Benedict XVI Homilies 24117
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, in this Vatican Basilica, the heart of the Christian world, an important and solemn ecclesial event is being renewed: the Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of 23 new Cardinals, with the conferral of the hat and the assignation of the title. It is an event that always inspires special emotion, not only in those who are admitted to the College of Cardinals with these rites but also throughout the Church, gladdened by this eloquent sign of Catholic unity. The ceremony's structure stresses the value of the task the new Cardinals are required to carry out in close cooperation with the Successor of Peter. It also invites the People of God to pray that in their service these Brothers of ours may remain ever faithful to Christ, if need be to the point of giving their lives, and that they may allow themselves to be guided by his Gospel alone. Let us therefore gather around them with faith and raise above all our prayerful thanks to the Lord.
In this joyful and intensely spiritual atmosphere, I offer my affectionate greetings to each one of you, dear Brothers. As of this day you are members of the College of Cardinals, chosen to be, in accordance with an ancient institution, the closest counsellors and collaborators of Peter in his guidance of the Church. I greet and thank Archbishop Leonardo Sandri who has addressed to me courteous and devoted words on your behalf, at the same time underlining the significance and importance of the ecclesial event we are experiencing. I also wish, as is only right, to remember the late Bishop Ignacy Jez, whom the God of all grace called to himself just before his appointment as Cardinal in order to offer him a very different crown: that of eternal glory in Christ. I then address a cordial greeting to the Cardinals present and also to those who are unable to be with us in person but are united with us in spirit. The celebration of the Consistory is always a providential opportunity to offer urbi et orbi, to the city of Rome and to the whole world, the testimony of that special unity which gathers the Cardinals around the Pope, Bishop of Rome. On such a solemn occasion, I am likewise eager to address a respectful and deferential greeting to the Government Representatives and Personalities who have assembled here from every part of the world, as well as the relatives, friends, priests, men and women Religious and faithful of the individual local Churches from which the new Cardinals come. Finally, I greet all those who have come here to gather around them and express their esteem and affection in festive joy.
With today's celebration, dear Brothers, you are inserted with a full title into the venerable Church of Rome, whose Pastor is the Successor of Peter. The College of Cardinals thus relives the ancient presbyterium of the Bishop of Rome, whose members ensure that he is not deprived of their precious collaboration in all that concerns the fulfilment of the tasks connected with his universal apostolic ministry, while they carry out pastoral and liturgical functions in the various Churches.
Times have changed and today the great family of Christ's disciples has spread on every continent to the furthest corners of the earth. Virtually all the world's languages are spoken in it and its members include people of every culture. The diversity of the members of the College of Cardinals, due both to their geographical provenance and their cultural background, enhance this providential growth and at the same time highlight the different pastoral requirements to which the Pope must respond. The Church's universality, her catholicity, is clearly reflected, therefore, in the composition of the College of Cardinals: many are Pastors of diocesan communities, others serve the Apostolic See directly, and yet others have rendered a praiseworthy service in specific pastoral sectors.
Each one of you, dear and venerable new Cardinal-Brothers, therefore represents a portion of the interconnected Mystical Body of Christ which is the Church disseminated everywhere. I am well aware of all the efforts and sacrifices that the care of souls entails today, but I am also acquainted with the generosity that sustains your daily apostolic activity. Therefore, on the occasion we are experiencing, I am eager to confirm to you my sincere appreciation for the service you have faithfully carried out for so many years of work in the various contexts of your ecclesial ministry. Raised to the dignity of Cardinal, you are now called to undertake this service with even greater responsibility, in very close communion with the Bishop of Rome. I now think with affection of the communities entrusted to your care, and in a special way of those most tried by suffering, challenges and difficulties of various kinds. Among the latter, how can we fail at this joyful moment to look with apprehension and affection at the beloved Christian communities in Iraq? These brothers and sisters of ours in the faith are experiencing in their own flesh the tragic consequences of a prolonged conflict and at this time are living in an especially fragile and delicate political situation. By calling the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church to enter the College of Cardinals, I intended to give a material expression to my spiritual closeness to and affection for those peoples. Let us reaffirm together, dear and venerable Brothers, the entire Church's solidarity with the Christians of that beloved Land and invite the faithful to invoke from the Merciful God the advent of the longed-for reconciliation and peace for all the peoples concerned.
