Benedict XVI Homilies 17607


Altar of the Chair, St Peter's Basilica, Tuesday, 19 June 2007

We have just heard in the Gospel these words spoken by Christ: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (
Jn 6,54).

They illumine our faith and support our hope at the sad and solemn moment when, gathered round the altar with sentiments of affection and fervent gratitude, we are preparing to say our last farewell to our venerable Brother, Cardinal Angelo Felici.

Let us profess with special intensity, with him and for him, the awareness that in the Eucharist we are mysteriously enabled to share in the Lord's death and Resurrection, in the firm belief that God prepares for his good and faithful servants the reward of life without end.

This is the faith which guided the long and fruitful priestly life of Cardinal Felici. With this faith, he celebrated the divine Sacrifice, seeking in the Eucharist the constant reference for his spiritual journey. With this faith he drew from the Eucharist the strength to carry out his zealous work in the Lord's vineyard! We are now confident that the Father has welcomed him into his house to participate in the heavenly banquet.

Gathered round the Altar, let us pray that this brother of ours in the priesthood may see face to face Jesus Christ his Lord (cf. 1Co 13,12), whom he strove to serve on earth with love.

At this time, the Apostle John's exhortation meaningfully rings out in our soul: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren" (1Jn 3,16).

We might say that these words effectively sum up the profound intention that gave the late Cardinal's life and ecclesial ministry its direction.

Born in the ancient and noble city of Segni, the teenage Angelo Felici responded promptly to the Lord's call and was welcomed into the Pontifical Leonian College at Anagni, where he studied philosophy and theology. Having received the Sub-Diaconate, he was immediately directed to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and on 4 April 1942, when he was not yet 23, he was ordained to the priesthood.

He then continued his academic training in the juridical sector: he took courses utriusque iuris at the Lateran Athenaeum and then switched to the Gregorian University, where he earned a Doctorate in Canon Law.

In practice, his priesthood was to be dedicated entirely to serving the Holy See, in close collaboration with the Successor of Peter. Indeed, on 1 July 1945 he entered the Secretariat of State, where he acquired considerable experience regarding the Holy See's relations with States. At first he worked with Cardinal Tardini, and then with Cardinal Cicognani.

Because of his competence and proven fidelity, the Servant of God Paul VI appointed him Undersecretary of what was then known as the Sacred Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs. In that same period, he combined his service to the Holy See with teaching the diplomatic style to students at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy. In July 1967, he was appointed Archbishop and sent as Pro-Apostolic Nuncio to The Netherlands. He remained there for nine years.

In 1976, he became the Papal Representative in Portugal after spending three years in Paris, where he was destined to welcome beloved John Paul II three times on the occasion of his Apostolic Pilgrimages to France.

He was recalled to Rome in 1988 and created a Cardinal with the Title of "Santi Biagio e Carlo ai Catinari", to become the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The dear and venerable Cardinal Felici carried out this service until 1995, when he was subsequently President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei" until the year 2000.

I am pleased to refer now to what the Servant of God John Paul II wrote to him on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination and 25th anniversary of episcopal ordination, highlighting the scrupulous sense of duty which distinguished him and his prompt execution of orders in addressing the problems and public affairs of the universal Church.

His episcopal ministry, the Pope said, was totally dedicated to the good of the faithful, to the benefit of the Roman Pontiff's mission and to the Apostolic See.

Let us now thank the Lord for the abundant harvest of apostolic fruit which, with the help of divine grace, he was able to gather in the various areas of his enlightened and precious pastoral and diplomatic activity. Let us ask the Good Shepherd that, in recognizing the love with which the late Cardinal worked throughout his long earthly life, he will graciously admit him to contemplate the radiant light of his glorious Face.

In the meantime, as we prepare to offer to this venerable Brother of ours our last farewell, may the words of the Book of Wisdom, just proclaimed, revive in our hearts the light of faith in the God of life: "The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God" (Sg 3,1).

Yes, the souls of God's friends rest in the peace of his heart. May this certainty which we must always nourish be a constant reminder to us to watch and pray and to persevere humbly and faithfully in our work of serving the Church. The souls of the just find repose in God alone; only those who trust in him will not be lost for ever, "In Te, Domine, speravi, non confundar in aeternum".

