Audiences 2005-2013 14032

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In our continuing catechesis on Christian prayer, we now begin a new chapter on prayer in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul. Today I wish to speak of the figure of Mary, who with the Apostles in the Upper Room prayerfully awaits the gift of the Holy Spirit. In all the events of her life, from the Annunciation through the Cross to Pentecost, Mary is presented by Saint Luke as a woman of recollected prayer and meditation on the mystery of God’s saving plan in Christ. In the Upper Room, we see Mary’s privileged place in the Church, of which she is the “exemplar and outstanding model in faith and charity” (Lumen Gentium
LG 53). As Mother of God and Mother of the Church, Mary prays in and with the Church at every decisive moment of salvation history. Let us entrust to her every moment of our own lives, and let her teach us the need for prayer, so that in loving union with her Son we may implore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.
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I offer a warm welcome to the students of the United States Naval Academy. My greeting also goes to the many parish and school groups present. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from Great Britain, Ireland, Norway, Indonesia, Japan, Canada and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 4 April 2012: Apostolic Journey to Mexico and to the Republic of Cuba - Easter Triduum


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I still feel the strong emotion my recent Apostolic Visit to Mexico and Cuba aroused in me, which I would like to recall today. Gratitude to the Lord rises spontaneously from my soul: in his Providence, he allowed me to travel for the first time as Successor of Peter to these two countries, which preserve an indelible memory of Bl. John Paul II’s visits. The bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico and of other Latin American countries, the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the Holy See and the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in the Republic of Cuba were the occasion for my pilgrimage. With it in spirit, I wished to embrace the entire continent, inviting everyone to live together in hope and the concrete engagement to walk united towards a better future. I am grateful to the Presidents of Mexico and Cuba, who courteously welcomed me, as well as to the other Authorities. I wholeheartedly thank the Archbishops of León, Santiago de Cuba and Havana and the other venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, who welcomed me with great affection, as well as their collaborators and everyone who worked so generously for my Pastoral Visit. They were unforgettable days of joy and hope, which will remain impressed in my heart!

The first stop was León, in the State of Guanajuato, the geographical centre of Mexico. There, a large, festive crowd offered me an extraordinary and lively reception, as a sign of the warm embrace of an entire people. Starting from the welcome ceremony, I was able to recognize the faith and the warmth of the priests, the consecrated people and the lay faithful. In the presence of the leaders of various institutions, of numerous Bishops and of the representatives of society, I recalled the necessity of recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of the human person — among which religious freedom stands out — assuring my closeness to everyone suffering because of social wounds, old and new conflicts, corruption and violence. I recall with profound gratitude the countless people lining the streets, who accompanied me with enthusiasm. In those hands extended in a sign of greeting and affection, in those happy faces, in those cries of joy I saw the tenacious hope of Mexican Christians, a hope which has remained alight in their hearts despite the difficult moments of violence, which I did not fail to deplore and to whose victims I turned a heart-felt thought, being able to comfort some in person. On that same day I encountered a great number of children and adolescents, who are the future of the nation and of the Church. Their inexhaustible exuberance expressed in resounding song and music, as well as their looks and gestures, were evidence of the strong desire of all the children of Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean to be able to live in peace, in serenity and harmony, in a more just and reconciled society.

The disciples of the Lord should strive to increase the joy of being Christian and the joy of belonging to the Church. The energy to serve Christ in situations that are difficult and painful is born from this joy. I recalled this truth to the enormous crowd assembled for the Sunday Eucharistic celebration in the Bicentennial Park in León. I exhorted all to trust in the goodness of Almighty God who can change unbearable and dark situations from within, from the heart. The Mexicans responded with their ardent faith and with their convinced adherence to the Gospel I recognized yet again comforting signs of hope for the continent. The last event of my Visit in Mexico, still in León, was the celebration of Vespers in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Light, with the Mexican Bishops and the representatives of the Episcopates of America. I expressed my closeness to their commitment in the face of various challenges and difficulties, and my gratitude to those who spread the Gospel in complex situations, often not without restrictions. I encouraged them to be zealous Pastors and reliable guides, inspiring everywhere sincere communion and cordial adherence to the Church’s teaching. I then left the beloved country of Mexico where I experienced a special devotion and affection for the Vicar of Christ. Before leaving, I urged the Mexican people to remain faithful to the Lord and to his Church, firmly anchored to their own Christian roots.