We have just listened to the Word of God, which helps us to understand better the solemn moment we are living. In the Gospel passage, Jesus has just recalled for the third time the fate that awaited him in Jerusalem, but the disciples' social advancement got the upper hand over the fear that had momentarily assailed them. After the confession of Peter at Caesarea and the discussion on the way as to which of them was the greatest, ambition spurred the sons of Zebedee to claim the best places for themselves in the messianic kingdom at the end of time. In the race for privileges, these two knew very well what they wanted, as did the other 10 despite their "virtuous" indignation. Actually, however, they did not realize what they were asking. It was Jesus who made them understand, speaking in very different terms of the "ministry" that awaited them. He corrected their crude conception of merit which claimed that man can acquire worthiness in God's eyes.
The Evangelist Mark, dear and venerable Brothers, reminds us that every true disciple of Christ can aspire to one thing only: to sharing in his Passion without claiming any reward. Christians are called to assume the condition of a "servant", following in Jesus' footsteps, that is, spending their lives for others in a free and disinterested way. It is not the search for power and success but humble self-giving for the good of the Church that must mark our every action and our every word. True Christian greatness, in fact, does not consist in dominating but in serving. Today, Jesus repeats to every one of us that he "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mc 10,45). This is the ideal that must direct your service. Dear Brothers, on entering the College of Cardinals, the Lord asks of you and entrusts to you the service of love: love for God, love for his Church, love for the brethren with maximum, unconditional dedication, usque ad sanguinis effusionem, as is shown by the formula for the conferral of the hat and the red colour of the clothes you are wearing.
May you be apostles of God who is Love and witnesses of evangelical hope: this is what the Christian people expect of you. Today's ceremony emphasizes the great responsibility that weighs upon each one of you in this regard, venerable and dear Brothers, which is confirmed in the Apostle Peter's words that we have just heard: "Reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (1P 3,15). This responsibility is not exempt from risks, but as St Peter further said: "It is better to suffer for doing right, if that should be God's will, than for doing wrong" (1P 3,17). Christ asks you to profess his truth to men and women, to embrace and share his cause; and to do all this "with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear" (1P 3,15-16): in other words, with that inner humility which is the fruit of cooperation with God's grace.
Dear brothers and sisters, tomorrow, in this same Basilica, I shall have the joy of celebrating the Eucharist together with the new Cardinals on the Solemnity of Christ, the King of the Universe, and I will give the ring to them. It will be an especially important and suitable opportunity to reaffirm our unity in Christ and to renew our common desire to serve him with total generosity. Accompany them with your prayers so that they may respond to the gift they have received with full and constant dedication. Let us now turn with trust to Mary, Queen of Apostles. May her spiritual presence today in this unique "Upper Room" be a pledge for the new Cardinals and for all of us of the constant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church on her way through history. Amen!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, the crown of the liturgical year, is enriched by the acceptance into the College of Cardinals of 23 new members whom, according to tradition, I have invited to concelebrate the Eucharist with me today. I address to each one of them my cordial greeting, which I extend with fraternal affection to all the Cardinals present. I am also pleased to greet the delegations from various countries and the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See; the numerous Bishops and priests, the men and women Religious and all the faithful, especially those from Dioceses entrusted to the pastoral guidance of some of the new Cardinals.
The liturgical Feast of Christ the King gives our celebration an especially significant background, outlined and illuminated by the Biblical Readings. We find ourselves as it were facing an imposing fresco with three great scenes: at the centre, the Crucifixion according to the Evangelist Luke's account; on one side, the royal anointing of David by the elders of Israel; on the other, the Christological hymn with which St Paul introduces the Letter to the Colossians. The whole scene is dominated by the figure of Christ, the one Lord before whom we are all brothers and sisters. The Church's entire hierarchy, every charism and ministry, everything and everyone are at the service of his Lordship.
