Benedict XVI Homilies 15098

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION FOR THE SICK Esplanade in front of the Basilica of Notre-Dame du Rosaire, Lourdes, Monday, 15 September 2008

Dear Brothers in the episcopate and the priesthood,
Dear Friends who are sick, dear carers and helpers,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Yesterday we celebrated the Cross of Christ, the instrument of our salvation, which reveals the mercy of our God in all its fullness. The Cross is truly the place where God’s compassion for our world is perfectly manifested. Today, as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we contemplate Mary sharing her Son’s compassion for sinners. As Saint Bernard declares, the Mother of Christ entered into the Passion of her Son through her compassion (cf. Homily for Sunday in the Octave of the Assumption). At the foot of the Cross, the prophecy of Simeon is fulfilled: her mother’s heart is pierced through (cf.
Lc 2,35) by the torment inflicted on the Innocent One born of her flesh. Just as Jesus cried (cf. Jn 11,35), so too Mary certainly cried over the tortured body of her Son. Her self-restraint, however, prevents us from plumbing the depths of her grief; the full extent of her suffering is merely suggested by the traditional symbol of the seven swords. As in the case of her Son Jesus, one might say that she too was led to perfection through this suffering (cf. He 2,10), so as to make her capable of receiving the new spiritual mission that her Son entrusts to her immediately before “giving up his spirit” (cf. Jn 19,30): that of becoming the mother of Christ in his members. In that hour, through the figure of the beloved disciple, Jesus presents each of his disciples to his Mother when he says to her: Behold your Son (cf. Jn 19,26-27).

Today Mary dwells in the joy and the glory of the Resurrection. The tears shed at the foot of the Cross have been transformed into a smile which nothing can wipe away, even as her maternal compassion towards us remains unchanged. The intervention of the Virgin Mary in offering succour throughout history testifies to this, and does not cease to call forth, in the people of God, an unshakable confidence in her: the Memorare prayer expresses this sentiment very well. Mary loves each of her children, giving particular attention to those who, like her Son at the hour of his Passion, are prey to suffering; she loves them quite simply because they are her children, according to the will of Christ on the Cross.

The psalmist, seeing from afar this maternal bond which unites the Mother of Christ with the people of faith, prophesies regarding the Virgin Mary that “the richest of the people … will seek your smile” (Ps 44,13). In this way, prompted by the inspired word of Scripture, Christians have always sought the smile of Our Lady, this smile which medieval artists were able to represent with such marvellous skill and to show to advantage. This smile of Mary is for all; but it is directed quite particularly to those who suffer, so that they can find comfort and solace therein. To seek Mary’s smile is not an act of devotional or outmoded sentimentality, but rather the proper expression of the living and profoundly human relationship which binds us to her whom Christ gave us as our Mother.

To wish to contemplate this smile of the Virgin, does not mean letting oneself be led by an uncontrolled imagination. Scripture itself discloses it to us through the lips of Mary when she sings the Magnificat: “My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Lc 1,46-47). When the Virgin Mary gives thanks to the Lord, she calls us to witness. Mary shares, as if by anticipation, with us, her future children, the joy that dwells in her heart, so that it can become ours. Every time we recite the Magnificat, we become witnesses of her smile. Here in Lourdes, in the course of the apparition of Wednesday 3 March 1858, Bernadette contemplated this smile of Mary in a most particular way. It was the first response that the Beautiful Lady gave to the young visionary who wanted to know who she was. Before introducing herself, some days later, as “the Immaculate Conception”, Mary first taught Bernadette to know her smile, this being the most appropriate point of entry into the revelation of her mystery.

