Benedict XVI Homilies 14046
"You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here" (Mc 16,6). With these words, God’s messenger, robed in light, spoke to the women who were looking for the body of Jesus in the tomb. But the Evangelist says the same thing to us on this holy night: Jesus is not a character from the past. He lives, and he walks before us as one who is alive, he calls us to follow him, the living one, and in this way to discover for ourselves too the path of life.
"He has risen, he is not here." When Jesus spoke for the first time to the disciples about the Cross and the Resurrection, as they were coming down from the Mount of the Transfiguration, they questioned what "rising from the dead" meant (Mc 9,10). At Easter we rejoice because Christ did not remain in the tomb, his body did not see corruption; he belongs to the world of the living, not to the world of the dead; we rejoice because he is the Alpha and also the Omega, as we proclaim in the rite of the Paschal Candle; he lives not only yesterday, but today and for eternity (cf. He 13,8).
But somehow the Resurrection is situated so far beyond our horizon, so far outside all our experience that, returning to ourselves, we find ourselves continuing the argument of the disciples: Of what exactly does this "rising" consist? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and the whole of history? A German theologian once said ironically that the miracle of a corpse returning to life - if it really happened, which he did not actually believe - would be ultimately irrelevant precisely because it would not concern us. In fact, if it were simply that somebody was once brought back to life, and no more than that, in what way should this concern us? But the point is that Christ’s Resurrection is something more, something different. If we may borrow the language of the theory of evolution, it is the greatest "mutation", absolutely the most crucial leap into a totally new dimension that there has ever been in the long history of life and its development: a leap into a completely new order which does concern us, and concerns the whole of history.
The discussion, that began with the disciples, would therefore include the following questions: What happened there? What does it mean for us, for the whole world and for me personally? Above all: what happened? Jesus is no longer in the tomb. He is in a totally new life. But how could this happen? What forces were in operation? The crucial point is that this man Jesus was not alone, he was not an "I" closed in upon itself. He was one single reality with the living God, so closely united with him as to form one person with him. He found himself, so to speak, in an embrace with him who is life itself, an embrace not just on the emotional level, but one which included and permeated his being. His own life was not just his own, it was an existential communion with God, a "being taken up" into God, and hence it could not in reality be taken away from him. Out of love, he could allow himself to be killed, but precisely by doing so he broke the definitiveness of death, because in him the definitiveness of life was present. He was one single reality with indestructible life, in such a way that it burst forth anew through death. Let us express the same thing once again from another angle. His death was an act of love. At the Last Supper he anticipated death and transformed it into self-giving. His existential communion with God was concretely an existential communion with God’s love, and this love is the real power against death, it is stronger than death. The Resurrection was like an explosion of light, an explosion of love which dissolved the hitherto indissoluble compenetration of "dying and becoming". It ushered in a new dimension of being, a new dimension of life in which, in a transformed way, matter too was integrated and through which a new world emerges.
It is clear that this event is not just some miracle from the past, the occurrence of which could be ultimately a matter of indifference to us. It is a qualitative leap in the history of "evolution" and of life in general towards a new future life, towards a new world which, starting from Christ, already continuously permeates this world of ours, transforms it and draws it to itself. But how does this happen? How can this event effectively reach me and draw my life upwards towards itself? The answer, perhaps surprising at first but totally real, is: this event comes to me through faith and Baptism. For this reason Baptism is part of the Easter Vigil, as we see clearly in our celebration today, when the sacraments of Christian initiation will be conferred on a group of adults from various countries. Baptism means precisely this, that we are not dealing with an event in the past, but that a qualitative leap in world history comes to me, seizing hold of me in order to draw me on.
Baptism is something quite different from an act of ecclesial socialization, from a slightly old-fashioned and complicated rite for receiving people into the Church. It is also more than a simple washing, more than a kind of purification and beautification of the soul. It is truly death and resurrection, rebirth, transformation to a new life.
How can we understand this? I think that what happens in Baptism can be more easily explained for us if we consider the final part of the short spiritual autobiography that Saint Paul gave us in his Letter to the Galatians. Its concluding words contain the heart of this biography: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Ga 2,20). I live, but I am no longer I. The "I", the essential identity of man - of this man, Paul - has been changed. He still exists, and he no longer exists. He has passed through a "not" and he now finds himself continually in this "not": I, but no longer I.
