spoke all these words. He said, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no gods except me.
‘You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God and I punish the father’s fault in the sons, the grandsons, and the great-grandsons of those who hate me; but I show kindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
‘You shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it.
‘Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. For six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for the Lord your God. You shall do no work that day, neither you nor your son nor your daughter nor your servants, men or women, nor your animals nor the stranger who lives with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that these hold, but on the seventh day he rested; that is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it sacred.
‘Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that the Lord your God has given to you.
‘You shall not kill.
‘You shall not commit adultery.
‘You shall not steal.
‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his servant, man or woman, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is his.’
Third Sunday of Lent, Second Reading: Extracted from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
While the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness,
but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!
God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son:
everyone who believes in him has eternal life.
Praise to you, O Christ, king of eternal glory!