Benedict XVI Homilies 10308
Dear Young People of Rome,
This year too, as Palm Sunday approaches, we are meeting to prepare for the celebration of the 23rd World Youth Day, which will culminate, as you know, in the meeting of young people from across the world that will take place in Sydney from 15 to 20 this July. You have known the theme of this Day for some time. It is taken from the words just heard in the First Reading: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Ac 1,8).
It is not by chance that our gathering today takes the form of a penitential liturgy with the celebration of individual confessions. Why is it "not by chance"? The answer can be deduced from what I wrote in my first Encyclical. In it I pointed out that being Christian is the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and with it a decisive direction (cf. Deus Caritas est ). Precisely in order to encourage this encounter, you are preparing to open your hearts to God, confessing your sins and receiving pardon and peace through the action of the Holy Spirit and by means of the Church's ministry. In this way room is made within us for the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity who is the "soul", the "vital breath" of Christian life: the Spirit enables us "to grow... in an understanding of Jesus that becomes ever deeper and more joyful and at the same time to put the Gospel into practice" (Message, 23rd World Youth Day, n. 1).
When I was Archbishop of Munich and Freising, in a meditation on Pentecost, I was inspired by a film entitled Seelenwanderung (Metempsychosis) to explain the Holy Spirit's action in a soul.
The film tells of two poor fiends who, because of their goodness, do not manage to make any headway in life. One day one of them had an idea: since he had nothing else to put on sale he would sell his soul. His soul is purchased cheap and enclosed in a box. From that time on, to his great surprise, everything changes in his life. He begins a rapid ascent, becomes richer, obtains great honours and by the time of his death is a consul very well endowed with money and possessions.
From the moment when he freed himself of his soul he no longer had any concern or humanity. He had acted unscrupulously, caring only for profit and success. Man no longer mattered in the least. He himself no longer had a soul. The film, I concluded, shows impressively how the facade of success often conceals an empty life.
Apparently, the man had lost nothing, but he lacked a soul and with it lacked everything. It is obvious, I continued in that meditation, that the human being cannot literally dispose of his own soul since it is his soul that makes him a person. He remained, in fact, a human person, yet he had the frightful possibility of being inhuman, of remaining a person while at the same time selling and losing his own humanity. There is an immense gap between the human person and the inhuman being, yet it cannot be demonstrated; it is the truly essential thing, yet it is apparently unimportant (cf. Suchen, was droben ist. Meditationem das Jahr hindurch, LV 1985).
The Holy Spirit, who was at the beginning of creation and who, thanks to the Paschal Mystery, was poured out in abundance upon Mary and the Apostles on Pentecost Day, also cannot be proven to external eyes. Whether or not he penetrates a person, he cannot be seen or revealed; but this fact changes and renews the entire perspective of human existence. The Holy Spirit does not change the external but rather the internal situations of life. On the evening of Easter Day, Jesus appeared to the disciples, "breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit'" (Jn 20,22). On Pentecost Day, in an even more obvious manner, the Spirit descended upon the Apostles as a wind that came with a rush and in the form of tongues of fire. This evening too, the Spirit will descend upon our hearts to forgive our sins and renew us interiorly, clothing us with a strength that will also embolden us, as it did the Apostles, in proclaiming that "Christ has died and is risen!".
Dear friends, let us therefore prepare ourselves with a sincere examination of conscience to present ourselves to those to whom Christ has entrusted the ministry of Reconciliation. Let us confess our sins with contrite hearts, seriously determined to repeat them no more, and above all resolving to always stay on the road of conversion. We will thus experience true joy: the joy that derives from God's mercy, which is poured out in our hearts and reconciles us with him. This joy is contagious! "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you", says the Bible verse chosen as the theme of the 23rd World Youth Day, "and you will be my witnesses" (Ac 1,8). Make yourselves heralds of this joy that comes from accepting the gifts of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness in your lives to the fruit of the Spirit: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control"; this is how St Paul lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit in his Letter to the Galatians (Ga 5,22).
