Benedict XVI Homilies 1110
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Gathered together in this fraternal liturgical assembly, on the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, today we conclude the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. I greet all of you warmly, in particular Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Archpriest of this Basilica, Archbishop Francesco Monterisi, along with the Abbot and the Community of monks whose guests we are. I also extend my cordial thoughts to the Cardinals here present, to the Bishops and to all who represent the Churches and ecclesial Communities of this City who are here today.
Only a few months have passed since the conclusion of the Year dedicated to St Paul, which gave us an opportunity to deepen our awareness of his extraordinary work as a preacher of the Gospel and also of our call to be missionaries of the Gospel, as the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us "You are witnesses of these things" (Lc 24,48). Paul, although he retained an intense memory of his own past as a persecutor of Christians, did not hesitate to call himself an Apostle. For him, the basis of that title lay in his encounter with the Risen One on the road to Damascus, which also became the beginning of his tireless missionary activity. In this he was to spend every ounce of his energy, proclaiming to all the peoples the Christ whom he had met personally. Thus Paul, from being a persecutor of the Church, was in his turn to become a victim of persecution for the sake of the Gospel to which he witnessed: "Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned.... On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2Co 11,24-25 2Co 11,26-28). Paul's witness reached its culmination in his martyrdom when, not so far from here, he was to give proof of his faith in Christ who conquers death.
The dynamic of Paul's experience is clearly expressed in the pages of the Gospel that we have just heard. The disciples of Emmaus, after having recognized the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem and find the Eleven gathered together with the others. The Risen Christ appears to them, comforts them, overcomes their fear and doubts, and eats with them. Thus he opens their hearts to the intelligence of the Scriptures, recalling what had to happen, which would constitute the nucleus of the Christian proclamation. Jesus affirms: "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lc 24,46-47). These are the events to which the disciples of the first hour were to bear witness, followed by believers in Christ of all times and places. It is important, however, to emphasize that this witness, then just as now, is born from the encounter with the Risen One, is fed by a constant relationship with him and animated by a profound love for him. One can only be his witness if one has had the experience of feeling Christ alive and present "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself" (Lc 24,39) of sitting at table with him, of listening as he sets one's heart aflame! For this, Jesus promises his disciples and each of us a powerful aid from on high, a new presence, that of the Holy Spirit, gift of the Risen Christ, who guides us to the whole truth: "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lc 24,49). The Eleven were to spend their whole lives proclaiming the Good News of the death and Resurrection of the Lord. Almost all of them were to seal their witness with the blood of martyrdom, a fertile seed that has produced an abundant harvest.
The choice of the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity the invitation, that is, to a common witness of the Risen Christ in accordance with the mandate he entrusted to his disciples is linked to the memory of the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference, in Scotland, widely considered a crucial event in the birth of the modern ecumenical movement. In the summer of 1910, in the Scottish capital, over 1,000 missionaries from diverse branches of Protestantism and Anglicanism, who were joined by one Orthodox guest, met to reflect together on the necessity of achieving unity in order to be credible in preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is precisely this desire to proclaim Christ to others and to carry his message of reconciliation throughout the world that makes one realize the contradiction posed by division among Christians. Indeed, how can non-believers accept the Gospel proclamation if Christians even if they all call on the same Christ are divided among themselves? Moreover, as we know, the same Teacher, at the end of the Last Supper, had prayed to the Father for his disciples: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21). The communion and unity of Christ's disciples is therefore a particularly important condition to enhance the credibility and efficacy of their witness.
Now a century after the Edinburgh event, the intuition of those courageous precursors is still very timely. In a world marked by religious indifference, and even by a growing aversion to the Christian faith, it is necessary to discover a new, intense method of evangelization, not only among the peoples who have never known the Gospel but also among those where Christianity has spread and is part of their history. Unfortunately, the issues that separate us from each other are many, and we hope that they can be resolved through prayer and dialogue. There is, however, a core of the Christian message that we can all proclaim together: the fatherhood of God, the victory of Christ over sin and death with his Cross and Resurrection, and faith in the transforming action of the Spirit. While we journey toward full communion, we are called to offer a common witness in the face of the ever increasingly complex challenges of our time, such as secularization and indifference, relativism and hedonism, the delicate ethical issues concerning the beginning and end of life, the limits of science and technology, the dialogue with other religious traditions. There are also other areas in which we must from now on give a common witness: the safeguard of Creation, the promotion of the common good and of peace, the defense of the centrality of the human person, the commitment to overcome the shortcomings of our time, such as hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and the unequal distribution of goods.
