Speeches 2005-13 273
Dear friends of the Azienda Comunale Energia e Ambiente,
I am glad to be with you and I extend a cordial welcome to each one of you. I greet Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi and I greet Dr Giancarlo Cremonesi, President of ACEA, whom I thank for his kind words at the opening of our meeting and for the gifts. I am particularly grateful for the beautiful book on the application of the principles of the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate in the business world, published by the Vatican Publishing House and the UCID as part of the series "Imprenditori per il bene comune" [Entrepreneurs for the common good]. I would like to express my deep appreciation of this editorial initiative, in the hope that it may be a reference point in the search for solutions to the complex problems of the world of work and of the economy. I would also like to express my pleasure at your project of cooperation with the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel, in the endeavour to respond to the emergency in water and energy resources in their developing countries.
I have also seen with great interest your "Charter of Values" and "Ethical Code" that recall the principles of responsibility, transparency, correctness, and the spirit of service and collaboration that ACEA invokes. These are the guidelines that this Board desires to recall and on which it wishes to build its image and reputation.
You have just concluded the celebrations for the centenary of ACEA. Indeed, 100 years have passed since that 10 September 2009, when with a popular referendum the citizens of Rome decided that public lighting and collective transportation should be municipalized. Since that day your Board has developed together with Rome. It has been a long and fascinating journey, full of both challenges and triumphs. It is enough to remember how complicated it was to guarantee essential services to ever wider social sectors, to new neighbourhoods that have often developed in a chaotic and illegal manner in a city that was changing and expanding out of all proportion. Thus, in the course of the years, we can say that the relationship between the City and ACEA has become ever closer, thanks, especially, to the many services that the company has supplied and continues to supply to the City, sustaining and encouraging its transformation into a modern metropolis.
This centenary celebration has ended in a period full of difficulties, marked by a serious international crisis that has led the world to rethink a model of development based primarily on finance and profit, in order to refocus human activity on our capacity to produce, to innovate, to think and to build the future. As I emphasized in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, it is important to increase awareness in the business world of the need for a broader "social responsibility" that will impel it to continue to give proper consideration to the expectations and needs of their workers, customers, suppliers and the entire community and to pay special attention to the environment (cf. n. 40). Thus the production of goods and services will not be exclusively bound to the search for financial gain but also to the promotion of the common good. I rejoice that the history of the past 100 years has not only been expressed in the numerical terms of ever greater competitiveness but also in a moral commitment that strives to pursue the wellbeing of all.
In the spirit of service that characterizes ACEA I would like to express my appreciation of all that ACEA has achieved, thanks to the professional skill of its employees, in illuminating the monuments that make Rome unique in the world. In this regard, I would like to recall with gratitude the material assistance provided on the occasion of the celebrations for the 80th anniversary of the foundation of Vatican City State. Numerous churches, starting with St Peter's Basilica, have also been enhanced by skilful lighting which brings out what human beings have been able to achieve in order to express their faith in Christ, "the true light that enlightens every man" (Jn 1,9).
I also appreciate ACEA's commitment to protecting the environment by means of the sustainable management of natural resources, reduction of the environmental impact [of its activities], and respect for Creation. However, it is equally important to promote a human ecology which can make both the workplace and personal relations worthy of the human being. In this regard I would like to reaffirm what I said in the Message for the World Day of Peace this year on "the adoption of a model of development based on the centrality of the human person, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on a realization of our need for a changed life-style" (Message for the World Day of Peace 2010, n. 9).
In Rome, as in every large city, one feels the effects of a culture that exasperates the concept of the individual: often people live closed into themselves, wrapped up in their own problems, distracted by the many worries that crowd the mind and prevent men and women from perceiving the simple joys present in each person's life. The preservation of Creation, a task that the Creator entrusted to humankind (cf. Gn 2,15), also implies the safeguarding of those sentiments of goodness, generosity, correctness and honesty which God has placed in the heart of every human being who is created in his "image and likeness" (cf. Gn Gn 1,26).
Lastly, I wish to address to those present an invitation to look to Christ, the perfect man and always to take his actions as an example in order to grow in humanity and thus to develop a city with an ever more human face, in which everyone is seen as a person, a spiritual being in relation with others. Thanks too to your commitment to improving interpersonal relationships and the quality of work, Rome may continue its role as a beacon of civilization which has distinguished it down the centuries.
As I renew my expression of gratitude for your visit, I assure you of special remembrance in prayer for each one of you and for your activities and I warmly bless you, together with your loved ones.
I am pleased to receive from you the Letters accrediting you as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Guatemala to the Holy See. I welcome you cordially as you begin the lofty responsibility that has been entrusted to you. I also thank you for the kind words and respectful greeting you have conveyed to me from H.E. Mr Álvaro Colom Caballeros, President of Guatemala. Please be kind enough to pass on to him my best wishes for him and for his Government, together with my prayers for your country and its noble people.
