Benedict XVI Homilies 25018
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Seminarians and Parents,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is always a great joy for the Bishop to be at his Seminary and this evening I thank the Lord who has renewed this joy for me on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Trust, your heavenly Patroness. I cordially greet you all: the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops, the Rector and the other Superiors and you yourselves, dear seminarians, with special affection. I am also pleased to greet the parents and friends of the community of the Roman Seminary who are present. We are gathered together for first solemn Vespers of this Marian Feast which is so dear to you. We have listened to some verses from St Paul's Letter to the Galatians in which he uses the expression "fullness of time" (cf. Ga 4,4). God alone can "fill the time" and make us experience the full meaning of our existence. God filled time with himself by sending his Only-Begotten Son, and in him he has made us his adoptive sons: sons in the Son. In Jesus and with Jesus, "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14,6), we are now able to find exhaustive answers to the heart's deepest expectations. Once fear has been dispelled, trust in God, whom we even dare to call "Abba! Father!" (cf. Ga 4,6), grows within us.
Dear seminarians, it is precisely because the gift of being adoptive sons of God had illuminated your lives that you were stirred by the desire to make others share in it too. This is why you are here, to develop your filial vocation and prepare yourselves for your future mission as apostles of Christ. It concerns a unified growth, that, while permitting you to savour the joy of life with God the Father, it makes you feel so much more the urgent need to become messengers of the Gospel of his Son Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit who makes you attentive to this profound reality and makes you love it. All this cannot fail to kindle immense trust in you, for the gift you have received is amazing, it fills you with wonder and profound joy. You can therefore understand the role that Mary also has in your lives, invoked in your Seminary by the beautiful title: "Our Lady of Trust". Like the "Son, born of woman" (cf. Ga 4,4), of Mary, Mother of God, so your being sons of God means that you have her as Mother, as a true Mother.
Dear parents, you are probably the most surprised of all at what is happening in your sons. You probably imagined a different career for them than the mission for which they are now preparing.
Who knows how often you find yourselves thinking about them: you think back to when they were children, then boys; to the times when they showed the first signs of their vocation or, in some cases on the contrary, to the years in which your son's life seemed remote from the Church. What happened? What meetings influenced their decisions? What inner enlightenment guided their footsteps? How could they then give up even promising prospects of life in order to choose to enter the Seminary? Let us look to Mary! The Gospel gives us to understand that she also asked herself many questions about her Son Jesus and pondered on him at length (cf. Lc 2,19 Lc 2,51).
It is inevitable that in a certain manner, the vocations of children become the vocations of their parents too. In seeking to understand your children and following them on their way, you too, dear fathers and dear mothers, very often find yourselves involved in a journey in which your faith is strengthened and renewed. You find yourselves sharing in the marvellous adventure of your sons.
Indeed, even though it may seem that the priest's life does not attract most people's interest, it is in fact the most interesting and necessary adventure for the world, the adventure of showing, of making present, the fullness of life to which we all aspire. It is a very demanding adventure; and it could not be otherwise since the priest is called to imitate Jesus, who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20,28).
Dear seminarians, these years of formation constitute an important time in which to prepare yourselves for the exalting mission to which the Lord calls you. Allow me to underline two aspects that mark your current experience. First of all, your seminary years involve a certain detachment from ordinary life, a certain "wilderness", so that the Lord can speak to your heart (cf. Os 2,14). Indeed, his voice is not loud but rather subdued, it is "a still small voice" (1R 19,12). Thus, if the Lord's voice is to be heard, an atmosphere of silence is essential. For this reason the Seminary offers space and times for daily prayer; it takes great care of the liturgy, meditation on the Word of God and Eucharistic adoration. At the same time, it demands that you devote long hours to study: in praying and studying you can build within yourselves the man of God whom you must be and whom people expect a priest to be.
Then there is a second aspect of your life: during your seminary years, you live together; your formation for the priesthood also involves this community aspect which is of great importance. In following Jesus, the Apostles were formed together. Your communion is not limited to the present time but also concerns the future: the pastoral action that awaits you must see you joining forces, as though in one body, in one ordo, that of priests who, together with the Bishop, care for the Christian community. May you love this "family life" which is an anticipation for you of that "sacramental brotherhood" (Presbyterorum Ordinis PO 8) which must characterize every diocesan priest.
