Posts Tagged ‘life’

“The Joys Sown by God in Our Life Are Not the Destination”

May 14, 2010

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Here in the Apostolic Palace yesterday we concluded the customary retreat that is held in the Vatican at the beginning of Lent. My coworkers in the Roman Curia and I have spent the days in recollection and intense prayer, reflecting on the priestly vocation in sync with the Year for Priests that the Church is celebrating. I thank those who were near to us spiritually.

On this second Sunday of Lent the liturgy is dominated by the event of the Transfiguration, which in St. Luke’s Gospel immediately follows the Master’s invitation: “If anyone wants to follow me, he must renounce himself, take up his cross every day and follow me!” (Luke 9:23). This extraordinary event is an encouragement in following Jesus.

Luke does not speak of transfiguration but describes what happened through two elements: the countenance of Jesus that changes and his vestments, which become dazzling white in the presence of Moses and Elijah, symbol of the Law and the Prophets. The three disciples who witness the scene are heavy with sleep: It is the attitude of those who, although spectators of divine prodigies, do not understand them. Only the struggle against the torpor that assails them allows Peter, James and John to “see” Jesus’ glory. The pace is driving: as Moses and Elijah depart from Jesus, Peter speaks, and while he is speaking, a cloud covers him and the other disciples with its shadow; it is a cloud that, although it conceals also reveals God’s glory, as happened for the people of Israel on pilgrimage through the desert. The eyes can no longer see, but the ears can hear the voice that comes from the cloud: “This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35).

The disciples are no longer before a transfigured face, nor before a dazzling garment, nor a cloud that reveals the divine presence. Before their eyes there is “only Jesus” (9:36). Jesus is alone before his Father as he prays, but at the same time, Jesus is everything that is given to the disciples of all times: It is what must suffice on the journey. He is the only voice to listen to, the only one to follow, he who, going up to Jerusalem, will give his life and one day “will transfigure our miserable body to conform it to his glorious body” (Philippians 3:21).

“Master, it is good for us to be here” (John 9:33): These are Peter’s ecstatic words, which often resemble our desire before the Lord’s consolations. But the Transfiguration reminds us that the joys sown by God in our life are not the destination, but they are lights that he gives us on the earthly pilgrimage, so that “only Jesus” is our Law and his Word the criterion that guides our existence.

During this time of Lent I invite everyone to meditate assiduously on the Gospel. Furthermore, I hope in this Year of the Priest that pastors “are truly filled by the Word of God, that they know it in truth, that they love it to the point that it really gives them life and forms their thought” (Homily for the Chrism Mass, April 9, 2009). May the Virgin Mary help us to live with intensity our moments of encounter with the Lord so that we can follow him every day with joy. To her we turn our gaze, invoking upon her with the prayer of the Angelus.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

I heard with deep sadness the tragic news of the recent killings of some Christians in the city of Mosul and I followed with much concern the other episodes of violence, perpetrated in the martyred land of Iraq, which have harmed defenseless persons of various religious affiliations. In these days of intense recollection I often prayed for all the victims of those attacks and today I would like to join myself spiritually in prayer for peace and the restoration of security promoted by the council of bishops at Nineveh. I am affectionately near to the Christians communities of the whole country. Do not weary of being a ferment for good for the homeland to which, for centuries, you have rightfully belonged!

In the delicate political phase that Iraq is passing through I call upon the civil authorities that they do everything possible to restore security to the population and, especially to the most vulnerable religious minorities. It is my wish that they do not given in to the temptation to allow the temporary and special interests prevail over the safety and the fundamental rights of every citizen. Finally, as I greet the Iraqis present here in the piazza, I exhort the international community to do its best to give the Iraqis a future of reconciliation and justice, while I ask with confidence from God almighty the precious gift of peace.

