Collection of Homilies

Homilies collected by Rev. Fr. Jessie G. Somosierra, Jr

Archive for Jesus

Epiphany is a Feast of Light

EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter’s Basilica, 6th Jan 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Epiphany is a feast of light. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 60:1). With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast. He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world. He gives us the power to become children of God (cf. Jn 1:9,12). The journey of the wise men from the East is, for the liturgy, just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history. With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins – to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). The Church reads this account from Matthew’s Gospel alongside the vision of the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the journey of these men is just the beginning. Before them came the shepherds – simple souls, who dwelt closer to the God who became a child, and could more easily “go over” to him (Lk 2:15) and recognize him as Lord. But now the wise of this world are also coming. Great and small, kings and slaves, men of all cultures and all peoples are coming. The men from the East are the first, followed by many more throughout the centuries. After the great vision of Isaiah, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same idea in rather sober and simple terms: the Gentiles share the same heritage (cf. Eph 3:6). Psalm 2 puts it like this: “I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession” (v. 8).

The wise men from the East lead the way. They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ. During this holy Mass, I will ordain two priests to the episcopate, I will consecrate them as shepherds of God’s people. According to the words of Jesus, part of a shepherd’s task is to go ahead of the flock (cf. Jn 10:4). So, allowing for all the differences in vocation and mission, we may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ, for indications concerning the task of bishops. What kind of people were they? The experts tell us that they belonged to the great astronomical tradition that had developed in Mesopotamia over the centuries and continued to flourish. But this information of itself is not enough. No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Saviour. They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about. They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Num 24:17). They explored this promise. They were men with restless hearts, not satisfied with the superficial and the ordinary. They were men in search of the promise, in search of God. And they were watchful men, capable of reading God’s signs, his soft and penetrating language. But they were also courageous, yet humble: we can imagine them having to endure a certain amount of mockery for setting off to find the King of the Jews, at the cost of so much effort. For them it mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them. For them it was a question of truth itself, not human opinion. Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey. Their humble courage was what enabled them to bend down before the child of poor people and to recognize in him the promised King, the one they had set out, on both their outward and their inward journey, to seek and to know.

Dear friends, how can we fail to recognize in all this certain essential elements of episcopal ministry? The bishop too must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more. The bishop too must be a man of watchful heart, who recognizes the gentle language of God and understands how to distinguish truth from mere appearance. The bishop too must be filled with the courage of humility, not asking what prevailing opinion says about him, but following the criterion of God’s truth and taking his stand accordingly – “opportune – importune”. He must be able to go ahead and mark out the path. He must go ahead, in the footsteps of him who went ahead of us all because he is the true shepherd, the true star of the promise: Jesus Christ. And he must have the humility to bend down before the God who made himself so tangible and so simple that he contradicts our foolish pride in its reluctance to see God so close and so small. He must devote his life to adoration of the incarnate Son of God, which constantly points him towards the path.

The liturgy of episcopal ordination interprets the essential features of this ministry in eight questions addressed to the candidates, each beginning with the word “Vultis? – Do you want?” These questions direct the will and mark out the path to be followed. Here I shall briefly cite just a few of the most important words of this presentation, where we find explicit mention of the elements we have just considered in connection with the wise men of today’s feast. The bishops’ task is praedicare Evangelium Christi, it is custodire et dirigere, it is pauperibus se misericordes praebere, it is indesinenter orare. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going ahead and leading, guarding the sacred heritage of our faith, showing mercy and charity to the needy and the poor, thus mirroring God’s merciful love for us, and finally, praying without ceasing: these are the fundamental features of the episcopal ministry. Praying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.

The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us. Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man. And this is your task as successors of the Apostles: let yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.

The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs. Dear friends: you followed the star Jesus Christ when you said “yes” to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. And no doubt smaller stars have enlightened and helped you not to lose your way. In the litany of saints we call upon all these stars of God, that they may continue to shine upon you and show you the path. As you are ordained bishops, you too are called to be stars of God for men, leading them along the path towards the true light, towards Christ. So let us pray to all the saints at this hour, asking them that you may always live up to this mission you have received, to show God’s light to mankind.”

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We “Have the “Privilege of Standing Today Before This Same Empty Tomb”

JERUSALEM, APRIL 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the Easter Sunday homily given by the Latrin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Fouad Twal.

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Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord is risen! He is truly risen!

That Sunday morning the two apostles, Peter and John and before them the pious women with the Magdalene, reached this very tomb. Great was their amazement at seeing the stone rolled away form the mouth of the tomb. Even greater was their distress at not finding the Lord’s body there.

Who had dared to remove that huge stone?

Perhaps the Roman soldiers? Surely not! A stunt like that would have certainly cost them their lives. The chief priests? Impossible! It was just these men who had demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. The apostles? No, since they were cowering and hidden! The pious women, then? But how could a few women lacking in physical strength move a rock that only several robust men could have handled?

For a few instants, the two apostles stood facing and wondering at the empty tomb, with its funeral cloth and wrappings. Up to then they had not yet understood the Scriptures. But there they began to remember the words that Our Lord himself had spoken to them when he was still and alive and which the very angels had communicated to the pious women: “He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said” (Mt 28:06). These words were confirmed shortly after by the numerous apparitions of Christ, who desired to show himself alive to his disciples, strengthening them in their faith in Him, who died and rose again: “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Lk 24:39).