Your Excellency, you well know the attention that the Holy See pays to Guatemala, whose history has for centuries been permeated and fruitfully enriched with the wisdom that comes from the Gospel. In fact the Guatemalan people, with the variety of its races and cultures, has deeply rooted faith in God, sincere devotion to Mary Most Holy and faithful love for the Pope and the Church. This reflects the close and fluent relations which your country has long maintained with the Holy See, and which acquired a special importance with the creation of the Apostolic Nunciature in Guatemala. Let us hope that the commemoration of the 75th anniversary in 2011 of this important event will give a new impetus to the cooperation that exists in your Country between the State and the Church, based on respect for and autonomy of the different provinces proper to each one. Let us also hope that progress will be made in loyal and honest dialogue to further the common good of the whole of Guatemalan society, which must pay special attention to the people in greatest need.
In this context, I cannot forget those who are suffering the consequences of climatic phenomena. In your country too they contribute to increasing drought and can lead to the loss of harvests, causing malnutrition and poverty. This extreme situation recently prompted the national Government to declare a "state of public calamity" and to ask the international community for help. I would like to express my affection and my spiritual closeness to the victims of these grave misfortunes, as well as my gratitude to the institutions in your homeland that are striving with dedication to find solutions to such serious problems. It is also necessary to mention here the magnanimity of the cooperators and volunteers, as well as that of all who seek with their efforts and sacrifices to alleviate suffering, hunger and poverty of so many of their brothers and sisters. I likewise wish to express my gratitude to the different organisms and international relief agencies which are doing their utmost to mitigate famine in vast sectors of the population. I am thinking in particular of the beloved sons and daughters of the Church in Guatemala, the Pastors, religious and faithful who once again are endeavouring to imitate the Gospel model of the Good Samaritan, generously helping those in gravest need.
Guaranteed access to the necessary food is a fundamental right of every person, hence a priority goal. To achieve it, in addition to material resources and technical decisions, men and women are needed who show compassion and solidarity. In setting out to reach this goal they give proof of the love which is a source of life and which every human being needs. Working for this entails promoting and giving dignity to everyone's life and especially to the lives of those who are the most vulnerable and defenceless, such as children. Their physical and psychological health is compromised by a lack of adequate nutrition and they are all too often exposed to work unsuitable for their age or are immersed in tragedies that violate their personal dignity and the rights that derive from it (cf. Message for World Food Day 2007, n. 3).
There are important causes of hope, however, represented by the many human and Gospel values cherished in the hearts of your country's citizens; such as love for the family, respect for the elderly, a sense of responsibility and, above all, trust in God who has revealed his Face in Jesus Christ and whom Guatemalans call on in their suffering. From this abundant spiritual patrimony it is possible to draw the necessary strength to combat other factors that damage Guatemala's social fabric. These are drug-trafficking, violence, emigration, insecurity, illiteracy, sects and the loss of moral reference points among the new generations. New solutions must therefore be found for the projects being carried ahead in your nation to safeguard and increase this priceless patrimony. They should be sought "in the light of an integral vision of man, reflecting the different aspects of the human person, contemplated through a lens purified by charity" (Caritas in Veritate, ). In this most crucial undertaking, your country's authorities will always be able to count on the solicitous collaboration of the Church in her constant intention to open "new and creative paths" in response to the devastating effects of poverty and to cooperate in the ennoblement of every human being (cf. Concluding Document of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops' Conferences, Aparecida, nn. 380-546).
I would also like to express my gratitude for all that has been done in Guatemala to consolidate the guarantees of a true State of rights. This process must be accompanied by the firm determination, born from personal conversion of heart, to eliminate every form of corruption in the public institutions and administrations. There must also be determination to reform justice in order to apply laws fairly and to uproot the feeling of impunity in those who exercise any form of violence or violate human rights. This strengthening of democracy and of political stability must be an ongoing task. It is indispensable for progress towards a true, integral development of the person that will have positive reflections in the social sphere, whether it be financial, cultural, political, territorial or religious (cf. Caritas in Veritate, ).
In the cultural patrimony of your homeland, in the recent history of the pacification of Guatemalan society and in the formulation of its laws, there are situations that determine the specific identity of its people and can have beneficial effects on the political and social stability of the Central American region. In this regard it is worth mentioning the foresight with which the Constitution of Guatemala guarantees the legal defence and protection of human life, from conception until natural death. I urge all the social agents of your country, especially the people's representatives in the legislative institutions, to preserve and reinforce this fundamental element of the "culture of life" which will undoubtedly contribute to the growth of the Guatemalans' moral patrimony.