On the following day, the second part of my Apostolic Visit began with my arrival in Cuba, where I went above all in order to support the mission of the Catholic Church, engaged in proclaiming the Gospel with joy, despite the lack of means and the difficulties yet to be overcome, so that religion may carry out its proper spiritual and educational service in the public sector of society. I wished to underline this by going to Santiago de Cuba, the second city of the Island, without failing to highlight the good relations which exist between the State and the Holy See, with the aim of serving the lively and constructive presence of the local Church. I also assured them that the Pope carries in his heart the preoccupations and the aspirations of all Cubans, especially those who suffer through the restriction of freedom.

The first Holy Mass which I had the joy of celebrating on Cuban soil took place in the context of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the image of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Patroness of Cuba. It was an intensely strong spiritual moment, with the attentive and prayerful participation of thousands of people, the sign of a Church which is emerging from situations which were not easy, but with a lively witness to charity and to an active presence in the life of the people. I invited the Cuban Catholics, together with the entire population, who hope for a better future, to give new vigour to their faith and to contribute with the courage of forgiveness and understanding to the construction of an open and renewed society, where there is ever more space for God, because, when God is left out, the world turns into an inhospitable place for man. Before leaving Santiago de Cuba I went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, so dear to the Cuban people. The pilgrimage of the image of Our Lady of Charity excited great spiritual enthusiasm in the families of the Island, making it a significant event of new evangelization and an opportunity for rediscovering the faith. To the Holy Virgin I commended, above all, young Cubans and those who are suffering.

The second stop in Cuba was Havana, capital of the Island. Young people, in particular, were the principal protagonists of the exuberant welcome on my way to the Nunciature, where I had the opportunity to converse with the Bishops of the Country to discuss the challenges which the Cuban Church is called to face, in the awareness that the people are looking to her with growing trust. The following day I presided at Holy Mass in the principal square of Havana, packed with people. I reminded everyone that Cuba and the world need change, but change will only come if each person opens to the entire truth about man, an indispensable presupposition for reaching freedom, and is ready to sow reconciliation and brotherhood around him/ herself, basing his or her own life on Jesus Christ. He alone can disperse the shadows of error, helping us to defeat evil and everything which oppresses us. I wished also to repeat that the Church does not ask for privileges, but for the right to proclaim and celebrate the faith also in public, carrying the Gospel message of hope and peace to every area of society. In expressing my appreciation for the steps already completed in this direction by the Cuban Authorities, I underlined that it is necessary to continue along this path to reach full religious freedom.

Upon leaving Cuba, tens of thousands of Cubans lined the street to wish me goodbye, despite the heavy rain. At the departure ceremony I recalled that at the present time the various members of Cuban society are called to make a sincere effort to cooperate and dialogue patient for the good of the country. In this perspective, my presence on the Island, as a witness of Jesus Christ, intended to encourage people to open the gates of their heart to him, who is the source of hope and strength, to increase goodness. For this reason I said goodbye to the Cubans, exhorting them to rekindle the faith of their fathers and to build a better future.

This Visit to Mexico and to Cuba has had, thanks be to God, the desired pastoral success. May the Mexican and Cuban peoples draw from it abundant fruits to build a future of peace and of fraternity in ecclesial communion and evangelical courage.

Dear friends, tomorrow afternoon, with the Holy Mass in Coena Domini, we will enter the Easter Triduum, summit of the entire Liturgical Year, to celebrate the central Mystery of the faith: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. In the Gospel of St John, this culminating moment of Jesus’ mission is called his “hour”, which begins with the Last Supper. The Evangelist introduces it in this way: “Before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (
Jn 13,1). Jesus’ whole life had been directed to this hour, characterized by two aspects which illuminate one another: it is the hour of the “passage” (metabasis) and it is the hour of the “love (agape)to the end”. In fact, it is precisely the divine love, the Spirit with which Jesus is overflowing, which makes Jesus too “pass” through the abyss of evil and death and makes him emerge into the new “space” of the resurrection. It is agape, love, which effects this transformation, so that Jesus passes beyond the limits of the human condition marked by sin and surpasses the barrier which keeps man prisoner, separated from God and from eternal life. Participating with faith in the liturgical celebrations of the Paschal Triduum, we are invited to live this transformation realized by agape. Each of us has been loved by Jesus “to the end”, that is, to the complete gift of himself on the Cross, when he cried: “It is finished!” (Jn 19,30). Let us allow ourselves to be touched by this love, let us allow ourselves to be transformed, so that the resurrection may truly take place in us. I invite you, therefore, to live the Paschal Triduum intensely and I wish you all a Holy Easter! Thank you.


