Benedict XVI Homilies 21027
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Boys and Girls,
I have willingly come to pay you a Visit, and the most important moment of our meeting is Holy Mass, where the gift of God's love is renewed: a love that comforts us and gives us peace, especially in life's difficult moments.
In this prayerful atmosphere I would like to address my greeting to each one of you: to the Hon. Mr Clemente Mastella, Minister of Justice, to whom I express a special "thank you"; to Mrs Melěta Cavallo, Department Head of Justice for Minors, to the other Authorities who have spoken, to those in charge, to the operators, teachers and personnel of this juvenile penitentiary, to the volunteers, to your relatives and to everyone present.
I greet the Cardinal Vicar and Auxiliary Bishop Benedetto Tůzia.
I greet in particular, Mons. Giorgio Caniato, General Inspector of the Prisons Chaplaincy, and your Chaplain, whom I thank for expressing your sentiments at the beginning of Holy Mass.
In the Eucharistic celebration it is Christ himself who becomes present among us; indeed, even more: he comes to enlighten us with his teaching - in the Liturgy of the Word - and to nourish us with his Body and his Blood - in the Eucharistic Liturgy and in Communion.
Thus, he comes to teach us to love, to make us capable of loving and thereby capable of living.
But perhaps you will say, how difficult it is to love seriously and to live well! What is the secret of love, the secret of life? Let us return to the Gospel [of the Prodigal Son].
In this Gospel three persons appear: the father and two sons. But these people represent two rather different life projects. Both sons lived peacefully, they were fairly well-off farmers so they had enough to live on, selling their produce profitably, and life seemed good.
Yet little by little the younger son came to find this life boring and unsatisfying: "All of life can't be like this", he thought: rising every day, say at six o'clock, then according to Israel's traditions, there must have been a prayer, a reading from the Holy Bible, then they went to work and at the end of the day another prayer.
Thus, day after day he thought: "But no, life is something more. I must find another life where I am truly free, where I can do what I like; a life free from this discipline, from these norms of God's commandments, from my father's orders; I would like to be on my own and have life with all its beauties totally for myself. Now, instead, it is nothing but work...".
And so he decided to claim the whole of his share of his inheritance and leave. His father was very respectful and generous and respected the son's freedom: it was he who had to find his own life project. And he departed, as the Gospel says, to a far-away country. It was probably geographically distant because he wanted a change, but also inwardly distant because he wanted a completely different life.
So his idea was: freedom, doing what I want to do, not recognizing these laws of a God who is remote, not being in the prison of this domestic discipline, but rather doing what is beautiful, what I like, possessing life with all its beauty and fullness.
And at first - we might imagine, perhaps for a few months - everything went smoothly: he found it beautiful to have attained life at last, he felt happy.
Then, however, little by little, he felt bored here, too; here too everything was always the same. And in the end, he was left with an emptiness that was even more disturbing: the feeling that this was still not life became ever more acute; indeed, going ahead with all these things, life drifted further and further away. Everything became empty: the slavery of doing the same things then also re-emerged. And in the end, his money ran out and the young man found that his standard of living was lower than that of swine.
It was then that he began to reflect and wondered if that really was the path to life: a freedom interpreted as doing what I want, living, having life only for me; or if instead it might be more of a life to live for others, to contribute to building the world, to the growth of the human community....
So it was that he set out on a new journey, an inner journey. The boy pondered and considered all these new aspects of the problem and began to see that he had been far freer at home, since he had also been a landowner contributing to building his home and society in communion with the Creator, knowing the purpose of his life and guessing the project that God had in store for him.
During this interior journey, during this development of a new life project and at the same time living the exterior journey, the younger son was motivated to return, to start his life anew because he now understood that he had taken the wrong track. I must start out afresh with a different concept, he said to himself; I must begin again.
And he arrived at the home of the father who had left him his freedom to give him the chance to understand inwardly what life is and what life is not. The father embraced him with all his love, he offered him a feast and life could start again beginning from this celebration.
The son realized that it is precisely work, humility and daily discipline that create the true feast and true freedom. So he returned home, inwardly matured and purified: he had understood what living is.
Of course, in the future his life would not be easy either, temptations would return, but he was henceforth fully aware that life without God does not work; it lacks the essential, it lacks light, it lacks reason, it lacks the great sense of being human. He understood that we can only know God on the basis of his Word.