Mr Ambassador, you may rest assured of the complete availability of my collaborators for the success of your mission that begins today. At the same time I ask you to express my best wishes to the Authorities who have entrusted it to you, and to the beloved sons and daughters of Guatemala. I raise fervent prayers to the Most High for their peace and prosperity, through the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary, the heavenly Patroness of this Blessed Land.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the beginning of the 19th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family I am glad to greet you with my cordial welcome! This year the institutional event sees your Dicastery particularly renewed. Not only does it have a new Cardinal President and Bishop Secretary but also several Cardinals and Bishops on the Administrative Committee and some new Officials and married couple Members, as well as numerous new consultors. As I warmly thank those who have finished their service at the Pontifical Council and those who are still contributing their invaluable work to it, I invoke upon everyone abundant gifts from the Lord. My grateful thoughts go in particular to the late Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo who led your Dicastery for 18 years with passionate dedication to the cause of the family and of life in today's world. Lastly, I would like to express to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli my warmest gratitude for his cordial words on behalf of you all and for having wished to illustrate the topics of this important Assembly.
The activities of the Dicastery today fit between the Sixth World Meeting of Families celebrated in Mexico City in 2009, and the Seventh, scheduled to take place in Milan in 2012. While I renew my gratitude to Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera for the generous work of his Archdiocese for the preparation and realization of the Meeting in 2009, I express from this moment my affectionate gratitude to the Ambrosian Church and to her Pastor, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, for his willingness to host the Seventh World Meeting of Families. In addition to arranging these extraordinary events, in order to increase knowledge of the fundamental value of the family for the life of the Church and of society, the Pontifical Council is carrying ahead various initiatives. They include the project "The Family, a Subject of Evangelization", with which it intends to prepare a collection from across the world of valid experiences in the different contexts of the pastoral care of the family, so that they may serve as inspiration and encouragement for new initiatives. They also include "The Family, a Resource for Society", with which the Council aims to introduce into public opinion the benefits that the family brings to society, to its coherence and to its development.
Another of the Dicastery's important tasks is the compilation of a Vademecum for preparation for Marriage. My beloved Predecessor, Venerable John Paul ii, said in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio that this preparation is "more than ever necessary in our times", and that it must be "seen and put into practice as a gradual and continuous process. It includes three main stages: remote, proximate and immediate" (n. 66). With reference to these instructions, the Dicastery proposes to outline properly the features of the three states of this formation process and the response to the vocation to married life. Remote preparation concerns children, adolescents and young people. It involves the family, the parish and school, places in which they are taught to understand life as a vocation to love, which is subsequently specified in the form of marriage or of virginity for the Kingdom of Heaven, but is always a vocation to love. In this stage, furthermore, the meaning of sexuality must gradually emerge as a relational capacity and a positive energy to be integrated into authentic love. The proximate preparation concerns engaged couples and must become a journey of faith and Christian life which leads to deeper knowledge of the mystery of Christ, of the Church and of the meaning of grace and responsibility in marriage (cf. ibid.). Its duration and the way in which it is undertaken will necessarily differ according to situations, possibilities and needs. However, it is to be hoped that it will offer a course of catecheses, as well as accounts of experiences in the Christian community. All this should provide for the interventions of the priest and of various experts, as well as the presence of animators, the guidance of a few exemplary couples of Christian spouses, dialogue with the future spouses individually and as a group, and an atmosphere of friendship and prayer. In addition, it is necessary to take pains to ensure that on this occasion the engaged couple revive their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, especially by listening to the word of God, by receiving the Sacraments and above all by taking part in the Eucharist. It is only by making Christ the centre of their personal life and their life as a couple that authentic love and self-giving to others is possible: "He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing", Jesus reminds us (Jn 15,5). The immediate preparation takes place just before the marriage. In addition to the examination of those to be married as prescribed by Canon Law, preparation may include catechesis on the Rite of Marriage and its meaning, spiritual retreats and guidance. These aim to guarantee that the celebration of marriage is perceived by the faithful and particularly by those who are preparing for it as a gift to the entire Church that contributes to her spiritual development. It is also right that Bishops promote the sharing of significant experiences and offer incentives for serious pastoral commitment in this important area. They should pay special attention to ensuring that the vocation of the spouses becomes an enrichment for the whole Christian community and especially in today's context a missionary and prophetic witness.