My thought goes out also to Chile and the populations affected by the earthquake, which caused numerous losses of human life and much damage. I pray for the victims and am spiritually near to the persons tried by so grave a calamity; for them I implore from God relief from suffering and courage in these adversities. I am certain that they will not lack the solidarity of many, especially of ecclesial organizations.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus prayer, especially the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. On this Second Sunday of Lent the voice of our Heavenly Father instructs us to listen to Jesus, the beloved Son of God. May our Lenten journey continue to dispose our hearts to Christ and to his saving truth. Upon all of you I invoke Almighty God’s abundant blessings of strength and peace!

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On God’s Mercy

April 16, 2010
“Everyone Can Receive the Gift of Peace and Life”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, APRIL 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave before praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo and, via television, with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

This Sunday is the conclusion of the Octave of Easter. It is a unique day “made by the Lord,” marked by the resurrection and the joy of the disciples in seeing Jesus. From antiquity this Sunday has been called Sunday “in albis,” from the Latin word “alba” (white), because of the white vestments the neophytes put on at their baptism on Easter night and set aside eight days later. On April 30, 2000, Venerable John Paul II named this same Sunday for Divine Mercy on the occasion of the canonization of Sister Maria Faustina Kowalska.

The Gospel passage from St. John (20:19-31) for this Sunday is rich with divine mercy and goodness. There it is told that Jesus, after the resurrection, visited his disciples, passing through the closed doors of the cenacle. St. Augustine explains that “the closed doors did not impede the entrance of that body in which divinity lived. He who in his birth left the virginity of his mother intact could enter the cenacle despite the doors being closed” (In Ioh. 121, 4: CCL 36/7, 667); and St. Gregory the Great added that the Redeemer, after his resurrection, appeared with a body of an incorruptible and palpable nature but in the state of glory (cf. Hom. in Evag., 21,1: CCL 141, 219). Jesus showed the signs of the passion to the point of permitting the incredulous Thomas to touch him.

How is it possible, however, for a disciple to doubt? In reality the divine condescension allows us to draw profit even from the incredulous Thomas, together with the believing disciples. In fact, touching the Lord’s wounds, the hesitant disciple not only heals his own diffidence but ours too.

The visit of the Risen One is not limited to the space of the cenacle but it goes beyond so that everyone can receive the gift of peace and life with the “creative breath.” Indeed, twice Jesus says to the disciples: “Peace be with you!” and he adds: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Having said this, he breathes upon them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you forgive shall be forgiven and those whose sins you do not forgive shall not be forgiven.” This is the mission of the Church perennially assisted by the Paraclete: to bring to all the glad tidings, the joyous reality of the merciful Love of God, “so that,” as St. John says, “you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that, believing, you may have life in his name” (20:31).

In light of this word, I encourage especially all pastors to follow the example of the saintly Curé d’Ars, who, “in his time was able to transform the hearts and the lives of so many people because he enabled them to experience the Lord’s merciful love. Our own time urgently needs a similar proclamation and witness to the truth of Love” (“Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests”).

In this way we will render ever more familiar and close him who our eyes have not seen but whose infinite mercy we are absolutely certain of. We ask Mary, the Queen of the Apostles, to sustain the mission of the Church, and we invoke her exultant with joy.

[The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

As we all know, yesterday a tragic airplane accident occurred near Smolensk in which the president of Poland, Mr. Lech Kaczynski, his wife, a number of senior officials of the Polish government and all those traveling with him, including the archbishop of the Military Ordinariate, perished.

In expressing my deepest condolences, from my heart I assure intercessory prayers for the victims and prayers of support for the beloved Polish nation.

Yesterday the exhibition of the Holy Shroud began in Turin. I too, if it pleases God, will travel to venerate it on May 2. I rejoice for this event, which once again is encouraging a large movement of pilgrims as well as studies, reflections and above all an extraordinary recollection of the mystery of Christ’s suffering. I hope that this act of veneration will help all to seek the Face of God, which was the intimate aspiration of the Apostles and is [also] our own.

I address a special greeting to the pilgrims gathered in Rome on the occasion of Divine Mercy Sunday. I bless everyone from my heart, especially the coordinators of the Center for Spirituality of the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. May the image of the Merciful Jesus, dear friends, shine forth in you, in your life!

