Over 200,000 people gathered at the square surrounding the Les Invalides complex in Paris this morning for Mass with the Pope. In his homily the Holy Father urged his listeners to “shun the worship of idols,” including the idea that man can bring “about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth.”
"In the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians," Benedict XVI said, "we discover ... how much the counsels given by the Apostle remain important today. 'Shun the worship of idols,' he writes to a community deeply marked by paganism and divided between adherence to the newness of the Gospel and the observance of former practices inherited from its ancestors.”
"This appeal to shun idols," he added, "is also pertinent today. ... The word 'idol' comes from the Greek and means 'image,' 'figure,' 'representation,' but also 'ghost,' 'phantom,' 'vain appearance.' An idol is a delusion, for it turns its worshipper away from reality and places him in the kingdom of mere appearances."
"Now," the Pope asked, "is this not a temptation in our own day - the only one we can act upon effectively? The temptation to idolize a past that no longer exists, forgetting its shortcomings; the temptation to idolize a future which does not yet exist, in the belief that, by his efforts alone, man can bring about the kingdom of eternal joy on earth!" In the same way, "have not money, the thirst for possessions, for power and even for knowledge, diverted man from his true destiny?"
Yet "radical condemnation of idolatry", said the Pope quoting St. John Chrysostom whose feast day falls today, "is never a personal condemnation of the idolater. In our judgments, must we never confuse the sin, which is unacceptable, with the sinner, the state of whose conscience we cannot judge and who, in any case, is always capable of conversion and forgiveness."
"Never does God ... ask man to sacrifice his reason! Reason never enters into real contradiction with faith! The one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - created our reason and gives us faith, proposing to our freedom that it be received as a precious gift. It is the worship of idols which diverts man from this perspective.”
"Let us therefore ask God, who sees us and hears us, to help us purify ourselves from all idols, in order to arrive at the truth of our being, in order to arrive at the truth of His infinite being!"
"St. Paul asks us to make use not only of our reason, but above all our faith in order to discover Him. Now, what does faith say to us? The bread that we break is a communion with the Body of Christ. The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion with the Blood of Christ."
"Over the last twenty centuries," the Holy Father recalled, "the risen Lord has given Himself to His people. ... Let us give the greatest veneration to the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the Blessed Sacrament of the real presence of the Lord to his Church and to all humanity."
"The Mass is the sacrifice of thanksgiving par excellence, the one which allows us to unite our own thanksgiving to that of the Savior. ... The Mass invites us to discern what, in ourselves, is obedient to the Spirit of God and what, in ourselves, is attuned to the spirit of evil."
Hence, "to raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, is that not the very best way of 'shunning idols'? ... Every time the Mass is celebrated, every time Christ makes Himself sacramentally present in His Church, the work of our salvation is accomplished. ... He alone teaches us to shun idols, the illusions of our minds."
Yet "who can raise the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord in the name of the entire people of God, except the priest?", the Pope asked and he made an appeal, "confident in their faith and generosity," to young people "who are considering a religious or priestly vocation: do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to give your life to Christ! Nothing will ever replace the ministry of priests at the heart of the Church!"
"Hope will always remain stronger than all else! The Church, built upon the rock of Christ, possesses the promises of eternal life, not because her members are holier than others, but because Christ made this promise to Peter: 'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it'."
Pope Benedict finished his homily by invoking the hope of the promises of Christ to the Church.
"In this unfailing hope of God's eternal presence in the souls of each of us, in this joy of knowing that Christ is with us until the end of time, in this power that the Holy Spirit gives to all those who let themselves be filled with Him, I entrust you, dear Christians of Paris and France, to the powerful and merciful action of the God of love Who died for us upon the Cross and rose victorious on Easter morning.”
“To all people of good will ... I say once more, with St. Paul: Shun the worship of idols, do not tire of doing good!" the Pope exclaimed.