Today is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, I express my closeness to the victims of mines and to their families. I encourage all those who are committed to freeing humanity from these terrible and devious weapons, which, as Blessed John Paul ii said when the Convention banning them came into effect, prevent people from walking “together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death” (Angelus, 28 February 1999).

To special groups:

I offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, including the student groups from England, Ireland and the United States of America. I also greet the participants in the International Gathering of University Students. May your pilgrimage to Rome bear spiritual fruit in a deeper love of Christ and his Church. Upon you and your families I invoke the Lord’s blessings of wisdom, joy and peace. A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!
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Lastly, my thoughts cordially turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.May the contemplation of the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you ever more steadfast in your Christian witness. And, dear sick people, from Christ’s Cross may you draw daily support in overcoming periods of trial and discouragement. May you, dear newlyweds, draw from this Paschal Mystery, which we contemplate during these days, encouragement to make your families a place of faithful and fruitful love.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the solemn celebrations of Easter, our meeting today is imbued with spiritual joy, although the sky is grey we carry in our hearts the joy of Easter, the certainty of the Resurrection of Christ who triumphed over death once and for all. In the first place I renew to each one of you a cordial Easter greeting: may the joyful announcement of Christ’s Resurrection ring out in all homes and in all hearts so that hope may be reborn.

In this Catechesis I would like to demonstrate the transformation that the Pasch of Jesus worked in his disciples. Let us start with the evening of the day of the Resurrection. The disciples had locked the door to the house for fear of the Jews (cf.
Jn 20,19). Fear caused their hearts to miss a beat, and prevented them from reaching out to others and to life. The Teacher was no longer. The memory of his Passion gave rise to uncertainty. Yet Jesus had his followers at heart and was about to fulfil the promise he had made during the Last Supper: “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you” (Jn 14,18) and he also says this to us, even in overcast weather: “I will not leave you desolate”.

With Jesus’ arrival the disciple’s situation of anguish changes radically. He enters through closed doors, he stands in their midst and gives them the peace that reassures: “Peace to you” (Jn 20,19). It is a common greeting but it now acquires new significance because it brings about an inner change; it is the Easter greeting that enables the disciples to overcome all fear. The peace that Jesus brings is the gift of salvation that he had promised in his farewell discourses: “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14,27).

On this day of the Resurrection he gives it in fullness and for the community it becomes a source of joy, the certainty of victory, and security in relying on God. “Let not your hearts be troubled”, (Jn 14,1), do not be afraid, he also says to us.

After this greeting, Jesus shows the disciples the wounds in his hands and in his side (cf. Jn 20,20), signs of what has occurred and will never be cancelled: his glorious humanity remains “wounded”. The purpose of this act is to confirm the new reality of the Resurrection: Christ, now among his own, is a real person, the same Jesus who three days earlier was nailed to the cross. And it is in this way that in the dazzling light of Easter, in the encounter with the Risen One, the disciples perceive the salvific meaning of his passion and his death. Then sorrow and fear turn into full joy. The sorrow and the wounds themselves become a source of joy.

The joy that is born in their hearts derives from “[having seen] the Lord” (Jn 20,20). He repeats to them: “Peace be with you” (v. 21). By then it was obvious that it was not only a greeting. It was a gift, the gift that the Risen One wants to offer his friends, but at the same time it is a consignment. This peace, which Christ purchased with his blood, is for them but also for all, the disciples must pass on to the whole world. Indeed, he adds: “as the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (ibid.). The Risen Jesus returned to his disciples to send them out. He had completed his work in the world, it was then up to them to sow faith in hearts so that the Father, known and loved, might gather all his children from the dispersion.

