Benedict XVI Homilies 19108
Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Word of the Lord, resounding a short while ago in the Gospel, reminded us that the whole divine law is summarized in love. The Evangelist Matthew narrates that after Jesus had answered the Sadducees, silencing them, the Pharisees met to put him to the test (cf. Mt 22,34-35). One of them, a doctor of law, asked him: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?" (Mt 22,36). The question makes apparent the concern, present in ancient Jewish tradition, over finding a unifying principle in the various formulations of God's will. This was not an easy question, considering that in the law of Moses, a good 613 precepts and prohibitions are contemplated. How does one discern, among all of these, which is the most important? But Jesus does not hesitate, and readily responds: "You shall love the Lord your God with your all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment" (Mt 22,37-38). Jesus quotes the Shemà in his answer, the prayer the pious Israelite recites several times a day, especially in the morning and in the evening (cf. Dt 6,4-9 Dt 11,13-21 Nb 15,37-41): the proclamation of the integral and total love due to God, as the only Lord. Emphasis is placed on the totality of this dedication to God, listing the three faculties that define man in his deep psychological structures: heart, soul and mind. The word mind, diánoia, contains the rational element. God is not only the object of love, commitment, will and sentiment, but also of the intellect, which should not be excluded from this milieu. Then, however, Jesus adds something which, in truth, had not been asked by the doctor of law: "And a second is like it, You must love your neighbour as yourself" (Mt 22,39). The surprising aspect of Jesus' answer consists in the fact that he establishes a similarity between the first and the second commandments, defined this time too with a biblical formula drawn from the Levitical code of holiness (cf. Lv 19,18). And thus by the end of the passage the two commandments become connected in the role of a fundamental union upon which all of biblical Revelation rests: "On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well" (Mt 22,40).
The Gospel passage on which we are focusing makes clear that being disciples of Christ means practicing his teachings, which can be summarized in the first and greatest commandment of the divine law, the commandment of love. Even the First Reading, taken from the Book of Exodus, insists on the duty of love; a love witnessed concretely in relationships between persons, which must be relationships of respect, collaboration, generous help. The neighbour to be loved is the stranger, the orphan, the widow and the needy, in other words, those citizens who have no "defender". The holy author goes into details, as in the case of the object pawned by one of these poor persons (cf. Ex 22,25-26). In this case God himself is the one to vouch for the neighbour's position.
In the Second Reading, we can find a concrete application of the supreme commandment of love in one of the first Christian communities. St Paul writes to the Thessalonians, leading them to understand that, while having known them for such a short time, he appreciates them and holds them dear in his heart. Because of this, he pinpoints them as "a model for all the believers of Macedonia and Achaia" (1Th 1,7). Weaknesses and difficulties are not lacking in this recently founded community, but it is love that surpasses all, renews all, conquers all: the love of those who, knowing their own limits, docilely follow the words of Christ, the divine Teacher, passed down through one of his faithful disciples. "You, in turn, became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word despite great trials, with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit", the Apostle wrote. He continued: "For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere" (1Th 1,6 1Th 1,8). The lesson that we can draw from the Thessalonians' experience, an experience that is truly common in every authentic Christian community, is that neighbourly love is born from docile listening to the divine Word. It is a love that will even withstand difficult trials for the truth of the divine Word, and in this way true love grows and truth shines in all its splendour. How important it is to listen to the Word and incarnate it in personal and community life!
In this Eucharistic celebration, which closes the work of the Synod, we sense, in a particular way, the bond that exists between the loving listening to the Word of God and disinterested service of the brethren.How many times, in the past days, we have heard experiences and reflections that highlight today's emerging need for a more intimate listening to God, for a truer knowledge of his Word of salvation; for a more sincere sharing of faith which is constantly nourished at the table of the divine Word! Dear and venerable Brothers, thank you for the contribution each of you has offered in analysing the Synod's theme: "The Word of God in the life and the mission of the Church". I greet you all with great affection. I address a special greeting to the Cardinals, the Delegate Presidents of the Synod and the General Secretary, whom I thank for their constant dedication. I greet you, dear brothers and sisters, who have come from every continent bringing your enriching experience. In returning home, give everyone an affectionate greeting from the Bishop of Rome.
