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Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 123

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 3, 2012

BENEDICT XVI
GENERAL AUDIENCE

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

 Psalm 123[122]
“Have mercy on us!’
Evening Prayer – Monday of Week Three

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Unfortunately, you have suffered under the rain. Let us hope that the weather will now improve.

1. Jesus very vigorously affirms in the Gospel that the eyes are an expressive symbol of the innermost self, a mirror of the soul (cf. Mt 6: 22-23). Well, Psalm 123[122], which has just been proclaimed, is the focal point of an exchange of glances: the faithful person lifts his eyes to the Lord, awaiting a divine reaction, ready to glimpse a gesture of love or a look of kindness. We too, as it were, raise our eyes and await a gesture of benevolence from the Lord.

The gaze of the Most High who “looks down on the sons of men to see if any are wise, if any seek God” (Ps 14[13]: 2), is often mentioned in the Psalter. The Psalmist, as we have heard, uses an image, that of the servant and slave who look to their master, waiting for him to make a decision that will set them free.

Even if this scene is connected with the ancient world and its social structures, the idea is clear and full of meaning: the image taken from the world of the ancient East is intended to exalt the attachment of the poor, the hope of the oppressed and the availability of the just to the Lord.

2. The person of prayer is waiting for the divine hands to move because they will act justly and destroy evil. This is why, in the Psalter, the one praying raises his hope-filled eyes to the Lord. “My eyes are always on the Lord; for he rescues my feet from the snare” (Ps 25[24]: 15), while “My eyes are wasted away from looking for my God” (Ps 69[68]: 4).

Psalm 123[122] is an entreaty in which the voice of one of the faithful joins that of the whole community: indeed, the Psalm passes from the first person singular, “I lifted up my eyes”, to the first person plural, “our eyes” and “show us his mercy” (cf. vv. 1-3). The Psalmist expresses the hope that the Lord will open his hands to lavish his gifts of justice and freedom upon us. The just person waits for God’s gaze to reveal itself in all its tenderness and goodness, as one reads in the ancient priestly blessing from the Book of Numbers: “The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace!” (Nm 6: 25-26).

3. The great importance of God’s loving gaze is revealed in the second part of the Psalm which features the invocation: “Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy” (Ps 123[122]: 3), that comes in continuity with the finale of the first part in which trusting expectation is reaffirmed, “till [the Lord our God] show us his mercy” (cf. v. 2).

The faithful are in need of God’s intervention because they are in a painful plight, suffering the contempt and disdain of overbearing people. The image the Psalmist uses here is that of satiety: “We are filled with contempt. Indeed, all too full is our soul with the scorn of the rich, with the proud man’s disdain” (vv. 3-4).

The traditional biblical fullness of food and years, considered a sign of divine blessing, is now countered by an intolerable satiety composed of an excessive load of humiliations. And we know today that many nations, many individuals, are truly burdened with derision, with the contempt of the rich and the disdain of the proud. Let us pray for them and let us help these humiliated brethren of ours.

Thus, the righteous have entrusted their cause to the Lord; he is not indifferent to their beseeching eyes nor does he ignore their plea – and ours – or disappoint their hope.

4. To conclude, let us make room for the voice of St Ambrose, the great Archbishop of Milan who, in the Psalmist’s spirit, gives poetical rhythm to the work of God that reaches us through Jesus the Saviour: “Christ is everything for us. If you wish to cure a wound, he is doctor; if you burn with fever, he is fountain; if you are oppressed by iniquity, he is justice; if you are in need of help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire heaven, he is the way; if you flee from darkness, he is light; if you seek food, he is nourishment” (La verginità, 99: SAEMO, XIV/2, Milan-Rome, 1989, p. 81). (source)

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 130

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 21, 2012

Psalm 130[129]
“Lord, hear my voice!’
Evening Prayer – Sunday of Week Fourth

1. One of the Psalms best-known and best-loved in Christian tradition has just been proclaimed:  the De profundis, as it was called from its beginning in the Latin version. With the Miserere, it has become one of the favourite penitential Psalms of popular devotion.