All this reminds you that God calls you to be holy, that holiness is the secret of the true success of your priestly ministry. From this moment holiness must be the goal of your every choice and decision. Entrust this desire and this daily commitment to Mary, Mother of Trust! This most pacifying title corresponds to the invitation, repeated in the Gospel and addressed to the Virgin by the Angel and then so many other times by Jesus to his disciples: "Do not be afraid" (cf. Lc 1,30). "Do not be afraid, for I am with you", says the Lord. In the icon of Our Lady of Trust, in which the Child points to the Mother, it seems that Jesus is adding, "Look at your Mother and do not fear". Dear seminarians, follow the Seminary curriculum with your minds open to truth, transparency and dialogue with those who guide you. This will enable you to respond in a very simple and humble way to the One who calls you, freeing yourselves from the risk of creating a strictly personal project. Dear parents and friends, accompany the seminarians with prayer and with your constant material and spiritual support. I also assure you all of my remembrance in prayer, as I joyfully impart the Apostolic Blessing to you.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If Advent is the season par excellence that invites us to hope in the God-Who-Comes, Lent renews in us the hope in the One who made us pass from death to life. Both are seasons of purification - this is also indicated by the liturgical colour that they have in common - but in a special way Lent, fully oriented to the mystery of Redemption, is defined the "path of true conversion" (cf. Collect). At the beginning of our penitential journey, I would like to pause briefly to reflect on prayer and suffering as qualifying aspects of the liturgical Season of Lent, whereas I dedicated the Message for Lent, published last week, to the practice of almsgiving. In the Encyclical Spe Salvi, I identified prayer and suffering, together with action and judgement, as ""settings' for learning and practising hope". We can thus affirm that precisely because the Lenten Season is an invitation to prayer, penance and fasting, it affords a providential opportunity to enliven and strengthen our hope.
Prayer nourishes hope because nothing expresses the reality of God in our life better than praying with faith. Even in the loneliness of the most severe trial, nothing and no one can prevent me from addressing the Father "in the secret" of my heart, where he alone "sees", as Jesus says in the Gospel (cf. Mt 6,4 Mt 6,6 Mt 6,18). Two moments of Jesus' earthly existence come to mind. One is at the beginning and the other almost at the end of his public ministry: the 40 days in the desert, on which the Season of Lent is based, and the agony in Gethsemane - are both essentially moments of prayer. Prayer alone with the Father face to face in the desert; prayer filled with "mortal anguish" in the Garden of Olives. Yet in both these circumstances it is by praying that Christ unmasks the wiles of the tempter and defeats him. Thus, prayer proves to be the first and principal "weapon" with which to win the victory "in our struggle against the spirit of evil" (cf. Collect).
Christ's prayer reaches its culmination on the Cross. It is expressed in those last words which the Evangelists have recorded. Where he seems to utter a cry of despair: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mt 27,46 Mc 15,34 cf. Ps 22,1 ), Christ was actually making his own the invocation of someone beset by enemies with no escape, who has no one other than God to turn to and, over and above any human possibilities, experiences his grace and salvation. With these words of the Psalm, first of a man who is suffering, then of the People of God in their suffering, caused by God's apparent absence, Jesus made his own this cry of humanity that suffers from God's apparent absence, and carried this cry to the Father's heart. So, by praying in this ultimate solitude together with the whole of humanity, he opens the Heart of God to us. There is no contradiction between these words in Psalm 22 and the words full of filial trust: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lc 23,46 cf. Ps 31,5 ). These words, also taken from Psalm 31, are the dramatic imploration of a person who, abandoned by all, is sure he can entrust himself to God. The prayer of supplication full of hope is consequently the leitmotif of Lent and enables us to experience God as the only anchor of salvation. Indeed when it is collective, the prayer of the People of God is a voice of one heart and soul, it is a "heart to heart" dialogue, like Queen Esther's moving plea when her people were about to be exterminated: "O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you" (Est 14,3)... for a great danger overshadows me (cf. Est 14,7). In the face of a "great danger" greater hope is needed: only the hope that can count on God.
