Benedict XVI Homilies 24509
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we live in faith the mystery that is fulfilled on the altar, that is, we take part in the supreme act of love that Christ accomplished with his death and Resurrection. The one and only centre of the liturgy and Christian life itself the Paschal Mystery acquires in the various Solemnities and Feasts specific "forms", with additional meanings and special gifts of grace. Pentecost is distinguished from all the Solemnities by its importance since what Jesus himself had announced as the purpose of the whole of his mission on earth is brought about in it. Indeed, on his way up to Jerusalem he had declared to his disciples: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!" (Lc 12,49). These words were most visibly brought about 50 days after the Resurrection, at Pentecost, the ancient Jewish feast which in the Church has become the feast par excellence of the Holy Spirit: "There appeared to them tongues as of fire... and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ac 2,3-4). The real fire, the Holy Spirit, was brought to the earth by Christ. He did not steal it from the gods like Prometheus, according to the Greek myth, but rather made himself the mediator of the "gift of God", obtaining it for us with the greatest act of love in history: his death on the Cross.
God wants to continue giving this "fire" to every human generation and he is naturally free to do so as and when he wishes. He is spirit, and the Spirit "blows where he wills" (cf. Jn 3,8). However, there is a "normal way" which God himself chose "to cast fire upon the earth": this way is Jesus, his Only-Begotten Son, incarnate, dead and Risen. In his turn Jesus Christ constituted the Church as his Mystical Body so that she might extend his mission in history. "Receive the Holy Spirit", the Lord said to the Apostles on the evening of the Resurrection, accompanying these words with an expressive gesture: "he breathed" on them (cf. Jn 20,22). In this way he showed that he was communicating his Spirit to them, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Now, dear brothers and sisters, in today's Solemnity Scripture tells us once again how the community should be, how we should be in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the account which describes the event of Pentecost, the sacred Author recalls that the disciples "were all together in one place". This "place" was the Cenacle, the "Upper Room" where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with his Apostles, where he had appeared to them risen; that room which had become, so to speak, the "headquarters" of the nascent Church (cf. Ac 1,13). The Acts of the Apostles, however, rather than insisting on the physical place, intend to point out the inner attitude of the disciples: "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (Ac 1,14). Harmony among the disciples is thus the condition for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and a presupposition of harmony is prayer.
Dear brothers and sisters, this also applies to the Church today, it applies to us, who are gathered here. If we want to prevent Pentecost from being reduced to a mere rite or even an evocative commemoration but want it to be an actual event of salvation, we must prepare ourselves in devout expectation for the gift of God through humble and silent listening to his Word. Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature "pentecost" which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (cf. Lc 1,41-45). The music and singing that accompany this liturgy help us likewise to be with one accord devoted to prayer, and for this I express my deep gratitude to the Cathedral Choir and the Kammerorchester of Cologne. Joseph Haydn's Harmoniemesse has very appropriately been chosen for this liturgy on the bicentenary of his death, the last of the "Masses" composed by the great musician and a sublime symphony to the glory of God. I address my most cordial greeting to all of you who are gathered here on this occasion.
In the account of Pentecost the Acts of the Apostles uses two important images to indicate the Holy Spirit: the image of the storm and the image of fire. Clearly, St Luke has in mind the theophany of Sinai, recounted in the Books of Exodus (Ex 19,16-19) and Deuteronomy (Dt 4,10-12 Dt 4,36). In the ancient world the storm was seen as a sign of divine power, before which man felt subjugated and terrified. However, I would like to emphasize another aspect too: the storm is described as a "mighty wind" and this makes one think of the air which distinguishes our planet from the other stars and enables us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the Holy Spirit is for spiritual life; and just as an atmospheric pollution exists that poisons the environment and living beings, thus a pollution of heart and spirit exists that mortifies and poisons spiritual life. In the same way that one must not become inured to the poisons in the air and for this reason ecological commitment is a priority today likewise one must not become inured to what corrupts the mind. On the other hand it seems that it is not difficult to become accustomed to the many products that contaminate both the mind and the heart and that circulate in our society for example, images which boost pleasure, violence or contempt for men and women. This is also freedom, people say, without realizing that all this pollutes, and intoxicates the mind, especially that of the new generations and moreover ends by conditioning their very freedom. The metaphor of the mighty wind of Pentecost makes one think instead of how precious it is to breathe clean air, physically with the lungs and spiritually with the heart, the healthy air of the Spirit who is love!