We Christians can add that we know who God is from Jesus, in whom the face of God has been truly shown to us. The young man understood that God's Commandments are not obstacles to freedom and to a beautiful life, but signposts on the road on which to travel to find life.
He realized too that work and the discipline of being committed, not to oneself but to others, extends life. And precisely this effort of dedicating oneself through work gives depth to life, because one experiences the pleasure of having at last made a contribution to the growth of this world that becomes freer and more beautiful.
I do not wish at this point to speak of the other son who stayed at home, but in his reaction of envy we see that inwardly he too was dreaming that perhaps it would be far better to take all the freedoms for himself. He too in his heart was "returning home" and understanding once again what life is, understanding that it is truly possible to live only with God, with his Word, in the communion of one's own family, of work; in the communion of the great Family of God.
I do not wish to enter into these details now: let each one of us apply this Gospel to himself in his own way. Our situations are different and each one has his own world. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are all moved and that we can all enter with our inner journey into the depths of the Gospel.
Only a few more remarks: the Gospel helps us understand who God truly is. He is the Merciful Father who in Jesus loves us beyond all measure.
The errors we commit, even if they are serious, do not corrode the fidelity of his love. In the Sacrament of Confession we can always start out afresh in life. He welcomes us, he restores to us our dignity as his children.
Let us therefore rediscover this sacrament of forgiveness that makes joy well up in a heart reborn to true life.
Furthermore, this parable helps us to understand who the human being is: he is not a "monad", an isolated being who lives only for himself and must have life for himself alone.
On the contrary, we live with others, we were created together with others and only in being with others, in giving ourselves to others, do we find life.
The human being is a creature in whom God has impressed his own image, a creature who is attracted to the horizon of his Grace, but he is also a frail creature exposed to evil but also capable of good. And lastly, the human being is a free person.
We must understand what freedom is and what is only the appearance of freedom.
Freedom, we can say, is a springboard from which to dive into the infinite sea of divine goodness, but it can also become a tilted plane on which to slide towards the abyss of sin and evil and thus also to lose freedom and our dignity.
Dear friends, we are in the Season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter. In this Season of Lent, the Church helps us to make this interior journey and invites us to conversion, which always, even before being an important effort to change our behaviour, is an opportunity to decide to get up and set out again, to abandon sin and to choose to return to God.
Let us - this is the imperative of Lent - make this journey of inner liberation together.
Every time, such as today, that we participate in the Eucharist, the source and school of love, we become capable of living this love, of proclaiming it and witnessing to it with our life.
Nevertheless, we need to decide to walk towards Jesus as the Prodigal Son did, returning inwardly and outwardly to his father.
At the same time, we must abandon the selfish attitude of the older son who was sure of himself, quick to condemn others and closed in his heart to understanding, acceptance and forgiveness of his brother, and who forgot that he too was in need of forgiveness.
May the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, my Patron Saint whose Feast it will be tomorrow, obtain this gift for us; I now invoke him in a special way for each one of you and for your loved ones.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Parish of St Felicity and her Children, Martyrs,
I have willingly come to visit you on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, also known as Passion Sunday. I offer you all my cordial greeting. I first address my thoughts to the Cardinal Vicar and to Auxiliary Bishop Enzo Dieci. I then greet with affection the Vocationist Fathers, to whom the Parish has been entrusted since its foundation in 1958, and especially to Fr Eusebio Mosca, your parish priest, whom I thank for the beautiful words with which he has briefly presented to me your community's situation. I greet the other priests, men and women religious, catechists and committed lay people, and all those who make their own contribution in various ways to the multiple activities of the Parish - pastoral, educational and for human advancement -, directed with priority attention to children, young people and families. I greet the Filipino community, quite numerous in your territory, who meet here every Sunday for Holy Mass celebrated in their own language. I extend my greeting to all the inhabitants of the Fidene neighbourhood; they are very numerous and increasingly consist of people from other parts of Italy and various countries in the world.
Here, as elsewhere, situations of both material and moral hardship are not absent, situations that require of you, dear friends, a constant commitment to witnessing that God's love, fully manifested in the Crucified and Risen Christ, actually embraces everyone without distinctions of race and culture.
This is basically the mission of every parish community, called to proclaim the Gospel and to be a place of acceptance and listening, formation and fraternal sharing, dialogue and forgiveness.