Your Plenary Assembly has "The Rights of the Child" as its theme. This was chosen with reference to the 20th anniversary of the Convention approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989. Following Christ's example, the Church down the centuries has encouraged the protection of the dignity and rights of minors and has taken care of them in many ways. Unfortunately in various cases some of her members, acting in opposition to this commitment, have violated these rights: conduct which she does not and will not fail to deplore and condemn. The tenderness and teaching of Jesus, who saw children as a model to imitate in order to enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 18,1-6 Mt 19,13-14), have always constituted a pressing appeal to foster deep respect and care for them. Jesus' harsh words against those who cause one of these little ones to sin (cf. Mc 9,42), engage everyone always to adhere to this degree of respect and love. Thus the Convention on the Rights of the Child was accepted favourably by the Holy See since it contains positive statements on adoption, health care, education, the protection of the disabled and the defence of little ones against violence, neglect and sexual or labour exploitation.
In its Preamble the Convention describes the family "as a natural environment for the growth and wellbeing of all its members and of children in particular". Indeed, it is precisely the family founded on the marriage between a man and a woman that can give children the greatest help. They want to be loved by a mother and a father who love each other, and they need to live and grow together with both their parents, because the maternal and paternal figures are complementary in the raising of children and the development of their personality and identity. It is therefore important that everything possible be done to enable them to grow up in a united and stable family. To this end, it is necessary to urge spouses never to lose sight of the profound reasons and sacramentality of the conjugal covenant and to strengthen it by listening to the word of God and by prayer, constant dialogue, reciprocal acceptance and mutual forgiveness. A family environment that is not serene, the separation of the parental couple, particularly with divorce, is not without consequences on the children. On the other hand, supporting the family and promoting its true good, its rights, its unity and its stability is the best way to protect the rights and authentic needs of minors.
Venerable and dear Brothers and Sisters, thank you for your visit! I am spiritually close to you and to the work you carry out in favour of families and I cordially impart the Apostolic Blessing to each one of you and to all who share in this precious service to the Church.
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
I am pleased to greet Bishop Mark Hanson and all of you present here today for this ecumenical visit.
Since the beginning of my Pontificate, I have been encouraged that relations between Catholics and Lutherans have continued to grow, especially at the level of practical collaboration in the service of the Gospel. In his Encyclical Letter Ut Unum Sint, my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II described our relationship as “brotherhood rediscovered“ (No. 41). I deeply hope that the continuing Lutheran-Catholic dialogue both in the United States of America and at the international level will help to build upon the agreements reached so far. An important remaining task will be to harvest the results of the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue that so promisingly started after the Second Vatican Council. To build on what has been achieved together since that time, a spiritual ecumenism should be grounded in ardent prayer and in conversion to Christ, the source of grace and truth. May the Lord help us to treasure what has been accomplished so far, to guard it with care, and to foster its development.
I conclude by renewing the wish expressed by my predecessor, during whose Pontificate so much was accomplished on the road to full visible unity among Christians, when he said to a similar delegation from the Lutheran Church in America: “You are most welcome here. Let us rejoice that an encounter such as this can take place. Let us resolve to be open to the Lord so that he can use this meeting for his purposes, to bring about the unity that he desires. Thank you for the efforts you are making for full unity in faith and charity” (Address to the Bishops of the Lutheran Church in America, 26 September 1985).
Upon you and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
It gives me great joy to meet you during your ad limina visit, to listen to you and to reflect together on the journey of the People of God entrusted to you. I greet each one of you with affection and thank in particular Archbishop Ioan Robu for his cordial words on behalf of you all.
I address a special thought to H.B. Lucian Muresan, Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church in Romania. You are Pastors of communities of various rites, who place the riches of your long tradition at the service of communion, for the good of all. In you I greet the Christian communities of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova, so harshly tried in the past, and I pay homage to those Bishops and innumerable priests, men and women religious and faithful who, in the time of persecution showed indomitable loyalty to Christ and to his Church and kept their faith intact.
I would like to express my thanks to you, dear Brothers in the Episcopate, for your generous commitment to serving the rebirth and development of the Catholic community in your countries, and I urge you to continue to be zealous Pastors of Christ's flock, as members of the one Church and with respect for the different ritual traditions. Preserving and passing on the patrimony of the faith is a task for the whole Church, but particularly for Bishops (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 25). The field of your ministry is vast and challenging: indeed, it is a question of proposing a mature and responsible journey of faith to the faithful, especially through religious education, catechesis also of adults and preparation for the sacraments. In this context it is necessary to foster a greater knowledge of Sacred Scripture, of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and of the Magisterial Documents, especially those of the Second Vatican Council and the Papal Encyclicals. It is a demanding programme which requires you to draft joint pastoral plans, aimed at the bonum animarum of all Catholics of the different rites and ethnicities. This requires a witness of unity, sincere dialogue and effective collaboration, without forgetting that unity is primarily the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ga 5,22) who guides the Church.