The other image of the Holy Spirit which we find in the Acts of the Apostles is fire. I mentioned at the beginning the comparison between Jesus and the mythological figure of Prometheus which recalls a characteristic aspect of modern man. In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos "fire" the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be an image of God but of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free and adult. Of course, this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, the consequence of a false image which has been fabricated of him, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfil himself by distancing himself from his father's house. In the hands of such a man "fire" and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a perennial warning.
It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the "Spirit of God... moving over the face of the waters" (Gn 1,2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ "brought to the earth" not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who "renews the face of the earth", purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (cf. Ps 103,29-30 : 29-30). This pure, essential and personal "fire", the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ's work of renewal.
Lastly, a final thought may also be found in the account of the Acts of the Apostles: the Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples sought shelter in the Upper Room after the arrest of their Lord and that they had remained isolated for fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus' Resurrection their fear was not suddenly dispelled. But here at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rested upon them, those men emerged fearless and began to proclaim the Good News of the Crucified and Risen Christ to all. They were not afraid because they felt they were in the hands of the strongest One. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, wherever the Spirit of God enters he puts fear to flight; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: something happens, his infinite love does not abandon us. It is demonstrated by the witness of martyrs, by the courage of confessors of the faith, by the undaunted zeal of missionaries, by the frankness of preachers, by the example of all the saints, even some who were adolescents and children. It is demonstrated by the very existence of the Church which, despite the limitations and sins of men and women, continues to cross the ocean of history, blown by the breath of God and enlivened by his purifying fire. With this faith and joyful hope let us repeat today, through the intercession of Mary: "Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth".
"This is my Body.... This is my Blood".
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
These words that Jesus spoke at the Last Supper are repeated every time that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is renewed. We have just heard them in Mark's Gospel and they resonate with special power today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. They lead us in spirit to the Upper Room, they make us relive the spiritual atmosphere of that night when, celebrating Easter with his followers, the Lord mystically anticipated the sacrifice that was to be consummated the following day on the Cross. The Institution of the Eucharist thus appears to us as an anticipation and acceptance, on Jesus' part, of his death. St Ephrem the Syrian writes on this topic: during the Supper Jesus sacrificed himself; on the Cross he was sacrificed by others (cf. Hymn on the Crucifixion, 3, 1).
"This is my Blood". Here the reference to the sacrificial language of Israel is clear. Jesus presents himself as the true and definitive sacrifice, in which was fulfilled the expiation of sins which, in the Old Testament rites, was never fully completed. This is followed by two other very important remarks. First of all, Jesus Christ says that his Blood "is poured out for many" with a comprehensible reference to the songs of the Servant of God that are found in the Book of Isaiah (cf. Is 53). With the addition "blood of the Covenant" Jesus also makes clear that through his death the prophesy of the new Covenant is fulfilled, based on the fidelity and infinite love of the Son made man. An alliance that, therefore, is stronger than all humanity's sins. The old Covenant had been sealed on Sinai with a sacrificial rite of animals, as we heard in the First Reading, and the Chosen People, set free from slavery in Egypt, had promised to obey all the commandments given to them by the Lord (cf. Ex 24,3).
In truth, Israel showed immediately by making the golden calf that it was incapable of staying faithful to this promise and thus to the divine Covenant, which indeed it subsequently violated all too often, adapting to its heart of stone the Law that should have taught it the way of life. However, the Lord did not fail to keep his promise and, through the prophets, sought to recall the inner dimension of the Covenant and announced that he would write a new law upon the hearts of his faithful (cf. Jr 31,33), transforming them with the gift of the Spirit (cf. Ez 36,25-27). And it was during the Last Supper that he made this new Covenant with his disciples and humanity, confirming it not with animal sacrifices as had happened in the past, but indeed with his own Blood, which became the "Blood of the New Covenant". Thus he based it on his own obedience, stronger, as I said, than all our sins.