How can a Christian community stay faithful to this mandate? How can it become increasingly a family of brothers and sisters enlivened by Love? The Word of God we have just heard, which resounds with special eloquence in our hearts during this Lenten Season, reminds us that our earthly pilgrimage is fraught with difficulties and trials, as was the journey through the desert of the Chosen People before they reached the Promised Land. But divine intervention, Isaiah assures us in the First Reading, can make it easy, transforming the wilderness into a luxuriant country flowing with water (cf. Is 43,19-20). The Responsorial Psalm echoes the Prophet: while it evokes the joy of the return from the Babylonian Exile, it implores the Lord to intervene on behalf of the "prisoners" who depart weeping but who return rejoicing because God is present and, as in the past, will also do "great things for us" in the future.
This very awareness, this hope that after difficult times the Lord will always show us his presence and love, must enliven every Christian community, provided by its Lord with abundant spiritual provisions in order to cross the desert of this world and make it into a fertile garden. These provisions are docile listening to his Word, the Sacraments and every other spiritual resource of the liturgy and of personal prayer. The love that impelled Jesus to sacrifice himself for us transforms us and makes us capable in turn of following him faithfully. Continuing what the liturgy presented to us last Sunday, today's Gospel passage helps us understand that only God's love can change man's life and thus every society from within, for it is God's infinite love alone that sets him free from sin, which is the root of all evil. If it is true that God is justice, we should not forget that above all he is love. If he hates sin, it is because he loves every human person infinitely. He loves each one of us and his fidelity is so deep that it does not allow him to feel discouraged even by our rejection.
Today, in particular, Jesus brings us to inner conversion: he explains why he forgives us and teaches us to make forgiveness received from and given to our brothers and sisters the "daily bread" of our existence.
The Gospel passage recounts the episode of the adulterous woman in two vivid scenes: in the first, we witness a dispute between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees concerning a woman caught in flagrant adultery who, in accordance with the prescriptions of the Book of Leviticus (cf. Lv 20,10), was condemned to stoning. In the second scene, a brief but moving dialogue develops between Jesus and the sinner-woman. The pitiless accusers of the woman, citing the law of Moses, provoke Jesus - they call him "Teacher" (Didáskale) -, asking him whether it would be right to stone her. They were aware of his mercy and his love for sinners and were curious to see how he would manage in such a case which, according to Mosaic law, was crystal clear. But Jesus immediately took the side of the woman. In the first place, he wrote mysterious words on the ground, which the Evangelist does not reveal but which impressed him, and Jesus then spoke the sentence that was to become famous: "Let him who is without sin among you (he uses the term anamártetos here, which is the only time it appears in the New Testament) be the first to throw a stone at her" (Jn 8,7) and begin the stoning. St Augustine noted, commenting on John's Gospel, that: "The Lord, in his response, neither failed to respect the law nor departed from his meekness". And Augustine added that with these words, Jesus obliged the accusers to look into themselves, to examine themselves to see whether they too were sinners. Thus, "pierced through as if by a dart as big as a beam, one after another, they all withdrew" (in Io. Ev. tract 33, 5).
So it was, therefore, that the accusers who had wished to provoke Jesus went away one by one, "beginning with the eldest to the last". When they had all left, the divine Teacher remained alone with the woman. St Augustine's comment is concise and effective: "relicti sunt duo: misera et Misericordia, the two were left alone, the wretched woman and Mercy" (ibid.). Let us pause, dear brothers and sisters, to contemplate this scene where the wretchedness of man and Divine Mercy come face to face, a woman accused of a grave sin and the One who, although he was sinless, burdened himself with our sins, the sins of the whole world. The One who had bent down to write in the dust, now raised his eyes and met those of the woman. He did not ask for explanations. Is it not ironic when he asked the woman: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" (Jn 8,10). And his reply was overwhelming: "neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (Jn 8,11). Again, St Augustine in his Commentary observed: "The Lord did also condemn, but condemned sins, not man. For if he were a patron of sin, he would say, "neither will I condemn you; go, live as you will; be secure in my deliverance; however much you sin, I will deliver you from all punishment'. He said not this" (Io Ev. tract. 33, 6).
Dear friends, from the Word of God we have just heard emerge practical instructions for our life. Jesus does not enter into a theoretical discussion with his interlocutors on this section of Mosaic Law; he is not concerned with winning an academic dispute about an interpretation of Mosaic Law, but his goal is to save a soul and reveal that salvation is only found in God's love. This is why he came down to the earth, this is why he was to die on the Cross and why the Father was to raise him on the third day. Jesus came to tell us that he wants us all in Paradise and that hell, about which little is said in our time, exists and is eternal for those who close their hearts to his love.
