Benedict XVI Homilies 22407
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this final event, my Visit to Pavia acquires the form of a pilgrimage. This is the form in which I had conceived of it from the outset, desiring to come here to venerate the mortal remains of St Augustine, to express both the homage of the whole Catholic Church to one of her greatest "fathers" and my personal devotion and gratitude to the one who played such an important part in my life as a theologian and a Pastor, but, I would say, even more as a man and a priest.
I renew with affection my greeting to Bishop Giovanni Giudici and I offer a special greeting to Fr Robert Francis Prevost, Prior General of the Augustinians, to the Father Provincial and to the entire Augustinian community. I greet you all with joy, dear priests, men and women religious, consecrated lay people and seminarians.
Providence has deigned that my journey acquire the character of a true and proper Pastoral Visit, and therefore, in this pause for prayer here at the tomb of the Doctor gratiae, I would like to identify a significant message for the Church's progress. This message comes to us from the encounter of the Word of God and the personal experience of the great Bishop of Hippo.
We have listened to the short biblical Reading for Second Vespers of the Third Sunday of Easter (He 10,12-14). The Letter to the Hebrews has set us before Christ, the eternal High Priest, exalted to the Father's glory after offering himself as the one perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant in which the work of Redemption was accomplished.
St Augustine fixed his gaze on this mystery and in it he found the Truth he was so ardently seeking. Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Sacrificed and Risen Lamb, is the Face of God-Love for every human being on his journey along the paths of time towards eternity.
The Apostle John writes in a passage that can be considered parallel to the one just proclaimed in the Letter to the Hebrews: "In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins" (1Jn 4,10). Here is the heart of the Gospel, the central nucleus of Christianity. The light of this love opened Augustine's eyes and led him to encounter the "beauty so old and so new" (Confessions, X, 27) in which alone the human heart finds peace.
Dear brothers and sisters, here, in front of St Augustine's tomb, I would like in spirit to present anew to the Church and to the world my first Encyclical, which contains precisely this central message of the Gospel: Deus caritas est, God is love (cf. 1Jn 4,8 1Jn 4,16). This Encyclical, especially Part One, is deeply indebted to the thought of St Augustine, who was in love with the Love of God and sang of it, meditated upon it, preached it in all his writings and above all witnessed to it in his pastoral ministry.
Following in the wake of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and of my venerable Predecessors John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II, I am convinced that humanity today stands in need of this essential message, incarnate in Jesus Christ: God is love. Everything must start from here and everything must lead to here, every pastoral action, every theological treatise.
As St Paul said, "If I... have not love I gain nothing" (cf. 1Co 13,3). All charisms lose their meaning and value without love, thanks to which instead, all compete to build the Mystical Body of Christ.
Here then is the message that still today St Augustine repeats to the whole Church and in particular, to this diocesan Community which preserves his relics with such veneration. Love is the soul of the Church's life and of her pastoral action. We heard it this morning in the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter: "Do you love me?... Tend my sheep" (cf. Jn 21,5-17).
Only those who live a personal experience of the Lord's love are able to exercise the task of guiding and accompanying others on the way of following Christ. At the school of St Augustine, I repeat this truth for you as Bishop of Rome, while as a Christian I welcome it with you with ever new joy.
Serving Christ is first of all a question of love. Dear brothers and sisters, your membership in the Church and your apostolate always shine forth through freedom from any individual interest and through adherence without reserve to Christ's love.
The young, in particular, need to receive the proclamation of freedom and joy whose secret lies in Christ. He is the truest response to the expectations of their hearts, restless because of the many questions they bear within them.
Only in him, the Word spoken for us by the Father, is found that combination of truth and love which contains the full meaning of life. Augustine lived in the first person and explored to their depths the questions that man carries in his heart, and investigated his capacity to open himself to the infinity of God.
In Augustine's footsteps, may you also be a Church that candidly proclaims the "glad tidings" of Christ, his proposal of life, his message of reconciliation and forgiveness.