We must begin from the central event: the Cross. Here Christ manifests his unique Kingship. On Calvary two opposite attitudes confront each other. Some figures at the foot of the Cross as well as one of the two thieves address the Crucified One contemptuously: If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, they say, save yourself by coming down from the cross. Jesus reveals instead his own glory by remaining there on the Cross as the immolated Lamb. The other thief unexpectedly sides with him, and he implicitly confesses the royalty of the innocent, just One and implores: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingly power" (Lc 23,42). St Cyril of Alexandria comments: "You see him crucified and you call him King. You believe that he who bears scoffing and suffering will reach divine glory" (Comment on Luke, Homily 153). According to the Evangelist John, the divine glory is already present, although hidden by the disfiguration of the Cross. But also in the language of Luke, the future is anticipated in the present when Jesus promises the good thief: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Lc 23,43). St Ambrose observes: "He prayed that the Lord would remember him when he reached his Kingdom, but the Lord responded: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise. Life is being with Christ, because where Christ is, there is his Kingdom" (Exposition of the Gospel according to Luc 10,121). The accusation: "This is the King of the Jews", written on a tablet nailed above Jesus' head thus becomes the proclamation of the truth. St Ambrose further notes: "The writing is correctly placed above the Cross, because even though the Lord Jesus was on the Cross, yet his royal majesty shone from the height of the Cross" (ibid., 10, 113).
The Crucifixion scene in the four Gospels constitutes the moment of truth when the "veil of the Temple" is torn and the Holy of Holies appears. The maximum revelation of God possible in this world occurs in Jesus Crucified, because God is love and the death of Jesus on the Cross is the greatest act of love in all of history. Well then, on the Cardinal's ring that I will consign in a few moments to the new members of the Sacred College is portrayed precisely the Crucifixion. This, dear new Cardinal-Brothers, will always be an invitation for you to remember of what King you are servants, on what throne he has been raised and how he has been faithful to the end in overcoming sin and death with the power of divine mercy. Mother Church, Spouse of Christ, gives you this symbol in memory of her Spouse, who loved her and gave himself up for her (cf. Ep 5,25). Thus, wearing the Cardinal's ring, you are constantly called to give your life for the Church.
If we now cast a glance at the scene of the royal anointing of David presented in the First Reading, an important aspect on royalty strikes us, namely, its "corporative" dimension. The elders of Israel go to Hebron, they seal a covenantal pact with David, declaring to consider themselves united to him and wanting to be one only with him. If we relate Christ to this image, it seems to me that this same covenantal profession applies very well precisely to you, dear Cardinal-Brothers. You too who form the "senate" of the Church can say to Jesus: "Behold, we are your bone and flesh" (2S 5,1). We belong to you, and we want to be one only with you. You are the Shepherd of the People of God, you are the Head of the Church (cf. 2S 5,2). In this solemn Eucharistic celebration we want to renew our pact with you, our friendship, because only in this intimate and profound relationship with you, Jesus, our King and Lord, does the dignity that has been conferred upon us and the responsibility it bears have sense and value.
There now remains for us to admire the third part of our "triptych" that the Word of God places before us: the Christological hymn of the Letter to the Colossians. First of all, we make the sentiments of joy and gratitude that pour forth from it our own, for the fact that the Kingdom of Christ, the "inheritance of the saints in light", is not only something seen from a distance but a reality in which we are called to partake, into which we have been "transferred", thanks to the redemptive action of the Son of God (cf. Col 1,12-14). This graced action opens St Paul's soul to the contemplation of Christ and his ministry in its two principal dimensions: the creation of all things and their reconciliation. The first aspect of Christ's Lordship consists in the fact that "all things were created through him and for him... in him all things hold together" (Col 1,16-17). The second dimension centres on the Paschal Mystery: through the Son's death on the Cross, God has reconciled every creature to himself, has made peace between Heaven and earth; raising him from the dead he has made him the firstborn of the new creation, the "fullness" of every reality and "head of the [mystical] body", the Church (cf. Col 1,18-20). We find ourselves again before the Cross, the central event of the mystery of Christ. In the Pauline vision the Cross is placed within the entire economy of salvation, where Jesus' royalty is displayed in all its cosmic fullness.