In this episode too, therefore, we understand that our real enemy is attachment to sin, which can lead us to failure in our lives. Jesus sent the adulterous woman away with this recommendation: "Go, and do not sin again". He forgives her so that "from now on" she will sin no more. In a similar episode, that of the repentant woman, a former sinner whom we come across in Luke's Gospel (cf. Lc 7,36-50), he welcomed a woman who had repented and sent her peacefully on her way. Here, instead, the adulterous woman simply receives an unconditional pardon. In both cases - for the repentant woman sinner and for the adulterous woman - the message is the same. In one case it is stressed that there is no forgiveness without the desire for forgiveness, without opening the heart to forgiveness; here it is highlighted that only divine forgiveness and divine love received with an open and sincere heart give us the strength to resist evil and "to sin no more", to let ourselves be struck by God's love so that it becomes our strength. Jesus' attitude thus becomes a model to follow for every community, which is called to make love and forgiveness the vibrant heart of its life.
Dear brothers and sisters, on the Lenten journey we are taking, which is rapidly reaching its end, we are accompanied by the certainty that God never abandons us and that his love is a source of joy and peace; it is a powerful force that impels us on the path of holiness, if necessary even to martyrdom. This is what happened to the children and then to their brave mother, Felicity, the patron Saints of your Parish. Through their intercession, may the Lord grant you an ever deeper encounter with Christ and docile fidelity to follow him, so that, as happened for the Apostle Paul, you too may sincerely proclaim: "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ..." (Ph 3,8). May the example and intercession of these Saints be a constant encouragement to you to follow the path of the Gospel without hesitation and without compromise. May the Virgin Mary, whom we will contemplate tomorrow in the mystery of the Annunciation of the Lord and to whom I entrust all of you and the entire population of this suburb of Fidene, obtain for you this generous fidelity. Amen.
We are meeting this evening just before the 22nd World Youth Day whose theme, as you know, is the new commandment that Jesus bequeathed to us on the night he was betrayed: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (Jn 13,34).
I cordially greet all of you who have come from the various Roman parishes. I greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and the priests present here, with a special thought for the confessors who will be available to you shortly. Today's event, as your spokesperson, whom I thank for her greeting at the beginning of this celebration, has already announced, has a profound and lofty significance. It is in fact a meeting around the Cross, a celebration of the mercy of God which each one of you will be able to experience personally in the Sacrament of Confession.
In the heart of every man, begging for love, there is a thirst for love. My beloved Predecessor, the Servant of God John Paul II, wrote formerly in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis: "Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it" (RH 10).
Even more so, the Christian cannot live without love. Indeed, if he does not encounter true love he cannot even claim to be fully Christian because, as I pointed out in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, "[b]eing Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction" ().
God's love for us, which began with creation, became visible in the mystery of the Cross, in that kenosis of God, in that self-emptying, that abasement of the Son of God which we heard proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in the First Reading, in the magnificent hymn to Christ in the Letter to the Philippians.
Yes, the Cross reveals the fullness of God's love for us. It is a crucified love which does not stop at the scandal of Good Friday but culminates in the joy of the Resurrection and the Ascension into Heaven and in the gift of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit of love through which, this evening too, sins will be forgiven and pardon and peace granted.
God's love for man which is expressed in its fullness on the Cross can be described with the term agape, that is, "the self-giving love of one who looks exclusively for the good of the other", but also with the term eros.
In fact, while it is love that offers man all that God is, as I observed in the Message for this Lent, it is also a love where "God's very Heart, the Almighty, awaits the "yes' of his creatures as a young bridegroom that of his bride". Unfortunately, "from its very origins, mankind, seduced by the lies of the Evil One, rejected God's love in the illusion of a self-sufficiency that is impossible (cf. Gn 3,1-7)" (ibid.).
However, in the sacrifice of the Cross, God continues to present his love, his passion for man, that force which, as Pseudo-Dionysius expresses it, "does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved" (De Divinis Nominibus, IV, 13; PG 3, 712; Message for Lent 2007, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 February 2007, PP 6,7), coming to "beg" for his creature's love.