We, bishops, priests and faithful, men and women, young and old from all Churches and from all peoples, have the privilege of standing today before this same empty tomb with a different emotion, with great amazement, surrounded by a cloud of so many witnesses who at that time and throughout history have witnessed to the truth of the Resurrection, giving their very lives for Christ.

Weighing in on the side of the Resurrection there is the witness of the empty tomb, the numerous apparitions of the Rison One to his disciples, and of history itself. Since it is certainly held that credible testimony comes from the dignity of the witness, we cannot but trust the testimony of the apostles and of the women who saw the Lord, who saw him alive after having gone to the tomb and who were then ready to die in order to affirm their testimony.

Science and archeology, of course, have never found the Lord’s body since he is risen! His enemies, not managing to come up with his body, spread the false rumor of it having been stolen. In reality, they were unable to find his remains because He, after having suffered, was alive, had risen.  The apostles shouted out exultantly the announcement of his resurrection and we, with them, do likewise. Were we to choose to be silent, were we to decide to keep quiet, the stones before us would cry out in our place since these very stones are mum and ongoing witnesses to the Resurrection of the Lord, as he himself said.

This year, then, our joy is double. All of us, the pastors and faithful of the diverse Churches, are celebrating the same Easter on the same day in the same place. It is the same voice. The Christians of all the world shout out today in a loud voice: “Christ is Risen!” Together with the Oriental Liturgy we praise Christ who “by his death has trodden death under foot and given life again to those who were in the tombs.” With the words of the Latin Liturgy we sing to the Lord of Life: “Victimae paschali laudes immolent christiani. Agnus redemit oves, Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores.”

Perhaps someone might be disturbed by the overlapping of prayers and songs that are heard at the same time and in diverse rites. Yet this seeming cacophony, lived in faith becomes instead a symphony that expresses the unity of the faith and of the joyful celebration of the Lord’s victory over evil and death, of the One who arose again on the third day precisely from this tomb. Yes, we are the Church of Cavalry, the Church of the empty Tomb, and of the glorious Resurrection!

Today more than ever we need hope and a special kind of strength in order to conquer the evil that is within us and around us. This year, 2010, has seen two terrible earthquakes, in Haiti and in Chile, with hundreds of thousands of victims. Thanks precisely to the hope that lives in the heart of every man and woman of good will, all of humanity was able to show a great deal of solidarity towards the survivors. Even our own Diocese participated: on the Fourth Sunday of Lent we collected the fruit of our abstinence and our fasting in order to offer succor to our brothers and sisters who were struck by such huge cataclysms, with the very same charity with which the world came to our aid in the suffering and privation that we witnessed not long ago.

This solidarity in our difficulties does much to strengthen the hope that is in us. We have said it and we repeat it: Today more than ever we need a lively hope in the midst of so much violence, in midst of bloody clashes and ethnic and religious divisions. The many wars, numerous conflicts and religious intolerance, besides the direct persecutions of which Christians are often victims, seem to confirm that the Prince of Darkness has conquered forever. But that is not the case! The small flock should not be afraid, as Jesus himself assures us: “Now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:31b-32).

From this sacred site that saw the most unexpected and surprising event in human history and that gives witness to the victory of Christ over death and evil, our Mother Church, united with the Church of Rome, turns to all the faithful of the Holy Land, to all the pilgrims, and even to the entire word, in order to greet them and wish them a joyful Easter. We pray for them and ask for their prayers for us so that the grace be given to all our parochial communities of our Diocese, extending over Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus, to be joyful witnesses of this event, so unique in human history.

We wish not to testify with our lips alone, but with our very lives.  The Lord, himself, in fact, invites us with all the power of the Resurrection, to cast off the old man, who is a slave to sin, cast off death and impotence and to put on the new man created in His image and likeness.  We will be witnesses not only by word, but by our lives, with sanctity and universal love, with our patience and our enduring in the Holy Land beside the Holy Places.

With Your strength, Risen Lord,
We hold out against the evil that is in us and around us.
Our trust does not come from ourselves,
But from You who have overcome the world.

We ask You for victory over our divisions, religious, political and familial;
Strength for our weakness, healing for our illnesses,
freedom for prisoners, return for our refugees,
peace and reconciliation for all people in conflict.

“This is the day that the Lord has made!  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” (Ps 117,24)

“Jesus Has a Fondness for Young People”

“Jesus Has a Fondness for Young People”

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI’s Sept. 2 homily at the Mass celebrated with youth in Loreto, Italy.

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PASTORAL VISIT OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO LORETO ON THE OCCASION OF THE AGORÀ OF ITALIAN YOUTH 
EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION 
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI 

Plain of Montorso
Sunday, 2 September 2007 

After last night’s Vigil, our Meeting in Loreto is now coming to an end around the altar with the solemn Eucharistic celebration. Once again, my most cordial greeting to you all. I extend a special greeting to the Bishops and I thank Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco who has expressed your common sentiments. I greet the Archbishop of Loreto who has welcomed us with affection and kindness. I greet the priests, the men and women religious and all those who have carefully prepared this important event of faith. I offer a respectful greeting to the Civil and Military Authorities present, with a particular remembrance for Hon. Mr Francesco Rutelli, Vice-President of the Council of Ministers. 

