Benedict XVI Homilies 18410
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
"Throughout my life I have sought the Face of Jesus and I am now happy and at peace because I am about to go and see him", were among the last words of the late Cardinal Spidlík. This wonderful thought so simple, almost infantile in its expression yet so profound and true refers directly to Jesus' prayer, which resounded just now in the Gospel: "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world" (Jn 17,24). It is beautiful and consoling to meditate on this correspondence between the desire of man who aspires to see the Face of the Lord, and the desire of Jesus himself. In fact, Christ's desire is far more than an aspiration: it is a will. Jesus says to the Father: "I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me", And it is precisely here, in this desire, that we find the "rock", the solid foundation for believing and for hoping. Jesus' desire, in fact, coincides with God the Father's and, with the work of the Holy Spirit, constitutes for the human being a sort of sure "embrace", strong and gentle, which leads him to eternal life.
What an immense gift to listen to this desire of God from his own mouth! I think that the great men of faith live immersed in this grace, they have the gift of perceiving this truth with special strength and thus they too may pass through harsh trials, as did Fr Tomás Spidlík, without losing trust, indeed, on the contrary, preserving a keen sense of humour which is certainly a sign of intelligence but also of inner freedom. Seen from this angle, the likeness between our late Cardinal and Venerable John Paul II was obvious: they both had an inclination for witty jokes, in spite of having gone through difficult, and in some respects similar, personal events in their youth. Providence brought them to meet and to collaborate for the Church's good, especially so that she might learn to breathe deeply "with both her lungs", as the Slav Pope liked to say.
This freedom and presence of mind has its objective basis in Christ's Resurrection. It pleases me to underline it because we are in the liturgical Season of Easter and because the First and Second Readings from the Bible for this celebration suggest it. In his first preaching on the day of Pentecost St Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the fulfilment in Jesus Christ of Psalm 16. It is marvellous to see how the Holy Spirit reveals to the Apostles all the beauty of those words in the full inner light of the Resurrection: "I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope" (Ac 2,25-26 cf. Ps 16,8-9 : 8-9). This prayer encounters superabundant fulfilment when Christ, the Holy One of God, is not abandoned in Hades. He was the first to know "the path of life" and was filled with joy by the Father's presence (cf. Ac 2,27-28 Ps 16,11 : 11). The hope and joy of the Risen Jesus are also the hope and joy of his friends, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit. Fr Spidlík habitually demonstrated this by his way of life and his witness became ever more eloquent as the years passed for despite his advanced age and the inevitable aches and pains, his spirit remained fresh and youthful. What is this other than friendship with the Risen Lord?
In the Second Reading, St Peter blesses God because "by his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". And he adds: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials" (1P 1,3 1P 1,6). Here too, the fact that hope and joy are theological realities which radiate from the mystery of Christ's Resurrection and from the gift of his Spirit clearly emerges. We could say that the Holy Spirit takes them from the Heart of the Risen Christ and transfuses them in the hearts of his friends.
I intentionally introduced the image of the "heart" because, as many of you know, Fr Spidlík chose it for the motto of his coat of arms as Cardinal: "Ex toto corde", "with all your heart". This expression is found in the Book of Deuteronomy in the first and fundamental commandment of the law when Moses says to the people: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might" (Dt 6,4-5)' "With all your heart ex toto corde" thus refers to the way in which Israel must love her God. Jesus confirms the primacy of this commandment with which he combines the commandment to love one's neighbour, saying that the latter is "like" the former and that all the law and the prophets depend on both (cf. Mt 22,37-39). In choosing this motto, our venerable Brother placed his life, so to speak, within the commandment of love, he dedicated the whole of it to the primacy of God and of charity.
