Benedict XVI Homilies 41110
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
[In Galician:] I give thanks to God for the gift of being here in this splendid square filled with artistic, cultural and spiritual significance. During this Holy Year, I come among you as a pilgrim among pilgrims, in the company of all those who come here thirsting for faith in the Risen Christ, a faith proclaimed and transmitted with fidelity by the apostles, among whom was James the Great, who has been venerated at Compostela from time immemorial.
I extend my gratitude to the Most Reverend Julián Barrio Barrio, Archbishop of this local church, for his words of welcome, to their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Asturias for the kind presence, and likewise to the Cardinals and to my many Brother Bishops and priests here today. My greeting also goes to members of the Camino de Santiago group of the European Parliament, as well as to the national, regional and local authorities who are attending this celebration. This is eloquent of respect for the Successor of Peter and also of the profound emotion that Saint James of Compostela awakens in Galicia and in the other peoples of Spain, which recognizes the Apostle as its patron and protector. I also extend warm greetings to the consecrated persons, seminarians and lay faithful who take part in this Eucharistic celebration, and in a very special way I greet the pilgrims who carry on the genuine spirit of Saint James, without which little or nothing can be understood of what takes place here.
With admirable simplicity, the first reading states: “The apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord with great power” (Ac 4,33). Indeed, at the beginning of all that Christianity has been and still is, we are confronted not with a human deed or project, but with God, who declares Jesus to be just and holy in the face of the sentence of a human tribunal that condemned him as a blasphemer and a subversive; God who rescued Jesus from death; God who will do justice to all who have been unjustly treated in history.
The apostles proclaim: “We are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit whom God gives to those who are obedient to him” (Ac 5,32). Thus they gave witness to the life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, whom they knew as he preached and worked miracles. Brothers and sisters, today we are called to follow the example of the apostles, coming to know the Lord better day by day and bearing clear and valiant witness to his Gospel. We have no greater treasure to offer to our contemporaries. In this way, we will imitate Saint Paul who, in the midst of so many tribulations, setbacks and solitude, joyfully exclaimed: “We have this treasure in earthenware vessels, to show that such transcendent power does not come from us” (2Co 4,7).
Beside these words of the Apostle of the Gentiles stand those of the Gospel that we have just heard; they invite us to draw life from the humility of Christ who, following in every way the will of his Father, came to serve, “to give his life in ransom for many” (Mt 20,28). For those disciples who seek to follow and imitate Christ, service of neighbour is no mere option but an essential part of their being. It is a service that is not measured by worldly standards of what is immediate, material or apparent, but one that makes present the love of God to all in every way and bears witness to him even in the simplest of actions. Proposing this new way of dealing with one another within the community, based on the logic of love and service, Jesus also addresses “the rulers of the nations” since, where self-giving to others is lacking, there arise forms of arrogance and exploitation that leave no room for an authentic integral human promotion. I would like this message to reach all young people: this core content of the Gospel shows you in particular the path by which, in renouncing a selfish and short-sighted way of thinking so common today, and taking on instead Jesus’ own way of thinking, you may attain fulfilment and become a seed of hope.
The celebration of this Holy Year of Compostela also brings this to mind. This is what, in the secret of their heart, knowing it explicitly or sensing it without being able to express it, so many pilgrims experience as they walk the way to Santiago de Compostela to embrace the Apostle. The fatigue of the journey, the variety of landscapes, their encounter with peoples of other nationalities - all of this opens their heart to what is the deepest and most common bond that unites us as human beings: we are in quest, we need truth and beauty, we need an experience of grace, charity, peace, forgiveness and redemption. And in the depth of each of us there resounds the presence of God and the working of the Holy Spirit. Yes, to everyone who seeks inner silence, who keeps passions, desires and immediate occupations at a distance, to the one who prays, God grants the light to find him and to acknowledge Christ. Deep down, all those who come on pilgrimage to Santiago do so in order to encounter God who, reflected in the majesty of Christ, welcomes and blesses them as they reach the Pórtico de la Gloria.