I have seen that your first pastoral goal is to lead people to Christian maturity. I appreciate this priority given to personal formation because the Church is not a mere organization of group events or, on the contrary, the sum of individuals who live a private religiosity. The Church is a community of people who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and commit themselves to live in the world the commandment of love that he bequeathed to us.
Thus, she is a community where one is taught to love, and this education happens not despite but through the events of life. This is how it was for Peter, for Augustine and for all the saints. So it is for us.
Personal maturation, enlivened by ecclesial charity, also makes it possible to grow in community discernment, that is, in the ability to read and interpret the present time in the light of the Gospel in order to respond to the Lord's call. I encourage you to progress in your personal and communal witness to active love.
The service of charity, which you correctly conceive of as always linked to the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the Sacraments, calls you and at the same time drives you to be attentive to the material and spiritual needs of your brothers and sisters.
I encourage you to pursue the "high standard" of Christian living which finds in charity the bond of perfection and which must also be expressed in a lifestyle inspired by the Gospel, inevitably against the tide by the world's standards but which must always be witnessed to with humility, respect and cordiality.
Dear brothers and sisters, it was a gift to me, truly a gift, to share with you this time at St Augustine's tomb. Your presence has given my pilgrimage a more concrete sense of Church. Let us start out from here bearing in our hearts the joy of being disciples of Love.
May the Virgin Mary, to whose motherly protection I entrust each one of you and your loved ones, accompany us always, while with deep affection I impart my Apostolic Blessing to you all.
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As he left the Basilica, the Pope greeted the faithful of Pavia, including a large number of children who were waiting for him outside:
In taking leave of this marvellous City of Pavia, it is a great joy for me to be able to see the children, boys and girls and young people. You are especially close to the Lord. His love is especially for you.
Let us move forward in love for the Lord! Pray for me, and I will pray for you. Good-bye!
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter traditionally known as "Good Shepherd Sunday", has a special significance for us who are gathered in this Vatican Basilica. It is an absolutely unique day especially for you, dear deacons, upon whom, as Bishop and Pastor of Rome, I am pleased to confer priestly Ordination. In this way you join our "presbyterium".
Together with the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishops and the priests of the Diocese, I thank the Lord for the gift of your priesthood which enriches our Community with 22 new Pastors.
The theological density of the brief Gospel passage which has just been proclaimed helps us to perceive better the meaning and value of this solemn Celebration.
Jesus speaks of himself as the Good Shepherd who gives eternal life to his sheep (cf. Jn 10,28). This image of the shepherd is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and dear to Christian tradition. The Prophets attributed to David the title: "Shepherd of Israel", which hence possesses an indisputable messianic importance (cf. Ex 34,23).
Jesus is the true Shepherd of Israel, since he is the Son of Man who desired to share the condition of human beings to give them new life and lead them to salvation.
Significantly, the Evangelist adds to the term "shepherd" the adjective kalós, good, which he only uses with reference to Jesus and his mission. In the account of the Wedding at Cana, the adjective kalós is also used twice to signify the wine offered by Jesus, and it is easy to see it as a symbol of the good wine of messianic times (cf. Jn 2,10).
"I give them (that is, to my sheep) eternal life and they shall never perish" (Jn 10,28). These are the words of Jesus, who had said a little earlier, "the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (cf. Jn 10,11).
John uses the verb tithénai - to offer, which he repeats in the following verses (cf. Jn 10,15 Jn 10,17 Jn 10,18). We find the same verb in the Last Supper narrative when Jesus "laid aside his garments" in order to "take" them back later (cf. Jn 13,4).
Thus, it is clear that the intention is to affirm that the Redeemer has absolute freedom to do with his life as he chooses and thereby give it up or take it back freely.
Christ is the true Good Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, for us, sacrificing himself on the Cross. He knows his sheep and his sheep know him, just as the Father knows him and he knows the Father (cf. Jn 10,14-15).
This is not a matter of mere intellectual knowledge but of a profound, personal relationship: a knowledge of the heart, of one who loves and one who is loved; of one who is faithful and one who knows how to be trustworthy.