With these words, Paul is not describing some mystical experience which could perhaps have been granted him, and could be of interest to us from a historical point of view, if at all. No, this phrase is an expression of what happened at Baptism. My "I" is taken away from me and is incorporated into a new and greater subject. This means that my "I" is back again, but now transformed, broken up, opened through incorporation into the other, in whom it acquires its new breadth of existence. Paul explains the same thing to us once again from another angle when, in Chapter Three of the Letter to the Galatians, he speaks of the "promise", saying that it was given to an individual - to one person: to Christ. He alone carries within himself the whole "promise". But what then happens with us? Paul answers: You have become one in Christ (cf. Ga 3,28). Not just one thing, but one, one only, one single new subject. This liberation of our "I" from its isolation, this finding oneself in a new subject means finding oneself within the vastness of God and being drawn into a life which has now moved out of the context of "dying and becoming". The great explosion of the Resurrection has seized us in Baptism so as to draw us on. Thus we are associated with a new dimension of life into which, amid the tribulations of our day, we are already in some way introduced. To live one’s own life as a continual entry into this open space: this is the meaning of being baptized, of being Christian. This is the joy of the Easter Vigil. The Resurrection is not a thing of the past, the Resurrection has reached us and seized us. We grasp hold of it, we grasp hold of the risen Lord, and we know that he holds us firmly even when our hands grow weak. We grasp hold of his hand, and thus we also hold on to one another’s hands, and we become one single subject, not just one thing. I, but no longer I: this is the formula of Christian life rooted in Baptism, the formula of the Resurrection within time. I, but no longer I: if we live in this way, we transform the world. It is a formula contrary to all ideologies of violence, it is a programme opposed to corruption and to the desire for power and possession.
"I live and you will live also", says Jesus in Saint John’s Gospel (Jn 14,19) to his disciples, that is, to us. We will live through our existential communion with him, through being taken up into him who is life itself. Eternal life, blessed immortality, we have not by ourselves or in ourselves, but through a relation - through existential communion with him who is Truth and Love and is therefore eternal: God himself. Simple indestructibility of the soul by itself could not give meaning to eternal life, it could not make it a true life. Life comes to us from being loved by him who is Life; it comes to us from living-with and loving-with him. I, but no longer I: this is the way of the Cross, the way that "crosses over" a life simply closed in on the I, thereby opening up the road towards true and lasting joy.
Thus we can sing full of joy, together with the Church, in the words of the Exsultet: "Sing, choirs of angels . . . rejoice, O earth!" The Resurrection is a cosmic event, which includes heaven and earth and links them together. In the words of the Exsultet once again, we can proclaim: "Christ . . . who came back from the dead and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever". Amen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year we are commemorating several significant events that occurred in 1506, exactly 500 years ago.
The rediscovery of the sculptural group of the Laocoon that led to the establishment of the Vatican Museums; the laying of the foundation stone of this building, St Peter's Basilica, rebuilt on the site of Constantine's Basilica; and the birth of the Pontifical Swiss Guard.
Today, it is especially the latter event that we wish to recall.
Indeed, on 22 January, 500 years ago, the first 150 Swiss Guards arrived in Rome at the express request of Pope Julius II and entered his service in the Apostolic Palace. That chosen corps was very soon required to show its faithfulness to the Pontiff: in 1527, Rome was invaded and sacked, and on 6 May, 147 Swiss Guards were killed because they were defending Pope Clement VII, while the remaining 42 escorted him safely to Castel Sant'Angelo.
Why should we commemorate today these events that happened so long ago, in a Rome and a Europe so different from the situation today?
First of all, to pay honour to the Swiss Guard Corps, whose role ever since has always been reconfirmed, even in 1970 when the Servant of God Paul VI disbanded all the other military corps of the Vatican.
However, at the same time and above all, let us call to mind these historic events so as to draw a lesson from them in the light of God's Word.
To this end, the biblical Readings of today's liturgy are helpful, and the Risen Christ, whom we celebrate with special joy during this Easter Season, opens our minds to understanding the Scriptures (cf. Lc 24,45), so that we may recognize God's plan and do his will.