There is another aspect, a further meaning of the expression "ex toto corde", which surely Fr Spidlík had in mind and intended to express with his motto. Again, based on its biblical root, the symbol of the heart represents the seat of prayer in oriental spirituality, the encounter between man and God, but also with other human beings and with the cosmos. And here one should remember that in Cardinal Spidlík's coat of arms, the heart, that dominates in the shield, contains a cross in whose arms the words PHOS and ZOE intersect, "light" and "life", which are names for God. Therefore, the person who fully receives, ex toto corde, God's love, accepts light and life and becomes in turn light and life in humanity and in the universe.
But who is this man? Who is this "heart" of the world if not Jesus Christ? It is he who is the Light and the Life, for in him "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2,9). And here I wish to recall that our late Brother was a member of the Society of Jesus, that is, a spiritual son of St Ignatius who places at the heart of faith and spirituality contemplation of God in the mystery of Christ. In this symbol of the heart East and West meet, not in a devotional but in a profoundly Christological sense, as other Jesuit theologians highlighted in the past century. And Christ, a central figure of Revelation, is also the formal principle of Christian art, a sphere in which Fr Spidlík was a great master, an inspirer of ideas and expressive projects of which there is an important synthesis in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.
I would like to conclude, returning to the theme of the Resurrection, by citing a text very dear to Cardinal Spidlík, a passage from the Hymns on the Resurrection by St Ephrem the Syrian:
"From on high he descended as Lord,
from the womb he emerged as a servant,
death knelt before him in Sheol,
and life worshipped him in his Resurrection.
Blessed be his triumph!" (n. 1,8).
May the Virgin Mother of God accompany the soul of our venerable Brother to the embrace of the Most Holy Trinity, where with all his heart he will praise their infinite love for all eternity. Amen
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am happy to be with you on this festive day and to celebrate this solemn Eucharist for you.
I greet everyone present and in particular the Pastor of your Archdiocese, Cardinal Severino Poletto, whom I thank for his warm words to me on behalf of all. I also greet the Archbishops and Bishops present, the priests, the men and women religious and the representatives of the Ecclesial Associations and Movements. I address a respectful thought to Hon. Mr Sergio Chiamparino, the Mayor, with gratitude for his kind greeting, to the representatives of the Government and to the civil and military Authorities, with special thanks to those who have generously offered their cooperation for this Pastoral Visit. I extend my thoughts to those who are unable to be present, especially the sick, the lonely and all those in difficulty. I entrust the City of Turin and all its inhabitants to the Lord in this Eucharistic celebration, which, as it does every Sunday, invites us to partake as a community in the twofold banquet of the Word of truth and the Bread of eternal life.
We are in the Easter Season which is the time of Jesus' glorification. The Gospel we have just heard reminds us that this glorification is brought about in the Passion. In the Paschal Mystery, passion and glorification are closely bound together and form an indissoluble unity. When Judas leaves the Upper Room to carry out his scheme of betrayal that will lead to the Master's death, Jesus says: "now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified" (Jn 13,31): the glorification of Jesus begins at that very moment. The Evangelist John makes it quite clear: he does not in fact say that Jesus was glorified only after his Passion, through his Resurrection; rather he shows that precisely with the Passion his glorification began. In it Jesus manifests his glory, which is the glory of love, which gives itself totally. He loved the Father, doing his will to the very end, with a perfect gift of self; he loved humanity, giving his life for us. Thus he was already glorified in his Passion and God was glorified in him. But the Passion as a very real and profound expression of his love is only a beginning. This is why Jesus says that his glorification is also to come (cf. ibid., Jn 13,32). Then, when he announces his departure from this world (cf. ibid., Jn 13,33), the Lord gives his disciples a new commandment, as it were a testament, so that they might continue his presence among them in a new way: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (Jn 13,34). If we love each other, Jesus will continue to be present in our midst, to be glorified in this world.
Jesus speaks of a "new commandment". But what is new about it? In the Old Testament, God had already given the commandment of love; but this commandment has become new now because Jesus makes a very important addition to it: "As I have loved you, that you also love one another". What is new is precisely this "loving as Jesus loved". All our loving is preceded by his love and refers to this love, it fits into this love and is achieved precisely through this love. The Old Testament did not present any model of love; it only formulated the precept of love. Instead, Jesus gave himself to us as a model and source of love a boundless, universal love that could transform all negative circumstances and all obstacles into opportunities to progress in love. And in this City's Saints we see the fulfilment of this love, always from the source of Jesus' love.