This text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith so powerful that we cannot fail to remain in deep admiration of it. The Church is the trustee of the mystery of Christ: She is so in all humility and without a shadow of pride or arrogance, because it concerns the maximum gift that she has received without any merit and that she is called to offer gratuitously to humanity of every age, as the horizon of meaning and salvation. It is not a philosophy, it is not a gnosis, even though it also comprises wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ, it is Christ himself, the Logos incarnate, dead and risen, made King of the universe. How can one fail to feel a rush of enthusiasm full of gratitude for having been permitted to contemplate the splendour of this revelation? How can one not feel at the same time the joy and the responsibility to serve this King, to witness his Lordship with one's life and word? In a particular way this is our duty, venerable Cardinal-Brothers: to proclaim the truth of Christ, hope of every person and the entire human family. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, my Venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, have been authentic heralds of Christ's royalty in today's world. And it is for me a motive of consolation to be able to always count on you, both collegially and individually, to bring to fulfilment with me the Petrine Ministry's fundamental duty.
In conclusion, I would like to mention an aspect that is strongly united to this mission and that I entrust to your prayer: peace among all Christ's disciples, as a sign of the peace that Jesus came to establish in the world. We have heard the great news of the Christological hymn: it pleased God to "reconcile" the universe through the Cross of Christ (cf. Col 1,20)! Well then, the Church is that portion of humanity in whom Christ's royalty is already manifest, who has peace as its privileged manifestation. It is the new Jerusalem, still imperfect because it is yet a pilgrim in history, but able to anticipate in some way the heavenly Jerusalem. Lastly, we can here refer to the Responsorial Psalm 121, belonging to the so-called "Song of Ascents". It is a hymn of the pilgrims' joy who, going up toward the holy city and having reached its doors, address the peace-greeting to them: shalom! According to popular etymology Jerusalem is interpreted as a "city of peace", whose peace the Messiah, Son of David, would have established in the fullness of time. We recognize in Jerusalem the figure of the Church, sacrament of Christ and of his Kingdom.
Dear Cardinal-Brothers, this Psalm expresses well the ardent love song for the Church that you certainly carry in your hearts. You have dedicated your life to the Church's service, and now you are called to assume in her a duty of utmost responsibility. May the words of the Psalm find full acceptance in you: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem"! (v. 6). Prayer for peace and unity constitutes your first and principal mission, so that the Church may be "solid and compact" (v. 3), a sign and instrument of unity for the whole human race (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 1). I place, or rather, let us all place your mission under the vigilant protection of the Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy. To her, united to her Son on Calvary and assumed as Queen at his right hand in glory, we entrust the new Cardinals, the College of Cardinals and the entire Catholic community, committed to sowing in the furrows of history Christ's Kingdom, the Lord of Life and Prince of Peace.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Advent is, par excellence, the season of hope. Every year this basic spiritual attitude is reawakened in the hearts of Christians, who, while they prepare to celebrate the great Feast of Christ the Saviour's Birth, revive the expectation of his glorious second coming at the end of time. The first part of Advent insists precisely on the parousia, the final coming of the Lord. The antiphons of these First Vespers are all oriented, with different nuances, to this perspective. The short Reading from the First Letter to the Thessalonians (1Th 5,23-34) refers explicitly to the final coming of Christ using precisely the Greek term parousia (cf. 1Th 5,23). The Apostle urges Christians to keep themselves sound and blameless, but above all encourages them to trust in God, who "is faithful" (1Th 5,24) and will not fail to bring about this sanctification in all who respond to his grace.