The commitment to unity among Christians is not the work of a few only, nor is it an incidental undertaking for the life of the Church. Each one of us is called to make his or her contribution towards the completion of those steps that lead to full communion among the disciples of Christ, without ever forgetting that this unity is above all a gift from God to be constantly invoked. In fact, the force that supports both unity and the mission flows from the fruitful encounter with the Risen One, just as was the case for St Paul on the road to Damascus, and for the Eleven and the other disciples gathered at Jerusalem. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, grant that her Son's desire may be fulfilled as soon as possible: "That they may all be one... so that the world may believe" (Jn 17,21).
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In their concise descriptions of Jesus' brief but intense public life, the Gospels testify that he proclaimed the word and healed the sick, a sign par excellence of the closeness of the Kingdom of Heaven. For example, Matthew wrote: "He went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people" (Mt 4,23 cf. Mt 9,35). The Church, entrusted with the task of extending Christ's mission in time and space, cannot neglect these two essential tasks: evangelization and the care of the sick in body and in mind. Indeed, God wants to heal the whole of man and in the Gospel the healing of the body is a sign of the deeper recovery that is the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mc 2,1-12). It is therefore not surprising that Mary, Mother and model of the Church, is invoked and venerated as "Salus infirmorum Health of the sick". As the first and perfect disciple of her Son, in guiding the Church on her journey she has always shown special solicitude for the suffering. Witness to this are the thousands of people who go to Marian shrines to invoke the Mother of Christ and find in her strength and relief. The Gospel account of the Visitation (cf. Lc 1,39-56) shows us how, after the announcement of the Angel, the Virgin did not keep the gift she had received to herself but immediately set out to go and help her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with John. In the support that Mary offered this relative who was experiencing a delicate condition such as pregnancy at an advanced age, we see prefigured the whole of the Church's action in support of life that is in need of care.
The Pontifical Council for Health-Care Workers, established 25 years ago by Venerable Pope John Paul II, is without any doubt a privileged expression of this solicitude. Our thoughts turn with gratitude to Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, the first President of the Dicastery and ever an enthusiastic animator of this area of the Church's activity; as well as to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán who continued and developed this service until a few months ago. I then address my greeting with warm cordiality to the current President, Mons. Zygmunt Zimowski, who has taken on such a significant and important inheritance. I extend it to all the officials and personnel who in the past quarter century have collaborated laudably in this office of the Holy See. I also wish to greet the associations and bodies who see to the organization of the World Day of the Sick, in particular the Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines (UNITALSI) and the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi. The most affectionate greeting of course, goes to you, dear sick people! Thank you for coming and thank you especially for your prayers, enriched by the offering of your efforts and your suffering. And I then address a greeting to the sick and the volunteers in Lourdes, Fatima, Czestochowa and at the other Marian shrines connected with us, and all those who are following us via radio or television, especially from clinics or from their own homes. May the Lord God who watches constantly over his children give them all comfort and consolation.
The Liturgy of the Word today presents two main themes: the first is Marian in character and links the Gospel and the First Reading, from the last chapter of the Book of Isaiah, as well as the Responsorial Psalm taken from the Judith's canticle of praise. The other theme, which we find in the passage from the Letter of James, is that of the Church's prayer for the sick and, in particular, the sacrament reserved for them. On the Memorial of the apparitions in Lourdes, where Mary chose to manifest her maternal solicitude for the sick, the Liturgy appropriately echoes the Magnificat, the canticle of the Virgin who exalts the wonders of God throughout salvation history: the humble and the poor, like all who fear God, experience his mercy which overturns earthly destinies, thus showing the holiness of the Creator and Redeemer. The Magnificat is not the canticle of one upon whom fortune smiles, who has always had "the wind in her sails"; rather it is the thanksgiving of one who knows the hardships of life but trusts in God's redemptive work. It is a hymn that expresses the faith tested by generations of men and women who placed their hope in God and were personally committed, like Mary, to helping their brothers and sisters in need. In the Magnificat we hear the voice of many Saints of charity; I am thinking in particular of those who spent their life among the sick and suffering, such as Camillus de Lellis and John of God, Damien de Veuster and Benedict Menni. Those who spend a long time beside the suffering know anguish and tears, but also the miracle of joy, the fruit of love.
