Archive of September 10, 2006

Pope’s evening message: In Jesus, God offers shelter in our midst

Munich, Germany, Sep 10, 2006 (CNA) - Completing his first full day in Munich, Pope Benedict XVI prayed Vespers, or evening prayer, at the Cathedral of Munich.  Among the participants were several children who are preparing for their First Communion, their families, and catechists of the archdiocese.

Prior to entering the Frauenkirche (~the Church of the Lady) the Pope spent time speaking with the crowd gathered outside and shaking their hands.  The faithful were overjoyed – smiling and offering prayers and encouragement to the Pope as he passed.  An older Bavarian woman, at one point, grabbed the Pope’s arm and pulled him close for a hug.

The Pontiff entered the gothic cathedral which, with the exception of its two onion-domed spires, was entirely rebuilt after being destroyed during World War II.

Benedict processed down the main aisle of the cathedral and made a short visit to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the church’s crypt.  He emerged from the crypt in a green cope and mitre with his pontifical crosier in hand.

After the powerful singing of the psalms and at the conclusion of the reading (Revelation 7), the Holy Father offered a brief reflection.  

The reading, the Holy Father began, leads the reader’s eyes to heaven, “but also speaks to us about earth, about the present, about our lives.”  While each of us is on “a journey” we should find hope in the portrait the reading paints of a reconciled world made “of every nation, race, people and tongue (Rev, 7:9).”

But, he asked, how do we reach this?  “First and most important: these people are living with God; God himself has ‘sheltered them in his tent’ (cf. 7:15).”

This “tent of God” is a reference to the Gospel of John, which reads, “The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us (Jn 1:14),” the Pope noted.

“God is not far from us, he is not somewhere out in the universe, somewhere that none of us can go. He has pitched his tent among us: in Jesus he became one of us, flesh and blood just like us. This is his ‘tent.’”

“Let me repeat,” the Pope emphasized, “In Jesus, it is God who ‘camps’ in our midst.”

This encounter with God in our midst happens in our Baptism and in the Eucharist, he said.  In the reading from Revelation, Benedict noted, the writer speaks of the “blood of the Lamb,” which alludes to Jesus’ love.  “This love, both divine and human, is the bath into which he plunges us at Baptism - the bath with which he washes us, cleansing us so that we can be fit for God and capable of living in his company.”

“The act of Baptism, however, is just a beginning,” he said.

The Baptized believer must continue living in the shelter of the Lord, the Pope insisted, and the way to do this is through receiving the Lamb, following Him to the source of living water, Jesus present in the Sacred Scriptures and “most important” in the reception of Holy Communion.

“This is how we should receive Holy Communion: seeing it as an encounter with Jesus, an encounter with God himself, who leads us to the sources of true life.”

Turning to the parents of the children preparing for First Communion the Pope implored them to create a Catholic culture at home. The Pontiff asked them to walk with their children on the path to Holy Communion, continue going with them to Mass, and pray with them at home. “Family life becomes more joyful and expansive whenever God is there and his closeness is experienced in prayer.”

Pope Benedict then addressed the catechists and religion teachers, urging them to keep the search for God alive in their schools. “I know that in our pluralistic world it is no easy thing in schools to bring up the subject of faith. But it is hardly enough for our children and young people to learn technical knowledge and skills alone, and not the criteria that give knowledge and skill their direction and meaning.”

“Encourage your students not only to raise questions about particular things, but also to ask about the why and the wherefore of life as a whole. Help them to realize that any answers that do not finally lead to God are insufficient.”

For their part, the Pope said, priests and those who assist in parish life should do all they can to make the parish, a “spiritual community.”  The parish should be, “a great family where we also experience the even greater family of the universal Church, and learn through the liturgy, catechesis and all the events of parish life to walk together on the way of true life.”

“These three places of education - the family, the school and the parish - go together, and they help us to find the way that leads to the sources of life, towards ‘life in abundance.’”

Following the Holy Father’s reflection, those involved in catechesis in the diocese came forward along with some of the children who will receive soon receive First Communion, reflected on the Pope’s words and their work in teaching the faith and offered prayers of petition.  The Pontiff concluded the service by offering his blessing to the faithful and joining them in singing the “Salve Regina.”

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Pope tells Germans social work is not enough, faith is needed

Munich, Germany, Sep 10, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the first public Mass of his trip to Bavaria this morning, telling his countrymen while Germany is admired for its scientific and technical prowess and even noted for its social concern for those in need, that it is lacking in faith.

The Pope offered the Eucharistic sacrifice on a white and gray stage erected before a myriad of Germans who were gathered on Munich’s New Fairgrounds.  The sparsely decorated sanctuary held at its apex a life-size crucifix, dating from the 9th century.  The assembled crowds, standing in groups upon the grassy fields, watched and listened to their countryman, now the head of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church.

