Benedict XVI Homilies 9097


St Clement's Square, Sunday, 23 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I willingly return among you to preside at this solemn Eucharistic celebration, responding to one of your repeated invitations. I have come back with joy to meet your diocesan community, which for several years has been mine, too, in a special way, and is always dear to me. I greet you all with affection. In the first place, I greet Cardinal Francis Arinze who has succeeded me as titular Cardinal of this Diocese; I greet your Pastor, dear Bishop Vincenzo Apicella, whom I thank for his beautiful words of welcome with which he has desired to greet me in your name. I greet the other Bishops, priests and men and women religious, the pastoral workers, young people and all who are actively involved in parishes, movements, associations and the various diocesan activities. I greet the Commissioner of the Prefecture of Velletri-Segni and the other civil and military Authorities who honour us with their presence. I greet all those who have come from other places, in particular from Bavaria, from Germany, to join us on this festive day. Bonds of friendship bind my native Land to yours, as is testified by the bronze pillar presented to me in Marktl am Inn in September last year on the occasion of my Apostolic Visit to Germany. As has been said, 100 municipalities of Bavaria have recently given me, as it were, a "twin" of that pillar which will be set up here in Velletri as a further sign of my affection and goodwill. It will be the sign of my spiritual presence among you. In this regard, I would like to thank the donors, the sculptor and the mayors whom I see present here with numerous friends. I thank you all!

Dear brothers and sisters, I know that you have prepared for my Visit today with an intense spiritual itinerary, adopting a very important verse of John's First Letter as your motto: "We know and believe the love God has for us" (
1Jn 4,16). Deus caritas est, God is love: my first Encyclical begins with these words that concern the core of our faith: the Christian image of God and the consequent image of man and his journey. I rejoice that you have chosen these very words to guide you on the spiritual and pastoral journey of the Diocese: "We know and believe the love God has for us". We have believed in love: this is the essence of Christianity. Therefore, our liturgical assembly today must focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, capable of impressing an absolutely new orientation and value on human life. Love is the essence of Christianity, which makes the believer and the Christian community a leaven of hope and peace in every environment and especially attentive to the needs of the poor and needy. This is our common mission: to be a leaven of hope and peace because we believe in love. Love makes the Church live, and since it is eternal it makes her live for ever, to the end of time.

Last Sunday, St Luke the Evangelist, who was more concerned than others to show Jesus' love for the poor, offered us various ideas for reflection on the danger of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that prevents us from living to the full our vocation to love God and neighbour. Today too, through a parable that inspires in us a certain surprise since it speaks of a dishonest steward who is praised (cf. Lc 16,1-13), a close look reveals that here the Lord has reserved a serious and particularly salutary teaching for us. As always, the Lord draws inspiration from the events of daily life: he tells of a steward who is on the point of being dismissed for dishonest management of his master's affairs and who, to assure a future for himself, cunningly seeks to come to an arrangement with his master's debtors. He is undoubtedly dishonest but clever: the Gospel does not present him to us as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but rather as an example to be imitated for his farsighted guile. The short parable ends, in fact, with these words: "The master commended the dishonest steward for his prudence" (Lc 16,8).

But what does Jesus wish to tell us with this parable? And with its surprising conclusion? The Evangelist follows the parable of the dishonest steward with a short series of sayings and recommendations on the relationship we must have with money and the goods of this earth. These short sentences are an invitation to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant inner tension. Life is truly always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between fidelity and infidelity, between selfishness and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of this Gospel passage is incisive and peremptory: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other". Ultimately, Jesus says, "You cannot serve God and mammon" (Lc 16,13). Mammon is a term of Phoenician origin that calls to mind economic security and success in business; we might say that riches are shown as the idol to which everything is sacrificed in order to attain one's own material success; hence, this economic success becomes a person's true god. As a result, it is necessary to make a fundamental decision between God and mammon, it is necessary to choose between the logic of profit as the ultimate criterion for our action, and the logic of sharing and solidarity. If the logic of profit prevails, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich, as well as increasing the ruinous exploitation of the planet. On the other hand, when the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course and direct it to a fair development for the common good of all. Basically, it is a matter of choosing between selfishness and love, between justice and dishonesty and ultimately, between God and Satan. If loving Christ and one's brethren is not to be considered as something incidental and superficial but, rather, the true and ultimate purpose of our whole existence, it will be necessary to know how to make basic choices, to be prepared to make radical renouncements, if necessary even to the point of martyrdom. Today, as yesterday, Christian life demands the courage to go against the tide, to love like Jesus, who even went so far as to sacrifice himself on the Cross.

