Saturday, April 24, 2010

Preparation for Adult Confirmation 2010:
Class Two

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
Preparation for Adult Confirmation

Class Outline for April 24, 2010

II. Jesus Christ – Redeemer of Mankind – Complete Revelation of God

A. Existence and Nature of Jesus - Who and What is Jesus?

1. Tried for blasphemy – “I AM”

  • guilty as charged, not guilty by reason of insanity, fictional character, or Son of God?
2. The Word (Logos)
  • “Emmanuel,” God with us
  • only begotten Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, through whom all things were made
  • fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets
  • Light of the World, Bread of Life
  • the Way, the Truth, and the Life
  • Judge of the living and the dead
3. Fully God and Fully Human

  • God incarnate, God become man – one divine person with two complete natures, both human and divine, and two wills
  • like us in all ways except for sin, with fully human freedom, frailties, and limitations
  • the Son of God became a man to sanctify us, to make us partakers of His divine nature; that is, Jesus assumed our nature so that He, made man, might make men gods
4. Savior of the World
  • “Jesus,” Yeshua, God saves
  • the Messiah King, the “Christ,” anointed one
  • Son of Man
  • the Suffering Servant
  • the Lamb of God, sacrificed in atonement for sin, reconciles mankind with God
B. The Life and Ministry of Jesus – Healer, Teacher, and Testifier to the Truth

1. Early Life of Jesus
  • adoration of shepherds and Epiphany
  • circumcision and presentation in the Temple
  • slaughter of innocents, flight into Egypt, and departure out of Egypt
  • teaching in the Temple
  • hidden family life in Nazareth
2. Signs, Miracles, and Healings
  • bearing witness to who He is and to the fact that the Kingdom of God is present within Him
3. Master Teacher
  • utilizes different methods
  • teaching on a variety of topics, including --
    • testifying to Truth and to Love
    • revealing who God the Father is, revealing who He is, revealing who the Holy Spirit is
    • revealing who we are as human persons
    • instructing us how to pray and how to serve God
    • revealing the Kingdom of God, of heaven, of the last things
    • giving us assurance and trustworthy hope to overcome all hardship
    • commanding us to love God and love one another, to be perfect in love and truth, just as our heavenly Father is perfect, including giving of ourselves and being merciful
C. The Cross and Resurrection – the Paschal Mystery and the Transformative Power of Love

1. Perpetually Crucified, Eternally Resurrected
  • the Crucifixion and Resurrection stand at the crossroads and center of human history
  • God transcends time and space, so that specific points in human time, including the Crucifixion and Resurrection, continue to exist forever in His "present"
  • the Passion of Jesus is an on-going event, He is eternally being scourged and crucified
  • sin is a reality in the world, with real consequences – in the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, the truth of that reality and those consequences are made manifest in His flesh
  • we are the ones who crucify Him - every sin of ours is another lash on His flesh, another pound of the hammer driving nails into His hands and feet
  • through the Cross, by His eternal, on-going Resurrection, He “makes all things new”
2. The Lamb of God, Who Takes Away the Sins of the World
  • Jesus is Divine Mercy, who gives His life in forgiveness of mankind
  • Jesus freely offers His life as an expiatory sacrifice, that is, He makes reparation for our sins out of love for God and mankind, so as to reconcile them and repair the rift that had been caused by man’s infidelity and rejection of God
  • rather than conferring forgiveness by simply denying the reality of sin or pretending that it did not happen, and ignoring its consequences, Jesus freely offers His life as a sacrifice in justice and witness to the truth of the real and destructive effects of sin in the world
  • by sin, we are held captive to sin and death, by the Cross, Jesus pays our ransom
  • Jesus takes the sins of mankind upon Himself, not merely taking them upon Himself spiritually, much less philosophically, but He takes the sins of mankind upon Himself in the totality of His being, that is, upon His Body as well
  • the spotless Passover Lamb, who is sacrificed by the high priests for the sins of the people, and who blood is sprinkled so that death would pass over, and we would be lead from the bondage of sin and death to freedom and life
3. The Compassion of Jesus
  • Jesus offers Himself as ransom and accepts death on the Cross out of love for us
  • as fully man, with all the frailties of humanity, Jesus, God Himself, profoundly knows what it means to suffer horrible pain, fear, and anguish – as such, He suffers with us (com-passion) in all of our own individual hardships
  • His joining in our human suffering allows us to join in His suffering, thereby to give meaning to our suffering and to join in His redemptive purpose, our agonies can be transformed and overcome
4. The Destruction of Death and Restoration of Our Life
  • the Resurrection is the crowning truth of the Faith
  • the Resurrection is the work of the Trinity – Father manifesting His power, Son taking up again the life which He freely offered, and the Holy Spirit bringing that life and glorification
  • Love is stronger than death
  • death could not be destroyed by simply avoiding it, death could only be destroyed by descending into it and transforming it
  • in His resurrected and glorified Body, Jesus carries the wounds of His Passion and Crucifixion
D. The Eucharist – Source and Summit of the Faith

1. Real and Substantial Presence
  • Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ
  • transubstantiation – genuine transformation of the whole fundamental substance of bread and wine into the substance of His actual flesh and blood, while still remaining under the appearance of bread and wine
  • instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross, and be a memorial of His death and Resurrection
  • recalls the unleavened bread of the Passover meal
  • rightly called “Eucharist,” from the Greek for “thanksgiving”
  • Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper
  • recalling the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, Jesus is fully present in each part even in the breaking of the bread
2. Fullness of Communion
  • intimately receiving Him in the entirety of our being, body and spirit
  • unites us to His Glorified Resurrected Body and Blood
  • as in His Incarnation, when Jesus united Himself with humanity, the Eucharist unites God to man and His Creation by utilizing bread and wine, materials that are taken from the earth, but into which man has put a part of himself in his labors by changing grain and grape to bread and wine
  • a sign of unity – communion, joining as one with Him in the entirety of our being, joins us in communion with all the faithful on earth and in purgatory and the saints in heaven
3. One Mass, One Sacrifice
  • Crucifixion and Resurrection transcend time, such that those moments continue in perpetuity
  • in the Eucharistic sacrifice in the Mass, Christ is not sacrificed again and again, rather, the Crucifixion and Resurrection are re-presented, that is, made present again
  • At Mass, the bread and wine are consecrated and transubstantiation is brought about in the Eucharistic prayer through the efficacy of the word of Jesus and by the action of the Holy Spirit
    • bread and wine are made Body and Blood in the same manner as the creation of the universe, when God said “Let there be light” – by the Breath and Word of God
    4. The Fruits of Holy Communion
    • the Eucharist is “the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ” (St. Ignatius of Antioch)
    • reception of the Eucharist preserves and renews the life of grace and makes us grow in love of neighbor while strengthening us in charity, wiping away venial sin, and giving grace to live a virtuous and holy life
    E. Christ the Bridegroom and His Bride, the Church

    1. Jesus Established the Church
    • Jesus promised that He would be with us always, until the end of the age
    • Jesus established the Church as His Holy Bride, two become one
    • being one with Her Bridegroom Christ, the Church is also the Body of Christ
      • to be in communion with the Church is to be one with Christ
    • the word “church” is derived from the Greek word “kyriake,” meaning “what belongs to the Lord,” which is also called an “ecclesia” in Latin, “an assembly set apart”
    • Jesus called His Apostles – the word “Apostle” is from the Greek for “emissary”
      • the Apostles given special authority and power to act in persona Christi
      • authority to teach
      • authority to confer the Sacraments
      • to build up and govern the Church
      • the Apostle Peter, the first pope, was given a special supreme authority
    2. Mission of the Church - Jesus Calls All His Disciples to be His Witnesses
    • Jesus said to love God and love others as He has loved us
    • Jesus has instructed us to go and make disciples of all nations
    • the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world
      • to testify to truth and to love
      • to serve Him and help Him in the reconciliation of man with God and the salvation of mankind
    • all of the faithful, the people of God who make up the Church, are called by Jesus to be a light to the world
    3. Jesus Promises to Send the Holy Spirit
    • the institution of a New Covenant, with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, had been announced by the prophets Jeremiah and Joel
    • Jesus fulfilled the scriptures in promising to send the Holy Spirit to the Church and faithful
      • to guide and protect the Church
      • to sanctify and make men and women more like God
      • to confer the grace and power to be holy and perfect in love and truth, as God is perfect
    • Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should be perfect, just as our heavenly Father is perfect

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Preparation for Adult Confirmation 2010:
    Class One

    “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
    Preparation for Adult Confirmation

