Sunday, April 28, 2013

Benedict XVI on Saint Matthew

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St. Matthew by Caravaggio
“Matthew, the author of the first of the four Gospels, was a publican – a tax-collector – and the story of his call to become an Apostle reminds us that Christ excludes no one from his friendship.

Tax-collectors were considered public sinners, and we can hear an echo of the scandal caused by the Lord’s decision to associate with such men in his declaration that he came "not to call the just but sinners"
(Mt 2:17).

This is the heart of the "good news" which Jesus came to bring: the offer of God’s grace to sinners! The parable of the publican in the Temple makes this same point: by humbly acknowledging their sins and accepting God’s mercy, even those who seem farthest from holiness can become first in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
 
Benedict XVI, General Audience, 20 August 2006.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Benedict XVI on Peace

 
 
"The effectiveness of commitment to peace depends on the concept that the world has of human life. If we want peace, we must defend life. This logic not only disqualifies war and terrorist acts but also any attempt on the life of the human being, a creature loved by God. The indifference or denial of what constitutes the true nature of man does not respect this grammar is the natural law inscribed on the human heart.
...

The task of education is to guide the maturation of the ability to make choices free and fair, that may go against prevailing opinions, fashions, political and religious ideologies. This is the price of the development of a culture of peace. Obviously, we must banish verbal or physical violence. This is always an attack on human dignity, both culprit and victim."
...

Believers today have an essential role of witness to the peace that comes from God and is a gift that is given to all the personal, family, social, political and economic life. You can not allow that evil to triumph by the passivity of good men. It would be worse to do nothing."

Benedict XVI, meeting with political leaders and civilians, Lebanon, 15 September 2012.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Benedict XVI on Ecclesia in Medio Oriente

Benedict XVI signing Ecclesia in Medio Oriente

"Your presence makes my signing of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente all the more solemn; it testifies that this document, while addressed to the universal Church, has a particular importance for the entire Middle East.

Providentially, this event takes place on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a celebration originating in the East in 335, following the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection built over Golgotha and our Lord’s tomb by the Emperor Constantine the Great, whom you venerate as saint. A month from now we will celebrate the seventeen-hundredth anniversary of the appearance to Constantine of the Chi-Rho, radiant in the symbolic night of his unbelief and accompanied by the words: "In this sign you will conquer!" Later, Constantine signed the Edict of Milan, and gave his name to Constantinople. It seems to me that the Post-Synodal Exhortation can be read and understood in the light of this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and more particularly in the light of the Chi-Rho, the two first letters of the Greek word "Christos". Reading it in this way leads to renewed appreciation of the identity of each baptized person and of the Church, and is at the same time a summons to witness in and through communion. 

Are not Christian communion and witness grounded in the Paschal Mystery, in the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Christ? Is it not there that they find their fulfilment? There is an inseparable bond between the cross and the resurrection which Christians must never forget. Without this bond, to exalt the cross would mean to justify suffering and death, seeing them merely as our inevitable fate. For Christians, to exalt the cross means to be united to the totality of God’s unconditional love for mankind. It means making an act of faith! To exalt the cross, against the backdrop of the resurrection, means to desire to experience and to show the totality of this love. It means making an act of love! To exalt the cross means to be a committed herald of fraternal and ecclesial communion, the source of authentic Christian witness. It means making an act of hope!

In examining the present situation of the Church in the Middle East, the Synod Fathers reflected on the joys and struggles, the fears and hopes of Christ’s disciples in these lands. In this way, the entire Church was able to hear the troubled cry and see the desperate faces of many men and women who experience grave human and material difficulties, who live amid powerful tensions in fear and uncertainty, who desire to follow Christ – the One who gives meaning to their existence – yet often find themselves prevented from doing so. That is why I wanted the First Letter of Saint Peter to serve as the framework of the document. At the same time, the Church was able to admire all that is beautiful and noble in the Churches in these lands. How can we fail to thank God at every moment for all of you (cf. 1 Th 1:2; Part One of the Post-Synodal Exhortation), dear Christians of the Middle East! How can we fail to praise him for your courage and faith? How can we fail to thank him for the flame of his infinite love which you continue to keep alive and burning in these places which were the first to welcome his incarnate Son? How can we fail to praise and thank him for your efforts to build ecclesial and fraternal communion, and for the human solidarity which you constantly show to all God’s children?

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente makes it possible to rethink the present in order to look to the future with the eyes of Christ. By its biblical and pastoral orientation, its invitation to deeper spiritual and ecclesiological reflection, its call for liturgical and catechetical renewal, and its summons to dialogue, the Exhortation points out a path for rediscovering what is essential: being a follower of Christ even in difficult and sometimes painful situations which may lead to the temptation to ignore or to forget the exaltation of the cross. It is here and now that we are called to celebrate the victory of love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, service over domination, humility over pride, and unity over division. In the light of today’s Feast, and in view of a fruitful application of the Exhortation, I urge all of you to fear not, to stand firm in truth and in purity of faith. This is the language of the cross, exalted and glorious! This is the "folly" of the cross: a folly capable of changing our sufferings into a declaration of love for God and mercy for our neighbour; a folly capable of transforming those who suffer because of their faith and identity into vessels of clay ready to be filled to overflowing by divine gifts more precious than gold (cf. 2 Cor 4:7-18). This is more than simply picturesque language: it is a pressing appeal to act concretely in a way which configures us ever more fully to Christ, in a way which helps the different Churches to reflect the beauty of the first community of believers (cf. Acts 2:41-47: Part Two of the Exhortation); in a way like that of the Emperor Constantine, who could bear witness and bring Christians forth from discrimination to enable them openly and freely to live their faith in Christ crucified, dead and risen for the salvation of all.