We could then say, paraphrasing one of St Augustine's thoughts, that through earthly riches we must procure for ourselves those true and eternal riches: indeed, if people exist who are prepared to resort to every type of dishonesty to assure themselves an always unpredictable material well-being, how much more concerned we Christians must be to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. Discourses, 359, 10). Now, the only way of bringing our personal talents and abilities and the riches we possess to fruition for eternity is to share them with our brethren, thereby showing that we are good stewards of what God entrusts to us. Jesus said: "He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much" (Lc 16,10).

Today, in the First Reading, the Prophet Amos speaks of the same fundamental decision to be made day by day. Using strong words, he stigmatizes a lifestyle typical of those who allow themselves to be absorbed by a selfish quest for profit in every possible form and which is expressed in the thirst for gain, contempt for the poor and their exploitation, to one's own advantage (cf. Am 8,5). The Christian must energetically reject all this, opening his heart on the contrary to sentiments of authentic generosity. It must be generosity which, as the Apostle Paul exhorts in the Second Reading, is expressed in sincere love for all and is manifested in prayer. Actually, praying for others is a great act of charity. The Apostle invites us in the first place to pray for those who have tasks of responsibility in the civil community because, he explains, if they aspire to do good, positive consequences derive from their decisions, assuring peace and "a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way" (1Tm 2,2). Thus, may our prayer never be lacking, a spiritual contribution to building an Ecclesial Community that is faithful to Christ and to the construction of a society in which there is greater justice and solidarity.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray in particular that your diocesan community, which is undergoing a series of transformations due to the transfer of many young families from Rome to the development of the "service sector" and to the settlement of many immigrants in historical centres, may lead to an increasingly organic and shared pastoral action, following the instructions that your Bishop continues to give you with outstanding pastoral sensitivity. His Pastoral Letter of last December proved more timely than ever in this regard, with the invitation to listen with attention and perseverance to God's Word, to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and to the Church's Magisterium. Let us place your every intention and pastoral project in the hands of Our Lady of Grace, whose image is preserved and venerated in your beautiful Cathedral. May Mary's maternal protection accompany the journey of you who are present here and all those who have been unable to participate in our Eucharistic celebration today. May the Holy Virgin watch over the sick, the elderly, children, everyone who feels lonely or neglected or who is in particular need. May Mary deliver us from the greed for riches and ensure that in raising to Heaven hands that are free and pure, we may glorify God with our whole life (cf. Collect). Amen!


Memorial of the three Archangels, St Peter's Basilica, Saturday, 29 September 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are gathered together around the Lord's altar on an occasion both solemn and joyful: the Episcopal Ordination of six new Bishops, called to carry out different offices at the service of the one Church of Christ. They are Mons. Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Mons. Francesco Brugnaro, Mons. Gianfranco Ravasi, Mons. Tommaso Caputo, Mons. Sergio Pagano and Mons. Vincenzo Di Mauro. I offer my cordial greeting to them all, with a fraternal embrace. I extend a special greeting to Mons. Mokrzycki who, together with the present Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, served for many years as Secretary to the Holy Father John Paul II and then, after my election as Successor of Peter, also served as my Secretary with great humility, competence and dedication. Together with him, I greet Pope John Paul II's friend, Cardinal Marian Jaworski, to whom Mons. Mokrzycki will offer his assistance as Coadjutor. I also greet the Latin Bishops of Ukraine who are here in Rome for their ad limina Apostolorum visit. My thoughts also go to the Greek-Catholic Bishops, some of whom I met last Monday, and to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. May Heaven bless all their efforts to keep the healing and strengthening power of Christ's Gospel active in their Land and to pass it on to future generations.