    Class Outline for April 22, 2010

    Introduction to Catechesis – “to make resound like an echo”

    • remembering the events of salvation history and making them known, so as to provoke an "echo" of the faith in the mind and in the heart of the listener, and thereby transform his or her life
    I. Salvation History – the process of God calling Mankind back to Himself

    A. The Lord God (CCC 26-50, 74-354)

    1. Knowledge of God
    • reason and observation and natural revelation in the universe, the world, our bodies
    • Divine Revelation, the Living Word of God – (written) Sacred Scripture and (oral) Tradition
      • Revelation is God making it easier for us to know Him and know ourselves
      • inspired, guided, and protected by the Holy Spirit
      • interpret scripture as a whole, OT in light of NT and vice versa
      • assistance of Magisterium in interpreting Revelation
    2. Faith and Reason
    • faith and reason are not contrary or incompatible, but assist each other
    • faith itself is reasonable, being arrived at by revelation assisted by right reason
    • pure reason is necessarily limited, and it is also impaired by influences of the world and sin
    • reason’s search for truth always relies on and trusts (takes on faith) prior revealed knowledge
    • religious faith helps reason to discover itself and open it to transcendence
    3. Existence and Nature of God - Who and What is God?
    • “I AM” – Logos – Creative Reason – Being itself – Truth
    • Love, outward, fruitful and unitive
    • Alpha and Omega - Complete in Himself and only Necessary Being
    • Transcendent of Space and Time, thus omnipresent and eternal, singularity and totality of time
    • Personal Being
    4. The Trinity – One and Three - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
    • God is Love, and love, by its very nature, is relational – total perfect love is communion
    • God is Truth – One and complete in Himself
    • In God, there is an everlasting personal love, the Holy Spirit, that proceeds from and between the persons of the Father and Son
    • a loving communion of three distinct persons in one undivided divine nature, substance, and essence
    5. God the Father – Creator
    • creation of universe ex nihilo and ab initio temporis
    • the universe and human beings are not accidental or arbitrary products of chance, but willed by God
    • Divine Providence sustaining what God has created

    B. Existence and Nature of Man (CCC 355-421, 1846-1876)

    1. Who and What is Man?
    • created by God in Love and Truth, contingent and dependent upon Him
    • Man, male and female, equal and complementary, made in the image of the Triune God
    • “not good for the man to be alone” – emptiness of individual solitude
    • social-relational beings, incomplete in ourselves, in need of an other and Other in order to be true to ourselves
    • body and soul, having one nature of matter and spirit, which is temporal and transcendent
    • human personhood – a free subject with an inherent dignity, not an object or thing, possessed with sentience and free will, as well as the capacity for reason and for love
    2. What is the Meaning of Life?
    • “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”
    • love one another, as Jesus loves us, so too should we love one another
    • God reveals meaning of life in scripture and in our very bodies, male and female
    • we are made to love and be loved in truth
    • made in love and truth, we are naturally drawn toward God, who is Love and Truth
    • made in the image of the Trinity, this love is not merely relational, but spousal in nature
    • meant to exist both in general society and in a specific loving communion of persons
    • spousal-type communion with another human in marriage, or with God alone, is both unitive and fruitful (procreative)
    3. Love and Truth and the Freedom of Mankind
    • love is not love if it is not freely given and freely received
    • God does not force His love or truth on us against our will – God does not even save us without our consent, we are free to choose to return His love or to reject Him and live our lives apart from Him
    • Man has independent agency, with rational control and freedom to think and act - the universe is not purely materialistic and pre-determined
    • the existence of a free will not pre-determined by physical factors suggests the existence of an extra-corporeal aspect to the person
    • it is the spirit that allows one to transcend and overcome the mere biological electro-chemical reactions in the brain and thereby choose our actions
    • the existence of free will means that we are morally responsible for our own willful choices
    4. The Fall of Man – Original and Individual Sin
    • sin, Original and personal, necessarily is in opposition to God, who is Truth and Love
    • Adam and Eve erroneously believed that they did not need God, but could be gods themselves with the power to choose their own truth, their own concepts of right and wrong
      • this Original Sin has affected and infected us all, leaving a stain on our very being
      • the stain of Original Sin cannot be removed by our own efforts, but requires the transformative power of God, which we receive in Baptism
      • a wide gulf of separation between humanity and God was created, so great that man is incapable of crossing it on his own
      • mankind forgot knowledge of God
    • individual and social nature and consequence of sin
      • corruption of human nature, including ability to love and discern truth
      • weakened will and impairment of reason, judgment, and ability to see and know God, rejection of Light has thrown us into darkness
      • intrinsic punishment of being a slave to error and further sin, temptations overwhelm us
      • ultimately, sin so removes us from Truth and Love, that is, Life, that we are “doomed to die”
      • poisons all relations with others, both other humans and God
    • types of sin – mortal and venial
      • mortal sin involves a grave/serious matter, full knowledge, and deliberate consent, such that it destroys love in the heart and turns one away from God, thereby resulting in eternal death if forgiveness is not sought and accepted
      • venial sin wounds love in the heart and weakens grace, but is not so serious as to break the covenant with God, warranting temporal punishment and purgation, but not eternal death
    C. God – Who is Divine Mercy – Calls Humanity Back to Himself (CCC 50-73, 484-511)
    • Preparing Mankind for the Coming of Jesus Christ
    • Establishing Relationships with Specific Peoples, and Gradually Revealing Himself, with Christ and the Church Prefigured Repeatedly Throughout History
    1. Salvation History While Still in the Garden
    • in breathing His Spirit into us and making us in His image, God imprinted upon our very being a natural desire for God
    • the proto-evangelium, a promise of deliverance
    2. The Covenant with Noah
    • the Flood and the Ark
    3. The Covenant with Abraham
    • revelation of One God, the God of all peoples and all places
    • a chosen people and a promised land
    • called out of a far country
    • sign of the covenant
    • the meaning of total faith – offering to sacrifice Isaac
    4. The Covenant with Jacob/Israel
    • the suffering of Joseph leads to saving the people of God
    5. Moses and Freedom from Bondage in Egypt
    • the blood of the Passover lamb saves God’s people from death
    • God leads His people out of bondage – passage through the waters of the Red Sea
    • God protects His people, manna and water in the desert
    • God gives His people freedom by giving them the Law - Torah
    6. Judges and Kings
    • military rulers
    • the people desire a king, Saul is anointed, followed by David
    • the covenant with David – promise of the Messiah
    • psalms and other writings describe marital and parental relationship with God
    • Solomon builds the first Temple
    7. Repeated Infidelities of God’s People
    • God’s people turn away and fall into sin, and God allows them to suffer the consequences
    • enemies and invaders threaten and conquer Israel
    • God mercifully forgives when the people seek to return to Him
    • the Temple is defiled and razed
    • the Diaspora and Babylonian exile
    • the Prophets remind people of God’s mercy, encouraging them to have hope and return to Him
    • the messianic prophecies of Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel
    8. Prophecy of a New Covenant
    • prophets Jeremiah and Joel announce the coming of a New Covenant, which includes the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit upon all mankind
    9. Return from Exile
    • the land of Israel is heavily influenced by Greeks and other foreigners
    • Maccabean revolt and Jewish independence
    • the eternal light of the Temple
    • Rome conquers “Palestine” and installs Herod the Great as king

    D. The Culmination of Salvation History – Jesus Christ

    1. St. Mary, the Handmaid of the Lord
    • “Hail, Full of Grace”
    • Immaculate Conception
    • Mary’s “Yes”
    • Theotókos, the Mother of God, living temple of God
    • Ever Virgin
    • New Eve
    • Assumption into Heaven
    2. St. Joseph, Protector of Jesus and Mary
    • model of faith and love – selfless sacrifice and love without possessing
    • wise and faithful servant
    • Joseph’s “Yes” – the love and mercy of the just and righteous man
    • teacher and provider for Jesus
    3. The Incarnation and Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
    • God merges into humanity, the Fruit of Mary’s womb, flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone
    • the mystery of the eternal, omnipresent, and all-powerful God entering time and becoming small and dependent
    4. St. John the Baptist
    • last and greatest of the prophets
    • prepares the way for the Lord
    • announces to the world that the long wait is over, salvation has come

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Habemus Papam!

    Cari fratelli e sorelle:
    Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum;
    Habemus Papam!

    Eminentissimum ac Reverendissimum Dominum,
    Dominum Josephum
    Sanctae Romanae Ecclesiae Cardinalem Ratzinger
    qui sibi nomen imposuit Benedictum XVI

    April 19, 2005

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble laborer in the vineyard of the Lord. The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers. Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.