From this place, as a messenger of the Gospel sealed by the blood of Peter and James, I raise my eyes to the Europe that came in pilgrimage to Compostela. What are its great needs, fears and hopes? What is the specific and fundamental contribution of the Church to that Europe which for half a century has been moving towards new forms and projects? Her contribution is centred on a simple and decisive reality: God exists and he has given us life. He alone is absolute, faithful and unfailing love, that infinite goal that is glimpsed behind the good, the true and the beautiful things of this world, admirable indeed, but insufficient for the human heart. Saint Teresa of Jesus understood this when she wrote: “God alone suffices”.
Tragically, above all in nineteenth century Europe, the conviction grew that God is somehow man’s antagonist and an enemy of his freedom. As a result, there was an attempt to obscure the true biblical faith in the God who sent into the world his Son Jesus Christ, so that no one should perish but that all might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3,16).
The author of the Book of Wisdom, faced with a paganism in which God envied or despised humans, puts it clearly: how could God have created all things if he did not love them, he who in his infinite fullness, has need of nothing (cf. Sg 11,24-26)? Why would he have revealed himself to human beings if he did not wish to take care of them? God is the origin of our being and the foundation and apex of our freedom, not its opponent. How can mortal man build a firm foundation and how can the sinner be reconciled with himself? How can it be that there is public silence with regard to the first and essential reality of human life? How can what is most decisive in life be confined to the purely private sphere or banished to the shadows? We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness? This is why we need to hear God once again under the skies of Europe; may this holy word not be spoken in vain, and may it not be put at the service of purposes other than its own. It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.
Europe must open itself to God, must come to meet him without fear, and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned by her best traditions: not only the biblical, at the basis of this order, but also the classical, the medieval and the modern, the matrix from which the great philosophical, literary, cultural and social masterpieces of Europe were born.
This God and this man were concretely and historically manifested in Christ. It is this Christ whom we can find all along the way to Compostela for, at every juncture, there is a cross which welcomes and points the way. The cross, which is the supreme sign of love brought to its extreme and hence both gift and pardon, must be our guiding star in the night of time. The cross and love, the cross and light have been synonymous in our history because Christ allowed himself to hang there in order to give us the supreme witness of his love, to invite us to forgiveness and reconciliation, to teach us how to overcome evil with good. So do not fail to learn the lessons of that Christ whom we encounter at the crossroads of our journey and our whole life, in whom God comes forth to meet us as our friend, father and guide. Blessed Cross, shine always upon the lands of Europe!
Allow me here to point out the glory of man, and to indicate the threats to his dignity resulting from the privation of his essential values and richness, and the marginalization and death visited upon the weakest and the poorest. One cannot worship God without taking care of his sons and daughters; and man cannot be served without asking who his Father is and answering the question about him. The Europe of science and technology, the Europe of civilization and culture, must be at the same time a Europe open to transcendence and fraternity with other continents, and open to the living and true God, starting with the living and true man. This is what the Church wishes to contribute to Europe: to be watchful for God and for man, based on the understanding of both which is offered to us in Jesus Christ.
Dear friends, let us raise our eyes in hope to all that God has promised and offers us. May he give us his strength; may he reinvigorate the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela; may he renew the faith of his sons and daughters and assist them in fidelity to their vocation to sow and strengthen the Gospel, at home and abroad.
May Saint James, the companion of the Lord, obtain abundant blessings for Galicia and the other peoples of Spain, elsewhere in Europe and overseas, wherever the Apostle is a sign of Christian identity and a promoter of the proclamation of Christ. Amen!