I greet the Fraternal Delegates, the Experts, the Auditors and the Invited Guests, the members of the General Secretariat of the Synod, all those who work with the press. A special thought goes to the Bishops of Continental China, who could not be represented during this Synodal Assembly. I would like to speak on behalf of them and thank God for their love for Christ, their communion with the universal Church and their faithfulness to the Successor of the Apostle Peter. They are present in our prayer, along with all the faithful who are entrusted to their pastoral care. We ask the "Chief Shepherd" (1P 5,4) of the sheep to give them joy, strength, and apostolic zeal to guide, with wisdom and far-sightedness, the Catholic community of China that we love so dearly.
All of us who have taken part in the work of the Synod will carry with us the renewed awareness that the Church's principal task, at the start of this new millennium, is above all to nourish herself on the Word of God, in order to make new evangelization, the proclamation in our day, more effective. What is needed now is that this ecclesial experience reach every community; it is necessary to understand the need to translate the Word we have heard into gestures of love, because this is the only way to make the Gospel proclamation credible, despite the human weaknesses that mark individuals. First of all this requires a more intimate knowledge of Christ and an ever more docile listening to his Word.
In this Pauline year, making the words of the Apostle our own: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" (1Co 9,16), I hope with all my heart that this yearning of Paul's will be felt in every community with ever greater conviction as a vocation in the service of the Gospel for the world. At the start of the Synod I recalled Jesus' appeal: "the harvest is rich" (Mt 9,37), an appeal we must never tire of responding to, no matter what difficulties we might encounter. So many people are seeking, sometimes unknowingly, to encounter Christ and his Gospel; many need to find in him the meaning of their lives. To give a clear and common witness to a life according to the Word of God, demonstrated by Jesus, is therefore an indispensable criterion to verify the mission of the Church.
The Readings today's liturgy offers for our meditation remind us that the fulness of the law, as all of the divine Scriptures, is love. Therefore anyone who believes they have understood the Scriptures, or at least some part of them, without undertaking to build, by means of their intelligence, the twofold love of God and neighbour, in reality proves to be still a long way from having grasped its deeper meaning. But how can we put this commandment into practice, how can we live the love of God and our brothers without a living and intense contact with the Sacred Scriptures? The Second Vatican Council asserts that "access to sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful" (Dei Verbum DV 22), so that persons, encountering the truth, may grow in authentic love. This is a requisite that is indispensable for evangelization today. And since often the encounter with Scriptures is in danger of being not "a fact" of the Church, but informed by subjectivity and arbitrariness, a robust and credible pastoral promotion of the knowledge of Sacred Scripture to announce, celebrate and live the Word in the Christian community becomes indispensable, dialoguing with the cultures of our time, placing ourselves at the service of truth and not of current ideologies, and increasing the dialogue God wishes to have with all men (cf. ibid, DV 21). To this end special care should be given to the preparation of pastors, who are then ready to take whatever action is necessary to spread the biblical movement with appropriate means. Ongoing efforts to give life to the biblical movement among lay people should be encouraged, along with the formation of group leaders, with particular attention being paid to the young. We must also support the effort to allow faith to be known through the Word of God to those who are "far away" as well and especially those who are sincerely seeking the meaning of life.