The First Reading is taken from the Book of Wisdom, traditionally attributed to the great King Solomon. This entire Book is a hymn of praise to Divine Wisdom, presented as the most valuable treasure that man can desire and discover, the greatest good on which all other goods depend.
For Wisdom, it is worth giving up every other thing; for Wisdom alone gives life its full meaning, a meaning that overcomes death itself because it puts people in authentic communion with God. Wisdom, the text says, "makes them friends of God" (Sg 7,27).
On the one hand, it highlights the "formative" aspect, in other words, the fact that Wisdom forms people, making them grow from within towards the full stature of their maturity; and it contextually affirms that this fullness of life consists in friendship with God, in an intimate harmony with his being and his will.
The interior place in which Divine Wisdom operates is what the Bible calls "the heart", the person's spiritual centre. Thus, the Response of the Responsorial Psalm had us pray: "Give us, O God, wisdom of heart".
Psalm 90 then recalls that this Wisdom is granted to those who learn how to "number [their] days" (cf. Ps 89,12), that is, to recognize that all the rest of life is fleeting, short-lived and transient; and that sinful human beings cannot and must not hide from God, but must recognize themselves for what they are: creatures in need of mercy and grace.
Those who accept this truth and are prepared to accept Wisdom, receive it as a gift.
For Wisdom, then, it is worth giving up all other things. This theme, to "leave" in order to "find", is the centre of the Gospel passage we have just heard, taken from chapter 19 of St Matthew.
After the episode of the "rich young man" who did not have the courage to detach himself from his "many riches" in order to follow Jesus (cf. Mt 19,22), the Apostle Peter asked the Lord what instead would be the reward of those disciples of his who left everything in order to follow him (cf. Mt 19,27).
Christ's answer reveals the immense greatness of his Heart: he promised the Twelve that they would share in his authority over the new Israel; then he assured them all that "everyone who has left" their earthly goods for his sake would "receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Mt 19,29).
The person who chooses Jesus finds the greatest treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13,44-46) that gives value to all the rest, for Jesus is Divine Wisdom incarnate (cf. Jn 1,14), who came into the world so that humanity might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10,10). And the person who accepts Christ's superior goodness and beauty and truth, in which the whole fullness of God dwells (cf. Col 2,9), enters with him into his Kingdom where the value judgments of this world decay and indeed, are overturned.
We find one of the most beautiful definitions of the Kingdom of God in the Second Reading. It is a text that belongs to the exhortational part of the Letter to the Romans. The Apostle Paul, after urging Christians always to allow themselves to be guided by love and not to be objects of scandal for those who are weak in faith, recalls that the Kingdom of God is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rm 14,17).
And he adds: "He who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (Rm 14,18-19). "What makes for peace" is a concise and complete expression of biblical Wisdom in the light of the revelation of Christ and his mystery of salvation.
The person who has recognized Christ as Wisdom Incarnate and for his sake has left everything else becomes a "peacemaker", both in the Christian community and in the world. In other words, he becomes a seed of the Kingdom of God that is already present and growing towards its full manifestation.
Therefore, in the perspective of the two words, "Wisdom-Christ", the Word of God offers us a complete vision of man in history: fascinated by Wisdom, he seeks it and finds it in Christ, leaving everything for him and receiving in exchange the priceless gift of the Kingdom of God; and clothed in temperance, prudence, justice and strength - the "cardinal" virtues - he lives the witness of charity in the Church.
One might wonder whether this perception of the human being can also constitute an ideal of life for the people of our time, especially for the young. That this is possible is shown by countless personal and community testimonies of Christian life which still constitute the wealth of the People of God, pilgrims through history.
Among the many expressions of the lay presence in the Catholic Church, there is also the very special one of the Pontifical Swiss Guards. These young men, motivated by love for Christ and for the Church, put themselves at the service of the Successor of Peter. For some of them, membership in this Guard Corps is limited to a brief period; for others, it extends until it becomes the choice of their entire life.
For some of them, and I say so with deep satisfaction, service at the Vatican has led to the development of the response to a priestly or religious vocation.
However, for them all, being a Swiss Guard means adhering to Christ and the Church without reserve, and being prepared to die for them.