[In Catalan:] Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
“This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep. … The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Ne 8,9-11). With these words from the first reading that we have proclaimed, I wish to greet all of you taking part in this celebration. I extend an affectionate greeting to their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain who have graciously wished to be with us. I extend a thankful greeting to Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, for his words of welcome and for his invitation to me to dedicate this Church of the Sagrada Familia, a magnificent achievement of engineering, art and faith. I also greet Cardinal Ricardo María Carles Gordó, Archbishop Emeritus of Barcelona, the other Cardinals present and my brother bishops, especially the auxiliary bishop of this local church, and the many priests, deacons, seminarians, religious men and women, and lay faithful taking part in this solemn ceremony. I also extend a respectful greeting to the national, regional and local authorities present, as well as to the members of other Christian communities, who share in our joy and our grateful praise of God.
Today marks an important step in a long history of hope, work and generosity that has gone on for more than a century. At this time I would like to mention each and every one of those who have made possible the joy that fills us today, from the promoters to the executors of this work, the architects and the workers, all who in one way or another have given their priceless contribution to the building of this edifice. We remember of course the man who was the soul and the artisan of this project, Antoni Gaudí, a creative architect and a practising Christian who kept the torch of his faith alight to the end of his life, a life lived in dignity and absolute austerity. This event is also in a certain sense the high point of the history of this land of Catalonia which, especially since the end of the nineteenth century, has given an abundance of saints and founders, martyrs and Christian poets. It is a history of holiness, artistic and poetic creation, born from the faith, which we gather and present to God today as an offering in this Eucharist.
The joy which I feel at presiding at this ceremony became all the greater when I learned that this shrine, since its beginnings, has had a special relationship with Saint Joseph. I have been moved above all by Gaudí’s confidence when, in the face of many difficulties, filled with trust in divine Providence, he would exclaim, “Saint Joseph will finish this church”. So it is significant that it is also being dedicated by a Pope whose baptismal name is Joseph.
What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One who is Light, Height and Beauty itself.
In this place, Gaudí desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this way, he brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudí did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness.
We have dedicated this sacred space to God, who revealed and gave himself to us in Christ so as to be definitively God among men. The revealed Word, the humanity of Christ and his Church are the three supreme expressions of his self-manifestation and self-giving to mankind. As says Saint Paul in the second reading: “Let each man take care how he builds. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1Co 3,10-11). The Lord Jesus is the stone which supports the weight of the world, which maintains the cohesion of the Church and brings together in ultimate unity all the achievements of mankind. In him, we have God’s word and presence and from him the Church receives her life, her teaching and her mission. The Church of herself is nothing; she is called to be the sign and instrument of Christ, in pure docility to his authority and in total service to his mandate. The one Christ is the foundation of the one Church. He is the rock on which our faith is built. Building on this faith, let us strive together to show the world the face of God who is love and the only one who can respond to our yearning for fulfilment. This is the great task before us: to show everyone that God is a God of peace not of violence, of freedom not of coercion, of harmony not of discord. In this sense, I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him. In this masterpiece, Gaudí shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one’s origin which is God. Gaudí, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with him who is truth and beauty itself. The architect expressed his sentiments in the following words: “A church [is] the only thing worthy of representing the soul of a people, for religion is the most elevated reality in man”.
This affirmation of God brings with it the supreme affirmation and protection of the dignity of each and every man and woman: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple? … God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1Co 3,16-17). Here we find joined together the truth and dignity of God and the truth and dignity of man. As we consecrate the altar of this church, which has Christ as its foundation, we are presenting to the world a God who is the friend of man and we invite men and women to become friends of God. This is what we are taught in the case of Zacchaeus, of whom today’s gospel speaks (Lc 19,1-10), if we allow God into our hearts and into our world, if we allow Christ to live in our hearts, we will not regret it: we will experience the joy of sharing his very life, as the object of his infinite love.
This church began as an initiative of the Association of the Friends of Saint Joseph, who wanted to dedicate it to the Holy Family of Nazareth. The home formed by Jesus, Mary and Joseph has always been regarded as a school of love, prayer and work. The promoters of this church wanted to set before the world love, work and service lived in the presence of God, as the Holy Family lived them. Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.
