Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Pope's Birthday Homily

Pope's Homily at Birthday Mass

I know "his light is stronger than any darkness; that God's goodness is stronger than any evil"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 17, 2012 ( Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Monday at a Mass marking his 85th birthday and baptism anniversary.
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Lord Cardinals,
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the day of my birthday and Baptism, April 16, the liturgy of the Church points to threewhich indicate to me where the road leads and which help me to find it. In the first place, there is the memoria of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes; then, there is one of the more particular Saints of the history of the Church, Benedict Joseph Labre; and then, above all, is the fact that this day is always immersed in the Paschal Mystery, in the Mystery of the Cross and of the Resurrection, and in the year of my birth it was expressed in a particular way: it was Holy Saturday, the day of God’s silence, of the apparent absence, of the death of God, but also the day in which the Resurrection was proclaimed.

Bernadette Soubirous. The simple girl of the South, of the Pyrenees – we all know and love her. Bernadette in the France of the Enlightenment of the 19th century, in a poverty difficult to imagine. The prison, which was abandoned because it was too unhealthy, became, in the end – after some hesitations -- the family’s dwelling, in which she spent her childhood. There was no possibility of school formation, only some catechism in preparation for her First Communion. But precisely this simple girl, who was pure and genuine in heart, who had a heart that sees, was able to see the Lord’s Mother and, in her, the reflection of the beauty and goodness of God. Mary was able to show herself to this girl and through her to speak to the century and beyond the century itself. Bernadette was able to see with a pure and genuine heart. And Mary indicated to her the source: she was able to discover the source, the living water, pure and uncontaminated; water that is life, water that gives purity and health. And through the centuries, now, this living water is a sign on Mary’s part, a sign that indicates where the sources of life are, where we can be purified, where we find what is uncontaminated. In this our time, in which we see the world in so much anxiety, and in which the need of water bursts out, of pure water, this sign is that much greater. From Mary, from the Mother of the Lord, from a pure heart, pure, genuine water also comes which gives life, the water than in this century – and in the centuries that might come – purifies and heals us.

I think we can consider this water as an image of the truth that comes to us in faith: truth not simulated but uncontaminated. In fact, to be able to live, to be able to become pure, we are in need of having in us the nostalgia of the pure life, of the truth that is not distorted, of what is not contaminated by corruption, of being men without stain. See how this day, this little Saint has always been for me a sign that has indicated where the living water comes from of which we are in need – the water that purifies us and gives us life -- and a sign of how we should be: with all the knowledge and all the capacities, which also are necessary, we must not lose the simple heart, the simple look of the heart, capable of seeing the essential, and we must always pray to the Lord that we preserve in us the humility that enables the heart to be clear-sighted – to see what is simple and essential, the beauty and goodness of God – and thus find the source from which the water comes that gives life and purifies.

Then there is Benedict Joseph Labre, the pious mendicant pilgrim of the 18th century who, after several useless attempts, finally found his vocation of pilgrim as mendicant – without anything, without any support and not keeping for himself anything of what he received except that of which he had absolute need – pilgrimaging through the whole of Europe, to all the shrines of Europe, from Spain to Poland and from Germany to Sicily: a truly European Saint! We can also say: a somewhat particular Saint who, begging, wandered from one shrine to another and wished to do nothing other than pray and with this give witness to what matters in this life: God. He certainly does not represent an example to emulate, but he is a, a finger pointing to the essential. He shows us that God alone suffices, that beyond all thatin this world, beyond our needs and capacities, what counts, the essential is to know God. He alone suffices. And this “God alone” he indicates to us in a dramatic way. And at the same time, this really European life that, from shrine to shrine embraces the whole European continent makes evident that he who opens himself to God is no stranger to the world or to men, rather he finds brothers, because on God’s side, borders fall, God alone can eliminate borders because thanks to Him we are all only brothers, we are part of one another; it renders present that the oneness of God means, at the same time, the brotherhood and reconciliation of men, the demolishing of borders that unites and heals us. Thus he is a Saint of peace precisely in as much as he is a Saint without any exigency, who is poor of everything yet blessed with everything.

And then, finally, the Paschal Mystery. On the same day I was born, thanks to the care of my parents, I was also reborn by water and the Spirit, as we just heard in the Gospel. In the first place, there is the gift of life that my parents gave me in very difficult times, and for which I owe them my gratitude. However, it is not taken for granted that man’s life is in itself a gift. Can it really be a beautiful gift? Do we know what is incumbent on man in the dark times he is facing – also in those more luminous ones that might come? Can we foresee to what anxieties, to what terrible events he might be exposed? Is it right to give life thus, simply? Is it responsible or is it too uncertain? It is a problematic gift if it remains independent. Biological life of itself is a gift, and yet it is surrounded by a great question. It becomes a real gift only if, together with it, one can make a promise that is stronger than any misfortune that can threaten one, if it is immersed in a force that guarantees that it is good to be man, that for this person it is a good no matter what the future might bring. Thus, associated to birth is rebirth, the certainty that, in truth, it is good for us to be, because the promise is stronger than the threats.