In this Year for Priests I exhort you always to be fathers to your priests, your first, precious collaborators in the Lord's vineyard (cf. Christus Dominus CD 16 CD 28); with them exists a primarily sacramental bond which makes them share uniquely in the pastoral mission entrusted to Bishops. Strive to tend to the communion between you and your priests in an atmosphere of affection, attention and respectful fraternal dialogue; be concerned with their spiritual and material conditions and with their necessary theological and pastoral development. In your dioceses there is no shortage of religious institutes engaged in pastoral work. May it be your special task to give them due attention and provide them with all the help possible to ensure that their presence is increasingly more important and that consecrated people can carry out their apostolate in accordance with their charisms and in full communion with the local Church.
God does not fail to call men and women to his service. We must be grateful to the Lord for this, intensifying our prayers that he may continue to send workers to his harvest (cf. Mt 9,37). A primary task of Bishops is the pastoral care of vocations and the human, spiritual and intellectual formation of candidates to the priesthood in seminaries and other formative institutes (cf. Optatam Totius OT 2,4). This formation must guarantee them the possibility of acquiring deep spirituality and rigorous philosophical, theological and pastoral preparation, also through the careful choice of educators and lecturers. Similar attention should be paid to the formation of the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, especially for women.
The flourishing of priestly and religious vocations largely depends on the moral and religious health of Christian families. Unfortunately, today there are many pitfalls for the family institution in our secularized and disoriented society. Catholic families in your country which during the time of trial, gave witness of faithfulness to the Gospel sometimes paying dearly for it are not immune to the scourges of abortion, corruption, alcoholism, and drugs, as well as birth control using methods contrary to the dignity of the human person. To combat these challenges, it is necessary to promote parish counsellors who can assure an adequate preparation for conjugal and family life, and who can better organize the pastoral care of youth. More necessary than anything else is a decisive commitment to encouraging the presence of the Christian values in society, developing centres for formation where young people may learn the authentic values, enriched by the genius of your countries' culture, so as to be able to witness to these values in the areas in which they live. The Church wants to make her crucial contribution to building a reconciled and supportive society, able to confront the process of secularization that is under way. The transformation of the industrial and agricultural system, the financial crisis and emigration abroad have not encouraged the preservation of traditional values; these must therefore be proposed anew and reinforced.
In this context it is particularly important to witness to brotherhood between Catholics and Orthodox. This witness must prevail over division and dissent and open hearts to reconciliation.
I am aware of the difficulties that the Catholic communities have to face in this sphere; I hope they will be able to find adequate solutions in that spirit of justice and charity which will animate relations between brothers and sisters in Christ. In May 2009, you commemorated the 10th anniversary of Venerable Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Romania. On that occasion Divine Providence gave the Successor of Peter the chance to make an Apostolic Visit to a nation with an Orthodox majority, where an important Catholic community has been present for centuries. May the desire for unity inspired by that Visit nourish prayer as well as the commitment to dialogue in charity and truth and to the promotion of common initiatives. An area of collaboration between Orthodox and Catholics that is particularly important today concerns the defence of the Christian roots of Europe and of the Christian values as well as the common testimony on issues such as the family, bioethics, human rights, honesty in public life and ecology. A joint commitment to these subjects will make an important contribution to society's moral and civil development. A constructive dialogue between Orthodox and Catholics will not fail to be a leaven of unity and harmony not only for your countries but also for the whole of Europe.
At the end of our Meeting, my thoughts turn to your Communities. Please convey to your priests, men and women religious and to all the faithful of Romania and of the Republic of Moldova, my greetings and encouragement, assuring them of my affection and my prayers. As I invoke the intercession of the Mother of God and of the Saints of your lands, I cordially impart my blessing to you and to all the members of the People of God entrusted to your pastoral care.
Chapel of the Seminary Friday, 12 February 2010
Every year it is a great joy to me to be with the seminarians of the Diocese of Rome, young men who are preparing themselves to respond to the Lord's call to be labourers in his vineyard and priests of his mystery. This is the joy of seeing that the Church lives, that the Church's future is also present in our region and, precisely, also in Rome.
In this Year for Priests let us be particularly attentive to the Lord's words about our service. The Gospel Passage that has just been read speaks indirectly but profoundly of our sacrament, of our call to be in the Lord's vineyard, to be servants of his mystery.
In this brief passage we find certain key words that give an idea of the proclamation that the Lord wishes to make with this text. "Abide": in this short passage we find the word "abide" ten times. We then find the new commandment: "Love one another as I have loved you" , "No longer do I call you servants... but friends", "bear fruit"; and lastly, "Ask, and it will be given you... that your joy may be full". Let us pray to the Lord that he may help us enter into the meaning of his words, that these words may penetrate our hearts, thus becoming in us the way and life, with us and through us.