Over and above its use at funerals, the text is first and foremost a hymn to divine mercy and to the reconciliation between the sinner and the Lord, a God who is just but always prepared to show himself “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin” (Ex 34: 6-7).

For this very reason, our Psalm is inserted into the liturgy of Vespers for Christmas and for the whole Octave of Christmas, as well as in the liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Easter and of the Solemnity of the Annunciation.

2. Psalm 130[129] opens with a voice that rises from the depths of evil and sin (cf. vv. 1-2). The person who is praying addresses the Lord in the first person: “I cry to you, O Lord”. The Psalm then develops in three parts, dedicated to the subject of sin and forgiveness. The Psalmist first of all addresses God directly, using the “Tu”: “If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive? But with you is found forgiveness:  for this we revere you” (vv. 3-4).

It is significant that reverent awe, a sentiment in which respect and love are mingled, is not born from punishment but from forgiveness. Rather than sparking his anger, God’s generous and disarming magnanimity must kindle in us a holy reverence. Indeed, God is not an inexorable sovereign who condemns the guilty but a loving father whom we must love, not for fear of punishment, but for his kindness, quick to forgive.

3. At the centre of the second part is the “I” of the person praying, who no longer addresses the Lord in the first person but talks about him: I trust in the Lord. “My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word. My soul is longing for the Lord more than watchman for daybreak” (vv. 5-6). Expectation, hope, the certainty that God will speak a liberating word and wipe away the sin are now blossoming in the heart of the repentant Psalmist.

The third and last part in the development of the Psalm extends to the whole of Israel, to the people, frequently sinful and conscious of the need for God’s saving grace: “Let Israel… count on the Lord. Because with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption; Israel indeed he will redeem from all its iniquity” (vv. 7-8).

The personal salvation that the praying person implores at the outset is now extended to the entire community. The Psalmist’s faith is grafted on to the historical faith of the people of the Covenant, “redeemed” by the Lord not only from the distress of the Egyptian oppression but “from all its iniquity”. Only think that it is we who are now the chosen people, the People of God. And our faith grafts us on to the common faith of the Church. In this very way it gives us the certainty that God is good to us and sets us free from our sins.

Rising from the shadowy vortex of sin the supplication of the De profundis reaches God’s shining horizon where “mercy and fullness of redemption” are dominant, two great characteristics of God who is love.

4. Let us now entrust ourselves to the meditation that Christian tradition has woven into this Psalm. Let us choose St Ambrose’s words: in his writings he often recalled the reasons that motivated him to invoke pardon from God.

“We have a good Lord who wants to forgive everyone”, he recalled in his Treatise on Penance, and he added: “If you want to be justified, confess your fault: a humble confession of sins untangles the knot of faults…. You see with what hope of forgiveness you are impelled to make your confession” (2, 6, 40-41:  Sancti Ambrosii Episcopi Mediolanensis Opera [SAEMO], XVII, Milan-Rome, 1982, p. 253).

In the Exposition of the Gospel according to Luke, repeating the same invitation, the Bishop of Milan expressed his wonder at the gifts that God added to his forgiveness: “You see how good God is and ready to pardon sins:  not only does he give back everything he had taken away, but he also grants unhoped for gifts”. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, lost the ability to speak because he did not believe the angel, but subsequently, in pardoning him, God granted him the gift of prophecy in the hymn of the Benedictus: “The one who could not speak now prophesies”, St Ambrose said, adding that “it is one of the greatest graces of the Lord, that those who have denied him should confess belief in him. Therefore, no one should lose trust, no one should despair of the divine reward, even if previous sins cause him remorse. God can change his opinion if you can make amends for your sin” (2, 33:  SAEMO, XI, Milan-Rome, 1978, p. 175).

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 13, 2012

This talk was delivered as part of the Pope’s Wednesday catechesis on prayer (scroll down to the heading “Catechesis On Prayer”).