There is no doubt that the late Cardinal Angelo Felici expected death and prepared for it with just such a spirit and awareness. A moving testimony of this was found among his papers. On the back of a little image of the Mater Salvatoris, venerated in the Chapel of the Pontifical Leonian College - where he had studied as a young man - is written: "In you, Lord, have I hoped, and in your Most Holy Mother: may I not be lost for ever".

How often did he repeat the words of this prayer written in his own hand in preparation for the final departure!

We may consider them the spiritual testament which he has bequeathed to us: they are words which better than any other comment help us to reflect and pray today.

Cardinal Angelo Felici entrusted his life and his death to the Mother of the Saviour, and it is precisely to her that we wish to consign his soul.

May Mary, whom our Brother loved and called upon as a tender and caring Mother, now receive him in her arms as a most beloved son and accompany him to the encounter with Christ, with the One who "calls us back to life in company with Christ, whose victory is our redemption" (Preface, Christian Death, V). Amen!


Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, Thursday, 28 June 2007


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

At this First Vespers of the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, let us commemorate with gratitude these two Apostles whose blood with that of so many other Gospel witnesses made the Church of Rome fruitful.

On their memorial, I am glad to greet you all, dear brothers and sisters, starting with the Cardinal Archpriest and the other Cardinals and Bishops present, Father Abbot and the Benedictine Community to which this Basilica is entrusted, the clerics, the women and men religious and lay faithful gathered here.

I address a special greeting to the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which is reciprocating the presence of the Holy See's Delegation in Istanbul for the Feast of St Andrew.

As I had an opportunity to say a few days ago, these meetings and initiatives are not merely an exchange of courtesies between Churches but are intended to express the common commitment to do everything possible to hasten the time of full communion between the Christian East and West.

I address with these sentiments Metropolitan Emmanuel and Metropolitan Gennadios, sent by my beloved Brother Bartholomew I, to whom I express a grateful and cordial thought.

This Basilica, which has hosted profoundly significant ecumenical events, reminds us how important it is to pray together to implore the gift of unity, that unity for which St Peter and St Paul spent their lives, to the point of making the supreme sacrifice of their blood.

A very ancient tradition which dates back to apostolic times claims that their last meeting before their martyrdom actually took place not far from here: the two are supposed to have embraced and blessed each other. And on the main portal of this Basilica they are depicted together, with scenes of both martyrdoms.

Thus, from the outset, Christian tradition has considered Peter and Paul to have been inseparable, even if each had a different mission to accomplish.

Peter professed his faith in Christ first; Paul obtained as a gift the ability to deepen its riches. Peter founded the first community of Christians who came from the Chosen People; Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. With different charisms they worked for one and the same cause: the building of Christ's Church.

In the Office of Readings, the liturgy offers us for meditation this well-known text of St Augustine: "One day is assigned for the celebration of the martyrdom of the two Apostles. But those two were one. Although their martyrdom occurred on different days, they were one. Peter went first, Paul followed. We celebrate this feast day which is made sacred for us by the blood of these Apostles" (Sermon 295, 7, 8).

And St Leo the Great comments: "About their merits and virtues, which surpass all power of speech, we must not make distinctions, because they were equal in their election, alike in their toils, undivided in their death" (In natali apostol., 69, 7).

In Rome, since the earliest centuries, the bond that unites Peter and Paul in their mission has acquired a very specific significance. Like Romulus and Remus, the two mythical brothers who are said to have given birth to the City, so Peter and Paul were held to be the founders of the Church of Rome.

Speaking to the City on this topic, St Leo the Great said: "These are your holy Fathers and true shepherds, who gave you claims to be numbered among the heavenly kingdoms, and built you under much better and happier auspices than they, by whose zeal the first foundations of your walls were laid" (Sermon 82, 7).

However humanly different they may have been from each other and despite the tensions that existed in their relationship, Peter and Paul appear as the founders of a new City, the expression of a new and authentic way of being brothers which was made possible by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For this reason, it can be said that the Church of Rome is celebrating her birthday today, since it was these two Apostles who laid her foundations.

Furthermore, Rome in our day perceives with greater awareness both her mission and her greatness. St John Chrysostom wrote: "Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the City of Rome, sending out these two lights (Peter and Paul) into all parts of the world... Therefore, I admire the City... for these pillars of the Church" (Homily on St Paul's Epistle to the
Rm 32,24).