In the smile of the most eminent of all creatures, looking down on us, is reflected our dignity as children of God, that dignity which never abandons the sick person. This smile, a true reflection of God’s tenderness, is the source of an invincible hope. Unfortunately we know only too well: the endurance of suffering can upset life’s most stable equilibrium; it can shake the firmest foundations of confidence, and sometimes even leads people to despair of the meaning and value of life. There are struggles that we cannot sustain alone, without the help of divine grace. When speech can no longer find the right words, the need arises for a loving presence: we seek then the closeness not only of those who share the same blood or are linked to us by friendship, but also the closeness of those who are intimately bound to us by faith. Who could be more intimate to us than Christ and his holy Mother, the Immaculate One? More than any others, they are capable of understanding us and grasping how hard we have to fight against evil and suffering. The Letter to the Hebrews says of Christ that he “is not unable to sympathize with our weaknesses; for in every respect he has been tempted as we are” (cf. He 4,15). I would like to say, humbly, to those who suffer and to those who struggle and are tempted to turn their backs on life: turn towards Mary! Within the smile of the Virgin lies mysteriously hidden the strength to fight against sickness and for life. With her, equally, is found the grace to accept without fear or bitterness to leave this world at the hour chosen by God.

How true was the insight of that great French spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, who in L’ âme de tout apostolat, proposed to the devout Christian to gaze frequently “into the eyes of the Virgin Mary”! Yes, to seek the smile of the Virgin Mary is not a pious infantilism, it is the aspiration, as Psalm 44 says, of those who are “the richest of the people” (Ps 44,13). “The richest”, that is to say, in the order of faith, those who have attained the highest degree of spiritual maturity and know precisely how to acknowledge their weakness and their poverty before God. In the very simple manifestation of tenderness that we call a smile, we grasp that our sole wealth is the love God bears us, which passes through the heart of her who became our Mother. To seek this smile, is first of all to have grasped the gratuitousness of love; it is also to be able to elicit this smile through our efforts to live according to the word of her Beloved Son, just as a child seeks to elicit its mother’s smile by doing what pleases her. And we know what pleases Mary, thanks to the words she spoke to the servants at Cana: “Do whatever he tells you” (cf. Jn 2,5).

Mary’s smile is a spring of living water. “He who believes in me”, says Jesus, “out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (Jn 7,38). Mary is the one who believed and, from her womb, rivers of living water have flowed forth to irrigate human history. The spring that Mary pointed out to Bernadette here in Lourdes is the humble sign of this spiritual reality. From her believing heart, from her maternal heart, flows living water which purifies and heals. By immersing themselves in the baths at Lourdes, so many people have discovered and experienced the gentle maternal love of the Virgin Mary, becoming attached to her in order to bind themselves more closely to the Lord! In the liturgical sequence of this feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mary is honoured with the title of Fons amoris, “fount of love”. From Mary’s heart, there springs up a gratuitous love which calls forth a response of filial love, called to ever greater refinement. Like every mother, and better than every mother, Mary is the teacher of love. That is why so many sick people come here to Lourdes, to quench their thirst at the “spring of love” and to let themselves be led to the sole source of salvation, her son Jesus the Saviour.

Christ imparts his salvation by means of the sacraments, and especially in the case of those suffering from sickness or disability, by means of the grace of the sacrament of the sick. For each individual, suffering is always something alien. It can never be tamed. That is why it is hard to bear, and harder still – as certain great witnesses of Christ’s holiness have done – to welcome it as a significant element in our vocation, or to accept, as Bernadette expressed it, to “suffer everything in silence in order to please Jesus”. To be able to say that, it is necessary to have travelled a long way already in union with Jesus. Here and now, though, it is possible to entrust oneself to God’s mercy, as manifested through the grace of the sacrament of the sick. Bernadette herself, in the course of a life that was often marked by sickness, received this sacrament four times. The grace of this sacrament consists in welcoming Christ the healer into ourselves. However, Christ is not a healer in the manner of the world. In order to heal us, he does not remain outside the suffering that is experienced; he eases it by coming to dwell within the one stricken by illness, to bear it and live it with him. Christ’s presence comes to break the isolation which pain induces. Man no longer bears his burden alone: as a suffering member of Christ, he is conformed to Christ in his self-offering to the Father, and he participates, in him, in the coming to birth of the new creation.

Without the Lord’s help, the yoke of sickness and suffering weighs down on us cruelly. By receiving the sacrament of the sick, we seek to carry no other yoke that that of Christ, strengthened through his promise to us that his yoke will be easy to carry and his burden light (cf. Mt 11,30). I invite those who are to receive the sacrament of the sick during this Mass to enter into a hope of this kind.