A Swiss Guard's active service may come to an end, but inside he always remains a Swiss Guard. This is what 80 former Swiss Guards desired to testify. From 7 April to 4 May they accomplished an extraordinary feat, marching from Switzerland to Rome, following the route of the Via Francigena as closely as possible.
I would like to renew my greeting to each one of them and to all the Swiss Guards. I also remember the Authorities who have come from Switzerland for the occasion, and the other civil and military Authorities, the Chaplains who enliven the Guards' daily service with the Gospel and the Eucharist, as well as their many relatives and friends.
Dear friends, I offer this Eucharist, the highest spiritual point of your celebration, especially for you and for the deceased members of your Corps.
Nourish yourselves on the Eucharistic Bread and be first and foremost men of prayer, so that Divine Wisdom may make you genuine friends of God and servants of his Kingdom of love and peace. The service offered by your long ranks winding through these 500 years acquires fullness of meaning and value in the Sacrifice of Christ.
As I make myself in spirit the interpreter of the Pontiffs whom your Corps has served faithfully down the centuries, I express well-deserved and heartfelt gratitude, while looking to the future, I invite you to march on, acriter and fideliter, with courage and fidelity.
May the Virgin Mary and your Patrons St Martin, St Sebastian and St Nicholas of Flüe, help you to carry out your daily tasks with generous dedication, ever enlivened by a spirit of faith and love for the Church.7506
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At this hour, dear friends, when you are being introduced as shepherds in the service of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, through the Sacrament of Orders, it is the Lord himself who, in the Gospel, speaks of serving God's flock.
The image of the shepherd comes from remote times. In the Orient of antiquity, kings would designate themselves as the shepherds of their peoples. Moses and David in the Old Testament, before being called to become the leaders and pastors of the People of God, were in fact shepherds with flocks.
In the anguish of the period of the Exile, confronted by the failure of Israel's shepherds, that is, of its political and religious leaders, Ezekiel sketched the image of God himself as the Shepherd of his people. Through the prophet God says: "As a shepherd seeks out his flock... so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness" (Ez 34,12).
Jesus now proclaims that this time has come: he himself is the Good Shepherd through whom God himself cares for his creature, man, gathering human beings and leading them to the true pasture.
St Peter, whom the Risen Lord charged to tend his sheep, to become a shepherd with him and for him, described Jesus as the "archipoimen" - "Chief Shepherd" (cf. 1P 5,4), and by this he meant that it is only possible to be a shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ through him and in very close communion with him.
The Sacrament of Ordination expresses this very point: through the Sacrament the priest is totally inserted into Christ, so that by starting from him and acting in his sight he may carry out in communion with him the service of Jesus, the one Shepherd, in whom God, as man, wants to be our Shepherd.
The Gospel we have heard this Sunday is only a part of Jesus' great discourse on shepherds. In this passage, the Lord tells us three things about the true shepherd: he gives his own life for his sheep; he knows them and they know him; he is at the service of unity.
Before reflecting on these three characteristics essential to shepherds, it might be useful to recall briefly the previous part of the discourse on shepherds in which Jesus, before designating himself as the Shepherd, says, to our surprise: "I am the door" (Jn 10,7).
It is through him that one must enter the service of shepherd. Jesus highlights very clearly this basic condition by saying: "he who... climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber" (Jn 10,1). This word "climbs" - anabainei in Greek - conjures up the image of someone climbing over a fence to get somewhere out of bounds to him.
"To climb" - here too we can also see the image of careerism, the attempt to "get ahead", to gain a position through the Church: to make use of and not to serve. It is the image of a man who wants to make himself important, to become a person of note through the priesthood; the image of someone who has as his aim his own exaltation and not the humble service of Jesus Christ.
But the only legitimate ascent towards the shepherd's ministry is the Cross. This is the true way to rise; this is the true door. It is not the desire to become "someone" for oneself, but rather to exist for others, for Christ, and thus through him and with him to be there for the people he seeks, whom he wants to lead on the path of life.
One enters the priesthood through the Sacrament, and this means precisely: through the gift of oneself to Christ, so that he can make use of me; so that I may serve him and follow his call, even if it proves contrary to my desire for self-fulfilment and esteem.