    Viva il Papa!

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Only God can Guide Us Through the Storms of Life

    Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
    Church of St. Publius - Floriana Granaries

    Apostolic Journey to Malta on the Occasion of
    the 1950th Anniversary of St. Paul's Shipwreck on the Island
    Third Sunday of Easter, 18 April 2010

    Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
    Maħbubin uliedi (My dear sons and daughters),

    I am very glad to be here with all of you today before the beautiful church of Saint Publius to celebrate the great mystery of God’s love made manifest in the Holy Eucharist. At this time, the joy of the Easter season fills our hearts because we are celebrating Christ’s victory, the victory of life over sin and death. It is a joy which transforms our lives and fills us with hope in the fulfilment of God’s promises. Christ is risen, alleluia! . . .

    The richness and variety of Maltese culture is a sign that your people have profited greatly from the exchange of gifts and hospitality with seafaring visitors. And it is a sign that you have known how to exercise discernment in drawing upon the best of what they had to offer.

    I urge you to continue to do so. Not everything that today’s world proposes is worthy of acceptance by the people of Malta. Many voices try to persuade us to put aside our faith in God and His Church, and to choose for ourselves the values and beliefs by which to live. They tell us we have no need of God or the Church.

    If we are tempted to believe them, we should recall the incident in today’s Gospel, when the disciples, all of them experienced fishermen, toiled all night but failed to catch a single fish. Then, when Jesus appeared on the shore, He directed them to a catch so great that they could scarcely haul it in. Left to themselves, their efforts were fruitless; when Jesus stood alongside them, they netted a huge quantity of fish. My dear brothers and sisters, if we place our trust in the Lord and follow His teachings, we will always reap immense rewards.

    Our first reading at Mass today is one that I know you love to hear, the account of Paul’s shipwreck on the coast of Malta, and his warm reception by the people of these islands. Notice how the crew of the ship, in order to survive, were forced to throw overboard the cargo, the ship’s tackle, even the wheat which was their only sustenance. Paul urged them to place their trust in God alone, while the ship was tossed to and fro upon the waves. We too must place our trust in Him alone.

    It is tempting to think that today’s advanced technology can answer all our needs and save us from all the perils and dangers that beset us. But it is not so. At every moment of our lives we depend entirely on God, in whom we live and move and have our being. Only He can protect us from harm, only He can guide us through the storms of life, only He can bring us to a safe haven, as He did for Paul and his companions adrift off the coast of Malta. They did as Paul urged them to do, and so it was “that they all escaped safely to the land” (Acts 27:44).

    More than any of the cargo we might carry with us – in terms of our human accomplishments, our possessions, our technology – it is our relationship with the Lord that provides the key to our happiness and our human fulfilment. And He calls us to a relationship of love.

    Notice the question that He put three times to Peter on the shore of the lake: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” On the basis of Peter’s affirmative response, Jesus assigns him a task – the task of feeding His flock. Here we see the basis of all pastoral ministry in the Church. It is our love for the Lord that must inform every aspect of our preaching and teaching, our celebration of the sacraments, and our care for the people of God. It is our love for the Lord that moves us to love those whom He loves, and to accept gladly the task of communicating His love to those we serve.

    During our Lord’s Passion, Peter denied Him three times. Now, after the Resurrection, Jesus invites him three times to avow his love, in this way offering him healing and forgiveness and at the same time entrusting him with His mission. The miraculous catch of fish underlined the apostles’ dependence on God for the success of their earthly projects. The dialogue between Peter and Jesus underlined the need for divine mercy in order to heal their spiritual wounds, the wounds of sin. In every area of our lives we need the help of God’s grace. With Him, we can do all things: without Him we can do nothing.

    We know from Saint Mark’s Gospel the signs that accompany those who put their faith in Jesus: they will pick up serpents and be unharmed, they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover (cf. Mk 16:18). These signs were immediately recognized by your forebears when Paul came among them. A viper attached itself to his hand, but he simply shook it off into the fire, and suffered no harm. He was taken to see the father of Publius, the protos of the island, and after praying and laying hands on him, Paul healed him of his fever.

    Of all the gifts brought to these shores in the course of your people’s history, the gift brought by Paul was the greatest of all, and it is much to your credit that it was immediately accepted and treasured. Għożżu l-fidi u l-valuri li takom l-Appostlu Missierkom San Pawl (Preserve the faith and values transmitted to you by your father the Apostle Saint Paul). Continue to explore the richness and depth of Paul’s gift to you and be sure to hand it on not only to your children, but to all those you encounter today. No visitor to Malta could fail to be impressed by the devotion of your people, the vibrant faith manifested in your feast-day celebrations, the beauty of your churches and shrines.

    But that gift needs to be shared with others, it needs to be articulated. As Moses taught the people of Israel, the words of the Lord “shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise” (Deut 6:6-7). This was well understood by Malta’s first canonized Saint, Dun Ġorġ Preca. His tireless work of catechesis, inspiring young and old with a love for Christian doctrine and a deep devotion to the Incarnate Word of God, set an example that I urge you to maintain. Remember that the exchange of goods between these islands and the world outside is a two-way process. What you receive, evaluate with care, and what you have that is of value, be sure to share with others. . . .

    As I look around me now at the great crowds gathered here in Floriana for our celebration of the Eucharist, I am reminded of the scene described in our second reading today, in which myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands united their voices in one great song of praise: “To the One seated on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever” (Rev 5:13). Continue to sing that song, in praise of the risen Lord and in thanksgiving for His manifold gifts.

    In the words of Saint Paul, Apostle of Malta, I conclude my words to you this morning: “L-imħabba tiegħi tkun magħkom ilkoll fi Kristu Ġesù” (My love is with you all in Christ Jesus)(1 Cor 16:24).

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    God Charts a Course of His Own for Us

    Remarks of Pope Benedict XVI
    Church of St. Paul in Rabat, Malta

    Apostolic Journey to Malta on the Occasion of
    the 1950th Anniversary of St. Paul's Shipwreck on the Island
    April 17, 2010

    My pilgrimage to Malta has begun with a moment of silent prayer at the Grotto of Saint Paul, who first brought the faith to these islands. . . .

    Saint Paul’s arrival in Malta was not planned. As we know, he was travelling to Rome when a violent storm arose and his ship ran aground on this island. Sailors can map a journey, but God, in His wisdom and providence, charts a course of His own. Paul, who dramatically encountered the Risen Lord while on the road to Damascus, knew this well. The course of his life was suddenly changed; henceforth, for him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21); his every thought and action was directed to proclaiming the mystery of the Cross and its message of God’s reconciling love.

    That same word, the word of the Gospel, still has the power to break into our lives and to change their course. Today, the same Gospel which Paul preached continues to summon the people of these islands to conversion, new life and a future of hope. Standing in your midst as the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I invite you to hear God’s word afresh, as your ancestors did, and to let it challenge your ways of thinking and the way you live your lives.

    From this holy place where the apostolic preaching first spread throughout these islands, I call upon each of you to take up the exciting challenge of the new evangelization. Live out your faith ever more fully with the members of your families, with your friends, in your neighbourhoods, in the workplace and in the whole fabric of Maltese society.

    In a particular way I urge parents, teachers and catechists to speak of your own living encounter with the Risen Jesus to others, especially the young people who are Malta’s future. "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!" (cf. Redemptoris Missio, 2). Believe that your moments of faith assure an encounter with God, who in His mighty power touches human hearts. In this way, you will introduce the young to the beauty and richness of the Catholic faith, and offer them a sound catechesis, inviting them to ever more active participation in the sacramental life of the Church.

    The world needs this witness! In the face of so many threats to the sacredness of human life, and to the dignity of marriage and the family, do not our contemporaries need to be constantly reminded of the grandeur of our dignity as God’s children and the sublime vocation we have received in Christ? Does not society need to reappropriate and defend those fundamental moral truths which remain the foundation of authentic freedom and genuine progress?

    Just now, as I stood before this Grotto, I reflected on the great spiritual gift (cf. Rom 1:11) which Paul gave to Malta, and I prayed that you might keep unblemished the heritage bequeathed to you by the great Apostle. May the Lord confirm you and your families in the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6), and make you joyful witnesses to the hope which never disappoints (cf. Rom 5:5).

    Christ is risen! He is truly risen! Alleluia!

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Bernadette Soubirous

    Happy Feast Day!


    Saint Bernadette,

    Pray for us.

    Holy Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes,
    Pray for us.


    Happy Birthday Holy Father!

    Benedetto, We Love You!