This is clearly highlighted in the Second Reading, taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, in which the sacred author declares that Jesus is the "mediator of a new covenant" (He 9,15). He became so through his blood, or, more exactly, through the gift of himself, which gives full value to the outpouring of his blood. On the Cross, Jesus is at the same time victim and priest: a victim worthy of God because he was unblemished, and a High Priest who offers himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and intercedes for the whole of humanity. The Cross is therefore a mystery of love and of salvation which cleanses us as the Letter to the Hebrews states from "dead works", that is, from sins, and sanctifies us by engraving the New Covenant upon our hearts. The Eucharist, making present the sacrifice of the Cross, renders us capable of living communion with God faithfully.
Dear brothers and sisters whom I greet with affection, starting with the Cardinal Vicar and the other Cardinals and Bishops present like the Chosen People gathered on Sinai, this evening let us too reaffirm our fidelity to the Lord. A few days ago, in opening the annual Diocesan Convention [of Rome] I recalled the importance of remaining, as Church, attentive to the word of God in prayer and in exploring the Scriptures, especially through the practice of lectio divina, that is, through reading the Bible in meditation and veneration. I know that in this respect many initiatives which enrich our diocesan community have been promoted in parishes, seminaries and religious communities, in confraternities and in apostolic associations and movements. I address my fraternal greeting to the members of this multiplicity of Church bodies. Your numerous presence at this celebration, dear friends, highlights the fact that God moulds our community, characterized by a plurality of cultures and by different experiences. God moulds it as "his" People, as the one Body of Christ, thanks to our heartfelt participation in the twofold banquet of the Word and of the Eucharist. Nourished by Christ, we, his disciples, receive the mission to be "the soul" of this City of ours (cf. Letter to Diognetus, 6: ed. Funk, 1P 400 see also Lumen Gentium LG 38), a leaven of renewal, bread "broken" for all, especially for those in situations of hardship, poverty or physical and spiritual suffering. Let us become witnesses of his love.
I address you in particular, dear priests, whom Christ has chosen so that with him you may be able to live your life as a sacrifice of praise for the salvation of the world. Only from union with Jesus can you draw that spiritual fruitfulness which generates hope in your pastoral ministry. St Leo the Great recalls that "our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ aspires to nothing other than to become what we receive" (Sermo 12, De Passione 3, 7, PL 54). If this is true for every Christian it is especially true for us priests. To become the Eucharist! May precisely this be our constant desire and commitment, so that the offering of the Body and Blood of the Lord which we make on the altar may be accompanied by the sacrifice of our existence. Every day, we draw from the Body and Blood of the Lord that free, pure love which makes us worthy ministers of Christ and witnesses to his joy. This is what the faithful expect of the priest: that is, the example of an authentic devotion to the Eucharist; they like to see him spend long periods of silence and adoration before Jesus as was the practice of the Holy Curé d'Ars, whom we shall remember in a special way during the upcoming Year for Priests.
St John Mary Vianney liked to tell his parishioners: "Come to communion.... It is true that you are not worthy of it, but you need it" (Bernard Nodet, Le curé d'Ars. Sa pensée - Son coeur, éd. Xavier Mappus, Paris 1995, p. 119). With the knowledge of being inadequate because of sin, but needful of nourishing ourselves with the love that the Lord offers us in the Eucharistic sacrament, let us renew this evening our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We must not take this faith for granted! Today we run the risk of secularization creeping into the Church too. It can be translated into formal and empty Eucharistic worship, into celebrations lacking that heartfelt participation that is expressed in veneration and in respect for the liturgy. The temptation to reduce prayer to superficial, hasty moments, letting ourselves be overpowered by earthly activities and concerns, is always strong. When, in a little while, we recite the Our Father, the prayer par excellence, we will say: "Give us this day our daily bread", thinking of course of the bread of each day for us and for all peoples. But this request contains something deeper. The Greek word epioúsios, that we translate as "daily", could also allude to the "super-stantial" bread, the bread "of the world to come". Some Fathers of the Church saw this as a reference to the Eucharist, the bread of eternal life, the new world, that is already given to us in Holy Mass, so that from this moment the future world may begin within us. With the Eucharist, therefore, Heaven comes down to earth, the future of God enters the present and it is as though time were embraced by divine eternity.