This is truly a day of grace! The Readings we have just heard help us to understand the marvellous work the Lord has done in bringing so many of us here to Loreto, to meet in a joyful atmosphere of prayer and festivity. In a certain sense, our gathering at the Virgin’s Shrine fulfils the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God”. Celebrating the Eucharist in the shadow of the Holy House, we too come to the “festal gathering, and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven”. Thus, we can experience the joy of having come “to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect”. With Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, let us above all go to meet “the Mediator of a New Covenant”, Our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Heb 12:22-24). The Heavenly Father, who in many and various ways spoke to our fathers (cf. Heb 1:1), offering his Covenant and often encountering resistance and rejection, desired in the fullness of time to make a new, definitive and irrevocable agreement with human beings, sealing it with the Blood of his Only-Begotten Son, who died and rose for the salvation of all humanity. Jesus Christ, God made man, took on our own flesh in Mary, participated in our life and chose to share in our history. To realize his Covenant God sought a young heart and he found it in Mary, “a young woman”. 

God also seeks young people today. He seeks young people with great hearts who can make room for him in their lives to be protagonists of the New Covenant. To accept a proposal as fascinating as the one Jesus offers us, to make the covenant with him, it is necessary to be youthful within, to be capable of letting oneself be called into question by his newness, to set out with him on new roads. Jesus has a fondness for young people, as the conversation with the rich young man clearly shows (cf. Mt 19:16-22; Mk 10:17-22); he respects their freedom but never tires of proposing loftier goals for life to them: the newness of the Gospel and the beauty of holy behaviour. Following her Lord’s example, the Church continues to show the same attention. This is why, dear young people, she looks at you with immense affection, she is close to you in moments of joy and festivity, in trials and in loss. She sustains you with the gifts of sacramental grace and accompanies you in the discernment of your vocation. Dear young people, let yourselves be involved in the new life that flows from the encounter with Christ and you will be able to be apostles of his peace in your families, among your friends, within your Ecclesial Communities and in the various milieus in which you live and work. 

But what is it that makes people “young” in the Gospel sense? Our Meeting, which is taking place in the shadow of a Marian Shrine, invites us to look to Our Lady. Let us therefore ask ourselves: How did Mary spend her youth? Why was it that in her the impossible became possible? She herself reveals it to us in the Canticle of the Magnificat. God “regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” (Lk 1:48a). It was Mary’s humility that God appreciated more than anything else in her. And it is precisely of humility that the other two Readings of today’s liturgy speak to us. Is it not a happy coincidence that this message is addressed to us exactly here in Loreto? Here, we think spontaneously of the Holy House of Nazareth, which is the Shrine of humility: the humility of God who took flesh, who made himself small, and the humility of Mary who welcomed him into her womb; the humility of the Creator and the humility of the creature. Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born from this encounter of humility. “The greater you are, the more you humble yourself, so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord. For great is the might of the Lord” (3:18-20) says the passage in Sirach; and in the Gospel, after the Parable of the Wedding Feast, Jesus concludes: “Every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 14:11). Today, this perspective mentioned in the Scriptures appears especially provocative to the culture and sensitivity of contemporary man. The humble person is perceived as someone who gives up, someone defeated, someone who has nothing to say to the world. Instead, this is the principal way, and not only because humility is a great human virtue but because, in the first place, it represents God’s own way of acting. It was the way chosen by Christ, the Mediator of the New Covenant, who “being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). 

Dear young people, I seem to perceive in these words of God about humility an important message which is especially current for you who want to follow Christ and belong to his Church. This is the message: do not follow the way of pride but rather that of humility. Go against the tide: do not listen to the interested and persuasive voices that today are peddling on many sides models of life marked by arrogance and violence, by oppression and success at any cost, by appearances and by having at the expense of being. How many messages, which reach you especially through the mass media, are targeting you! Be alert! Be critical! Do not follow the wave produced by this powerful, persuasive action. Do not be afraid, dear friends, to prefer the “alternative” routes pointed out by true love: a modest and sound lifestyle; sincere and pure emotional relationships; honest commitment in studies and work; deep concern for the common good. Do not be afraid of seeming different and being criticized for what might seem to be losing or out of fashion; your peers but adults too, especially those who seem more distant from the mindset and values of the Gospel, are crying out to see someone who dares to live according to the fullness of humanity revealed by Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, dear friends, the way of humility is not the way of renunciation but that of courage. It is not the result of a defeat but the result of a victory of love over selfishness and of grace over sin. In following Christ and imitating Mary, we must have the courage of humility; we must entrust ourselves humbly to the Lord, because only in this way will we be able to become docile instruments in his hands and allow him to do great things in us. The Lord worked great miracles in Mary and in the Saints! I am thinking, for example, of Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena, Patrons of Italy. I am thinking also of splendid young people like St Gemma Galgani, St Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, St Louis Gonzaga, St Dominic Savio, St Maria Goretti, born not far from here, and the Blesseds, Piergiorgio Frassati and Alberto Marvelli. And I am also thinking of numerous young men and women who belong to the ranks of the “anonymous” Saints, but who are not anonymous to God. For him, every individual person is unique, with his or her own name and face. All, and you know it, are called to be Saints! 