This evening, in receiving the Sacrament of Confession, you will be able to experience the "gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, CEC 1999), so that, united to Christ, we may become new creatures (cf. 2Co 5,17-18).
Dear Young People of the Diocese of Rome, with Baptism you are already born to new life in virtue of God's grace. Nonetheless, since this new life has not eliminated either the weakness of human nature or the inclination to sin, we are given the opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Confession. Every time that you do so with faith and devotion, after an attentive examination of conscience, God's love and mercy open your heart to Christ's minister. To him, and thereby to Christ himself, you express your sorrow for the sins you have committed with the firm determination to sin no more in the future and the readiness to accept joyfully the acts of penance to which he will direct you, to make reparation for the damage caused by the sin.
Thus, you will experience "the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; recovery, if it has been lost, of the state of grace; remission of the eternal punishment merited by mortal sins, and remission, at least in part, of the temporal punishment which is the consequence of sin; peace, serenity of conscience and spiritual consolation; and an increase of spiritual strength for the struggle of Christian living" for every day (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 310).
With the penitential cleansing of this Sacrament, we are readmitted to full communion with God and the Church, a trustworthy companion because she is the "universal sacrament of salvation" (Lumen Gentium LG 48). In the second part of his new commandment, the Lord says: "you also love one another" (Jn 13,34).
Of course, he waits for us to let ourselves be attracted by his love and to experience all its grandeur and beauty, but that is not enough! Christ draws us to him to unite himself with each one of us so that, in our turn, we may learn to love our brothers and sisters with this same love, as he has loved us.
Today, as always, a renewed ability to love our brethren is very necessary. As you leave this celebration, your hearts filled with the experience of God's love, be prepared "to dare" to love in your families, in your relationships with your friends and also with those who have offended you.
Be prepared to make an impact with an authentically Christian witness in the contexts of study and work, to be committed to the parish community, to groups, movements, associations and every social milieu.
Young engaged couples, live your engagement in true love which always entails reciprocal, chaste and responsible respect. If the Lord calls some of you, dear young people of Rome, to a life of special consecration, be prepared to respond with a generous "yes" without compromise.
In giving yourselves to God and to your brothers and sisters, you will experience the joy that does not withdraw into itself into an all too often asphyxiating selfishness.
However, all this certainly comes at a price, that price which Christ paid first and which every one of his disciples must also pay, although at a far cheaper price than the one paid by the Teacher. It is the price of sacrifice and self-denial, of faithfulness and perseverance, without which there is not and cannot be true love, which is entirely free and a source of joy.
Dear young men and women, the world is waiting for your contribution to building the "civilization of love". "The horizon of love is truly boundless: it is the whole world!" (Message for the 22nd World Youth Day). The priests who look after you and your teachers are certain that with the grace of God and the constant help of his divine mercy you will be at the height of the demanding task that the Lord is asking of you.
Do not lose heart and always trust in Christ and his Church! The Pope is close to you and assures you of his daily remembrance in prayer, entrusting you in particular to the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, so that she may accompany and sustain you always. Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the Palm Sunday procession we join with the crowd of disciples who in festive joy accompany the Lord during his entry into Jerusalem. Like them, we praise the Lord with a loud voice for all the miracles we have seen. Yes, we too have seen and still see today the wonders of Christ: how he brings men and women to renounce the comforts of their lives and devote themselves totally to the service of the suffering; how he gives men and women the courage to oppose violence and deceit, to make room for truth in the world; how, in secret, he persuades men and women to do good to others, to bring about reconciliation where there had been hatred and to create peace where enmity had reigned.
The procession is first and foremost a joyful witness that we bear to Jesus Christ, in whom the Face of God became visible to us and thanks to whom the Heart of God is open to us. In Luke's Gospel, the account of the beginning of the procession in the vicinity of Jerusalem is in part modelled literally on the rite of coronation with which, according to the First Book of Kings, Solomon was invested as heir to David's kingship (cf. 2R 1,33-35).
Thus, the procession of the Palms is also a procession of Christ the King: we profess the Kingship of Jesus Christ, we recognize Jesus as the Son of David, the true Solomon, the King of peace and justice. Recognizing him as King means accepting him as the One who shows us the way, in whom we trust and whom we follow. It means accepting his Word day after day as a valid criterion for our life. It means seeing in him the authority to which we submit. We submit to him because his authority is the authority of the truth.
