Benedict Holy Week 2012

Pope's Holy Saturday Homily
"With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Easter Vigil.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God", as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: "Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God" (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader. Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God’s great glory, an encounter between love and freedom. On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: "God said, ‘let there be light!’" (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God’s glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.

What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence only through denial. It is a "no".

At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: "Let there be light". The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus’ passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. "Let there be light", says God, "and there was light": Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God’s pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God’s new day, new for all of us.

But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God’s new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.

Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other "lights", that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God’s light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God’s light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.

Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light. Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. "Whoever is close to me is close to the fire," as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God’s warmth and goodness reach down to us.

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whoseraison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1).Amen.

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Pontiff's Urbi et Orbi Greeting
"With him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 8, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the message Benedict XVI gave today at noon when he gave the solemn blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city [of Rome] and the world).

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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world!

"Surrexit Christus, spes mea" – "Christ, my hope, has risen" (Easter Sequence).

May the jubilant voice of the Church reach all of you with the words which the ancient hymn puts on the lips of Mary Magdalene, the first to encounter the risen Jesus on Easter morning. She ran to the other disciples and breathlessly announced: "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). We too, who have journeyed through the desert of Lent and the sorrowful days of the Passion, today raise the cry of victory: "He has risen! He has truly risen!"

Every Christian relives the experience of Mary Magdalene. It involves an encounter which changes our lives: the encounter with a unique Man who lets us experience all God’s goodness and truth, who frees us from evil not in a superficial and fleeting way, but sets us free radically, heals us completely and restores our dignity. This is why Mary Magdalene calls Jesus "my hope": he was the one who allowed her to be reborn, who gave her a new future, a life of goodness and freedom from evil. "Christ my hope" means that all my yearnings for goodness find in him a real possibility of fulfilment: with him I can hope for a life that is good, full and eternal, for God himself has drawn near to us, even sharing our humanity.

But Mary Magdalene, like the other disciples, was to see Jesus rejected by the leaders of the people, arrested, scourged, condemned to death and crucified. It must have been unbearable to see Goodness in person subjected to human malice, truth derided by falsehood, mercy abused by vengeance. With Jesus’ death, the hope of all those who had put their trust in him seemed doomed. But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night. In this world, hope can not avoid confronting the harshness of evil. It is not thwarted by the wall of death alone, but even more by the barbs of envy and pride, falsehood and violence. Jesus passed through this mortal mesh in order to open a path to the kingdom of life. For a moment Jesus seemed vanquished: darkness had invaded the land, the silence of God was complete, hope a seemingly empty word.

And lo, on the dawn of the day after the Sabbath, the tomb is found empty. Jesus then shows himself to Mary Magdalene, to the other women, to his disciples. Faith is born anew, more alive and strong than ever, now invincible since it is based on a decisive experience: "Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, now lives to reign". The signs of the resurrection testify to the victory of life over death, love over hatred, mercy over vengeance: "The tomb the living did enclose, I saw Christ’s glory as he rose! The angels there attesting, shroud with grave-clothes resting".

Dear brothers and sisters! If Jesus is risen, then – and only then – has something truly new happened, something that changes the state of humanity and the world. Then he, Jesus, is someone in whom we can put absolute trust; we can put our trust not only in his message but in Jesus himself, for the Risen One does not belong to the past, but is present today, alive. Christ is hope and comfort in a particular way for those Christian communities suffering most for their faith on account of discrimination and persecution. And he is present as a force of hope through his Church, which is close to all human situations of suffering and injustice.

May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights. Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community. May the many refugees from that country who are in need of humanitarian assistance find the acceptance and solidarity capable of relieving their dreadful sufferings. May the paschal victory encourage the Iraqi people to spare no effort in pursuing the path of stability and development. In the Holy Land, may Israelis and Palestinians courageously take up anew the peace process.

May the Lord, the victor over evil and death, sustain the Christian communities of the African continent; may he grant them hope in facing their difficulties, and make them peacemakers and agents of development in the societies to which they belong.

May the risen Jesus comfort the suffering populations of the Horn of Africa and favour their reconciliation; may he help the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan, and grant their inhabitants the power of forgiveness. In Mali, now experiencing delicate political developments, may the glorious Christ grant peace and stability. To Nigeria, which in recent times has experienced savage terrorist attacks, may the joy of Easter grant the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of all its citizens.

Happy Easter to all!

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On Palm Sunday
"May we be moved again by Christ's passion and death, (and) put our sins behind us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 - Immediately after concluding the Holy Mass for Palm Sunday, Benedict XVI recited the Angelus with those present in St. Peter’s Square. Here is a translation of his remarks prior to the Angelus.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

At the conclusion of this celebration I would like to address a greeting to all of those present: to the lord cardinals, to my brother bishops, to the priests, to the religious and to all of the faithful. I address a special greeting to the organizing committee of the last Word Youth Day in Madrid and to the committee that is organizing the next one in Rio de Janeiro; and to the delegates to the international meeting on World Youth Days sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, here represented by its president, Cardinale Ri?ko, and by its secretary Monsignor Clemens.

[Following these opening remarks in Italian, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, today is Palm Sunday: as we remember Our Lord’s welcome into Jerusalem, I am pleased to greet all of you, especially the many young people who have come here to pray with me. This Holy Week, may we be moved again by Christ’s passion and death, put our sins behind us and, with God’s grace, choose a life of love and service to our brethren. God’s blessings upon you!

[He finished his pre-Angelus remarks in Italian saying:]

Dear friends, I pray that the true joy inhabit your hearts, that joy that comes from love and that does not disappear in the hour of sacrifice. I wish everyone a good Holy Week and a good Easter! Thank you.

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Pope's Message to Prisoners for Way of the Cross
"3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary"

ROME, APRIL 2, 2012 - Here is a translation of the message Benedict XVI sent to prisoners detained in Rome's Rebibbia prison for the Way of the Cross they celebrated there last Friday, led by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general for the Diocese of Rome.

Some 300 prisoners, the chaplain, Caritas volunteers, seminarians who offer daily service inside the prison and numerous faithful from various parishes attended the Way of the Cross. The Pope made a pastoral visit to the jail last Dec. 18.

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Dear brothers!

I was happy to hear that, in preparation for Easter, you will be conducting a Via Crucis at the prison of Rebibbia that will be presided over by my Vicar for Rome, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, with the participation of the prisoners, the prison workers and the faithful from various parishes of the city. I feel particularly close to this event because there is always alive in my soul the memory of the visit I made to the prison of Rebibbia shortly before last Christmas; I remember the faces that I met and the words that I listened to, and they left a deep mark in me. So, I join spiritually in your prayer, and thus I can give continuity to my presence with you and for this I thank your chaplains in particular.