Dear brothers and sisters, as happens every year, at the end of Holy Mass the traditional Eucharistic procession will set out and with prayer and hymns we shall raise a unanimous entreaty to the Lord present in the consecrated host. We shall say, on behalf of the entire City: "Stay with us Jesus, make a gift of yourself and give us the bread that nourishes us for eternal life! Free this world from the poison of evil, violence and hatred that pollute consciences, purify it with the power of your merciful love". "And you, Mary, who were the woman "of the Eucharist' throughout your life, help us to walk united towards the heavenly goal, nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, the eternal Bread of life and medicine of divine immortality". Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In a little while we shall sing in the antiphon to the Magnificat: “The Lord has drawn us to his heart—Suscepit nos Dominus in sinum et cor suum”. God’s heart, as the expression of his will, is spoken of twenty-six times in the Old Testament. Before God’s heart men and women stand judged. His heartfelt pain at sins of mankind makes God decide on the flood, but then he is touched by the sight of human weakness and offers his forgiveness. Yet another passage of the Old Testament speaks of God’s heart with absolute clarity: it is in the eleventh chapter of the book of the Prophet Hosea, whose opening lines portray the Lord’s love for Israel at the dawn of its history: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Os 11,1). Israel, however, responds to God’s constant offer of love with indifference and even outright ingratitude. “The more I called them”, the Lord is forced to admit, “the more they went from me” (Os 11,2). Even so, he never abandons Israel to the power of its enemies, because “my heart”—the the Creator of the universe observes—“recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender” (Os 11,8).
The heart of God burns with compassion! On today’s solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the Church presents us this mystery for our contemplation: the mystery of the heart of a God who feels compassion and who bestows all his love upon humanity. A mysterious love, which in the texts of the New Testament is revealed to us as God’s boundless and passionate love for mankind. God does not lose heart in the face of ingratitude or rejection by the people he has chosen; rather, with infinite mercy he sends his only-begotten Son into the world to take upon himself the fate of a shattered love, so that by defeating the power of evil and death he could restore to human beings enslaved by sin their dignity as sons and daughters. But this took place at great cost—the only-begotten Son of the Father was sacrificed on the Cross: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (cf. Jn 13,1). The symbol of this love which transcends death is his side, pierced by a spear. The Apostle John, an eyewitness, tells us: “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (cf. Jn 19,34).
Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for responding to my invitation and coming in great numbers to this celebration with which we inaugurate the Year for Priests. I greet the Cardinals and Bishops, in particular the Cardinal Prefect and the Secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, together with the officials of that Congregation and the Bishop of Ars. I greet the priests and seminarians from the various seminaries and colleges in Rome; the men and women religious and all the lay faithful present. In a special way I greet His Beatitude Ignace Youssef Younan, the Patriarch of Antioch of the Syrians, who has come to Rome to meet me and to recognize publicly the "ecclesiastica communio" which I have granted him.
Together let us pause to contemplate the pierced heart of the Crucified One. Just now we heard once again, in the brief reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, that “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ... raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ep 2,4-6). To be “in” Jesus Christ is already to be seated in heaven. The very core of Christianity is expressed in the heart of Jesus; in Christ the revolutionary “newness” of the Gospel is completely revealed and given to us: the Love that saves us and even now makes us live in the eternity of God. As the Evangelist John writes: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3,16). God’s heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to forsake our human certainties, to trust in him and, by following his example, to make ourselves a gift of unbounded love.
While it is true that Jesus’ invitation to “abide in my love” (cf. Jn 15,9) is addressed to all the baptized, on this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the day of prayer for the sanctification of priests, this invitation resounds all the more powerfully for us priests. It does so in a special way this evening, at the solemn inauguration of the Year for Priests which I have proclaimed to mark the 150th anniversary of the death of the saintly Curé of Ars. A lovely and touching saying of his, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, comes immediately to mind: “the priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus” (CEC 1589). How can we fail to be moved when we recall that the gift of our priestly ministry flows directly from this heart? How can we forget that we priests were consecrated to serve, humbly yet authoritatively, the common priesthood of the faithful? Ours is an mission which is indispensable for the Church and for the world, a mission which calls for complete fidelity to Christ and constant union with him. To abide in his love entails constantly striving for holiness, as did Saint John Mary Vianney.