On St. Gregory Nazianzen

October 13, 2008

“His Soul Was Engrossed in Beauty and Divine Glory”

VATICAN CITY, AUG. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Aug. 8 at the general audience in Paul VI Hall. The reflection focused on St. Gregory Nazianzen, a fourth-century bishop.

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BENEDICT XVI
GENERAL AUDIENCE
Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Saint Gregory Nazianzus
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday, I talked about St Basil, a Father of the Church and a great teacher of the faith.

Today, I would like to speak of his friend, Gregory Nazianzus; like Basil, he too was a native of Cappadocia. As a distinguished theologian, orator and champion of the Christian faith in the fourth century, he was famous for his eloquence, and as a poet, he also had a refined and sensitive soul.

Gregory was born into a noble family in about 330 A.D. and his mother consecrated him to God at birth. After his education at home, he attended the most famous schools of his time: he first went to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he made friends with Basil, the future Bishop of that city, and went on to stay in other capitals of the ancient world, such as Alexandria, Egypt and in particular Athens, where once again he met Basil (cf. Orationes 43: 14-24; SC 384: 146-180).

Remembering this friendship, Gregory was later to write: “Then not only did I feel full of veneration for my great Basil because of the seriousness of his morals and the maturity and wisdom of his speeches, but he induced others who did not yet know him to be like him…. The same eagerness for knowledge motivated us…. This was our competition: not who was first but who allowed the other to be first. It seemed as if we had one soul in two bodies” (Orationes 43: 16, 20; SC 384: 154-156, 164].

These words more or less paint the self-portrait of this noble soul. Yet, one can also imagine how this man, who was powerfully cast beyond earthly values, must have suffered deeply for the things of this world.

On his return home, Gregory received Baptism and developed an inclination for monastic life: solitude as well as philosophical and spiritual meditation fascinated him.

He himself wrote: “Nothing seems to me greater than this: to silence one’s senses, to emerge from the flesh of the world, to withdraw into oneself, no longer to be concerned with human things other than what is strictly necessary; to converse with oneself and with God, to lead a life that transcends the visible; to bear in one’s soul divine images, ever pure, not mingled with earthly or erroneous forms; truly to be a perfect mirror of God and of divine things, and to become so more and more, taking light from light…; to enjoy, in the present hope, the future good, and to converse with angels; to have already left the earth even while continuing to dwell on it, borne aloft by the spirit” (Orationes 2: 7; SC 247: 96).

As he confides in his autobiography (cf. Carmina [historica] 2: 1, 11, De Vita Sua 340-349; PG 37: 1053), he received priestly ordination with a certain reluctance for he knew that he would later have to be a Bishop, to look after others and their affairs, hence, could no longer be absorbed in pure meditation.

However, he subsequently accepted this vocation and took on the pastoral ministry in full obedience, accepting, as often happened to him in his life, to be carried by Providence where he did not wish to go (cf. Jn 21: 18).

In 371, his friend Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, against Gregory’s own wishes, desired to ordain him Bishop of Sasima, a strategically important locality in Cappadocia. Because of various problems, however, he never took possession of it and instead stayed on in the city of Nazianzus.

In about 379, Gregory was called to Constantinople, the capital, to head the small Catholic community faithful to the Council of Nicea and to belief in the Trinity. The majority adhered instead to Arianism, which was “politically correct” and viewed by emperors as politically useful.
Thus, he found himself in a condition of minority, surrounded by hostility. He delivered five Theological Orations (Orationes 27-31; SC 250: 70-343) in the little Church of the Anastasis precisely in order to defend the Trinitarian faith and to make it intelligible.

These discourses became famous because of the soundness of his doctrine and his ability to reason, which truly made clear that this was the divine logic. And the splendour of their form also makes them fascinating today.

It was because of these orations that Gregory acquired the nickname: “The Theologian”.

This is what he is called in the Orthodox Church: the “Theologian”. And this is because to his way of thinking theology was not merely human reflection or even less, only a fruit of complicated speculation, but rather sprang from a life of prayer and holiness, from a persevering dialogue with God. And in this very way he causes the reality of God, the mystery of the Trinity, to appear to our reason.