We will commemorate St Peter specifically tomorrow, celebrating the Divine Sacrifice in the Vatican Basilica, built on the site of his martyrdom. This evening we turn our gaze to St Paul, whose relics are preserved with deep veneration in this Basilica.

At the beginning of the Letter to the Romans, as we have just heard, St Paul greeted the community of Rome, introducing himself as "a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle" (Rm 1,1). He uses the term "servant", in Greek, doulos, to indicate a relationship of total and unconditional belonging to the Lord Jesus; moreover, it is a translation of the Hebrew, 'ebed, thus alluding to the great servants whom God chose and called for an important and specific mission.

Paul knew he was "called to be an apostle", that is, that he had not presented himself as a candidate, nor was his a human appointment, but solely by a divine call and election.

The Apostle to the Gentiles repeats several times in his Letters that his whole life is a fruit of God's freely given and merciful grace (cf. 1Co 15,9-10 2Co 4,1 Ga 1,15). He was chosen to proclaim "the Gospel of God" (Rm 1,1), to disseminate the announcement of divine Grace which in Christ reconciles man with God, himself and others.

From his Letters, we know that Paul was far from being a good speaker; on the contrary, he shared with Moses and Jeremiah a lack of oratory skill. "His bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account" (2Co 10,10), his adversaries said of him.

The extraordinary apostolic results that he was able to achieve cannot, therefore, be attributed to brilliant rhetoric or refined apologetic and missionary strategies.

The success of his apostolate depended above all on his personal involvement in proclaiming the Gospel with total dedication to Christ; a dedication that feared neither risk, difficulty nor persecution.

"Neither death, nor life", he wrote to the Romans, "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rm 8,38-39).

From this we can draw a particularly important lesson for every Christian. The Church's action is credible and effective only to the extent to which those who belong to her are prepared to pay in person for their fidelity to Christ in every circumstance. When this readiness is lacking, the crucial argument of truth on which the Church herself depends is also absent.

Dear brothers and sisters, as in early times, today too Christ needs apostles ready to sacrifice themselves. He needs witnesses and martyrs like St Paul. Paul, a former violent persecutor of Christians, when he fell to the ground dazzled by the divine light on the road to Damascus, did not hesitate to change sides to the Crucified One and followed him without second thoughts. He lived and worked for Christ, for him he suffered and died. How timely his example is today!

And for this very reason I am pleased to announce officially that we shall be dedicating a special Jubilee Year to the Apostle Paul from 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2009, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, which historians have placed between the years 7 and 10 A.D.

It will be possible to celebrate this "Pauline Year" in a privileged way in Rome where the sarcophagus which, by the unanimous opinion of experts and an undisputed tradition, preserves the remains of the Apostle Paul, has been preserved beneath the Papal Altar of this Basilica for 20 centuries.

It will thus be possible to have a series of liturgical, cultural and ecumenical events taking place at the Papal Basilica and at the adjacent Benedictine Abbey, as well as various pastoral and social initiatives, all inspired by Pauline spirituality.

In addition, special attention will be given to penitential pilgrimages that will be organized to the Apostle's tomb to find in it spiritual benefit. Study conventions and special publications on Pauline texts will also be promoted in order to make ever more widely known the immense wealth of the teaching they contain, a true patrimony of humanity redeemed by Christ.

Furthermore, in every part of the world, similar initiatives will be implemented in the dioceses, shrines and places of worship, by Religious and by the educational institutions and social-assistance centres which are named after St Paul or inspired by him and his teaching.

Lastly, there is one particular aspect to which special attention must be paid during the celebration of the various moments of the 2,000th Pauline anniversary: I am referring to the ecumenical dimension. The Apostle to the Gentiles, who was especially committed to taking the Good News to all peoples, left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians.

May he deign to guide and protect us in this bimillenial celebration, helping us to progress in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of Christ's Mystical Body. Amen.


Vatican Basilica, Friday, 29 June 2007


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday afternoon, I went to the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls, where I celebrated First Vespers for today's Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Beside the sepulchre of the Apostle to the Gentiles I paid homage to his memory and announced the Pauline Year which, on the occasion of the bimillennium of his birth, will be celebrated from 28 June 2008 until 29 June 2009.