    V. Let us pray for Benedict, our Pope.

    R. May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. [Ps 40:3]

    O God, Shepherd and Ruler of all Thy faithful people, look mercifully upon Thy servant Benedict, whom Thou has chosen as shepherd to preside over Thy Church. Grant him, we beseech Thee, that by his word and example, he may edify those over whom he has charge, so that together with the flock committed to him, he may attain everlasting life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Coming Soon . . .

    The final draft materials for the group presentation on a Study of the Plagues of Egypt.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Karol Wojtyla, Pray for Us

    Homily of Camillo Cardinal Ruini
    Novendiali Mass in Memory of Pope John Paul II

    Third Sunday of Easter, 10 April 2005

    The Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, became the travelling companion of the two disciples who were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus: we might make a bold comparison and say that our deeply beloved Pope, "who came from far away", became the travelling companion of Christians of Rome for over 26 years.

    Today, while we are stunned and filled with sorrow by the demise of John Paul II but also confident and joyful at the certainty of his presence in a new, mysterious and luminous way, we might ask ourselves how John Paul II managed to be so close to us and touch so deeply the hearts of the people of Rome, but also of the Italians and of so many citizens of the world.

    The true answer is simple and significant: he was and continues to be for everyone a brother and father, because he was a man of God who lived constantly in God's presence, closely united with him and trusting totally in his infinite mercy.

    Our Pope, therefore, was first and foremost a man of prayer, and he spent most of his time and energy praying. He identified with Jesus Christ and configured himself to the Priesthood of Christ so that he could say: "Holy Mass is absolutely the centre of my life and of all my days".

    He was totally consecrated to Mary; and he proved how authentic this consecration was when, on awakening from the anaesthetic after his tracheotomy, he wrote immediately: "To Mary... I once again entrust myself: Totus Tuus!" [totally yours: the Pope's motto].

    Yet this extraordinary closeness to God did not distance him from us earthly, sinful people, nor did it envelop him in an atmosphere of remote holiness.

    On the contrary, John Paul II was a real man who fully enjoyed and appreciated the savour of life: from the beauty of art, poetry and nature to the vigour of sport, from philosophical and theological thought to the courage required to take the most demanding decisions.

    Through him, therefore, we felt the Lord truly close to us. We realized in a certain way that God does not dwell in inaccessible regions but is the Lord of life and wants to be the centre of our lives.

    Moreover, our Pope wrote in his first Encyclical Redemptor Hominis that man is "the primary and fundamental way for the Church", explaining that "we are not dealing with the "abstract' man, but the real, "concrete', "historical' man... in the full truth of his existence, of his personal community and social being" (Redemptor Hominis, nn. 13, 14).

    John Paul II showed in many ways, to us Romans in particular, what it meant to him, Bishop and Pastor, for man to be the primary way of the Church. It is right and also a pleasure, at this point, to recall them.

    First of all, how could we forget his Pastoral Visits to 130 parishes of Rome? Personally, I cannot forget the insistence, not to say anxiety, with which he would ask me: "When are we going to visit the parishes?"

    This insistence and concern were gradually to increase as his health deteriorated. When he could no longer visit the parishes in person, he wished to receive another 16 parish communities in the Vatican. Even last January, he was planning to receive as soon as possible the remaining 16 of the 333 parishes of Rome: a desire that he took with him when he entered into the joy of the Lord.

    As well as visiting the parishes, he visited hospitals: he paid these visits every year, as long as he himself could go to the patients' bedside. Nor did he give up meeting the sick in wheelchairs who came to him in this Basilica of St Peter's for the 11 February celebrations [World Day of the Sick].

    Each year his visit to the Roman Seminary on the eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Trust gave him heartfelt joy. And his meeting with the clergy of Rome on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday was also a joyful, friendly moment, as were his lunches with the parish priests and parochial vicars a few days before visiting the parishes.

    Another appointment he never missed and very much looked forward to was the Mass for the University students that he would preside at here in St Peter's a few days before Christmas, and likewise, the meeting with the young people of Rome on the Thursday before Palm Sunday to draw greater benefit from the diocesan dimension of World Youth Day.

    Furthermore, let us not forget that John Paul II was the Pope who wanted to visit the many Roman Universities systematically.

    So it was that every day he lived his ministry as Bishop of Rome, putting into practice his own words to the priests of Rome on 9 November 1978, soon after his election: "I am deeply aware of having become Pope of the universal Church, because of being Bishop of Rome. The ministry... of the Bishop of Rome, as Peter's Successor, is the root of universality" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 16 November 1978, p. 3, n. 1).

    If we then look at his principal instructions and pastoral initiatives, we can say that the Diocese of Rome not only deeply benefited from the universal magisterium of its Bishop, but also received from him certain specific, fundamental instructions for events, two of which were particularly important: the Diocesan Synod and the City Mission.

    The Synod was convoked in 1986 and ended in 1993. Indeed, as John Paul II had explicitly desired, the Synod subsequently became in the life of the Diocese a great practical training ground for the ecclesiology of communion of the Second Vatican Council. The Diocese of Rome stands particularly in need of this communion because of the great variety and wealth of people and charisms that exist side by side within it.

    The Synod then developed in a fruitful and innovative way in the City Mission. It was on 8 December 1995 that the Pope asked the Church of Rome to launch this Mission, "in order to prepare the hearts of the inhabitants to welcome the grace of the Holy Year and to find again in their faith in Jesus Christ and in the wealth of life and culture that springs from it the reasons for the particular task entrusted to the Eternal City in relation to the entire world" (ORE, 13 December 1995, n. 2, p. 5).

    It was not merely a "mission to the people", although it extended to the whole city, but rather, of the "People of God in mission"; in fact, the parishes, religious communities, associations and movements endeavoured for three years to be missionaries to Rome's families and to the various milieus of work and life by means of the direct commitment of a great number of lay people beside the priests, women religious and deacons.

    Dear brothers and sisters of this Church of Rome, the mission is, as it were, the Pastoral Testament that John Paul II has entrusted to his Diocese: let us remember what he said about parishes and the Church, which must seek and find themselves outside themselves, wherever people live. This is the Church which he wanted, and which today he continues to ask us to be and to live: a Church which has not withdrawn into herself, a Church neither timid, nor disheartened, a Church that burns with the love of Christ for the salvation of every person.

    Let us now attempt to delve more deeply into his Bishop's and Father's heart in order to penetrate it. His words on taking possession of his Cathedral, the Basilica of St John Lateran, on 12 November 1978, can help us.

    John Paul II identified in the commandment of love the essential content of his own ministry, by recalling the marvellous assertion of Jesus: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love" (Jn 15: 9). And the Pope continued: "Love constructs; only love constructs!" (ORE, 23 November 1978, n. 4, p. 7).

    The disciples of Emmaus asked the Risen Jesus, whom they had not yet recognized: "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent". This evening we feel in our own hearts an overwhelming need to ask this Pope to "Stay with us". And we well know that he truly remains with us.

    But we also know the only way in which we will really be able to stay with him, and that is, not only emotionally and superficially. It is the way to remain, each one of us personally and the whole Church of Rome, all together in the love of the Lord, that love which is nourished by faith and daily obedience to his will and especially to his commandment, "Love one another as I have loved you" (cf. Jn 15: 12).

    In his suffering and death and throughout his life, Pope John Paul II was an extraordinarily effective witness and preacher of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead; he resembled the Apostles Peter and Paul, whose great Christian and human legacy he inherited.

    Therefore, the days of mourning and of the funeral rites, for Rome and for the entire world, became days of extraordinary unity, of hearts open to God and to reconciliation. This unity was possible because the Pope had kept them firmly together and had shown the entire world with his whole life the integrity of faith in Christ and the universality of the love of Christ himself, who offered himself on the Cross for us all.

    We Romans have received the gift of being direct witnesses of these events of grace and of being able to collaborate with them. We wholeheartedly thank the Lord and as we pray for our great Pope, let us entrust ourselves especially to his prayers, that we may become livelier and better members of that Church which, down the centuries, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is still living and renewing herself as the Bride of Christ and our gentile Mother.

    We should await our new Bishop and Pope in the light of this same Spirit. Let us not be pointlessly and too humanly curious to know beforehand who he will be. Let us prepare ourselves instead to welcome in prayer, trust and love, the one whom the Lord chooses to give us.

    While I renew our gratitude to God for this Pope who broke the Eucharistic Bread with us and for us for 26 years, let us also thank our Sister Church of Krakow and the beloved Polish Nation which gave life, faith and wonderful Christian and human riches to John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła, so that he might give them to Rome and to the whole world.

    Lord, Give Us More Sisters!