In the silence of contemplation, interspersed with wonder at the marvels of the mystery revealed, his soul was engrossed in beauty and divine glory.

While Gregory was taking part in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, he was elected Bishop of Constantinople and presided over the Council; but he was challenged straightaway by strong opposition, to the point that the situation became untenable. These hostilities must have been unbearable to such a sensitive soul.

What Gregory had previously lamented with heartfelt words was repeated: “We have divided Christ, we who so loved God and Christ! We have lied to one another because of the Truth, we have harboured sentiments of hatred because of Love, we are separated from one another” (Orationes 6: 3; SC 405: 128).

Thus, in a tense atmosphere, the time came for him to resign.

In the packed cathedral, Gregory delivered a farewell discourse of great effectiveness and dignity (cf. Orationes 42; SC 384: 48-114). He ended his heartrending speech with these words: “Farewell, great city, beloved by Christ…. My children, I beg you, jealously guard the deposit [of faith] that has been entrusted to you (cf. I Tm 6: 20), remember my suffering (cf. Col 4: 18). May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (cf. Orationes 42: 27; SC 384: 112-114).

Gregory returned to Nazianzus and for about two years devoted himself to the pastoral care of this Christian community. He then withdrew definitively to solitude in nearby Arianzo, his birthplace, and dedicated himself to studies and the ascetic life.

It was in this period that he wrote the majority of his poetic works and especially his autobiography: the De Vita Sua, a reinterpretation in verse of his own human and spiritual journey, an exemplary journey of a suffering Christian, of a man of profound interiority in a world full of conflicts.

He is a man who makes us aware of God’s primacy, hence, also speaks to us, to this world of ours: without God, man loses his grandeur; without God, there is no true humanism.

Consequently, let us too listen to this voice and seek to know God’s Face.

In one of his poems he wrote, addressing himself to God: “May you be benevolent, You, the hereafter of all things” (Carmina [dogmatica] 1: 1, 29; PG 37: 508).

And in 390, God welcomed into his arms this faithful servant who had defended him in his writings with keen intelligence and had praised him in his poetry with such great love.

To special groups

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including groups from Ireland, Israel, the Far East and North America. I extend a special welcome to the pilgrims who have travelled here from Da Nang in Vietnam. May the peace and joy of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and may God bless you all!

Lastly, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Today is the Memorial of St Dominic Guzman, a tireless preacher of the Gospel, and tomorrow will be the Feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edith Stein, Co-Patroness of Europe.

May these two Saints help you, dear young people, to trust in Christ always. May their example sustain you, dear sick people, so that you participate with faith in the saving power of his Cross. I encourage you, dear newly-weds, to be a luminous image of God through your reciprocal fidelity. I impart my Blessing to you all.




On the Earthly Pilgrimage

October 11, 2008

“An Invitation to Spend Our Life Wisely and With Foresight”

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 23, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI’s Aug. 12 address before praying the Angelus at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Liturgy on this 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time prepares us in a certain way for the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, which we will be celebrating on 15 August. Indeed, it is fully oriented to the future, to Heaven, where the Blessed Virgin Mary has preceded us in the joy of Paradise.

In particular, the Gospel passage, continuing last Sunday’s message, asks Christians to detach themselves from material goods, which are for the most part illusory, and to do their duty faithfully, constantly aspiring to Heaven. May the believer remain alert and watchful to be ready to welcome Jesus when he comes in his glory.

By means of examples taken from everyday life, the Lord exhorts his disciples, that is, us, to live with this inner disposition, like those servants in the parable who were waiting for their master’s return. “Blessed are those servants”, he said, “whom the master finds awake when he comes” (Lk 12:37). We must therefore watch, praying and doing good.

It is true, we are all travellers on earth, as the Second Reading of today’s liturgy from the Letter to the Hebrews appropriately reminds us. It presents Abraham to us in the clothes of a pilgrim, as a nomad who lives in a tent and sojourns in a foreign land. He has faith to guide him.

“By faith”, the sacred author wrote, “Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (Heb 11:8).

