The Holy Father´s Week: December 1, 2008

A report on Pope Benedict XVI´s messages and activities.
by Maribel de Torres | Source: Zenit.org

Christian ethics is based on friendship with Christ. Taking up again the theme of last week -- justification -- the Holy Father explained that faith that does not show itself in charity is dead. “faith, if it is true and real, becomes love, charity -- is expressed in charity.” The Pope affirmed this during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square

He added that confusion on this point has led to many misunderstandings in the history of Christianity.
"Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are called to live in the love of Christ toward others, because it is by this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our existence," Benedict XVI said, recalling the Gospel of last Sunday, the parable of the Final Judgment."

He continued: "From this perspective, the centrality of justification without works, primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with the faith that operates in love. On the contrary, it demands that our very faith is expressed in a life according to the Spirit.”

He affirmed that there is no opposition between the theology of Paul and James. "In reality,” the Holy Father explained, “ while Paul concerns himself above all with demonstrating that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James highlights the consequent relationship between faith and works. Therefore, for Paul and for James, faith operative in love witnesses to the gratuitous gift of justification in Christ." The Holy Father added "Following St. Paul, we should renew our awareness of the fact that, precisely because we have been justified in Christ, we don't belong to ourselves but have been made into the temple of the Spirit and are called, therefore, to glorify God in our bodies and with the whole of our existence."

Thus, the Pontiff explained, "Christian ethics is not born from a system of commandments, but rather is the consequence of our friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: If it is true, it incarnates and fulfils itself in love for neighbour. […] Let us, therefore, be overtaken by the reconciliation that God has given us in Christ, by God's 'crazy' love for us: No one and nothing could ever separate us from his love. With this certainty we live. And this certainty gives us the strength to live concretely the faith that works in love." VATICAN CITY, NOV. 26, 2008

We may not take time for God, but he takes time for us, Benedict XVI affirmed. “We always have little time. Especially in regard to the Lord,” he reflected “we do not know how to find him, or, sometimes, we do not want to find him. And yet God has time for us!”  

“Time itself is already "a basic sign of God's love”, the Bishop of Rome explained on the first day of the new liturgical year, "It is a gift that man can, like everything else, appreciate or, on the contrary, squander; he can grasp its meaning, or neglect it with obtuse superficiality," 

 “God gives us his time,” he noted, “because he has entered into history, with his Word and his works of salvation, to open it to eternity, to make it into a covenant history." Advent, he said, "celebrates God's coming in its two moments: First it invites us to awaken the expectation of Christ's glorious return; then, nearing Christmas, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation." 

"The Virgin Mary is the icon of Advent," the Pope concluded. "Let us call upon her to help us to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes." VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008

The whole Church is called to be Hope for the world. Advent is the season of hope par excellence, and during this time, the Church is called to be hope for itself and for the world, the Pope affirmed this Saturday during his homily at the celebration of first vespers in St. Peter's Basilica. 

Benedict XVI meditated on St.Paul´s first letter to the Thessalonians, in which the Apostle exhorts Christians to keep themselves irreprehensible "for" the coming of the Lord. He explained that in the original text we read 'in' the coming -- 'en te parousia' -- as if the coming of the Lord were, more than a future event, a spiritual place in which we already walk in the present. 

"In effect, he noted,“this is exactly what we live in the liturgy” The Pontiff said that the word that sums up this state of awaiting something and simultaneously already having a foretaste of it is "hope”.

“Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in this season the whole Church is called to be hope, for itself and for the world.” 

God calls us to meet him in Advent particularly through prayer, said the Pope, and prayer “finds its eminent expression in the Psalms, human words by which God himself has placed and continually places the invocation of his coming on the lips and hearts of believers.” 

The Pontiff offered a commentary on the two psalms from vespers: “Lord ... hasten to help me" (141:1). Is the cry of a person who feels himself to be in grave danger, but it is also the cry of the Church in the midst of the many snares that surround her, that threaten her holiness, that irreprehensible integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks, that must be maintained for the coming of the Lord."

In Psalm 142, he continued, “the identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident."

"In his first coming, in the incarnation, the Son of God wanted fully to share our human condition. Naturally, he did not share in sin, but for our salvation he suffered its consequences.”

“And we know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison."

Thus, the Pontiff concluded, "these two Psalms protect us against any temptation of evasion and flight from reality; they preserve us from a false hope, one that would like to enter into Advent and set off for Christmas forgetting the dramatic nature of our personal and collective existence. In effect, it is a trustworthy hope, not deceptive; it cannot but be an 'Easter' hope.”

“Like Mary and with her maternal assistance, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of Peace might completely sanctify us, and the Church might become a sign and an instrument of hope for all men” VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008

Papal Activities

Ecumenism promises much for the proclamation of the Gospel.  Benedict XVI presided an ecumenical celebration with Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians A delegation from the Catholicosate also participated in the event. 

In this year of Saint Paul, Aram I will visit the tomb of the Apostle of the Nations and pray with the monastic community at the basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. The Pope affirmed that the dialogue between the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Church has been benefited significantly from the presence of its Armenian delegates. He also expressed his conviction that “the growth in understanding, respect and cooperation which has emerged from ecumenical dialogue promises much for the proclamation of the Gospel in our time.”

He also mentioned that “An increased understanding and appreciation of the apostolic tradition which we share will contribute to an ever more effective common witness to the spiritual and moral values without which a truly just and humane social order cannot exist.”