As I contemplate with admiration this sacred space of marvellous beauty, of so much faith-filled history, I ask God that in the land of Catalonia new witnesses of holiness may rise up and flourish, and present to the world the great service that the Church can and must offer to humanity: to be an icon of divine beauty, a burning flame of charity, a path so that the world may believe in the One whom God has sent (cf. Jn 6,29).
Dear brothers and sisters, as I dedicate this splendid church, I implore the Lord of our lives that, from this altar, which will now be anointed with holy oil and upon which the sacrifice of the love of Christ will be consumed, there may be a flood of grace and charity upon the city of Barcelona and its people, and upon the whole world. May these fruitful waters fill with faith and apostolic vitality this archdiocesan Church, its pastors and its faithful.
[In Catalan:] Finally, I wish to commend to the loving protection of the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, April Rose, Mother of Mercy, all who enter here and all who in word or deed, in silence and prayer, have made this possible this marvel of architecture. May Our Lady present to her divine Son the joys and tribulations of all who come in the future to this sacred place so that here, as the Church prays when dedicating religious buildings, the poor may find mercy, the oppressed true freedom and all men may take on the dignity of the children of God. Amen.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again the Lord has granted me the joy of carrying out this solemn act by which the College of Cardinals is enriched with new Members chosen from every part of the world. They are Pastors who zealously govern important Diocesan communities and Prelates who head Dicasteries of the Roman Curia or who have served the Church and the Holy See with exemplary faithfulness.
As from today, they are part of that coetus peculiaris which gives the Successor of Peter a more immediate and diligent collaboration, supporting him in the exercise of his universal ministry,
First of all I address my affectionate greeting, renewing the expression of my esteem and my deep appreciation to them for their witness to the Church and to the world. In particular, I greet Archbishop Angelo Amato and thank him for his kind words to me.
I then offer a cordial welcome to the Official Delegations of various countries, to the Representatives of numerous dioceses and to all who have gathered here to take part in this event during which these venerable and dear Brothers receive the sign of cardinalitial dignity by the imposition of the biretta [“red hat”], and the assignment of the Title of a church in Rome.
The special communion and affection that bonds these new Cardinals to the Pope makes them his unique and precious cooperators in the lofty mandate to tend his sheep, which Christ entrusted to Peter (cf. Jn 21,15-17) in order to unite peoples with the solicitude of Christ's love. From this same love the Church was born, called to live and to journey on in accordance with the Lord's commandment which sums up the whole of the law and the prophets.
Being united with Christ in faith and in communion with him means being “rooted and grounded in love” (Ep 3,17), the fabric that unites all the members of Christ's Body.
The word of God proclaimed just now helps us to meditate exactly on this most fundamental aspect. The Gospel passage (Mc 10,32-45) sets before our eyes the icon of Jesus as the Messiah — foretold by Isaiah (cf. Is 53) — who came not to be served but to serve. His lifestyle becomes the basis of new relationships within the Christian community and of a new way of exercising authority.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and for the third time, pointing it out to the disciples, predicts the way on which he intends to bring to fulfillment the work entrusted to him by the Father: the way of giving himself humbly, to the point of sacrificing his life, the way of the Passion, the way of the Cross.
Yet, even after this announcement, as had happened for the previous ones, the disciples revealed their great difficulty in understanding, in bringing about the necessary “exodus” from a worldly mind set to the mentality of God.
Such was the case of James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, who ask Jesus to grant them to sit in the places of honour, beside him in “glory”, thus expressing worldly expectations and projects of grandeur, authority and honour.
Jesus, who knows the human heart, is not upset by this request but immediately turns the limelight on its profound implications: “you do not know what you are asking”. He then guides the two brothers to an understanding of what following him means.
So what is the way that any one who wishes to be a disciple must take? It is the way of the Teacher, it is the way of total obedience to God. For this reason Jesus asks James and John: are you prepared to share my decision to carry out the Father's will to the very end? Are you prepared to take this way that passes through humiliation, suffering and death for love? The two disciples, with their confident answer, “we can”, show that once again they have not understood the real meaning of what the Teacher is outlining for them.