As you see, dear young people, the humility the Lord has taught us and to which the Saints have borne witness, each according to the originality of his or her own vocation, is quite different from a renunciatory way of life. Let us look above all at Mary. At her school, we too, like her, can experience that “yes” of God to humanity from which flow all the “yeses” of our life. It is true, the challenges you must face are many and important. The first however, is always that of following Christ to the very end without reservations and compromises. And following Christ means feeling oneself a living part of his body which is the Church. One cannot call oneself a disciple of Jesus if one does not love and obey his Church. The Church is our family in which love for the Lord and for our brothers and sisters, especially through participation in the Eucharist, enables us to experience the joy of already having a foretaste, now, of the future life that will be totally illuminated by Love. May our daily commitment be to live here below as though we were already in Heaven above.

Thus, feeling oneself as Church is a vocation to holiness for all; it is a daily commitment to build communion and unity, overcoming all resistance and rising above every incomprehension. In the Church we learn to love, teaching ourselves to accept our neighbour freely, to show caring attention to those in difficulty, to the poor and to the lowliest. The fundamental motivation that unites believers in Christ is not success but goodness, a goodness that is all the more authentic the more it is shared, and which does not primarily consist in having or in being powerful, but in being. In this way one builds the city of God with human beings, a city which at the same time grows on earth and comes down from Heaven because it develops in the encounter and collaboration between people and God (cf. Rv 21:2-3). 

Following Christ, dear young people, also entails the constant effort to make one’s own contribution to building a society that is more just and sober and in which all may enjoy the goods of the earth.
I know that many of you are generously dedicated to witnessing to your faith in the various social environments, active as volunteers and working to promote the common good, peace and justice in every community. There is no doubt that one of the fields in which it seems urgent to take action is that of safeguarding creation. The future of the planet is entrusted to the new generations, in which there are evident signs of a development that has not always been able to protect the delicate balances of nature. Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that can recreate a strong alliance between humankind and the earth. A decisive “yes” is needed to protect creation and also a strong commitment to invert those trends which risk leading to irreversibly degrading situations. I therefore appreciated the Italian Church’s initiative to encourage sensitivity to the problems of safeguarding creation by establishing a National Day, which occurs precisely on 1 September. This year attention is focused above all on water, a very precious good which, if it is not shared fairly and peacefully, will unfortunately become a cause of harsh tensions and bitter conflicts. 

Dear young friends, after listening to your reflections yesterday evening and last night, letting myself be guided by God’s Word, I now want to entrust to you my considerations which are intended as a paternal encouragement to follow Christ in order to be witnesses of his hope and love. For my part, I will continue to be beside you with my prayers and affection, so that you may persevere enthusiastically on the journey of the Agora, this unique triennial journey of listening, dialogue and mission. Today, concluding the first year with this wonderful Meeting, I cannot fail to invite you to look ahead already to the great event of World Youth Day that will be held in July next year in Sydney. I ask you to prepare yourselves for this important manifestation of youthful faith by meditating on the Message which examines in depth the theme of the Holy Spirit, to live together a new springtime of the Spirit. Therefore, I am expecting many of you even in Australia, at the end of your second year of the Agora. Lastly, let us turn our gaze, our eyes, once again to Mary, model of humility and courage. Virgin of Nazareth, help us to be docile to the work of the Holy Spirit, as you were; help us to become ever more holy, disciples in love with your Son Jesus; sustain and guide these young people so that they may be joyful and tireless missionaries of the Gospel among their peers in every corner of Italy. Amen!



Papal Homily at Shrine of Mariazell

“Whenever We Look Toward Mary, She Shows Us Jesus”

MARIAZELL, Austria, SEPT. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the Marian shrine of Mariazell, to mark the 850th anniversary of its foundation.

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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO AUSTRIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE 850th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE FOUNDATION OF THE SHRINE OF MARIAZELL

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Mariazell
Saturday, 8 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With our great pilgrimage to Mariazell, we are celebrating the patronal feast of this Shrine, the feast of Our Lady’s Birthday. For 850 years pilgrims have been travelling here from different peoples and nations; they come to pray for the intentions of their hearts and their homelands, bringing their deepest hopes and concerns. In this way Mariazell has become a place of peace and reconciled unity, not only for Austria, but far beyond her borders. Here we experience the consoling kindness of the Madonna. Here we meet Jesus Christ, in whom God is with us, as today’s Gospel reminds us — Jesus, of whom we have just heard in the reading from the prophet Micah: “He himself will be peace” (5:4). Today we join in the great centuries-old pilgrimage. We rest awhile with the Mother of the Lord, and we pray to her: Show us Jesus. Show to us pilgrims the one who is both the way and the destination: the truth and the life.