We are celebrating this Episcopal Ordination on the Feast of the three Archangels who are mentioned by name in Scripture: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. This reminds us that in the ancient Church - already in the Book of Revelation - Bishops were described as "angels" of their Church, thereby expressing a close connection between the Bishop's ministry and the Angel's mission. From the Angel's task it is possible to understand the Bishop's service. But what is an Angel? Sacred Scripture and the Church's tradition enable us to discern two aspects. On the one hand, the Angel is a creature who stands before God, oriented to God with his whole being. All three names of the Archangels end with the word "El", which means "God". God is inscribed in their names, in their nature. Their true nature is existing in his sight and for him. In this very way the second aspect that characterizes Angels is also explained: they are God's messengers. They bring God to men, they open heaven and thus open earth. Precisely because they are with God, they can also be very close to man. Indeed, God is closer to each one of us than we ourselves are. The Angels speak to man of what constitutes his true being, of what in his life is so often concealed and buried. They bring him back to himself, touching him on God's behalf. In this sense, we human beings must also always return to being angels to one another - angels who turn people away from erroneous ways and direct them always, ever anew, to God. If the ancient Church called Bishops "Angels" of their Church, she meant precisely this: Bishops themselves must be men of God, they must live oriented to God. "Multum orat pro populo" - "Let them say many prayers for the people", the Breviary of the Church says of holy Bishops. The Bishop must be a man of prayer, one who intercedes with God for human beings. The more he does so, the more he also understands the people who are entrusted to him and can become an angel for them - a messenger of God who helps them to find their true nature by themselves, and to live the idea that God has of them.

All this becomes even clearer if we now look at the figures of the three Archangels whose Feast the Church is celebrating today. First of all there is Michael. We find him in Sacred Scripture above all in the Book of Daniel, in the Letter of the Apostle St Jude Thaddeus and in the Book of Revelation.
Two of this Archangel's roles become obvious in these texts. He defends the cause of God's oneness against the presumption of the dragon, the "ancient serpent", as John calls it. The serpent's continuous effort is to make men believe that God must disappear so that they themselves may become important; that God impedes our freedom and, therefore, that we must rid ourselves of him.
However, the dragon does not only accuse God. The Book of Revelation also calls it "the accuser of our brethren..., who accuses them day and night before our God" (
Ap 12,10). Those who cast God aside do not make man great but divest him of his dignity. Man then becomes a failed product of evolution. Those who accuse God also accuse man. Faith in God defends man in all his frailty and short-comings: God's brightness shines on every individual. It is the duty of the Bishop, as a man of God, to make room in the world for God, to counter the denials of him and thus to defend man's greatness. And what more could one say and think about man than the fact that God himself was made man? Michael's other role, according to Scripture, is that of protector of the People of God (cf. Da 10,21 Da 12,1). Dear friends, be true "guardian angels" of the Church which will be entrusted to you! Help the People of God whom you must lead in its pilgrimage to find the joy of faith and to learn to discern the spirits: to accept good and reject evil, to remain and increasingly to become, by virtue of the hope of faith, people who love in communion with God-Love.

We meet the Archangel Gabriel especially in the precious account of the annunciation to Mary of the Incarnation of God, as Luke tells it to us (Lc 1,26-38). Gabriel is the messenger of God's Incarnation. He knocks at Mary's door and, through him, God himself asks Mary for her "yes" to the proposal to become the Mother of the Redeemer: of giving her human flesh to the eternal Word of God, to the Son of God. The Lord knocks again and again at the door of the human heart. In the Book of Revelation he says to the "angel" of the Church of Laodicea and, through him, to the people of all times: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Ap 3,20). The Lord is at the door - at the door of the world and at the door of every individual heart. He knocks to be let in: the Incarnation of God, his taking flesh, must continue until the end of time. All must be reunited in Christ in one body: the great hymns on Christ in the Letters to the Ephesians and to the Colossians tell us this. Christ knocks. Today too he needs people who, so to speak, make their own flesh available to him, give him the matter of the world and of their lives, thus serving the unification between God and the world, until the reconciliation of the universe. Dear friends, it is your task to knock at people's hearts in Christ's Name. By entering into union with Christ yourselves, you will also be able to assume Gabriel's role: to bring Christ's call to men.