But Jesus knows that his followers are still fearful, even now. Thus he carries out the gesture of blowing upon them and regenerates them in his Spirit (cf. Jn 20,22); this action is the sign of the new creation. In fact, with the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes from the Risen Christ, a new world begins. The sending of the disciples on mission is the beginning of the journey in the world of the people of the New Covenant, a people who believe in him and in his work of salvation, a people who witness to the truth of the Resurrection. This newness of life that does not die, brought by Easter, must be spread everywhere so that the thorns of sin, which wound the human heart, leave room for the new shoots of Grace, of God’s presence and of his love that triumph over sin and death.

Dear friends, today too the Risen One enters our homes and our hearts, even when, at times, the doors are closed. He enters giving joy and peace, life and hope, gifts we need for our human and spiritual rebirth. Only he can roll away those stones from the tombs in which all too often people seal themselves off from their own feelings, their own relationships, their own behaviour; stones that sanction death: division, enmity, resentment, envy, diffidence, indifference. Only he, the Living One, can give meaning to existence and enable those who are weary and sad, downhearted and drained of hope, to continue on their journey. This was the experience of the two disciples who were on their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter Day (cf. Lc 24,13-35). They were talking about Jesus but their sad looks (cf. v. 17), expressed their disappointed hopes, uncertainty and melancholy. They had left their homeland to follow Jesus with his friends and had discovered a new reality in which forgiveness and love were no longer only words but had a tangible effect on life. Jesus of Nazareth had made all things new, he had transformed their life. But now he was dead and it all seemed to be over.

Suddenly, however, they are no longer two, but three people, who are walking. Jesus joins the two disciples and walks with them, but they are unable to recognize him. They have of course heard the rumours about his resurrection, indeed they even tell him: “Some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive” (vv. 22-23). Yet all this did not suffice to convince them, because “him they did not see” (v. 24). So Jesus, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets”, patiently “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27).

The Risen One explains Sacred Scripture to the disciples, giving the fundamental key to reading it, namely, he himself and his Paschal Mystery: it is to him that the Scriptures bear witness (cf. Jn 5,39-47). The meaning of all things, of the Law, of the Prophets and of the Psalms, suddenly dawns on them and becomes clear to their eyes. Jesus had opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures (cf. Lc 24,45).

In the meantime, they had reached the village, probably the home of one of the two. The unknown wayfarer “appeared to be going further” (v. 28), but then he stayed with them because they asked him to so insistently: “Stay with us” (v. 29). We too must say insistently to the Lord, over and over again, “Stay with us”.

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (v. 30). The reference to Jesus’ gestures at the Last Supper, is evident. “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (v. 31). The presence of Jesus, first with words and then with the act of breaking the bread, enabled the disciples to recognize him and they could feel in a new way what they had felt while they were walking beside him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (v. 32). This episode points out to us two special “places” where we can encounter the Risen One who transforms our life: in listening to his word, in communion with Christ, and in the breaking of the bread; two “places” profoundly united with each other because “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the Word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, nn. 54-55).

After this encounter, the two disciples “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’” (v. 33-34).

In Jerusalem they hear the news of Jesus’ Resurrection and, in turn, they recount their own experience, on fire with love for the Risen One who has opened their hearts to an uncontainable joy. As St Peter says, they were “born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (cf. 1P 1,3). Indeed, the enthusiasm of faith, love for the community, the need to communicate the Good News was reborn within them. The Teacher is risen and with him all life is reborn; witnessing to this event becomes an irrepressible need for them.

Dear friends, may the Easter season be for us all a favourable opportunity to rediscover the sources of faith, the presence of the Risen One among us, with joy and enthusiasm. It is a question of making the same journey that Jesus enabled the two disciples of Emmaus to make, by rediscovering the word of God and the Eucharist, that is, by walking with the Lord and letting our eyes be opened to the true meaning of Scripture and to his presence in the breaking of bread. The culmination of this journey, then as today, is Eucharistic Communion: in Communion Jesus nourishes us with his Body and his Blood, to be present in our life, to renew us, and to enliven us with the power of the Holy Spirit.

To conclude, the experience of the disciples invites us to think about the meaning of Easter for us. Let us allow ourselves to encounter the Risen Jesus! He, alive and true, is ever present in our midst; he walks with us to guide our life, to open our eyes. Let us trust in the Risen One who has the power to give life, to make us be born anew as children of God, capable of believing and of loving. Faith in him transforms our life: frees it from fear, gives it firm hope, enlivens it with God’s love which gives full meaning to existence. Many thanks.