The Gospel passage we have just heard broadens our view. It presents the history of Israel from Abraham onwards as a pilgrimage, which, with its ups and downs, its paths and detours, leads us finally to Christ. The genealogy with its light and dark figures, its successes and failures, shows us that God can write straight even on the crooked lines of our history. God allows us our freedom, and yet in our failures he can always find new paths for his love. God does not fail. Hence this genealogy is a guarantee of God’s faithfulness; a guarantee that God does not allow us to fall, and an invitation to direct our lives ever anew towards him, to walk ever anew towards Jesus Christ.

Making a pilgrimage means setting out in a particular direction, travelling towards a destination. This gives a beauty of its own even to the journey and to the effort involved. Among the pilgrims of Jesus’s genealogy there were many who forgot the goal and wanted to make themselves the goal. Again and again, though, the Lord called forth people whose longing for the goal drove them forward, people who directed their whole lives towards it. The awakening of the Christian faith, the dawning of the Church of Jesus Christ was made possible, because there were people in Israel whose hearts were searching — people who did not rest content with custom, but who looked further ahead, in search of something greater: Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Mary and Joseph, the Twelve and many others. Because their hearts were expectant, they were able to recognize in Jesus the one whom God had sent, and thus they could become the beginning of his worldwide family. The Church of the Gentiles was made possible, because both in the Mediterranean area and in those parts of Asia to which the messengers of Jesus travelled, there were expectant people who were not satisfied by what everyone around them was doing and thinking, but who were seeking the star which could show them the way towards Truth itself, towards the living God.

We too need an open and restless heart like theirs. This is what pilgrimage is all about. Today as in the past, it is not enough to be more or less like everyone else and to think like everyone else. Our lives have a deeper purpose. We need God, the God who has shown us his face and opened his heart to us: Jesus Christ. Saint John rightly says of him that only he is God and rests close to the Father’s heart (cf. Jn 1:18); thus only he, from deep within God himself, could reveal God to us — reveal to us who we are, from where we come and where we are going. Certainly, there are many great figures in history who have had beautiful and moving experiences of God. Yet these are still human experiences, and therefore finite. Only He is God and therefore only He is the bridge that truly brings God and man together. So if we Christians call him the one universal Mediator of salvation, valid for everyone and, ultimately, needed by everyone, this does not mean that we despise other religions, nor are we arrogantly absolutizing our own ideas; on the contrary, it means that we are gripped by him who has touched our hearts and lavished gifts upon us, so that we, in turn, can offer gifts to others. In fact, our faith is decisively opposed to the attitude of resignation that considers man incapable of truth — as if this were more than he could cope with. This attitude of resignation with regard to truth, I am convinced, lies at the heart of the crisis of the West, the crisis of Europe. If truth does not exist for man, then neither can he ultimately distinguish between good and evil. And then the great and wonderful discoveries of science become double-edged: they can open up significant possibilities for good, for the benefit of mankind, but also, as we see only too clearly, they can pose a terrible threat, involving the destruction of man and the world. We need truth. Yet admittedly, in the light of our history we are fearful that faith in the truth might entail intolerance. If we are gripped by this fear, which is historically well grounded, then it is time to look towards Jesus as we see him in the shrine at Mariazell. We see him here in two images: as the child in his Mother’s arms, and above the high altar of the Basilica as the Crucified. These two images in the Basilica tell us this: truth prevails not through external force, but it is humble and it yields itself to man only via the inner force of its veracity. Truth proves itself in love. It is never our property, never our product, just as love can never be produced, but only received and handed on as a gift. We need this inner force of truth. As Christians we trust this force of truth. We are its witnesses. We must hand it on as a gift in the same way as we have received it, as it has given itself to us.

“To gaze upon Christ” is the motto of this day. For one who is searching, this summons repeatedly turns into a spontaneous plea, a plea addressed especially to Mary, who has given us Christ as her Son: “Show us Jesus!” Let us make this prayer today with our whole heart; let us make this prayer above and beyond the present moment, as we inwardly seek the Face of the Redeemer. “Show us Jesus!” Mary responds, showing him to us in the first instance as a child. God has made himself small for us. God comes not with external force, but he comes in the powerlessness of his love, which is where his true strength lies. He places himself in our hands. He asks for our love. He invites us to become small ourselves, to come down from our high thrones and to learn to be childlike before God. He speaks to us informally. He asks us to trust him and thus to learn how to live in truth and love. The child Jesus naturally reminds us also of all the children in the world, in whom he wishes to come to us. Children who live in poverty; who are exploited as soldiers; who have never been able to experience the love of parents; sick and suffering children, but also those who are joyful and healthy. Europe has become child-poor: we want everything for ourselves, and place little trust in the future. Yet the earth will be deprived of a future only when the forces of the human heart and of reason illuminated by the heart are extinguished — when the face of God no longer shines upon the earth. Where God is, there is the future.

“To gaze upon Christ”: let us look briefly now at the Crucified One above the high altar. God saved the world not by the sword, but by the Cross. In dying, Jesus extends his arms. This, in the first place, is the posture of the Passion, in which he lets himself be nailed to the Cross for us, in order to give us his life. Yet outstretched arms are also the posture of one who prays, the stance assumed by the priest when he extends his arms in prayer: Jesus transformed the Passion, his suffering and his death, into prayer, and in this way he transformed it into an act of love for God and for humanity. That, finally, is why the outstretched arms of the Crucified One are also a gesture of embracing, by which he draws us to himself, wishing to enfold us in his loving hands. In this way he is an image of the living God, he is God himself, and we may entrust ourselves to him.