St Raphael is presented to us, above all in the Book of Tobit, as the Angel to whom is entrusted the task of healing. When Jesus sends his disciples out on a mission, the task of proclaiming the Gospel is always linked with that of healing. The Good Samaritan, in accepting and healing the injured person lying by the wayside, becomes without words a witness of God's love. We are all this injured man, in need of being healed. Proclaiming the Gospel itself already means healing in itself, because man is in need of truth and love above all things. The Book of Tobit refers to two of the Archangel Raphael's emblematic tasks of healing. He heals the disturbed communion between a man and a woman. He heals their love. He drives out the demons who over and over again exhaust and destroy their love. He purifies the atmosphere between the two and gives them the ability to accept each other for ever. In Tobit's account, this healing is recounted with legendary images. In the New Testament, the order of marriage established in creation and threatened in many ways by sin, is healed through Christ's acceptance of it in his redeeming love. He makes marriage a sacrament: his love, put on a cross for us, is the healing power which in all forms of chaos offers the capacity for reconciliation, purifies the atmosphere and mends the wounds. The priest is entrusted with the task of leading men and women ever anew to the reconciling power of Christ's love. He must be the healing "angel" who helps them to anchor their love to the sacrament and to live it with an ever renewed commitment based upon it. Secondly, the Book of Tobit speaks of the healing of sightless eyes. We all know how threatened we are today by blindness to God. How great is the danger that with all we know of material things and can do with them, we become blind to God's light. Healing this blindness through the message of faith and the witness of love is Raphael's service, entrusted day after day to the priest and in a special way to the Bishop. Thus, we are prompted spontaneously also to think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Sacrament of Penance which in the deepest sense of the word is a sacrament of healing. The real wound in the soul, in fact, the reason for all our other injuries, is sin. And only if forgiveness exists, by virtue of God's power, by virtue of Christ's love, can we be healed, can we be redeemed.

"Abide in my love", the Lord says to us today in the Gospel (Jn 15,9). At the moment of your Episcopal Ordination he says so particularly to you, dear friends. Abide in his love! Abide in that friendship with him, full of love, which he is giving you anew at this moment! Then your lives will bear fruit, fruit that abides (cf. Jn 15,16). Let us all pray for you at this time, dear Brothers, so that this may be granted to you. Amen.


Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Sunday, 21 October 2007

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Authorities,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I accepted with great joy the invitation to visit the Christian community that lives in this historical city of Naples. I first offer Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, your Archbishop, a fraternal embrace and my special thanks for his words on your behalf at the beginning of this solemn Eucharistic Celebration. I sent him to your Community knowing of his apostolic zeal and I am happy to see that you appreciate him for his gifts of mind and heart. I greet with affection the Auxiliary Bishops and diocesan priests, as well as the men and women religious and other consecrated persons, the catechists and the lay people, especially the youth actively involved in various pastoral, apostolic and social initiatives. I greet the distinguished civil and military Authorities who honour us with their presence, starting with the Prime Minister, the Mayor of Naples and the Presidents of the Province and Region. To you all, gathered in this Square in front of the monumental Basilica dedicated to St Francis of Paola, the fifth centenary of whose death is being celebrated this year, I address my cordial thoughts, which I willingly extend to all those who have joined us via radio and television, especially the cloistered communities, the elderly, those in the hospital or prison and those whom I will be unable to meet in this short Visit to Naples. In a word, I greet the entire family of believers and all citizens of Naples: I am among you, dear friends, to break with you the Word and the Bread of Life, and the bad weather does not discourage us because Naples is always beautiful!