In past centuries, the Church in Turin had a rich tradition of holiness and generous service to the brethren as both the Cardinal Archbishop and Mr Mayor pointed out thanks to the work of zealous priests and men and women religious of both active and contemplative life and faithful laypeople. Jesus' words thus acquire a special resonance for this Church of Turin, a generous and active Church, beginning with her priests. In giving us the new commandment, Jesus asks us to live his own love and on his own love, which is the truly credible, eloquent and effective sign for proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God to the world. Clearly, with our own strength alone we are weak and limited. In us there is always a resistance to love and in our existence there are very many difficulties that cause division, resentment and ill will. However, the Lord promised us that he would be present in our lives, making us capable of this generous, total love that can overcome all obstacles, even those in our own hearts. If we are united to Christ, we can truly love in this way. Loving others as Jesus loved us is only possible with that power which is communicated to us in the relationship with him, especially in the Eucharist, in which his Sacrifice of love that generates love becomes really present: this is the true newness in the world and the power of a permanent glorification of God who is glorified in the continuity of the love of Jesus in our love.
I would therefore like to say a word of encouragement especially to the Priests and Deacons of this Church, who dedicate themselves generously to pastoral work, as well as to the men and women Religious. Being a labourer in the Lord's vineyard can sometimes be tiring, duties increase, there are so many demands and problems are not lacking: may you be able to draw daily from this relationship of love with God in prayer the strength to transmit the prophetic announcement of salvation; refocus your existence on what is essential in the Gospel; cultivate a real dimension of communion and brotherhood in the presbyterate, in your communities, in your relations with the People of God; bear witness in your ministry to the power of love that comes from on high, that comes from the Lord present in our midst.
The First Reading we have heard presents to us precisely a special way of glorifying Jesus: the apostolate and its fruits. Paul and Barnabas, at the end of their first apostolic voyage, return to the cities they have already visited and give fresh courage to the disciples, exhorting them to remain firm in the faith for, as they say, "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Ac 14,22). Christian life, dear brothers and sisters, is not easy; I know that difficulties, problems and anxieties abound in Turin: I am thinking in particular of those who currently live in precarious conditions, because of the scarcity of work, uncertainty about the future, physical and moral suffering. I am thinking of families, of young people, of elderly people who often live alone, of the marginalized and of immigrants. Yes, life leads to confrontation with many difficulties, many problems, but it is precisely the certainty that comes from faith, the certainty that we are not alone, that God loves each one without distinction and is close to everyone with his love, that makes it possible to face, live through and surmount the effort of dealing with daily problems. It was the universal love of the Risen Christ that motivated the Apostles to come out of themselves, to disseminate the word of God, to spend themselves without reserve for others, with courage, joy and serenity. The Risen One has a power of love that overcomes every limit, that does not stop in front of any obstacle. And the Christian community, especially in the most pastorally demanding situations, must be a concrete instrument of this love of God.
I urge families to live the Christian dimension of love in simple everyday actions in family relationships, overcoming divisions and misunderstandings; in cultivating the faith, which makes communion even stronger. Nor, in the rich and diverse world of the university and of culture, should there be a lack of the witness to love of which today's Gospel speaks in the capacity for attentive listening and humble dialogue in the search for Truth, in the certainty that Truth itself will come to us and catch hold of us. I would also like to encourage the frequently difficult endeavours of those called to administer public affairs: collaboration in order to achieve the common good and to make the City ever more human and liveable is a sign that Christian thought on man is never contrary to his freedom but favours a greater fullness that can only find its fulfilment in a "civilization of love".
I wish to say to all, and especially to the young: never lose hope, the hope that comes from the Risen Christ, from God's victory over sin, hatred and death.