It is a knowledge of love, by virtue of which the Pastor invites his sheep to follow him and which is fully manifest in the gift of eternal life that he offers to them (cf. Jn 10,27-28).
Dear Ordinandi, may the certainty that Christ does not abandon us and that no obstacle can prevent the accomplishment of his universal plan of salvation be a cause of constant consolation - also in difficulties - and steadfast hope for you. The Lord's goodness is always with you, and it is powerful.
The Sacrament of Orders, which you are about to receive, will make you sharers in the very mission of Christ; you will be called to scatter the seed of his Word, the seed that carries in itself the Kingdom of God; to dispense divine mercy and to nourish the faithful at the table of his Body and Blood.
To be his worthy ministers, you must ceaselessly nourish yourselves with the Eucharist, source and summit of Christian life.
In approaching the altar, your daily school of holiness, of communion with Jesus, of the way of entering into his sentiments in order to renew the sacrifice of the Cross, you will increasingly discover the richness and tenderness of the love of the divine Teacher, who today is calling you to a closer friendship with him.
If you listen docilely to him, if you follow him faithfully, you will learn to express in your life and in your pastoral ministry his love and his passion for the salvation of souls.
With Jesus' help, dear Ordinandi, each one of you will become a Good Shepherd, ready, if necessary, to lay down your life for him.
Thus it was at the beginning of Christianity with the first disciples, while as we heard in the First Reading the Gospel continued to be disseminated amid consolations and difficulties.
It is worth stressing the last words in the passage from the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard: "The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Ac 13,52).
Despite the misunderstandings and disagreements, about which we have heard, the apostle of Christ does not lose joy; indeed, he is a witness of that joy which flows from being with the Lord and from love for him and for the brothers and sisters.
On today's World Day of Prayer for Vocations, whose theme this year is: "The vocation to the service of the Church as communion", let us pray that all who are chosen to such a lofty mission may be accompanied by the prayerful communion of all the faithful
Let us pray that in every parish and Christian community attention to vocations and to the formation of priests will increase: it begins in the family, continues at the seminary and involves all who have at heart the salvation of souls.
Dear brothers and sisters who are taking part in this evocative celebration, and in the first place you, relatives, family members and friends of these 22 deacons who will shortly be ordained priests!
Let us surround these brothers of ours in the Lord with our spiritual solidarity. Let us pray that they may be faithful to the mission to which the Lord is calling them today and ready to renew their "yes" to God, their "here I am", every day without reserve.
And let us ask the Lord of the harvest on this Day for Vocations to continue to bring forth many holy priests who are totally dedicated to the service of the Christian people.
At this most solemn and important moment of your life, dear Ordinandi, I once again address you with affection. On this day Jesus repeats to you: "I no longer call you servants, but friends". Welcome and nurture this divine friendship with "Eucharistic love"!
May Mary, the heavenly Mother of priests, accompany you. May she who beneath the Cross united herself with the Sacrifice of her Son and after the Resurrection accepted together with the other disciples the gift of the Spirit, help you and each one of us, dear brothers in the priesthood, to allow ourselves to be inwardly transformed by God's grace.
Only in this way is it possible to be faithful images of the Good Shepherd; only in this way can we carry out joyfully the mission of knowing, guiding and loving the flock which Jesus acquired at the price of his blood. Amen.11507
My Venerable Brothers in the College of Cardinals,
Archbishop Scherer of São Paulo,
Bishops of Brazil and Latin America,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips (Ps 32,2)
1. Let us rejoice in the Lord, on this day when we contemplate another marvel of God, who in his admirable providence allows us to taste a trace of his presence in this act of self-giving Love that is the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar.
Yes, we cannot fail to praise our God. Let all of us praise him, peoples of Brazil and America, let us sing to the Lord of his wonders, because he has done great things for us. Today, Divine Wisdom allows us to gather around his altar with praise and thanksgiving for the grace granted to us in the canonization of Frei Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão.
