Benedict XVI Homilies 10410
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In his Gospel, Saint John, more fully than the other three evangelists, reports in his own distinctive way the farewell discourses of Jesus; they appear as his testament and a synthesis of the core of his message. They are introduced by the washing of feet, in which Jesus’ redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in this gesture of humility. Jesus’ words end as a prayer, his priestly prayer, whose background exegetes have traced to the ritual of the Jewish feast of Atonement. The significance of that feast and its rituals – the world’s purification and reconciliation with God – is fulfilled in Jesus’ prayer, a prayer which anticipates his Passion and transforms it into a prayer. The priestly prayer thus makes uniquely evident the perpetual mystery of Holy Thursday: the new priesthood of Jesus Christ and its prolongation in the consecration of the Apostles, in the incorporation of the disciples into the Lord’s priesthood. From this inexhaustibly profound text, I would like to select three sayings of Jesus which can lead us more fully into the mystery of Holy Thursday.
First, there are the words: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn 17,3). Everyone wants to have life. We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy. This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable. When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful. But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? We have heard Jesus’ answer: this is eternal life, that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means first of all that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others. If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful. But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive. Already in Greek philosophy we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person, can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus we are led by the One who is himself Life. In this relationship we too live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is himself Life.
But let us return to Jesus’s words – this is eternal life: that they know you and the One whom you have sent. Knowledge of God becomes eternal life. Clearly “knowledge” here means something more than mere factual knowledge, as, for example, when we know that a famous person has died or a discovery was made. Knowing, in the language of sacred Scripture, is an interior becoming one with the other. Knowing God, knowing Christ, always means loving him, becoming, in a sense, one with him by virtue of that knowledge and love. Our life becomes authentic and true life, and thus eternal life, when we know the One who is the source of all being and all life. And so Jesus’ words become a summons: let us become friends of Jesus, let us try to know him all the more! Let us live in dialogue with him! Let us learn from him how to live aright, let us be his witnesses! Then we become people who love and then we act aright. Then we are truly alive.
Twice in the course of the priestly prayer Jesus speaks of revealing God’s name. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world” (Jn 17,6). “I have made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn 17,26). The Lord is alluding here to the scene of the burning bush, when God, at Moses’ request, had revealed his name. Jesus thus means to say that he is bringing to fulfilment what began with the burning bush; that in him God, who had made himself known to Moses, now reveals himself fully. And that in doing so he brings about reconciliation; that the love with which God loves his Son in the mystery of the Trinity now draws men and women into this divine circle of love. But what, more precisely, does it mean to say that the revelation made from the burning bush is finally brought to completion, fully attains its purpose? The essence of what took place on Mount Horeb was not the mysterious word, the “name” which God had revealed to Moses, as a kind of mark of identification. To give one’s name means to enter into relationship with another. The revelation of the divine name, then, means that God, infinite and self-subsistent, enters into the network of human relationships; that he comes out of himself, so to speak, and becomes one of us, present among us and for us. Consequently, Israel saw in the name of God not merely a word steeped in mystery, but an affirmation that God is with us. According to sacred Scripture, the Temple is the dwelling-place of God’s name. God is not confined within any earthly space; he remains infinitely above and beyond the world. Yet in the Temple he is present for us as the One who can be called – as the One who wills to be with us. This desire of God to be with his people comes to completion in the incarnation of the Son. Here what began at the burning bush is truly brought to completion: God, as a Man, is able to be called by us and he is close to us. He is one of us, yet he remains the eternal and infinite God. His love comes forth, so to speak, from himself and enters into our midst. The mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord under the appearances of bread and wine, is the highest and most sublime way in which this new mode of God’s being-with-us takes shape. “Truly you are a God who is hidden, O God of Israel”, the prophet Isaiah had prayed (Is 45,15). This never ceases to be true. But we can also say: Truly you are a God who is close, you are a God-with-us. You have revealed your mystery to us, you have shown your face to us. You have revealed yourself and given yourself into our hands… At this hour joy and gratitude must fill us, because God has shown himself, because he, infinite and beyond the grasp of our reason, is the God who is close to us, who loves us, and whom we can know and love.
