VATICAN CITY, 22 SEP 2011
At 6 p.m. today the Holy Father arrived by car at Berlin's Olympic stadium to celebrate Mass with large numbers of faithful who had gathered there from Germany and surrounding countries. In the same stadium fifteen years ago, John Paul II had presided at the beatification of Karl Leisner and Bernhard Lichtenberg.
In his homily,Benedict XVI commented on the parable of the vine shoots taken from today's Gospel reading. When Jesus says "I am the vine, you are the branches", what He means is that "I am you and you are I, an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, His Church. ... He continues to live in His Church in this world. He is present among us, and we are with him", said the Pope.
In this parable,Jesus says "my Father is the vine grower" who cuts off the withered branches and prunes the fruit-bearing ones, so that they bring forth more fruit. This means that God "wants to bestow new life upon us, full of vitality. Christ came to call sinners. It is they who need the doctor. ...Hence, as Vatican Council II expresses it, the Church is the 'universal Sacrament of salvation', existing for sinners in order to open up to them the path of conversion, healing and life. That is the Church's true and great mission, entrusted to her by Christ".
Reasons for disenchantment with the Church
The Holy Father continued: "Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the 'Church'.
If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and deep mystery of the Church is no longer seen.
"It follows that belonging to the vine, to the Church, is no longer a source of joy.Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people's superficial and mistaken notions of 'Church', their 'dream Church', fail to materialize".
Later the Pope went on to explain how Jesus invites us to abide in Him.
"As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me ... If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned".
"The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the existential significance of our life choices. At the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ Himself came into this world through His incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, ... God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we 'abide' in Christ, in the vine".
This is of particular importance in our own "era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived. ...The risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. ... Future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.
"To abide in Christ means to abide in the Church as well" the Pope added. "The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. ... Within this communion He supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. ... We do not believe alone, but we believe with the whole Church.
"The Church, as the herald of God's word and dispenser of the Sacraments, joins us to Christ, the true vine. ... The Church is God's most beautiful gift. ... With and in the Church we may proclaim to all people that Christ is the source of life, that He exists, that He is the one for Whom we long so much. He gives himself. Whoever believes in Christ has a future. For God ... wants what is fruitful and alive, He wants life in its fullness".
In closing the Holy Father expressed the hope that the faithful may increasingly discover"the joy of being joined to Christ in the Church, that you may find comfort and redemption in your time of need and that you may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ's joy and love for this world".
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