The Second Vatican Council presented Mary as the figure in whom the entire mystery of the Church is typified (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 63-65). Her personal journey outlines the profile of the Church, which is called to be just as attentive to those who suffer as she herself was. I extend an affectionate greeting to those working in the areas of public health and nursing, as well as those who, in different ways, in hospitals and other institutions, are contributing to the care of the sick with competence and generosity. Equally, I should like to say to all the hospitaliers, the brancardiers and the carers who come from every diocese in France and from further afield, and who throughout the year attend the sick who come on pilgrimage to Lourdes, how much their service is appreciated. They are the arms of the servant Church. Finally, I wish to encourage those who, in the name of their faith, receive and visit the sick, especially in hospital infirmaries, in parishes or, as here, at shrines. May you always sense in this important and delicate mission the effective and fraternal support of your communities! In this regard, I particularly greet and thank my brothers in the Episcopate, the French Bishops, Bishops and priests from afar, and all who serve the sick and suffering throughout the world. Thank you for your ministry close to our suffering Lord.

The service of charity that you offer is a Marian service. Mary entrusts her smile to you, so that you yourselves may become, in faithfulness to her son, springs of living water. Whatever you do, you do in the name of the Church, of which Mary is the purest image. May you carry her smile to everyone!

To conclude, I wish to join in the prayer of the pilgrims and the sick, and to pray with you a passage from the prayer to Mary that has been proposed for this Jubilee celebration:

“Because you are the smile of God, the reflection of the light of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit,

Because you chose Bernadette in her lowliness, because you are the morning star, the gate of heaven and the first creature to experience the resurrection,

Our Lady of Lourdes”, with our brothers and sisters whose hearts and bodies are in pain, we pray to you!


St Pancratius' Cathedral, Albano, Sunday, 21 September 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's celebration is particularly rich in symbols and the Word of God that has been proclaimed helps us to understand the meaning and value of what we are doing. In the First Reading we heard the account of the purification of the Temple and of the dedication of the new altar of burned offering built by Judas Machabee in 164 B.C., three years after the profanation of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (cf.
1M 4,52-59). The Feast of Dedication which lasted eight days was established to commemorate the event. This feast, initially associated with the Temple to which the people would go in procession to offer sacrifices, was observed with manifestations of joy with the illumination of houses and in this form survived the destruction of Jerusalem.

The holy author rightly stresses the joy and gladness characteristic of this event. Yet, dear brothers and sisters, how much greater must be our joy in knowing that on the altar we are preparing to dedicate the sacrifice of Christ that will be offered every day. On this altar he will continue to sacrifice himself in the sacrament of the Eucharist, for our salvation and for that of the whole world.
Jesus makes himself truly present in the Eucharistic Mystery, which is renewed on every altar. His is a dynamic presence that takes hold of us to make us his, to liken us to him. He attracts us with the force of his love, bringing us out of ourselves to be united with him, making us one with him.

The Real Presence of Christ makes each one of us his "house" and all together we form his Church, the spiritual building of which St Peter speaks. "Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious"; the Apostle writes, "and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1P 2,4-5). St Augustine remarks, developing, as it were, this beautiful metaphor that through faith people are like the wood and stones collected in the forests and on the mountains for building; then through Baptism, catechesis and preaching they are rough-shaped, squared, and polished; but they become houses of the Lord only when they are put together with love. When believers are interconnected in accordance with a specific order, mutually close and cohesive, when they are joined by love, they truly become a dwelling of God that is in no danger of collapsing (cf. Serm., 336).

Thus the love of Christ is the love that "never ends" (1Co 13,8), the spiritual energy that unites all who share in the same sacrifice and are nourished by the one Bread, broken for the world's salvation. Indeed, how is it possible to communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another? How can we present ourselves divided, distant from one another, at God's altar? May this altar on which the Lord's sacrifice will shortly be renewed, be a constant invitation to you, dear brothers and sisters, to love; you will always approach it disposed to accept love in your hearts, to spread it and to receive and grant forgiveness.