I know that this Via Crucis also intends to be a sign of reconciliation. In effect, as one of the prisoners said during our meeting, prison serves to pick oneself up after having fallen, to be reconciled with oneself, with others and with God. One can then enter again into society. When, in the Via Crucis, we see Jesus who falls to the ground – 1, 2, 3 times – we understand that he shared our human condition, the weight of our sins made him fall; but 3 times Jesus got back up and continued on the way to Calvary; and so, with his help, we too can get back up from our falls, and maybe help another, a brother, to get back to his feet.

But what gave Jesus the strength to go forward? It was the certainty that the Father was with him. Even if in his heart that was all the bitterness of abandonment, Jesus knew that the Father loved him, and precisely this immense love, this infinite mercy of the heavenly Father and was greater than the violence and the injuries that he endured. Even if everyone despised him and no longer treated him as a man, Jesus, in his heart, had the firm certainty of always being a son, the Son loved by God the Father.

This, dear friends, is the great gift that Jesus bestowed upon us in his Via Crucis: he revealed to us that God is infinite love, he is mercy, and he bore completely the weight of our sins so that we might get up again and reconcile and rediscover peace. Therefore we too are not afraid to walk our “via crucis,” to carry our cross together with Jesus. He is with us. And Mary is with us too, his and our mother. She remains faithful, at the foot of our own cross also, and she prays for our resurrection, that we might firmly believe that, even in the blackest night, the light of God’s love is the last word.

With this hope, based on faith, my wish for all of you is that you live Easter in the peace and in the joy that Christ has obtained for us with his blood, and with great affection I impart to you the apostolic benediction, extending it from my heart to your families and your loved ones.

From the Vatican, March 22, 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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Benedict XVI's Palm Sunday Homily
"The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 2, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily from Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Palm Sunday is the great doorway leading into Holy Week, the week when the Lord Jesus makes his way towards the culmination of his earthly existence. He goes up to Jerusalem in order to fulfil the Scriptures and to be nailed to the wood of the Cross, the throne from which he will reign for ever, drawing to himself humanity of every age and offering to all the gift of redemption. We know from the Gospels that Jesus had set out towards Jerusalem in company with the Twelve, and that little by little a growing crowd of pilgrims had joined them. Saint Mark tells us that as they were leaving Jericho, there was a "great multitude" following Jesus (cf. 10:46).

On the final stage of the journey, a particular event stands out, one which heightens the sense of expectation of what is about to unfold and focuses attention even more sharply upon Jesus. Along the way, as they were leaving Jericho, a blind man was sitting begging, Bartimaeus by name. As soon as he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was passing, he began to cry out: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (Mk 10:47). People tried to silence him, but to no avail; until Jesus had them call him over and invited him to approach. "What do you want me to do for you?", he asked. And the reply: "Master, let me receive my sight" (v. 51). Jesus said: "Go your way, your faith has made you well." Bartimaeus regained his sight and began to follow Jesus along the way (cf. v. 52). And so it was that, after this miraculous sign, accompanied by the cry "Son of David", a tremor of Messianic hope spread through the crowd, causing many of them to ask: this Jesus, going ahead of us towards Jerusalem, could he be the Messiah, the new David? And as he was about to enter the Holy City, had the moment come when God would finally restore the Davidic kingdom?

The preparations made by Jesus, with the help of his disciples, serve to increase this hope. As we heard in today’s Gospel (cf. Mk 11:1-10), Jesus arrives in Jerusalem from Bethphage and the Mount of Olives, that is, the route by which the Messiah was supposed to come. From there, he sent two disciples ahead of him, telling them to bring him a young donkey that they would find along the way. They did indeed find the donkey, they untied it and brought it to Jesus. At this point, the spirits of the disciples and of the other pilgrims were swept up with excitement: they took their coats and placed them on the colt; others spread them out on the street in Jesus’ path as he approached, riding on the donkey. Then they cut branches from the trees and began to shout phrases from Psalm 118, ancient pilgrim blessings, which in that setting took on the character of messianic proclamation: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (v. 9-10). This festive acclamation, reported by all four evangelists, is a cry of blessing, a hymn of exultation: it expresses the unanimous conviction that, in Jesus, God has visited his people and the longed-for Messiah has finally come. And everyone is there, growing in expectation of the work that Christ will accomplish once he has entered the city.

But what is the content, the inner resonance of this cry of jubilation? The answer is found throughout the Scripture, which reminds us that the Messiah fulfils the promise of God’s blessing, God’s original promise to Abraham, father of all believers: "I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you ... and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves" (Gen 12:2-3). It is the promise that Israel had always kept alive in prayer, especially the prayer of the Psalms. Hence he whom the crowd acclaims as the blessed one is also he in whom the whole of humanity will be blessed. Thus, in the light of Christ, humanity sees itself profoundly united and, as it were, enfolded within the cloak of divine blessing, a blessing that permeates, sustains, redeems and sanctifies all things.

Here we find the first great message that today’s feast brings us: the invitation to adopt a proper outlook upon all humanity, on the peoples who make up the world, on its different cultures and civilizations. The look that the believer receives from Christ is a look of blessing: a wise and loving look, capable of grasping the world’s beauty and having compassion on its fragility. Shining through this look is God’s own look upon those he loves and upon Creation, the work of his hands. We read in the Book of Wisdom: "But thou art merciful to all, for thou canst do all things, and thou dost overlook men’s sins, that they may repent. For thou lovest all things that exist and hast loathing for none of the things which thou hast made ... thou sparest all things, for they are thine, O Lord who lovest the living" (11:23-24, 26).

Let us return to today’s Gospel passage and ask ourselves: what is really happening in the hearts of those who acclaim Christ as King of Israel? Clearly, they had their own idea of the Messiah, an idea of how the long-awaited King promised by the prophets should act. Not by chance, a few days later, instead of acclaiming Jesus, the Jerusalem crowd will cry out to Pilate: "Crucify him!", while the disciples, together with others who had seen him and listened to him, will be struck dumb and will disperse. The majority, in fact, was disappointed by the way Jesus chose to present himself as Messiah and King of Israel. This is the heart of today’s feast, for us too. Who is Jesus of Nazareth for us? What idea do we have of the Messiah, what idea do we have of God? It is a crucial question, one we cannot avoid, not least because during this very week we are called to follow our King who chooses the Cross as his throne. We are called to follow a Messiah who promises us, not a facile earthly happiness, but the happiness of heaven, divine beatitude. So we must ask ourselves: what are our true expectations? What are our deepest desires, with which we have come here today to celebrate Palm Sunday and to begin our celebration of Holy Week?

