GENERAL AUDIENCE 2003 45


Wednesday, 2 July 2003 - Psalm 146[145] - "Praise the Lord, O my soul!

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1. Psalm 146[145] that we have just heard is an "alleluia", the first of five which complete the entire collection in the Psalter. The Jewish liturgical tradition formerly used this hymn as a morning song of praise; it culminates in the proclamation of God's sovereignty over human history. Indeed, the Psalm ends with the declaration: "The Lord will reign for ever" (
Ps 146,10).

From this follows a comforting truth: we are not left to ourselves, the events of our days are not overshadowed by chaos or fate, they do not represent a mere sequence of private acts without sense or direction. From this conviction develops a true and proper profession of faith in God, celebrated in a sort of litany in which the attributes of his love and kindness are proclaimed (cf. Ps 146,6-9).

47 2. God is the Creator of heaven and earth who faithfully keeps the covenant that binds him to his people; it is He who brings justice to the oppressed, provides food to sustain the hungry and sets prisoners free. It is He who opens the eyes of the blind, who picks up those who have fallen, who loves the just, protects the foreigner, supports the orphan and the widow. It is he who muddles the ways of the unjust and who reigns sovereign over all beings and over all ages.

These are 12 theological assertions which, with their perfect number, are intended as an expression of the fullness and perfection of divine action. The Lord is not a Sovereign remote from his creatures but is involved in their history as the One who metes out justice and ranks himself on the side of the lowliest, of the victims, the oppressed, the unfortunate.

3. Man, therefore, finds himself facing a radical choice between two contrasting possibilities: on one side there is the temptation to "trust in princes" (cf.
Ps 146,3), adopting their criteria inspired by wickedness, selfishness and pride. In fact, this is a slippery slope, a ruinous road, a "crooked path and a devious way" (cf. Pr 2,15), whose goal is despair.

Indeed, the Psalmist reminds us that man is a frail, mortal being, as the very word 'adam implies; in Hebrew, this word is used to signify earth, matter, dust. Man - the Bible constantly states - is like a palace that crumbles [to dust] (cf. Qo 12,1-7), a spider's web that can be torn apart by the wind (cf. Jb 8,14), a strip of grass that is green at dawn but has withered by evening (cf. Ps 90,5-6 [89]; Ps 103,15-16 [102]). When death assails him, all his plans disintegrate and he returns to dust: "When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish" (Ps 146,4 [145]).

4. However, there is another possibility open to man, and the Psalmist exalts it with a beatitude: "Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God" (Ps 146,5). This is the path of trust in God, eternal and faithful. The amen, which is the Hebrew word for faith, precisely means being based on the steadfast solidity of the Lord, on his eternity, on his infinite power. Above all, however, it means sharing his choices, on which the profession of faith and praise described above has shed light.

We must live in consistency with the divine will, offer food to the hungry, visit prisoners, sustain and comfort the sick, protect and welcome foreigners, devote ourselves to the poor and the lowly. In practice this corresponds exactly to the spirit of the Beatitudes; it means opting for that proposal of love which saves us already in this life and will later become the object of our examination at the last judgment, which will seal history. Then we will be judged on our decision to serve Christ in the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the sick, the prisoner. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25,40): this is what the Lord will say at that time.

5. Let us conclude our meditation on Psalm 146[145] with an idea for reflection which is offered to us by the Christian tradition that followed.

When Origen, the great third-century writer, reaches verse 7 of our Psalm which says: "[the Lord] gives food to the hungry, the Lord sets the prisoners free", he finds in it an implicit reference to the Eucharist: "We hunger for Christ and he himself will give us the bread of heaven. "Give us this day our daily bread'. Those who say these words are hungry; those who feel the need for bread are hungry". And this hunger is fully satisfied by the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which man is nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. Origene-Gerolamo, 74 Omelie sul Libro dei Salmi, Milan 1993, pp. 526-527).

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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors:

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from Sierra Leone, England, Scotland, Canada and the United States. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. In a special way I greet the many student groups present. Upon all of you I cordially invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

I then greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the Feast of the Apostle Thomas. May his intercession increase your faith, dear young people, so that you may be ready to witness to Christ in every milieu. May it help you, dear sick people, to offer up every suffering so that God's saving plan can be achieved in the world. Lastly, may it sustain you, dear newly-weds, in your commitment to nourish your family with daily and faithful prayer.

