Vatican City, Mar 9, 2008 / 11:17 am
Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus message said that the Gospel story of Lazarus shows Christ’s absolute power over life and death and reveals His nature as true man and true God.
The Holy Father also repeated his appeals for peace in the Holy Land and the release of a kidnapped Iraqi archbishop.
After returning from an apostolic visit at the San Lorenzo International Youth Center, where he celebrated Mass Sunday morning, Pope Benedict appeared in the window of his study to recite the midday Angelus with thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square.
Before reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father offered a reflection on today's Gospel.
Recounting the story of Lazarus, Pope Benedict said this reading "shows Jesus as true man and true God."
Sleep, he said, is a metaphor for physical death. That is, the death of the body is a sleep from which God can awaken man at any time.
In raising Lazarus and in restoring life to the young son of the widow of Nain (cf. Lk 7:11-17) and the girl of twelve years (cf. Mk 5:35-43), Jesus shows an absolute power over physical death.
At the same time, the Holy Father said, Jesus' lordship over death does not prevent him from showing sincere compassion over the pain of this separation.
Seeing the tears of Martha and Mary and those who had come to console them, even Jesus was "deeply disturbed" and "wept" (John 11:33-35).
"The heart of Christ is divine and human," the Holy Father said. "In Christ, God and Man are perfectly one, without separation and without confusion. He is the image, in fact, the incarnation of God who is love, mercy, paternal and maternal tenderness; of God, who is Life."
The Holy Father added that just as Jesus asked Martha if she believes that he is the "resurrection and the life," Jesus addresses to each of us this same question that in fact exceeds our ability to understand.
Jesus asks us to trust him, as he has been entrusted to the Father. And, the Holy Father said, despite our doubts and our darkness, we are invited to follow Martha's example and say to Jesus, "We believe in you, because you have the words of eternal life. We believe in you, we hope in the gift of life after life, an authentic and full life in your kingdom of light and peace."
After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father appealed for the second consecutive week for an end to violence in the Holy Land.
He said, "In recent days, violence has again bloodied the Holy Land, fuelling a spiral of destruction and death that seems to have no end. While I invite you to pray with insistence to the Lord Almighty for the gift of peace for the region, I wish to entrust to His mercy the many innocent victims and express solidarity with the families and the injured."
The Holy Father also urged the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to continue negotiations in order to build "a peaceful and just future for their peoples."
"In the name of God, he said, "leave the tortured path of hatred and revenge and pursue the responsible paths of dialogue and trust."
Pope Benedict also expressed his heartfelt concern for the fate of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Rahho who was kidnapped last week in Iraq. The Pope also voiced his concern for the many Iraqis who continue to suffer violence, which the Holy Father called "absurd" and contrary to the will of God.
Finally, Pope Benedict invited young people from the diocese of Rome to St. Peter's Basilica next Thursday, when he will preside over a penance service in preparation for the upcoming twenty-third World Youth day in Sydney Australia.
He said, "Dear young people of Rome, I invite you all to this meeting with the Mercy of God! For priests and youth ministers, I urge you to encourage the participation of young people by incorporating the words of Paul: "We are ambassadors for Christ…. Let us be reconciled to God!" (2 Cor 5:20).