Dear young people, present here today, this, in a particular way, is your Day, wherever the Church is present throughout the world. So I greet you with great affection! May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives. It is the decision that leads to true joy, as I reminded you in this year’s World Youth Day Message – "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil 4:4). So it was for Saint Clare of Assisi when, on Palm Sunday 800 years ago, inspired by the example of Saint Francis and his first companions, she left her father’s house to consecrate herself totally to the Lord. She was eighteen years old and she had the courage of faith and love to decide for Christ, finding in him true joy and peace.

Dear brothers and sisters, may these days call forth two sentiments in particular: praise, after the example of those who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with their "Hosanna!", and thanksgiving, because in this Holy Week the Lord Jesus will renew the greatest gift we could possibly imagine: he will give us his life, his body and his blood, his love. But we must respond worthily to so great a gift, that is to say, with the gift of ourselves, our time, our prayer, our entering into a profound communion of love with Christ who suffered, died and rose for us. The early Church Fathers saw a symbol of all this in the gesture of the people who followed Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, the gesture of spreading out their coats before the Lord. Before Christ – the Fathers said – we must spread out our lives, ourselves, in an attitude of gratitude and adoration. As we conclude, let us listen once again to the words of one of these early Fathers, Saint Andrew, Bishop of Crete: "So it is ourselves that we must spread under Christ’s feet, not coats or lifeless branches or shoots of trees, matter which wastes away and delights the eye only for a few brief hours. But we have clothed ourselves with Christ’s grace, or with the whole Christ ... so let us spread ourselves like coats under his feet ... let us offer not palm branches but the prizes of victory to the conqueror of death. Today let us too give voice with the children to that sacred chant, as we wave the spiritual branches of our soul: ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel’" (PG 97, 994). Amen!

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Papal Message for Palm Sunday World Youth Day 2012
"Joy is at the heart of Christian experience"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 27, 2012 Here is the text of Benedict XVI's message for the diocesan-level World Youth Day, traditionally celebrated each Palm Sunday, and thus to be held this Sunday. The Vatican released the message today.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE TWENTY-SEVENTH WORLD YOUTH DAY
2012

“Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4)

Dear young friends,

I am happy to address you once more on the occasion of the 27th World Youth Day. The memory of our meeting in Madrid last August remains close to my heart. It was a time of extraordinary grace when God showered his blessings on the young people gathered from all over the world. I give thanks to God for all the fruits which that event bore, fruits which will surely multiply for young people and their communities in the future. Now we are looking forward to our next meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, whose theme will be: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Mt 28:19).

This year’s World Youth Day theme comes from Saint Paul’s exhortation in his Letter to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). Joy is at the heart of Christian experience. At each World Youth Day we experience immense joy, the joy of communion, the joy of being Christian, the joy of faith. This is one of the marks of these gatherings. We can see the great attraction that joy exercises. In a world of sorrow and anxiety, joy is an important witness to the beauty and reliability of the Christian faith.

The Church’s vocation is to bring joy to the world, a joy that is authentic and enduring, the joy proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:10). Not only did God speak, not only did he accomplish great signs throughout the history of humankind, but he drew so near to us that he became one of us and lived our life completely. In these difficult times, so many young people all around you need to hear that the Christian message is a message of joy and hope! I would like to reflect with you on this joy and on how to find it, so that you can experience it more deeply and bring it to everyone you meet.

1. Our hearts are made for joy

A yearning for joy lurks within the heart of every man and woman. Far more than immediate and fleeting feelings of satisfaction, our hearts seek a perfect, full and lasting joy capable of giving “flavour” to our existence. This is particularly true for you, because youth is a time of continuous discovery of life, of the world, of others and of ourselves. It is a time of openness to the future and of great longing for happiness, friendship, sharing and truth, a time when we are moved by high ideals and make great plans.

Each day is filled with countless simple joys which are the Lord’s gift: the joy of living, the joy of seeing nature’s beauty, the joy of a job well done, the joy of helping others, the joy of sincere and pure love. If we look carefully, we can see many other reasons to rejoice. There are the happy times in family life, shared friendship, the discovery of our talents, our successes, the compliments we receive from others, the ability to express ourselves and to know that we are understood, and the feeling of being of help to others. There is also the excitement of learning new things, seeing new and broader horizons open up through our travels and encounters, and realizing the possibilities we have for charting our future. We might also mention the experience of reading a great work of literature, of admiring a masterpiece of art, of listening to or playing music, or of watching a film. All these things can bring us real joy.

Yet each day we also face any number of difficulties. Deep down we also worry about the future; we begin to wonder if the full and lasting joy for which we long might be an illusion and an escape from reality. Many young people ask themselves: is perfect joy really possible? The quest for joy can follow various paths, and some of these turn out to be mistaken, if not dangerous. How can we distinguish things that give real and lasting joy from immediate and illusory pleasures? How can we find true joy in life, a joy that endures and does not forsake us at moments of difficulty?

2. God is the source of true joy

Whatever brings us true joy, whether the small joys of each day or the greatest joys in life, has its source in God, even if this does not seem immediately obvious. This is because God is a communion of eternal love, he is infinite joy that does not remain closed in on itself, but expands to embrace all whom God loves and who love him. God created us in his image out of love, in order to shower his love upon us and to fill us with his presence and grace. God wants us to share in his own divine and eternal joy, and he helps us to see that the deepest meaning and value of our lives lie in being accepted, welcomed and loved by him. Whereas we sometimes find it hard to accept others, God offers us an unconditional acceptance which enables us to say: “I am loved; I have a place in the world and in history; I am personally loved by God. If God accepts me and loves me and I am sure of this, then I know clearly and with certainty that it is a good thing that I am alive”.

God’s infinite love for each of us is fully seen in Jesus Christ. The joy we are searching for is to be found in him. We see in the Gospel how the events at the beginning of Jesus’ life are marked by joy. When the Archangel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that she is to be the mother of the Saviour, his first word is “Rejoice!” (Lk 1:28). When Jesus is born, the angel of the Lord says to the shepherds: “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Saviour has been born for you, who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). When the Magi came in search of the child, “they were overjoyed at seeing the star” (Mt 2:10). The cause of all this joy is the closeness of God who became one of us. This is what Saint Paul means when he writes to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5). Our first reason for joy is the closeness of the Lord, who welcomes me and loves me.