The first words are: "Abide in me... in my love". Abiding in the Lord is fundamental as the first topic of this passage. Abide: where? In love, in the love of Christ, in being loved and in loving the Lord. The whole of chapter 15 explains where we are to abide, because the first eight verses explain and present the Parable of the Vine: "I am the vine, you are the branches". The vine is an Old Testament image that we find in both the Prophets and the Psalms and it has a double meaning: it is a parable for the People of God which is his vineyard. He planted a vine in this world, he tended this vine, he tended his vineyard, he protected his vineyard and what was his intention? It was of course to produce fruit, to harvest the precious gift of grapes, of good wine.
And thus the second meaning appears: wine is a symbol, the expression of the joy of love. The Lord created his people to find the answer to his love. This image of the vine, of the vineyard thus has a spousal meaning, it is an expression of the fact that God seeks his creature's love, through his Chosen People he wants to enter into a relationship of love, a spousal relationship with the world.
Then, however, history proved to be a history of infidelity: instead of precious grapes, only small "inedible fruits" are produced. The response of this great love is not forthcoming, this unity, this unconditional union between man and God in the communion of love does not come about, man withdraws into himself, he wants to keep himself to himself, he wants to have God for himself, he wants the world for himself. Consequently the vineyard is devastated, the boar from the forest and all the enemies arrive and the vineyard becomes a wilderness.
But God does not give up. God finds a new way of reaching a free, irrevocable love, the fruit of this love, the true grape: God becomes man, and thus he himself becomes the root of the vine, he himself becomes the vine and so the vine becomes indestructible. This people of God cannot be destroyed for God himself has entered it, he has put down roots in this land. The new People of God is truly founded in God himself who becomes man and thus calls us to be the new vine in him and to abide in him, to dwell in him.
Let us also bear in mind that in chapter 6 of John's Gospel we find the Discourse of the Bread that becomes the great Discourse on the Eucharistic mystery. In this chapter 15 we have the Discourse on the Vine: the Lord does not speak explicitly of the Eucharist. Naturally, however, behind the mystery of the wine is the reality that he has made himself fruit and wine for us, that his Blood is the fruit of the love born from the earth for ever and, in the Eucharist, this Blood becomes our blood, we are renewed, we receive a new identity because Christ's Blood becomes our blood. Thus we are related to God in the Son and, in the Eucharist, this great reality of life in which we are branches joined to the Son and thereby in union with eternal love becomes our reality.
"Abide": abide in this great mystery, abide in this new gift of the Lord that has made us a people in itself, in his Body and with his Blood. It seems to me that we must meditate deeply on this mystery, that is, that God makes himself Body, one with us; Blood, one with us; that we may abide abide in this mystery in communion with God himself, in this great history of love that is the history of true happiness. In meditating on this gift God made himself one of us and at the same time he made us all one, a single vine we must also begin to pray so that this mystery may penetrate our minds and hearts ever more deeply and that we may be ever more capable of living the greatness of the mystery and thus begin to put this imperative: "abide" into practice.
If we continue to read this Gospel passage attentively, we also find a second imperative: "abide", and "observe my commandments". "Observe" only comes second. "Abide" comes first, at the ontological level, namely that we are united with him, he has given himself to us beforehand and has already given us his love, the fruit. It is not we who must produce the abundant fruit; Christianity is not moralism, it is not we who must do all that God expects of the world but we must first of all enter this ontological mystery: God gives himself. His being, his loving, precedes our action and, in the context of his Body, in the context of being in him, being identified with him and ennobled with his Blood, we too can act with Christ.
Ethics are a consequence of being: first the Lord gives us new life, this is the great gift. Being precedes action and from this being action then follows, as an organic reality, for we can also be what we are in our activity. Let us thus thank the Lord for he has removed us from pure moralism; we cannot obey a prescribed law but must only act in accordance with our new identity. Therefore it is no longer obedience, an external thing, but rather the fulfilment of the gift of new life.
I say it once again: let us thank the Lord because he goes before us, he gives us what we must give, and we must then be, in the truth and by virtue of our new being, protagonists of his reality. Abiding and observing: observing is the sign of abiding and abiding is the gift that he gives us but which must be renewed every day of our lives.
Next comes this new commandment: "love one another as I have loved you". There is no greater love than this, "that a man lay down his life for his friends". What does this mean? Here too it is not a question of moralism. Some might say: "It is not a new commandment; the commandment to love one's neighbour as oneself already exists in the Old Testament". Others say: "This love should be even more radicalized; this love of others must imitate Christ who gave himself for us; it must be a heroic love, to the point of the gift of self". In this case, however, Christianity would be a heroic moralism. It is true that we must reach the point of this radicalism of love which Christ showed to us and gave for us, but here too the true newness is not what we do, the true newness is what he did: the Lord gave us himself, and the Lord gave us the true newness of being members of his Body, of being branches of the vine that he is. Therefore, the newness is the gift, the great gift, and from the gift, from the newness of the gift, also follows, as I have said, the new action.