In this regard the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed offers us an important lesson for life (cf. Mt 5,23-24). It is a brief but pressing and incisive appeal for brotherly reconciliation, a reconciliation that is indispensable if we are to present the offering at the altar with dignity; an appeal that takes up the teaching already clearly present in the preaching of the prophets. Indeed, the prophets also forcefully denounced the uselessness of acts of worship that are not accompanied by a corresponding moral approach, especially in relations with others (Is 1,10-20 Am 5,21-27 Mi 6,6-8). Thus, every time you approach the altar for the Eucharistic Celebration, may your soul be open to forgiveness and fraternal reconciliation, ready to accept the apologies of those who have injured you and ready, in turn, to forgive others.

In the Roman liturgy, when the priest has made the offering of the bread and the wine, he bows to the altar and prays quietly: "Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts". In this way, together with the whole assembly of the faithful, he prepares to enter into the heart of the Eucharistic Mystery, into the heart of that heavenly liturgy to which the Second Reading from Revelation refers. St John presents an Angel who offers "much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne" of God (cf. Ap 8,3). The altar of the sacrifice becomes in a certain way the meeting point between Heaven and earth; the centre, we might say, of the One Church that is heavenly yet at the same time a pilgrim on this earth where, amidst the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God, disciples of the Lord proclaim his Passion and his death until he comes in glory (cf. Lumen Gentium LG 8). Indeed, every Eucharistic Celebration already anticipates Christ's triumph over sin and over the world and in the mystery shows the radiance of the Church, "the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb. It is she whom Christ loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her'" (ibid., LG 6).

These reflections generate within us the rite we are preparing to celebrate in this cathedral of yours which today we admire in its renewed beauty, and which you rightly wish to continue to make ever more welcoming and decorous. This is a commitment that involves you all and, in the first place, asks the entire diocesan community to increase in charity and in apostolic and missionary dedication. In practice, it is a question of witnessing with your lives to your faith in Christ and to the total trust that you place in him. It is also a question of fostering ecclesial communion, which is first and foremost a gift, a grace, a fruit of God's freely given love, something, that is, which is divinely effective, ever present and active in history, over and above anything that might appear to the contrary. Ecclesial communion, however, is also a task entrusted to the responsibility of each person. May the Lord grant that you live an ever more convinced and active communion in collaboration and co-responsibility at every level: among priests, consecrated men and women and lay people, among the different Christian communities in your territory and among the various lay associations.

I now address my cordial greeting to your Pastor, Bishop Marcello Semeraro, whom I thank for his invitation and for the courteous words of welcome with which he received me on behalf of you all. I would also like to express to him my sentiments of fervent good wishes on the 10th anniversary of his episcopal ordination. I address a special thought to Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Dean of the College of Cardinals, titular of your Suburbicarian Diocese, who joins in our joy today. I greet the other Prelates present, the priests, the consecrated people, the young and the elderly, the families, the children and the sick, embracing with affection all the faithful of the diocesan community who are spiritually united here. I also extend a greeting to the Authorities who have honoured us with their presence, and in the first place to the Mayor of Albano, to whom I am also grateful for his courteous words at the beginning of holy Mass. Upon everyone I invoke the heavenly protection of St Pancratius from whom this cathedral takes its name, and of the Apostle Matthew, who is commemorated in today's liturgy.

In particular, I invoke the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On this day, which crowns your efforts, sacrifices and hard work to endow the cathedral with a renewed space for the liturgy by means of the appropriate renovation of the episcopal throne, the ambo and the altar, may Our Lady obtain that you write another page of daily and popular holiness in our time, to add to those that have marked the life of the Church of Albano through the centuries. Of course, as your Pastor recalled, difficulties, challenges and problems are not lacking, but there are also great hopes and opportunities to proclaim and to witness to God's love. May the Spirit of the Risen Lord, who is the Spirit of Pentecost, open you to his horizons of hope and nourish within you a missionary impetus to the vast horizons of the new evangelization. Let us pray for this as we continue our Eucharistic celebration.

Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls Sunday, 5 October 2008

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

The First Reading, taken from the Book of Isaiah, as well as the passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, have presented to our liturgical assembly an evocative allegorical image of Sacred Scripture: the image of the vineyard which we have heard mentioned on the preceding Sundays. The initial passage of the Gospel account refers to the "canticle of the vineyard" which we find in Isaiah. This is a canticle set in the autumnal context of the grape harvest: a miniature masterpiece of Hebrew poetry which must have been very familiar to those listening to Jesus and from which, as from other references by the prophets (cf.
Os 10,1 Jr 2,21 Ez 17,3-10 Ez 19,10-14 Ps 79,9-17), it was easy to understand that the vineyard symbolized Israel. God bestowed the same care upon his vineyard, upon the People he had chosen, that a faithful husband lavishes upon his wife (cf. Ez 16,1-14 Ep 5,25-33).