The best-known petition of the priestly prayer is the petition for the unity of the disciples, now and yet to come. The Lord says, “I do not ask only on behalf of these – that is, the community of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room – but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17,20 ff.; cf. Jn 17,11 Jn 17,13). What exactly is the Lord asking for? First, he prays for his disciples, present and future. He peers into the distance of future history. He sees the dangers there and he commends this community to the heart of the Father. He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity. It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present – and it is true that word ekklesia is not used by John – and yet she appears here in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one. Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic. This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church. The Lord prays to the Father for the Church. She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God. Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ. He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love. He asks the Father that these believers “be in us” (Jn 17,21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity. Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus. It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ. But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love? It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.
At this hour, when the Lord in the most holy Eucharist gives himself, his body and his blood, into our hands and into our hearts, let us be moved by his prayer. Let us enter into his prayer and thus beseech him: Lord, grant us faith in you, who are one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Grant that we may live in your love and thus become one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
An ancient Jewish legend from the apocryphal book “The life of Adam and Eve” recounts that, in his final illness, Adam sent his son Seth together with Eve into the region of Paradise to fetch the oil of mercy, so that he could be anointed with it and healed. The two of them went in search of the tree of life, and after much praying and weeping on their part, the Archangel Michael appeared to them, and told them they would not obtain the oil of the tree of mercy and that Adam would have to die. Later, Christian readers added a word of consolation to the Archangel’s message, to the effect that after 5,500 years the loving King, Christ, would come, the Son of God who would anoint all those who believe in him with the oil of his mercy. “The oil of mercy from eternity to eternity will be given to those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Then the Son of God, Christ, abounding in love, will descend into the depths of the earth and will lead your father into Paradise, to the tree of mercy.” This legend lays bare the whole of humanity’s anguish at the destiny of illness, pain and death that has been imposed upon us. Man’s resistance to death becomes evident: somewhere – people have constantly thought – there must be some cure for death. Sooner or later it should be possible to find the remedy not only for this or that illness, but for our ultimate destiny – for death itself. Surely the medicine of immortality must exist. Today too, the search for a source of healing continues. Modern medical science strives, if not exactly to exclude death, at least to eliminate as many as possible of its causes, to postpone it further and further, to prolong life more and more. But let us reflect for a moment: what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years? Would that be a good thing? Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation. The true cure for death must be different. It cannot lead simply to an indefinite prolongation of this current life. It would have to transform our lives from within. It would need to create a new life within us, truly fit for eternity: it would need to transform us in such a way as not to come to an end with death, but only then to begin in fullness. What is new and exciting in the Christian message, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes indeed, this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach. In baptism, this medicine is given to us. A new life begins in us, a life that matures in faith and is not extinguished by the death of the old life, but is only then fully revealed.
To this some, perhaps many, will respond: I certainly hear the message, but I lack faith. And even those who want to believe will ask: but is it really so? How are we to picture it to ourselves? How does this transformation of the old life come about, so as to give birth to the new life that knows no death? Once again, an ancient Jewish text can help us form an idea of the mysterious process that begins in us at baptism. There it is recounted how the patriarch Enoch was taken up to the throne of God. But he was filled with fear in the presence of the glorious angelic powers, and in his human weakness he could not contemplate the face of God. “Then God said to Michael,” to quote from the book of Enoch, “‘Take Enoch and remove his earthly clothing. Anoint him with sweet oil and vest him in the robes of glory!’ And Michael took off my garments, anointed me with sweet oil, and this oil was more than a radiant light … its splendour was like the rays of the sun. When I looked at myself, I saw that I was like one of the glorious beings” (Ph. Rech, Inbild des Kosmos, II 524).
Precisely this – being reclothed in the new garment of God – is what happens in baptism, so the Christian faith tells us. To be sure, this changing of garments is something that continues for the whole of life. What happens in baptism is the beginning of a process that embraces the whole of our life – it makes us fit for eternity, in such a way that, robed in the garment of light of Jesus Christ, we can appear before the face of God and live with him for ever.