St Thomas Aquinas says this very succinctly when he writes: "The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit" (Summa Theologiae, I-IIae, q.106 a. 1). The New Law is not another commandment more difficult than the others: the New Law is a gift, the New Law is the presence of the Holy Spirit imparted to us in the sacrament of Baptism, in Confirmation, and given to us every day in the Most Blessed Eucharist. The Fathers distinguished here between "sacramentum" and "exemplum"."Sacramentum" is the gift of the new being, and this gift also becomes an example for our action, but "sacramentum" precedes it and we live by the sacrament. Here we see the centrality of the sacrament which is the centrality of the gift.
Let us proceed in our reflection. The Lord says: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you". No longer servants who obey orders, but friends who know, who are united in the same will, in the same love. Hence the newness is that God has made himself known, that God has shown himself, that God is no longer the unknown God, sought but not found or only perceived from afar. God has shown himself: in the Face of Christ we see God, God has made himself "known", and has thereby made us his friends. Let us think how, in humanity's history, in all the archaic religions, it is known that there is a God. This knowledge is deeply rooted in the human heart, the knowledge that God is one, that deities are not "the" God. Yet this God remains very distant, he does not seem to make himself known, he does not make himself loved, he is not a friend, but is remote. Religions, therefore, were not very concerned with this God, concrete life was concerned with the spirits that we meet every day and with which we must reckon daily. God remained distant.
Then we see the great philosophical movement: let us think of Plato and Aristotle who began to understand that this God is the agathon, goodness itself, that he is the eros that moves the world; yet this remains a human thought, it is an idea of God that comes close to the truth but it is an idea of ours and God remains the hidden God.
A Regensburg professor recently wrote to me, a professor of physics who had read my Discourse to the University very late. He wrote to tell me that he could not agree, or not fully, with my logic. He said: "Of course, the idea is convincing that the rational structure of the world demands a creative reason that made this rationality which is not explained by itself". And he continued: "But if a demiurge can exist", this is how he put it, "a demiurge seems to me certain by what you say, I do not see that there is a God who is good, just and merciful. I can see that there is a reason that precedes the rationality of the cosmos, but I cannot see the rest". Thus God remains hidden to him. It is a reason that precedes our reasoning, our rationality, the rationality of being, but eternal love does not exist, the great mercy that gives us life does not exist.
And here, in Christ, God showed himself in his total truth, he showed that he is reason and love, that eternal reason is love and thus creates. Unfortunately, today too, many people live far from Christ, they do not know his face and thus the eternal temptation of dualism, which is also hidden in this professor's letter, is constantly renewed, in other words perhaps there is not only one good principle but also a bad principle, a principle of evil; perhaps the world is divided and there are two equally strong realities and the Good God is only part of the reality. Today, even in theology, including Catholic theology, this thesis is being disseminated: that God is not almighty. Thus an apology is sought for God who would not, therefore, be responsible for the great store of evil we encounter in the world. But what a feeble apology! A God who is not almighty! Evil is not in his hands! And how could we possibly entrust ourselves to this God? How could we be certain of his love if this love ended where the power of evil began?
However, God is no longer unknown: in the Face of the Crucified Christ we see God and we see true omnipotence, not the myth of omnipotence. For us human beings, almightiness, power, is always identified with the capacity to destroy, to do evil. Nevertheless the true concept of omnipotence that appears in Christ is precisely the opposite: in him true omnipotence is loving to the point that God can suffer: here his true omnipotence is revealed, which can even go as far as a love that suffers for us. And thus we see that he is the true God and the true God, who is love, is power: the power of love. And we can trust ourselves to his almighty love and live in this, with this almighty love.
I think we should always meditate anew on this reality, that we should thank God because he has shown himself, because we know his Face, we know him face to face; no longer like Moses who could only see the back of the Lord. This too is a beautiful idea of which St Gregory of Nyssa said: "Seeing only his back, means that we must always follow Christ". But at the same time God showed us his Countenance with Christ, his Face. The curtain of the temple was torn. It opened, the mystery of God is visible. The first commandment that excludes images of God because they might only diminish his reality is changed, renewed, taking another form. Today we can see God's Face in Christ the man, we can have an image of Christ and thus see who God is.