The Holy father ended assuring his prayers and deep concern for the people of Lebanon and the Middle East.  He recalled with sadness the recent escalation of persecution and violence against Christians in parts of the Middle East and elsewhere. The Pope ended that “Only when the countries involved can determine their own destiny, and the various ethnic groups and religious communities accept and respect each other fully, will peace be built on the solid foundations of solidarity, justice and respect for the legitimate rights of individuals and peoples.” Vatican City, 24, Nov.2008

Beauty, truth and goodness need to be connected. The search for beauty without truth and goodness can drive young people to fly toward artificial paradises that simply hide interior emptiness, said Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father cautioned against the separation between the "search for beauty, though understood in a reductive way as an exterior form, as an appearance to be sought at all costs, and the [search] for truth and the goodness of actions," ,This separation transforms beauty into a path that leads to the ephemeral, into banal and superficial appearances, or even a flight toward artificial paradises, which disguise and hide interior emptiness and inconsistencies."
Faced with this, the Pontiff affirmed that Christians are called to "give reason for" not only the truth of the faith, but also its beauty, by way of "works that are at the same time beautiful and good."

Beauty, he continued, has always been considered a "path to arrive to God".
The Pope invited artists to return again to Pope John Paul II's 1999 "Letter to Artists” He reminded them that their task, their mission is “to stir up awe at and desire for the beautiful, form the sensitivity of souls and nourish the passion for all that which is an authentic expression of the human genius and a reflection of divine beauty." The Pope affirmed this in a message sent to the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and members of the pontifical academies who are participating in a conference on the comparison between aesthetics and ethics." VATICAN CITY, NOV. 25, 2008

Religions have a duty to promote coexistence and reconciliation. The Pope affirmed this in a message delivered on his behalf by his secretary of state to the 83rd Social Weeks of France. According to the papal message, the "free exercise of the life of faith and the life of democracy" is founded on the distinction between the spheres of politics and religion.

States, he affirmed, cannot take upon themselves the "final responsibility" to respond to "the aspirations of persons, communities and peoples" within a "social order respectful of the dignity of the person."
The Holy Father emphasized on the other hand that religions have the "duty" to propose a vision of faith that excludes intolerance, discrimination and conflicts, and manifests "absolute respect for the truth," motivating "coexistence and reconciliation" and promoting "the rights of the human person." LYON, France, NOV. 26, 2008 (Zenit.org).

Benedict XVI Grieves Mumbai Attacks. The Holy Father urgently appeals for an end to all acts of terrorism,” which gravely offend the human family and severely destabilize the peace and solidarity needed to build a civilization worthy of mankind's noble vocation to love God and neighbour.”  In a telegram sent in his name to the archbishop of Mumbai, India, the Holy Father expressed his concern and sent his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in a series of attacks that began Wednesday night in Mumbai. VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2008


The Holy Father is close in prayer to nuns kidnapped in Kenya. Two italian.nuns were abducted in northeast Kenya more on Nov.10. Both of them are well known for their generous dedication to the very poor. The director of the Vatican press office, affirmed that the Pope is "close in prayer" to them, their families and the Contemplative Missionary Movement of Father de Foucauld, of which they are members. VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2008


Prisoners lose their liberty, but not their dignity. They still have inalienable rights: This is what the Pope said when he greeted participants from a conference on Latin American and Caribbean prison ministry. "Fundamental human rights must be respected” , the Pontiff said, “and a recovery and re-education that permits the re-entry of the imprisoned in society should be sought." The Bishop of Rome assured his spiritual closeness and prayer, blessing them and inviting them "not to feel alone and to maintain hope in the Lord, who is everlastingly faithful to his promises of salvation” VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008

Meekness and love are needed  The Holy Father prayed for the numerous people killed, wounded or in any way harmed in the brutal terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, and the fighting that has broken out in Jos, Nigeria. "The causes and the circumstances of these tragic events are different” he said, “but the horror and the disapproval of the explosion of such cruel and senseless violence must be the same." The Pontiff asked listeners to appeal to God to "touch the hearts of those who falsely believe that this is the way to resolve local or international problems and let us all feel encouraged to offer an example of meekness and love to build a society worthy of God and man." VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008

Benedict XVI greets Bartholomew I for Feast of St. Andrew. The Pope sent a message to the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on the occasion of today's feast of St. Andrew.
Benedict XVI said. "[...] With all my heart, I offer my greeting and my best wishes to him and to the faithful of the patriarchate, invoking the abundance of heavenly blessings upon all." The Pope said the relationship between Catholics and Orthodox is going deeper and he expressed his trust that the day will come when both Churches will share the celebration of the Eucharist. VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2008


A prayer for the Holy Father
Christ Jesus, King and Lord of the Church, in your presence I renew my unconditional loyalty to your Vicar on earth, the Pope. In him you have chosen to show us the safe and sure path that we must follow in the midst of confusion, uneasiness, and unrest. I firmly believe that through him you govern, teach, and sanctify us; with him as our shepherd, we form the true Church: one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Grant me the grace to love, live, and spread faithfully our Holy Father’s teachings. Watch over his life, enlighten his mind, strengthen his spirit, defend him from calumny and evil. Calm the erosive winds of infidelity and disobedience. Hear our prayer and keep your Church united around him, firm in its belief and action, that it may truly be the instrument of your redemption. Amen. 




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