Psalm 23
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Turning to the Lord in prayer implies a radical act of trust, in the awareness that one is entrusting oneself to God who is good, “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6-7; Ps 86[85]:15; cf. Joel 2:13; Jon 4:2; Ps 103 [102]:8; 145[144]:8; Neh 9:17). For this reason I would like to reflect with you today on a Psalm that is totally imbued with trust, in which the Psalmist expresses his serene certainty that he is guided and protected, safe from every danger, because the Lord is his Shepherd. It is Psalm 23 [22, according to the Greco-Latin numbering], a text familiar to all and loved by all.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”: the beautiful prayer begins with these words, evoking the nomadic environment of sheep-farming and the experience of familiarity between the shepherd and the sheep that make up his little flock. The image calls to mind an atmosphere of trust, intimacy and tenderness: the shepherd knows each one of his sheep and calls them by name; and they follow him because they recognize him and trust in him (cf. Jn 10:2-4).

He tends them, looks after them as precious possessions, ready to defend them, to guarantee their well-being and enable them to live a peaceful life. They can lack nothing as long as the shepherd is with them. The Psalmist refers to this experience by calling God his shepherd and letting God lead him to safe pastures: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Ps 23[22]:2-3).

The vision that unfolds before our eyes is that of green pastures and springs of clear water, oases of peace to which the shepherd leads his flock, symbols of the places of life towards which the Lord leads the Psalmist, who feels like the sheep lying on the grass beside a stream, resting rather than in a state of tension or alarm, peaceful and trusting, because it is a safe place, the water is fresh and the shepherd is watching over them.

And let us not forget here that the scene elicited by the Psalm is set in a land that is largely desert, on which the scorching sun beats down, where the Middle-Eastern semi-nomad shepherd lives with his flock in the parched steppes that surround the villages. Nevertheless the shepherd knows where to find grass and fresh water, essential to life, he can lead the way to oases in which the soul is “restored” and where it is possible to recover strength and new energy to start out afresh on the journey.

As the Psalmist says, God guides him to “green pastures” and “still waters”, where everything is superabundant, everything is given in plenty. If the Lord is the Shepherd, even in the desert, a desolate place of death, the certainty of a radical presence of life is not absent, so that he is able to say “I shall not want”. Indeed, the shepherd has at heart the good of his flock, he adapts his own pace and needs to those of his sheep, he walks and lives with them, leading them on paths “of righteousness”, that is, suitable for them, paying attention to their needs and not to his own. The safety of his sheep is a priority for him and he complies with this in leading his flock.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we follow the “Good Shepherd” — no matter how difficult, tortuous or long the pathways of our life may seem, even through spiritual deserts without water and under the scorching sun of rationalism — with the guidance of Christ the Good Shepherd, we too, like the Psalmist, may be sure that we are walking on “paths of righteousness” and that the Lord is leading us, is ever close to us and that we “shall lack nothing”. For this reason the Psalmist can declare his calm assurance without doubt or fear: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me” (v. 4).

Those who walk with the Lord even in the dark valleys of suffering, doubt and all the human problems, feel safe. You are with me: this is our certainty, this is what supports us. The darkness of the night frightens us with its shifting shadows, with the difficulty of distinguishing dangers, with its silence taut with strange sounds. If the flock moves after sunset when visibility fades, it is normal for the sheep to be restless, there is the risk of stumbling or even of straying and getting lost, and there is also the fear of possible assailants lurking in the darkness.

To speak of the “dark” valley, the Psalmist uses a Hebrew phrase that calls to mind the shadows of death, which is why the valley to be passed through is a place of anguish, terrible threats, the danger of death. Yet the person praying walks on in safety undaunted since he knows that the Lord is with him. “You are with me” is a proclamation of steadfast faith and sums up the radical experience of faith; God’s closeness transforms the reality, the dark valley loses all danger, it is emptied of every threat. Now the flock can walk in tranquillity, accompanied by the familiar rhythmical beat of the staff on the ground, marking the shepherd’s reassuring presence.

This comforting image ends the first part of the Psalm, and gives way to a different scene. We are still in the desert, where the shepherd lives with his flock, but we are now set before his tent which opens to offer us hospitality. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows” (v. 5).

