27 MARCH 2013 Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning! I am glad to welcome you to my first General Audience. With deep gratitude and reverence I take up the “witness” from the hands of Benedict XVI, my beloved Predecessor. After Easter we shall resume the Catecheses for the Year of Faith. Today I would like to reflect a little on Holy Week. We began this Week with Palm Sunday — the heart of the whole Liturgical Year — in which we accompany Jesus in his Passion, death and Resurrection. But what does living Holy Week mean to us? What does following Jesus on his journey to Calvary on his way to the Cross and the Resurrection mean? In his earthly mission Jesus walked the roads of the Holy Land; he called 12 simple people to stay with him, to share his journey and to continue his mission. He chose them from among the people full of faith in God’s promises. He spoke to all without distinction: the great and the lowly, the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; he brought God’s mercy and forgiveness; he healed, he comforted, he understood; he gave hope; he brought to all the presence of God who cares for every man and every woman, just as a good father and a good mother care for each one of their children. God does not wait for us to go to him but it is he who moves towards us, without calculation, without quantification. That is what God is like. He always takes the first step, he comes towards us. Jesus lived the daily reality of the most ordinary people: he was moved as he faced the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd; he wept before the sorrow that Martha and Mary felt at the death of their brother, Lazarus; he called a publican to be his disciple; he also suffered betrayal by a friend. In him God has given us the certitude that he is with us, he is among us. “Foxes”, he, Jesus, said, “have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus has no house, because his house is the people, it is we who are his dwelling place, his mission is to open God’s doors to all, to be the presence of God’s love. In Holy Week we live the crowning moment of this journey, of this plan of love that runs through the entire history of the relations between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take his last step with which he sums up the whole of his existence. He gives himself without reserve, he keeps nothing for himself, not even life. At the Last Supper, with his friends, he breaks the bread and passes the cup round “for us”. The Son of God offers himself to us, he puts his Body and his Blood into our hands, so as to be with us always, to dwell among us. And in the Garden of Olives, and likewise in the trial before Pilate, he puts up no resistance, he gives himself; he is the suffering Servant, foretold by Isaiah, who empties himself, even unto death (cf. Is 53:12). Jesus does not experience this love that leads to his sacrifice passively or as a fatal destiny. He does not of course conceal his deep human distress as he faces a violent death, but with absolute trust commends himself to the Father. Jesus gave himself up to death voluntarily in order to reciprocate the love of God the Father, in perfect union with his will, to demonstrate his love for us. On the Cross Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Each one of us can say: “he loved me and gave himself for me”. Each one can say this “for me”. What is the meaning of all this for us? It means that this is my, your and our road too. Living Holy Week, following Jesus not only with the emotion of the heart; living Holy Week, following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves — as I said last Sunday — in order to go to meet others, to go towards the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step towards our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help. There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love! Living Holy Week means entering ever more deeply into the logic of God, into the logic of the Cross, which is not primarily that of suffering and death, but rather that of love and of the gift of self which brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following and accompanying Christ, staying with him, demands “coming out of ourselves”, requires us to be outgoing; to come out of ourselves, out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans which end by shutting out God’s creative action. God came out of himself to come among us, he pitched his tent among us to bring to us his mercy that saves and gives hope. Nor must we be satisfied with staying in the pen of the 99 sheep if we want to follow him and to remain with him; we too must “go out” with him to seek the lost sheep, the one that has strayed the furthest. Be sure to remember: coming out of ourselves, just as Jesus, just as God came out of himself in Jesus and Jesus came out of himself for all of us. Someone might say to me: “but Father, I don’t have time”, “I have so many things to do”, “it’s difficult”, “what can I do with my feebleness and my sins, with so many things?”. We are often satisfied with a few prayers, with a distracted and sporadic participation in Sunday Mass, with a few charitable acts; but we do not have the courage “to come out” to bring Christ to others. We are a bit like St Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of his Passion, death and Resurrection, of the gift of himself, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and reproaches him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, threatens the security he had built for himself, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at his disciples and addresses to Peter what may possibly be the harshest words in the Gospels: “Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks mercifully. He is the merciful Father! God thinks like the father waiting for the son and goes to meet him, he spots him coming when he is still far off.... What does this mean? That he went every day to see if his son was coming home: this is our merciful Father. It indicates that he was waiting for him with longing on the terrace of his house. God thinks like the Samaritan who did not pass by the unfortunate man, pitying him or looking at him from the other side of the road, but helped him without asking for anything in return; without asking whether he was a Jew, a pagan or a Samaritan, whether he was rich or poor: he asked for nothing. He went to help him: God is like this. God thinks like the shepherd who lays down his life in order to defend and save his sheep. Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gives us to open the doors of our heart, of our life, of our parishes — what a pity so many parishes are closed!— of the movements, of the associations; and “to come out” in order to meet others, to make ourselves close, to bring them the light and joy of our faith. To come out always! And to do so with God’s love and tenderness, with respect and with patience, knowing that God takes our hands, our feet, our heart, and guides them and makes all our actions fruitful. I hope that we all will live these days well, following the Lord courageously, carrying within us a ray of his love for all those we meet. **** Heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the large group of university students taking part in the international UNIV Congress here in Rome. I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States of America. I invite all of you to enter fully into the spirit of Holy Week, following in the footsteps of Jesus and bringing the light of his love to everyone you meet. Happy Easter! © Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana 16 APRIL 2014 Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Today, midway through Holy Week, the liturgy presents us with a regrettable episode: the account of the betrayal of Judas, who goes to the leaders of the Sanhedrin to bargain for and deliver his Master to them: “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?”. At that moment, a price was set on Jesus. This tragic act marks the beginning of Christ’s Passion, a dolorous path which he chooses with absolute freedom. He himself says it clearly: “I lay down my life.... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (Jn 10:17-18). And thus by this betrayal Jesus’ journey of humiliation and despoliation begins. As though he were an article for sale: this one costs 30 pieces of silver.... Once he has taken the path of humiliation and self-abandonment, Jesus travels along it to the very end. Jesus attains complete humiliation through “death on the Cross”. It was the worst form of death, that reserved for slaves and criminals. Jesus was considered a prophet but he died like a criminal. As we contemplate Jesus in his Passion, we see reflected the suffering of humanity, and we discover the divine answer to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. Many times we feel horror at the evil and suffering that surrounds us and we ask ourselves: “Why does God allow it?”. It deeply wounds us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent! When we see children suffer it wounds our hearts: it is the mystery of evil. And Jesus takes all of this evil, all of this suffering upon himself. This week it would benefit all of us to look at the crucifix, to kiss the wounds of Jesus, to kiss them on the crucifix. He took upon himself all human suffering, he clothed himself in this suffering. We expect God in His omnipotence to defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Yet God shows us a humble victory that, in human terms, appears to be failure. We can say that God conquers in failure! Indeed, the Son of God appears on the Cross as a defeated man: he suffers, is betrayed, reviled and finally dies. But Jesus allows evil to be unleashed on him and he takes it upon himself in order to conquer it. His Passion is not an accident: his death — that death — was “written”. Truly we cannot find many explanations. It is a puzzling mystery, the mystery of God’s great humility: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). This week let us think deeply about the suffering of Jesus and let us say to ourselves: this is for my sake. Even if I had been the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me. Let us kiss the crucifix and say: for my sake, thank you Jesus, for me. When all seems lost, when no one remains, for they will strike “the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Mt 26:31), it is then that God intervenes with the power of his Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus is not the happy ending to a nice story, it is not the “happy end” of a film; rather, it is God the Father’s intervention there where human hope is shattered. At the moment when all seems to be lost, at the moment of suffering, when many people feel the need to get down from the Cross, it is the moment closest to the Resurrection. Night becomes darkest precisely before morning dawns, before the light dawns. In the darkest moment God intervenes and raises. Jesus, who chose to pass by this way, calls us to follow him on his own path of humiliation. When at certain moments in life we fail to find any way out of our difficulties, when we sink in the thickest darkness, it is the moment of our total humiliation and despoliation, the hour in which we experience that we are frail and are sinners. It is precisely then, at that moment, what we must not deny our failure but rather open ourselves trustingly to hope in God, as Jesus did. Dear brothers and sisters, this week it will do us good to take the crucifix in hand and kiss it many, many times and say: thank you Jesus, thank you Lord. So be it. *** Estoy feliz de poder acoger a los participantes del Congreso UNIV para estudiantes universitarios, sobre la Ecología de la persona y de su ambiente, promovido por la Prelatura del Opus Dei. Que la visita a la Ciudad Eterna en ocasión de la Santa Pascua os haga redescubrir el sentido cristiano de la fiesta como momento de encuentro con Dios y de alegría con los demás. © Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1 APRIL 2015 The Easter Triduum Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning, Tomorrow is Holy Thursday. In the afternoon, with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we will begin the Easter Triduum of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, which is the culmination of the whole liturgical year and the pinnacle of our Christian life as well. The Triduum begins with the commemoration of the Last Supper. Jesus, on the eve of his passion, offered his body and blood to the Father under the species of bread and wine and, which he gave to the Apostles as nourishment with the command that they