Prayer is a crucible in which our expectations and aspirations are exposed to the light of God's Word, immersed in dialogue with the One who is the Truth, and from which they emerge free from hidden lies and compromises with various forms of selfishness (cf. Spe Salvi, ). Without the dimension of prayer, the human "I" ends by withdrawing into himself, and the conscience, which should be an echo of God's voice, risks being reduced to a mirror of the self, so that the inner conversation becomes a monologue, giving rise to self-justifications by the thousands. Therefore, prayer is a guarantee of openness to others: whoever frees himself for God and his needs simultaneously opens himself to the other, to the brother or sister who knocks at the door of his heart and asks to be heard, asks for attention, forgiveness, at times correction, but always in fraternal charity. True prayer is never self-centred, it is always centred on the other. As such, it opens the person praying to the "ecstasy" of charity, to the capacity to go out of oneself to draw close to the other in humble, neighbourly service. True prayer is the driving force of the world since it keeps it open to God. For this reason without prayer there is no hope but only illusion. In fact, it is not God's presence that alienates man but his absence: without the true God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, illusory hopes become an invitation to escape from reality. Speaking with God, dwelling in his presence, letting oneself be illuminated and purified by his Word introduces us, instead, into the heart of reality, into the very motor of becoming cosmic; it introduces us, so to speak, to the beating heart of the universe.
In a harmonious connection with prayer, fasting and almsgiving can also be considered occasions for learning and practising Christian hope. The Fathers and ancient writers liked to emphasize that these three dimensions of Gospel life are inseparable, reciprocally enrich each other and bear more fruit the more they collaborate with each other. Lent as a whole, thanks to the joint action of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, forms Christians to be men and women of hope after the example of the Saints.
I would now like to pause briefly on the aspect of suffering since, as I wrote in the Encyclical Spe Salvi: "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society" (). Easter, to which Lent is oriented, is the mystery which gives meaning to human suffering, based on the superabundant com-passion of God, brought about in Jesus Christ. The Lenten journey therefore, since it is wholly steeped in Easter light, makes us relive what happened in Christ's divine and human Heart while he was going up to Jerusalem for the last time to offer himself in expiation (cf. Is 53,10). Suffering and death fell like darkness as he gradually came nearer to the Cross, but the flame of love shone brighter. Indeed, Christ's suffering was penetrated by the light of love (cf. Spe Salvi, ).
It was the Father's love that permitted the Son to confidently face his last "baptism", which he himself defines as the apex of his mission (cf. Lc 12,50). Jesus received that baptism of sorrow and love for us, for all of humanity. He has suffered for truth and justice, bringing the Gospel of suffering to human history, which is the other aspect of the Gospel of love. God cannot suffer, but he can and wants to be com-passionate. Through Christ's passion he can bring his con-solatio to every human suffering, "the consolation of God's compassionate love - and so the star of hope rises" (Spe Salvi, ).
As for prayer, so for suffering: the history of the Church is very rich in witnesses who spent themselves for others without reserve, at the cost of harsh suffering. The greater the hope that enlivens us, the greater is the ability within us to suffer for the love of truth and good, joyfully offering up the minor and major daily hardships and inserting them into Christ's great com-passion (cf. ibid., ). May Mary, who, together with that of her Son, had her immaculate Heart pierced by the sword of sorrow, help us on this journey of evangelical perfection. In these very days, while commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes we are prompted to meditate on the mystery of Mary's sharing in humanity's suffering; at the same time, we are encouraged to draw consolation from the Church's "treasury of compassion" (ibid.) to which she contributed more than any other creature. Therefore, let us begin Lent in spiritual union with Mary who "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" following her Son (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 58) and always goes before the disciples on the journey towards the light of Easter. Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
After the example of my venerable Predecessors, the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who visited your parish respectively on 20 March 1966 and 14 January 1979, I too have come among you today to meet your community and preside at the Eucharistic celebration in your beautiful church dedicated to St Mary "Liberatrice". I have come for a very special event, the centenary of the consecration of the present-day church and the transfer of the title of the parish of "Our Lady of Providence", which already existed in this neighbourhood of Testaccio, to "Santa Maria Liberatrice". It was St Pius X who entrusted the parish to the spiritual sons of Don Bosco, and under the indefatigable guidance of Bl. Fr Michele Rua, St John Bosco's first disciple, they built the church in which we are now gathered. The Salesians were really already carrying out their social and apostolic activity here in Testaccio, a district that has preserved its own specific territorial and cultural character. Although we are in the heart of the Roman metropolis, very familiar relations among people have persisted and while the situation has somewhat changed in the past 20 years, the people are still strongly rooted in their own territory, in the identity of the neighbourhood and in their attachment to religious traditions. I know, for example, that your patronal feast of St Mary "Liberatrice" every year gathers families and citizens who for various reasons have moved elsewhere.