At the end the Holy Father prayed for peace in Liberia and Uganda.

I am following with deep sorrow the dramatic events in Liberia and in the northern region of Uganda. I appeal to everyone to do their utmost so that those beloved African peoples may rediscover peace and safety, and not be denied the future to which they are entitled. I also express my closeness to the local Churches whose persons and institutions have been harshly hit, and I encourage their Pastors and the faithful to be strong and firm in hope. May our insistent prayer obtain this from the divine Mercy!






Wednesday, 9 July 2003 - Psalm 143[142]: 1-11 - "Penitential Psalms"

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1. The last of the so-called "Penitential Psalms" in the seventh supplication contained in the Psalter was just now proclaimed in Psalm 142 (cf.
Ps 6 Ps 31 Ps 37 Ps 50 Ps 101 Ps 129 Ps 142). The Christian tradition has used all of them to seek pardon from God for its sins. The text that we want to examine today was particularly dear to St Paul, who detected in it a radical sinfulness of every human creature: "for no man living is righteous before you, (O Lord)" (Ps 143,2). This thought is used by the Apostle as the foundation of his teaching on sin and grace (cf. Ga 2,16 Rm 3,20).

The Liturgy of Lauds proposes to us this supplication as a proposition of faith and an imploring of divine help at the beginning of the day. The Psalm, in fact, has us say to God: "Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I put my trust" (Ps 143,8).

2. The Psalm begins with an intense and insistent invocation directed to God, faithful to his promise of salvation offered to the people (cf. Ps 143,1). The person in prayer recognizes his unworthiness and therefore humbly asks God not to act as a judge (cf. Ps 143,2).

Then he traces a dramatic situation, similar to an earthly nightmare, which he is battling; the enemy, who represents evil in history and in the world, has led him to the threshold of death. He has fallen, in fact, into the dust of the earth, which is probably an image of the grave; then there is the darkness which is the absence of the light, a divine sign of life; then finally, "the deaths of great time", that is, the long-gone dead (cf. Ps 143,3), among which he seems to be already relegated.

49 3. The Psalmist's very being is devastated: he cannot even breathe and his heart seems like a piece of ice, incapable of continuing to fight (cf. Ps 143,4). To the faithful, knocked down and trampled, only the hands are left free, which stretch towards the sky in a gesture that is, at the same time, one of imploring help and seeking assistance (cf. Ps 143,6). The thought, in fact, recalls the past when God wrought marvels (cf. Ps 143,5).

This spark of hope warms the ice of suffering and the test in which the person in prayer feels immersed and at the point of being swept away (cf. Ps 143,7). The tension, however, remains ever strong; but a ray of light seems to appear on the horizon. We continue, then, to the other part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 143,7-11).

4. It opens with a new, pressing invocation. The faithful, feeling life almost ebbing away, raises his cry to God: "Make haste to answer me, O Lord! My spirit fails!" (Ps 143,7). Then, he fears that God may be hiding his face and may be far away, abandoning and leaving his creature alone.

Indeed, the disappearance of the divine face plunges the man into desolation, into death itself, because the Lord is the giver of life. Trust in the Lord, who does not abandon, flowers precisely in this sort of extreme perspective. The person in prayer redoubles his supplications and supports them with a declaration of faith in the Lord: "for in you I put my trust... for to you I lift up my soul... I have fled to you... for you are my God...". He asks to be saved from his enemies (cf. Ps 143,8-10) and freed from anguish (cf. Ps 143,11), but he also repeatedly makes another request that manifests a profound spiritual aspiration: "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God!" (Ps 143,10a; cf. Ps 143,8b, Ps 143,10b).

This admirable request we must make our own. We need to understand that the greatest good is the union of our will with the will of our heavenly Father, because only in this way are we able to receive in ourselves all his love, which brings us salvation and the fullness of life. If it is not accompanied by a strong desire of docility to God, our faith in him is not authentic. Thus, the person in prayer is aware of it and so he expresses this wish. His is therefore a true and proper profession of faith in God the Saviour, who removes the anguish and restores the taste for life, in the name of his "justice", namely, of his loving and salvific faithfulness (cf. Ps 143,11). Starting with a very distressing situation, the person in prayer is led to hope, to joy and to light, thanks to a sincere union to God and to his will that is a will of love. This is the power of prayer, generator of life and of salvation.