I would like to express my thanks for the affectionate words spoken on behalf of all of you by Archbishop Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, and for the great dedication of his predecessor, Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who has done so much to promote the cause of Frei Galvão. I thank each one of you for your presence here, whether you come from this great city or from other cities and nations. I rejoice that, through the communications media, my words and expressions of affection can enter every house and every heart. Be sure of this: the Pope loves you, and he loves you because Jesus Christ loves you.
In this solemn eucharistic celebration, we have listened to the Gospel in which Jesus exultantly proclaims: "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes" (Mt 11,25). I am glad that the elevation to the altars of Frei Galvão will always remain framed in the liturgy that the Church presents to us today.
I greet with affection all the Franciscan community, and especially the Conceptionist Sisters who, from the Monastery of Light, from the capital of the State of São Paulo, spread the spirituality and the charism of the first Brazilian to be raised to the glory of the altars.
2. Let us give thanks to God for the lasting benefits obtained through the powerful evangelizing influence that the Holy Spirit impressed upon so many souls through Frei Galvão. The Franciscan charism, lived out in the spirit of the Gospel, has borne significant fruits through his witness as an ardent adorer of the Eucharist, as a prudent and wise guide of the souls who sought his counsel, and as a man with a great devotion to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, whose "son and perpetual servant" he considered himself to be.
God comes towards us, "he seeks to win our hearts, all the way to the Last Supper, to the piercing of his heart on the Cross, to his appearances after the Resurrection and to the great deeds by which, through the activity of the Apostles, he guided the nascent Church along its path" (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas est ). He reveals himself through his word, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist. The life of the Church, therefore, is essentially eucharistic. In his loving providence, the Lord has left us a visible sign of his presence.
When we contemplate the Lord at Mass, raised up by the priest after the consecration of the bread and wine, or when we devoutly adore him exposed in the monstrance, we renew our faith with profound humility, as Frei Galvão did in "laus perennis", in a constant attitude of adoration. The Holy Eucharist contains all the spiritual wealth of the Church, that is to say Christ himself, our Passover, the living bread come down from heaven, given life by the Holy Spirit and in turn life-giving because it is the source of Life for mankind. This mysterious and ineffable manifestation of God’s love for humanity occupies a privileged place in the heart of Christians. They must come to know the faith of the Church through her ordained ministers, through the exemplary manner in which they carry out the prescribed rites that always point to the eucharistic liturgy as the centre of the entire task of evangelization. The faithful, in their turn, must seek to receive and to venerate the Most Holy Sacrament with piety and devotion, eager to welcome the Lord Jesus with faith, and having recourse, whenever necessary, to the sacrament of reconciliation so as to purify the soul from every grave sin.
3. The significance of Frei Galvão’s example lies in his willingness to be of service to the people whenever he was asked. He was renowned as a counsellor, he was a bringer of peace to souls and families, and a dispenser of charity especially towards the poor and the sick. He was greatly sought out as a confessor, because he was zealous, wise and prudent. It is characteristic of those who truly love that they do not want the Beloved to be offended; the conversion of sinners was therefore the great passion of our saint. Sister Helena Maria, the first religious sister destined to belong to the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, witnessed to what Frei Galvão had said to her: "Pray that the Lord our God will raise sinners with his mighty arm from the wretched depths of the sins in which they find themselves." May this insightful admonition serve as a stimulus to us to recognize in the Divine Mercy the path towards reconciliation with God and our neighbour, for the peace of our consciences.
4. United with the Lord in the supreme communion of the Eucharist and reconciled with him and our neighbour, we will thus become bearers of that peace which the world cannot give. Will the men and women of this world be able to find peace if they are not aware of the need to be reconciled with God, with their neighbour and with themselves? Highly significant in this regard are the words written by the Assembly of the Senate of São Paulo to the Minister Provincial of the Franciscans at the end of the eighteenth century, describing Frei Galvão as a "man of peace and charity". What does the Lord ask of us? "Love one another as I have loved you." But immediately afterwards he adds: "Go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last" (cf. Jn 15,12 Jn 15,16). And what fruit does he ask of us, if not that of knowing how to love, drawing inspiration from the example of the Saint of Guaratinguetá?