An encounter with Jesus always gives rise to immense inner joy. We can see this in many of the Gospel stories. We recall when Jesus visited Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector and public sinner, he said to him: “Today I must stay at your house”. Then, Saint Luke tells us, Zacchaeus “received him with joy” (Lk 19:5-6). This is the joy of meeting the Lord. It is the joy of feeling God’s love, a love that can transform our whole life and bring salvation. Zacchaeus decides to change his life and to give half of his possessions to the poor.

At the hour of Jesus’ passion, this love can be seen in all its power. At the end of his earthly life, while at supper with his friends, Jesus said: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love... I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:9,11). Jesus wants to lead his disciples and each one of us into the fullness of joy that he shares with the Father, so that the Father’s love for him might abide in us (cf. Jn17:26). Christian joy consists in being open to God’s love and belonging to him.

The Gospels recount that Mary Magdalene and other women went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been laid after his death. An angel told them the astonishing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Then, the Evangelist tells us, they ran from the sepulchre, “fearful yet overjoyed” to share the good news with the disciples. Jesus met them on the way and said: “Peace!” (Mt28:8-9). They were being offered the joy of salvation. Christ is the One who lives and who overcame evil, sin and death. He is present among us as the Risen One and he will remain with us until the end of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). Evil does not have the last word in our lives; rather, faith in Christ the Saviour tells us that God’s love is victorious.

This deep joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s sons and daughters, capable of experiencing and savouring his goodness, and calling him “Abba”, Father (cf. Rm 8:15). Joy is the sign of God’s presence and action within us.

3. Preserving Christian joy in our hearts

At this point we wonder: “How do we receive and maintain this gift of deep, spiritual joy?”

One of the Psalms tells us: “Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart's desire” (Ps 37:4). Jesus told us that “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Mt 13:44). The discovery and preservation of spiritual joy is the fruit of an encounter with the Lord. Jesus asks us to follow him and to stake our whole life on him. Dear young people, do not be afraid to risk your lives by making space for Jesus Christ and his Gospel. This is the way to find inner peace and true happiness. It is the way to live fully as children of God, created in his image and likeness.

Seek joy in the Lord: for joy is the fruit of faith. It is being aware of his presence and friendship every day: “the Lord is near!” (Phil 4:5). It is putting our trust in God, and growing in his knowledge and love. Shortly we shall begin the “Year of Faith”, and this will help and encourage us. Dear friends, learn to see how God is working in your lives and discover him hidden within the events of daily life. Believe that he is always faithful to the covenant which he made with you on the day of your Baptism. Know that God will never abandon you. Turn your eyes to him often. He gave his life for you on the cross because he loves you. Contemplation of this great love brings a hope and joy to our hearts that nothing can destroy. Christians can never be sad, for they have met Christ, who gave his life for them.

To seek the Lord and find him in our lives also means accepting his word, which is joy for our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah wrote: “When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart” (Jer 15:16). Learn to read and meditate on the sacred Scriptures. There you will find an answer to your deepest questions about truth. God’s word reveals the wonders that he has accomplished throughout human history, it fills us with joy, and it leads us to praise and adoration: “Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us kneel before the Lord who made us” (Ps 95:1,6).

The liturgy is a special place where the Church expresses the joy which she receives from the Lord and transmits it to the world. Each Sunday at Mass the Christian community celebrates the central mystery of salvation, which is the death and resurrection of Christ. This is a very important moment for all the Lord’s disciples because his sacrifice of love is made present. Sunday is the day when we meet the risen Christ, listen to his word, and are nourished by his body and blood. As we hear in one of the Psalms: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad” (Ps 118:24). At the Easter Vigil, the Church sings the Exultet, a hymn of joy for the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death: “Sing, choirs of angels! ... Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendour ... Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!” Christian joy is born of this awareness of being loved by God who became man, gave his life for us and overcame evil and death. It means living a life of love for him. As Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a young Carmelite, wrote: “Jesus, my joy is loving you” (P 45, 21 January 1897).

4. The joy of love

Dear friends, joy is intimately linked to love. They are inseparable gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf.Gal 5:23). Love gives rise to joy, and joy is a form of love. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta drew on Jesus’ words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) when she said: “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls; God loves a cheerful giver. Whoever gives with joy gives more”. As the Servant of God Paul VI wrote: “In God himself, all is joy because all is giving” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete in Domino, 9 May 1975).

In every area of your life, you should know that to love means to be steadfast, reliable and faithful to commitments. This applies most of all to friendship. Our friends expect us to be sincere, loyal and faithful because true love perseveres even in times of difficulty. The same thing can be said about your work and studies and the services you carry out. Fidelity and perseverance in doing good brings joy, even if not always immediately.

If we are to experience the joy of love, we must also be generous. We cannot be content to give the minimum. We need to be fully committed in life and to pay particular attention to those in need. The world needs men and women who are competent and generous, willing to be at the service of the common good. Make every effort to study conscientiously, to develop your talents and to put them at the service of others even now. Find ways to help make society more just and humane wherever you happen to be. May your entire life be guided by a spirit of service and not by the pursuit of power, material success and money.

Speaking of generosity, I would like to mention one particular joy. It is the joy we feel when we respond to the vocation to give our whole life to the Lord. Dear young people, do not be afraid if Christ is calling you to the religious, monastic or missionary life or to the priesthood. Be assured that he fills with joy all those who respond to his invitation to leave everything to be with him and to devote themselves with undivided heart to the service of others. In the same way, God gives great joy to men and women who give themselves totally to one another in marriage in order to build a family and to be signs of Christ’s love for the Church.

Let me remind you of a third element that will lead you to the joy of love. It is allowing fraternal love to grow in your lives and in those of your communities. There is a close bond between communion and joy. It is not by chance that Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) is written in the plural, addressing the community as a whole, rather than its individual members. Only when we are together in the communion of fellowship do we experience this joy. In the Acts of the Apostles, the first Christian community is described in these words: “Breaking bread in their homes, they ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). I ask you to make every effort to help our Christian communities to be special places of sharing, attention and concern for one another.

5. The joy of conversion

Dear friends, experiencing real joy also means recognizing the temptations that lead us away from it. Our present-day culture often pressures us to seek immediate goals, achievements and pleasures. It fosters fickleness more than perseverance, hard work and fidelity to commitments. The messages it sends push a consumerist mentality and promise false happiness. Experience teaches us that possessions do not ensure happiness. How many people are surrounded by material possessions yet their lives are filled with despair, sadness and emptiness! To have lasting joy we need to live in love and truth. We need to live in God.