Always remember that you are a "temple of the Spirit"; let him dwell within you and docilely obey his promptings in order to make your contribution to building the Church (cf. 1Co 12,7) and to discern to what kind of vocation the Lord is calling you. Today, the world needs priests, consecrated men and women and Christian married couples. To respond to your vocation through one of these ways, be generous, help yourselves by having recourse to the Sacrament of Confession and the practice of spiritual direction on your journey as consistent Christians. Seek in particular to sincerely open your heart to the Lord Jesus, to offer him your unconditional "yes".
Dear young people, this city of Rome is in your hands. It is your task to make it spiritually beautiful with your witness of life lived in God's grace and far from sin, adhering to all that the Holy Spirit calls you to be in the Church and in the world. You will thus make visible the grace of Christ's superabundant mercy that flowed from his side pierced for us on the Cross. The Lord Jesus cleanses us from our sins, heals us from faults and fortifies us so that we do not succumb in the fight against sin or in witnessing to his love.
Twenty-five years ago the beloved Servant of God John Paul II inaugurated the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre not far from this Basilica: a spiritual project united with so many others in the Diocese of Rome to encourage hospitality for young people, the exchange of experiences and of the witness of faith, and above all prayer, which lets us discover God's love. On that occasion John Paul II said: "He who lets himself be filled with this love can no longer deny his guilt. The "loss of the sense of sin' derives in the last analysis from "the more radical and hidden loss of the sense of God'" (Homily, Inauguration of the San Lorenzo International Centre, 13 March 1983, n. 5). And he added, "Where can we go in this world, with sin and guilt, without the Cross? The Cross takes upon itself all the misery of the world, which is born of sin. It reveals itself as a sign of grace. It takes up our solidarity and encourages us to sacrifice for others" (ibid).
Dear young people, may this experience be renewed for you today: look at the Cross at this moment and let us welcome God's love, which is given to us from the Cross by the Holy Spirit who comes from the pierced side of the Lord, and, as Pope John Paul II said, may "you too become redeemers for the youth of the world" (ibid.).
O divine Heart of Jesus, from which Blood and Water flowed as a source of mercy for us, we trust in you. Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Year after year the Gospel passage for Palm Sunday recounts Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Together with his disciples and an increasing multitude of pilgrims he went up from the plain of Galilee to the Holy City. The Evangelists have handed down to us three proclamations of Jesus concerning his Passion, like steps on his ascent, thereby mentioning at the same time the inner ascent that he was making on this pilgrimage. Jesus was going toward the temple - toward the place where God, as Deuteronomy says, had chosen to "make his name dwell" (cf. Dt 12,11 Dt 14,23). God who created heaven and earth gave himself a name, made himself invocable; indeed, he made himself almost tangible to human beings. No place can contain him, yet for this very reason he gave himself a place and a name so that he, the true God, might be personally venerated as God in our midst. We know from the account of the 12-year-old Jesus that he loved the temple as his Father's house, as his paternal home. He now visits this temple once again but his journey extends beyond it: the final destination of his climb is the Cross. It is the ascent described in the Letter to the Hebrews as the ascent towards the tent not pitched by human hands but by the Lord, which leads to God's presence. The final climb to the sight of God passes through the Cross. It is the ascent toward "love to the end" (cf. Jn 13,1), which is God's true mountain, the definitive place of contact between God and man.
During his entry into Jerusalem, the people paid homage to Jesus as the Son of David with the words of the pilgrims of Psalm 118: "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mt 21,9). He then arrived at the temple. There, however, in the place that should have been taken up by the encounter between God and man, he found livestock merchants and money-changers who occupied this place of prayer with their commerce. Certainly, the animals on sale were destined to be burned as sacrifices in the temple, and since in the temple it was impossible to use coins that bore the likeness of the Roman emperors, who were in opposition to the true God, they had to be exchanged for coins that did not show the idolatrous image. All this, however, could have taken place elsewhere: the place where this was now occurring should have been, in accordance with its destined purpose, the atrium of pagans. Indeed, the God of Israel was precisely the one God of all peoples. And although pagans did not enter, so to speak, into the Revelation, they could however, in the atrium of faith, join in the prayer to the one God. The God of Israel, the God of all people, had always been awaiting their prayers too, their seeking, their invocations. Instead, commerce was prevailing - dealings legalized by the competent authority which, in its turn, profited from the merchants' earnings. The merchants acted correctly, complying with the law in force, but the law itself was corrupt. "Covetousness... is idolatry", the Letter to the Colossians says (Col 3,5). This was the idolatry Jesus came up against in the face of which he cites Isaiah: "My house shall be called a house of prayer" (Mt 21,13 cf. Is 56,7), and Jeremiah: "But you make it a den of robbers" (Mt 21,13 cf. Jr 7,11). Against the wrongly interpreted order, Jesus with his prophetic gesture defends the true order which is found in the Law and the Prophets.