Today's Second Reading shows us precisely the final outcome of Jesus' Resurrection: it is the new Jerusalem, the Holy City that comes down from Heaven, from God, adorned as a bride for her husband (cf. Ap 21,2). The One who was crucified, who shared our suffering as the sacred Shroud also eloquently reminds us is the One who is Risen and who wants to reunite us all in his love. It is a marvellous, "strong" and solid hope, because, as Revelation says: "[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away" (Ap 21,4). Does not the Holy Shroud communicate the same message? In it we see, as in a mirror, our suffering in the suffering of Christ: Passio Christi. Passio hominis. For this very reason the Shroud is a sign of hope: Christ faced the Cross to stem evil; to make us see, in his Pasch, the anticipation of that moment when, even for us, every tear will be wiped away, when there will no longer be death, mourning or lamentation.
The passage from Revelation ends with this assertion: "And he who sat upon the throne said: "Behold, I make all things new'" (Ap 21,5). The first absolutely new thing made by God was Jesus' Resurrection, his heavenly glorification. This is the beginning of a whole series of "new things" in which we also have a share. "New things" are a world full of joy, in which there is no more suffering and oppression, there is no more rancour or hate, but only the love that comes from God and transforms all things.
Dear Church in Turin, I have come to you to strengthen you in the faith. I would like to urge you, forcefully and with affection, to remain steadfast in that faith which you have received, that gives meaning to life and that gives the strength to love; never to lose the light of hope in the Risen Christ, who can transform reality and make all things new; to live out God's love in a simple, practical way in the City, in its districts, in communities, in families: "As I have loved you, that you also love one another".
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The time has also come for our beloved Brother Cardinal Paul Augustin Mayer to depart from this world. He was born almost a century ago in my own native land and precisely at Altötting, the site of the famous Marian Shrine to which we Bavarians are bound by so many affectionate memories. The destiny of human life is like this: it flourishes on earth in a precise point in the world and it is summoned to Heaven, the Homeland from which it mysteriously comes. "Desiderat anima mea ad te, Deus" (Ps 42,2 : 2). This word, "desiderat" contains the whole man, his being flesh and spirit, earth and Heaven. It is the original mystery of God's image in the human being. The young Paul who as a monk took the name Augustin Mayer studied this subject in the writings of Clement of Alexandria for his doctorate in theology. It is the mystery of eternal life that is sown within us like a seed at the moment of Baptism and asks to be accepted on our journey through life until the day on which we give back our spirit to God the Father.
"Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum" (Lc 23,46). May Jesus' last words on the Cross guide us in prayer and meditation while we are gathered round the altar to say the last farewell to our late Brother. Every funeral we celebrate is placed under the sign of hope: in Jesus' last breath on the Cross God gave himself entirely to humanity, filling the void opened by sin and re-establishing the victory of life over death (cf. Lc 23,46 Jn 19,30). This is why every human being who dies in the Lord takes part through faith in this act of infinite love and, in a certain manner, gives up his spirit, together with Christ, in the unfailing hope that the Father's hand will raise him from the dead and bring him into the Kingdom of life.
"Hope does not disappoint us" the Apostle Paul said, writing to the Christians of Rome, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rm 5,5). The great and indefectible hope, founded on the solid rock of God's love, assures us that the life of those who die in Christ "is changed, not ended"; and that "when the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven" (Preface for Christian Death, I). In an epoch like ours, in which the fear of death throws many into desperation and a search for deceptive comforts, Christians are distinguished by their reliance on God, in a Love so great as to be able to renew the whole world. "Behold, I make all things new" (Ap 21,5), the One who is seated on the throne declares at the end of the Book of Revelation. The vision of the new Jerusalem expresses the realization of humanity's deepest desire: to live together in peace, no longer with the threat of death but enjoying full communion with God and among ourselves. The Church, and in particular, the monastic community, are a prefiguration on earth of this final destination. It is an imperfect anticipation, marked by limitations and sins, hence ever in need of conversion and purification; yet, there is in the Eucharistic community a foretaste of the victory of Christ's love over what divides and mortifies. "Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor" "Christ's love has gathered us in unity": this was the episcopal motto of our venerable Brother who has left us. As a son of St Benedict, he experienced the Lord's promise: "He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son" (Ap 21,7).