Entering by the door which is Christ means knowing and loving him more and more, so that our will may be united with his will, our action become one with his action.
Dear friends, let us pray ever anew for this intention, let us strive precisely for this: in other words, for Christ to grow within us and for our union with him to become ever deeper, so that through us it is Christ himself who tends the flock.
Let us now take a closer look at the three fundamental affirmations of Jesus on the good shepherd. The first one, which very forcefully pervades the whole discourse on shepherds, says: the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The mystery of the Cross is at the centre of Jesus' service as a shepherd: it is the great service that he renders to all of us.
He gives himself and not only in a distant past. In the Holy Eucharist he does so every day, he gives himself through our hands, he gives himself to us. For this good reason the Holy Eucharist, in which the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross remains continually present, truly present among us, is rightly at the centre of priestly life.
And with this as our starting point, we also learn what celebrating the Eucharist properly means: it is an encounter with the Lord, who strips himself of his divine glory for our sake, allows himself be humiliated to the point of death on the Cross and thus gives himself to each one of us.
The daily Eucharist is very important for the priest. In it he exposes himself ever anew to this mystery; ever anew he puts himself in God's hands, experiencing at the same time the joy of knowing that He is present, receives me, ever anew raises and supports me, gives me his hand, himself. The Eucharist must become for us a school of life in which we learn to give our lives.
Free for God
Life is not only given at the moment of death and not only in the manner of martyrdom. We must give it day by day. Day after day it is necessary to learn that I do not possess my life for myself. Day by day I must learn to abandon myself; to keep myself available for whatever he, the Lord, needs of me at a given moment, even if other things seem more appealing and more important to me: it means giving life, not taking it.
It is in this very way that we experience freedom: freedom from ourselves, the vastness of being. In this very way, by being useful, in being a person whom the world needs, our life becomes important and beautiful. Only those who give up their own life find it.
Secondly the Lord tells us: "I know my own [sheep] and my own [sheep] know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father" (Jn 10,14-15).
Here, two apparently quite different relationships are interwoven in this phrase: the relationship between Jesus and the Father and the relationship between Jesus and the people entrusted to him. Yet both these relationships go together, for in the end people belong to the Father and are in search of the Creator, of God.
When they realize that someone is speaking only in his own name and drawing from himself alone, they guess that he is too small and cannot be what they are seeking; but wherever another's voice re-echoes in a person, the voice of the Creator, of the Father, the door opens to the relationship for which the person is longing.
Consequently, this is how it must be in our case. First of all, in our hearts we must live the relationship with Christ and, through him, with the Father; only then can we truly understand people, only in the light of God can the depths of man be understood. Then those who are listening to us realize that we are not speaking of ourselves or of some thing, but of the true Shepherd.
Obviously, Jesus' words also contain the entire practical pastoral task, caring for men and women, going to seek them out, being open to their needs and questions.
Obviously, practical, concrete knowledge of the people entrusted to me is fundamental, and obviously, it is important to understand this way of "knowing" others in the biblical sense: there is no true knowledge without love, without an inner relationship and deep acceptance of the other.
The shepherd cannot be satisfied with knowing names and dates. His way of knowing his sheep must always also be knowing with the heart.
However, it is only possible to do this properly if the Lord has opened our hearts; if our knowing does not bind people to our own small, private self, to our own small heart, but rather makes them aware of the Heart of Jesus, the Heart of the Lord. It must be knowing with the Heart of Jesus, oriented to him, a way of knowing that does not bind the person to me but guides him or her to Jesus, thereby making one free and open. And in this way we too will become close to men and women.
Let us always pray to the Lord anew that we may be granted this way of knowing with the Heart of Jesus, of not binding to me but of binding to the Heart of Jesus and thereby creating a true community.
Lastly, the Lord speaks to us of the service of unity that is entrusted to the shepherd: "I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10,16).
John repeated the same thing after the Sanhedrin had decided to kill Jesus, when Caiaphas said that it would be better for the people that one man die for them rather than the entire nation perish. John recognized these words of Caiaphas as prophetic, adding: "Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (Jn 11,52).
The relationship between the Cross and unity is revealed: the Cross is the price of unity. Above all, however, it is the universal horizon of Jesus' action that emerges.