“To gaze upon Christ!” If we do this, we realize that Christianity is more than and different from a moral code, from a series of requirements and laws. It is the gift of a friendship that lasts through life and death: “No longer do I call you servants, but friends” (Jn 15:15), the Lord says to his disciples. We entrust ourselves to this friendship. Yet precisely because Christianity is more than a moral system, because it is the gift of friendship, for this reason it also contains within itself great moral strength, which is so urgently needed today on account of the challenges of our time. If with Jesus Christ and his Church we constantly re-read the Ten Commandments of Sinai, entering into their full depth, then a great, valid and lasting teaching unfolds before us. The Ten Commandments are first and foremost a “yes” to God, to a God who loves us and leads us, who carries us and yet allows us our freedom: indeed, it is he who makes our freedom real (the first three commandments). It is a “yes” to the family (fourth commandment), a “yes” to life (fifth commandment), a “yes” to responsible love (sixth commandment), a “yes” to solidarity, to social responsibility and to justice (seventh commandment), a “yes” to truth (eighth commandment) and a “yes” to respect for other people and for what is theirs (ninth and tenth commandments). By the strength of our friendship with the living God we live this manifold “yes” and at the same time we carry it as a signpost into this world of ours today.

“Show us Jesus!” It was with this plea to the Mother of the Lord that we set off on our journey here. This same plea will accompany us as we return to our daily lives. And we know that Mary hears our prayer: yes, whenever we look towards Mary, she shows us Jesus. Thus we can find the right path, we can follow it step by step, filled with joyful confidence that the path leads into the light — into the joy of eternal Love. Amen.



Papal Corpus Christi Homily

“Jesus Comes to Meet Us and Imbues Us With Certainty”

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 14, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI’s June 7 homily on the feast of Corpus Christi.

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HOLY MASS AND EUCHARISTIC PROCESSION
TO THE BASILICA OF SAINT MARY MAJOR
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Thursday, 7 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have just sung the Sequence: “Dogma datur christianis, / quod in carnem transit panis, / et vinum in sanguinem — this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, to his precious blood the wine”.

Today we reaffirm with great joy our faith in the Eucharist, the Mystery that constitutes the heart of the Church. In the recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis I recalled that the Eucharistic Mystery “is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman” (n. 1).

Corpus Christi, therefore, is a unique feast and constitutes an important encounter of faith and praise for every Christian community. This feast originated in a specific historical and cultural context: it was born for the very precise purpose of openly reaffirming the faith of the People of God in Jesus Christ, alive and truly present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. It is a feast that was established in order to publicly adore, praise and thank the Lord, who continues “to love us “to the end’, even to offering us his body and his blood” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 1).

The Eucharistic celebration this evening takes us back to the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Thursday, the day on which in the Upper Room, on the eve of his Passion, Christ instituted the Most Holy Eucharist.

Corpus Christi is thus a renewal of the mystery of Holy Thursday, as it were, in obedience to Jesus’ invitation to proclaim from “the housetops” what he told us in secret (cf. Mt 10:27). It was the Apostles who received the gift of the Eucharist from the Lord in the intimacy of the Last Supper, but it was destined for all, for the whole world. This is why it should be proclaimed and exposed to view: so that each one may encounter “Jesus who passes” as happened on the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Judea; in order that each one, in receiving it, may be healed and renewed by the power of his love. Dear friends, this is the perpetual and living heritage that Jesus has bequeathed to us in the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood. It is an inheritance that demands to be constantly rethought and relived so that, as venerable Pope Paul VI said, its “inexhaustible effectiveness may be impressed upon all the days of our mortal life” (cf. Insegnamenti, 25 May 1967, p. 779).

Also in the Post-Synodal Exhortation, commenting on the exclamation of the priest after the consecration: “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith!”, I observed: with these words he “proclaims the mystery being celebrated and expresses his wonder before the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, a reality which surpasses all human understanding” (n. 6).

Precisely because this is a mysterious reality that surpasses our understanding, we must not be surprised if today too many find it hard to accept the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It cannot be otherwise. This is how it has been since the day when, in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus openly declared that he had come to give us his flesh and his blood as food (cf. Jn 6:26-58).

This seemed “a hard saying” and many of his disciples withdrew when they heard it. Then, as now, the Eucharist remains a “sign of contradiction” and can only be so because a God who makes himself flesh and sacrifices himself for the life of the world throws human wisdom into crisis.

However, with humble trust, the Church makes the faith of Peter and the other Apostles her own and proclaims with them, and we proclaim: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). Let us too renew this evening our profession of faith in Christ, alive and present in the Eucharist. Yes, “this [is] the truth each Christian learns, / bread into his flesh he turns, / to his precious blood the wine”.

At its culminating point, in the Sequence we sing: “Ecce panis angelorum, / factus cibus viatorum: / vere panis filiorum” — “Lo! The angel’s food is given / to the pilgrim who has striven; / see the children’s bread from heaven”. And by God’s grace we are the children.