    Our friend Jan says over at the Anchoress,

    "I get very nostalgic for the nuns of my youth when I read stuff like this. There was a Benedictine convent just 3 blocks from where I grew up – the sight of the sisters out walking about town and working in the hospital they built and ran – in full habit- is one I will never forget. In fact, when I was little I felt very strongly that I wanted to join them – I loved those habits! . . .

    "My kids hardly know what nuns look like . . . I can encourage my sons to consider the priesthood, but talk to my daughters about being a nun? They have no example."

    Well, this is what they look like. These are some sisters I've run into at the grave of Pope John Paul II in the grotto of St. Peter's Basilica and at the Papal Mass in 2008 at Nationals Park.

    Friday, April 09, 2010

    Cold - Global Cooling Hits D.C.

    Yesterday we were in shorts, sweltering in the heat.

    Today we are all bundled up, shivering.

    A new Ice Age has begun.

    Monday, April 05, 2010

    Attacks on the Church and the Holy Father

    At the conclusion of his homily on Good Friday, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, stated:
    By a rare coincidence, this year our Easter falls on the same week of the Jewish Passover which is the ancestor and matrix within which it was formed. This pushes us to direct a thought to our Jewish brothers. They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms. I received in this week the letter of a Jewish friend and, with his permission, I share here a part of it.

    He said: "I am following with indignation the violent and concentric attacks against the Church, the Pope and all the faithful by the whole world. The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism. Therefore I desire to express to you personally, to the Pope and to the whole Church my solidarity as Jew of dialogue and of all those that in the Jewish world (and there are many) share these sentiments of brotherhood. Our Passover and yours undoubtedly have different elements, but we both live with Messianic hope that surely will reunite us in the love of our common Father. I wish you and all Catholics a Good Easter."

    And also we Catholics wish our Jewish brothers a Good Passover. We do so with the words of their ancient teacher Gamaliel, entered in the Jewish Passover Seder and from there passed into the most ancient Christian liturgy:

    "He made us pass
    From slavery to liberty,
    From sadness to joy,
    From mourning to celebration,
    From darkness to light,
    From servitude to redemption
    Because of this before Him we say: Alleluia."

    Apparently, this quote from Fr. Cantalamessa's Jewish friend has caused a stir in some quarters, as some people feign outrage that one might compare attacks on the Church to the worst of anti-Semitism. It should not.

    The Lord Himself told us on the night that He was betrayed and arrested:
    "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, 'No slave is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours."
    --John 15:18-20

    Of course these latest attacks on the Church are like "the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism." Jesus Himself said it would be so, that the world would hate us and persecute us.

    Viva il Papa!

    Sunday, April 04, 2010

    "I have seen the Lord"

    On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. . . .

    Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

    She said to them, "They have taken my Lord, and I don't know where they laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

    Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?"

    She thought it was the gardener and said to Him, "Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him."

    Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher.

    Jesus said to her, "Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

    Mary of Magdala went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord," and what He told her.

    --John 20:1, 11-18

    Filii et Filiae

    Saturday, April 03, 2010

    Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum

    Rejoice heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels!
    Exult, all creation around God's throne!
    Jesus Christ, our King is risen!
    Sound the trumpet of salvation!

    Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
    radiant in the brightness of your King!
    Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
    Darkness vanishes forever!

    Rejoice, O Mother Church!
    Exult in glory!
    The risen Savior shines upon you!
    Let this place resound with joy,
    echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

    My dearest friends,
    standing with me in this holy light,
    join me in asking God for mercy,
    that he may give his unworthy minister
    grace to sing his Easter praises.

    V: The Lord be with you.
    R: And also with you.
    V: Lift up your hearts.
    R: We lift them up to the Lord.
    V: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
    R: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

    It is truly right
    that with full hearts and minds and voices
    we should praise the unseen God,
    the all powerful Father, and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

    For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
    and paid for us the price of Adam's sin
    to our eternal Father!

    This is our Passover feast,
    when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
    whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

    This is the night
    when first you saved our fathers:
    you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
    and led them dry-shod through the sea.

    This is the night
    when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

    This is the night
    when Christians everywhere,
    washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
    are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

    This is the night
    when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
    and rose triumphant from the grave.

    What good would life have been to us,
    had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
    Father, how wonderful your care for us!
    How boundless your merciful love!
    To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

    O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
    which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

    Most blessed of all nights,
    chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
    Of this night scripture says:
    "The night will be clear as day:
    it will become my light, my joy."

    The power of this holy night
    dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
    restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
    it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
    and humbles earthly pride.

    Night truly blessed
    when heaven is wedded to earth
    and man is reconciled with God!

    Therefore, heavenly Father,
    in the joy of this night
    receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
    your Church's solemn offering.

    Accept this Easter candle,
    a flame divided but undimmed,
    a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

    Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
    and continue bravely burning
    to dispel the darkness of this night!

    May the Morning Star which never sets
    find this flame still burning:
    Christ, that Morning Star,
    who came back from the dead,
    and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
    your Son who lives and reigns for ever and ever.


    The Cure for Death Exists

    Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
    Easter Vigil

    Saint Peter's Basilica
    3 April 2010

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    An ancient Jewish legend from the apocryphal book “The life of Adam and Eve” recounts that, in his final illness, Adam sent his son Seth together with Eve into the region of Paradise to fetch the oil of mercy, so that he could be anointed with it and healed. The two of them went in search of the Tree of Life, and after much praying and weeping on their part, the Archangel Michael appeared to them, and told them they would not obtain the oil of the Tree of Mercy and that Adam would have to die.

    Subsequently, Christian readers added a word of consolation to the Archangel’s message, to the effect that after 5,500 years, the loving King, Christ, would come, the Son of God who would anoint all those who believe in Him with the oil of His mercy. “The oil of mercy from eternity to eternity will be given to those who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit. Then the Son of God, Christ, abounding in love, will descend into the depths of the earth and will lead your father into Paradise, to the Tree of Mercy.”

    This legend lays bare the whole of humanity’s anguish at the destiny of illness, pain and death that has been imposed upon us. Man’s resistance to death becomes evident: somewhere – people have constantly thought – there must be some cure for death. Sooner or later it should be possible to find the remedy not only for this or that illness, but for our ultimate destiny – for death itself. Surely the medicine of immortality must exist. Today too, the search for a source of healing continues. Modern medical science strives, if not exactly to exclude death, at least to eliminate as many as possible of its causes, to postpone it further and further, to prolong life more and more.

    But let us reflect for a moment: what would it really be like if we were to succeed, perhaps not in excluding death totally, but in postponing it indefinitely, in reaching an age of several hundred years? Would that be a good thing?

    Humanity would become extraordinarily old, there would be no more room for youth. Capacity for innovation would die, and endless life would be no paradise, if anything a condemnation.

    The true cure for death must be different. It cannot lead simply to an indefinite prolongation of this current life. It would have to transform our lives from within. It would need to create a new life within us, truly fit for eternity: it would need to transform us in such a way as not to come to an end with death, but only then to begin in fullness.

    What is new and exciting in the Christian message, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, was and is that we are told: yes indeed, this cure for death, this true medicine of immortality, does exist. It has been found. It is within our reach.

    In baptism, this medicine is given to us. A new life begins in us, a life that matures in faith and is not extinguished by the death of the old life, but is only then fully revealed.

    To this, some, perhaps many, will respond: I certainly hear the message, but I lack faith. And even those who want to believe will ask: but is it really so? How are we to picture it to ourselves? How does this transformation of the old life come about, so as to give birth to the new life that knows no death?

    Once again, an ancient Jewish text can help us form an idea of the mysterious process that begins in us at baptism. There it is recounted how the patriarch Enoch was taken up to the throne of God. But he was filled with fear in the presence of the glorious angelic powers, and in his human weakness he could not contemplate the face of God. “Then God said to Michael,” to quote from the book of Enoch, “‘Take Enoch and remove his earthly clothing. Anoint him with sweet oil and vest him in the robes of glory!’ And Michael took off my garments, anointed me with sweet oil, and this oil was more than a radiant light … its splendour was like the rays of the sun. When I looked at myself, I saw that I was like one of the glorious beings” (Ph. Rech, Inbild des Kosmos, II 524).

    Precisely this – being reclothed in the new garment of God – is what happens in baptism, so the Christian faith tells us. To be sure, this changing of garments is something that continues for the whole of life. What happens in baptism is the beginning of a process that embraces the whole of our life – it makes us fit for eternity, in such a way that, robed in the garment of light of Jesus Christ, we can appear before the face of God and live with Him forever.