The procession of the Palms - as it was at that time for the disciples - is primarily an expression of joy because we are able to recognize Jesus, because he allows us to be his friends and because he has given us the key to life. This joy, however, which is at the beginning, is also an expression of our "yes" to Jesus and our willingness to go with him wherever he takes us. The exhortation with which our Liturgy today begins, therefore, correctly interprets the procession as a symbolic representation of what we call the "following of Christ": "Let us ask for the grace to follow him", we said. The expression "following of Christ" is a description of the whole of Christian existence. In what does it consist? What does "to follow Christ" actually mean?
At the outset, with the first disciples, its meaning was very simple and immediate: it meant that to go with Jesus these people decided to give up their profession, their affairs, their whole life. It meant undertaking a new profession: discipleship. The fundamental content of this profession was accompanying the Teacher and total entrustment to his guidance. The "following" was therefore something external, but at the same time very internal. The exterior aspect was walking behind Jesus on his journeys through Palestine; the interior aspect was the new existential orientation whose reference points were no longer in events, in work as a source of income or in the personal will, but consisted in total abandonment to the will of Another. Being at his disposal, henceforth, became the raison d'ętre of life. In certain Gospel scenes we can recognize quite clearly that this means the renouncement of one's possessions and detachment from oneself.
But with this it is also clear what "following" means for us and what its true essence is for us: it is an interior change of life. It requires me no longer to be withdrawn into myself, considering my own fulfilment the main reason for my life. It requires me to give myself freely to Another - for truth, for love, for God who, in Jesus Christ, goes before me and shows me the way. It is a question of the fundamental decision no longer to consider usefulness and gain, my career and success as the ultimate goals of my life, but instead to recognize truth and love as authentic criteria. It is a question of choosing between living only for myself or giving myself - for what is greater. And let us understand properly that truth and love are not abstract values; in Jesus Christ they have become a person. By following him, I enter into the service of truth and love. By losing myself I find myself.
Let us return to the liturgy and the procession of the Palms. In it the Liturgy has provided as the hymn Psalm 24. In Israel this was also a processional hymn used in the ascent to the hill of the temple. The Psalm interprets the interior ascent, of which the exterior ascent is an image, and explains to us once again what it means to ascend with Christ. "Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?" the Psalm asks and specifies two essential conditions. Those who ascend it and truly desire to reach the heights, to arrive at the true summit, must be people who question themselves about God. They must be people who scan their surroundings seeking God, seeking his Face.
Dear young friends, how important precisely this is today: not merely to let oneself be taken here and there in life; not to be satisfied with what everyone else thinks and says and does. To probe God and to seek God. Not letting the question about God dissolve in our souls; desiring what is greater, desiring to know him - his Face...
The other very concrete condition for the ascent is this: He "who has clean hands and a pure heart" can stand in the holy place. Clean hands are hands that are not used for acts of violence. They are hands that are not soiled with corruption, with bribery. A pure heart - when is the heart pure? A heart is pure when it does not pretend and is not stained with lies and hypocrisy: a heart that remains transparent like spring water because it is alien to duplicity. A heart is pure when it does not estrange itself with the drunkenness of pleasure, a heart in which love is true and is not only a momentary passion. Clean hands and a pure heart: if we walk with Jesus, we ascend and find the purification that truly brings us to that height to which man is destined: friendship with God himself.
Psalm 24, which speaks of the ascent, ends with an entrance liturgy in front of the temple gate: "Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the King of glory may come in". In the old liturgy for Palm Sunday, the priest, arriving in front of the church, would knock loudly with the shaft of the processional cross on the door that was still closed; thereupon, it would be opened. This was a beautiful image of the mystery of Jesus Christ himself who, with the wood of his Cross, with the power of his love that is given, knocked from the side of the world at God's door; on the side of a world that was not able to find access to God. With his Cross, Jesus opened God's door, the door between God and men. Now it is open. But the Lord also knocks with his Cross from the other side: he knocks at the door of the world, at the doors of our hearts, so many of which are so frequently closed to God. And he says to us something like this: if the proof that God gives you of his existence in creation does not succeed in opening you to him, if the words of Scripture and the Church's message leave you indifferent, then look at me - the God who let himself suffer for you, who personally suffers with you - and open yourself to me, your Lord and your God.
It is this appeal that we allow to penetrate our hearts at this moment. May the Lord help us to open the door of our hearts, the door of the world, so that he, the living God, may arrive in his Son in our time, and reach our life. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 21027