After being educated at the Benedictine Fathers' school at the Abbey of San Michele, Metten, he made his monastic profession in 1931. Throughout his life he endeavoured to carry out what St Benedict says in his Rule: "Let nothing be preferred to the love of Christ". After his studies in Salzburg and Rome he embarked on a long and appreciated activity, teaching at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo, of which, from 1949, he was rector for 17 years. The Pontifical Liturgical Institute was founded in this very period and became a fundamental reference point for training those in charge of formation in the field of liturgy. After the Council, he was elected Abbot of his beloved Abbey of Metten. He held this office for five years, but in 1972, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI appointed him Secretary of the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes, and desired to ordain him a Bishop personally, on 13 February 1972.
During his years of service in this Dicastery, he promoted the gradual implementation of the Second Vatican Council's deliberations. In this particular area he was able, in his capacity as a religious, to demonstrate his outstanding ecclesial and human sensibility. In 1984, Venerable John Paul II entrusted to him the office of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and created him a Cardinal at the Consistory on 25 May 1985, assigning him the Title of Sant'Anselmo all'Aventino. Subsequently the Pope named him first President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei"; and in this new and delicate office Cardinal Mayer also proved a zealous and faithful servant, seeking to apply the content of his motto: "The love of Christ has gathered us in unity".
Dear Brothers, our life is in the Lord's hands at every moment, especially in the moment of death. Let us therefore accompany our Brother Paul Augustine on his journey from this world to the Father with Jesus' trusting invocation on the Cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit". At this moment I cannot but recall the Shrine of the Mother of Grace in Altötting. Turning in spirit to that place of pilgrimage, let us entrust to the Blessed Virgin our prayers of suffrage for the late Cardinal Mayer. He was born near that Shrine, he conformed his life to Christ in accordance with the Benedictine Rule and he died in the shadow of this Vatican Basilica. May Our Lady, St Peter and St Benedict accompany this faithful disciple of the Lord to his Kingdom of light and peace. Amen.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
You are gathered round the Lord's altar to accompany with the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice, in which the Paschal Mystery is actualized, the last journey of beloved Cardinal Luigi Poggi, whom the Lord has called to himself. In addressing my cordial greeting to each one of you, I thank in particular Cardinal Sodano who, as Dean of the College of Cardinals, has presided at his funeral Mass.
The Gospel that has been proclaimed at this celebration helps us to live more intensely the sad moment of our Brother's departure from earthly life. Our sorrow at losing him is mitigated by hope in the Resurrection, based on the very words of Jesus: "For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6,40). In the face of the mystery of death, for the person who has no faith everything would seem to be irreparably lost. It is then Christ's word that lights up life's journey and gives every moment of it value. Jesus Christ is the Lord of life, he came to raise on the last day all that the Father gave him (cf. Jn 6,39). This is also the message that Peter proclaims very forcefully on the Day of Pentecost (cf. Ac 2,14 Ac 2,22-28). He shows that death could not hold Jesus back. God freed him from anguish because it was not possible for him to be held in its power. On the Cross Christ won the victory that was to be made manifest with his triumph over death, namely, his Resurrection.