In the Letter which I wrote to you for this special Jubilee Year, dear brother priests, I wished to highlight some essential aspects of our ministry by making reference to the example and teaching of the Curé of Ars, the model and protector of all priests, especially parish priests. I hope that my Letter will prove a help and encouragement to you in making this Year a graced opportunity to grow ever closer to Jesus, who counts on us, his ministers, to spread and build up his Kingdom, and to radiate his love and his truth. As I invited you at the conclusion of my Letter: “in the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by Christ. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!”.
To be completely enthralled by Christ! This was the goal of the entire life of Saint Paul, to whom we looked throughout the Pauline Year now ending; this was the goal of the entire ministry of the Curé of Ars, whom we shall invoke in particular during this Year for Priests; may it also be the primary goal for each and every one of us. Certainly, to be ministers at the service of the Gospel, study and careful, ongoing pastoral and theological formation are useful and necessary, but even more necessary is that “knowledge of love” which can only be learned in a “heart to heart” encounter with Christ. For it is he who calls us to break the bread of his love, to forgive sins and to guide the flock in his name. And for that reason we must never step back from the source of love which is his heart, pierced on the Cross.
Only in this way can we cooperate effectively in the mysterious “plan of the Father” which consists in “making Christ the heart of the world”! This plan is accomplished in history as Jesus gradually becomes the Heart of human hearts, beginning with those called to be closest to him: namely his priests. We are reminded of this constant commitment by the “priestly promises” that we made on the day of our ordination and which we renew yearly on Holy Thursday during the Chrism Mass. Even our shortcomings, our limitations and our weaknesses ought to bring us back to the heart of Jesus. If it is true that by contemplating Christ sinners learn from him the “sorrow for sins” needed to bring them back to the Father, this is even more the case for sacred ministers. How can we forget, in this regard, that nothing causes more suffering for the Church, the Body of Christ, than the sins of her pastors, especially the sins of those who become “thieves and robbers” of the sheep (cf. Jn 10,1 ff.), lead them astray by their own private teachings, or ensnare them in the toils of sin and death? Dear priests, the summons to conversion and to trust in God’s mercy also applies to us; we too must humbly, sincerely and unceasingly implore the heart of Jesus to preserve us from the terrifying risk of endangering the very people we are obliged to save.
A few moments ago, in the Choir Chapel, I was able to venerate the relic of the saintly Curé of Ars: his heart. A heart that blazed with divine love, experienced amazement at the thought of the dignity of the priest, and spoke to the faithful in touching and sublime tones, telling them that “after God, the priest is everything! ... Only in heaven will he fully realize what he is” (cf. Letter for the Year for Priests, p. 3). Dear brothers, let us cultivate this same amazement, in order to carry out our ministry with generosity and dedication, and to maintain the true “fear of God” in our hearts: the fear, that is, that we can deprive of so much good, by our negligence or fault, the souls entrusted to our care, or that—God forbid—we can do them harm. The Church needs holy priests; ministers capable of helping the faithful to experience the Lord’s merciful love, and convinced witnesses of that love. In the Eucharistic Adoration which is to follow our celebration of Vespers, let us ask the Lord to set the heart of every priest afire with that “pastoral charity” which can make him one in heart and mind with Jesus the High Priest, and thus to imitate Jesus in complete self-giving. May the Virgin Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we shall contemplate with lively faith tomorrow, obtain this grace for us. The Curé of Ars had a filial devotion to Mary, a devotion so profound that in 1836, in anticipation of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, he dedicated his parish to Mary “conceived without sin”. He frequently renewed this offering of the parish to the Blessed Virgin, teaching his parishioners that “to be heard it is enough to speak to her”, for the simple reason that she “desires above all else to see us happy”. May the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, accompany us during the Year for Priests which we begin today, so that we can be wise and steady guides of the flock which the Lord has entrusted to our pastoral care. Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the heart of my pilgrimage to this place where everything speaks of the life and holiness of Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, I have the joy of celebrating for you and with you the Eucharist, a mystery that was the centre of his whole life, the origin of his vocation, the power of his witness, the consecration of his sacrifice. With deep affection I greet all of you who have gathered here in large numbers, and all those who have joined us via radio and television. In the first place, I greet Archbishop Domenico Umberto D'Ambrosio who after years of faithful service to this diocesan community is preparing to take over the care of the Archdiocese of Lecce. I cordially thank him too for having expressed your sentiments. I greet the other Bishops who are concelebrating. I address a special greeting to the Capuchin Friars with the Minister General Fra Mauro Jöhri, the Definitor General, the Minister Provincial, the Father Guardian of the Convent, the Rector of the Shrine and the Capuchin Fraternity of San Giovanni Rotondo. I also greet with gratitude all those who make their contribution by serving the Shrine and the annexed institutions; I greet the civil and military Authorities; I greet the priests, the deacons, the other religious, men and women, and all the faithful. I address an affectionate thought to everyone in the House for the Relief of Suffering, to people who are all alone and to all the inhabitants of your town.