Many other reflections could be added but I will limit myself to underlining that the privileged place where the Word of God resounds, which edifies the Church, as was said many times in the Synod, is undoubtedly the liturgy. This is where it appears that the Bible is a book of the people and for the people: a heritage, a testament consigned to readers so that the salvation history witnessed in the text becomes concrete in their own lives. There is therefore a vital, reciprocal relationship of belonging between the people and the Book: the Bible remains a living Book with the people its subject who read it. The people cannot exist without the Book, because in it they find their reason for being, their vocation and their identity. This mutual belonging between people and Sacred Scripture is celebrated in every liturgical assembly, which, thanks to the Holy Spirit, listens to Christ, since it is he who speaks when the Scripture is read in the Church and welcomes the Covenant that God renews with his people. Scripture and liturgy converge, therefore, with the single aim of bringing the people to dialogue with the Lord and to obedience to the will of the Lord. The Word issued from the mouth of God and witnessed in the Scriptures returns to him in the form of a prayerful response, a response that is lived, a response that wells up from love (cf. Is 55,10-11).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray that from renewed listening to the Word of God, guided by the action of the Holy Spirit, an authentic renewal in the universal Church and in every Christian community may spring forth. We entrust the fruit of this Synodal Assembly to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. I also entrust to her the Second Special Assembly of the Synod for Africa, that will take place in Rome in October of next year. Next March I intend to go to Cameroon to deliver the Instrumentum laboris of that Synodal Assembly to representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa. From there, God willing, I will proceed to Angola to pay homage to one of the most ancient sub-saharan Churches. May Mary Most Holy, who offered her life as the "servant of the Lord" (Lc 1,38), so that everything would happen according to the divine will and who exhorts us to do whatever Jesus would tell us (cf. Jn 2,5), teach us to recognize in our lives the primacy of the Word that alone can grant us salvation. Amen!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the day after the liturgical commemoration of All Souls, we are gathered today, according to a beautiful tradition, to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice in suffrage for our Brother Cardinals and Bishops who have left this world during the last year. Our prayer is motivated and comforted by the mystery of the communion of saints, a mystery that we have newly contemplated anew in these past days in order to understand it, welcome it and live it ever more intensely.
In this communion we recall with great affection the Cardinals Stephen Fumio Hamao, Alfons Maria Stickler, Aloísio Lorscheider, Peter Poreku Dery, Adolfo Antonio Suárez Rivera, Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, Alfonso López Trujillo, Bernardin Gantin, Antonio Innocenti and Antonio José González Zumárraga. We believe and sense them to be alive in the God of the living. And with them we remember each of the Archbishops and Bishops, who in the last 12 months have passed from this world to the House of the Father. We want to pray for all, letting ourselves be enlightened in mind and heart by the Word of God that we have just heard.
The First Reading a passage from the Book of Wisdom (Sg 4,7-15) reminded us that true, venerable old age is not only length of years, but wisdom and a pure existence, without malice. And if the Lord prematurely calls the righteous to himself, it is due to a loving design for him that is unknown to us. The premature death of a person dear to us becomes an invitation not to persist in living in a mediocre way, but to strain towards the fullness of life as soon as possible. In the Wisdom text there is a paradoxical vein that we find also in the Gospel pericope (Mt 11,25-30). In both Readings a contrast emerges between what appears to the superficial glance of men and what, instead, the eyes of God see. The world considers a long life fortunate, but God, more than age, looks at the uprightness of heart. The world gives credit to the "wise" and "intelligent", while God prefers the "lowly". The general teaching that we can draw from this is that there are two dimensions to reality: a more profound, true and eternal one and the other, marked by finitude, transience and appearance. Now, it is important to emphasize that these two dimensions are not placed in simple temporal succession, as if true eternal life were to begin only after death. In reality, true life, eternal life already begins in this world, although within the precariousness of human history; eternal life begins in the measure to which we open ourselves to the mystery of God and welcome it in our midst. It is God, the Lord of life, in whom "we live and move and have our being" (Ac 17,28), as St Paul said at the Areopagus in Athens.