Our late Brother lived his entire life in this perspective of faith, dedicated to God and to the service of the brothers and sisters, thus becoming a witness of courageous faith that can trust in God. We can say that the whole of Cardinal Luigi Poggi's priestly mission was devoted to the direct service of the Holy See. Born in Piacenza on 25 November 1917, after ecclesiastical studies at the Collegio Alberoni and his ordination to the priesthood on 28 July 1940, he continued his studies in Rome, earning a degree in utroque iuris and carrying out his priestly ministry in several Roman parishes. He entered the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy and in 1945 began his work with the then First Section of the Secretariat of State. These were difficult years during which he spared no effort to serve the Church. After a first assignment with the Government of the Tunisian Republic in the spring of 1963 in order to reach a modus vivendi between the Holy See and that country's Government on the Catholic Church's legal status in Tunisia, in April 1945 he was appointed Apostolic Delegate for Central Africa, with the dignity of Archbishop and jurisdiction over Cameroon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and the Central African Republic. In May 1969, he was promoted to the rank of Apostolic Nuncio in Peru, where he remained until August 1973. In this year he was recalled to Rome to take up the office of Apostolic Nuncio with special duties, to be in contact specifically with the Governments of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, for the purpose of improving the situation of the Catholic Church in those countries.
In July 1974, relations between the Holy See and the Polish Government were institutionalized and Archbishop Poggi was appointed Head of the Holy See Delegation for ongoing work contacts with the Government of Poland. In that period he made frequent journeys to Poland, meeting many famous political and ecclesiastical figures and, at the school of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, his superior, becoming a protagonist of the Vatican's ostpolitik in the countries of the Communist bloc. On 19 April 1986 he was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Italy; from this time the Nunciature was charged to study the procedures for Bishops' appointments in the country. Again, in that period it was he, as Papal Representative, who handled a delicate phase in the reordering of the Italian dioceses. Venerable John Paul II created and publicly proclaimed Archbishop Poggi a Cardinal at the Consistory on 26 November 1994 and appointed him Archivist and Librarian of Holy Roman Church. The Cardinal continued in this office until March 1998.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Apostle Paul's words: "If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him" (Rm 6,8) have just been proclaimed. This passage of the Letter to the Romans is one of the fundamental texts of the Liturgical Lectionary. Indeed, it is presented to us every year in the course of the Easter Vigil. Let us think of St Paul's illuminating words as we offer beloved Cardinal Luigi Poggi a heartfelt last farewell. How often must he himself have read, meditated and commented on them! What the Apostle writes concerning the mystical union of the baptized with the dead and Risen Christ, the late Cardinal is now living in the reality beyond this earth, freed from the conditioning imposed on human nature by sin. "For", as St Paul says in the same passage, "he who has died is freed from sin" (Rm 6,7). The sacramental but real union with the Paschal Mystery of Christ opens to the baptized person the perspective of sharing in his very glory, and this already has a consequence for life here below, because, by virtue of Baptism, we already participate in Christ's Resurrection. Now, therefore "we too [may] walk in newness of life" (Rm 6,4). This is why the devout death of a brother in Christ, especially if it is marked by the priestly character, is always a cause of intimate and grateful wonder at the plan of the divine fatherhood which delivers us from the dominion of darkness and transfers us to the Kingdom of his Beloved Son (cf. Col 1,13).
As we invoke the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Apostles and Mother of the Church for this Brother of ours, let us entrust his chosen soul to the Father of life, so that he may welcome him to the place prepared for his friends, faithful servants of the Gospel and of the Church.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Young Friends,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,19-20). These words of the risen Christ take on a particular significance in this city of Lisbon, from which generations upon generations of Christians – bishops, priests, consecrated and lay persons, men and women, young and not so young – have journeyed forth in great numbers in obedience to the Lord’s call, armed simply with the certainty that he had entrusted to them: “I am with you always”. Portugal has gained a glorious place among the nations for the service rendered to the spreading of the faith: in all five continents there are local churches that owe their origin to Portuguese missionary activity.