In meditating on the biblical Readings for this Sunday and thinking of the situation of Naples, I was struck by the fact that today the main theme of the Word of God is prayer; indeed, we "ought always to pray and not lose heart", as the Gospel says (cf.
Lc 18,1). At first sight, this might seem a message not particularly relevant, unrealistic, not very incisive with regard to a social reality with so many problems such as yours. But, if we think about it, we understand that this Word contains a message that certainly goes against the tide and yet is destined to illuminate in depth the conscience of this Church and city of yours. I would sum it up like this: the power that changes the world and transforms it into the Kingdom of God, in silence and without fanfare, is faith - and prayer is the expression of faith. When faith is filled with love for God, recognized as a good and just Father, prayer becomes persevering, insistent, it becomes a groan of the spirit, a cry of the soul that penetrates God's Heart. Thus, prayer becomes the greatest transforming power in the world. In the face of a difficult and complex social reality, as yours certainly is, it is essential to strengthen hope which is based on faith and expressed in unflagging prayer. It is prayer that keeps the torch of faith alight. Jesus asks, as we heard at the end of the Gospel: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lc 18,8). It is a question that makes us think. What will be our answer to this disturbing question? Today, let us repeat together with humble courage: Lord, in coming among us at this Sunday celebration you find us gathered together with the lamp of faith lit. We believe and trust in you! Increase our faith!

The biblical Readings we have heard present several models to inspire us in our profession of faith, which is also always a profession of hope because faith and hope open the earth to divine power, to the power for good. They are the figures of the widow, whom we encounter in the Gospel parable, and of Moses, of whom the Book of Exodus speaks. The widow of the Gospel (cf. Lc 18,1-8) makes us think of the "little", the lowliest, but also of so many simple, upright people who suffer because of abuse, who feel powerless in the face of the perduring social malaise and are tempted to despair. To them Jesus repeats: look at this poor widow, with what tenacity does she insist and in the end succeeds in being heard by a dishonest judge! How could you imagine that your Heavenly Father, who is good and faithful and powerful, who desires only his children's good, would not do justice to you in his own time? Faith assures us that God hears our prayers and grants them at the appropriate moment, although our daily experience seems to deny this certainty. In fact, in the face of certain events in the news or of life's numerous daily hardships which the press does not even mention, the supplication of the ancient Prophet: "O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you, "Violence!' and you will not save?" (He 1,2) wells up in the heart spontaneously. There is one answer to this heartfelt invocation: God cannot change things without our conversion, and our true conversion begins with the "cry" of the soul imploring forgiveness and salvation. Christian prayer is not, therefore, an expression of fatalism or inertia; on the contrary, it is the opposite of evasion from reality, from consoling intimism. It is the force of hope, the maximum expression of faith in the power of God who is Love and does not abandon us. The prayer Jesus taught us which culminated in Gethsemane has the character of "competitiveness", that is, of a struggle because we line up with determination at the Lord's side to fight injustice and conquer evil with good; it is the weapon of the lowly and the poor in spirit, who reject every type of violence. Indeed, they respond to it with evangelical non-violence, thereby testifying that the truth of Love is stronger than hatred and death.

This also emerges in the First Reading, the famous account of the battle between the Israelites and Amalek's men (cf. Ex 17,8-13a). It was precisely prayer, addressed with faith to the true God, that determined the fate of that harsh conflict. While Joshua and his men were tackling their adversaries on the battlefield, Moses was standing on the hilltop, his hands uplifted in the position of a person praying. These raised hands of the great leader guaranteed Israel's victory. God was with his people; he wanted them to win but made Moses' uplifted hands the condition for his intervention.
It seems incredible, but that is how it is: God needs the raised hands of his servant! Moses' raised arms are reminiscent of the arms of Jesus on the Cross: the outspread, nailed arms with which the Redeemer won the crucial battle against the infernal enemy. His fight, his arms raised to the Father and wide open for the world, ask for other arms, other hearts that continue to offer themselves with his same love until the end of the world. I am addressing you in particular, dear Pastors of the Church in Naples, making my own the words that St Paul address to Timothy and that we heard in the Second Reading: remain firm in what you have learned and have believed. Preach the word, persevere on every occasion, in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching (cf. 2Tm 3,14 2Tm 3,16 2Tm 4,2). And like Moses on the mountain, persevere in prayer for and with the faithful entrusted to your pastoral care, so that every day they may be able to face together the good fight of the Gospel.