In the rite of baptism there are two elements in which this event is expressed and made visible in a way that demands commitment for the rest of our lives. There is first of all the rite of renunciation and the promises. In the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the west, the symbol of darkness, sunset, death and hence the dominion of sin. The one to be baptized turned in that direction and pronounced a threefold “no”: to the devil, to his pomp and to sin. The strange word “pomp”, that is to say the devil’s glamour, referred to the splendour of the ancient cult of the gods and of the ancient theatre, in which it was considered entertaining to watch people being torn limb from limb by wild beasts. What was being renounced by this “no” was a type of culture that ensnared man in the adoration of power, in the world of greed, in lies, in cruelty. It was an act of liberation from the imposition of a form of life that was presented as pleasure and yet hastened the destruction of all that was best in man. This renunciation – albeit in less dramatic form – remains an essential part of baptism today. We remove the “old garments”, which we cannot wear in God’s presence. Or better put: we begin to remove them. This renunciation is actually a promise in which we hold out our hand to Christ, so that he may guide us and reclothe us. What these “garments” are that we take off, what the promise is that we make, becomes clear when we see in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians what Paul calls “works of the flesh” – a term that refers precisely to the old garments that we remove. Paul designates them thus: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like” (Ga 5,19ff.). These are the garments that we remove: the garments of death.
Then, in the practice of the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the east – the symbol of light, the symbol of the newly rising sun of history, the symbol of Christ. The candidate for baptism determines the new direction of his life: faith in the Trinitarian God to whom he entrusts himself. Thus it is God who clothes us in the garment of light, the garment of life. Paul calls these new “garments” “fruits of the spirit”, and he describes them as follows: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Ga 5,22).
In the early Church, the candidate for baptism was then truly stripped of his garments. He descended into the baptismal font and was immersed three times – a symbol of death that expresses all the radicality of this removal and change of garments. His former death-bound life the candidate consigns to death with Christ, and he lets himself be drawn up by and with Christ into the new life that transforms him for eternity. Then, emerging from the waters of baptism the neophytes were clothed in the white garment, the garment of God’s light, and they received the lighted candle as a sign of the new life in the light that God himself had lit within them. They knew that they had received the medicine of immortality, which was fully realized at the moment of receiving holy communion. In this sacrament we receive the body of the risen Lord and we ourselves are drawn into this body, firmly held by the One who has conquered death and who carries us through death.
In the course of the centuries, the symbols were simplified, but the essential content of baptism has remained the same. It is no mere cleansing, still less is it a somewhat complicated initiation into a new association. It is death and resurrection, rebirth to new life.
Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the tree of life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Ph 4,4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held for ever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given (cf. Mt 28,18). In this way, confident of being heard, we make our own the Church’s Prayer over the Gifts from the liturgy of this night: Accept the prayers and offerings of your people. With your help may this Easter mystery of our redemption bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I did not find the time to prepare a real Homily. I would just like to invite each one to a personal meditation, proposing and emphasizing certain passages of today's Liturgy, which lend themselves to the prayerful dialogue among us and the Word of God. The word, the phrase that I would like to propose for this communal meditation is this great affirmation by St Peter: "We must obey God rather than men" (Ac 5,29). St Peter stands before the supreme religious institution, which one should normally obey, but God is above this institution and God has given him another "command": he must obey God. Obedience to God is freedom; obedience to God gives him the liberty to oppose the institution.
And here exegetes draw our attention to the fact that St Peter's response to the Sanhedrim is almost word for word identical to Socrates' response to the sentence at the tribunal in Athens. The tribunal offers him freedom, liberation; on the condition, however, that he does not continue to seek God. But for him searching for God, the quest for God, is a superior mandate, which comes from God himself. And a freedom bought at the price of renouncing the journey towards God would no longer be freedom. Therefore he must not obey these judges he must not purchase his life at the cost of losing himself but must obey God. Obedience to God has priority.