perpetuate the offering in his memory. The Gospel of this celebration, recalling the washing of the feet, expresses the same meaning of the Eucharist under another perspective. Jesus — like a servant — washes the feet of Simon Peter and the other eleven disciples (cf. Jn 13:4-5). By this prophetic gesture, He expresses the meaning of his life and of his passion as service to God and to his brothers: “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). This also occurred in our Baptism, when the grace of God washed us of sin and clothed us in Christ’s nature (cf. Col 3:10). This takes place every time we celebrate the memory of the Lord in the Eucharist: we enter into communion with Christ Servant by obeying his command — to love one another as He has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). If we approach Holy Communion without being sincerely ready to wash the feet of one another, we don’t recognize the Body of the Lord. It is the service, Jesus gives himself entirely. Then, the day after tomorrow, in the liturgy of Good Friday we shall meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death and adore the Cross. In the final moments of his life, before giving up his spirit to the Father, Jesus said: “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). What do these words mean, when Jesus says: “It is finished”? It means that the work of salvation is finished, that all of the Scriptures have found their total fulfillment in the love of Christ, the immolated Lamb. Jesus, by his Sacrifice, has transformed the greatest iniquity into the greatest love. Over the course of the centuries there have been men and women who by the witness of their lives reflected a ray of this perfect love, full and undefiled. I would like to recall a heroic witness of our times, Don Andrea Santoro, a priest of the Diocese of Rome and a missionary in Turkey. A few days before being assassinated in Trebisonda, he wrote: “I live among these people so that Jesus can live among them through me... only by offering one’s flesh is salvation possible. The evil that stalks the world must be borne and pain must be shared till the end in one’s own flesh as Jesus did” (A. Polselli, Don Andrea Santoro, le eredità, Città Nuova, Rome 2008, p. 31). May the example of a man of our times, and so many others, sustain us in the offering of our own life as a gift of love to our brothers and sisters, in the imitation of Jesus. And today too there are many men and women, true martyrs who offer up their lives with Jesus in order to confess the faith, for this motive alone. It is a service, the service of Christian witness even to the pouring out of blood, a service that Christ rendered for us: he redeemed us to the very end. And this is the meaning of those words “It is finished”. How beautiful it will be when we all, at the end of our lives, with our errors and our faults, as well as our good deeds and our love of neighbour, can say to the Father as Jesus did: “It is finished”; not with kind of perfection with which He said it, but to say: “Lord, I did everything that I could do. It is finished”. Adoring the Cross, looking to Jesus, let us think of love, of service, of our lives, of the Christian martyrs, and it will do us good too to think of the end of our lives. No one knows when that will be, but we can ask for the grace to be able to say: “Father, I did what I could do. It is finished”. Holy Saturday is the day on which the Church contemplates the “repose” of Christ in the sepulchre after the victorious battle of the Cross. On Holy Saturday the Church, yet again, identifies with Mary: all her faith is gathered in Her, the first and perfect disciple, the first and perfect believer. In the darkness that enveloped creation, She alone stayed to keep the flame of faith burning, hoping against all hope (cf. Rm 4:18) in the Resurrection of Jesus. And on the great Easter Vigil, in which the Alleluia resounds once more, we celebrate Christ Risen, the centre and the purpose of the cosmos and of history; we keep vigil filled with hope in expectation of his coming return, when Easter will be fully manifest. At times the dark of night seems to penetrate the soul; at times we think: “there is nothing more to be done”, and the heart no longer finds the strength to love.... But it is precisely in the darkness that Christ lights the fire of God’s love: a flash breaks through the darkness and announces a new start, something begins in the deepest darkness. We know that the night is “most night like” just before the dawn. In that very darkness Christ conquers and rekindles the fire of love. The stone of sorrow is rolled away leaving room for hope. Behold the great mystery of Easter! On this holy night the Church gives us the light of the Risen One, that in us there will not be the regret of the one who says: “if only...”, but the hope of the one who opens himself to a present filled with future: Christ has conquered death, and we are with Him. Our life does not end at the stone of the sepulchre, our life goes beyond with hope in Christ who is Risen from that very tomb. As Christians we are called to be sentinels of the dawn, who can discern the signs of the Risen One, as did the women and the disciples who ran to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. Dear brothers and sisters, during these days of the Holy Triduum let us not limit ourselves to commemorating the passion of the Lord, but let us enter into the mystery, making his feelings and thoughts our own, as the Apostle Paul invites us to do: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5). Then ours will be a “Happy Easter”. *** Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua italiana. Sono lieto di accogliere gli universitari riuniti a Roma per l’incontro Internazionale UNIV e gli studenti dell’Istituto San Vincenzo de’ Paoli di Reggio Emilia, che ricordano i 150 anni di attività: vi esorto a crescere nell’amicizia con il Signore, perché “quello che serve non è una vita comoda ma un cuore innamorato”. Saluto i partecipanti alla Marcia Internazionale Montefortiana di Verona; i membri dell’Unione Camere Penali Italiane e i gruppi parrocchiali, in particolare la delegazione di Pescia. A tutti auguro che il Triduo Pasquale, centro della fede e della vita della Chiesa, sia occasione per entrare pienamente nel mistero della morte e risurrezione di Gesù.