God wants us to be happy. That is why he gave us specific directions for the journey of life: the commandments. If we observe them, we will find the path to life and happiness. At first glance, they might seem to be a list of prohibitions and an obstacle to our freedom. But if we study them more closely, we see in the light of Christ’s message that the commandments are a set of essential and valuable rules leading to a happy life in accordance with God’s plan. How often, on the other hand, do we see that choosing to build our lives apart from God and his will brings disappointment, sadness and a sense of failure. The experience of sin, which is the refusal to follow God and an affront to his friendship, brings gloom into our hearts.

At times the path of the Christian life is not easy, and being faithful to the Lord’s love presents obstacles; occasionally we fall. Yet God in his mercy never abandons us; he always offers us the possibility of returning to him, being reconciled with him and experiencing the joy of his love which forgives and welcomes us back.

Dear young people, have frequent recourse to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation! It is the sacrament of joy rediscovered. Ask the Holy Spirit for the light needed to acknowledge your sinfulness and to ask for God’s forgiveness. Celebrate this sacrament regularly, with serenity and trust. The Lord will always open his arms to you. He will purify you and bring you into his joy: for there is joy in heaven even for one sinner who repents (cf. Lk 15:7).

6. Joy at times of trial

In the end, though, we might still wonder in our hearts whether it is really possible to live joyfully amid all life’s trials, especially those which are most tragic and mysterious. We wonder whether following the Lord and putting our trust in him will always bring happiness.

We can find an answer in some of the experiences of young people like yourselves who have found in Christ the light that can give strength and hope even in difficult situations. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) experienced many trials during his short life, including a romantic experience that left him deeply hurt. In the midst of this situation he wrote to his sister: “You ask me if I am happy. How could I not be? As long as faith gives me strength, I am happy. A Catholic could not be other than happy... The goal for which we were created involves a path which has its thorns, but it is not a sad path. It is joy, even when it involves pain” (Letter to his sister Luciana, Turin, 14 February 1925). When Blessed John Paul IIpresented Blessed Pier Giorgio as a model for young people, he described him as “a young person with infectious joy, the joy that overcame many difficulties in his life” (Address to Young People, Turin, 13 April 1980).

Closer to us in time is Chiara Badano (1971-1990), who was recently beatified. She experienced how pain could be transfigured by love and mysteriously steeped in joy. At the age of eighteen, while suffering greatly from cancer, Chiara prayed to the Holy Spirit and interceded for the young people of the movement to which she belonged. As well as praying for her own cure, she asked God to enlighten all those young people by his Spirit and to give them wisdom and light. “It was really a moment of God’s presence. I was suffering physically, but my soul was singing” (Letter to Chiara Lubich, Sassello, 20 December 1989). The key to her peace and joy was her complete trust in the Lord and the acceptance of her illness as a mysterious expression of his will for her sake and that of everyone. She often said: “Jesus, if you desire it, then I desire it too”.

These are just two testimonies taken from any number of others which show that authentic Christians are never despairing or sad, not even when faced with difficult trials. They show that Christian joy is not a flight from reality, but a supernatural power that helps us to deal with the challenges of daily life. We know that the crucified and risen Christ is here with us and that he is a faithful friend always. When we share in his sufferings, we also share in his glory. With him and in him, suffering is transformed into love. And there we find joy (cf. Col 1:24).

7. Witnesses of joy

Dear friends, to conclude I would encourage you to be missionaries of joy. We cannot be happy if others are not. Joy has to be shared. Go and tell other young people about your joy at finding the precious treasure which is Jesus himself. We cannot keep the joy of faith to ourselves. If we are to keep it, we must give it away. Saint John said: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; we are writing this so that our joy may be complete” (1 Jn 1:3-4).

Christianity is sometimes depicted as a way of life that stifles our freedom and goes against our desires for happiness and joy. But this is far from the truth. Christians are men and women who are truly happy because they know that they are not alone. They know that God is always holding them in his hands. It is up to you, young followers of Christ, to show the world that faith brings happiness and a joy which is true, full and enduring. If the way Christians live at times appears dull and boring, you should be the first to show the joyful and happy side of faith. The Gospel is the “good news” that God loves us and that each of us is important to him. Show the world that this is true!

Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. You will receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy of seeing God’s mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet the Lord on that last day, you will hear him say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant... Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

May the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany you on this journey. She welcomed the Lord within herself and proclaimed this in a song of praise and joy, the Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46-47). Mary responded fully to God’s love by devoting her life to him in humble and complete service. She is invoked as “Cause of our Joy” because she gave us Jesus. May she lead you to that joy which no one will ever be able to take away from you!

From the Vatican, 15 March 2012

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Benedict XVI's Homily at the morning Chrism Mass
"A priest never belongs to himself"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 5, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave at the Holy Thursday chrism Mass.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At this Holy Mass our thoughts go back to that moment when, through prayer and the laying on of hands, the bishop made us sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, so that we might be "consecrated in truth" (Jn 17:19), as Jesus besought the Father for us in his high-priestly prayer. He himself is the truth. He has consecrated us, that is to say, handed us over to God for ever, so that we can offer men and women a service that comes from God and leads to him. But does our consecration extend to the daily reality of our lives – do we operate as men of God in fellowship with Jesus Christ? This question places the Lord before us and us before him. "Are you resolved to be more united with the Lord Jesus and more closely conformed to him, denying yourselves and confirming those promises about sacred duties towards Christ’s Church which, prompted by love of him, you willingly and joyfully pledged on the day of your priestly ordination?" After this homily, I shall be addressing that question to each of you here and to myself as well. Two things, above all, are asked of us: there is a need for an interior bond, a configuration to Christ, and at the same time there has to be a transcending of ourselves, a renunciation of what is simply our own, of the much-vaunted self-fulfilment. We need, I need, not to claim my life as my own, but to place it at the disposal of another – of Christ. I should be asking not what I stand to gain, but what I can give for him and so for others. Or to put it more specifically, this configuration to Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, who does not take, but rather gives – what form does it take in the often dramatic situation of the Church today? Recently a group of priests from a European country issued a summons to disobedience, and at the same time gave concrete examples of the forms this disobedience might take, even to the point of disregarding definitive decisions of the Church’s Magisterium, such as the question of women’s ordination, for which Blessed Pope John Paul II stated irrevocably that the Church has received no authority from the Lord. Is disobedience a path of renewal for the Church? We would like to believe that the authors of this summons are motivated by concern for the Church, that they are convinced that the slow pace of institutions has to be overcome by drastic measures, in order to open up new paths and to bring the Church up to date. But is disobedience really a way to do this? Do we sense here anything of that configuration to Christ which is the precondition for all true renewal, or do we merely sense a desperate push to do something to change the Church in accordance with one’s own preferences and ideas?

