“We Must Commit Ourselves to Being Little”
VATICAN CITY, AUG. 26, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Even today’s liturgy proposes to us an illuminating and troubling phrase of Christ. During his last trip up to Jerusalem someone asks him: “Lord will those who are saved be few?” And Jesus answers: “Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23-24). What is meant by this “narrow gate”? Why is it that many people do not succeed in entering through it? Is it perhaps a passage that is reserved only for a few elect?
When we consider it, in effect, the way of reasoning of Jesus’ interlocutors is always with us: the temptation to think of religious practice as a source of privileges and certainties is always waiting in ambush for us. In truth, Christ’s message goes in exactly the opposite direction: Everyone can enter into life, but the gate is “narrow” for everyone. There is no privileged group. The way to eternal life is open to all, but it is “narrow” because it is demanding, it requires commitment, self-denial and mortification of one’s own egoism.
Once again, as we have seen in past Sundays, the Gospel invites us to consider the future that awaits us and for which we must prepare during our pilgrimage on earth. The salvation that Jesus worked through his death and resurrection is universal. He is the only Redeemer and he invites everyone to the banquet of eternal life. But with one and the same condition: that of making the effort to follow him and imitate him, taking up one’s cross, as he did, and dedicating one’s life to the service of our brothers. One and universal, therefore, is this condition for entering into the life of heaven.
On the last day — Jesus observes in the Gospel — we will not be judged on the basis of presumed privileges, but by our works. The “workers of iniquity” will find themselves excluded, while those who have done good and sought justice, at the cost of sacrifice, will be welcomed. For this reason it will not be enough to declare oneself a “friend” of Christ, bragging about false merits: “We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets” (Luke 13:26).
True friendship with Christ is expressed by one’s way of life: it is expressed by goodness of heart, with humility, meekness and mercy, love of justice and truth, sincere and honest commitment to peace and reconciliation. This, we might say, is the “I.D. card” that qualifies us as authentic “friends”; this is the “passport” that permits us to enter into eternal life.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we too want to pass through the narrow gate we must commit ourselves to being little, that is, humble of heart, like Jesus. Like Mary, his and our Mother. She was the first, following the Son, to travel the way of the cross and she was assumed into the glory of heaven, as we recalled some days ago. The Christian people call on her as “launa Caeli,” Gate of Heaven. Let us ask her to guide us, in our daily choices, along the road that leads to the “Gate of Heaven.”
[Translation by ZENIT]
[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors. May your stay at Castel Gandolfo and Rome renew your love of the universal Church. I welcome the new seminarians of the Pontifical North American College, and pray that their formative years in Rome will help them to grow in wisdom and pastoral charity. Among you I welcome the participants in the cycling pilgrimage from Canterbury Cathedral to Rome. You have cycled the traditional Via Francigena, following in the footsteps of so many men and women of faith on their way to the tombs of Peter and Paul. I pray that your visit will be a time of spiritual and ecumenical enrichment. May Christ keep you and your families in his love.
To the Muslim, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Catholic religious leaders from Kazakhstan, present at today’s Angelus, I wish to extend warm greetings. Your gathering in Assisi and in Padua, together with your meetings in the Vatican, are a sure sign of the hope that mutual understanding and respect between religious communities can overcome distrust and promote the way of peace which springs from truth. Be assured of my prayers for the success of your visit and may your efforts bear much fruit for the noble land of Kazakhstan and beyond!