Here it is important to stress that it is a question of obedience and that it is obedience itself that constitutes freedom. The modern age has spoken of the liberation of man, of his full autonomy, hence also of the liberation from obedience to God. Obedience must no longer exist, man is free, he is autonomous: that is all. However, this autonomy is a lie: it is an ontological falsehood because man does not exist on his own and for himself, and it is also a political and practical falsehood because collaboration, the sharing of freedom is necessary. And if God does not exist, if God is not a reference accessible to man, the consensus of the majority alone remains the supreme reference. Consequently, the consensus of the majority becomes the last word which we must obey. And this consensus we know it from the history of the past century can also be a "consensus in evil".
Thus we see that the so-called autonomy does not truly set man free. Obedience to God is a freedom because it is the truth, it is the reference that comes before all the other human needs. In the history of humanity these words of Peter and of Socrates are the true beacon of the liberation of man, who can see God and, in God's name, can and must obey, not so much human beings, but God, thus freeing himself from the positivism of human obedience. Dictatorships have always been against this obedience to God. The Nazi, and likewise the Marxist dictatorship, could not accept a God who is above ideological power. The freedom of the martyrs, who recognize God precisely in obedience to divine power, is always the act of liberation through which Christ's freedom reaches us.
Today, thanks be to God, we do not live under dictatorships, yet subtle forms of dictatorship exist: a conformism, which becomes obligatory, thinking as everyone thinks, behaving as everyone behaves, and the suble assaults on the Church or even those that are less subtle show that this conformism can really be a true dictatorship. This is what applies to us: we must obey God rather than men. However this implies that we truly know God and that we truly wish to obey him. God is not a pretext for one's personal will, but is really the One who calls and invites us, if necessary, even to martyrdom. Therefore, in measuring up to this word that ushers in a new history of freedom in the world, let us pray above all to know God, to know God humbly and truly, and in knowing God, to learn true obedience which is the root of human freedom.
Let us choose a second passage from the First Reading. St Paul says that God exalted Jesus at his right hand as Leader and Saviour (cf. Ac 5,31). Leader is a translation of the Greek terms archegos, which implies a far more dynamic vision: archegos is the one who shows the way, who goes ahead, it is a movement, an upwards movement. God raised him at his right hand therefore, speaking of Christ as archegos means that Christ walks before us, he precedes us, he shows us the way. And being in communion with Christ is being on the way, it is climbing with Christ, it is following Christ, it is the ascent, it is following the archegos, the One who has gone before, who precedes us and points out the way.
Here, evidently, it is important that we are told where Christ arrives and where we too must arrive: hypsosen on high ascending to the right hand of the Father. The "sequela" of Christ is not only the imitation of his virtues, it is not only living in this world, as far we are able, as Christ lived, in accordance with his words, but it is a journey that has a destination. And the destination is the right hand of the Father. There is this journey of Jesus, this following of Jesus which ends at the right hand of the Father. The whole of Jesus' journey, even reaching the right hand of the Father fits into the horizon of this "sequela".
In this regard the destination of this journey is eternal life at the right hand of the Father in communion with Christ. Today all too often we are somewhat afraid of speaking about eternal life. We talk of things that are useful for the world, we show that Christianity also helps us to improve the world, but we do not dare to say that its destination is eternal life and that from this destination stem the criteria for life. We must understand anew that Christianity remains a "fragment" unless we think of this destination, that we want to follow the archegos to God's height, to the glory of the Son who makes us sons in the Son, and we must once again recognize that only in the great perspective of eternal life does Christianity reveal its full meaning. We must have the courage, the joy, the great hope that eternal life exists, it is the true life and from this true life comes the light that also illuminates this world.