If, in his prophecy about the shepherd, Ezekiel was aiming to restore unity among the dispersed tribes of Israel (cf. Ez 34,22-24), here it is a question not only of the unification of a dispersed Israel but of the unification of all the children of God, of humanity - of the Church of Jews and of pagans.
Jesus' mission concerns all humanity. Therefore, the Church is given responsibility for all humanity, so that it may recognize God, the God who for all of us was made man in Jesus Christ, suffered, died and was raised.
The Church must never be satisfied with the ranks of those whom she has reached at a certain point or say that others are fine as they are: Muslims, Hindus and so forth. The Church can never retreat comfortably to within the limits of her own environment. She is charged with universal solicitude; she must be concerned with and for one and all.
We generally have to "translate" this great task in our respective missions. Obviously, a priest, a pastor of souls, must first and foremost be concerned with those who believe and live with the Church, who seek in her their way of life and on their part, like living stones, build the Church, hence, also build and support the priest.
However, we must also - as the Lord says - go out ever anew "to the highways and hedges" (Lc 14,23), to deliver God's invitation to his banquet also to those who have so far heard nothing or have not been stirred within.
This universal service has many forms. One of them is also the commitment to the inner unity of the Church, so that over and above differences and limitations she may be a sign of God's presence in the world, which alone can create this unity.
Among the sculptures of her time, the ancient Church discovered the figure of a shepherd carrying a sheep across his shoulders. Such images may perhaps be part of the idyllic dream of rural life that fascinated the society of that epoch.
For Christians, however, this figure with all its naturalness became the image of the One who set out to seek his lost sheep: humanity; the image of the One who follows us even into our deserts and confusion; the image of the One who took upon his shoulders the lost sheep, which is humanity, and carried it home.
It has become the image of the true Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Let us entrust ourselves to him. We entrust you to him, dear brothers, especially at this moment, so that he may lead you and carry you all the days of your life; so that he may help you to become, through him and with him, good shepherds of his flock. Amen!26506
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord, “Together with you I wish to sing a hymn of praise to divine Providence, which enables me to be here as a pilgrim.” Twenty-seven years ago, my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II began his homily in Warsaw with these words. I make them my own, and I thank the Lord who has enabled me to come here today to this historic Square. Here, on the eve of Pentecost, Pope John Paul II uttered the significant words of the prayer “Let your Spirit descend, and renew the face of the earth.” And he added: “The face of this land.” This very place witnessed the solemn funeral ceremony of the great Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, whose twenty-fifth anniversary occurs during these days.
God united these two men not only through the same faith, hope and love, but also through the same human vicissitudes, which linked each of them so strongly to the history of this people and of the Church that lives in their midst. At the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope John Paul II wrote to Cardinal Wyszynski: “This Polish Pope would not be on the Chair of Peter today, beginning a new Pontificate, full of the fear of God, but also full of trust, had it not been for your faith, which did not bend in the face of imprisonment and suffering, your heroic hope, your trusting to the end in the Mother of the Church; had it not been for Jasna Góra and this whole period of the history of the Church in our homeland, linked to your service as Bishop and Primate” (Letter of Pope John Paul II to the Polish People, 23 October 1978). How can we not thank God today for all that was accomplished in your native land and in the whole world during the Pontificate of John Paul II? Before our eyes, changes occurred in entire political, economic and social systems. People in various countries regained their freedom and their sense of dignity. “Let us not forget the great works of God” (cf. Ps 78,7). I thank you too for your presence and for your prayer. I thank the Cardinal Primate for the words that he addressed to me. I greet all the Bishops here present. I am glad that the President and the Authorities of national and local government could be here. I embrace with my heart all the Polish people both at home and abroad.
“Stand firm in your faith!” We have just heard the words of Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14,15-17). With these words Jesus reveals the profound link between faith and the profession of Divine Truth, between faith and dedication to Jesus Christ in love, between faith and the practice of a life inspired by the commandments. All three dimensions of faith are the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. This action is manifested as an inner force that harmonizes the hearts of the disciples with the Heart of Christ and makes them capable of loving as he loved them. Hence faith is a gift, but at the same time it is a task.