    In the rite of baptism, there are two elements in which this event is expressed and made visible in a way that demands commitment for the rest of our lives.

    There is, first of all, the rite of renunciation and the promises. In the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the west, the symbol of darkness, sunset, death and hence the dominion of sin. The one to be baptized turned in that direction and pronounced a threefold “no”: to the devil, to his pomp and to sin. The strange word “pomp,” that is to say the devil’s glamour, referred to the splendour of the ancient cult of the gods and of the ancient theatre, in which it was considered entertaining to watch people being torn limb from limb by wild beasts.

    What was being renounced was a type of culture that ensnared man in the adoration of power, in the world of greed, in lies, in cruelty. It was an act of liberation from the imposition of a form of life that was presented as pleasure and yet hastened the destruction of all that was best in man.

    This renunciation – albeit in less dramatic form – remains an essential part of baptism today. We remove the “old garments,” which we cannot wear in God’s presence. Or better put: we begin to remove them. This renunciation is actually a promise in which we hold out our hand to Christ, so that He may guide us and reclothe us.

    What these “garments” are that we take off, what the promise is that we make, becomes clear when we see in the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Galatians what Paul calls “works of the flesh” – a term that refers precisely to the old garments that we remove. Paul designates them thus: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like” (Gal 5:19ff.). These are the garments that we remove: the garments of death.

    Then, in the practice of the early Church, the one to be baptized turned towards the east – the symbol of light, the symbol of the newly rising sun of history, the symbol of Christ. The candidate for baptism determines the new direction of his life: faith in the Trinitarian God to whom he entrusts himself. Thus it is God who clothes us in the garment of light, the garment of life. Paul calls these new “garments” “fruits of the spirit”, and he describes them as follows: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22).

    In the early Church, the candidate for baptism was then truly stripped of his garments. He descended into the baptismal font and was immersed three times – a symbol of death that expresses all the radicality of this removal and change of garments. His former death-bound life the candidate consigns to death with Christ, and he lets himself be drawn up by and with Christ into the new life that transforms him for eternity.

    Then, emerging from the waters of baptism, the neophytes were clothed in the white garment, the garment of God’s light, and they received the lighted candle as a sign of the new life in the light that God himself had lit within them. They knew that they had received the medicine of immortality, which was fully realized at the moment of receiving Holy Communion. In this Sacrament, we receive the Body of the risen Lord and we ourselves are drawn into this Body, firmly held by the One who has conquered death and who carries us through death.

    In the course of the centuries, the symbols were simplified, but the essential content of baptism has remained the same. It is no mere cleansing, still less is it a somewhat complicated initiation into a new association. It is death and resurrection, rebirth to new life.

    Indeed, the cure for death does exist. Christ is the Tree of Life, once more within our reach. If we remain close to Him, then we have life. Hence, during this night of resurrection, with all our hearts we shall sing the Alleluia, the song of joy that has no need of words. Hence, Paul can say to the Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Joy cannot be commanded. It can only be given. The risen Lord gives us joy: true life. We are already held forever in the love of the One to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given (cf. Mt 28:18).

    In this way, confident of being heard, we make our own the Church’s Prayer over the Gifts from the liturgy of this night:

    Accept the prayers and offerings of your people. With your help may this Easter mystery of our redemption bring to perfection the saving work you have begun in us.


    Bless the Lord

    When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over.
    Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it in clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed.
    But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.
    --Mt 27:57-61

    Bless the Lord, my soul,
    and bless God's holy name.
    Bless the Lord, my soul,
    who leads me into life.

    Friday, April 02, 2010

    Love and the Cross

    Reflections of Pope Benedict XVI
    following the Way of the Cross

    Roman Colosseum
    April 2, 2010

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    In prayer, with stirred and recollected spirits, we have tonight retraced the path of the cross. With Christ we have climbed Calvary and we have meditated on his suffering, rediscovering how profound is the love he has had and has for us.

    But in this moment we do not want to limit ourselves to a compassion dictated merely by our weak sentiments. Rather we want to feel that we participate in the suffering of Jesus; we want to accompany our Teacher, sharing his passion in our lives, in the life of the Church, for the life of the world. Because we know that precisely in the cross, in the limitless love where one gives all of himself, is the fount of grace, liberation, peace and salvation.

    The texts, meditations and prayers of the Way of the Cross have helped us to gaze upon this mystery of the Passion, to learn the immense lesson of love that God gave us on the cross, so that in us is born a renewed desire to convert our hearts, living each day this same love, the only force capable of changing the world.

    This night we have contemplated Jesus' face full of pain, ridiculed, insulted, disfigured by the sin of man. Tomorrow night we will contemplate his face full of joy, radiant and luminous. Since the moment Christ was placed in the sepulcher, the tomb and death are no longer hopeless places where history is closed with the most complete failure, where man touches the ultimate limit of his powerlessness. Good Friday is the day of greatest hope, that matured on the cross.

    While Jesus dies, while he exhales his breath, he sighs crying out with a loud voice, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). Surrendering his existence, given into the hands of the Father, he knows that his death becomes fount of life. As the seed in the ground has to be broken so the plant can grow. If the grain of wheat fallen in the earth does not die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls in the earth, is torn, is broken, dies, and because of this, can bear fruit. From the day on which Christ was raised up on it, the cross, which looks like a sign of abandonment, loneliness and failure, has become a new beginning. From the depths of death is raised up the promise of eternal life; upon the cross already shines the victorious splendor of the Easter dawn.

    In the silence that envelops this night, in the silence that envelops Holy Saturday, touched by the limitless love of God, we live awaiting the dawn of the third day, the dawn of the victory of the love of God, the dawn of the light that enables the eyes of the heart to see life, difficulties and suffering in a new way. Our failures, our disillusions, our bitternesses that seem to signal the collapse of everything, are enlightened by hope. The act of love of the cross, confirmed by the Father and the radiant light of the resurrection, envelops and transforms everything. From betrayal, friendship can be born; from rejection, pardon; from hate, love.

    Grant us, Lord, to carry our cross with love, our daily crosses, in the certainty that they are enlightened with the radiance of your Easter. Amen.

    His Holiness, Venerable John Paul II, Servant of the Servants of God, Returns to the House of the Father

    At 10 p.m. (3 p.m. EST) on April 2, 2005, immediately after the crowd had finished praying the Rosary for Pope John Paul II, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, substitute of the Secretariat of State, made the following announcement: "At 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) our Holy Father returned to the House of the Father."

    The majority of the faithful knelt down, many of them with tears in their eyes. A few minutes later, the bells of St. Peter's Basilica tolled the death of the Bishop of Rome.

    Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us and after this our exile show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
    V- Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
    R- That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    De Profundis
    Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice.
    Let Thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.
    If Thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities,
    Lord, who shall stand it?
    For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness
    and by reason of thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
    My soul hath relied on His word,
    my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
    From the morning watch even until night,
    let Israel hope in the Lord.
    Because with the Lord there is mercy
    and with him plentiful redemption.
    And he shall redeem Israel
    from all his iniquities.
    Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
    As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

    Ora Pro Eo
    Kyrie, eleison, Kyrie, eleison
    Christe, eleison, Christe, eleison
    Kyrie, eleison, Kyrie, eleison
    Sancta Maria, ora pro eo
    Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro eo
    Sancta Maria, Mater Ecclesiæ, ora pro eo
    Sancta Maria, Salus populi Romani, ora pro eo
    Sancti Michael, Gabriel et Raphael, orate pro eo
    Omnes sancti Angeli, orate pro eo
    Sancte Ioseph, ora pro eo
    Sancte Ioannes Baptista, ora pro eo
    Omnes Sancti Patriarchæ et Prophetæ, orate pro eo
    Sancti Petre et Paule, orate pro eo
    Sancte Andrea, ora pro eo
    Sancti Ioannes et Iacobe, orate pro eo
    Sancte Thoma, ora pro eo
    Sancti Philippe et Iacobe, orate pro eo
    Sancte Bartholomaee, ora pro eo
    Sancte Matthæe, ora pro eo
    Sancte Simon et Thaddaee, orate pro eo
    Sancte Matthia, ora pro eo
    Sancte Luca, ora pro eo
    Sancte Marce, ora pro eo
    Sancte Barnaba, ora pro eo
    Sancta Maria Magdalena, ora pro eo
    Omnes Sancti Discipuli Domini, orate pro eo
    Sancte Clemens, ora pro eo
    Sancte Calliste, ora pro eo
    Sancte Fabiane, ora pro eo
    Sancte Corneli, ora pro eo
    Sancte Xyste, ora pro eo
    Sancte Ioannes, ora pro eo
    Sancte Martine, ora pro eo
    Sancte Damase, ora pro eo
    Sancte Leo Magne, ora pro eo
    Sancte Gregori Magne, ora pro eo
    Sancte Leo, ora pro eo
    Sancte Pie, ora pro eo
    Omnes Sancti Pontifices Romani, orate pro eo

    The Litany of Saints
    from the Funeral of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II


    Venerable Servant of God John Paul the Great, Pray for Us

    + O Holy Trinity,
    we thank you for having given to the Church
    Pope John Paul II,
    and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness,
    the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

    He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy
    and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself
    in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd
    and has pointed out to us holiness
    as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

    Grant us, through his intercession,
    according to your will, the grace that we implore,
    in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints.