Therefore the image of the vineyard, together with that of the wedding feast, describes the divine project of salvation and is presented as a moving allegory of God's Covenant with his People. In the Gospel, Jesus takes up the canticle of Isaiah but adapts it to his listeners and to the new period in salvation history. The emphasis is not so much on the vineyard as on the workers in it, from whom the landowner's "servants" ask for rent on his behalf. However, the servants are abused and even murdered. How is it possible not to think of the vicissitudes of the Chosen People and of the destiny reserved for the prophets sent by God? In the end, the owner of the vineyard makes a final attempt: he sends his own son, convinced that at least they will listen to him. Instead the opposite happens: the labourers in the vineyard murder him precisely because he is the landowner's son, that is, his heir, convinced that this will enable them to take possession of the vineyard more easily. We are therefore witnessing a leap in quality with regard to the accusation of the violation of social justice as it emerges from Isaiah's canticle. Here we clearly see that contempt for the master's order becomes contempt for the master: it is not mere disobedience to a divine precept, it is a true and proper rejection of God: the mystery of the Cross appears.

What the Gospel passage reports challenges our way of thinking and acting. It does not only speak of Christ's "hour", of the mystery of the Cross at that moment, but also of the presence of the Cross in all epochs. It challenges in a special way the people who have received the Gospel proclamation. If we look at history, we are often obliged to register the coldness and rebellion of inconsistent Christians. As a result of this, although God never failed to keep his promise of salvation, he often had to resort to punishment. In this context it comes naturally to think of the first proclamation of the Gospel from which sprang Christian communities that initially flourished but then disappeared and today are remembered only in history books. Might not the same thing happen in our time? Nations once rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture. There are some who, having decided that "God is dead", declare themselves to be "god", considering themselves the only architect of their own destiny, the absolute owner of the world. By ridding himself of God and not expecting salvation from him, man believes he can do as he pleases and that he can make himself the sole judge of himself and his actions. However, when man eliminates God from his horizon, declares God "dead", is he really happy? Does he really become freer? When men proclaim themselves the absolute proprietors of themselves and the sole masters of creation, can they truly build a society where freedom, justice and peace prevail? Does it not happen instead - as the daily news amply illustrates - that arbitrary power, selfish interests, injustice and exploitation and violence in all its forms are extended? In the end, man reaches the point of finding himself lonelier and society is more divided and bewildered.

Yet there is a promise in Jesus' words: the vineyard will not be destroyed. While the unfaithful labourers abandon their destiny, the owner of the vineyard does not lose interest in his vineyard and entrusts it to other faithful servants. This means that, although in certain regions faith is dwindling to the point of dying out, there will always be other peoples ready to accept it. For this very reason, while Jesus cites Psalm 118[117], "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Ps 118,22), he gives the assurance that his death will not mean God's defeat. After being killed, he will not remain in the tomb, on the contrary, precisely what seems to be a total defeat will mark the beginning of a definitive victory. His painful Passion and death on the Cross will be followed by the glory of his Resurrection. The vineyard, therefore, will continue to produce grapes and will be rented by the owner of the vineyard: "to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons" (Mt 21,41).

The image of the vineyard with its moral, doctrinal and spiritual implications was to recur in the discourse at the Last Supper when, taking his leave of the Apostles, the Lord said: "I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit" (Jn 15,1-2). Thus, starting from the Paschal event, the history of salvation was to reach a decisive turning point and those "other tenants" were to play the lead as chosen shoots grafted on Christ, the true vine, and yield abundant fruits of eternal life (cf. Collect). We too are among these "tenants", grafted on Christ who desired to become the "true vine" himself. Let us pray the Lord that in the Eucharist he will give us his Blood, himself, that he will help us to "bear fruit" for eternal life and for our time.