And now, inwardly enlightened by the Word of God, let us return to look at the reality of your city, where there is no lack of healthy energy, good people, cultured and with a keen sense of family.
For many, however, life is far from simple. There are so many situations of poverty, housing shortages, unemployment or under-employment, the lack of any future prospects. Then there is the sad phenomenon of violence. It is not only a question of the deplorable crimes of the Camorra but also of the fact that violence unfortunately tends to breed a widespread mentality, creeping into the recesses of social life in the historical districts of the centre and in the new and anonymous suburbs, with the risk of attracting especially young people who grow up in contexts where unlawfulness, the "black economy" and the culture of "fending for oneself" thrive. How important it is, therefore, to redouble our efforts for a serious strategy of prevention that focuses on school, work and helping youth to manage their leisure time - an intervention which involves everyone in the fight against every form of violence, which begins with the formation of consciences and the transformation of everyday mindsets, attitudes and behaviour. I address this invitation to every man and woman of good will while the meeting for peace by religious leaders is being held here in Naples on the theme: "For a world without violence - Religions and cultures in dialogue".

Dear brothers and sisters, beloved Pope John Paul II visited Naples for the first time in 1979: it was, like today, on Sunday, 21 October! He came a second time in November 1990: a Visit that encouraged the rebirth of hope. The Church's mission is always nourished by the faith and hope of the Christian people. This is also what your Archbishop is doing. He recently wrote a Pastoral Letter with the significant title: "Blood and hope". Yes, true hope is only born from the Blood of Christ and blood poured out for him. There is blood which is the sign of death, but there is also blood that expresses love and life. The Blood of Jesus and the blood of the Martyrs, like that of your own beloved Patron St Januarius, is a source of new life. I would like to conclude by making my own a saying from your Archbishop's Pastoral Letter that sounds like this: "The seed of hope may be the tiniest but can give life to a flourishing tree and bear abundant fruit". This seed exists and is active in Naples, despite the problems and difficulties. Let us pray to the Lord that he will cause an authentic faith and firm hope to grow in the Christian community that can effectively oppose discouragement and violence. Naples certainly needs appropriate political interventions, but first it needs a profound spiritual renewal; it needs believers who put their full trust back in God and with his help work hard to spread Gospel values in society. Let us ask Mary's help with this, as well as that of your holy Protectors, especially St Januarius. Amen!


Vatican Basilica, Monday, 5 November 2007

Dear and Venerable Brothers,

After commemorating all the deceased faithful on their liturgical commemoration, we meet here in this Vatican Basilica in accordance with tradition to offer the Eucharistic Sacrifice in suffrage for the Cardinals and Bishops who, called by the Lord, departed from this world in the course of the year.
I remember with affection the names of the late Cardinals: Salvatore Pappalardo, Frédéric Etsou-Nzabi Bamungwabi, Antonio María Javierre, Angelo Felici, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Edouard Gagnon, Adam Koz³owiecki and Rosalio José Castillo Lara. I am thinking of the person and ministry of each one of them; although we are immersed in the sorrow of bereavement, let us raise our heartfelt thanks to God for the gift that he made to the Church in them, and for all the good which with his help they were able to achieve. Let us likewise entrust to the Eternal Father the deceased Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, expressing our gratitude on behalf of the whole Catholic Community for them, too.

The Church's prayer of suffrage "relies", so to speak, on the prayer of Jesus himself which we heard in the Gospel passage: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am" (Jn 17,24). Jesus was referring to his Disciples, and in particular to the Apostles who were with him at the Last Supper. But the Lord's prayer extends to all his disciples of all times. In fact, a little earlier he said: "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word" (Jn 17,20). And if he asked here that all might be "one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21), we can also understand that he was asking the Father to be able to have with him, in the dwelling place of his eternal glory, all the disciples who died under the banner of faith.