5. Turning the gaze to the light of the morning of grace (cf. Ps 143,8), St Gregory the Great, in his commentary of the seven Penitential Psalms, described this dawn of hope and of joy thus: "It is the day illuminated by that only truth which does not set, which the clouds do not darken and the rain does not obscure.... When Christ, our life, appears, and we begin to see God with open eyes, then every haze of darkness will flee, every puff of ignorance will dissolve, every cloud of temptation will be dissipated.... That will be the glorious and splendid day, prepared for all the elect by the One who has freed us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the reign of his beloved Son.

"The morning of that day is the future resurrection.... On that morning, the faithfulness of the just will be brilliant, the glory will appear, the exaltation will be seen, when God will wipe away every tear from the eyes of the saints, when death will finally be destroyed, when the just will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

"On that day, the Lord will use his mercy, saying: "Come, blessed of my Father' (Mt 25,34). Then, the mercy of God will be made manifest, which in the present life the human mind cannot conceive. The Lord has in fact prepared, for those who love him, that which eye has not seen, nor ear has heard, nor has entered the heart of man" (PL 79, coll. 649-650).
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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer special greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from Scotland, New Zealand and the United States of America. May this summer period of rest and relaxation bring you renewed joy and strength in our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy holidays!

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

My thought goes now, as usual, to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. We are advancing ever more into the summer period, a time of tourism and of pilgrims, of holidays and of rest. Dear young people, I invite you to profit from the summer by making use of social and religious experiences. I hope that you, dear sick people, find comfort in the closeness of your families. And to you, dear newly-weds, I extend the invitation to use this summer period to understand better your important mission in the Church and in society.




Castelgandolfo: Wednesday, 16 July 2003 - "Rejoice with Jerusalem!' - Canticle of the Book of Isaiah\i (66: 10-14a)

50 Is 66,10-14

1. The canticle we have just heard is taken from the last page of the Book of Isaiah. It is a song of joy dominated by the maternal figure of Jerusalem (cf. Is 66,11), and then by God's own loving solicitude (cf. Is 66,13). Biblical scholars claim that this final section that opens onto a splendid and festive future is the testimony of a later voice, the voice of a prophet who is celebrating the rebirth of Israel after the dark period of the Babylonian Exile. We are thus in the sixth century B.C., two centuries after the mission of Isaiah, the great prophet under whose name the whole of this inspired work is placed.

We will now follow the joyful flow of this short canticle, which begins with three imperatives which are indeed an invitation to happiness: "rejoice", "be glad" and "rejoice... in joy" (cf. Is 66,10). This is a shining thread that often runs through the last pages of the Book of Isaiah: the afflicted of Zion are comforted, crowned, covered with the "oil of gladness" (Is 61,3); the prophet himself says: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall exult in my God" (ibid., Is 61,10); "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice" over his people (Is 62,5). On the page before the canticle which is the object of our song and of our prayer now, it is the Lord himself who shares in the happiness of Israel, about to be reborn as a nation: "Be glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and be glad in my people" (Is 65,18-19).

2. The source of and reason for this inner exultation lie in the rediscovered vitality of Jerusalem, risen from the ashes of the ruins to which she had been reduced by the Babylonian armies. Indeed, mention is made of her "mourning" (Is 66,10), now something in the past.

As is often the case in various cultures, cities are represented with feminine, indeed, maternal images. When a city is at peace it is like a protective and safe womb; indeed, it is like a mother who breastfeeds her children with tenderness and abundance (Is 66,11). In this light the entity which the Bible calls, using a female term, "the daughter of Zion", that is, Jerusalem, resumes her role as a city-mother who comforts, nourishes and delights her children, that is, her inhabitants. Onto this lively, tender scene descends the Lord's word that has the tone of a blessing (cf. Is 66,12-14).