The Lord is now presented as the One who welcomes the person praying with signs of generous hospitality, full of attention. The divine host lays the food on the “table”, a term which in Hebrew means, in its primitive sense, the animal skin that was spread out on the ground and on which the food for the common meal was set out. It is a gesture of sharing, not only of food but also of life in an offering of communion and friendship that create bonds and express solidarity. Then there is the munificent gift of scented oil poured on the head, which with its fragrance brings relief from the scorching of the desert sun, refreshes and calms the skin and gladdens the spirit.

Lastly, the cup overflowing with its exquisite wine, shared with superabundant generosity, adds a note of festivity. Food, oil and wine are gifts that bring life and give joy, because they go beyond what is strictly necessary and express the free giving and abundance of love. Psalm 104[103] proclaims: “You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (vv. 14-15).

The Psalmist becomes the object of much attention for which reason he sees himself as a wayfarer who finds shelter in a hospitable tent, whereas his enemies have to stop and watch, unable to intervene, since the one whom they considered their prey has been led to safety and has become a sacred guest who cannot be touched. And the Psalmist is us, if we truly are believers in communion with Christ. When God opens his tent to us to receive us, nothing can harm us. Then when the traveller sets out afresh, the divine protection is extended and accompanies him on his journey: “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Ps 23[22]:6).

The goodness and faithfulness of God continue to escort the Psalmist who comes out of the tent and resumes his journey. But it is a journey that acquires new meaning and becomes a pilgrimage to the Temple of the Lord, the holy place in which the praying person wants to “dwell” for ever and to which he also wants to “return”. The Hebrew verb used here has the meaning of “to return” but with a small vowel change can be understood as “to dwell”. Moreover, this is how it is rendered by the ancient versions and by the majority of the modern translations. Both meanings may be retained: to return and dwell in the Temple as every Israelite desires, and to dwell near God, close to him and to goodness. This is what every believer yearns and longs for: truly to be able to live where God is, close to him. Following the Shepherd leads to God’s house, this is the destination of every journey, the longed for oasis in the desert, the tent of shelter in escaping from enemies, a place of peace where God’s kindness and faithful love may be felt, day after day, in the serene joy of time without end.

With their richness and depth the images of this Psalm have accompanied the whole of the history and religious experience of the People of Israel and accompany Christians. The figure of the shepherd, in particular, calls to mind the original time of the Exodus, the long journey through the desert, as a flock under the guidance of the divine Shepherd (cf. Is 63:11-14; Ps 77: 20-21; 78:52-54). And in the Promised Land, the king had the task of tending the Lord’s flock, like David, the shepherd chosen by God and a figure of the Messiah (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-2; 7:8 Ps 78[77]:70-72).

Then after the Babylonian Exile, as it were in a new Exodus (cf. Is 40:3-5, 9-11; 43:16-21), Israel was brought back to its homeland like a lost sheep found and led by God to luxuriant pastures and resting places (cf. Ezek 34:11-16, 23-31). However, it is in the Lord Jesus that all the evocative power of our Psalm reaches completeness, finds the fullness of its meaning: Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” who goes in search of lost sheep, who knows his sheep and lays down his life for them (cf. Mt 18:12-14; Lk 15:4-7; Jn 10:2-4, 11-18). He is the way, the right path that leads us to life (cf. Jn 14:6), the light that illuminates the dark valley and overcomes all our fears (cf. Jn 1:9; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).

He is the generous host who welcomes us and rescues us from our enemies, preparing for us the table of his body and his blood (cf. Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25); Lk 22:19-20) and the definitive table of the messianic banquet in Heaven (cf. Lk 14:15ff; Rev 3:20; 19:9). He is the Royal Shepherd, king in docility and in forgiveness, enthroned on the glorious wood of the cross (cf. Jn 3:13-15; 12:32; 17:4-5).

Dear brothers and sisters, Psalm 23 invites us to renew our trust in God, abandoning ourselves totally in his hands. Let us therefore ask with faith that the Lord also grant us on the difficult ways of our time that we always walk on his paths as a docile and obedient flock, and that he welcome us to his house, to his table, and lead us to “still waters” so that, in accepting the gift of his Spirit, we may quench our thirst at his sources, springs of the living water “welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:14; cf. 7:37-39). Many thanks.