But let us not oversimplify matters. Surely Christ himself corrected human traditions which threatened to stifle the word and the will of God? Indeed he did, so as to rekindle obedience to the true will of God, to his ever enduring word. His concern was for true obedience, as opposed to human caprice. Nor must we forget: he was the Son, possessed of singular authority and responsibility to reveal the authentic will of God, so as to open up the path for God’s word to the world of the nations. And finally: he lived out his task with obedience and humility all the way to the Cross, and so gave credibility to his mission. Not my will, but thine be done: these words reveal to us the Son, in his humility and his divinity, and they show us the true path.

Let us ask again: do not such reflections serve simply to defend inertia, the fossilization of traditions? No. Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. And if we look at the people from whom these fresh currents of life burst forth and continue to burst forth, then we see that this new fruitfulness requires being filled with the joy of faith, the radicalism of obedience, the dynamic of hope and the power of love.

Dear friends, it is clear that configuration to Christ is the precondition and the basis for all renewal. But perhaps at times the figure of Jesus Christ seems too lofty and too great for us to dare to measure ourselves by him. The Lord knows this. So he has provided "translations" on a scale that is more accessible and closer to us. For this same reason, Saint Paul did not hesitate to say to his communities: Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. For his disciples, he was a "translation" of Christ’s manner of life that they could see and identify with. Ever since Paul’s time, history has furnished a constant flow of other such "translations" of Jesus’ way into historical figures. We priests can call to mind a great throng of holy priests who have gone before us and shown us the way: from Polycarp of Smyrna and Ignatius of Antioch, from the great pastors Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great, through to Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Mary Vianney and the priest-martyrs of the 20th century, and finally Pope John Paul II, who gave us an example, through his activity and his suffering, of configuration to Christ as "gift and mystery". The saints show us how renewal works and how we can place ourselves at its service. And they help us realize that God is not concerned so much with great numbers and with outward successes, but achieves his victories under the humble sign of the mustard seed.

Dear friends, I would like briefly to touch on two more key phrases from the renewal of ordination promises, which should cause us to reflect at this time in the Church’s life and in our own lives. Firstly, the reminder that – as Saint Paul put it – we are "stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Cor 4:1) and we are charged with the ministry of teaching, the munus docendi, which forms a part of this stewardship of God’s mysteries, through which he shows us his face and his heart, in order to give us himself. At the meeting of Cardinals on the occasion of the recent Consistory, several of the pastors of the Church spoke, from experience, of the growing religious illiteracy found in the midst of our sophisticated society. The foundations of faith, which at one time every child knew, are now known less and less. But if we are to live and love our faith, if we are to love God and to hear him aright, we need to know what God has said to us – our minds and hearts must be touched by his word. The Year of Faith, commemorating the opening of the Second Vatican Council fifty years ago, should provide us with an occasion to proclaim the message of faith with new enthusiasm and new joy. We find it of course first and foremost in sacred Scripture, which we can never read and ponder enough. Yet at the same time we all experience the need for help in accurately expounding it in the present day, if it is truly to touch our hearts. This help we find first of all in the words of the teaching Church: the texts of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are essential tools which serve as an authentic guide to what the Church believes on the basis of God’s word. And of course this also includes the whole wealth of documents given to us by Pope John Paul II, still far from being fully explored.

All our preaching must measure itself against the saying of Jesus Christ: "My teaching is not mine" (Jn 7:16). We preach not private theories and opinions, but the faith of the Church, whose servants we are. Naturally this should not be taken to mean that I am not completely supportive of this teaching, or solidly anchored in it. In this regard I am always reminded of the words of Saint Augustine: what is so much mine as myself? And what is so little mine as myself? I do not own myself, and I become myself by the very fact that I transcend myself, and thereby become a part of Christ, a part of his body the Church. If we do not preach ourselves, and if we are inwardly so completely one with him who called us to be his ambassadors, that we are shaped by faith and live it, then our preaching will be credible. I do not seek to win people for myself, but I give myself. The Curé of Ars was no scholar, no intellectual, we know that. But his preaching touched people’s hearts because his own heart had been touched.

The last keyword that I should like to consider is "zeal for souls": animarum zelus. It is an old-fashioned expression, not much used these days. In some circles, the word "soul" is virtually banned because – ostensibly – it expresses a body-soul dualism that wrongly compartmentalizes the human being. Of course the human person is a unity, destined for eternity as body and soul. And yet that cannot mean that we no longer have a soul, a constituent principle guaranteeing our unity in this life and beyond earthly death. And as priests, of course, we are concerned for the whole person, including his or her physical needs – we care for the hungry, the sick, the homeless. And yet we are concerned not only with the body, but also with the needs of the soul: with those who suffer from the violation of their rights or from destroyed love, with those unable to perceive the truth, those who suffer for lack of truth and love. We are concerned with the salvation of men and women in body and soul. And as priests of Jesus Christ we carry out our task with enthusiasm. No one should ever have the impression that we work conscientiously when on duty, but before and after hours we belong only to ourselves. A priest never belongs to himself. People must sense our zeal, through which we bear credible witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us ask the Lord to fill us with joy in his message, so that we may serve his truth and his love with joyful zeal. Amen.

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Benedict XVI's Last Supper Homily
"Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2012 .- Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's homily at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, held in St. John Lateran on Thursday evening.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Holy Thursday is not only the day of the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with his disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death; the betrayal of Judas, Jesus’ arrest and his denial by Peter; his indictment before the Sanhedrin and his being handed over to the Gentiles, to Pilate. Let us try at this hour to understand more deeply something of these events, for in them the mystery of our redemption takes place.

Jesus goes forth into the night. Night signifies lack of communication, a situation where people do not see one another. It is a symbol of incomprehension, of the obscuring of truth. It is the place where evil, which has to hide before the light, can grow. Jesus himself is light and truth, communication, purity and goodness. He enters into the night. Night is ultimately a symbol of death, the definitive loss of fellowship and life. Jesus enters into the night in order to overcome it and to inaugurate the new Day of God in the history of humanity.

On the way, he sang with his apostles Israel’s psalms of liberation and redemption, which evoked the first Passover in Egypt, the night of liberation. Now he goes, as was his custom, to pray in solitude and, as Son, to speak with the Father. But, unusually, he wants to have close to him three disciples: Peter, James and John. These are the three who had experienced his Transfiguration – when the light of God’s glory shone through his human figure – and had seen him standing between the Law and the Prophets, between Moses and Elijah. They had heard him speaking to both of them about his "exodus" to Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus to Jerusalem – how mysterious are these words! Israel’s exodus from Egypt had been the event of escape and liberation for God’s People. What would be the form taken by the exodus of Jesus, in whom the meaning of that historic drama was to be definitively fulfilled? The disciples were now witnessing the first stage of that exodus – the utter abasement which was nonetheless the essential step of the going forth to the freedom and new life which was the goal of the exodus. The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed his way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God "Abba". The word means – as they add – "Father". Yet it is not the usual form of the word "father", but rather a children’s word – an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a "child", the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with him.