One may even say leaving aside eternal life, the Heaven promised that it is better to live in accordance with Christian criteria because living in accordance with truth and love, even in the midst of so much persecution is in itself good and is better than everything else. It is precisely this will to live in accordance with truth and love that must also be open to the whole breadth of God's plan with us, to the courage to jubilate already at the prospect of eternal life, the ascent, following our archegos. And Soter is the Saviour, who saves us from ignorance, in seeking the last things. The Saviour saves us from solitude; he saves us from the emptiness that pervades life without eternity; he saves us by giving us love in its fullness. He is the guide. Christ, the archegos, saves us by giving us the light, giving us the truth, giving us the love of God.
Next let us reflect further on this verse: Christ, the Saviour, gave to Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins (Ac 5,31) in the Greek text the term is metanoia he gave repentance and pardon for sins. This to me is a very important observation: repentance is a grace. There is an exegetical trend that states that in Galilee Jesus would have proclaimed a grace without conditions, absolutely unconditional, therefore also without penitence, grace as such, without human preconditions.
But this is a false interpretation of grace. Repentance is grace; it is a grace that we recognize our sin; it is a grace that we realize the need for renewal, for change, for the transformation of our being. Repentance the capacity to be penitent, is a gift of grace. And I must say that we Christians, even in recent times, have often avoided the word penitence it seemed to us too difficult. Now, under the attacks of the world that speak of our sins, we see that the capacity to repent is a grace. And we see that it is necessary to do penance, that is, to recognize what is wrong in our lives, open ourselves to forgiveness, prepare ourselves for pardon by allowing ourselves to be transformed.
The pain of repentance, of purification and of transformation this pain is a grace, because it is renewal, it is a work of divine mercy. And thus these two things of which St Peter speaks repentance and forgiveness correspond to Jesus' initial preaching: metanoeite, in other words, "repent" (cf. Mc 1,15). Therefore this is the fundamental point: metanoia is not a private affair, which appears to be substituted by grace, but rather metanoia is the advent of grace that transforms us. And in conclusion, one word of the Gospel, in which we are told that whoever believes will have eternal life (cf. Jn 3,36). In faith, in this "transformation" that repentance brings, in this conversion, in this new way of living, we arrive at life, at real life.
At this point two other texts come to mind. In the "priestly prayer" the Lord says: this is life, knowing you and your Anointed? (cf. Jn 17,3). Understanding the essential, knowing the decisive Person, knowing God and the One whom he has sent is life life and understanding the understanding of the realities that constitute life. And the other text is the response of the Lord to the Sadducees regarding the Resurrection, when, using the Books of Moses, the Lord proves the Resurrection as a fact, by saying: God is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob (cf. Mt 22,31-32 Mc 12,26-27 Lc 20,37-38). God is not a God of the dead. If God is the God of these, then they live. Whoever is inscribed in God's name participates in God's life, and lives. Therefore to believe is to be inscribed in the name of God. Thus we are alive. Whoever has a share in God's name is not dead but rather belongs to the living God. In this sense we should be able to understand the dynamism of faith, which entails enrolling our names in the name of God and in this way entering into life.
Let us pray the Lord that this may come about and that today, with our own lives, we may truly come to know God, so that our name enter into God's name and our existence become true life: eternal life, love and truth.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
I am very glad to be here with all of you today before the beautiful church of Saint Publius to celebrate the great mystery of God’s love made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. At this time, the joy of the Easter season fills our hearts because we are celebrating Christ’s victory, the victory of life over sin and death. It is a joy which transforms our lives and fills us with hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises. Christ is risen, alleluia!
I greet the President of the Republic and Mrs Abela, the civil authorities of this beloved Nation, and all the people of Malta and Gozo. I thank Archbishop Cremona for his gracious words, and I also greet Bishop Grech and Bishop Depasquale, Archbishop Mercieca, Bishop Cauchi and the other bishops and priests present, as well as all the Christian faithful of the Church in Malta and Gozo. Since my arrival yesterday evening I have experienced the same kind of warm welcome which your ancestors gave the Apostle Paul in the year sixty.
Many travellers have disembarked here in the course of your history. The richness and variety of Maltese culture is a sign that your people have profited greatly from the exchange of gifts and hospitality with seafaring visitors. And it is a sign that you have known how to exercise discernment in drawing upon the best of what they had to offer.