This entire Vespers liturgy is an invitation to hope, pointing on the horizon of history to the light of the Saviour who comes: "on that day a great light will appear" (Antiphon 2); "the Lord will come with great might" (Antiphon 3); "his splendour fills the whole world" (Magnificat Antiphon). This light, which shines from the future of God, was already manifest in the fullness of time; therefore, our hope does not lack a foundation but is supported by an event situated in history, which at the same time exceeds history: the event constituted by Jesus of Nazareth. The Evangelist John applies to Jesus the title of "light": it is a title that belongs to God. Indeed, in the Creed we profess that Jesus Christ is "God from God, Light from Light".
I wanted to dedicate my second Encyclical, which was published yesterday, to the theme of hope. I am pleased to offer it in spirit to the entire Church on this First Sunday of Advent, so that, during preparation for Holy Christmas, the communities and individual faithful can read and meditate upon it to rediscover the beauty and depth of Christian hope. This, in fact, is inseparably bound to knowledge of the Face of God, the Face which Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son, revealed to us with his Incarnation, his earthly life and his preaching, and especially with his death and Resurrection. True and steadfast hope is founded on faith in God Love, the Merciful Father who "so loved the world that he gave his Only Son" (Jn 3,16), so that men and women and with them all creatures might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10,10). Advent, therefore, is a favourable time for the rediscovery of a hope that is not vague and deceptive but certain and reliable, because it is "anchored" in Christ, God made man, the rock of our salvation.
From the outset, as becomes clear in the New Testament and especially in the Letters of the Apostles, a new hope distinguishes Christians from those who live in pagan religiosity. In writing to the Ephesians, St Paul reminds them that before embracing faith in Christ, they had "no hope and [were] without God in the world" (Ep 2,12). This appears an especially apt description for the paganism of our day: in particular, we might compare it with the contemporary nihilism that corrodes the hope in man's heart, inducing him to think that within and around him nothingness prevails: nothing before birth and nothing after death. In fact, if God is lacking, hope is lacking. Everything loses its "substance". It is as if the dimension of depth were missing and everything were flattened out and deprived of its symbolic relief, its "projection" in comparison with mere materiality. At stake is the relationship between existence here and now and what we call the "hereafter": this is not a place in which we end up after death; on the contrary, it is the reality of God, the fullness of life towards which every human being is, as it were, leaning. God responded to this human expectation in Christ with the gift of hope.
Man is the one creature free to say "yes" or "no" to eternity, that is, to God. The human being is able to extinguish hope within him, eliminating God from his life. How can this be? How can it happen that the creature "made for God", intimately oriented to him, the creature closest to the Eternal One, can deprive himself of this richness? God knows the human heart. He knows that those who reject him have not recognized his true Face, and so he never ceases to knock at our door like a humble pilgrim in search of hospitality. This is why the Lord grants humanity new time: so that everyone may manage to know him! This is also the meaning of a new liturgical year which is beginning: it is a gift of God, who once again wishes to reveal himself to us in the mystery of Christ, through the Word and the Sacraments. He wants to speak to humanity and to save the people of today through the Church. And he does so by going out to meet them in order "to seek and to save the lost" (Lc 19,10). In this perspective, the celebration of Advent is the answer of the Church-Bride to the ever new initiative of God the Bridegroom, "who is and who was and who is to come" (Ap 1,8). God offers to humanity, which no longer has time for him, further time, a new space in which to withdraw into itself in order to set out anew on a journey to rediscover the meaning of hope.
Here, then, is the surprising discovery: my, our hope is preceded by the expectation which God cultivates in our regard! Yes, God loves us and for this very reason expects that we return to him, that we open our hearts to his love, that we place our hands in his and remember that we are his children. This attitude of God always precedes our hope, exactly as his love always reaches us first (cf. 1Jn 4,10). In this sense Christian hope is called "theological": God is its source, support and end. What a great consolation there is in this mystery! My Creator has instilled in my spirit a reflection of his desire of life for all. Every person is called to hope, responding to the expectations that God has of him. Moreover, experience shows us that it is exactly like this. What keeps the world going other than God's trust in humankind? It is a trust reflected in the hearts of the lowly, the humble, when they strive daily to do their best through difficulties and labours, to do that little bit of good which is nonetheless great in God's eyes: in the family, in the work place, at school, in the various social contexts. Hope is indelibly engraved in the human heart because God our Father is life, and for eternal life and beatitude we are made.