Dear friends, I have willingly come to share your joy in the jubilee you are celebrating and I have desired to enrich it with the possibility of gaining a Plenary Indulgence throughout the centenary year. I greet you all with affection. First of all, I greet the Cardinal Vicar, Auxiliary Bishop Ernesto Mandara of the Central Sector and Fr Manfredo Leone, your parish priest. I warmly thank him and his Salesian confreres for the pastoral service they carry out together in your parish, and I am also grateful to him for his kind words to me on behalf of you all. I also greet the guests of the Salesian residence for priests whose headquarters are located on the parish premises, and the various Religious Communities present in the territory: the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians; the Daughters of Divine Providence and the Good Shepherd Sisters. I greet the men and women Cooperators and Salesian alumni, the parish associations, the various groups committed to the animation of catechesis, the liturgy, charity and the reading and deepening of the Word of God, the Confraternity of Santa Maria Liberatrice, the youth groups and those who encourage meetings and formation for engaged couples and established families. I address an affectionate greeting to the children of the catechism classes and to all who attend the prayer and recreation centre run by the parish and the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians. I would then like to extend my thoughts to all the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, especially the elderly, the sick and people who are alone and in difficulty. I am remembering each and all at this Holy Mass.
Dear brothers and sisters, let me now ask myself, together with you, what is the Lord telling us on this most important anniversary for your parish? In today's biblical texts for the Third Sunday of Lent, useful ideas for meditation can be found that are particularly appropriate for this important occasion. Through the symbol of water, which we find in the First Reading and in the Gospel passage on the Samaritan woman, the Word of God transmits to us an ever lively and timely message: God thirsts for our faith and wants us to find the source of our authentic happiness in him. Every believer is in danger of practising a false religiosity, of not seeking in God the answer to the most intimate expectations of the heart but on the contrary, treating God as though he were at the service of our desires and projects.
In the First Reading we see the Jewish People suffer in the desert from lack of water and, in the grip of discouragement, complain and react violently, as on other occasions. They even reached the point of rebelling against Moses and almost of rebelling against God. The sacred author says: "They put the Lord to the proof by saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?'" (Ex 17,7). The people demanded from God that he meet their expectations and needs, rather than abandoning themselves trustfully into his hands, and in their trial lost their trust in him. How often does this also happen in our lives? In how many circumstances, rather than conforming docilely to the divine will, do we want God to implement our own plans and grant our every desire? On how many occasions does our faith prove frail, our trust weak, our religious sense contaminated by magical and merely earthly elements? In this Lenten Season, as the Church invites us to make a journey of true conversion, let us accept with humble docility the recommendation of the Responsorial Psalm: "Oh, that today you would hear his voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works'" (Ps 95,7-9 : 7-9).
The symbolism of water returns with great eloquence in the famous Gospel passage that recounts Jesus' meeting with the Samaritan woman in Sychar, by Jacob's well. We immediately perceive a link between the well, built by the great patriarch of Israel to guarantee his family water, and salvation history where God gives humanity water welling up to eternal life. If there is a physical thirst for water that is indispensable for life on this earth, there is also a spiritual thirst in man that God alone can satisfy. This is clearly visible in the dialogue between Jesus and the woman who came to Jacob's well to draw water. Everything begins with Jesus' request: "Give me a drink" (cf. Jn 4,5-7). At first sight it seems a simple request for a little water in the hot midday sun. In fact, with this question, addressed moreover to a Samaritan woman - there was bad blood between the Jews and the Samaritans - Jesus triggers in the woman to whom he is talking an inner process that kindles within her the desire for something more profound. St Augustine comments: "Although Jesus asked for a drink, his real thirst was for this woman's faith (In Io ev. Tract. XV, 11: PL 35, 1514). In fact, at a certain point, it was the woman herself who asked Jesus for the water (cf. Jn 4,15), thereby demonstrating that in every person there is an inherent need for God and for salvation that only God can satisfy. It is a thirst for the infinite which only the water that Jesus offers, the living water of the Spirit, can quench. In a little while, in the Preface we shall hear these words: Jesus "asked the woman of Samaria for water to drink, and had already prepared for her the gift of faith. In his thirst to receive her faith, he awakened in her heart the fire of your love".