This morning we have gathered round the sepulchre of St Peter in accordance with tradition. Present here to receive the Pallium are the Metropolitan Archbishops appointed during the past year, to whom I extend my special greeting. Also present, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, is an eminent Delegation; I welcome it with cordial gratitude, thinking back to last 30 November when I was in Istanbul-Constantinople for the Feast of St Andrew.

I greet the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima and the Deacon Andreas. Welcome, dear Brothers! The visits we pay each other every year are a sign that the search for full communion is always present and desired by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Bishop of Rome.

Today's Feast offers me the opportunity to meditate once again on Peter's confession, the decisive moment in the journey of the disciples with Jesus. The Synoptic Gospels have it take place in the district of Caesarea Philippi (cf.
Mt 16,13-20 Mc 8,27-30 Lc 9,18-22).

John, for his part, keeps for us another important confession by Peter, after the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and Jesus' Address in the Synagogue of Capernaum (cf. Jn 6,66-70). Matthew, in the text just proclaimed, recalls Jesus' attribution of the nickname Cephas, "Rock", to Simon. Jesus said that he desired to build his Church "on this rock" and with this in view, conferred on Peter the power of the keys (cf. Mt 16,17-19). It clearly emerges from these accounts that Peter's confession is inseparable from his pastoral duty to Christ's flock which was entrusted to him.

According to all the Evangelists, Simon's confession takes place at a crucial moment in Jesus' life when, after preaching in Galilee, he resolutely set out for Jerusalem in order to bring his saving mission to completion with his death on the Cross and his Resurrection.

The disciples were involved in this decision: Jesus invited them to make a choice that would bring them to distinguish themselves from the crowd so as to become the community of those who believed in him, his "family", the beginning of the Church.

In fact, there are two ways of "seeing" and "knowing" Jesus: one - that of the crowd - is more superficial; the other - that of the disciples - more penetrating and genuine. With his twofold question: "What do the people say?" and "who do you say that I am?", Jesus invited the disciples to become aware of this different perspective.

The people thought that Jesus was a prophet. This was not wrong, but it does not suffice; it is inadequate. In fact, it was a matter of delving deep, of recognizing the uniqueness of the person of Jesus of Nazareth and his newness.

This is how it still is today: many people draw near to Jesus, as it were, from the outside. Great scholars recognize his spiritual and moral stature and his influence on human history, comparing him to Buddha, Confucius, Socrates and other wise and important historical figures.

Yet they do not manage to recognize him in his uniqueness. What Jesus said to Philip at the Last Supper springs to mind: "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?" (Jn 14,9).

Jesus is often also considered as one of the great founders of a religion from which everyone may take something in order to form his or her own conviction. Today too, "people" have different opinions about Jesus, just as they did then. And as he did then, Jesus also repeats his question to us, his disciples today: "And who do you say that I am?".

Let us make Peter's answer our own. According to the Gospel of Mark he said: "You are the Christ" (Mc 8,29); in Luke, the affirmation is: "The Christ of God" (Lc 9,20); in Matthew resounds, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16,16); finally, in John: "You are the Holy One of God". These are all correct answers which are also right for us.

Let us reflect on Matthew's text in particular, quoted by today's liturgy.

According to certain experts, the formula which appears there presupposes the post-Resurrection context and might even be connected with a personal appearance of the Risen Jesus to Peter, an appearance similar to that which Paul experienced on the road to Damascus.

In fact, the responsibility conferred on Peter by the Lord was rooted in the personal relationship which the Jesus of history had with Simon the fisherman, from his first meeting with him when he said to him ""So you are Simon.... You shall be called Cephas' (which means Peter)" (Jn 1,42). The Evangelist John emphasizes it, he who was also a fisherman and an associate, together with his brother James, of the two brothers, Simon and Andrew. The Jesus who called Saul after the Resurrection is the same Jesus who - still immersed in history - after his baptism in the Jordan approached the four brother fishermen who were then disciples of the Baptist (cf. Jn 1,35-42).