Every child born is a sign of trust in God and man and a confirmation, at least implicit, of the hope in a future open to God's eternity that is nourished by men and women. God has responded to this human hope, concealing himself in time as a tiny human being. St Augustine wrote: "We might have thought that your Word was far distant from union with man, if this Word had not become flesh and dwelt among us" (Conf. X, 43, 69, cited in Spe Salvi, n. 29). Thus, let us allow ourselves to be guided by the One who in her heart and in her womb bore the Incarnate Word. O Mary, Virgin of expectation and Mother of hope, revive the spirit of Advent in your entire Church, so that all humanity may start out anew on the journey towards Bethlehem, from which it came, and that the Sun that dawns upon us from on high will come once again to visit us (cf. Lc 1,78), Christ our God. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Let us go to the house of the Lord!". These words that we repeated in the response of the Responsorial Psalm clearly express the feelings that fill our hearts today, the First Sunday of Advent. The reason why we can go ahead joyfully, as the Apostle Paul has exhorted us, lies in the fact that our salvation is now at hand. The Lord is coming! With this knowledge we set out on the journey of Advent, preparing ourselves to celebrate with faith the extraordinary event of the Lord's birth. In the coming weeks, day after day the liturgy will offer for our reflection Old Testament texts that recall the lively, constant desire that kept alive in the Jewish people the expectation of the Messiah's coming. Watchful in prayer, let us too seek to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord, who will come to show us his mercy and give us his salvation.
Precisely during this time of waiting, Advent is a season of hope, and it is to Christian hope that I wished to dedicate my second Encyclical, officially presented the day before yesterday; it begins with the words St Paul addressed to the Christians of Rome: "Spe salvi facti sumus - in hope we were saved" (Rm 8,24). In the Encyclical, I write among other things that "we need the greater and lesser hopes that keep us going day by day. But these are not enough without the great hope, which must surpass everything else. This great hope can only be God, who encompasses the whole of reality and who can bestow upon us what we, by ourselves, cannot attain" (). May the certainty that God alone can be our steadfast hope enliven us all, gathered here this morning in this house where illness is combated with the support of solidarity. And I would like to make the most of my Visit to your hospital, managed by the Association of the Italian Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to present the Encyclical in spirit to the Christian community of Rome, and especially to those who, like you, are in direct contact with suffering and illness, for precisely through suffering like the sick do we have need of hope, the certainty that God exists and does not abandon us, that he lovingly takes us by the hand and accompanies us. It is a text I invite you to examine deeply, to find in it the reasons for this "trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous" ().
Dear brothers and sisters, "May the God of hope who fills us with all joy and peace in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit be with you all!". With this wish which the priest addresses to the assembly at the beginning of Holy Mass, I offer you my cordial greeting. I greet first of all the Cardinal Vicar, Camillo Ruini, and Cardinal Pio Laghi, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Prelates and priests present and the chaplains and Sisters who serve here. I greet with respect His Most Eminent Highness Fra Andrew Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, whom I thank for the sentiments he has expressed on behalf of the management, the administrative, health-care and nursing staffs and all those who in their various capacities work in this hospital. I extend my greeting to the distinguished Authorities, with a special thought for the Health-care Director as well as the Patients' Representative, whom I thank for the words they addressed to me at the beginning of the Celebration.