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 137:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 13, 2012

“If I forget you, Jerusalem”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. On this first Wednesday of Advent, a liturgical season of silence, watchfulness and prayer in preparation for Christmas, let us meditate on Psalm 137[136 in the Vulgate], whose first words in the Latin version became famous:  Super flumina Babylonis. The text evokes the tragedy lived by the Jewish people during the destruction of Jerusalem in about 586 B.C., and their subsequent and consequent exile in Babylon. We have before us a national hymn of sorrow, marked by a curt nostalgia for what has been lost.

This heartfelt invocation to the Lord to free his faithful from slavery in Babylon also expresses clearly the sentiments of hope and expectation of salvation with which we have begun our journey through Advent.

The background to the first part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 137:1-4) is the land of exile with its rivers and streams, indeed, the same that irrigated the Babylonian plain to which the Jews had been deported. It is, as it were, a symbolic foreshadowing of the extermination camps to which the Jewish people – in the century we have just left behind us – were taken in an abominable operation of death that continues to be an indelible disgrace in the history of humanity.

The second part of the Psalm (cf. Ps 137:5-6) is instead pervaded by the loving memory of Zion, the city lost but still alive in the exiles’ hearts.

2. The hand, tongue, palate, voice and tears are included in the Psalmist’s words. The hand is indispensable to the harp-player:  but it is already paralyzed (cf. Ps 137:5) by grief, also because the harps are hung up on the poplars.

The tongue is essential to the singer, but now it is stuck to the palate (cf. Ps 137:6). In vain do the Babylonian captors “ask… for songs…, songs… of joy” (cf. Ps 137:3). “Zion’s songs” are “song[s] of the Lord” (cf. Ps 137:3-4), not folk songs to be performed. Only through a people’s liturgy and freedom can they rise to Heaven.

3. God, who is the ultimate judge of history, will also know how to understand and accept, in accordance with his justice, the cry of victims, over and above the tones of bitterness that sometimes colours them.

Let us entrust ourselves to St Augustine for a further meditation on our Psalm. The great Father of the Church introduces a surprising and very timely note:  he knows that there are also people among the inhabitants of Babylon who are committed to peace and to the good of the community, although they do not share the biblical faith; the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire is unknown to them. Within them they have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greater, for the transcendent:  for true redemption.

And Augustine says that even among the persecutors, among the non-believers, there are people who possess this spark, with a sort of faith or hope, as far as is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live. With this faith, even in an unknown reality, they are truly on their way towards the true Jerusalem, towards Christ.

And with this openness of hope, Augustine also warns the “Babylonians” – as he calls them -, those who do not know Christ or even God and yet desire the unknown, the eternal, and he warns us too, not to focus merely on the material things of the present but to persevere on the journey to God. It is also only with this greater hope that we will be able to transform this world in the right way. St Augustine says so in these words:

“If we are citizens of Jerusalem… and must live in this land, in the confusion of this world and in this Babylon where we do not dwell as citizens but are held prisoner, then we should not just sing what the Psalm says but we should also live it:  something that is done with a profound, heartfelt aspiration, a full and religious yearning for the eternal city”.

And he adds with regard to the “earthly city called Babylon”, that it “has in it people who, prompted by love for it, work to guarantee it peace – temporal peace – nourishing in their hearts no other hope, indeed, by placing in this one all their joy, without any other intention. And we see them making every effort to be useful to earthly society”.

“Now, if they strive to do these tasks with a pure conscience, God, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, will not let them perish within Babylon:  this is on condition, however, that while living in Babylon, they do not thirst for ambition, short-lived magnificence or vexing arrogance…. He sees their enslavement and will show them that other city for which they must truly long and towards which they must direct their every effort” (Esposizioni sui Salmi, 136, 1-2:  Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Rome, 1977, pp. 397, 399).

And let us pray to the Lord that in all of us this desire, this openness to God, will be reawakened, and that even those who do not know Christ may be touched by his love so that we are all together on the pilgrimage to the definitive City, and that the light of this City may appear also in our time and in our world.