God is the true wisdom that never ages, the authentic wealth that never corrupts, the happiness to which every man aspires in the depths of his heart. This truth, that passes through the Wisdom Books and re-emerges in the New Testament, comes to fulfilment in the existence and teaching of Jesus. In the perspective of Gospel wisdom, death itself is the bearer of a healthy teaching because it forces us to look reality in the face; it pushes us to recognize the transience of that which appears great and strong in the eyes of the world. In the face of death every reason for human pride vanishes and instead what seriously matters comes to the fore. Everything comes to an end, every one of us is passing through this world. Only God has life in himself; he is life. Ours is a life of participation, given ab alio, thus a man can gain eternal life only because of the particular relationship that the Creator himself has established with him. But God, on seeing man distancing himself from him, made a further step, he created a new relation between himself and us, of which today's Second Reading speaks. He, Christ, "laid down his life for us" (1Jn 3,16).
If God St John writes has loved us freely, we too can, and we must, let ourselves be taken up in this giving gesture, and make of ourselves a free gift to others. In this way we know God as he knows us; in this way we dwell in him as he has willed to dwell in us, and we pass from death to life (cf. 1Jn 3,14) like Jesus Christ, who has overcome death with his Resurrection, thanks to the glorious power of the heavenly Father's love.
Dear brothers and sisters, this Word of life and hope is deeply comforting before the mystery of death, especially when it strikes those who are most dear to us. Today the Lord assures us that our beloved Brothers, for whom we pray particularly in this Holy Mass, have passed from death to life because they have chosen Christ, they have welcomed his sweet yoke (cf. Mt 11,29) and they dedicated themselves to the service of their brethren. Therefore, even if they must expiate their part of the punishment due to human frailty that marks all of us, helping us to stay humble , fidelity to Christ permits them to enter into the freedom of the children of God. If, however, having to part with them has saddened us, and even now their loss saddens us, faith fills us with an intimate comfort at the thought that, as it has been for the Lord Jesus, and always thanks to him, death no longer has power over them (cf. Rm 6,9). Passing through the merciful Heart of Christ in this life they have entered a place of "rest" (Sg 4,7). And now we like to think of them in the company of the Saints, finally relieved of the bitterness of this life, and we also sense the desire to be able to join such a happy company one day.
In the Responsorial Psalm we have repeated these consoling words: "Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever" (Ps 23 : 6). Yes, we love to hope that the Good Shepherd has welcomed these Brothers of ours for whom we are celebrating the divine Sacrifice, at the sunset of their earthly days, and that he admit them into his inmost and blessed presence. The consecrated oil mentioned in the Psalm (Ps 23,5 : 5) has been placed three times on their head and once on their hands; the chalice (ibid.) of Jesus the Priest has become their chalice as well, which they have raised day after day, praising the name of the Lord. Now they have reached the heavenly pastures, where signs give way to reality.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite our common prayer and raise it to the Father of all goodness and mercy so that, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the encounter with the fire of his love quickly purifies our late departed friends from every imperfection and transforms them to the praise of his glory. And we pray that we, pilgrims on the earth, will always keep our eyes and heart focused on the ultimate goal for which we yearn, the House of the Father, Heaven. So be it!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this evening liturgy, we begin the itinerary of a new liturgical year, entering into the first of its seasons: Advent. In the biblical reading that we have just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul uses precisely this word: "coming", which in Greek is parusia and adventus in Latin (1Th 5,23). According to the common tradition of this text, Paul urges the Christians of Thessalonica to keep themselves blameless "for the coming" of the Lord. However, in the original text one reads "in the coming" (e? t? pa???s?a), almost as if the advent of the Lord were more so than a future point in time a spiritual place in which to walk already in the present, while waiting, and in which one is indeed perfectly preserved in every personal dimension. In fact, it is exactly this that we live out in the liturgy. By celebrating the liturgical seasons we actualize the mystery in this case the Lord's coming as it were "walking in it" towards its full realization at the end of time, but already drawing sanctifying virtue from it, since the last times have already begun with Christ's death and Resurrection.
