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Isaiah 61: 1-3a. 6a. 8b-9
Ephesians 4: 11-16
John 15: 9-17
Ratzinger's homily, the full text
At the Conclave - April 18, 2005
«In this hour of great responsibility, we listen with particular attention to what the Lord tells us with his own words. From the three readings I would like to choose only a few steps, which concerns us directly at a time like this ».
"The first reading offers a prophetic portrait of the figure of the Messiah - a portrait that receives all its meaning from the moment when Jesus reads this text in the synagogue of Nazareth, when he says:" Today this scripture has been fulfilled ". At the center of the prophetic text we find a word that - at least at first sight - appears contradictory. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says he is sent "to promulgate the year of mercy of the Lord, a day of vengeance for our God". We listen with joy to the announcement of the year of mercy: divine mercy sets a limit to evil - the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: to encounter Christ means to meet the mercy of God. The mandate of Christ has become our mandate through priestly anointing; we are called to promulgate - not only in words but with life, and with the effective signs of the sacraments, "the year of mercy of the Lord".
"The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we enter into solidarity with his suffering - we become available to complete in our flesh" what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ ".
Let's move on to the second reading, to the letter to the Ephesians. Here it is essentially a question of three things: first, ministries and charisms in the Church, as gifts of the Risen Lord and ascended into heaven; therefore, of the maturation of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, as a condition and content of unity in the body of Christ; and, finally, of the common participation in the growth of the body of Christ, that is, of the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord. Let us dwell only on two points. The first is the journey towards "the maturity of Christ"; so the Italian text says, a little simplifying. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the "measure of the fullness of Christ", to which we are called to arrive in order to be truly adults in faith. We should not remain children in the faith, in a state of minority. And what is being children in faith? Saint Paul answers: does it mean to be "tossed about by the waves and brought here and there by any wind of doctrine?". A very current description!
"How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many fashions of thought ... The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been agitated by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from the Marxism to liberalism, up to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so on. Every day new sects are born and what St. Paul says about the deception of men, about the astuteness that tends to draw into error, is realized.
Having a clear faith, according to the Creed of the Church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. While relativism, that is, letting oneself be carried "here and there by any wind of doctrine", appears as the only attitude worthy of today's times. A dictatorship of relativism is being established that does not recognize anything as definitive and that leaves as its last measure only its own ego and its desires ».
"Instead, we have another measure: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. »Adult» is not a faith that follows the waves of fashion and the latest news; adult and mature is a faith deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us to all that is good and gives us the criterion to discern between true and false, between deception and truth. We must mature this adult faith, we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is realized in charity. In this regard, Saint Paul offers us - in contrast to the constant adventures of those who are like children tossed by the waves - a beautiful word: to make truth in charity, as the fundamental formula of Christian existence. In Christ, truth and love coincide. To the extent that we approach Christ, even in our lives, truth and love come together. Charity without truth would be blind; the truth without charity would be like "a cymbal that tinkles".
"We come now to the Gospel, from whose wealth I would like to extract only two small observations. The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: "Do I call you servants any more? but I have called you friends ». So often we feel we are - as is true - only useless servants. And yet, the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in a dual way. There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us everything he hears from the Father; it gives us its full confidence and, with trust, also knowledge. He reveals his face, his heart. He shows us his tenderness for us, his passionate love that goes as far as the madness of the cross. He entrusts himself to us, gives us the power to speak with his ego: "this is my body ...", "I absolve you ...". He entrusts his body, the Church, to us. He entrusts to our weak minds, to our weak hands his truth - the mystery of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of the God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son". He made us his friends - and how do we respond? "
"But what does Isaiah mean when he announces the" day of vengeance for our God "? Jesus, in Nazareth, in his reading of the prophetic text, did not utter these words - he concluded by announcing the year of mercy. Was this perhaps the reason for the scandal that took place after his sermon? We do not know. In any case, the Lord offered his authentic comment to these words with the death of the cross. "Did he carry our sins in his body on the wood of the cross?" Says St. Peter. And St. Paul writes to the Galatians: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, becoming himself a curse for us, as it is written: Cursed be he hangs from the wood, because in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham passed on to the Gentiles and we received the promise of the Spirit by faith ". The mercy of Christ is not a cheap grace, it does not suppose the trivialization of evil. Christ brings into his body and on his soul all the weight of evil, all its destructive force He burns and transforms evil into suffering, into the fire of his suffering love.The day of vengeance and the year of mercy coincide in the paschal mystery, in Christ dead and risen. This is the vengeance of God: he himself, in the person of the Son, suffers for us ".
«The second element, with which Jesus defines friendship, is the communion of wills. Idem velle - idem nolle », the definition of friendship was also for the Romans. »You are my friends, if you do what I command you». Friendship with Christ coincides with what the third question of the Our Father expresses: "May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". In the hour of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our rebellious human will into a will conformed and united to the divine will. He suffered all the drama of our autonomy - and precisely by bringing our will into the hands of God, he gives us true freedom: "Not as I want, but as you wish". In this communion of wills, our redemption is realized: being friends of Jesus, becoming friends of God. The more we love Jesus, the more we know him, the more our true freedom grows, the joy of being redeemed grows. Thanks Jesus, for your friendship! ».
"The other element of the Gospel - which I wanted to mention - is Jesus' discourse on bearing fruit:" I constituted you so that you may go and bear fruit and your fruit may remain ". Here appears the dynamism of the existence of the Christian, of the apostle: have I formed you to go? We must be animated by a holy restlessness: the anxiety of bringing to everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, love, the friendship of God has been given to us so that it can also reach others. We have received the faith to give it to others - we are priests to serve others. And we must bring a fruit that remains. All men want to leave a trace that remains. But what remains? Money no. Even the buildings do not remain; the books either. After a certain time, more or less long, all these things disappear. The only thing that remains forever is the human soul, the man created by God for eternity. The fruit that remains is therefore what we have sown in human souls - love, knowledge; the gesture capable of touching the heart; the word that opens the soul to the joy of the Lord. Then let us go and pray to the Lord, to help us bear fruit, a fruit that remains. Only in this way the earth is changed from valley of tears to the garden of God ».
"Finally we return, once again, to the letter to the Ephesians. The letter says - with the words of Psalm 68 - that Christ, ascending into heaven, "gave gifts to men". The winner distributes gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Our ministry is a gift of Christ to men, to build his body - the new world. We live our ministry like this, as a gift of Christ to men! But above all, now we pray the Lord insistently, because after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, give us again a pastor according to his heart, a pastor who will guide us to the knowledge of Christ, to his love, to the true joy. Amen".