3. God makes use of other images linked to fertility: indeed, he speaks of rivers and streams, that is, water which symbolizes life, the flourishing of vegetation, the prosperity of the earth and its inhabitants (cf. Is 66,12). Jerusalem's prosperity, her "peace" (shalom), a generous gift of God, will assure her offspring a life surrounded by motherly tenderness: "they will be carried upon her hip, and dandled upon her knees" (ibid.), and this motherly tenderness will be the tenderness of God himself: "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you" (Is 66,13). Thus, the Lord uses a maternal metaphor to describe his love for his creatures.

51 We can also read an earlier passage in the Book of Isaiah which gives God a maternal profile: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even though these may forget, yet I will not forget you" (Is 49,15). In our Canticle the Lord's words to Jerusalem end by taking up the theme of inner vitality, expressed with another image of fertility and energy: that of new grass, an image applied to bones to portray the vigour of the body and of life (cf. Is 66,14).

4. At this point, as we contemplate the city-mother, it is easy to broaden our gaze to take in the silhouette of the Church, virgin and fertile mother. Let us conclude our meditation on the reborn Jerusalem with a reflection by St Ambrose, inferred in his work Le Vergini: "Holy Church is immaculate in her spousal union: fruitful in giving birth, she is a virgin through her chastity, yet she is mother of the children she conceives. Thus, we are born from a virgin who has conceived, not by a human act but through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are therefore born of a virgin, not in physical travail but amid the rejoicing of angels. A virgin nourishes us, not with the milk of her body, but with what the Apostle talks about when he speaks of having breastfed the weak state of the adolescent people of God.

"What married woman has more children than holy Church? She is virgin through the holiness she receives in the sacraments and she is mother of peoples. Her fertility is also attested by Scripture which says: "For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of she who is married' (Is 54,1 cf. Ga 4,27); our mother has no husband but she has a bridegroom, for both the Church in the peoples and the soul in individuals - immune from any kind of infidelity, fruitful in the life of the spirit - not without modesty, espouse the Word of God as their eternal bridegroom" (I, 31: SAEMO 14/1, PP 132-133).

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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, including the groups from Scotland, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and the United States. May your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome deepen your love of the Church. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy holidays!

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick, and the newly-weds.

Today's liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel gives me the opportunity to point out to you as a model for your constant reference Mary Most Holy, so that you may find in her example inspiration and reliable guidance. I urge you to call on her always: she will be a cause of comfort and hope for you.




Castel Gandolfo: Wednesday, 23 July 2003 - Psalm 147[146] - "Praise the Lord!'

52 Ps 147


1. The Psalm just sung is the first part of a composition that also includes the next Psalm, n. 147[146], that the original Hebrew had kept as one. It was the ancient Greek and Latin versions which divided the song into two different Psalms.

The Psalm begins with an invitation to praise God and then lists a long series of reasons to praise him, all expressed in the present tense. These are activities of God considered as characteristic and ever timely, but they could not be more different: some concern God's interventions in human life (cf. Ps 147,3 Ps 147,6 Ps 147,11 [146]) and in particular for Jerusalem and Israel (cf. Ps 147,2); others concern the created cosmos (cf. Ps 147,4) and more specifically, the earth with its flora and fauna (cf. Ps 147,8-10).

Finally, in telling us what pleases the Lord, the Psalm invites us to have a two-dimensional outlook: of religious reverence and of confidence (cf. Ps 147,11). We are not left to ourselves nor to the mercy of cosmic energies, but are always in the hands of the Lord, for his plan of salvation.

2. After the festive invitation to praise the Lord (cf. Ps 147,1), the Psalm unfolds in two poetic and spiritual movements. In the first (Ps 147,2-6), God's action in history is introduced with the image of a builder who is rebuilding Jerusalem, restored to life after the Babylonian Exile (cf. Ps 147,2). However, this great mason who is the Lord also shows himself to be a father, leaning down to tend his people's inner and physical wounds humiliated and oppressed (cf. Ps 147,3).

Let us make room for St Augustine who, in the Enarrationes in Psalmos 146 which he gave at Carthage in the year 412, commented on the sentence "the Lord heals the brokenhearted" as follows: "Those whose hearts are not broken cannot be healed.... Who are the brokenhearted? The humble. And those who are not brokenhearted? The proud. However, the broken heart is healed, and the heart swollen with pride is cast to the ground. Indeed, it is probable that once broken it can be set aright, it can be healed. "He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds...'. In other words, he heals the humble of heart, those who confess, who are punished, who are judged with severity so that they may experience his mercy. This is what heals. Perfect health, however, will be achieved at the end of our present mortal state when our corruptible being is reinvested with incorruptibility, and our moral being with immortality" (cf. 5-8: Esposizioni sui Salmi, IV, Rome 1977, pp. 772-779).