Indeed, Abraham’s true destination was “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (11:10). The city to which he was alluding is not in this world but is the heavenly Jerusalem, Paradise.

This was well known to the primitive Christian community, which considered itself “alien” here below and called its populated nucleuses in the cities “parishes”, which means, precisely, colonies of foreigners [in Greek, pároikoi] (cf. I Pt 2:11). In this way, the first Christians expressed the most important characteristic of the Church, which is precisely the tension of living in this life in light of Heaven.

Today’s Liturgy of the Word, therefore, desires to invite us to think of “the life of the world to come”, as we repeat every time we make our profession of faith with the Creed. It is an invitation to spend our life wisely and with foresight, to consider attentively our destiny, in other words, those realities which we call final: death, the last judgement, eternity, hell and Heaven. And it is exactly in this way that we assume responsibility for the world and build a better world.

May the Virgin Mary, who watches over us from Heaven, help us not to forget that here on earth we are only passing through, and may she teach us to prepare ourselves to encounter Jesus, who is “seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”.

After the Angelus:

In the past few days serious floods have devastated various countries in Southeast Asia, claiming a heavy toll of victims and leaving millions homeless.

As I express my profound participation in the suffering of the afflicted populations, I urge Ecclesial Communities to pray for the victims and to support the initiatives of solidarity organized to alleviate the suffering of so many harshly tried people.

May these brothers and sisters of ours not lack the prompt and generous help of the International Community!

I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts his disciples to be watchful, ever ready to greet him when he comes.

During these quiet days of summer, may we welcome the Lord ever more fully into our hearts and allow his grace to transform our lives. Upon you and your families, I cordially invoke God’s Blessing of joy and peace!

A good Sunday to you all!



On the Heart of Christian Life

September 2, 2008

“Love Renders Us Witnesses to Christ”

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 15, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus at Mirabello Castle, near the spot where the Pope is vacationing in northern Italy.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I thank the Lord that also this year he offers me the possibility to pass some days of rest in the mountains, and I am grateful to those who have welcomed me here in Lorenzago, in this enchanting panorama in which the summit of Mount Cadore forms the background and where my beloved predecessor John Paul II visited several times.

I offer a special thanks to the bishop of Treviso and the bishop of Belluno-Feltre, and to all who in various ways are contributing to assure me a serene and profitable sojourn. Before this scene of meadows, of woods, of peaks ascending toward heaven, the desire to praise God for the marvel of his works spontaneously arises in the soul and easily transforms itself into prayer.

Every good Christian knows that vacations are an opportune time to stretch one’s body and to nourish the spirit in more ample spaces of prayer and meditation, to grow in one’s personal relationship with Christ, and to conform more and more to his teachings. Today, for example, the liturgy invites us to reflect on the celebrated parable of the Good Samaritan (cf. Luke 10:25-37), that introduces love for God and neighbor into the heart of the evangelical message.

But who is my neighbor? Jesus’ interlocutor asks. And the Lord answers, reversing the question, showing through the story of the Good Samaritan that each one of us must be the neighbor of each person we meet. “Go and do the same!” (Luke 10:37). To love, Jesus says, is to conduct oneself like the Good Samaritan. We know that Jesus is the Good Samaritan par excellence: Although he was God, he did not hesitate to abase himself to the point of becoming man and giving his life for us.

Love, therefore, is the “heart” of Christian life; in fact, only the love awakened in us by the Holy Spirit renders us witnesses to Christ.

I wanted to re-propose this important spiritual truth in the message for the 23rd World Youth Day, which will be made known next Friday, July 20: “You will receive power from the Holy Spirit, who will descend upon you” (Acts 1:8).

This is what I invite you to reflect on in the next months, dear young people, to prepare for our big meeting in Sydney, Australia, that, precisely in these days of July, will take place one year from now. The Christian communities of that beloved nation are actively working to welcome you and I am grateful to them for their efforts in organizing.

Let us entrust to Mary, who tomorrow we will invoke as the Virgin of Mount Carmel, the preparation and unfolding of the next meeting with the young people of the whole world, to which I invite you, dear friends of every continent.