The Eucharist is the food reserved for those who in Baptism were delivered from slavery and have become sons; it is the food that sustained them on the long journey of the exodus through the desert of human existence.

Like the manna for the people of Israel, for every Christian generation the Eucharist is the indispensable nourishment that sustains them as they cross the desert of this world, parched by the ideological and economic systems that do not promote life but rather humiliate it. It is a world where the logic of power and possessions prevails rather than that of service and love; a world where the culture of violence and death is frequently triumphant.

Yet Jesus comes to meet us and imbues us with certainty: he himself is “the Bread of life” (Jn 6:35, 48). He repeated this to us in the words of the Gospel Acclamation: “I am the living bread from Heaven, if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever” (cf. Jn 6:51).

In the Gospel passage just proclaimed, St Luke, narrating the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish with which Jesus fed the multitude “in a lonely place”, concludes with the words: “And all ate and were satisfied” (cf. Lk 9:11-17).

I would like in the first place to emphasize this “all”. Indeed, the Lord desired every human being to be nourished by the Eucharist, because the Eucharist is for everyone.

If the close relationship between the Last Supper and the mystery of Jesus’ death on the Cross is emphasized on Holy Thursday, today, the Feast of Corpus Christi, with the procession and unanimous adoration of the Eucharist, attention is called to the fact that Christ sacrificed himself for all humanity. His passing among the houses and along the streets of our city will be for those who live there an offering of joy, eternal life, peace and love.

In the Gospel passage, a second element catches one’s eye: the miracle worked by the Lord contains an explicit invitation to each person to make his own contribution. The two fish and five loaves signify our contribution, poor but necessary, which he transforms into a gift of love for all.

“Christ continues today” I wrote in the above-mentioned Post Synodal Exhortation, “to exhort his disciples to become personally engaged” (Sacramentum Caritatis, n. 88).

Thus, the Eucharist is a call to holiness and to the gift of oneself to one’s brethren: “Each of us is truly called, together with Jesus, to be bread broken for the life of the world” (ibid.).

Our Redeemer addressed this invitation in particular to us, dear brothers and sisters of Rome, gathered round the Eucharist in this historical square.

I greet you all with affection. My greeting is addressed first of all to the Cardinal Vicar and to the Auxiliary Bishops, to my other venerable Brother Cardinals and Bishops, as well as to the numerous priests and deacons, men and women religious and the many lay faithful.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration we will join in the procession as if to carry the Lord Jesus in spirit through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse him, so to speak, in the daily routine of our lives, so that he may walk where we walk and live where we live.

Indeed we know, as the Apostle Paul reminded us in his Letter to the Corinthians, that in every Eucharist, also in the Eucharist this evening, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (cf. I Cor 11:26). We travel on the highways of the world knowing that he is beside us, supported by the hope of being able to see him one day face to face, in the definitive encounter.

In the meantime, let us listen to his voice repeat, as we read in the Book of Revelation, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rv 3:20).

The Feast of Corpus Christi wants to make the Lord’s knocking audible, despite the hardness of our interior hearing. Jesus knocks at the door of our heart and asks to enter not only for the space of a day but for ever. Let us welcome him joyfully, raising to him with one voice the invocation of the Liturgy:

“Very bread, Good Shepherd, tend us, / Jesus, of your love befriend us…. /You who all things can and know, /who on earth such food bestow, / grant us with your saints, though lowest, / where the heav’nly feast you show, / fellow heirs and guests to be”.

Amen!

BEATIFICATION OF 5 SERVANTS OF GOD

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER Sunday, 9 April 2000

1. “We wish to see Jesus” (Jn 12: 21).

This is the request made to Philip by some Greeks who went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Their desire to meet Jesus and to hear his word prompts a solemn response: “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified” (Jn 12: 23). What is this “hour” to which Jesus refers? The context explains it: it is the mysterious and solemn “hour” of his Death and Resurrection.

To see Jesus! Like that group of Greeks, countless men and women down the centuries have desired to know the Lord. They have seen him with the eyes of faith. They have recognized him as the crucified and risen Messiah. They have let themselves be won over by him and have become his faithful disciples. They are the saints and blesseds whom the Church holds up to us as models to imitate and examples to follow.

In the context of the Holy Year celebrations, today I have the joy of raising several new blesseds to the glory of the altars. They are five confessors of the faith who proclaimed Christ in word and bore witness to him in continual service to their brethren. They are Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, a diocesan parish priest; Francis Xavier Seelos, a professed priest of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer; Anna Rosa Gattorno, a widow, foundress of the Institute of the Daughters of St Anne; Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, foundress of the Order of the Sisters of the Most Holy Saviour; and Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, foundress of the Congregation of the Holy Family in India.

2. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also” (Jn 12: 26), Jesus told us in the Gospel we just heard. A faithful follower of Jesus Christ in the self-sacrificing exercise of the priestly ministry, Fr Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, a Colombian, is raised today to the glory of the altars. From his intimate experience of meeting the Lord, Fr Marianito, as he is familiarly known in his homeland, dedicated himself tirelessly to the evangelization of children and adults, especially farmworkers. He spared no sacrifice or hardship, giving himself for almost 50 years in a modest parish of Angostura, in Antioquia, for the glory of God and the good of the souls entrusted to his care.