3. God's action, however, does not only concern uplifting his people from suffering. He who surrounds the poor with tenderness and care towers like a severe judge over the wicked (cf. Ps 147,6). The Lord of history is not impassive before the domineering who think they are the only arbiters in human affairs: God casts the haughty to the dusty ground, those who arrogantly challenge heaven (cf. 1S 2,7-8 Lc 1,51-53).

God's action, however, is not exhausted in his lordship over history; he is also the King of creation: the whole universe responds to his call as Creator. Not only does he determine the boundless constellations of stars, but he names each one and hence defines its nature and characteristics (cf. Ps 147,4 [146]).

The Prophet Isaiah sang: "Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these [the stars]? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name" (Is 40,26). The "hosts" of the Lord are therefore the stars. The Prophet Baruch continued: "The stars shone in their watches and were glad; he called them, and they said, "Here we are!'. They shone with gladness for him who made them" (Ba 3,34-35).

4. Another joyful invitation to sing praises (cf. Ps 147,7 [146]) preludes the second phase of Psalm 147[146] (cf. Ps 147,7-11). Once again God's creative action in the cosmos comes to the fore. In a territory where drought is common, as it is in the East, the first sign of divine love is the rain that makes the earth fertile (cf. Ps 147,8). In this way the Creator prepares food for the animals. Indeed, he even troubles to feed the tiniest of living creatures, like the young ravens that cry with hunger (cf. Ps 147,9). Jesus was to ask us to look at the birds of the air; "they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them" (Mt 6,26 cf. also Lc 12,24, with an explicit reference to "ravens").

Yet once again our attention shifts from creation to human life. Thus, the Psalm ends by showing the Lord stooping down to the just and humble (cf. Ps 147,10-11 [146]), as was declared in the first part of our hymn (cf. Ps 147,6). Two symbols of power are used, the horse and the legs of a man running, to intimate that divine conduct does not give in to or let power intimidate it. Once again, the Lord's logic is above pride and the arrogance of power, and takes the side of those who are faithful, who "hope in his steadfast love" (Ps 147,11), that is, who abandon themselves to God's guidance in their acts and thoughts, in their planning and in their daily life.

53 It is also among them that the person praying must take his place, putting his hope in the Lord's grace, certain that he will be enfolded in the mantle of divine love: "The eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine.... Yea, our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name" (Ps 33,18-19 Ps 33,21 [32]).
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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I offer special greetings to the English-speaking visitors present today, especially those from Ireland, Malta, Nigeria, Japan and the United States of America. May the God of peace fill you always with his gifts of joy and strength!

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

Lastly, my thoughts go to the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. Dear friends, make the most of the summertime to deepen your personal relationship with Christ. May he be a guide for you, young people, a comfort for you, sick people, and for you, newly-weds, a bond of love.






Castelgandolfo: Wednesday, 30 July 2003 - Psalm 51[50] - "Have mercy on me, O God!'

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1. For the fourth time during our reflections on the Liturgy of Lauds, we hear proclaimed Psalm 51[50], the famous Miserere. Indeed, it is presented anew to us on the Friday of every week, so that it may become an oasis of meditation in which we can discover the evil that lurks in the conscience and beg the Lord for purification and forgiveness. Indeed, as the Psalmist confesses in another supplication, "O Lord... no man living is righteous before you" (
Ps 143,2 [142]). In the Book of Job we read: "How can man be righteous before God? How can he who is born of woman be clean? Behold, even the moon is not bright, and the stars are not clean in his sight; how much less man, who is a maggot, and the son of man, who is a worm!" (Jb 25,4-6).

These are strong, dramatic words that are intended to portray the full seriousness and gravity of the limitations and frailty of the human creature, his perverse capacity to sow evil and violence, impurity and falsehood. However, the message of hope of the Miserere which the Psalter puts on the lips of David, a converted sinner, is this: God can "blot out, wash and cleanse" the sin confessed with a contrite heart (cf. Ps 51,2-3 [50]). The Lord says, through the voice of Isaiah, even if "your sins are scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Is 1,18).