And again Jesus patiently helps them take a further step: not even experiencing the cup of suffering and the baptism of death entitles a person to the first place, because the first place is “for those for whom it has been prepared”, it is in the hands of the Heavenly Father. Human beings must not calculate; they must simply abandon themselves to God without making any claims, conforming themselves to his will.
The indignation of the other disciples became an opportunity to extend the teaching to the entire community. Jesus first “called them to him”: this was the act of the original vocation to which he invited them to return.
His reference to the constitutive moment of the calling of the Twelve, to “being with Jesus” in order to be sent out is very significant, because it clearly recalls that every ministry in the Church is always a response to a call of God, never the result of one's own project or personal ambition but, rather, means conforming one's will to the will of the Father who is in Heaven, as Christ did in Gethsemane (cf Lc 22,42).
No one is master in the Church but all are called, all are sent out, all are reached and guided by divine grace. And this is also our security! Only by listening anew to the word of Jesus who asks, “come, follow me”, only by returning to our original vocation, is it possible to understand our own presence and mission in the Church as authentic disciples.
The request of James and John and the indignation of the other “ten” Apostles raised a central question to which Jesus chose to answer: who is great, who is “first” for God? First of all Jesus looks at behaviour which “those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles” risk assuming: to “lord it over them”.
Jesus points out to the disciples a completely different conduct. “But it shall not be so among you”. His community follows another rule, another logic, another model: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all”.
The criterion of greatness and primacy according to God is not domination but service; diaconia is the fundamental law of the disciple and of the Christian community, and lets us glimpse something about “the lordship of God”.
And Jesus also indicates the reference point: the Son of man who came to serve. In other words he sums up his mission in the category of service, not meant in a generic sense but in the concrete sense of the Cross, of the total gift of life as a “ransom”, as redemption for many, and he points it out as a condition of the “sequela”.
It is a message that applies for the Apostles, for the whole Church, and especially for those who have leadership roles in the People of God. It is not the logic of domination, of power according to human criteria but rather the logic of bending down to wash feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross that is the root of all exercise of authority.
The Church in every period is committed to conforming to this logic and to testifying to it to make the true “lordship of God” shine out, that of love.
Venerable Brothers appointed to the cardinalitial dignity, the mission to which God calls you today and which qualifies you for an even more responsible ecclesial service, requires an ever greater willingness to adopt the style of the Son of God who came among us as one who serves (cf. Lc 22,25-27).
It is a question of following him in his humble and total gift of himself to the Church, his Bride, on the Cross. It is on this wood that the the grain of wheat — which the Father let fall into the earth of the world — dies, in order to become a ripe fruit.
This is why it is necessary to be even more deeply and firmly rooted in Christ. The intimate relationship with him that transforms life increasingly in such a way that it is possible to say with St Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2,20), constitutes the primary requirement if our service is to be serene and joyful and to bear the fruit that the Lord expects of us.
Dear Brothers and Sisters who are gathered round the new Cardinals today: pray for them! Tomorrow, in this Basilica, during the concelebration on the Solemnity of Christ the King, I shall present the ring to them. It will be a further opportunity to “praise the Lord... who keeps faith for ever” (Ps 145 ), as we said in the Responsorial Psalm.
May his Spirit support the new Cardinals in their commitment of service to the Church, following Christ on the Cross and also, if necessary, usque ad effusionem sanguinis, ever ready to respond to whoever may ask us to account for the hope that is in us, as St Peter said in the Reading (cf 1P 3,15).
I entrust the new Cardinals and their ecclesial service to Mary, Mother of the Church, so that they may proclaim to all the peoples, with apostolic zeal, the merciful love of God. Amen.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the Solemnity of Christ the King we have the joy of gathering round the Lord's altar with the 24 new Cardinals whom I added to the College of Cardinals yesterday.