Dear brothers and sisters, in this dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman we see outlined the spiritual itinerary that each one of us, that every Christian community, is ceaselessly called to rediscover and follow. Proclaimed in this Lenten Season, this Gospel passage acquires a particularly important value for catechumens who are already approaching Baptism. This Third Sunday of Lent is in fact linked to the so-called "first scrutiny", which is a sacramental rite of purification and grace. The Samaritan woman thus becomes the figure of the catechumen enlightened and converted to the faith, who longs for the living water and is purified by the Lord's action and words. Yet we who have already been baptized but are also still on the way to becoming true Christians, find in this Gospel episode an incentive to rediscover the importance and meaning of our Christian life, the true desire of God who lives in us. As he did with the Samaritan woman, Jesus wishes to bring us to powerfully profess our faith in him so that we may then proclaim and witness to our brethren the joy of the encounter with him and the marvels that his love works in our existence. Faith is born from the encounter with Jesus, recognized and accepted as the definitive Revealer and Saviour in whom God's Face is revealed. Once that the Lord has won the Samaritan woman's heart, her life is transformed and she runs without delay to take the Good News to her people (cf. Jn 4,29).
Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of Santa Maria Liberatrice! This morning, Christ's invitation to let ourselves be involved in his demanding Gospel proposal rings out loud and clear for every member of your parish community. St Augustine said that God thirsts after our thirst for him, that is, he desires to be desired. The further the human being distances himself from God, the more closely God pursues him with his merciful love. The liturgy encourages us today, also taking into account the Lenten Season in which we are living, to review our relationship with Jesus, to tirelessly seek his Face. And this is indispensable so that you, dear friends, can continue in the new cultural and social context the work of evangelization and human and Christian education carried out for more than a century by this parish, which also includes in the ranks of her parish priests Venerable Luigi Maria Olivares. Always open your hearts wider to the pastoral work in the missionary context, which impels every Christian to meet people - particularly youth and families - where they live, work and spend their leisure time, in order to proclaim to them God's merciful love. I know that you are dedicating similar attention and concern to the care of vocations to the Priesthood and the Consecrated Life, proposing to children, young people and families the topic of vocations, which is of the utmost importance for the future of the Church. I encourage you then to persevere in the task of education, which constitutes the typical charism of every Salesian parish. May the after school prayer and recreation centre, the school and the moments for catechesis and prayer be enlivened by authentic educators, witnesses whose hearts are especially close to children, adolescents and youth. May St Mary "Liberatrice", whom you love and venerate so deeply and who raised Jesus as a child and adolescent together with her husband Joseph, protect families and Religious in their task as formators and give them the joy, as Don Bosco desired, of seeing "good Christians and honest citizens" grow up in this neighbourhood. Amen!10308
I survived because "I knew I was expected'
On Sunday, 9 March, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father visited San Lorenzo International Youth Centre and celebrated Mass in the tiny Church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, close to the Vatican. The following is a translation of the Pope's Homily, given in Italian and part extemporaneously.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great joy to commemorate together with you, in this beautiful Romanesque Church, the 25th anniversary of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre which Pope John Paul II wanted to be located in the vicinity of St Peter's Basilica and which he inaugurated on 13 March 1983.
The Holy Mass celebrated here every Friday evening is an important spiritual event for many young people who have come from various parts of the world to study at the Roman Universities. It is also an important spiritual encounter and a significant opportunity to make contact with the Cardinals and Bishops of the Roman Curia as well as with Bishops from the five Continents as they pass through Rome on their ad limina visits.
As you have mentioned, I too came here often to celebrate the Eucharist when I was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and it was always a beautiful experience to meet boys and girls from all corners of the earth who find this Centre an important and hospitable reference point.
And it is precisely to you, dear young people, that I first address my cordial greeting, while I thank you for your warm welcome. I also greet all of you who have desired to speak at this solemn and at the same time family celebration.
I greet in a special way the Cardinals and Prelates present. Among them, may I mention in particular Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, the titular of this Church of San Lorenzo in Piscibus, and Cardinal Stanis³aw Ry³ko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, whom I thank for his kind words of welcome addressed to me at the beginning of Holy Mass, as well as to the two spokespersons for the young people.
I greet Bishop Josef Clemens, Secretary of the Pontifical Council, the youth team, priests and seminarians who animate this Centre under the guidance of the Youth Section of this Dicastery, and all who in various capacities make their contribution.
I am referring to the Associations, Movements and Communities represented here, with a special mention to the Emmanuel Community which has coordinated the various initiatives for the past 20 years with great fidelity. It has also created a Mission School in Rome from which come several of the young people who are present here.