He sought them out on the shores of Lake Galilee and called them to follow him, to become "fishers of men" (cf. Mc 1,16-20). He then entrusted Peter with a specific task, thereby recognizing in him a special gift of faith from the heavenly Father. Of course, all this was then illumined by the Paschal experience, but always remaining firmly anchored in the historical events prior to Easter.
The parallel between Peter and Paul cannot diminish the importance of Simon's historical journey with his Master and Lord, who from the outset attributed to him the characteristic of the "rock" on which he intended to build his new community, the Church.

In the Synoptic Gospels Peter's confession is always followed by Jesus' announcement of his imminent Passion. Peter reacted to this announcement because he was not yet able to understand. Nonetheless, this was a fundamental element on which Jesus strongly insisted. Indeed, the titles attributed to him by Peter - you are "the Christ", "the Christ of God", "the Son of the living God" - can only be properly understood in light of the mystery of his death and Resurrection.

And the opposite is also true: the event of the Cross reveals its full meaning only if "this man" who suffered and died on the Cross "truly was the Son of God", to use the words uttered by the centurion as he stood before the Crucified Christ (cf. Mc 15,39). These texts clearly say that the integrity of the Christian faith stems from the confession of Peter, illumined by the teaching of Jesus on his "way" toward glory, that is, on his absolutely unique way, being the Messiah and the Son of God.

It was a narrow "way", a shocking "manner" for the disciples of every age, who are inevitably led to think according to men rather than according to God (cf. Mt 16,23).

Today too, as in Jesus' day, it does not suffice to possess the proper confession of faith: it is always necessary to learn anew from the Lord the actual way in which he is Saviour and the path on which we must follow him. Indeed, we have to recognize that even for believers, the Cross is always hard to accept.

Instinct impels one to avoid it and the tempter leads one to believe that it is wiser to be concerned with saving oneself rather than losing one's life through faithfulness to love, faithfulness to the Son of God made man. Who do you say I am? What was it that the people to whom Jesus was speaking found hard to accept? What continues to be hard for many people also in our time?

It is difficult to accept that he claimed not only to be one of the prophets but the Son of God, and that he claimed God's own authority for himself.

Listening to him preaching, seeing him heal the sick, evangelize the lowly and the poor and reconcile sinners, little by little the disciples came to realize that he was the Messiah in the most exalted sense of the word, that is, not only a man sent by God, but God himself made man.

Clearly, all this was far beyond them, it exceeded their capacity for understanding. They were able to express their faith with the titles of the Judaic tradition: "Christ", "Son of God", "Lord". However, to adhere truly to reality, these titles had in some way to be rediscovered in their most profound truth: Jesus himself revealed their true meaning with his life, ever surprising, even paradoxical considering the customary concepts.

And the faith of the disciples itself had to progressively adapt. It presents itself as a pilgrimage which begins in the experience of the historical Jesus, finds its foundation in the Paschal Mystery, but must then advance further thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit.

This was also the faith of the Church in the course of history, this is also our faith as Christians of today. Firmly resting on the "rock" of Peter, it is a pilgrimage toward the fullness of that truth which the Fisherman of Galilee professed with passionate conviction: "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God" (Mt 16,16).

In Peter's profession of faith, dear brothers and sisters, we can feel that we are all one, despite the divisions that have wounded the Church's unity down the centuries and whose consequences are still being felt.

Today, in the name of Sts Peter and Paul, let us renew, together with our Brothers who have come from Constantinople - whom I thank once again for their presence at our celebration - our commitment to accept to the very end the desire of Christ, who wants us to be fully united. With the concelebrating Archbishops, let us accept the gift and responsibility of communion between the See of Peter and the Metropolitan Churches entrusted to their pastoral care.

May the Holy Mother of God always guide us and accompany us with her intercession: may her unswerving faith, which sustained the faith of Peter and of the other Apostles, continue to sustain that of the Christian generations, our own faith: Queen of Apostles, pray for us! Amen.


St Thomas of Villanova Parish, Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In his great work De Civitate Dei, St Augustine says once that the whole of human history, the history of the world, is a struggle between two loves: love of God to the point of losing oneself, of total self-giving, and love of oneself to the point of despising God, of hating others. This same interpretation of history as a struggle between two loves, between love and selfishness, also appears in the reading from the Book of Revelation that we have just heard.

Here, these two loves appear in two great figures. First of all, there is the immensely strong, red dragon with a striking and disturbing manifestation of power without grace, without love, of absolute selfishness, terror and violence.