Today, all this must give us, as Christians, food for thought. Is our faith sufficiently pure and open so that starting from it "pagans", the people today who are seeking and who have their questions, can intuit the light of the one God, associate themselves in the atriums of faith with our prayers and, with their questions, perhaps also become worshippers? Does the awareness that greed is idolatry enter our heart too and the praxis of our life? Do we not perhaps in various ways let idols enter even the world of our faith? Are we disposed to let ourselves be ceaselessly purified by the Lord, letting him expel from us and the Church all that is contrary to him?
In the temple's purification, however, it was a matter of more than fighting abuses. A new time in history was foretold. What Jesus had announced to the Samaritan woman concerning her question about true worship is now beginning: "The hour is coming, and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (Jn 4,23). The time when animals were sacrificed to God was over. Animal sacrifices were only a substitute, a nostalgic gesture for the true way to worship God. The Letter to the Hebrews on the life and work of Jesus uses a sentence from Psalm 40: "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me" (He 10,5). Christ's body, Christ himself, enters to take the place of bloody sacrifices and food offerings. Only "love to the end", only love for human beings given totally to God is true worship, true sacrifice. Worshipping in spirit and truth means adoring in communion with the One who is Truth; adoring in communion with his Body, in which the Holy Spirit reunites us.
The Evangelists tell us that in Jesus' trial false witnesses were produced who asserted that Jesus had said: "I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days" (Mt 26,61). In front of Christ hanging on the Cross some people, taunting him, referred to these same words: "You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!" (Mt 27,40). The correct version of these words as Jesus spoke them has been passed on to us by John in his account of the purification of the temple. In response to the request for a sign by which Jesus could justify himself for such an action, the Lord replied: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2,18 ff.). John adds that, thinking back to this event of the Resurrection, the disciples realized that Jesus had been referring to the Temple of his Body (cf. Jn 2,21ff.). It is not Jesus who destroys the temple; it is left to destruction by the attitude of those who transformed it from being a place for the encounter of all peoples with God into a "den of robbers", a haven for their dealings. But as always, beginning with Adam's fall, human failure becomes the opportunity for us to be even more committed to love of God. The time of the temple built of stone, the time of animal sacrifices, is now passed: the fact that the Lord now expels the merchants does not only prevent an abuse but points to God's new way of acting. The new Temple is formed: Jesus Christ himself, in whom God's love descends upon human beings. He, by his life, is the new and living Temple. He who passed through the Cross and was raised is the living space of spirit and life in which the correct form of worship is made. Thus, the purification of the temple, as the culmination of Jesus' solemn entry into Jerusalem, is at the same time the sign of the impending ruin of the edifice and the promise of the new Temple; a promise of the kingdom of reconciliation and love which, in communion with Christ, is established beyond any boundary.
St Matthew, whose Gospel we are hearing this year, mentions at the end of the account of Palm Sunday, after the purification of the temple, two further, small events that once again have a prophetic character and once again make clear to us Jesus' true will. Immediately after Jesus' words on the house of prayer for all the people, the Evangelist continues: "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them". In addition, Matthew tells us that children cried out in the temple the acclamation of the pilgrims at the city gates: "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Mt 21,14 ff.). Jesus counters the animal trade and fiscal affairs with his healing goodness. This is the temple's true purification. He does not come as a destroyer; he does not come with the revolutionary's sword. He comes with the gift of healing. He dedicates himself to those who, because of their ailments, were driven to the end of their life and to the margins of society.
Jesus shows God as the One who loves and his power as the power of love. Thus, he tells us what will always be part of the correct worship of God: healing, serving and the goodness that cures.