I also greet the chaplains and volunteers who for the past 25 years have worked at the service of youth. My affectionate greeting to each and every one.
Life, death: basic questions
We now come to today's Gospel, which is dedicated to an important, fundamental theme: what is life? What is death? How should one live? How should one die?
To enable us to understand better this mystery of life and Jesus' answer, St John uses two different terms for this unique reality to suggest the different dimensions in this reality of "life"; the word bíos and the word zoé.
Bíos, as can easily be understood, means this great biocosmos, this biosphere that extends from individual, primitive cells to the most organized, most developed organisms; this great tree of life where all the possibilities of this reality, bios, are developed. Man belongs to this tree of life; he is part of this living cosmos that begins with a miracle: in inert matter a vital centre develops, the reality that we call an organism.
But although man is part of this great biocosmos, he transcends it, for he is also part of that reality which St John calls zoé. It is a new level of life in which the being is open to knowledge. Of course, man is always man with all his dignity, even if he is in a comatose state, even if he is at the embryonic stage, but if he lives only biologically, the full potential of his being is not fulfilled. Man is called to open himself to new dimensions. He is a being who knows.
Certainly, animals know too, but only things that concern their biological life. Human knowledge goes further; the human being desires to know everything, all reality, reality in its totality; he wants to know what his being is and what the world is. He thirsts for knowledge of the infinite, he desires to arrive at the font of life, he desires to drink at this font, to find life itself.
Thus, we have touched on a second dimension: man is not only a being who knows; he also lives in a relationship of friendship, of love. In addition to the dimension of the knowledge of truth and being, and inseparable from it, exists the dimension of the relationship of love. And here the human being comes closer to the source of life from which he wants to drink in order to have life in abundance, to have life itself.
We could say that science, and medicine in particular, is one great struggle for life. In the end, medicine seeks to counter death; it is the search for immortality. But can we find a medicine that will guarantee us immortality? The question of today's Gospel is precisely this.
Let us try to imagine that medicine succeeds in finding the recipe against death, the recipe for immortality. Even in this case it would always be a medicine that fitted into the biosphere, a useful medicine of course for our spiritual and human lives, but in itself confined to within this biosphere.
It is easy to imagine what would happen if the biological life of man lasted for ever; we would find ourselves in an ageing world, a world full of old people, a world that would no longer leave room for the young, for the renewal of life. We can therefore understand that this cannot be the type of immortality to which we aspire; this is not the possibility of drinking at the source of life for which we all long.
Precisely at this point, when on the one hand we realize that we cannot hope for biological life to be infinitely prolonged, yet on the other, we desire to drink from the very source of life to enjoy life without end, it is precisely at this point that the Lord intervenes.
He speaks to us in the Gospel, saying: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die".
"I am the Resurrection": to drink from the source of life is to enter into communion with this infinite love which is the source of life. In encountering Christ, we enter into contact, indeed, into communion with life itself and we have already crossed the threshold of death because, beyond biological life, we are in touch with true life.
The Church Fathers have called the Eucharist a drug of immortality. And so it is, for in the Eucharist we come into contact, indeed, we enter into communion with the Risen Body of Christ, we enter the space of life already raised, eternal life. Let us enter into communion with this Body which is enlivened by immortal life and thus, from this moment and for ever, we will dwell in the space of life itself.
In this way, this Gospel is also a profound interpretation of what the Eucharist is and invites us to live truly on the Eucharist, to be able thus to be transformed into the communion of love. This is true life. In John's Gospel the Lord says: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly".
Life in abundance is not as some think: to consume everything, to have all, to be able to do all that one wants. In that case we would live for inanimate things, we would live for death.
Life in abundance means being in communion with true life, with infinite love. It is in this way that we truly enter into the abundance of life and also become messengers of life for others.
On their return, prisoners of war who had been in Russia for 10 years or more, exposed to cold and hunger, have said: "I was able to survive because I knew I was expected. I knew people were looking forward to my arrival, that I was necessary and awaited".
This love that awaited them was the effective medicine of life against all ills.
In reality, we are all awaited. The Lord waits for us and not only does he wait for us; he is present and stretches out his hand to us.
Let us take the Lord's hand and pray to him to grant that we may truly live, live the abundance of life and thus also be able to communicate true life to our contemporaries, life in abundance. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 25018