“He will give you another Counsellor – the Spirit of truth.” Faith, as knowledge and profession of the truth about God and about man, “comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ”, as Saint Paul says (Rm 10,17). Throughout the history of the Church, the Apostles preached the word of Christ, taking care to hand it on intact to their successors, who in their turn transmitted it to subsequent generations until our own day. Many preachers of the Gospel gave their lives specifically because of their faithfulness to the truth of the word of Christ. And so solicitude for the truth gave birth to the Church’s Tradition. As in past centuries, so also today there are people or groups who obscure this centuries-old Tradition, seeking to falsify the Word of Christ and to remove from the Gospel those truths which in their view are too uncomfortable for modern man. They try to give the impression that everything is relative: even the truths of faith would depend on the historical situation and on human evaluation. Yet the Church cannot silence the Spirit of Truth. The successors of the Apostles, together with the Pope, are responsible for the truth of the Gospel, and all Christians are called to share in this responsibility, accepting its authoritative indications. Every Christian is bound to confront his own convictions continually with the teachings of the Gospel and of the Church’s Tradition in the effort to remain faithful to the word of Christ, even when it is demanding and, humanly speaking, hard to understand. We must not yield to the temptation of relativism or of a subjectivist and selective interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Only the whole truth can open us to adherence to Christ, dead and risen for our salvation.
Christ says: “If you love me ... ” Faith does not just mean accepting a certain number of abstract truths about the mysteries of God, of man, of life and death, of future realities. Faith consists in an intimate relationship with Christ, a relationship based on love of him who loved us first (cf. 1Jn 4,11), even to the total offering of himself. “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Rm 5,8). What other response can we give to a love so great, if not that of a heart that is open and ready to love? But what does it mean to love Christ? It means trusting him even in times of trial, following him faithfully even on the Via Crucis, in the hope that soon the morning of the Resurrection will come. Entrusting ourselves to Christ, we lose nothing, we gain everything. In his hands our life acquires its true meaning. Love for Christ expresses itself in the will to harmonize our own life with the thoughts and sentiments of his Heart. This is achieved through interior union based on the grace of the Sacraments, strengthened by continuous prayer, praise, thanksgiving and penance. We have to listen attentively to the inspirations that he evokes through his Word, through the people we meet, through the situations of daily life. To love him is to remain in dialogue with him, in order to know his will and to put it into effect promptly.
Yet living one’s personal faith as a love-relationship with Christ also means being ready to renounce everything that constitutes a denial of his love. That is why Jesus said to the Apostles: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” But what are Christ’s commandments? When the Lord Jesus was teaching the crowds, he did not fail to confirm the law which the Creator had inscribed on men’s hearts and had then formulated on the tablets of the Decalogue. “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Mt 5,17-18). But Jesus showed us with a new clarity the unifying centre of the divine laws revealed on Sinai, namely love of God and love of neighbour: “To love [God] with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mc 12,33). Indeed, in his life and in his Paschal Mystery Jesus brought the entire law to completion. Uniting himself with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, he carries with us and in us the “yoke” of the law, which thereby becomes a “light burden” (Mt 11,30). In this spirit, Jesus formulated his list of the inner qualities of those who seek to live their faith deeply: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who weep, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake ... (cf. Mt 5,3-12).
Dear brothers and sisters, faith as adherence to Christ is revealed as love that prompts us to promote the good inscribed by the Creator into the nature of every man and woman among us, into the personality of every other human being and into everything that exists in the world. Whoever believes and loves in this way becomes a builder of the true “civilization of love”, of which Christ is the centre. Twenty-seven years ago, in this place, Pope John Paul II said: “Poland has become nowadays the land of a particularly responsible witness” (Warsaw, 2 June 1979). I ask you now, cultivate this rich heritage of faith transmitted to you by earlier generations, the heritage of the thought and the service of that great Pole who was Pope John Paul II. Stand firm in your faith, hand it down to your children, bear witness to the grace which you have experienced so abundantly through the Holy Spirit in the course of your history. May Mary, Queen of Poland, show you the way to her Son, and may she accompany you on your journey towards a happy, peace-filled future. May your hearts never be wanting in love for Christ and for his Church. Amen!
Benedict XVI Homilies 14046