And then there are children who pay homage to Jesus as the Son of David and acclaim him the Hosanna. Jesus had said to his disciples that to enter the Kingdom of God it was essential to become once again like children. He himself, who embraces the whole world, made himself little in order to come to our aid, to draw us to God. In order to recognize God, we must give up the pride that dazzles us, that wants to drive us away from God as though God were our rival. To encounter God it is necessary to be able to see with the heart. We must learn to see with a child's heart, with a youthful heart not hampered by prejudices or blinded by interests. Thus, it is in the lowly who have such free and open hearts and recognize Jesus, that the Church sees her own image, the image of believers of all ages.
Dear friends, let us join at this moment the procession of the young people of that time - a procession that winds through the whole of history. Together with young people across the world let us go forth to meet Jesus. Let us allow ourselves to be guided toward God by him, to learn from God himself the right way to be human beings. Let us thank God with him because with Jesus, Son of David, he has given us a space of peace and reconciliation that embraces the world with the Holy Eucharist. Let us pray to him that we too may become, with him and starting from him, messengers of his peace, adorers in spirit and truth, so that his Kingdom may increase in us and around us. Amen.
Venerable and Dear Brothers,
We have entered Holy Week with great sorrow in our hearts because of the tragic death of beloved Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, of Mossul for Chaldeans. I wanted to offer this Holy Mass in suffrage for him and I thank you for accepting my invitation to pray together for him. I feel that Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans, and the Bishops of this beloved Church that in Iraq suffers, believes and prays, are close to us at this moment. I send a special word of greeting and encouragement to these venerable Brothers in the episcopate, to their priests, Religious and all their faithful, trusting that in faith they may be able to find the strength not to lose heart in the difficult situation they are living.
The present liturgical context is the most eloquent possible: these are days in which we are reliving the last moments of Jesus' earthly life. They are dramatic hours, filled with love and fear especially in the souls of his disciples, hours in which a clearcut contrast was made between truth and falsehood, between the meekness and rectitude of Christ and the violence and deception of his enemies. Jesus experienced the approach of a violent death, he felt the net of his persecutors tightening around him. He experienced anguish and fear until the crucial hour in Gethsemane. But he lived it all immersed in communion with the Father and comforted by the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit.
Today's Gospel recalls the supper in Bethany, which, to the disciple John's deep gaze of faith, reveals profound meaning. Mary's gesture of anointing Jesus' feet with precious ointment becomes an extreme act of grateful love with a view to the Teacher's burial; and the fragrance that spread throughout the house is the symbol of his immense love, of the beauty and goodness of his sacrifice which fills his Church. I am thinking of the sacred Chrism with which Archbishop Rahho's forehead was anointed at his Baptism and Confirmation; with which his hands were anointed on the day of his priestly Ordination, and then again, his head and hands when he was ordained a Bishop. But I am also thinking of the many other "anointings" of filial affection, of spiritual friendship, of the devotion reserved for him by his faithful and which accompanied him in the terrible hours of his kidnapping and distressing imprisonment - where he might have been injured previous to this -, to the point of agony and death, to the point of that unworthy burial where his mortal remains were subsequently discovered. But those anointings, sacramental and spiritual, were a pledge of resurrection, a pledge of the true, full life that the Lord Jesus came to give us!
The reading from the prophet Isaiah has set before us the figure of God's Servant in the first of the four "Songs" which stress the meekness and power of this mysterious envoy of God who was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Servant is presented as the one who "will bring forth justice", will proclaim righteousness, "will establish justice", with an insistence on this term that cannot pass unobserved. The Lord called him "for the victory of justice", and he will carry out this universal mission with the non-violent force of the truth. In Christ's Passion we see the fulfilment of this mission when, before an unjust sentence, he bears witness to the truth, remaining faithful to the law of love. On this same path, Archbishop Rahho took up his cross and followed the Lord, and thus contributed to bringing justice to his tormented country and to the entire world, bearing witness to the truth. He was a man of peace and dialogue. I know that he had a specially soft spot for the poor and the disabled, for whose physical and mental assistance he founded a special association called Joy and Charity ("Farah wa Mahabba"), to which he entrusted the task of appreciating these people and supporting their families, many of whom learned from him not to hide these relatives and to see Christ in them. May his example sustain all Iraqis of good will, Christians and Muslims, so that they can build a peaceful coexistence founded on human brotherhood and reciprocal respect.