The word that sums up this particular state, in which one awaits something that is to be manifested but of which one also already has a glimpse and a foretaste, is "hope". Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in it the whole Church is called to become hope, for herself and for the world. The whole organism of the Mystical Body acquires, so to speak, the "colour" of hope. The whole People of God continue on their journey, attracted by this mystery: that our God is "the God who comes" and calls us to go to meet him. How? In the first place in that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer, which is eminently expressed in the Psalms, human words in which God himself has placed and continually places the invocation of his coming on the lips and in the hearts of believers. Let us therefore reflect for a few moments on two of his Psalms which we have just prayed and which are consecutive in the biblical Book: Psalms 141 and 142, according to the Jewish numbering.
"I have called to you, Lord; make hasten to help me! / Hear my voice, when I cry to you. / Let my prayer arise before you like incense, / the raising of my hands like an evening oblation" (Ps 141,1-2 : 1-2). Thus begins the first Psalm of the First Vespers for the first week of the Psalter: words which, at the beginning of Advent, acquire a new "colour", because the Holy Spirit makes them resound ever anew within us in the Church on her way between the time of God and human times. "Lord, hasten to help me!". It is the cry of someone who feels he is in grave danger but it is also the cry of the Church amid the many threats that surround her, that threaten her holiness, the irreproachable integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks which instead must be preserved for the Lord's coming. And in this invocation the cry of all the just also resounds, of all those who want to resist evil, the seduction of an iniquitous well-being, of pleasures offensive to human dignity and to the condition of the poor. At the beginning of Advent the Church's liturgy once again makes this cry her own, and raises it to God "like incense" (Ps 141,2). The evening offering of incense is in fact a symbol of prayer, of the outpouring of hearts turned to God, to the Most High, as well as "the raising of... hands like an evening oblation" (Ps 141,2). Material sacrifices, as it also took place in the Jewish temple, are no longer offered in the Church, but the spiritual offering of prayer is raised, joined to that of Jesus Christ who is at the same time Sacrifice and Priest of the new and eternal covenant. In the cry of the Mystical Body we recognize the very voice of the Head: the Son of God who has taken upon himself our trials and our temptations, to give us the grace of his victory.
This identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident in the second Psalm (Ps 142). Here, every word, every invocation, makes one think of Jesus in his passion, and in particular of his prayer to the Father in Gethsemane. In his first coming, with the Incarnation, the Son of God wanted to share fully in our human condition. Of course, he did not share in sin, but for our salvation suffered all its consequences. In praying Psalm 142 the Church relives every time the grace of this compassion, of this "coming" of the Son of God in human anguish so deeply as to plumb its depths. The Advent cry of hope then expresses from the outset and very powerfully, the full gravity of our state, of our extreme need of salvation. It is as if to say: we await the Lord not in the same way as a beautiful decoration upon a world already saved, but as the only way of liberation from a mortal danger and we know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison (cf. Ps 142,8).
In short, these two Psalms shelter us from any temptation to escape or flee from reality; they preserve us from a false hope that might desire to enter Advent and move towards Christmas forgetting the tragedy of our personal and collective existence. In fact, a trustworthy hope that is not deceptive, can only be a "Paschal" hope, as the canticle of the Letter to the Philippians reminds us every Saturday evening, with which we praise the Incarnate Christ, crucified, Risen and our universal Lord. Let us turn our gaze and our heart to him, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent. Let us place our hand in hers and enter joyfully into this new time of grace that God gives as a gift to his Church for the good of all humanity. Like Mary and with her maternal help, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of peace may sanctify us totally, and the Church become a sign and instrument of hope for all men. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today on the First Sunday of Advent, we enter that four-week Season with which a new liturgical year begins and that immediately prepares us for the Feast of Christmas, the memorial of the Incarnation of Christ in history. Yet, the spiritual message of Advent is more profound and already orients us to the glorious return of the Lord at the end of our history. Adventus is the Latin word that could be translated by "arrival", "coming" or "presence". In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term that indicated the arrival of an official, and especially the visit of kings or emperors to the provinces, but it could also be used for the appearance of a divinity, which emerged from its hidden dwelling-place and thus manifested its divine power; its presence was solemnly celebrated with worship.