To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. Dear young deacons, may you conform your lives ever more fully to the Lord and work generously for the building up of the Church in your country. I also welcome the distinguished delegation from the NATO Defense College, with prayerful good wishes for their service to the cause of peace. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. Happy Easter!

Lastly my thoughts turn to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you adolescents from the Diocese of Cremona, may you be ever more aware that the Lord Jesus alone can respond fully to your aspirations to happiness and to your quest for goodness in your life; dear sick people, and in particular you who are members of the UNITALSI group from Teano-Calvi, there is no greater comfort for your suffering than the certainty of Christ’s Resurrection; and may you, dear newlyweds, live your marriage in concrete adherence to Christ and to the teachings of the Gospel.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the great celebrations let us now return to the Catecheses on Prayer. At the Audience before Holy Week we reflected on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her prayerful presence among the Apostles while they were waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit. The Church took her first steps in an atmosphere of prayer. Pentecost is not an isolated episode because the Holy Spirit’s presence and action never cease to guide and encourage the Christian community as it journeys on.

Indeed, in addition to recounting the event of the great outpouring in the Upper Room which occurred 50 days after Easter (cf.
Ac 2,1-13), St Luke mentions in the Acts of the Apostles other extraordinary occasions on which the Holy Spirit burst in and which recur in the Church’s history. And today I would like to reflect on what has been defined as the “little Pentecost”, which took place at the height of a difficult phase in the life of the nascent Church.

The Acts of the Apostles tell that after the healing of a paralytic at the Temple of Jerusalem (cf. Ac 3,1-10), Peter and John were arrested (cf. Ac 4,1) for proclaiming Jesus’ Resurrection to all the people (cf. Ac 3,11-26). They were released after a hasty trial, joined their brethren and told them what they had been obliged to undergo on account of the witness they had born to Jesus, the Risen One. At that moment, Luke says, “they lifted their voices together to God” (Ac 4,24). Here St Luke records the Church’s most extensive prayer in the New Testament, at the end of which, as we have heard, “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Ac 4,31).

Before reflecting on this beautiful prayer let us take note of an important basic attitude: when the first Christian community is confronted by dangers, difficulties and threats it does not attempt to work out how to react, find strategies, defend itself or what measures to adopt; rather, when it is put to the test, the community starts to pray and makes contact with God.

And what are the features of this prayer? It is a unanimous, concordant prayer of the entire community which reacts to persecution because of Jesus. In the original Greek St Luke uses the word “homothumadon” — “all these with one accord”, “in agreement”, a term that appears in other parts of the Acts of the Apostles to emphasize this persevering, harmonious prayer (cf. Ac 1,14 Ac 2,46).

This harmony was the fundamental element of the first community and must always be fundamental to the Church. Thus it was not only the prayer prayed by Peter and John, who were in danger, but the prayer of the entire community since what the two Apostles were experiencing did not concern them alone but the whole of the Church.

In facing the persecution it suffered for the cause of Jesus, not only was the community neither frightened nor divided but it was also deeply united in prayer, as one person, to invoke the Lord. I would say that this is the first miracle which is worked when because of their faith believers are put to the test. Their unity, rather than being jeopardized is strengthened because it is sustained by steadfast prayer. The Church must not fear the persecutions which she has been subjected to throughout her history but must always trust, like Jesus at Gethsemane, in the presence, help and power of God, invoked in prayer.

Let us take a further step: what does the Christian community ask God at this moment of trial? It does not ask for the safety of life in the face of persecution, nor that the Lord get even with those who imprisoned Peter and John; it asks only that it be granted “to speak [his] word with all boldness” (Ac 4,29); in other words it prays that it may not lose the courage of faith, the courage to proclaim faith. First, however, it seeks to understand in depth what has occurred, to interpret events in the light of faith and it does so precisely through the word of God which enables us to decipher the reality of the world.

In the prayer it raises to the Lord the community begins by recording and invoking God’s omnipotence and immensity: “Sovereign Lord, who did make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Ac 4,24). It is the invocation to the Creator: we know that all things come from him, that all things are in his hands. It is knowledge of this which gives us certainty and courage: everything comes from him, everything is in his hands.