    Miserere Mei

    Have mercy upon me, O God,
    according to your great mercy
    and according to the abundance
    of your compassion blot out my transgressions.

    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin.
    For I acknowledge my offense
    and my sin is ever before me.

    Against you only have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight
    That you may be justified in your sentence
    and vindicated when you judge.

    Behold, in guilt was I born
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    Behold, you delight in sincerity of heart,
    and in my inmost being, you teach me wisdom.

    Cleanse me with hyssop and I shall be purified:
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

    Let me hear sounds of joy and gladness;
    and the bones which you have crushed shall rejoice.
    Avert your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquity.

    Create in me a clean heart, O God;
    and renew in me a righteous spirit.
    Cast me not out from thy presence;
    and take not your holy spirit from me.

    Give me the joy of your salvation;
    and sustain me in a willing spirit.
    I shall teach transgressors your ways;
    and sinners shall return to you.

    Deliver me from blood-guiltiness,
    O God, God of my salvation,
    and my tongue shall exalt your justice.
    O Lord, open my lips
    and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

    For you are not pleased with sacrifices,
    else would I give them to you;
    neither do you delight in burnt offerings.
    The sacrifice of God is a contrite heart:
    a broken and contrite heart,
    O God, you will not despise.

    Be favorable and gracious
    unto Zion O Lord,
    build again the walls of Jerusalem.
    Then you shall be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness,
    oblations and burnt offerings;
    they shall offer young bulls upon your altar.
    --Psalm 51

    Allegri, Miserere
    Tallis Scholars
    Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore, Rome

    Thursday, April 01, 2010

    "This is Eternal Life"

    Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
    Mass of the Lord's Supper

    Basilica of St. John Lateran
    Holy Thursday, 1 April 2010

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    In his Gospel, Saint John, more fully than the other three evangelists, reports in his own distinctive way the farewell discourses of Jesus; they appear as his testament and a synthesis of the core of his message. They are introduced by the washing of feet, in which Jesus’ redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in a gesture of humility. Jesus’ words end as a prayer, his priestly prayer, whose background exegetes have traced to the ritual of the Jewish feast of atonement. The significance of that feast and its rituals – the world’s purification and reconciliation with God – is fulfilled in Jesus’ prayer, a prayer which anticipates his Passion and transforms it into a prayer. The priestly prayer thus makes uniquely evident the perpetual mystery of Holy Thursday: the new priesthood of Jesus Christ and its prolongation in the consecration of the Apostles, in the incorporation of the disciples into the Lord’s priesthood.

    From this inexhaustibly profound text, I would like to select three sayings of Jesus which can lead us more fully into the mystery of Holy Thursday.

    First, there are the words: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). Everyone wants to have life. We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy. This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable.

    When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived. He is not simply speaking about life after death. He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world. Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful.

    But how does this happen? What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch?

    We have heard Jesus’ answer: this is eternal life, that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ. Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge. This means first of all that life is relationship. No one has life from himself and only for himself. We have it from others and in a relationship with others.

    If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful. But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question. Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive.

    Already in Greek philosophy we encounter the idea that man can find eternal life if he clings to what is indestructible – to truth, which is eternal. He needs, as it were, to be full of truth in order to bear within himself the stuff of eternity. But only if truth is a Person, can it lead me through the night of death. We cling to God – to Jesus Christ the Risen One. And thus we are led by the One who is himself Life. In this relationship we too live by passing through death, since we are not forsaken by the One who is himself Life.

    But let us return to Jesus’s words – this is eternal life: that they know you and the One whom you have sent. Knowledge of God becomes eternal life. Clearly “knowledge” here means something more than mere factual knowledge, as, for example, when we know that a famous person has died or a discovery was made. Knowing, in the language of sacred Scripture, is an interior becoming one with the other. Knowing God, knowing Christ, always means loving him, becoming, in a sense, one with him by virtue of that knowledge and love. Our life becomes authentic and true life, and thus eternal life, when we know the One who is the source of all being and all life.

    And so Jesus’ words become a summons: let us become friends of Jesus, let us try to know him all the more! Let us live in dialogue with him! Let us learn from him how to live aright, let us be his witnesses! Then we become people who love and then we act aright. Then we are truly alive.

    Twice in the course of the priestly prayer Jesus speaks of revealing God’s name. “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world” (v. 6). “I have made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (v. 26).

    The Lord is alluding here to the scene of the burning bush, when God, at Moses’ request, had revealed his name. Jesus thus means to say that he is bringing to fulfilment what began with the burning bush; that in him God, who had made himself known to Moses, now reveals himself fully. And that in doing so he brings about reconciliation; that the love with which God loves his Son in the mystery of the Trinity now draws men and women into this divine circle of love.

    But what, more precisely, does it mean to say that the revelation made from the burning bush is finally brought to completion, fully attains its purpose?

    The essence of what took place on Mount Horeb was not the mysterious word, the “name” which God had revealed to Moses, as a kind of mark of identification. To give one’s name means to enter into relationship with another. The revelation of the divine name, then, means that God, infinite and self-subsistent, enters into the network of human relationships; that he comes out of himself, so to speak, and becomes one of us, present among us and for us.

    Consequently, Israel saw in the name of God not merely a word steeped in mystery, but an affirmation that God is with us. According to sacred Scripture, the Temple is the dwelling-place of God’s name. God is not confined within any earthly space; he remains infinitely above and beyond the world. Yet, in the Temple, he is present for us as the One who can be called – as the One who wills to be with us.

    This desire of God to be with his people comes to completion in the incarnation of the Son. Here what began at the burning bush is truly brought to completion: God, as a Man, is able to be called by us and he is close to us. He is one of us, yet he remains the eternal and infinite God. His love comes forth, so to speak, from himself and enters into our midst.

    The mystery of the Eucharist, the presence of the Lord under the appearances of bread and wine, is the highest and most sublime way in which this new mode of God’s being-with-us takes shape. “Truly you are a God who is hidden, O God of Israel,” the prophet Isaiah had prayed (45:15). This never ceases to be true. But we can also say: Truly you are a God who is close, you are a God-with-us. You have revealed your mystery to us, you have shown your face to us. You have revealed yourself and given yourself into our hands… At this hour joy and gratitude must fill us, because God has shown himself, because he, infinite and beyond the grasp of our reason, is the God who is close to us, who loves us, and whom we can know and love.

    The best-known petition of the priestly prayer is the petition for the unity of the disciples, now and yet to come: “I do not ask only on behalf of these" – the community of the disciples gathered in the Upper Room – "but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (v. 20ff.; cf. vv. 11 and 13).

    What exactly is the Lord asking for? First, he prays for his disciples, present and future. He peers into the distance of future history. He sees the dangers there and he commends this community to the heart of the Father. He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity.

    It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present. Yet here she appears in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one. Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic.

    This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church. The Lord prays to the Father for the Church. She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God. Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ. He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love. He asks the Father that these believers “be in us” (v. 21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity.

    Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus. It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ.

    But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience. At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God? Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith? And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love?

    It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity. As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission.

    At this hour, when the Lord in the most holy Eucharist gives himself, his body and his blood, into our hands and into our hearts, let us be moved by his prayer. Let us enter into his prayer and thus beseech him:
    Lord, grant us faith in you, who are one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Grant that we may live in your love and thus become one, as you are one with the Father, so that the world may believe. Amen.


    The Anointed Ones

    Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
    Chrism Mass

    Saint Peter's Basilica
    Holy Thursday, 1 April 2010

    Dear Brothers and Sisters,

    At the center of the Church’s worship is the notion of “sacrament.” This means that it is not primarily we who act, but God comes first to meet us through his action, he looks upon us and he leads us to himself. Another striking feature is this: God touches us through material things, through gifts of creation that he takes up into his service, making them instruments of the encounter between us and himself.