The Church's motherhood is a reflection of God's tender love of which the Prophet Isaiah speaks: "As one whom his mother comforts, / so I will comfort you; / you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" (Is 66,13). It is a motherhood that speaks without words, that awakens in hearts consolation, deep joy, a joy that paradoxically lives side by side with pain, with suffering. The Church, like Mary, preserves within her the tragedies of humankind and the consolation of God, she keeps them together on the pilgrimage through history. The Church down the centuries has shown the signs of the love of God who continues to work great things in humble and simple people. Suffering, when accepted and offered up, and solidarity, when sincere and selfless: are these not perhaps miracles of love? Is not the courage to face evil unarmed like Judith with the power of faith and hope in the Lord alone a miracle that God's grace continuously inspires in so many people who spend their time and energy helping those who are suffering? For all these reasons we live a joy that does not forget suffering but rather understands it. In this manner the sick and the suffering in the Church are not only recipients of care and attention, but first and foremost they are protagonists of the pilgrimage of faith and hope, witnesses of the wonders of love, of the Paschal joy that blossoms from Christ's Cross and Resurrection.
In the passage of the Letter of James that was just read, the Apostle asks that the coming of the Lord, now at hand, be steadfastly awaited. In this context he addresses a special exhortation concerning the sick. This placement is very interesting because it reflects the action of Jesus who, in healing the sick, demonstrated the closeness of the Kingdom of God. Illness is seen in the perspective of the last times with the realism of hope that is characteristically Christian: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise" (Jc 5,13). Listening to these words seems similar to listening to those of St Paul, when he invites the Corinthians to live all things in relation to the radical newness of Christ, his death and his Resurrection (cf. 1Co 7,29-31). "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man" (Jc 5,14-15). Here the extension of Christ in his Church becomes clear: it is he who acts through the presbyter; it is his same Spirit who works through the sacramental sign of the oil; it is to him that faith expressed in prayer is addressed. And, as happened to the people healed by Jesus, one might say to every sick person: your faith, sustained by the faith of your brothers and sisters, has saved you.
At the same time this text, which contains the foundation and the praxis of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, also inspired a vision of the role of the sick in the Church an active role in "provoking", so to speak, faithful prayer. "Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders". In this Year for Priests, I am pleased to emphasize the bond between the sick and priests, a sort of covenant of evangelical "complicity". Both have a task: the sick must "call" priests and priests must respond, to draw the presence and action of the Risen One and of his Spirit into the experience of illness. And here we can see the full importance of the pastoral care of the sick. Its value is truly incalculable because of the immense good it does, first of all to the sick person and to the priest himself and then also to relatives, acquaintances, the community and, in unknown and mysterious ways, to the whole of the Church and of the world. In fact, when the word of God speaks of the healing, salvation and health of the sick person, it means these concepts in an integral sense, never separating soul and body. A sick person healed by Christ's prayer through the Church is a joy on earth and in Heaven, a foretaste of eternal life.
Dear friends, as I wrote in my Encyclical Spe Salvi, "The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer" (). In setting up a Dicastery dedicated to the pastoral health care, the Holy See also wished to make its own contribution to promoting a world that is better able to accept and heal the sick as people. It wanted, in fact, to help them live the experience of sickness in a human way, not by denying it but by offering it meaning. I would like to end these reflections with a thought from Venerable Pope John Paul II, to which he witnessed with his own life. In his Apostolic Letter Salvifici Doloris, he wrote: "At one and the same time Christ has taught man to do good by his suffering and to do good to those who suffer. In this double aspect he has completely revealed the meaning of suffering" (n. 30). May the Virgin Mary help us live this mission to the full.