I think that those who have understood this, who have been touched by this mystery, that God has revealed himself, that the curtain of the temple has been torn asunder, that he has shown his Face, find a source of permanent joy. We can only say "thank you. Yes, now we know who you are, who God is and how to respond to him". And I think that this joy of knowing God who has shown himself, to the depths of his being, also embraces the joy of communicating this: those who have understood this, who live touched by this reality, must do as the first disciples did when they went to their friends and brethren saying: "We have found the one of whom the Prophets spoke. He is present now". Mission is not an external appendix to the faith but rather the dynamism of faith itself. Those who have seen, who have encountered Jesus, must go to their friends and tell them: "We have found him, he is Jesus, the One who was Crucified for us".
Then, continuing, the text says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide". With this we return to the beginning, to the image, to the Parable of the Vine: it is created to bear fruit. And what is the fruit? As we have said, the fruit is love. In the Old Testament, with the Torah as the first stage of God's revelation of himself, the fruit was understood as justice, that is, living in accordance with the Word of God, living in accordance with God's will, hence, living well.
This continues but at the same time is transcended: true justice does not consist in obedience to a few norms, rather it is love, creative love that finds in itself the riches and abundance of good.
Abundance is one of the key words of the New Testament. God himself always gives in abundance. In order to create man, he creates this abundance of an immense cosmos; to redeem man he gives himself, in the Eucharist he gives himself. And anyone who is united with Christ, who is a branch of the Vine and who abides by this law does not ask: "Can I still do this or not?", "Should I do this or not?". Rather, he lives in the enthusiasm of love that does not ask: "Is this still necessary or is it forbidden?", but simply, in the creativity of love, wants to live with Christ and for Christ and give his whole self to him, thus entering into the joy of bearing fruit. Let us also bear in mind that the Lord says: "I chose you and appointed you that you should go": this is the dynamism that dwells in Christ's love; to go, in other words not to remain alone for me, to see my perfection, to guarantee eternal beatification for me, but rather to forget myself, to go as Christ went, to go as God went from the immensity of his majesty to our poverty, to find fruit, to help us, to give us the possibility of bearing the true fruit of love. The fuller we are of this joy in having discovered God's Face, the more real will the enthusiasm of love in us be and it will bear fruit.
And finally, we come to the last words in this passage: "Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you": a brief catechesis on prayer that never ceases to surprise us. Twice in this chapter 15 the Lord says: "ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you", and he says it once more in chapter 16. And we want to say: "But no, Lord it is not true". There are so many good and deeply-felt prayers of mothers who pray for a dying child which are not heard, so many prayers that something good will happen and the Lord does not grant it. What does this promise mean? In chapter 16 the Lord offers us the key to understanding it: he tells us what he gives us, what all this is, chara, joy. If someone has found joy he has found all things and sees all things in the light of divine love. Like St Francis, who wrote the great poem on creation in a bleak situation, yet even there, close to the suffering Lord, he rediscovered the beauty of being, the goodness of God and composed this great poem.
It is also useful to remember at the same time some verses of Luke's Gospel, in which the Lord, in a parable, speaks of prayer, saying, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!". The Holy Spirit, in the Gospel according to Luke, is joy, in John's Gospel he is the same reality: joy is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is joy or, in other words from God we do not ask something small or great, from God we invoke the divine gift, God himself; this is the great gift that God gives us: God himself. In this regard we must learn to pray, to pray for the great reality, for the divine reality, so that God may give us himself, may give us his Spirit and thus we may respond to the demands of life and help others in their suffering. Of course he teaches us the "Our Father". We can pray for many things. In all our needs we can pray: "Help me!". This is very human and God is human, as we have seen; therefore it is right to pray God also for the small things of our daily lives.
However, at the same time, prayer is a journey, I would say flight of stairs: we must learn more and more what it is that we can pray for and what we cannot pray for because it is an expression of our selfishness. I cannot pray for things that are harmful for others, I cannot pray for things that help my egoism, my pride. Thus prayer, in God's eyes, becomes a process of purification of our thoughts, of our desires. As the Lord says in the Parable of the Vine: we must be pruned, purified, every day; living with Christ, in Christ, abiding in Christ, is a process of purification and it is only in this process of slow purification, of liberation from ourselves and from the desire to have only ourselves, that the true journey of life lies and the path of joy unfolds.
As I have already said, all the Lord's words have a sacramental background. The fundamental background for the Parable of the Vine is Baptism: we are implanted in Christ; and the Eucharist: we are one loaf, one body, one blood, one life with Christ. Thus this process of purification also has a sacramental background: the sacrament of Penance, of Reconciliation, in which we accept this divine pedagogy which day by day, throughout our life, purifies us and increasingly makes us true members of his Body. In this way we can learn that God responds to our prayers, that he often responds with his goodness also to small prayers, but often too he corrects them, transforms them and guides them so that we may at last and really be branches of his Son, of the true vine, members of his Body.
Let us thank God for the greatness of his love, let us pray that he may help us to grow in his love and truly to abide in his love.
Speeches 2005-13 273