By using this term, "Advent", Christians wanted to express the special relationship that bound them to the Crucified and Risen Christ. He is a King who, having entered this poor province called earth, made us the gift of his visit and after his Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven desired in any case to stay with us; we perceive his mysterious presence in the liturgical assembly. Indeed, in celebrating the Eucharist, we proclaim that he did not withdraw from the world, that he did not leave us alone and, even though we cannot see and touch him as with material and tangible realities, he is in any case with us and among us. Indeed, he is in us, because he can attract to himself and communicate his life to every believer who opens his/her heart to him. Thus, Advent means commemorating the first coming of the Lord in the flesh, with his definitive return already in mind, and, at the same time, it means recognizing that Christ present in our midst makes himself our travelling companion in the life of the Church who celebrates his mystery. This knowledge, dear brothers and sisters, nourished by listening to the Word of God, must help us to see the world with different eyes, to interpret the individual events of life and history as words that God addresses to us, as signs of his love that assure us of his closeness in every situation; this awareness, in particular, should prepare us to welcome him when "he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end", as in a little while we shall repeat in the Creed. In this perspective, Advent becomes for all Christians a time of expectation and hope, a privileged time for listening and reflection, as long as we let ourselves be guided by the liturgy, which invites us to advance to meet the Lord who comes.
"Come, Lord Jesus": dear friends, this ardent invocation of the Christian community of the early days must also become our constant aspiration, the aspiration of the Church in every epoch, which longs for and prepares herself for the encounter with her Lord. Come today, Lord; enlighten us, give us peace, help us triumph over violence. Come Lord, we pray precisely in these weeks: "Lord... let us see your face and will shall be saved" (Ps 80: Ps 80,3), we have just prayed with the words of the Responsorial Psalm. And the Prophet Isaiah revealed to us in the First Reading that the Face of Our Saviour is that of a tender and merciful father who cares for us in all circumstances because we are the work of his hands: "You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name" (Is 63,16). Our God is a father prepared to forgive repentant sinners and to welcome those who trust in his mercy (cf. Is 64,4). We had drifted away from him because of sin, falling under the dominion of death, but he took pity on us and, on his own initiative, without any merit on our part, decided to meet our needs, sending his only Son as our Redeemer. As we face such a great mystery of love, our thanksgiving rises spontaneously and our invocation becomes more trusting: Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, today, in our time, in every part of the world, let us feel your presence and grant us your salvation (cf. Gospel acclamation).
Dear brothers and sisters, the thought of Christ's presence and his return at the end of time is particularly significant in this Basilica of yours beside the monumental cemetery of Verano where so many of our beloved deceased rest while they await resurrection. How often are funerals celebrated in this temple; how often do the works of the liturgy ring out full of comfort: "In him who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality" (cf. Preface for Christian Death I).
Yet your monumental Basilica, which makes us think back to the primitive Basilica built by the Emperor Constantine and later transformed to acquire its present appearance, speaks above all of the glorious martyrdom of St Lawrence, Archdeacon of Pope St Sixtus II and his reliable steward in the administration of the community's goods. Today I have come to celebrate the Blessed Eucharist to join you in paying homage to him in a most unusual circumstance, on the occasion of the Jubilee Year of Lawrence, established to commemorate the 1,750th anniversary of holy Deacon's birth in Heaven. History confirms to us how glorious is the name of this Saint, by whose sepulchre we have gathered. His concern for the poor, the generous service that he rendered to the Church of Rome in the context of assistance and charity, his fidelity to the Pope which he took to the point of desiring to follow him in the supreme trial of martyrdom and the heroic witness of pouring our his blood, which he suffered only a few days later, are facts well known to all. St Leo the Great, in a beautiful homily, thus comments on the atrocious martyrdom of this "illustrious hero": "The flames of could not overcome Christ's love and the fire that burned outside was less keen than that which blazed within". And he adds: "The Lord desired to spread abroad his glory throughout the world, so that from the East to the West the dazzling brightness of his deacon's light does shine, and Rome is become as famous through Lawrence as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen" (Homily 85, 4: PL 54, 486).