The comforting message that we gather from these biblical texts is the certainty that evil and death do not have the last word but that it is Christ who wins in the end. Always! The Church never tires of proclaiming this Good News, as is also happening today, in this Basilica, dedicated to the Apostle to the Gentiles who was the first to spread the Gospel in vast regions of Asia Minor and Europe. We shall meaningfully renew this proclamation at the 12th General Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops whose theme is "The Word of God in the life and mission of the Church". I would like to greet here with cordial affection all of you, venerable Synod Fathers, and all those who are taking part in this meeting as experts, auditors and special guests. I am pleased also to welcome the Fraternal Delegates of other Churches and Ecclesial Communities. I extend to the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops and his collaborators the expression of gratitude of us all for the hard work they have carried out in the past months, together with my good wishes for the efforts that await them in the coming weeks.

When God speaks, he always asks for a response. His saving action demands human cooperation; his love must be reciprocated. Dear brothers and sisters, may what the biblical text recounts about the vineyard never occur: "[he] looked for it to yield grapes but it yielded wild grapes" (Is 5,2). The Word of God alone can profoundly change man's heart so it is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with his Word. The Synodal Assembly will focus attention on this fundamental truth for the life and mission of the Church. To draw nourishment from the Word of God is her first and fundamental task. In fact, if the Gospel proclamation is her raison d'être and mission, it is indispensable that the Church know and live what she proclaims, so that her preaching may be credible despite the weaknesses and poverty of the people of whom she is comprised. We know, furthermore, that the proclamation of the Word, at the school of Christ, has the Kingdom of God as its content (cf. Mc 1,14-15, but the Kingdom of God is the very person of Jesus who, with his words and actions, offers salvation to people of every epoch. Interesting in this regard is St Jerome's reflection: "Whoever does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ" (Prologue of the commentary on Isaiah: n. 1, CCL 73, 1).

In this Pauline Year we hear the cry of the Apostle to the Gentiles resounding with special urgency: "Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!" (1Co 9,16); a cry that becomes for every Christian a pressing invitation to serve Christ. "The harvest is plentiful" (Mt 9,37) the Divine Teacher still repeats today: so many still do not know him and are awaiting the first proclamation of his Gospel; others, although they received a Christian formation, have become less enthusiastic and retain only a superficial contact with God's Word; yet others have drifted away from the practice of the faith and need a new evangelization. Then there are plenty of people of right understanding who ask themselves essential questions about the meaning of life and death, questions to which only Christ can give satisfactory answers. It is, therefore, becoming indispensable for Christians on every continent to be ready to reply to those who ask them to account for the hope that is in them (cf. 1P 3,15), joyfully proclaiming the Word of God and living the Gospel without compromises.

Venerable and dear Brothers, may the Lord help us to question ourselves together, in the coming weeks of the Synod's work, on how to make the Gospel proclamation increasingly effective in our time. We all know how necessary it is to make the Word of God the centre of our lives, to welcome Christ as our one Redeemer, as the Kingdom of God in person, to ensure that his light may enlighten every context of humanity: from the family to the school, to culture, to work, to free time and to the other sectors of society and of our life. In taking part in the Eucharistic celebration we are always aware of the close connection that exists between the proclamation of the Word of God and the Eucharistic sacrifice: it is the Mystery itself that is offered for our contemplation. This is why "the Church", as the Second Vatican Council highlights, "has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord, in so far as she never ceases, particularly in the sacred liturgy to partake of the bread of life and to offer it to the faithful from the one table of the Word of God and the Body of Christ" (Dei Verbum DV 21). The Council rightly concludes: "Just as from constant attendance at the Eucharistic mystery the life of the Church draws increase, so a new impulse of spiritual life may be expected from increased veneration of the Word of God, which "stands for ever'" (Dei Verbum DV 26).

May the Lord grant that we approach with faith the twofold banquet of the Body and Blood of Christ. May Mary Most Holy, who "kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Lc 2,19) obtain this for us. May she teach us to listen to the Scriptures and meditate upon them in an inner process of maturation that never separates the mind from the heart. May the Saints come to our aid, and in particular the Apostle Paul, whom during this year we are increasingly discovering as an undaunted witness and herald of God's Word. Amen!


Benedict XVI Homilies 15098