The renown of his immense charity knew no bounds. People from all over the country went to Frei Galvão, who offered a fatherly welcome to everyone. Among those who came to implore his help were the poor and the sick in body and spirit.
Jesus opens his heart and reveals to us the core of his entire saving message: "No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15,13). He himself loved even to the extent of giving his life for us on the Cross. The action of the Church and of Christians in society must have this same inspiration. Pastoral initiatives for the building up of society, if directed towards the good of the poor and the sick, bear within themselves this divine seal. The Lord counts on us and calls us his friends, because it is only to those we love in this way that we are capable of giving the life offered by Jesus through his grace.
As we know, the Fifth General Conference of the Latin-American Episcopate will take as its fundamental theme: "Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ, so that our Peoples may have Life in Him". How can we fail to see, then, the need to listen with renewed fervour to God’s call, so as to be able to respond generously to the challenges facing the Church in Brazil and in Latin America?
5. "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest", says the Lord in the Gospel (Mt 11,28). This is the final recommendation that he makes to us. How can we fail to recognize here God’s fatherly and at the same time motherly care towards all his children? Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, stands particularly close to us at this moment. Frei Galvão prophetically affirmed the truth of the Immaculate Conception. She, the Tota Pulchra, the Virgin Most Pure, who conceived in her womb the Redeemer of mankind and was preserved from all stain of original sin, wishes to be the definitive seal of our encounter with God our Saviour. There is no fruit of grace in the history of salvation that does not have as its necessary instrument the mediation of Our Lady.
In fact, the saint that we are celebrating gave himself irrevocably to the Mother of Jesus from his youth, desiring to belong to her for ever and he chose the Virgin Mary to be the Mother and Protector of his spiritual daughters.
My dearest friends, what a fine example Frei Galvão has left for us to follow! There is a phrase included in the formula of his consecration which sounds remarkably contemporary to us, who live in an age so full of hedonism: "Take away my life before I offend your blessed Son, my Lord!" They are strong words, the words of an impassioned soul, words that should be part of the normal life of every Christian, whether consecrated or not, and they enkindle a desire for fidelity to God in married couples as well as in the unmarried. The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure. It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage.
In our day, Our Lady has been given to us as the best defence against the evils that afflict modern life; Marian devotion is the sure guarantee of her maternal protection and safeguard in the hour of temptation. And what an unfailing support is this mysterious presence of the Virgin Most Pure, when we invoke the protection and the help of the Senhora Aparecida! Let us place in her most holy hands the lives of priests and consecrated laypersons, seminarians and all who are called to religious life.
6. My dear friends, allow me to finish by recalling the Vigil of Prayer at Marienfeld in Germany: in the presence of a multitude of young people, I spoke of the saints of our epoch as true reformers. And I added: "Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world" (Homily, 20 August 2005). This is the invitation that I address to all of you today, from the first to the last, in this Eucharist without frontiers. God said: "Be holy, as I am holy" (Lv 11,44). Let us give thanks to God the Father, to God the Son, to God the Holy Spirit from whom, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, we receive all the blessings of heaven; from whom we receive this gift which, together with faith, is the greatest grace that can be bestowed upon a creature: the firm desire to attain the fullness of charity, in the conviction that holiness is not only possible but also necessary for every person in his or her own state of life, so as to reveal to the world the true face of Christ, our friend! Amen!
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear priests, and all of you, brothers and sisters in the Lord!
There are no words to express my joy in being here with you to celebrate this solemn Eucharist on the occasion of the opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean. I greet each of you most warmly, particularly Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis, whom I thank for the words he addressed to me in the name of the entire assembly, and the Cardinal Presidents of this General Conference. My respectful greeting goes to the civil and military Authorities who have honoured us with their presence. From this Shrine my thoughts reach out, full of affection and prayer, to all those who are spiritually united with us, especially the communities of consecrated life, the young people belonging to various associations and movements, the families, and also the sick and the elderly. To all I say: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co 1,3).