But my most affectionate greeting is for you, dear sick people, and for your relatives who share your anxieties and hopes. The Pope is spiritually close to you and assures you of his daily prayers; he invites you to find support and comfort in Jesus and never to lose trust. The Advent liturgy will repeat to us throughout the coming weeks not to tire of calling on him; it will exhort us to go forth to meet him, knowing that he himself comes constantly to visit us. In trial and in sickness, God mysteriously visits us, and if we abandon ourselves to his will, we can experience the power of his love. Precisely because they are inhabited by people troubled by suffering, hospitals and clinics can become privileged places to witness to Christian love, which nourishes hope and inspires resolutions of fraternal solidarity. In the Collect we prayed: "O God, inspire in us the determination to meet with good works your Christ who comes". Yes! Let us open our hearts to every person, especially if he or she is in difficulty, because by doing good to those in need we prepare to welcome Jesus, who, in them, comes to visit us.
Dear brothers and sisters, this is what you seek to do in this hospital, where everyone's concern focuses on the professional and loving acceptance of the patients, the preservation of their dignity and the commitment to improve the quality of their life. Down the centuries the Church has made herself particularly "close" to the suffering. Your praiseworthy Sovereign Military Order of Malta has chosen to share in this spirit: from the very outset it was dedicated to the assistance of pilgrims in the Holy Land with a Hospice-Infirmary. While it pursued its aim of the defence of Christianity, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta spared no effort in treating the sick, especially the poor and the outcast. This hospital is also a testimony of this fraternal love. Having come into existence in the 1970s, it has today become a stronghold with a high standard of technology and a home of solidarity, where side by side with the health-care staff numerous volunteers work with generous dedication.
Dear Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, dear doctors, nurses and all who work here, you are all called to carry out an important service to the sick and to society, a service that demands self-denial and a spirit of sacrifice. In every sick person, whoever he or she may be, may you be able to recognize and serve Christ himself; make them perceive with your acts and words the signs of his merciful love. To carry out this "mission" well, endeavour, as St Paul instructs us in the Second Reading, to "put on the armour of light" (Rm 13,12), which consists in the Word of God, the gifts of the Spirit, the grace of the Sacraments, the theological and cardinal virtues; fight evil and abandon sin that darkens our life. At the beginning of a new liturgical year, let us renew our good resolutions of evangelical life. "It is full time now for you to wake from sleep" (Rm 13,11), the Apostle urges; it is time to convert, to throw off the lethargy of sin, to prepare ourselves confidently to welcome "the Lord who comes". It is for this reason that Advent is a season of prayer and watchful waiting.
The Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed exhorts us to be "watchful", which is among other things the key word of the whole of this liturgical period: "Watch, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (Mt 24,42). Jesus, who came among us at Christmas and will return in glory at the end of time, does not tire of visiting us continuously in everyday events. He asks us to be alert to perceive his presence, his advent, and recommends that we watch and wait for him since his coming is not programmed or foretold but will be sudden and unexpected. Only those who are alert are not taken by surprise. He warns: may it not happen to you as in Noah's day, when men ate and drank heedlessly and were swept away unprepared by the flood (cf. Mt 24,37-38). What does the Lord want to make us understand with this warning, other than we must not let ourselves be absorbed by material realities and concerns to the point of being ensnared by them? We must live in the eyes of the Lord with the conviction that he can make himself present. If we live in this way, the world will become better.
"Watch, therefore". Let us listen to Jesus' Gospel invitation and prepare ourselves to relive with faith the mystery of the Redeemer's birth, which filled all the world with joy; let us prepare ourselves to welcome the Lord in his constant coming to us in the events of life, in joy and in pain, in health and in sickness; let us prepare ourselves to meet him at his definitive coming. His nearness is always a source of peace, and if suffering, a legacy of human nature, sometimes becomes unbearable, with the Saviour's advent "suffering - without ceasing to be suffering - becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise" (Spe Salvi, ). Comforted by these words, let us continue the Eucharistic Celebration, invoking upon the sick, their relatives and all who work in this hospital and in the entire Order of the Knights of Malta the motherly protection of Mary, the Virgin of waiting and hope, as also of the joy which already exists in this world, because when we feel the closeness of the living Christ, there the remedy to suffering and his joy is already present. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 24117