I urge you to continue to do so. Not everything that today’s world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and his Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church. If we are tempted to believe them, we should recall the incident in today’s Gospel, when the disciples, all of them experienced fishermen, toiled all night but failed to catch a single fish. Then, when Jesus appeared on the shore, he directed them to a catch so great that they could scarcely haul it in. Left to themselves, their efforts were fruitless; when Jesus stood alongside them, they netted a huge quantity of fish. My dear brothers and sisters, if we place our trust in the Lord and follow his teachings, we will always reap immense rewards.
Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in him alone. It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only he can protect us from harm, only he can guide us through the storms of life, only he can bring us to a safe haven, as he did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land” (Ac 27,44).
More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. And he calls us to a relationship of love. Notice the question that he put three times to Peter on the shore of the lake: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” On the basis of Peter’s affirmative response, Jesus assigns him a task – the task of feeding his flock. Here we see the basis of all pastoral ministry in the Church. It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom he loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating his love to those we serve. During our Lord’s Passion, Peter denied him three times. Now, after the Resurrection, Jesus invites him three times to avow his love, in this way offering him healing and forgiveness and at the same time entrusting him with his mission. The miraculous catch of fish underlined the apostles’ dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of God’s grace. With him, we can do all things: without him we can do nothing.
We know from Saint Mark’s Gospel the signs that accompany those who put their faith in Jesus: they will pick up serpents and be unharmed, they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover (cf. Mc 16,18). These signs were immediately recognized by your forebears when Paul came among them. A viper attached itself to his hand, but he simply shook it off into the fire, and suffered no harm. He was taken to see the father of Publius, the protos of the island, and after praying and laying hands on him, Paul healed him of his fever. Of all the gifts brought to these shores in the course of your people’s history, the gift brought by Paul was the greatest of all, and it is much to your credit that it was immediately accepted and treasured. Ghozzu l-fidi u l-valuri li takom l-Appostlu Missierkom San Pawl. Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paul’s gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines. But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. As Moses taught the people of Israel, the words of the Lord “shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise” (Dt 6,6-7). This was well understood by Malta’s first canonized Saint, Dun Gorg Preca. His tireless work of catechesis, inspiring young and old with a love for Christian doctrine and a deep devotion to the Incarnate Word of God, set an example that I urge you to maintain. Remember that the exchange of goods between these islands and the world outside is a two-way process. What you receive, evaluate with care, and what you have that is of value, be sure to share with others.
I would like to address a particular word to the priests present here, in this year devoted to a celebration of the great gift of the priesthood. Dun Gorg was a priest of remarkable humility, goodness, meekness and generosity, deeply devoted to prayer and with a passion for communicating the truths of the Gospel. Let him serve as a model and an inspiration for you, as you strive to fulfil the mission you have received to feed the Lord’s flock. Remember, too, the question that the Risen Lord put three times to Peter: “Do you love me?” That is the question he asks each of you. Do you love him? Do you wish to serve him through the gift of your whole lives? Do you long to bring others to know and love him? With Peter, have the courage to answer, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” and accept with grateful hearts the beautiful task that he has assigned you. The mission entrusted to priests is truly a service to joy, to God’s joy which longs to break into the world (cf. Homily, 24 April 2005).
As I look around me now at the great crowds gathered here in Floriana for our celebration of the Eucharist, I am reminded of the scene described in our second reading today, in which myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands united their voices in one great song of praise: “To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever” (Ap 5,13). Continue to sing that song, in praise of the risen Lord and in thanksgiving for his manifold gifts. In the words of Saint Paul, Apostle of Malta, I conclude my words to you this morning: “L-imhabba tieghi tkun maghkom ilkoll fi Kristu Gesù” (1Co 16,24).
 My dear sons and daughters
 Preserve the faith and values transmitted to you by your father the Apostle Saint Paul.
 “My love is with you all in Christ Jesus” (1Co 16,24).
Benedict XVI Homilies 10410