"Lord, you are merciful to all, and hate nothing you have created.
You overlook the sins of men to bring them to repentance.
You are the Lord our God" (Entrance Antiphon).
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this moving invocation from the Book of Wisdom (cf. Sg 11,23-26), the Liturgy opens the Eucharistic Celebration of Ash Wednesday. In a certain way, these words introduce the entire Lenten journey; they establish the omnipotence of God's love as the basis, his absolute dominion over every creature which is expressed in infinite forgiveness and animated by the constant, universal desire for life. Indeed, forgiving someone is equivalent to telling him or her: I do not want you to die, but to live; I always and only want the best for you.
This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days he spent in the Judean desert, after he had received Baptism from John in the Jordan. For him that long period of silence and fasting was a complete abandonment of himself to the Father and to his plan of love. The time was a "baptism" in itself, that is, an "immersion" in God's will and in this sense a foretaste of the Passion and of the Cross. Going out into the desert alone to remain there at length meant exposing himself willingly to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who brought about Adam's fall and whose envy caused death to enter the world (cf. Sg 2,24). It meant engaging in battle with him, with nothing but the weapon of boundless faith to challenge him, in the omnipotent love of the Father. Your love is enough for me, my food is to do your will (cf. Jn 4,34): this conviction pervaded Jesus' mind and heart during his time of "Lent". It was neither an act of pride nor a titanic undertaking but rather a humble choice, consistent with the Incarnation and the Baptism in the Jordan, in the same vein of obedience to the merciful love of the Father, who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3,16).
Our Lord Jesus did all this for us. He did it to save us, and at the same time to show us the path on which to follow him. Salvation is in fact a gift; it is the grace of God, but in order for it to make an impact on my life it requires my assent, an acceptance that is demonstrated in my actions in other words, the will to live like Jesus, to follow him. Following Jesus into the Lenten desert is therefore a prerequisite for participating in his Pasch, in his "exodus". Adam was banished from the earthly Paradise, a symbol of communion with God. Now, in order to return to this communion and thus to true life, to eternal life, it is necessary to cross the desert, the trial of faith not alone, but with Jesus! He has preceded us, as always, and has already won the battle against the spirit of evil. This is the meaning of Lent, the liturgical Season that every year invites us to renew our decision to follow Christ on the path of humility, in order to take part in his victory over sin and death.
In this perspective one can also understand the penitential symbol of the ashes, which are placed upon the heads of all those who begin the Lenten journey with good will. It is essentially an act of humility that means: I recognize myself for what I am, a frail creature, made from earth and destined to return to earth, yet also made in the image of God and destined for him. I am dust, yes, but also beloved, shaped by his love, animated by his vital breath, able to recognize his voice and respond to him. I am free and therefore capable of disobeying him, of giving in to the temptation of pride and self-sufficiency. This is sin, the deadly illness that came so soon to pollute the blessed earth that is the human being. Created in the image of the Holy and the Just, man lost his own innocence. Now he can only return to being just by the grace of God's justice, the justice of love that, as St Paul writes, "has been manifested... through faith in Jesus Christ" (cf. Rm 3,21-22). These words of the Apostle provided an inspiration for the Message I addressed to all the faithful for this Lent, which is a reflection on the theme of justice in the light of the Sacred Scriptures and their fulfilment in Christ.
The theme of justice is also very present in Ash Wednesday's biblical readings. First, the passage from the prophet Joel and the Responsorial Psalm the Miserere form a penitential diptych. This highlights what the Bible calls "iniquity" that is, sin, which fundamentally consists in disobeying God, which means a lack of love as the origin of every material and social injustice. "For I know my transgressions", the Psalmist confesses, "and my sin is ever before me. / Against you, you only, have I sinned, / and done that which is evil in your sight" (Ps 51,3-4 : 3-4 [rsv]). The first act of justice is therefore recognizing one's own iniquity and realizing that it is rooted in the "heart", at the very core of the human person. The "fasting", "weeping" and "mourning" (cf. Jl 2,12), and any other expression of penitence only have value in God's eyes if they are signs of sincerely repentant hearts.