The 50th anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pope Pius XII falls this year and this reminds us of a particularly dramatic event in the centuries-old history of your Basilica. It took place during the Second World War, when, exactly on 19 July 1943, a violent bombardment caused severe damage to the building and to the whole neighbourhood, sowing death and destruction. The generous gesture made by my venerable Predecessor can never be eradicated from the memory of history: he hastened here immediately to help and to comfort the people so badly hit, among the still smouldering ruins. Nor have I forgotten that this same Basilica also contains the urns of two other great people: in the hypogeum in fact, are placed for the veneration of the faithful the mortal remains of Bl. Pius IX, while in the atrium is the tomb of Alcide De Gasperi, who was a wise and balanced guide for Italy during the difficult years of the post-war reconstruction and, at the same time, a distinguished statesman capable of looking to Europe with a broad Christian vision.
While we are gathered here in prayer, I would like to greet you all with affection, starting with the Cardinal Vicar, with Monsignor Vicegerent, who is also Commendatory Abbot of the Basilica, with the Auxiliary Bishop of the Northern Sector of Rome and with your Parish Priest, Fr Bruno Mustacchio, whom I thank for his kind words at the beginning of the liturgical celebration. I greet the Minister General of the Order of Capuchins and the Friars of the Community who carry out their service with zeal and dedication, welcoming the many pilgrims, assisting the poor with charity and witnessing to hope in the Risen Christ to all those who visit the Cemetery of Verano. I would like to assure you of my appreciation, and, above all, of my remembrance in prayer. I also greet the various groups who are involved in the animation of the catechesis, the liturgy, charity, the members of the two polyphonic choirs, the Franciscan Third Order, local and regional. Then I have learned with pleasure that for some years the "diocesan missionary laboratory" has been housed here, to inculcate in the parish communities a missionary awareness, and I willingly join you in expressing the hope that this initiative of our Diocese will help to inspire a courageous missionary pastoral action that will bring the proclamation of God's merciful love to every corner of Rome, involving mainly young people and families. Lastly, I would like to extend my thoughts to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, especially to the elderly, the sick and people who are lonely and in difficulty. I remember all and each one at this Holy Mass.
Dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this Advent what better message can we glean from St Lawrence than that of holiness? He repeats to us that holiness, that is, going to meet Christ who comes ceaselessly to visit us, does not go out of fashion, on the contrary as time passes it shines brightly and expresses the perennial striving for God of humankind. May this Jubilee event therefore be an occasion for your parish community of a renewed adherence to Christ, a further deepening of the sense of belonging to his Mystical Body which is the Church, and a constant commitment of evangelization through charity. May Lawrence, a heroic witness of the Crucified and Risen Christ be for each person an example of docile adherence to the divine will, so that, as we heard the Apostle Paul remind the Corinthians, we too may live in such a way as to be found "guiltless" in the day of Our Lord (cf. 1Co 1,7-9).
To prepare ourselves for Christ's coming is also the exhortation we hear in today's Gospel: "Watch", Jesus tells us in Luke's short parable about the master of the house who goes on a journey but the date of whose return is unknown (cf. Mc 13,33-37). Watching means following the Lord, choosing what Christ chose, loving what he loved, conforming one's own life to his; watching means passing every instant of our time in the sphere of his love without letting oneself be disheartened by the inevitable difficulties and problems of daily life. This is what St Lawrence did, this is what we must do and let us ask the Lord to grant us his grace so that Advent may be an incentive for all to walk in this direction. May Mary, the humble Virgin of Nazareth chosen by God to become Mother of the Redeemer, St Andrew whose feast we are celebrating today, and St Lawrence, an example of fearless Christian faithfulness to the point of martyrdom, guide us and go with us. Amen!
Benedict XVI Homilies 19108