I see it as a special gift of Providence that this Holy Mass is being celebrated at this time and in this place. The time is the liturgical season of Easter; on this Sixth Sunday of Easter, as Pentecost rapidly approaches, the Church is called to intensify her prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The place is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Marian heart of Brazil: Mary welcomes us to this Upper Room and, as our Mother and Teacher, helps us to pray trustingly to God with one voice. This liturgical celebration lays a most solid foundation for the Fifth Conference, setting it on the firm basis of prayer and the Eucharist, Sacramentum Caritatis. Only the love of Christ, poured out by the Holy Spirit, can make this meeting an authentic ecclesial event, a moment of grace for this Continent and for the whole world. This afternoon I will be able to discuss more fully the implications of the theme of your Conference. But now, let us leave space for the word of God which we have the joy of receiving with open and docile hearts, like Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ may once again take flesh in the “today” of our history.
The first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, refers to the so-called “Council of Jerusalem”, which dealt with the question as to whether the observance of the Mosaic Law was to be imposed on those pagans who had become Christians. The reading leaves out the discussion between “the apostles and the elders” (Ac 15,4-21) and reports the final decision, which was then written down in the form of a letter and entrusted to two delegates for delivery to the community in Antioch (Ac 15,22-29). This passage from Acts is highly appropriate for us, since we too are assembled here for an ecclesial meeting. It reminds us of the importance of community discernment with regard to the great problems and issues encountered by the Church along her way. These are clarified by the “apostles” and “elders” in the light of the Holy Spirit, who, as today’s Gospel says, calls to mind the teaching of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 14,26) and thus helps the Christian community to advance in charity towards the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16,13). The Church’s leaders discuss and argue, but in a constant attitude of religious openness to Christ’s word in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, at the end they can say: “it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Ac 15,28).
This is the “method” by which we operate in the Church, whether in small gatherings or in great ones. It is not only question of procedure: it is a reflection of the Church’s very nature as a mystery of communion with Christ in the Holy Spirit. In the case of the General Conferences of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, the first, held in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, merited a special Letter from Pope Pius XII, of venerable memory; in later Conferences, including the present one, the Bishop of Rome has travelled to the site of the continental gathering in order to preside over its initial phase. With gratitude and devotion let us remember the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, who brought to the Conferences of Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo the witness of the closeness of the universal Church to the Churches in Latin America, which constitute, proportionally, the majority of the Catholic community.
“To the Holy Spirit and to us”. This is the Church: we, the community of believers, the People of God, with its Pastors who are called to lead the way; together with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, sent in the name of his Son Jesus, the Spirit of the one who is “greater” than all, given to us through Christ, who became “small” for our sake. The Paraclete Spirit, our Ad-vocatus, Defender and Consoler, makes us live in God’s presence, as hearers of his word, freed from all anxiety and fear, bearing in our hearts the peace which Jesus left us, the peace that the world cannot give (cf. Jn 14,26-27). The Spirit accompanies the Church on her long pilgrimage between Christ’s first and second coming. “I go away, and I will come to you” (Jn 14,28), Jesus tells his Apostles. Between Christ’s “going away” and his “return” is the time of the Church, his Body. Two thousand years have passed so far, including these five centuries and more in which the Church has made her pilgrim way on the American Continent, filling believers with Christ’s life through the sacraments and sowing in these lands the good seed of the Gospel, which has yielded thirty, sixty and a hundredfold. The time of the Church, the time of the Spirit: the Spirit is the Teacher who trains disciples: he teaches them to love Jesus; he trains them to hear his word and to contemplate his countenance; he conforms them to Christ’s sacred humanity, a humanity which is poor in spirit, afflicted, meek, hungry for justice, merciful, pure in heart, peacemaking, persecuted for justice’s sake (cf. Mt 5,3-10). By the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus becomes the “Way” along which the disciple walks. “If a man loves me, he will keep my word”, Jesus says at the beginning of today’s Gospel. “The word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (Jn 14,23-24). Just as Jesus makes known the words of the Father, so the Spirit reminds the Church of Christ’s own words (cf. Jn 14,26). And just as love of the Father led Jesus to feed on his will, so our love for Jesus is shown by our obedience to his words. Jesus’ fidelity to the Father’s will can be communicated to his disciples through the Holy Spirit, who pours the love of God into their hearts (cf. Rm 5,5).