"They... whom you gave me" (Jn 17,24) is a beautiful definition of the Christian as such, but can obviously be applied specifically to those whom God the Father chose among the faithful to follow his Son more closely. In light of these words of the Lord, our thoughts at this time go in particular to the venerable Brothers for whom we are offering this Eucharist. They were men whom the Father "gave" to Christ. He removed them from the world, that "world" which "has not known" him (Jn 17,25), and called them to become friends of Jesus. This was the most precious grace of their whole life. They were, of course, people with different characteristics, both because of their personal experiences and because of the ministry they exercised; but they all had in common the most important thing: friendship with the Lord Jesus. They received it as their lot on earth, as priests, and now, beyond death, they share in Heaven this "inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and unfading" (1P 1,4). During his earthly existence Jesus made God's Name known to them, admitting them to share in the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The Father's love for his Son had penetrated them, and likewise the very Person of the Son, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, dwelled in each one of them (cf. Jn 17,26): an experience of divine communion which tends by its nature to fill the whole of life, to transfigure it and to prepare it for the glory of eternal life.

It is consoling and salutary, in praying for the deceased, to meditate upon Jesus' trust in his Father and thus to let oneself be enveloped by the serene light of this absolute abandonment of the Son to the will of his "Abba". Jesus knows that the Father is always with him (cf. Jn 8,29); that together they are one (cf. Jn 10,30). He knows that his own death must be a "baptism", in other words, an "immersion" into God's love (cf. Lc 12,50), and he goes to meet it, certain that the Father will bring about in him the ancient prophecy we heard today in the first biblical Reading: "After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him" (Os 6,2). This oracle of the Prophet Hosea refers to the People of Israel and expresses trust in the Lord's help: a trust which, unfortunately, the people sometimes lacked through fickleness and superficiality, even going so far as to abuse the divine benevolence. Rather, in the Person of Jesus, love for God the Father becomes completely sincere, authentic and faithful. He took upon himself the entire reality of ancient Israel and brought it to completion. The "we" of the People is condensed in the "I" of Jesus, in his repeated announcement of the Passion, death and Resurrection, when he openly revealed to his disiciples what awaited him in Jerusalem: he was to be rejected by the elders and chiefs, arrested, condemned to death and crucified, and would rise on the third day (cf. Mt 16,21). Christ's unique trust is passed on to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, to the Church in which we come to share through the Sacrament of Baptism. The "I" of Jesus becomes a new "we", the "we" of his Church, when he is communicated to those who are incorporated into him through Baptism. And this identification is reinforced in all who have been configured to him in Sacred Orders, through a special call from the Lord.

The Responsorial Psalm has put on our lips the acute longing of a Levite far from Jerusalem and the Temple, who desires to return there to stand once again before the Lord (cf. Ps 42[41]: Ps 42,1-3). "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Ps 42,1-3 [41]: 1-3). This thirst contains a truth that does not betray, a hope that does not disappoint. It is a thirst which even in the darkest night lights the way towards the source of life, as St John of the Cross so admirably expressed it. The Psalmist makes room for the laments of the soul but he sets in the heart and at the end of his wonderful hymn a refrain full of trust: "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, the salvation of my face and my God" (cf. Ps 42,5-6). In the light of Christ and of his Paschal Mystery, these words reveal all their marvellous truth: not even death can make the believer's hope fruitless, because for our sake Christ entered the sanctuary of Heaven, and it is there that he desires to lead us, after having prepared a place for us (cf. Jn 14,1-3).

Our beloved deceased Brothers recited this Psalm countless times with this faith and this hope. As priests they experienced its full existential resonance, taking upon themselves in addition the accusations and mockery of those who say to believers in their trial: "Where is your God?".
Now, at the end of their earthly exile, they have reached the Homeland. Following that path their Risen Lord made accessible to them, they have not entered a Sanctuary made with hands but Heaven itself (cf. He 9,24). There, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Saints, may they contemplate God's Face at last - this is our prayer - and sing his praises for ever and ever. Amen.


Benedict XVI Homilies 9097