In times past, your departure in search of other peoples neither impeded nor severed your bonds with what you were and what you believed. On the contrary, with Christian wisdom you succeeded in transplanting experiences and characteristic elements, opening yourselves up to the contribution of others so as to be yourselves, through an apparent weakness which is actually strength. Today, as you play your part in building up the European Community, you offer the contribution of your cultural and religious identity. Indeed, just as Jesus Christ joined the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so today he walks with us in accordance with his promise: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” We too have a real and personal experience of the risen Lord, even if it differs from that of the Apostles. The distance of centuries is overcome and the risen Lord presents himself alive and at work, acting through us, in the Church and the world of today. This is our great joy. In the living river of ecclesial Tradition, Christ is not two thousand years distant from us, but is really present among us: he gives us the Truth and he gives us the light which is our life and helps us find the path towards the future.
Present in his word, present in the assembly of the people of God with its Pastors, and pre-eminently present in the sacrament of his Body and Blood, Jesus is here with us. I greet the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, whom I thank for the affectionate words that he addressed to me at the start of the celebration, in the name of his community that has made me so welcome. I in turn embrace the almost two million sons and daughters who form that community. To all of you here present – dear brother bishops and priests, beloved consecrated women and men and members of the lay faithful, dear families and young people, baptized and catechumens – I address my fraternal and friendly greeting, which I extend to those who are united with us through radio and television. I warmly thank the President of the Republic for his presence, as well as the other authorities, especially the Mayor of Lisbon, who has been good enough to confer upon me the keys of the city.
Lisbon – friend, port and shelter for the great hopes that were placed in you by those who set off from here, hopes that were cherished by those who visited you – today I wish to make use of these keys that you have given me so that you may be able to base your human hopes upon divine Hope. In the reading that has just been proclaimed, taken from the First Letter of Saint Peter, we heard: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame”. And the Apostle explains: Draw near to the Lord, “that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious” (1P 2,6 1P 2,4). Brothers and sisters, those who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame: he is the Word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and this Word is attested by a “great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues,” a multitude pictured by the author of the Apocalypse “clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Ap 7,9). This countless multitude includes not only Saints Verissimus, Maxima and Julia, martyred here during the persecution of Diocletian, Saint Vincent, deacon and martyr, the principal patron of the Patriarchate, Saint Anthony and Saint John of Brito who set off from here to sow God’s good seed in other lands and among other peoples, and Saint Nuno of Santa Maria, whom I added to the ranks of the Saints just over a year ago. It is formed of the “servants of our God” from all times and places, on whose forehead the sign of the cross has been inscribed with “the seal of the living God” (Ap 7,2), that is to say, with the Holy Spirit. I am referring to the initial rite administered to each one of us in the sacrament of Baptism, through which the Church gives birth to the “saints”.
We know that she also has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features, it is in them that she tastes her deepest joy. They all share the desire to incarnate the Gospel in their own lives, under the inspiration of the eternal animator of God’s People – the Holy Spirit. Focussing her attention upon her own saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclesial structures and programmes, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavour?
In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigour and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. Therefore our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each one of us. A vast effort at every level is required if every Christian is to be transformed into a witness capable of rendering account to all and at all times of the hope that inspires him (cf. 1P 3,15): only Christ can fully satisfy the profound longings of every human heart and give answers to its most pressing questions concerning suffering, injustice and evil, concerning death and the life hereafter.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear young friends, Christ is always with us and always walks with his Church, accompanies her and guards her, as he has told us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28,20). Never doubt his presence! Always seek the Lord Jesus, grow in friendship with him, receive him in communion. Learn to listen to his word and also to recognize him in the poor. Live your lives with joy and enthusiasm, sure of his presence and of his unconditional, generous friendship, faithful even to death on the cross. Bear witness to all of the joy that his strong yet gentle presence evokes, starting with your contemporaries. Tell them that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following him. With your enthusiasm, demonstrate that, among all the different ways of life that the world today seems to offer us – apparently all on the same level – the only way in which we find the true meaning of life and hence true and lasting joy, is by following Jesus.
Seek daily the protection of Mary, Mother of the Lord and mirror of all holiness. She, the all-holy one, will help you to be faithful disciples of her Son Jesus Christ.
Benedict XVI Homilies 18410