At the time when St John wrote the Book of Revelation, this dragon represented for him the power of the anti-Christian Roman Emperors, from Nero to Domitian. This power seemed boundless; the military, political and propagandist power of the Roman Empire was such that before it, faith, the Church, appeared as a defenceless woman with no chance of survival and even less of victory.

Who could stand up to this omnipresent force that seemed capable of achieving everything? Yet, we know that in the end it was the defenceless woman who won and not egoism or hatred; the love of God triumphed and the Roman Empire was opened to the Christian faith.

The words of Sacred Scripture always transcend the period in history. Thus, not only does this dragon suggest the anti-Christian power of the persecutors of the Church of that time, but also anti-Christian dictatorships of all periods.

We see this power, the force of the red dragon, brought into existence once again in the great dictatorships of the last century: the Nazi dictatorship and the dictatorship of Stalin monopolized all the power, penetrated every corner, the very last corner. It seemed impossible in the long term that faith could survive in the face of this dragon that was so powerful, that could not wait to devour God become a Child, as well as the woman, the Church. But also in this case, in the end love was stronger than hate.

Today too, the dragon exists in new and different ways. It exists in the form of materialistic ideologies that tell us it is absurd to think of God; it is absurd to observe God's commandments: they are a leftover from a time past. Life is only worth living for its own sake. Take everything we can get in this brief moment of life. Consumerism, selfishness and entertainment alone are worthwhile. This is life. This is how we must live. And once again, it seems absurd, impossible, to oppose this dominant mindset with all its media and propagandist power. Today too, it seems impossible to imagine a God who created man and made himself a Child and who was to be the true ruler of the world.

Even now, this dragon appears invincible, but it is still true today that God is stronger than the dragon, that it is love which conquers rather than selfishness.

Having thus considered the various historical forms of the dragon, let us now look at the other image: the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, surrounded by 12 stars. This is also a multidimensional image.

Without any doubt, a first meaning is that it is Our Lady, Mary, clothed with the sun, that is, with God, totally; Mary who lives totally in God, surrounded and penetrated by God's light. Surrounded by the 12 stars, that is, by the 12 tribes of Israel, by the whole People of God, by the whole Communion of Saints; and at her feet, the moon, the image of death and mortality.

Mary has left death behind her; she is totally clothed in life, she is taken up body and soul into God's glory and thus, placed in glory after overcoming death, she says to us: Take heart, it is love that wins in the end!

The message of my life was: I am the handmaid of God, my life has been a gift of myself to God and my neighbour. And this life of service now arrives in real life. May you too have trust and have the courage to live like this, countering all the threats of the dragon.

This is the first meaning of the woman whom Mary succeeded in being. The "woman clothed with the sun" is the great sign of the victory of love, of the victory of goodness, of the victory of God; a great sign of consolation.

Yet, this woman who suffered, who had to flee, who gave birth with cries of anguish, is also the Church, the pilgrim Church of all times. In all generations she has to give birth to Christ anew, to bring him very painfully into the world, with great suffering. Persecuted in all ages, it is almost as if, pursued by the dragon, she had gone to live in the wilderness.

However, in all ages, the Church, the People of God, also lives by the light of God and as the Gospel says is nourished by God, nourishing herself with the Bread of the Holy Eucharist. Thus, in all the trials in the various situations of the Church through the ages in different parts of the world, she wins through suffering. And she is the presence, the guarantee of God's love against all the ideologies of hatred and selfishness.

We see of course that today too the dragon wants to devour God who made himself a Child. Do not fear for this seemingly frail God; the fight has already been won. Today too, this weak God is strong: he is true strength.

Thus, the Feast of the Assumption is an invitation to trust in God and also to imitate Mary in what she herself said: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; I put myself at the Lord's disposal.

This is the lesson: one should travel on one's own road; one should give life and not take it. And precisely in this way each one is on the journey of love which is the loss of self, but this losing of oneself is in fact the only way to truly find oneself, to find true life.

Let us look to Mary, taken up into Heaven. Let us be encouraged to celebrate the joyful feast with faith: God wins. Faith, which seems weak, is the true force of the world. Love is stronger than hate.
And let us say with Elizabeth: Blessed are you among women. Let us pray to you with all the Church: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Benedict XVI Homilies 17607