May his shining witness of charity, understanding, service, solidarity and forgiveness be an example in Colombia and also an effective help in continuing the work of peace and full reconciliation in this beloved country. If 9 April 52 years ago marked the beginning of violence and conflicts, which unfortunately are still going on, may this day of the Great Jubilee year mark a new phase in which all Colombians will build a new Colombia together, one based on peace, social justice, respect for all human rights and brotherly love among children of the same homeland.

3. “Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me, that I may teach transgressors your ways and sinners may return to you” (Ps 51: 14-15). Faithful to the spirit and charism of the Redemptorist Congregation to which he belonged, Fr Francis Xavier Seelos often meditated upon these words of the Psalmist. Sustained by God’s grace and an intense life of prayer, Fr Seelos left his native Bavaria and committed himself generously and joyfully to the missionary apostolate among immigrant communities in the United States.

In the various places where he worked, Fr Francis Xavier brought his enthusiasm, spirit of sacrifice and apostolic zeal. To the abandoned and the lost he preached the message of Jesus Christ, “the source of eternal salvation” (Heb 5: 9), and in the hours spent in the confessional he convinced many to return to God. Today, Bl. Francis Xavier Seelos invites the members of the Church to deepen their union with Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Through his intercession, may all who work in the vineyard for the salvation of God’s people be encouraged and strengthened in their task.

4. “I, when I am lifted up from the earth”, Jesus promised in the Gospel, “will draw all men to myself” (Jn 12: 32). Indeed, from high on the Cross Jesus will reveal to the world God’s boundless love for humanity in need of salvation. Irresistibly drawn by this love, Anna Rosa Gattorno made a continual sacrifice of her life for the conversion of sinners and the sanctification of all mankind. To be “Jesus’ voice” in order to bring the message of his saving love everywhere: this was her heart’s deepest desire!

With complete trust in Providence and motivated by a courageous impulse of charity, Bl. Anna Rosa Gattorno had one desire: to serve Jesus in the suffering and wounded limbs of her neighbour, with sensitivity and motherly attention to all human misery.

Today the special witness of charity left by the new blessed is still a stirring encouragement for everyone in the Church who is committed more specifically to proclaiming the love of God, who heals the wounds of every heart and offers the fullness of immortal life to all.

5. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself” (Jn 12: 32). The promise of Jesus is wonderfully fulfilled also in the life of Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad. Like her fellow countrywoman, St Bridget, she too acquired a deep understanding of the wisdom of the Cross through prayer and in the events of her own life. Her early experience of poverty, her contact with the sick who impressed her by their serenity and trust in God’s help, and her perseverance despite many obstacles in founding the Order of the Most Holy Saviour of St Bridget, taught her that the Cross is at the centre of human life and is the ultimate revelation of our heavenly Father’s love. By constantly meditating on God’s word, Sr Elisabeth was confirmed in her resolve to work and pray that all Christians would be one (cf. Jn 17: 21).

She was convinced that by listening to the voice of the crucified Christ they would come together into one flock under one Shepherd (cf. Jn 10: 16), and from the very beginning her foundation, characterized by its Eucharistic and Marian spirituality, committed itself to the cause of Christian unity by means of prayer and evangelical witness. Through the intercession of Bl. Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, pioneer of ecumenism, may God bless and bring to fruition the Church’s efforts to build ever deeper communion and foster ever more effective cooperation among all Christ’s followers: ut unum sint.

6. “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest” (Jn 12: 24). From childhood, Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan knew instinctively that God’s love for her demanded a deep personal purification. Committing herself to a life of prayer and penance, Sr Mariam Thresia’s willingness to embrace the Cross of Christ enabled her to remain steadfast in the face of frequent misunderstandings and severe spiritual trials. The patient discernment of her vocation eventually led to the foundation of the Congregation of the Holy Family, which continues to draw inspiration from her contemplative spirit and love of the poor.

Convinced that “God will give eternal life to those who convert sinners and bring them to the right path” (Letter 4 to her Spiritual Father), Sr Mariam devoted herself to this task by her visits and advice, as well as by her prayers and penitential practice. Through Bl. Mariam Thresia’s intercession, may all consecrated men and women be strengthened in their vocation to pray for sinners and draw others to Christ by their words and example.

7. “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31: 33). God is our only Lord and we are his people. This indissoluble covenant of love between God and humanity was brought to its fulfilment in Christ’s paschal sacrifice. It is in him that, despite belonging to different lands and cultures, we become one people, one Church, one and the same spiritual building whose bright and solid stones are the saints.

Let us thank the Lord for the splendid witness of these new blesseds. Let us look to them, especially in this Lenten season, in order to be spurred in our preparation for the forthcoming Easter celebrations.

May Mary, Queen of Confessors, help us to follow her divine Son as did the new blesseds. May you, Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, Francis Xavier Seelos, Anna Rosa Gattorno, Mary Elisabeth Hesselblad, Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, intercede for us so that by deeply sharing in Christ’s redemptive Passion we can live the fruitfulness of the seed that dies and be received as his harvest in the kingdom of heaven. Amen!