I first address to them my cordial greeting, which I extend to the other Cardinals and all the Prelates present, as well as to the distinguished Authorities, the Ambassadors, the priests, the religious and all the faithful who have come from various parts of the world for this happy occasion which has a distinctly universal character,
Many of you will nave noticed that the last Public Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals, held in November 2007, was also celebrated on the eve of the Solemnity of Christ the King. Three years have passed, thus, in accordance with the liturgical cycle for Sundays the word of God comes to us in the same Readings from Bible for this important Feast. It takes place on the last Sunday of the liturgical year and, at the end of the itinerary of faith, presents to us the royal Face of Christ, as the Pantocrator in the apse of an ancient basilica.
This coincidence asks us to meditate deeply on the ministry of the Bishop of Rome and on the ministry of the Cardinals linked to it, in the light of the unique Kingship of Jesus, Our Lord.
The primary service of the Successor of Peter is that of the faith. In the New Testament, Peter becomes the “rock” of the Church insofar as he is the bearer of Faith: the “we” of the Church begins with the name of the first man who professed faith in Christ, it begins with his faith; a faith that was at first immature and still “too human”. Then, however, after Easter it matured and made him capable of following Christ even to the point of giving himself; it developed in the belief that Jesus is truly King; that he is so precisely because he remained on the Cross, and in that way gave his life for sinners.
In the Gospel we see that everyone asks Jesus to come down from the Cross. They mock him, but this is also a way of excusing themselves from blame as if to say: it is not our fault that you are hanging on the Cross; it is solely your fault because if you really were the Son of God, the King of the Jews, you would not stay there but would save yourself by coming down from that infamous scaffold.
Therefore, if you remain there it means that you are wrong and we are right. The tragedy that is played out beneath the Cross of Jesus is a universal tragedy; it concerns all people before God who reveals himself for what he is, namely, Love.
In the crucified Jesus the divinity is disfigured, stripped of all visible glory and yet is present and real. Faith alone can recognize it: the faith of Mary, who places in her heart too this last scene in the mosaic of her Son's life. She does not yet see the whole, but continues to trust in God, repeating once again with the same abandonment: “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord” (cf. Lc 1,38).
Then there is the faith of the Good Thief: a faith barely outlined but sufficient to assure him salvation: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” . This “with me” is crucial. Yes, it is this that saves him. Of course, the good thief is on the cross like Jesus, but above all he is on the Cross with Jesus. And, unlike the other evildoer and all those who taunt him, he does not ask Jesus to come done from the Cross nor to make him come down. Instead he says: “remember me when you come into your kingdom”.
The Good Thief sees Jesus on the Cross, disfigured and unrecognizable and yet he entrusts himself to him as to a king, indeed as to the King. The good thief believes what was written on the tablet over Jesus' head: “The King of the Jews”. He believed and entrusted himself. For this reason he was already, immediately, in the “today” of God, in Paradise, because Paradise is this: being with Jesus, being with God.
So here, dear Brothers, is the first and fundamental message that the word of God clearly tells us today: to me, the Successor of Peter, and to you, Cardinals.
It calls us to be with Jesus, like Mary, and not to ask him to come down from the Cross but rather to stay there with him. And by reason of our ministry we must do this not only for ourselves but for the whole Church, for the whole People of God.
We know from the Gospels that the Cross was the critical point of the faith of Simon Peter and of the other Apostles. It is clear and it could not be otherwise: they were men and thought “according to men”; they could not tolerate the idea of a crucified Messiah.
Peter's “conversion” is fully achieved when he stops wanting “to save” Jesus and accepts to be saved by him. He gives up wanting to save Jesus from the Cross and allows Jesus' Cross to save him.
“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lc 22,32), the Lord says. Peter's ministry consists first of all in his faith, a faith that Jesus immediately recognizes, from the outset, as genuine, as a gift of the heavenly Father; but a faith that must pass through the scandal of the Cross to become authentic, truly “Christian”, to become a “rock” on which Jesus can build his Church.