If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is his relationship with God. He is constantly in communion with God. Being with the Father is the core of his personality. Through Christ we know God truly. "No one has ever seen God", says Saint John. The one "who is close to the Father’s heart … has made him known" (1:18). Now we know God as he truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. The evangelist Mark, who has preserved the memories of Saint Peter, relates that Jesus, after calling God "Abba", went on to say: "Everything is possible for you. You can do all things" (cf. 14:36). The one who is Goodness is at the same time Power; he is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives.

Before reflecting on the content of Jesus’ petition, we must still consider what the evangelists tell us about Jesus’ posture during his prayer. Matthew and Mark tell us that he "threw himself on the ground" (Mt 26:39; cf. Mk14:35), thus assuming a posture of complete submission, as is preserved in the Roman liturgy of Good Friday. Luke, on the other hand, tells us that Jesus prayed on his knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees: Stephen during his stoning, Peter at the raising of someone who had died, Paul on his way to martyrdom. In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge his divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that he will prevail.

Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with himself. And he struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which he will encounter in that chalice from which he must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as he sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon him. He also sees me, and he prays for me. This moment of Jesus’ mortal anguish is thus an essential part of the process of redemption. Consequently, the Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: he takes upon himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and he brings us before the Father.

Lastly, we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: "Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want" (Mk 14:36). The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, he places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way he transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. This pride is the real essence of sin. We think we are free and truly ourselves only if we follow our own will. God appears as the opposite of our freedom. We need to be free of him – so we think – and only then will we be free. This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly "like God" – not by resisting God, eliminating him, or denying him. In his anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom. Let us ask the Lord to draw us into this "yes" to God’s will, and in this way to make us truly free. Amen.

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Pontiff's Address at End of Via Crucis
"At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christs cross"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2012 - Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the end of the Way of the Cross in the Colosseum. The meditations this year were written by a married couple and focused on the family.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once more in meditation, prayer and song, we have recalled Jesus’s journey along the way of the cross: a journey seemingly hopeless, yet one that changed human life and history, and opened the way to “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. Rev 21:1). Especially today, Good Friday, the Church commemorates with deep spiritual union the death of the Son of God on the cross; in his cross she sees the tree of life, which blossoms in new hope.

The experience of suffering and of the cross touches all mankind; it touches the family too. How often does the journey become wearisome and difficult! Misunderstandings, conflicts, worry for the future of our children, sickness and problems of every kind. These days too, the situation of many families is made worse by the threat of unemployment and other negative effects of the economic crisis. The Way of the Cross which we have spiritually retraced this evening invites all of us, and families in particular, to contemplate Christ crucified in order to have the force to overcome difficulties. The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on; there we can repeat with firm hope the words of Saint Paul: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:35,37).

In times of trial and tribulation, we are not alone; the family is not alone. Jesus is present with his love, he sustains them by his grace and grants the strength needed to carry on, to make sacrifices and to overcome every obstacle. And it is to this love of Christ that we must turn when human turmoil and difficulties threaten the unity of our lives and our families. The mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection inspires us to go on in hope: times of trouble and testing, when endured with Christ, with faith in him, already contain the light of the resurrection, the new life of a world reborn, the passover of all those who believe in his word.

In that crucified Man who is the Son of God, even death itself takes on new meaning and purpose: it is redeemed and overcome, it becomes a passage to new life. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12:24). Let us entrust ourselves to the Mother of Christ. May Mary, who accompanied her Son along his way of sorrows, who stood beneath the cross at the hour of his death, and who inspired the Church at its birth to live in God’s presence, lead our hearts and the hearts of every family through the vast mysterium passionis towards the mysterium paschale, towards that light which breaks forth from Christ’s resurrection and reveals the definitive victory of love, joy and life over evil, suffering and death. Amen.

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April 11 Audience: On Easter's Spiritual Joy
"Sadness and the wounds themselves become sources of joy"

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 16, 2012 - Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave during the general audience held in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, April 11.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

After the solemn celebrations of Easter, our meeting today is pervaded by spiritual joy; even if the skies above are grey, in our hearts we carry the joy of Easter and the certainty of the Resurrection of Christ, who has definitively triumphed over death. First, I wish to renew my cordial Easter greetings to each one of you: in every home and heart, may the joyous announcement of Christ’s Resurrection resound, bringing new hope.

In this catechesis, I would like to show the transformation that Easter brought about in Jesus’ disciples. Let us begin with the evening of the day of the Resurrection. The disciples are locked in the house where they are staying for fear of the Jews (cf. John 20:19). Fear grips their hearts and prevents them from going out to encounter others, to encounter life. The Master is gone. The memory of His Passion fuels their uncertainty. However, Jesus has at heart those who are His own, and He is about to fulfill the promise He had made during the Last Supper: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18); and He says this also to us, even when times are grey: “I will not leave you orphans”.

The disciple’s anxious situation changes radically with Jesus’ arrival. He enters in through closed doors, He stands in their midst and He gives them the peace that puts them at ease: “Peace be with you” (John 20:19b). It is a common greeting, yet now it acquires a new meaning, for it effects an interior transformation; it is the Easter greeting, which overcomes all of the disciples’ fears. The peace that Jesus brings is the gift of salvation, which He had promised during His farewell discourse: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). On this day of Resurrection, He gives it in full, and for the community it becomes a source of joy, certainty of victory and security in relying on God. “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27b), He says also to us.

After this greeting, Jesus shows His disciples the wounds in His hands and His side (John 20:20), the signs of what had gone before and what shall never be erased: His glorious humanity will be forever “wounded”. This act is intended to confirm the new reality of Christ’s Resurrection: the Christ who now stands in the midst of His disciples is a real person, the same Jesus who just three days prior was nailed to the Cross. Thus it is that, in the brilliant light of the Resurrection, in the encounter with the Risen One, the disciples grasp the salvific meaning of His passion and death. Then do they pass from sadness and fear to the fullness of joy. Sadness and the wounds themselves become sources of joy. The joy born in their hearts comes from “seeing the Lord” (John 20:20). He again says to them: “Peace be with you” (verse 21).