We have just heard the Gospel reading of the calming of the storm, which was presented with a brief but incisive passage from the Book of Job, in which God reveals himself as the Lord of the sea. Jesus rebukes the wind and orders the sea to be calm, he speaks to it as if it were identified with the power of the devil. In fact, according to what the First Reading and Psalm 107 tell us, in the Bible the sea is considered a threatening, chaotic and potentially destructive element which God the Creator alone can dominate, govern and calm.
Yet, there is another force a positive force that moves the world, capable of transforming and renewing creatures: the power of "Christ's love" (2Co 5,14) as St Paul calls it in his Second Letter to the Corinthians not, therefore essentially a cosmic force, but rather divine, transcendent. It also acts on the cosmos but, in itself, Christ's love is "another" power and the Lord manifested this transcendent otherness in his Pasch, in the "holiness" of the "way" he chose to free us from the dominion of evil, as happened for the Exodus when he brought the Jews out of Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea. "Your way, O God, is holy", the Psalmist exclaims, "Your way was through the sea/ your path through the great waters" (Ps 77,13 Ps 77,19 : 13, 19). In the Paschal Mystery, Jesus passed through the abyss of death, because in this way God wanted to renew the universe through the death and Resurrection of his Son, who "died for all", that all might live "for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2Co 5,15), and not live for their own sake alone.
The solemn gesture of calming the stormy sea was a clear sign of Christ's lordship over negative powers and induces one to think of his divinity: "Who then is this", his own Disciples asked fearfully, "that even wind and sea obey him?" (Mc 4,41). Their faith is not yet firm, it is being formed; it is a mingling of fear and trust; on the other hand, Jesus' confidant abandonment to the Father is total and pure. This is why he could sleep during the storm, completely safe in God's arms. The time would come, however, when Jesus too would feel fear and anguish, when his hour came he was to feel the full burden of humanity's sins upon him, like a wave at high tide about to break over him. That was indeed to be a terrible tempest, not cosmic but spiritual. It was to be the final, extreme assault of evil against the Son of God.
Yet, in that hour Jesus did not doubt in the power of God the Father or in his closeness, even though he had to experience to the full the distance of hatred from love, of falsehood from the truth, of sin from grace. He experienced this drama in himself with excruciating pain, especially in Gethsemane, before his arrest, and then throughout his Passion until his death on the Cross. In that hour, Jesus on the one hand was one with the Father, fully abandoned to him; on the other, since he showed solidarity to sinners, he was as it were separated and felt abandoned by him.