The New Testament presents Christ as the missionary of the Father. Especially in the Gospel of John, Jesus often speaks of himself in relation to the Father who sent him into the world. And so in today’s Gospel he says: “the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me” (Jn 14,24). At this moment, dear friends, we are invited to turn our gaze to him, for the Church’s mission exists only as a prolongation of Christ’s mission: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20,21). The evangelist stresses, in striking language, that the passing on of this commission takes place in the Holy Spirit: “he breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20,22). Christ’s mission is accomplished in love. He has kindled in the world the fire of God’s love (cf. Lc 12,49). It is Love that gives life: and so the Church has been sent forth to spread Christ’s Love throughout the world, so that individuals and peoples “may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10,10). To you, who represent the Church in Latin America, today I symbolically entrust my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, in which I sought to point out to everyone the essence of the Christian message. The Church considers herself the disciple and missionary of this Love: missionary only insofar as she is a disciple, capable of being attracted constantly and with renewed wonder by the God who has loved us and who loves us first (cf. 1Jn 4,10). The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”: just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfils her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters! This is the priceless treasure that is so abundant in Latin America, this is her most precious inheritance: faith in the God who is Love, who has shown us his face in Jesus Christ. You believe in the God who is Love: this is your strength, which overcomes the world, the joy that nothing and no one can ever take from you, the peace that Christ won for you by his Cross! This is the faith that has made America the “Continent of Hope.” Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system: faith in the God who is Love—who took flesh, died and rose in Jesus Christ—is the authentic basis for this hope which has brought forth such a magnificent harvest from the time of the first evangelization until today, as attested by the ranks of Saints and Beati whom the Spirit has raised up throughout the Continent. Pope John Paul II called you to a new evangelization, and you accepted his commission with your customary generosity and commitment. I now confirm it with you, and in the words of this Fifth Conference I say to you: be faithful disciples, so as to be courageous and effective missionaries.
The second reading sets before us the magnificent vision of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is an image of awesome beauty, where nothing is superfluous, but everything contributes to the perfect harmony of the holy City. In his vision John sees the city “coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” (Ap 21,10). And since the glory of God is Love, the heavenly Jerusalem is the icon of the Church, utterly holy and glorious, without spot or wrinkle (cf. Ep 5,27), permeated at her heart and in every part of her by the presence of the God who is Love. She is called a “bride”, “the bride of the Lamb” (Ap 20,9), because in her is fulfilled the nuptial figure which pervades biblical revelation from beginning to end. The City and Bride is the locus of God’s full communion with humanity; she has no need of a temple or of any external source of light, because the indwelling presence of God and of the Lamb illuminates her from within.
This magnificent icon has an eschatological value: it expresses the mystery of the beauty that is already the essential form of the Church, even if it has not yet arrived at its fullness. It is the goal of our pilgrimage, the homeland which awaits us and for which we long. Seeing that beauty with the eyes of faith, contemplating it and yearning for it, must not serve as an excuse for avoiding the historical reality in which the Church lives as she shares the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted (cf. Constitution Gaudium et Spes GS 1). If the beauty of the heavenly Jerusalem is the glory of God—his love in other words—then it is in charity, and in charity alone, that we can approach it and to a certain degree dwell within it even now. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus and keeps his word, already experiences in this world the mysterious presence of the Triune God. We heard this in the Gospel: “we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14,23). Every Christian is therefore called to become a living stone of this splendid “dwelling place of God with men”. What a magnificent vocation!
A Church totally enlivened and impelled by the love of Christ, the Lamb slain for love, is the image within history of the heavenly Jerusalem, prefiguring the holy city that is radiant with the glory of God. It releases an irresistible missionary power which is the power of holiness.Through the prayers of the Virgin Mary, may the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean be abundantly clothed with power from on high (cf. Lc 24,49), in order to spread throughout this Continent and the whole world the holiness of Christ. To him be glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 22407