At this point, it is evident that it is not only a greeting. It is a gift, the gift that the Risen One wills to make to His friends, and at the same time it is a handing on: this peace, which Christ obtained by His blood, is for them but it is also for everyone, and the disciples will have to carry it throughout the world. In fact, He adds: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (ibid.).

The Risen Jesus returned among His disciples in order to send them out. He completed His work in the world; now it is their turn to sow faith in hearts, so that the Father -- known and loved -- may gather together all of His scattered children. However, Jesus knows that His followers are still very much afraid, always. Therefore, He breathes on them and regenerates them in His Spirit (cf. John 20:22); this act is the sign of the new creation. Indeed, a new world begins by the gift of the Holy Spirit, which comes from the Risen Christ. With the sending out of the disciples on mission, the journey of the people of the new covenant is inaugurated, the people who believe in Him and in His work of salvation, the people who bear witness to the truth of His Resurrection. This newness of a life that never dies -- which Easter brings -- is intended to be spread everywhere, so that the thorns of sin that wound man’s heart may give way to the buds of Grace, to the presence of God and of His love, which conquers sin and death.

Dear friends, today too the Risen One enters into our homes and into our hearts, even though at times the doors are shut. He enters, bestowing joy and peace, life and hope, gifts that we need for our human and spiritual rebirth. Only He can roll back those sepulchral stones that we often place over our sentiments, our relationships and our behavior; stones that sanction death: divisions, hatred, resentments, jealousies, mistrust and indifference. He alone, the Living One, can give life meaning and enable the one who is weary and sad, discouraged and deprived of hope, to continue on the journey.

This is what the two disciples experienced, who were making their way on Easter day from Jerusalem to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13-35). They talk about Jesus, but their “saddened faces” (cf. Verse 17) express disappointed hopes, uncertainty and melancholy. They had left their native land to follow Jesus with His friends, and they had discovered a new reality, where forgiveness and love were no longer merely words but concretely touched their lives. Jesus of Nazareth had made all things new; He had transformed their lives. But now He was dead and everything seemed to have come to and end.

Suddenly, however, there were no longer two but rather three persons walking. Jesus draws near to the two disciples and walks with them, but they are unable to recognize Him. Certainly, they had heard rumors of His Resurrection; in fact, they refer to it: “Some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find His body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive” (verses 22-23). And yet, this had not been enough to convince them, since “Him they did not see” (verse 24). Then Jesus, patiently, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (verse 27). The Risen One explains Sacred Scripture to the disciples, offering the fundamental key to their reading; namely, He himself and His paschal mystery: to Him do the scriptures testify (cf. John 5:39-47). The meaning of everything -- of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms -- suddenly is opened and made clear before their eyes. Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (cf. Luke 24:45).

In the meantime, they reached the village, probably the home one of the two. The wayfaring stranger “appeared to be going further” (verse 28), but then he stopped, for they ardently asked him, “Stay with us” (verse 29). We too, again and again, should ardently ask the Lord: “Stay with us”.

“When He was at table with them, He took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them” (verse 30). The reference to the actions performed by Jesus at the Last Supper is evident: “And their eyes were opened and they recognized him” (verse 31). The presence of Jesus -- first by His words, then by the act of the breaking of the bread -- enables the disciples to recognize Him, and they are able to hear in a new way all that they had already experienced on their walk with Him: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the scriptures?” (verse 32). This episode indicates to us two privileged “places” where we can encounter the Risen One, who transforms our lives: the hearing of the Word in communion with Christ, and the breaking of the Bread; two “places” that are profoundly united since “Word and Eucharist are so deeply bound together that we cannot understand one without the other: the Word of God sacramentally takes flesh in the event of the Eucharist” (Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 54-55).

Following this encounter, the two disciples “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said: ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’” (verses 33-34). In Jerusalem they hear the news of Jesus’ Resurrection, and in turn they recount their own experience, inflamed by love for the Risen One, who opened their hearts to an uncontainable joy. They were -- as St. Peter says -- “born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Indeed, enthusiasm for the faith, love for the community and the need to announce the good news were reborn in them. The Master is risen, and with Him all of life flourishes; to bear witness to this event becomes for them an insuppressible need.

Dear friends, may the Easter season be for us all the propitious occasion to joyously and enthusiastically rediscover the sources of faith, the presence of the Risen One among us. It means following the same path along which Jesus had the two disciples of Emmaus walk, through the rediscovery of the Word of God and the Eucharist; in other words, it means walking with the Lord and allowing Him to open our eyes to the true meaning of the Scripture and to His presence in the breaking of the bread. The summit of this journey, today as it was then, is Eucharistic Communion: in Holy Communion, Jesus feeds us with His Body and His Blood in order to be present in our lives, to make us new, enlivened by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the experience of the disciples invites us to reflect on Easter’s meaning for us. Let us allow ourselves to be encountered by the Risen Jesus! He, living and true, is always present among us; He walks with us in order to guide our lives and to open our eyes. Let us trust in the Risen One, who has the power to give life, and to give us rebirth as children of God, capable of believing and of loving. Faith in Him transforms our lives; it frees them from fear, gives them sure hope and enlivens them by what gives full meaning to life, God’s love. Thank you.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in several languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our General Audience today is marked by the spiritual joy of Easter, born of the Christ’s victory over sin and death. When the risen Lord appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room and showed them his saving wounds, their lives were changed. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gave them the peace which the world cannot give (cf. Jn 14:27) and sent them forth to bring that peace to the world. The mission of the disciples inaugurates the journey of the Church, the People of the New Covenant, called to bear witness in every age to the truth of the resurrection and the new life which it brings. Today too, the Lord enters our hearts and our homes with his gifts of joy and peace, life and hope. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, may we recognize his presence among us in his word and in the breaking of the bread. During this Easter season, let us resolve to walk in the company of the risen Christ and allow our lives to be transformed by faith in him and by the power of his resurrection.

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I offer a warm welcome to the newly-ordained deacons from the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. Dear young deacons, may you conform your lives ever more fully to the Lord and work generously for the building up of the Church in your country. I also welcome the distinguished delegation from the NATO Defense College, with prayerful good wishes for their service to the cause of peace. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Australia, Canada and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Lord. Happy Easter!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, my thoughts go to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Dear young people, especially you who have come from the diocese of Cremona, may you be increasingly more aware that only the Lord Jesus can respond completely to your desire for happiness and to your search for what is truly good for your lives; dear sick, especially you who belong to UNITALSI of Teano-Calvi, there is greater comfort in your suffering than the Resurrection of Christ; and you, dear newlyweds, may you live your marriage in concrete adherence to Christ and to the teachings of the Gospel.

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