Participation in the lordship of Christ is only brought about in practice in the sharing of his self-abasement, with the Cross. My ministry too, dear Brothers, and consequently also yours, consists wholly of faith. Jesus can build his Church on us as long as that true, Paschal faith is found in us, that faith which does not seek to make Jesus come down from the Cross but entrusts itself to him on the Cross. In this regard the true place of the Vicar of Christ is the Cross, it lies in persisting in the obedience of the Cross.
This ministry is difficult because it is not in line with the human way of thinking — with that natural logic which, moreover, continues to be active within us too. But this is and always remains our primary service, the service of faith that transforms the whole of life: believing that Jesus is God, that he is the King precisely because he reached that point, because he loved us to the very end.
And we must witness and proclaim this paradoxical kingship as he, the King, did, that is, by following his own way and striving to adopt his same logic, the logic of humility and service, of the ear of wheat which dies to bear fruit.
The Pope and the Cardinals are called to be profoundly united first of all in this: all together, under the guidance of the Successor of Peter, they must remain in the lordship of Christ, thinking and working in accordance with the logic of the Cross — and this is never easy or predictable.
In this we must be united and we are, because it is not an idea or a strategy that unites us but love of Christ and his Holy Spirit. The effectiveness of our service to the Church, the Bride of Christ, depends essentially on this, on our fidelity to the divine kingship of crucified Love.
For this reason on the ring that I am consigning to you today, the seal of your nuptial covenant with the Church, is the image of the Crucifixion. And for the same reason the colour of your robe alludes to blood, the symbol of life and of love. The Blood of Christ which, according to an ancient iconography, Mary collected from the pierced side of the Son, who died on the Cross; and that the Apostle John contemplated while it gushed out with water, according to the prophetic Scriptures.
Dear Brothers, it is from this that our wisdom derives: sapientia Crucis. On this St Paul reflected profoundly. He was the first to outline Christian thought in an organized way, centred precisely on the paradox of the Cross (cf. 1Co 1,18-25 1Co 2,1-8).
In the Letter to the Colossians, of which today's Liturgy proposes the Christological Hymn — the Pauline reflection, made fertile by the grace of the Spirit, already reaches an impressive level of synthesis in expressing an authentic Christian concept of God and of the world, of personal and universal salvation; and it is all centred on Christ, the Lord of hearts, of history and of the cosmos: “In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in Heaven, making peace by the blood of his Cross” (Col 1,19-20).
Dear Brothers, we are always called to proclaim this to the world: Christ “the image of the invisible God”, Christ “the first-born of all creation”, and “the first-born from the dead”, as the Apostle writes, so “that in everything he might be pre-eminent” (Col 1,15 Col 1,18). The primacy of Peter and his Successors is totally at the service of this primacy of Jesus Christ, the one Lord; at the service of his Kingdom, that is, of his Kingship of love, so that it might come and be spread, renew men and things, transform the earth and cause peace and justice to germinate in it.
The Church fits into this plan that transcends history and, at the same time, is revealed and fulfilled in it, as the “Body” of which Christ is “the Head” (cf. Col 1,18).
In the Letter to the Ephesians, St Paul speaks explicitly of the lordship of Christ and sets it in relation to the Church. He formulates a prayer of praise to the “greatness of the power of God” who raised Christ and made him the universal Lord and concludes, “and he [God] has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ep 1,22-23).
Here, Paul attributes to the Church the very word “fullness”, which applies to Christ, for participation: the body, in fact, participates in the fullness of the Head. This, Venerable Brother Cardinals — and I am also addressing all of you who share with us the grace of being Christian — this is what our joy is: participating, in the Church in the fullness of Christ through the obedience of the Cross, of being qualified “to share in the inheritance of the saints in light”, of being “transferred” to the Kingdom of the Son of God (cf. Col 1,12-13).
For this reason we live in perennial thanksgiving, and even in trials do not lack the joy and peace that Christ bequeathed to us as a guarantee of his Kingdom which already exists among us, who wait with faith and hope, and of which we have a foretaste in love. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 41110