Some Saints have lived Jesus' experience intensely and personally. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina is one such. A simple man, of humble origin, whom "Christ made... his own" (Ph 3,12) as the Apostle Paul wrote of himself to make him a chosen instrument of the eternal power of his Cross: a power of love for souls, of forgiveness and of reconciliation, of spiritual fatherhood, of effective solidarity with the suffering. The stigmata that marked his Body closely united him with the Crucified and Risen One. A genuine follower of St Francis of Assisi, like the Poverello he made St Paul's experience his own, as he described it in his Letters: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Ga 2,20); or: "death is at work in us, but life in you" (2Co 4,12). This does not mean alienation, the loss of one's personality: God never annihilates human beings but transforms them with his Spirit and orientates them to serving his plan of salvation. Padre Pio retained his own natural gifts and his own temperament, but he offered all things to God, who was able to make free use of them to extend Christ's work: to proclaim the Gospel, to forgive sins and to heal the sick in body and in mind.
Like Jesus, Padre Pio did not have to battle with earthly enemies, in radical combat, but rather with the spirit of evil (cf. Ep 6,12). The greatest "storms" that threatened him were the assaults of the devil, from which he defended himself with "the armour of God", with "the shield of faith" and with the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ep 6,11 Ep 6,16 Ep 6,17). By staying united with Jesus, he always focussed on the depth of the human drama, and for this reason offered himself up as well as his many sufferings and could expend himself for the healing and relief of the sick, a privileged sign of God's mercy, of his Kingdom which comes, indeed, which is already in the world, of the victory of love and life over sin and death. To guide souls and to alleviate suffering; we may thus sum up St Pio of Pietrelcina in the words of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI: "he was a man of prayer and suffering" (Address to the Capuchin Chapter Fathers, 20 February 1971).
Dear friends, Friars Minor Capuchin, the members of prayer groups and all the faithful of San Giovanni Rotondo, you are the heirs of Padre Pio and the legacy he has bequeathed to you is his holiness. In one of his letters he wrote: "It seems that Jesus had no work for his hands other than to sanctify your soul" (Epist. II, p. 155). This was always his priority concern, his priestly and paternal caring: so that people might return to God, might be able to experience his mercy and, inwardly renewed, rediscover the beauty and joy of being Christians, of living in communion with Jesus, of belonging to his Church and of putting the Gospel into practice. Padre Pio attracted people to the way of holiness with his own witness, pointing out by his example the "track" that leads to it: prayer and charity.
First of all prayer.Like all great men of God Padre Pio himself had become prayer, body and soul. His days were a Rosary lived, that is, a continuous meditation and assimilation of Christ's mysteries in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary. This explains the unique coexistence within him of supernatural gifts and human concreteness.
And it all culminated in the celebration of holy Mass in which he was fully united with the dead and Risen Lord. From prayer, as an ever living source, flowed charity. The love that he carried in his heart and passed on to others was full of tenderness, always attentive to the real situations of people and families. Especially in the sick and the suffering, he encouraged special love for the Heart of Christ and it was precisely from this that the project of a great work dedicated to "the relief of suffering" took its origin and form. It is not possible to understand or interpret this institution adequately if it is separated from the source that inspired it, which is evangelical charity, enlivened, in its turn, by prayer.
Today, dear friends, Padre Pio presents all this to our attention anew. The risks of activism and secularization are ever present; thus my Visit is also intended to strengthen your fidelity to the mission you have inherited from your most beloved Father. Many of you, men and women religious and lay people, are so taken up by the thousands of tasks demanded of you by the service to pilgrims or to the sick in hospital that you run the risk of neglecting the one truly necessary thing: listening to Christ in order to do God's will. When you realize that you are close to running this risk, look to Padre Pio: at his example, at his suffering, and invoke his intercession so that he may obtain for you from the Lord the light and strength that you need to continue your own mission, steeped in love for God and in fraternal charity. And may he continue from Heaven to exercise that exquisite spiritual fatherhood that distinguished him during his earthly existence; may he continue to accompany his confreres, his spiritual children and the entire work that he began. Together with St Francis and with Our Lady whom he so deeply loved and made loved in this world, may he always watch over all of you and protect you. And then, also in the storms that may suddenly break, you will be able to feel the breath of the Holy Spirit that is stronger than any contrary wind and impels the Barque of the Church and each one of us onward. This is why we must always live in serenity and cultivate in our hearts joy, giving thanks to the Lord. "His love is for ever" (Responsorial psalm).
Benedict XVI Homilies 24509