The prayer then goes on to recognize how God acted in the past — so it begins with the creation and continues through history — how he was close to his people, showing himself to be a God concerned with man who did not withdraw, who did not abandon man, his creature; and here Psalm 2 is explicitly cited. It is in this light that the difficult situation the Church was going through at the time should be read.

Psalm 2 celebrates the enthronement of the King of Judaea, but refers prophetically to the Coming of the Messiah, against whom human rebellion, persecution and abuse can do nothing: “Why do the nations conspire, and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed?” (Ps 2,1-2 cf. Ac 4,25).

The Psalm about the Messiah already stated this prophetically, and this uprising of the powerful against God’s power is characteristic throughout history. It is precisely by reading Sacred Scripture, which is the word of God, that the community can say to God in prayer: “truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you did anoint, ... to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Ac 4,27).

What happened is interpreted in the light of Christ, which is also the key to understanding persecution; and the Cross, which is always the key to the Resurrection. The opposition to Jesus, his passion and his death are reinterpreted through Psalm 2, as the actuation of God the Father’s project for the world’s salvation. And here we also find the meaning of the experience of persecution that the first Christian community was living through. This first community is not a mere association but a community that lives in Christ so what happens to it is part of God’s plan. Just as it happened to Jesus, the disciples also meet with opposition, misunderstanding and persecution. In prayer, meditation on Sacred Scripture in the light of Christ’s mystery helps us to interpret the reality present within the history of salvation which God works in the world, always in his own way.

This is precisely why the request to God that the first Christian community of Jerusalem formulated in a prayer does not ask to be protected or to be spared trials and hardship. It is not a prayer for success but only to be able to proclaim the word of God with “parresia”, that is, with boldness, freedom and courage (cf. Ac 4,29).

Then there is the additional request that this proclamation may be guided by God’s hand so that healing, signs and wonders may be performed, (cf. Ac 4,30), in other words that God’s goodness may be visible as a power that transforms reality, that changes peoples’ hearts, minds and lives and brings the radical newness of the Gospel.

At the end of the prayer, St Luke notes, “the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness” (Ac 4,31). The place shook, that is, faith has the power to transform the earth and the world. The same Spirit who spoke through Psalm 2 in the prayer of the Church bursts into the house and fills the hearts of all those who have invoked the Lord. This is the fruit of the unanimous prayer that the Christian community raises to God: the outpouring of the Spirit, a gift of the Risen One that sustains and guides the free and courageous proclamation of God’s Word, which impels the disciples of the Lord to go out fearlessly to take the Good News to the ends of the world.

We too, dear brothers and sisters must be able to ponder the events of our daily life in prayer, in order to seek their deep meaning. And like the first Christian community let us too let ourselves be illuminated by the word of God, through meditation on Sacred Scripture, we can learn to see that God is present in our life, present also and especially in difficult moments and that all things — even those that are incomprehensible — are part of a superior plan of love in which the final victory over evil, over sin and over death is truly that of goodness, of grace, of life and of God.

Just as prayer helped the first Christian community, prayer also helps us to interpret our personal and collective history in the most just and faithful perspective, that of God. And let us too renew our request for the gift of the Holy Spirit, that warms hearts and enlightens minds, in order to recognize how the Lord hears our prayers, in accordance with his will of love and not with our own ideas.

Guided by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, we will be able to live with serenity, courage and joy every situation in life and with St Paul boast: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”, that hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured” into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rm 5,3-5). Many thanks.

To special groups:

I offer a warm welcome to the General Chapter of the Brothers of Saint Gabriel. I also greet the group from the Faculty of Canon Law of Saint Paul’s University in Ottowa, Canada. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, including those from England, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Trinidad, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord.

I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to you for your congratulations on the seventh anniversary of my election and on my birthday. I ask you always to sustain me with your prayers so that with the help of the Holy Spirit I may persevere in my service to Christ and to the Church.

My thoughts now turn to the sick, to the newlyweds and to the young people who are present, and especially to the many students from various regions. Dear children and young people, Christ repeats to you too, as he did to the first disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20,21). Respond to these words with joy and with love! For you, dear sick people, may Christ’s Resurrection be an inexhaustible source of comfort and hope. And may you, dear newlyweds, be witnesses of the Risen One with your conjugal love.

Saint Peter's Square

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Audiences 2005-2013 14032