This is the meaning of rebirth from water and the Spirit: to be immersed in the promise that God alone can make: it is good that you are, and it is true regardless of what happens. From this certainty,  I have been able to live, reborn by water and the Spirit. Nicodemus asks the Lord: “Can an old man be born again?” Now, rebirth is given to us in Baptism, but we must grow continually in it, we must always let ourselves me immersed in God’s promise, to be truly reborn in the great, new family of God which is stronger than all the weaknesses and all the negative powers that threaten us. This is why this is a day of great thanksgiving.
The day on which I was baptized, as I said, was Holy Saturday. Then it was usual to anticipate the Easter Vigil in the morning, which would have been followed again by the darkness of Holy Saturday, without the Alleluia. It seems to me that this singular paradox, this singular anticipation of the light in a dark day, could be almost an image of the history of our days. On one hand, there is still the silence of God and his absence, but in the Resurrection of Christ there is already the anticipation of the “yes” of God, and on the basis of this anticipation we live and, through the silence of God, we hear his speaking, and through the darkness of his absence we perceive his light. The anticipation of the Resurrection in the midst of a history that evolves is the force that indicates the road to us and that helps us to go forward.

We thank the good God for this light he has given us and we pray that it will always be with us. And on this day I have reason to thank Him and all those who have always made me perceive the Lord’s presence, who have accompanied me so that I would not lose the light.

I am facing the last lap of the course of my life and I do not know what awaits me. I know, however, that the light  of God is, that He is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness; that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil of this world. And this helps me to go forward with confidence. This helps us to go forward and in his hour I give my heartfelt thanks to all those who continually make me perceive the “yes” of God through their faith.

Finally, Cardinal Dean, my cordial gratitude for your words of fraternal friendship, for all the collaboration in all these years. And a big thank you to all the collaborators of the 30 years in which I have been in Rome, who helped me bear the weight of my responsibility. Thank you. Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Talk Notes from Divine Mercy Sunday

In case anyone missed the short talk I gave on Sunday night, or heard it and wants to revisit it, here it is:

Romans 6:23 - the wage of sin is death. The natural consequence of sin is death.  For our sin, we deserve death.    The conscience places demands on us to be perfect as the Father is perfect.  We are imperfect, we are fallen and we deserve death - eternal death.  This is merely just.  When we choose sin, we choose a lesser good, we choose to break our relationship with God.  We choose against being united with God as his children.  The just consequence of sin, the just punishment for sin is death.
So what is mercy and why is it important?

"Mercy as it is here contemplated is said to be a virtue influencing one's will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another's misfortune."  See etymology of St  Augustine - misericordia -  "a Heart which gives itself to the miserable."  Mercy is a completely gratuitous act - it is compassion - literally entering into the passion/suffering/misery of the other, so as to alleviate misfortune.  
If the consequence of sin is death, the consequence of mercy is freedom from sin and freedom for new life. 

Jesus, his death and resurrection are the ultimate act of mercy.  Augustine says that "Christ is God's mercy."  We experience God's mercy most profoundly in the sacraments, we encounter Christ most intimately in the Sacraments - where God's mercy, His grace, His life is poured out for us.  The question that we have to answer, and keep answering is if we will believe and accept it. 

Probably the most intimate place we experience God's mercy is in the sacrament of reconciliation.   We experience this mercy every time we receive forgiveness in Confession.

We also experience mercy in the Eucharist, God's ongoing sacrifice of love for us.  Just as Adam and Eve fell to sin through eating the forbidden fruit, we gain life through eating the body of Christ, the Bread of Life.  He has poured himself out for you. 

Dynamism between adoration and communion:  Adoration is an extension of the Mass.  In adoration, we look upon Him and our hearts yearn to grow in devotion, our hearts yearn to receive Him.  And, in receiving Him at Mass, our hearts yearn to remain forever in His presence.

Challenge tonight [heading into adoration] - to invite God's mercy into your life, which is nothing other than inviting Christ into your life, for the first time, or the thousandth time.   Christ is the Heart which gives itself to the miserable.  What does it mean for your life that God has mercy on you?  What does it mean that His heart longs to save you from yourself and from your sin? What does it mean that he longs to draw near to you? Why do you push away from Him?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday Reflections

I've been meaning to blog all week.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  But, today is as good a day as any, plus it is my mom's birthday (shout out!).

Here's what I've been thinking about today...perhaps this random spattering of thoughts will provoke some of your own:

  • To me, Holy Saturday is one of the weirdest days of the year.  Just yesterday we found ourselves at stations of the cross, proclaiming the passion narrative and venerating the wood of the cross.  It was a day of death.  Today is a day of expectant waiting.  It is not unlike Advent.  In both cases, we are awaiting something - the infant child, and the resurrected Lord - and we, thanks to our being born after the Christian Fact happen to know what comes next (liturgically).  I think it is important to not wait with preconception, but with an expectant and hopeful heart.  When my 2nd daughter was born, I sort of new what to expect, yet the newness of life enfleshed before my eyes brought about a great sense of surprise and awe.  In a mysterious way, this same thing happens at each Mass - and in a heightened way at Christmas and Easter, when expectation is especially high.  This will be the case tonight as that Easter candle makes its way into the dark church - when that Easter light fills the darkness of our hard hearts and fills us with surprise and awe. 
  • I often wonder what sort of disappointment the Apostles must have felt on this day nearly 2000 years ago.  Disappointment in themselves and their fearful flight from the cross and their friend.  Disappointment in the "failed" Messiah.
    • These Apostles must have felt that "God is dead" in a way that Nietzsche could never express.  
I wish I could try to type out a bit more, but we've got to get the children ready for the Easter Vigil...should be an interesting experience!