Monday, November 23, 2009

Christ and His Kingdom, a Land Flowing with Milk and Honey

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Mass at the Closing of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops

October 25, 2009

[There is a] message that the Lord of history does not tire of repeating to the oppressed and overwhelmed humanity of every age and land, from the time that he revealed to Moses his will for the Israelite slaves of Egypt: "I have witnessed the affliction of my people … I have heard their cry … I know their suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them … and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey."

What is this land? Is it not perhaps the kingdom of reconciliation, of justice and peace, to which the whole of mankind is called?

God's plan does not change. It is the same one that was prophesied by Jeremiah, in the magnificent oracles called "The Book of Consolation," from which the first reading is taken today. It is an announcement of hope for the people of Israel, laid low by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar's army, by the devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple and by the deportation in Babylon. It is a message of joy for the remnant of the sons of Jacob that announces a future for them, because the Lord will bring them back to their land by way of a straight and smooth road. Persons in need of support, like the blind man and the cripple, the pregnant woman and the one giving birth, will experience the power of the Lord's tenderness: He is a father for Israel, ready to take care of Israel as the firstborn (cf. Jeremiah 31:7-9).

God's plan does not change. Through the centuries and the upheavals of history, he always points to the same goal: the Kingdom of freedom and of peace for all. And this implies his predilection for those who are deprived of freedom and peace, for those whose dignity as human persons is violated. . . .

These favored children of the heavenly Father are like the blind man of the Gospel, Bartimaeus, who "sat begging by the road" (Mark 10:46) at the gates of Jericho. It is just along this road that Jesus the Nazarene passes. It is the road that leads to Jerusalem, where the Passover will be celebrated, his Passover sacrifice, to which the Messiah goes for us. It is the road of his exodus, which is also ours: it is the only road that leads to the land of reconciliation, of justice and of peace.

The Lord meets Bartimaeus, who has lost his sight, on that road. There paths meet and they become the one path. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" the blind man confidently says. Jesus answers: "Call him!" and adds: "What do you want me to do for you?" God is light and the creator of light. Man is son of the light, made to see the light, but he has lost his sight, and he finds himself forced to beg. The Lord, who has made himself a beggar for our sake, passes by him: hungry for our faith and our love. "What do you want me to do for you?" God knows but asks; it wants that it be man who speaks.

He wants man to stand up on his feet, to rediscover the courage to ask for what belongs to his dignity. The Father wants to hear from the living voice of the son the free decision to see the light again, that light for which he created him. "Master, that I can see again!" And Jesus says to him: "'Go your way; your faith has saved you.' And immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way" (Mark 10:51-52). . . .

Yes, the faith in Jesus Christ -- when it is well understood and practiced -- guides men and nations to freedom in truth, or, to use the three words of the theme [of the African bishops' Synod], to reconciliation, to justice and to peace.

Bartimaeus who, after he is healed, follows Jesus along the road, is the image of humanity that, enlightened by faith, sets out on the journey to the promised land. Bartimaeus, in turn, becomes a witness of the light, recounting and showing in the first person that he has been healed, renewed, reborn. This is the Church in the world: the community of reconciled persons, workers for peace and justice; "salt and light" in the midst of the society of men and the nations. . . .

The Church is the Family of God, in which there cannot be ethnic, linguistic or cultural divisions. Moving testimonies have shown us that, even in the darkest moments of human history, the Holy Spirit is at work and transforms hearts of the victims and persecutors so that they recognize each other as brothers. . . .

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