Ecclesia in Medio Oriente provides some elements that are helpful for a personal and communal examination of conscience, and an objective evaluation of the commitment and desire for holiness of each one of Christ’s disciples. The Exhortation shows openness to authentic interreligious dialogue based on faith in the one God, the Creator. It also seeks to contribute to an ecumenism full of human, spiritual and charitable fervour, in evangelical truth and love, drawing its strength from the commandment of the risen Lord: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:19-20).

The Exhortation as a whole is meant to help each of the Lord’s disciples to live fully and to pass on faithfully to others what he or she has become by Baptism: a child of light, sharing in God’s own light, a lamp newly lit amid the troubled darkness of this world, so that the light may shine in the darkness (cf. Jn 1:4f. and 2 Cor 4:1-6). The document seeks to help purify the faith from all that disfigures it, from everything that can obscure the splendour of Christ’s light. For communion is true fidelity to Christ, and Christian witness is the radiance of the paschal mystery which gives full meaning to the cross, exalted and glorious. As his followers, "we proclaim Christ crucified … the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:23-24; cf. Part Three of the Exhortation).

"Fear not, little flock" (Lk 12:32) and remember the promise made to Constantine: "In this sign you will conquer!" Churches of the Middle East, fear not, for the Lord is truly with you, to the close of the age! Fear not, because the universal Church walks at your side and is humanly and spiritually close to you! It is with this hope and this word of encouragement to be active heralds of the faith by your communion and witness, that on Sunday I will entrust the Post-Synodal Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente to my venerable brother Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops, and to all priests, deacons, men and women religious, the seminarians and all the lay faithful. "Be of good cheer" (Jn 16:33)! Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, the Theotókos, I invoke God’s abundant gifts upon all of you with great affection! God grant that all the peoples of the Middle East may live in peace, fraternity and religious freedom! May God bless all of you!"

Benedict XVI, Melkite Greek Basilica of Saint Paul, in Harissa, Lebanon, 14 September 2012.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Benedict XVI on Prayer

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Agnus Dei, Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano, Rome
"Christ, the Lamb, Who was immolated in the sacrifice of the cross but stands in sign of His resurrection. The Lamb, Christ, Who died and rose again, will progressively open the seals so as to reveal the plan of God, the profound meaning of history.
...
Raising our gaze to God's heaven in an unbroken relationship with Christ, ... in individual and community prayer, we learn to see things in a new way and to grasp their most authentic significance. ...

The Lamb then opens the first four seals of the scroll and the Church sees the world of which she is part; a world containing ... the evils accomplished by man, such as violence ... and injustice, ... to which must be added the evils man suffers such as death, hunger, and sickness.

In the face of these often dramatic issues the ecclesial community is invited never to lose hope, but to remain firm in the belief that the apparent omnipotence of the Evil One in fact comes up against true omnipotence, that of God.
...

(T)he power of God has entered man's history, a power capable not only of counterbalancing evil, but also of overcoming it. ... God became so close as to descend into the darkness of death and illuminate it with the splendour of divine life. He took the evil of the world upon Himself to purify it with the fire of His love.
...
How can we progress in this Christian interpretation of reality? The Book of Revelation tells us that prayer nourishes this vision of light and profound hope in each one of us and in our communities. ... The Church lives in history, she is not closed in herself but courageously faces her journey amidst difficulties and sufferings, forcefully affirming that evil does not defeat good, that darkness does not shade God's splendour. This is an important point for us too: as Christians we can never be pessimists. ... Prayer, above all, educates us to see the signs of God, His presence and His action; or rather, it educates us to become lights of goodness, spreading hope and indicating that the victory is God's.
...

At the end of the vision an angel places grains of incense in a censer then throws it upon the earth. Those grains represent our prayers and we can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost. ... God is not oblivious to our prayers. ... When faced with evil we often have the sensation that we can do nothing, but our prayers are in fact the first and most effective response we can give, they strengthen our daily commitment to goodness. The power of God makes our weakness strong".

Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Hall, 12 September 2012.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Benedict XVI on religion

“In his letter, Apostle James warns about the danger of a false religion. He tells Christians: 'Be of those who practice the Word, not only those who hear it. You will only be deceiving yourselves.'
...

The  purpose of religion is to live life while listening to God. By doing His Will, one lives in true freedom. If this sense is lost, then religion is reduced to secondary activities, instead of satisfying the human need to have a good relationship with God.”

Benedict XVI, Angelus, 3 September 2012

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Benedict XVI on St. John the Baptist


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“Today, the Church celebrates the Martyrdom of Saint John the Baptist. John, whose birth we celebrate on the twenty-fourth of June, gave himself totally to Christ, by preparing the way for him through the preaching of repentance, by leading others to him once he arrived, and by giving the ultimate sacrifice.
Dear friends, may we follow John’s example by allowing Christ to penetrate every part of our lives so that we may boldly proclaim him to the world. May God bless all of you!

In the Roman Martyrology, reference is made to a second finding of the precious relic, transported, on this occasion, in the church of San Silvestro in Rome. These little historical references help us to understand how how and deeply St. John the Baptist is venerated.”
 
Benedict XVI, General Audience, Castel Gandolfo, 29 August 2012.