2. This time we will reflect briefly on the end of Psalm 51[50], a finale that is full of hope, for the person praying knows that God has forgiven him (cf. Ps 51,17-21). On his lips is praise of the Lord, which he is on the point of proclaiming to the world, thereby witnessing to the joy felt by the soul purified from evil, hence, freed from remorse (cf. Ps 51,17).

The person praying witnesses clearly to another conviction, making a link with the teaching reiterated by the prophets (cf. Is 1,10-17 Am 5,21-25 Os 6,6): the most pleasing sacrifice that rises to the Lord like a fragrance, a pleasant odour (cf. Gn 8,21), is not the holocaust of bulls and lambs, but rather of "the broken and contrite heart" (Ps 51,19 [50]).

The Imitation of Christ, a text so dear to the Christian spiritual tradition, repeats this same recommendation of the Psalmist: "Humble repentance for sins is the sacrifice that pleases you, its fragrance far sweeter than the smoke of incense.... It is there that one is purified and every evil washed away" (cf. III 52, 4).

3. The Psalm ends on an unexpected note in an utterly different perspective that even seems contradictory (cf. Ps 51,20-21). From the final supplication of a single sinner, it becomes a prayer for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, which takes us from the time of David to that of the city's destruction centuries later. Moreover, having voiced the divine rejection of animal sacrifices in v. 18, the Psalm proclaims in v. 21 that it is in these same burnt offerings that God will take delight.

It is clear that the last passage is a later addition, made at the time of the Exile and intended, in a certain sense, to correct or at least to complete the perspective of the Davidic Psalm on two points: on the one hand, it was not deemed fit that the entire Psalm be restricted to an individual prayer; it was also necessary to think of the grievous situation of the whole city. On the other hand, there was a desire to give a new dimension to the divine rejection of ritual sacrifices; this rejection could be neither complete nor definitive, for it was a cult that God himself had prescribed in the Torah. The person who completed the Psalm had a valid intuition: he grasped the needy state of sinners, their need for sacrificial mediation. Sinners cannot purify themselves on their own; good intentions are not enough. An effective external mediation is required. The New Testament was to reveal the full significance of this insight, showing that Christ, in giving his life, achieved a perfect sacrificial mediation.

4. In his Homilies on Ezechiel, St Gregory the Great shows a good understanding of the change of outlook that occurs between vv. 19 and 21 of the Miserere. He suggests an interpretation that we too can accept as a conclusion to our reflection. St Gregory applies v. 19, which speaks of a contrite heart, to the earthly life of the Church, and v. 21, which speaks of burnt offerings, to the Church in heaven.

Here are the words of that great Pontiff: "Holy Church has two lives: one that she lives in time, the other that she receives eternally; one with which she struggles on earth, the other that is rewarded in heaven; one with which she accumulates merits, the other that henceforth enjoys the merits earned. And in both these lives she offers a sacrifice: here below, the sacrifice of compunction, and in heaven above, the sacrifice of praise. Of the former sacrifice it is said: "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit' (Ps 51,19 [50]); of the latter it is written: "Then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and in whole burnt offerings' (Ps 51,21 [50]).... In both, flesh is offered, since the sacrifice of the flesh is the mortification of the body, up above; the sacrifice of the flesh is the glory of the resurrection in praise to God. In heaven, flesh will be offered as a burnt holocaust when it is transformed into eternal incorruptibility, and there will be no more conflict for us and nothing that is mortal, for our flesh will endure in everlasting praise, all on fire with love for him" (Omelie su Ezechiele/2, Rome 1993, p. 271).
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To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors

I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, including the groups from Scotland, the Holy Land, Saint Lucia and the United States. May your visit to Castel Gandolfo and Rome bring you peace and hope. Upon all of you I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Happy holidays!

To young people, the sick and newly-weds

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick and the newly-weds. I invite you, dear young people, to dedicate part of your summer holidays to meaningful experiences of solidarity. I hope that you, dear sick people, will benefit from this time of rest. May you, dear newly-weds, enjoy the serenity of your union during the holidays.



August 2003


GENERAL AUDIENCE 2003 45