    There are four elements in creation on which the world of sacraments is built: water, bread, wine and olive oil. Water, as the basic element and fundamental condition of all life, is the essential sign of the act in which, through baptism, we become Christians and are born to new life. While water is the vital element everywhere, and thus represents the shared access of all people to rebirth as Christians, the other three elements belong to the culture of the Mediterranean region. In other words, they point towards the concrete historical environment in which Christianity emerged. God acted in a clearly defined place on the earth, he truly made history with men.

    On the one hand, these three elements are gifts of creation, and on the other, they also indicate the locality of the history of God with us. They are a synthesis between creation and history: gifts of God that always connect us to those parts of the world where God chose to act with us in historical time, where he chose to become one of us.

    Within these three elements there is a further gradation. Bread has to do with everyday life. It is the fundamental gift of life day by day. Wine has to do with feasting, with the fine things of creation, in which, at the same time, the joy of the redeemed finds particular expression. Olive oil has a wide range of meaning. It is nourishment, it is medicine, it gives beauty, it prepares us for battle and it gives strength.

    Kings and priests are anointed with oil, which is thus a sign of dignity and responsibility, and likewise of the strength that comes from God. Even the name that we bear as “Christians” contains the mystery of the oil. The word “Christians,” in fact, by which Christ’s disciples were known in the earliest days of Gentile Christianity, is derived from the word “Christ” (Acts 11:20-21) – the Greek translation of the word “Messiah,” which means “anointed one”.

    To be a Christian is to come from Christ, to belong to Christ, to the anointed one of God, to whom God granted kingship and priesthood. It means belonging to him whom God himself anointed – not with material oil, but with the One whom the oil represents: with his Holy Spirit. Olive oil is thus in a very particular way a symbol of the total compenetration of the man Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

    In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, the holy oils are at the center of the liturgical action. They are consecrated in the bishop’s cathedral for the whole year. They thus serve also as an expression of the Church’s unity, guaranteed by the episcopate, and they point to Christ, the true “shepherd and guardian” of our souls, as Saint Peter calls him (1 Pet 2:25).

    At the same time, they hold together the entire liturgical year, anchored in the mystery of Holy Thursday. Finally, they point to the Garden of Olives, the scene of Jesus’ inner acceptance of his Passion. Yet the Garden of Olives is also the place from which he ascended to the Father, and is therefore the place of redemption: God did not leave Jesus in death. Jesus lives for ever with the Father, and is therefore omnipresent, with us always.

    This double mystery of the Mount of Olives is also always “at work” within the Church’s sacramental oil. In four sacraments, oil is the sign of God’s goodness reaching out to touch us: in baptism, in confirmation as the sacrament of the Holy Spirit, in the different grades of the sacrament of holy orders and finally in the anointing of the sick, in which oil is offered to us, so to speak, as God’s medicine – as the medicine which now assures us of his goodness, offering us strength and consolation, yet at the same time points beyond the moment of the illness towards the definitive healing, the resurrection (cf. Jas 5:14).

    Thus oil, in its different forms, accompanies us throughout our lives: beginning with the catechumenate and baptism, and continuing right up to the moment when we prepare to meet God, our Judge and Saviour. Moreover, the Chrism Mass, in which the sacramental sign of oil is presented to us as part of the language of God’s creation, speaks in particular to us who are priests: it speaks of Christ, whom God anointed King and Priest – of him who makes us sharers in his priesthood, in his “anointing,” through our own priestly ordination.

    I should like, then, to attempt a brief interpretation of the mystery of this holy sign in its essential reference to the priestly vocation. In popular etymologies a connection was made, even in ancient times, between the Greek word “elaion” – oil – and the word “eleos” – mercy. In fact, in the various sacraments, consecrated oil is always a sign of God’s mercy. So the meaning of priestly anointing always includes the mission to bring God’s mercy to those we serve. In the lamp of our lives, the oil of mercy should never run dry. Let us always obtain it from the Lord in good time – in our encounter with his word, in our reception of the sacraments, in the time we spend with him in prayer.

    As a consequence of the story of the dove bearing an olive branch to signal the end of the flood – and thus God’s new peace with the world of men – not only the dove, but also the olive branch and oil itself have become symbols of peace.

    The Christians of antiquity loved to decorate the tombs of their dead with the crown of victory and the olive branch, symbol of peace. They knew that Christ conquered death and that their dead were resting in the peace of Christ. They knew that they themselves were awaited by Christ, that he had promised them the peace which the world cannot give.

    They remembered that the first words of the Risen Lord to his disciples were: “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19). He himself, so to speak, bears the olive branch, he introduces his peace into the world. He announces God’s saving goodness. He is our peace. Christians should therefore be people of peace, people who recognize and live the mystery of the Cross as a mystery of reconciliation.

    Christ does not conquer through the sword, but through the Cross. He wins by conquering hatred. He wins through the force of his greater love. The Cross of Christ expresses his “no” to violence. And in this way, it is God’s victory sign, which announces Jesus’ new way. The one who suffered was stronger than the ones who exercised power. In his self-giving on the Cross, Christ conquered violence. As priests we are called, in fellowship with Jesus Christ, to be men of peace, we are called to oppose violence and to trust in the greater power of love.

    A further aspect of the symbolism of oil is that it strengthens for battle. This does not contradict the theme of peace, but forms part of it. The battle of Christians consisted – and still consists – not in the use of violence, but in the fact that they were – and are – ready to suffer for the good, for God. It consists in the fact that Christians, as good citizens, keep the law and do what is just and good. It consists in the fact that they do not do whatever within the legal system in force is not just but unjust.

    The battle of the martyrs consists in their concrete “no” to injustice: by taking no part in idolatry, in Emperor worship, they refused to bow down before falsehood, before the adoration of human persons and their power. With their “no” to falsehood and all its consequences, they upheld the power of right and truth. Thus they served true peace.

    Today too it is important for Christians to follow what is right, which is the foundation of peace. Today too it is important for Christians not to accept a wrong that is enshrined in law – for example the killing of innocent unborn children. In this way we serve peace, in this way we find ourselves following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, of whom Saint Peter says: “When he was reviled he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet 2:23f.).

    The Fathers of the Church were fascinated by a phrase from Psalm 45 (44) – traditionally held to be Solomon’s wedding psalm – which was reinterpreted by Christians as the psalm for the marriage of the new Solomon, Jesus Christ, to his Church. To the King, Christ, it is said: “Your love is for justice; your hatred for evil. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above other kings” (v. 8).

    What is this oil of gladness with which the true king, Christ, was anointed? The Fathers had no doubt in this regard: the oil of gladness is the Holy Spirit himself, who was poured out upon Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the gladness that comes from God.

    From Jesus this gladness sweeps over us in his Gospel, in the joyful message that God knows us, that he is good and that his goodness is the power above all powers; that we are wanted and loved by him. Gladness is the fruit of love. The oil of gladness, which was poured out over Christ and comes to us from him, is the Holy Spirit, the gift of Love who makes us glad to be alive. Since we know Christ, and since in him we know the true God, we know that it is good to be a human being. It is good to be alive, because we are loved, because truth itself is good.

    In the early Church, the consecrated oil was considered a special sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who communicates himself to us as a gift from Christ. He is the oil of gladness. This gladness is different from entertainment and from the outward happiness that modern society seeks for itself. Entertainment, in its proper place, is certainly good and enjoyable. It is good to be able to laugh. But entertainment is not everything. It is only a small part of our lives, and when it tries to be the whole, it becomes a mask behind which despair lurks, or at least doubt over whether life is really good, or whether non-existence might perhaps be better than existence.

    The gladness that comes to us from Christ is different. It does indeed make us happy, but it can also perfectly well co-exist with suffering. It gives us the capacity to suffer and, in suffering, to remain nevertheless profoundly glad. It gives us the capacity to share the suffering of others and thus by placing ourselves at one another’s disposal, to express tangibly the light and the goodness of God.

    I am always struck by the passage in the Acts of the Apostles which recounts that after the Apostles had been whipped by order of the Sanhedrin, they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus” (Acts 5:41). Anyone who loves is ready to suffer for the beloved and for the sake of his love, and in this way he experiences a deeper joy. The joy of the martyrs was stronger than the torments inflicted on them. This joy was ultimately victorious and opened the gates of history for Christ.

    As priests, we are – in Saint Paul’s words – “co-workers with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). In the fruit of the olive-tree, in the consecrated oil, we are touched by the goodness of the Creator, the love of the Redeemer. Let us pray that his gladness may pervade us ever more deeply and that we may be capable of bringing it anew to a world in such urgent need of the joy that has its source in truth. Amen.