In these days, in profound union with the Chaldean Community in Iraq and in the diaspora, we have mourned Archbishop Rahho's death and the inhuman way in which he was obliged to end his earthly life. Today however, in this Eucharist that we are offering for his consecrated soul, we would like to thank God for all the good he worked in him and through him, and at the same time our hope is that in Heaven he will intercede with the Lord to obtain for the faithful in that sorely-tried Country the courage to continue to work for a better future. Just as beloved Archbishop Paulos spared no energy at the service of his people, so may his Christians be able to persevere in the commitment to build a peaceful, supportive society on the path of progress and of peace. Let us entrust these wishes to the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Incarnate Word for the salvation of men and women, and hence, Mother of Hope for all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every year the Chrism Mass exhorts us to enter into that "yes" to God's call, which we pronounced on the day of our priestly ordination. "Adsum - here I am!", we have said like Isaiah, when he heard God's voice asking: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" "Here am I! Send me", Isaiah responded (Is 6,8). Then the Lord himself, through the hands of the Bishop, placed his hands on us and we gave ourselves to his mission. Subsequently, we have followed many ways in the range of his call. Can we always affirm what Paul wrote to the Corinthians after years of Gospel service, often marked by fatigue and suffering of every type: "Our zeal has not slackened in this ministry which has been entrusted to us by God's mercy" (cf. 2Co 4,1)? "Our zeal has not slackened". Let us pray on this day that it may always be kindled anew, that it may be ever nourished by the living flame of the Gospel.
At the same time Holy Thursday is an occasion for us to ask ourselves over and over again: to what did we say our "yes"? What does this "being a priest of Jesus Christ" mean? The Second Canon of our Missal, which was probably compiled in Rome already at the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words with which, in the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt 18,5 Dt 18,7), the essence of the Old Testament priesthood is described: astare coram te et tibi ministrare ["to stand and minister in the name of the Lord"]. There are therefore two duties that define the essence of the priestly ministry: in the first place, "to stand in his [the Lord's] presence". In the Book of Deuteronomy this is read in the context of the preceding disposition, according to which priests do not receive any portion of land in the Holy Land - they live of God and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary to sustain daily life. Their profession was to "stand in the Lord's presence" - to look to him, to be there for him. Hence, ultimately, the word indicated a life in God's presence, and with this also a ministry of representing others. As the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze on him. Now if this word is found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entrance of the Lord in the assembly of prayer, then for us this points to being before the Lord present, that is, it indicates the Eucharist as the centre of priestly life. But here too, the meaning is deeper. During Lent the hymn that introduces the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours - the Office that monks once recited during the night vigil before God and for humanity - one of the duties of Lent is described with the imperative: arctius perstemus in custodia - we must be even more intensely alert. In the tradition of Syrian monasticism, monks were qualified as "those who remained standing". This standing was an expression of vigilance. What was considered here as a duty of the monks, we can rightly see also as an expression of the priestly mission and as a correct interpretation of the word of Deuteronomy: the priest must be on the watch. He must be on his guard in the face of the imminent powers of evil.
He must keep the world awake for God. He must be the one who remains standing: upright before the trends of time. Upright in truth. Upright in the commitment for good. Being before the Lord must always also include, at its depths, responsibility for humanity to the Lord, who in his turn takes on the burden of all of us to the Father. And it must be a taking on of him, of Christ, of his word, his truth, his love. The priest must be upright, fearless and prepared to sustain even offences for the Lord, as referred to in the Acts of the Apostles: they were "rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name" (Ac 5,41) of Jesus.