In his Homily the Holy Father challenged his fellow Germans to allow their ears to be opened to God’s word and to do away with the cynicism that is shutting God out of society.

The Pope first noted how the readings of the Mass speak of the presence of God and lead to Him.  “But,” the Pontiff noted, “to speak of "God" is also to speak of society: of our shared responsibility for the triumph of justice and love in the world.”

Turning to the Gospel, which tells the story of Jesus healing the man born deaf and mute, the Holy Father noted two themes.  Jesus displays his concern for the suffering, “for those pushed to the margins of society. He heals them and, by enabling them to live and work together, he brings them to equality and fraternity.”

Yet, Benedict said, “the whole story has a deeper dimension,” a message which the Church Fathers preached and which, “also has new meaning for us modern men and women.”

The deafness of which the Gospel speaks and which, the Pope said, cuts people off from social life, is not simply a physical deafness.  “There is also,” he said, “a ‘hardness of hearing’ where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God - there are too many different frequencies filling our ears.”

“What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age. Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with him and to him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses.”

“This weakening of our capacity for perception drastically and dangerously curtails the range of our relationship with reality. The horizon of our life is disturbingly foreshortened,” the Pope worried.

However, the "Ephphatha" - "Be opened" which Jesus spoke to the deaf and mute man in the Gospel, Jesus speaks to men and women today, Benedict said.  “What happened then was unique, but it does not belong to a distant past: Jesus continues to do the same thing anew, even today.”  By means of our Baptism, he said, we all have been given the ability to hear God’s voice and speak to Him.

And this openness to God is something Germans should renew and export to the world.  Benedict said that Bishops from around the world have praised the social activities of German Catholics, but find a lack of concern for faith itself.  The Pope recounted the words of an African Bishop, who recently told him, “If I come to Germany and present social projects, suddenly every door opens. But if I come with a plan for evangelization, I meet with reservations".

“Clearly,” the Pontiff lamented, “some people have the idea that social projects should be urgently undertaken, while anything dealing with God or even the Catholic faith is of limited and lesser importance.”

However, he said, for progress to be made in social issues, evangelization and conversion of hearts must be first.  Work done in an area such as the AIDS epidemic can only be fruitful once the conversion of hearts is achieved, he said.  

“People in Africa and Asia admire our scientific and technical prowess,” the Pope continued, “but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man’s vision, as if this were the highest form of reason, and one to be imposed on their cultures too. They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith, but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme moral criterion for the future of scientific research.”

“Dear friends, this cynicism is not the kind of tolerance and cultural openness that the world’s peoples are looking for and that all of us want! The tolerance which we urgently need includes the fear of God - respect for what others hold sacred. This respect for what others hold sacred demands that we ourselves learn once more the fear of God. This sense of respect can be reborn in the Western world only if faith in God is reborn, if God becomes once more present to us and in us.”

“As we gather here,” the Pope concluded, “let us here ask the Lord with all our hearts to speak anew his "Ephphatha", to heal our hardness of hearing for God’s presence, activity and word, and to give us sight and hearing.”

At the conclusion of the Mass the Holy Father prayed the Angelus with those gathered and joined them in singing a hearty closing hymn.  The Pontiff waved enthusiastically to the cheering crowd, prior to departing for a luncheon at the Archbishop’s residence.

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Benedict: Mary is supreme example of knowing and serving God

Munich, Germany, Sep 10, 2006 (CNA) - Following a Mass at Munich’s New Fairgrounds, Pope Benedict XVI led the crowd of faithful in praying the Angelus, a prayer recalling the annunciation of God being made man in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  The Pope pointed out the great devotion the people of Bavaria have to Mary, the “supreme example,” of the attitude of seeing God at the center of life.

The Pontiff noted again the readings of the Mass, which call men and women to a recognition of God in their lives and to social action, and how Mary exemplified this behavior.

“Throughout her earthly life, (Mary) was the Woman who listened, the Virgin whose heart was open towards God and towards others. The faithful have understood this since the earliest centuries of Christianity, and therefore in all their needs and trials they have confidently turned to her, imploring her help and her intercession with God,” the Pope recalled.

The Pope mentioned the hundreds of churches and shrines dedicated to Mary, throughout Bavaria, noting in particular, Munich’s Column of Mary, which he visited the previous day, and the shrine of Altötting, where he will go tomorrow to dedicate a new Adoration Chapel.

The chapel is perfectly fitting at a Marian shrine, the Pope said, because it, “is an eloquent sign of Mary’s role: she is and remains the handmaid of the Lord who never puts herself at the centre, but wishes to guide us towards God, to teach us a way of life in which God is acknowledge as the centre of all there is and the centre of our personal lives.”

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