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 132 in Two Parts

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 5, 2012

PART 1~PSALM 132:1-10
“A place for the Lord’
Evening Prayer – Thursday of Week Three

1. We have heard the first part of Psalm 132[131], a hymn that the Liturgy of Vespers offers us at two different times. Many scholars think that this song would have rung out during the solemn celebration of the transportation of the Ark of the Lord, a sign of divine presence amid the people of Israel in Jerusalem, the new capital chosen by David.

In the narrative of this event, as told in the Bible, we read that King David “girt with a linen apron (efod), came dancing before the Lord with abandon, as he and all the Israelites were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and to the sound of the horn” (II Sm 6: 14-15).

Other experts, instead, relate Psalm 132[131] to a commemorative celebration of that ancient event, after David himself had instituted the worship in the Sanctuary of Zion.

2. Our hymn seems to suggest a liturgical dimension: it was in all likelihood sung during a procession with the presence of priests and faithful and included a choir.

Following the Liturgy of Vespers, let us reflect on the first 10 verses of the Psalm that has just been proclaimed. At the heart of this section is the solemn oath pronounced by David. Indeed, it says that, having left behind him the bitter struggle with his predecessor, King Saul, David “swore to the Lord, his vow to the Strong One of Jacob” (Ps 132[131]: 2). The content of this solemn commitment, expressed in verses 3-5, is clear: the sovereign will not set foot in the royal palace of Jerusalem, he will not go calmly to rest until he has found a dwelling place for the Ark of the Lord.

And this is a very important thing, because it shows that at the heart of the social life of a city, of a community, of a people there must be a presence that calls to mind the mystery of the transcendent God, a proper space for God, a dwelling for God. Man cannot walk well without God; he must walk together with God through history, and the task of the temple, of the dwelling of God, is to point out in a visible way this communion, this allowing God to guide.

3. Perhaps at this point, after David’s words, a liturgical choir’s words prepare the way for the memory of the past. In fact, it recalls the rediscovery of the Ark in the plains of Yearím in the Éphrata region (cf. v. 6): it had been left there for a long time after the Philistines had restored it to Israel, which had lost it during a battle (cf. I Sm 7: 1; II Sm 6: 2, 11).

Thus, it was taken from the province to the future Holy City; and our passage ends with a festive celebration which, on the one hand, shows the people worshipping (cf. Ps 132[131]: 7, 9), that is, the liturgical assembly, and on the other, the Lord who returns to make himself present and active in the sign of the Ark set in place in Zion (cf. v. 8), that is, in the heart of his people.

The heart of the liturgy is found in this intersection between priests and faithful on one side, and the Lord with his power on the other.

4. A prayerful acclamation on behalf of the kings, the successors of David, seals the first part of Psalm 132[131]. “For the sake of David your servant do not reject your anointed” (v. 10).

One sees, then, the future successor of David, “your anointed”. It is easy to perceive a Messianic dimension in this supplication, initially destined to implore support for the Hebrew sovereign in his life’s trials.

The term “anointed”, in fact, expresses the Jewish term “Messiah”: the gaze of the praying person thus extends beyond the events in the Kingdom of Judah to the great expectation of the perfect “anointed One”, the Messiah who will always be pleasing to God, and loved and blessed by him, and will be not only for Israel, but the “anointed”, the king for all the world. He, God, is with us and awaits this “anointed”, come then in the person of Jesus Christ.

5. This Messianic interpretation of the future “anointed” will dominate the Christian reinterpretation and will extend to the whole Psalm.

For example, the analogy Hesychius of Jerusalem, a priest in the first half of the fifth century, was to make between verse 8 and the Incarnation of Jesus is significant. In his Second Homily on the Mother of God, he addresses the Virgin in these words:

“Upon you and upon the One born of you, David does not cease to sing to the zither: “Rise, O Lord, and come to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your sanctification’ (cf. Ps 132[131]: 8). What is “the ark of your sanctification?'”. Hesychius replies: “The Virgin Mother of God, of course. For if you are the pearl, she is rightly the ark; if you are the sun, the Virgin must necessarily be called the sky; and if you are the uncontaminated flower, then the Virgin will be the plant of incorruption, the paradise of immortality” (Testi mariani del primo millennio, I, Rome, 1988, pp. 532-533).

