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Papal Masses
Pope Benedict celebrates birthday, gives thanks to God for His Mercy
Pope Benedict celebrates birthday, gives thanks to God for His Mercy

.- On the eve of his 80th birthday, the Holy Father celebrated Mass with 60 Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops, and the Metropolitan of Pergamo, sent by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica.  Following the proclamation of the Gospel, The Holy Father gave a short homily.

Beginning with a brief history of "White Sunday," the Pope reminded those present that "on this day, the Neophytes of the Paschal Vigil would put on their white clothes again as a symbol of the light that the Lord had given them in Baptism."  Recently, however, John Paul II "wanted this Sunday to be celebrated as the Feast of Divine Mercy."

"It is in this word 'mercy,'" he continued, "that the entire mystery of the Redemption is summarized and interpreted anew in our times." Despite living under two totalitarian regimes, John Paul II "experienced the presence of God, which is not weaker [than the darkness of the world]." In fact, John Paul II "told us, 'Trust in the Divine Mercy!'"

Pausing a moment, the Pope thanked all those present as he celebrated a significant day, "I can look back over 80 years of my life." He especially noted the presence of the Metropolitan of Pergamo, saying that he "appreciate[s] that kind gesture and look[s] forward to a renewed Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue."

Conscious that "the liturgy should not be used to speak about me," Benedict decided to focus on how "life itself can serve to announce the Mercy of God." Mentioning how much we owe to God the Father, the Holy Father noted that "at the same time, He trusts us because His mercy and goodness, with which He accepts even our weakness, always shine through His justice."

Turning to the readings for the day, the Pope mentioned that in the early Church, "people would bring the ill into the plazas so that when Peter passed by, his shadow would cover them." This shadow, the Holy Father continued, is the shadow of a "man with all the weaknesses of a human being, but above all of a man who was filled with a strong faith in Christ, filled with love of Him." The Pope asked all those present at the Mass to "search for the shadow of Peter today, in order to be in the Light of Christ!"

"The great gift of the multiple mercies of God," the Pope continued, "is birth and rebirth, an earthly family and the great family of God." Benedict recalled that when he was ordained in 1951, he felt "consolation in the fact that the protection of God's saints, of all the living and the dead, was invoked" over him. "I knew that I would never be alone," he added.

The Pope then directed his attention of the words of the Gospel, in which the Apostle Thomas "is allowed to touch His wounds, and thereby recognizes Him; he recognizes Him beyond His humanity as Jesus of Nazareth, in His true and most profound identity, "My Lord and my God!" Because Jesus kept His wounds, "He is a wounded God; He; remains wounded by love of us."

"The mercy of God accompanies us day by day," the Holy Father said while concluding his homily, "all we need is a vigilant heart to perceive it." The Pope concluded with a prayer by Pope Leo the Great that he had written on the holy cards for his Episcopal Ordination, "Pray to our good God, that he might strengthen faith, multiply love and increase peace. May He make me, his miserable servant, capable of doing His will, and useful for your edification, and may He allow me to carry out His service so that, along with the time He has given, my devotion may grow. Amen."

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