Now let us move on to the second word that the Second Canon repeats from the Old Testament text - "to stand in your presence and serve you". The priest must be an upright person, vigilant, a person who remains standing. Service is then added to all this. In the Old Testament text this word has an essentially ritualistic meaning: all acts of worship foreseen by the Law are the priests' duty. But this action, according to the rite, was classified as service, as a duty of service, and thus it explains in what spirit this activity must take place. With the assumption of the word "serve" in the Canon, the liturgical meaning of this term was adopted in a certain way - to conform with the novelty of the Christian cult. What the priest does at that moment, in the Eucharistic celebration, is to serve, to fulfil a service to God and a service to humanity. The cult that Christ rendered to the Father was the giving of himself to the end for humanity. Into this cult, this service, the priest must insert himself. Thus, the word "serve" contains many dimensions. In the first place, part of it is certainly the correct celebration of the liturgy and of the sacraments in general, accomplished through interior participation. We must learn to increasingly understand the sacred liturgy in all its essence, to develop a living familiarity with it, so that it becomes the soul of our daily life. It is then that we celebrate in the correct way; it is then that the ars celebrandi, the art of celebrating, emerges by itself. In this art there must be nothing artificial. If the liturgy is the central duty of the priest, this also means that prayer must be a primary reality, to be learned ever anew and ever more deeply at the school of Christ and of the Saints of all the ages. Since the Christian liturgy by its nature is also always a proclamation, we must be people who are familiar with the Word of God, love it and live by it: only then can we explain it in an adequate way. "To serve the Lord" - priestly service precisely also means to learn to know the Lord in his Word and to make it known to all those he entrusts to us.
Lastly, two other aspects are part of service. No one is closer to his master than the servant who has access to the most private dimensions of his life. In this sense "to serve" means closeness, it requires familiarity. This familiarity also bears a danger: when we continually encounter the sacred it risks becoming habitual for us. In this way, reverential fear is extinguished. Conditioned by all our habits we no longer perceive the great, new and surprising fact that he himself is present, speaks to us, gives himself to us. We must ceaselessly struggle against this becoming accustomed to the extraordinary reality, against the indifference of the heart, always recognizing our insufficiency anew and the grace that there is in the fact that he consigned himself into our hands. To serve means to draw near, but above all it also means obedience. The servant is under the word: "not my will, but thine, be done" (Lc 22,42). With this word Jesus, in the Garden of Olives, has resolved the decisive battle against sin, against the rebellion of the sinful heart. Adam's sin consisted precisely in the fact that he wanted to accomplish his own will and not God's. Humanity's temptation is always to want to be totally autonomous, to follow its own will alone and to maintain that only in this way will we be free; that only thanks to a similarly unlimited freedom would man be completely man. But this is precisely how we pit ourselves against the truth. Because the truth is that we must share our freedom with others and we can be free only in communion with them. This shared freedom can be true freedom only if we enter into what constitutes the very measure of freedom, if we enter into God's will. This fundamental obedience that is part of the human being - a person cannot be merely for and by himself - becomes still more concrete in the priest: we do not preach ourselves, but him and his Word, which we could not have invented ourselves. We proclaim the Word of Christ in the correct way only in communion with his Body. Our obedience is a believing with the Church, a thinking and speaking with the Church, serving through her. What Jesus predicted to Peter also always applies: "You will be taken where you do not want to go". This letting oneself be guided where one does not want to be led is an essential dimension of our service, and it is exactly what makes us free. In this being guided, which can be contrary to our ideas and plans, we experience something new - the wealth of God's love.
"To stand in his presence and serve him": Jesus Christ as the true High Priest of the world has conferred to these words a previously unimaginable depth. He, who as Son was and is the Lord, has willed to become that Servant of God which the vision of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah had foreseen. He has willed to be the Servant of all. He has portrayed the whole of his high priesthood in the gesture of the washing of the feet. With the gesture of love to the end he washes our dirty feet, with the humility of his service he purifies us from the illness of our pride. Thus, he makes us able to become partakers of God's banquet. He has descended, and the true ascent of man is now accomplished in our descending with him and toward him. His elevation is the Cross. It is the deepest descent and, as love pushed to the end, it is at the same time the culmination of the ascent, the true "elevation" of humanity. "To stand in his presence and serve him": this now means to enter into his call to serve God. The Eucharist as the presence of the descent and ascent of Christ thus always recalls, beyond itself, the many ways of service through love of neighbour. Let us ask the Lord on this day for the gift to be able to say again in this sense our "yes" to his call: "Here am I! Send me" (Is 6,8). Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 10308