The Gospel, too, taken from the "Sermon on the Mount", insists on the need to practice one's own "justice" almsgiving, prayer, fasting so that it may not be seen by men but only by the eyes of God, who "sees in secret" (cf. Mt 6,1-6 Mt 6,16-18). The true "reward" is not the admiration of others but rather friendship with God and the grace that derives from it, a grace that gives peace and strength to do good, to love even those who are not worthy, to forgive those who have offended us.
The Second Reading, Paul's appeal to be reconciled to God (cf. 2Co 5,20), contains one of the celebrated Pauline paradoxes, which leads to the whole reflection on justice in the mystery of Christ. St Paul writes, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin" that is, his Son made Man "so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Co 5,21). In Christ's heart, in other words at the core of his divine and human Person, the entire drama of freedom was played out in decisive and definitive terms. God took his own plan of salvation to extreme consequences, remaining faithful in his love even at the price of sending his only Son to death, to death on the Cross. As I wrote in my Lenten Message, "Here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart.... Thanks to Christ's action, we may enter into the "greatest' justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13,8-10)".
Dear brothers and sisters, Lent broadens our horizons; it orients us to eternal life. On this earth we are on a pilgrimage: "Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come", according to the Letter to the Hebrews (He 13,14). Lent shows us the relativity of the goods of this earth, thus rendering us capable of the necessary sacrifices and free to do good. Let us open our world to the light of Heaven, to the presence of God among us. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
""Repent', says the Lord, "for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand'", we proclaimed before the Gospel of this Third Sunday of Lent that presents us with the fundamental theme of this "strong season" of the liturgical year: the invitation to change our lives and to do works worthy of penance.
Jesus, as we heard, recalls two items of news: a brutal repression in the Temple by the Roman police (cf. Lc 13,1) and the tragic death of 18 people, killed when the tower in Siloam collapsed (Lc 13,4). People interpret these events as divine punishment for those victims' sins, and thinking they are upright, believe they are safe from such accidents and that they have nothing in their own lives that they should change. Jesus, however, denounces this attitude as an illusion: "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Lc 13,2-3). And he invites us to reflect on these events for a greater commitment on the journey of conversion, for it is precisely the closure of ourselves to the Lord and the failure to take the path of our own conversion that lead to death, to the death of the soul. In Lent, each one of us is asked by God to mark a turning point in our life, thinking and living in accordance with the Gospel, correcting some aspect of our way of praying, acting or working and of our relations with others. Jesus makes this appeal to us, not with a severity that is an end in itself but precisely because he is concerned for our good, our happiness and our salvation. On our part, we must respond to him with a sincere inner effort, asking him to make us understand which particular ways we should change.
The conclusion of the Gospel passage reverts to the prospect of mercy, showing the urgent need to return to God, to renew life in accordance with God. Referring to a custom of the time, Jesus presents the parable of a fig tree planted in the vineyard. However, this fig tree was barren, it produced no fruit (cf. Lc 13,6-9). The dialogue that develops between the master and the vinedresser shows on the one hand the mercy of God who is patient and allows human beings, all of us, time in which to convert; and on the other, the need to start to change both our interior and exterior way of life straight away in order not to miss the opportunities that God's mercy affords us to overcome our spiritual laziness and respond to God's love with our own filial love.
Moreover, in the passage we have heard, St Paul urges us not to deceive ourselves: it is not enough to have been baptized and nourished at the Eucharistic table if we do not live as Christians and are not attentive to the Lord's signs (cf. 1Co 10,1-4).
Dear brothers and sisters of the Parish of San Giovanni della Croce, I am very glad to be with you today to celebrate the Lord's Day with you. I cordially greet the Cardinal Vicar, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Sector, Fr Enrico Gemma, your parish priest whom I thank for his beautiful words on behalf of you all, and the other priests who help him. I would then like to extend my thoughts to all the inhabitants of the district, especially the elderly, the sick and those who are lonely and in difficulty. I remember each and every one to the Lord at this Holy Mass.
I know that your parish is a young community. Indeed, it began its pastoral activity in 1989. It spent 12 years in temporary premises and then in the new parish complex. Now that you have a new sacred building, I would like my Visit to be an encouragement to you to become more and more the Church of living stones that you are. I know that the experience of the first 12 years marked a lifestyle that still endures. The lack of suitable premises and consolidated traditions, in fact, impelled you to trust in the power of God's word which has been a lamp to light you on your way and has brought practical results of conversion, participation in the Sacraments, especially in the Sunday Eucharist, and service. I now urge you to make this Church a place in which people learn to listen better and better to the Lord who speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures. May these never cease to be the life-giving centre of your community so that it may become a continuous school of Christian life from which every pastoral activity stems.
The building of the new parish church has spurred you to a unanimous apostolic commitment, with special attention to the areas of catechesis and the Liturgy. I congratulate you on the pastoral efforts you are making. I know that various groups of the faithful gather to pray, to be trained at the school of the Gospel, to participate in the Sacraments especially Penance and the Eucharist and to live that dimension essential to Christian life which is charity. I am thinking gratefully of all who help make the liturgical celebrations livelier and increase the number of participants, as well as of those who, together with the parish Caritas and the Sant'Egidio group, seek to meet the many needs in the territory, especially the expectations of the poorest and neediest. Lastly, I am thinking of all your praiseworthy efforts for families and for the Christian education of children and of those who attend the after-school prayer and recreation centre.
Since it came into being this parish has been open to the new Movements and Ecclesial Communities, thereby developing a broader awareness of Church and experiencing new forms of evangelization. I urge you to continue courageously in this direction, but make sure you combine all the realities present in a uniform pastoral project. I learned with pleasure that with regard to vocations and the role of consecrated and lay people, your community is proposing to promote the co-responsibility of all the members of the People of God. As I have already had the opportunity to recall, this requires a change in mindset, particularly concerning lay people: "They must no longer be viewed as "collaborators', of the clergy but truly recognized as "co-responsible', for the Church's being and action, thereby fostering the consolidation of a mature and committed laity" (Address to the Ecclesial Convention of the Diocese of Rome, 26 May 2009).
Dear Christian families, dear young people who live in this neighbourhood and attend the parish, let the wish to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all involve you more and more. Do not wait for others to come and bring you other messages that do not lead to life; rather, make yourselves missionaries of Christ for your brothers and sisters, where they live, work and study or merely spend their leisure time. Here too, start a far-reaching and thorough vocations ministry, consisting of the education of families and young people in prayer and in living life as a gift that comes from God.
Dear brothers and sisters, the strong season of Lent invites each one of us to recognize the mystery of God that becomes present in our life, just as we heard in the First Reading. Moses sees a bush in the wilderness that is burning but without being consumed. First of all impelled by curiosity, he approaches it to see the mysterious event when suddenly a voice comes from the bush that says: "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Ex 3,6). And it is precisely this God who sent him to Egypt, charging him to lead the People of Israel to the Promised Land and to ask the Pharaoh, on his behalf, to set Israel free. At this point Moses asks God what his Name is, the Name with which God manifests his special authority, in order to present God to the people and then to the Pharaoh. God's answer may seem strange; it seems both an answer and not an answer. He says of himself simply: "I am who I am". "He is", and this must suffice. God, therefore, does not reject Moses' request. He pronounces his Name, thus creating the possibility of invoking him, of calling on him, of a relationship with him. By revealing his Name, God establishes a relationship between himself and us. He enables us to invoke him, he enters into relations with us and gives us the possibility of being in a relationship with him. This means that he gives himself, in a certain way, to our human world, becoming accessible, as if he were one of us. He faces the risk of the relationship, of being with us. What began in the burning bush in the desert is accomplished in the burning bush of the Cross where God, having become accessible in his Son made man, really became one of us, is put into our hands and, in this way, realizes the liberation of humanity. On Golgotha God, who during the night of the flight from Egypt revealed himself as the One who frees us from slavery, revealed himself as the One who embraces every human being with the saving power of the Cross and the Resurrection and liberates him from sin and death, accepts him in the embrace of his love.
Let us remain in contemplation of this mystery of God's Name, the better to understand the mystery of Lent and to live as individuals and as communities in permanent conversion, so as to be a constant epiphany in the world, a witness of the living God who sets us free us and saves us out of love. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 1110