This double interpretation seems very important to me. The “anointed” is Christ. Christ, the Son of God, is made flesh. And the Ark of the Covenant, the true dwelling of God in the world, not made of wood but of flesh and blood, is the Mother who offers herself to the Lord as the Ark of the Covenant and invites us also to be living dwellings for God in the world. (source.)

PART 2~PSALM 132:11-18
“My crown shall shine”

1. We have just heard the second part of Psalm 132[131], a hymn that recalls a major event in Israel’s history: the transfer of the Ark of the Lord to the city of Jerusalem.

David was responsible for this transfer, as the psalmist testifies in the first part of the Psalm we have already seen. Indeed, the king had sworn not to take up residence in the royal palace until he had found a permanent dwelling place for the Ark of God, a sign of the Lord’s presence with his people (cf. vv. 3-5).

In response to the sovereign’s oath, God in turn takes an oath: “The Lord swore an oath to David; he will not go back on his word” (v. 11). This solemn promise is essentially the same one that the Prophet Nathan swore in God’s name to David himself; it concerns the future of David’s descendants, destined to reign for ever (cf. II Sm 7: 8-16).

2. The divine oath, however, involves a human commitment inasmuch as it is conditioned by an “if”: if your sons “keep my covenant” (Ps 132[131]: 12).

Men and women must respond with faithful and active loyalty to God’s promise and gift, which have nothing magic about them, in a dialogue in which are interwoven two freedoms, the divine and the human.

At this point, the Psalm becomes a hymn that extols the marvellous effects of both the gift of the Lord and the fidelity of Israel.

In fact, Israel will experience God’s presence in the midst of his people (cf. vv. 13-14): he will be like an inhabitant among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a citizen who lives the events of history with the other citizens, but who offers the power of his blessing.

3. God will bless the harvest and see to it that the poor can satisfy their hunger (cf. v. 15). He will clothe priests with his protective mantle, offering them his salvation; he will ensure that all the faithful live in joy and trust (cf. v. 16).

The greatest blessing is once again reserved for David and his descendants: “There David’s stock will flower: I will prepare a lamp for my anointed. I will cover his enemies with shame, but on him my crown shall shine” (vv. 17-18).

As happened in the first part of the Psalm (cf. v. 10), the figure of the “anointed” One, in Hebrew, “Messiah”, once again makes his entrance, thereby binding the house of David to messianism, which in the Christian interpretation reaches complete fulfilment in Christ.

Lively images are used: David is represented by a shoot that will flourish. God illumines David’s descendants with a shining lamp, a symbol of vitality and glory; a splendid crown will indicate his triumph over his enemies, hence, victory over evil.

4. The twofold presence of the Lord, his presence in space and in history, is actuated in Jerusalem, in the temple that preserves the Ark, and in the Davidic dynasty. Psalm 132[131] therefore becomes a celebration of the God-Emmanuel who is with his creatures, who lives beside them and benefits them, as long as they stay united to him in truth and justice.

The spiritual centre of this hymn is already a prelude to the Joannine proclamation: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1: 14).

5. Let us end by remembering that the beginning of this second part of Psalm 132[131] was commonly used by the Fathers of the Church to describe the Incarnation of the Word in the Virgin Mary’s womb.

St Irenaeus, referring to the prophecy of Isaiah about the Virgin in labour, had already explained:
“The words: “Listen, then, O house of David!’ (Is 7: 13), indicate that the eternal King, whom God had promised David would be “the fruit of [his] body’ (132[131]: 11), was the same One, born of the Virgin and descended from David.

“Thus, God promised him that a king would be born who was “the fruit of [his] body’, a description that indicates a pregnant virgin. Scripture, therefore,… sets down and affirms the fruit of the womb to proclaim that the One to come would be begotten of the Virgin.

“Likewise, Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, testified, saying to Mary: “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb’ (Lk 1: 42).

“In this way the Holy Spirit points out to those who want to hear him that in the Virgin’s, that is, Mary’s, giving birth is fulfilled God’s promise to David that he would raise up a king born of his body” (Contro le Eresie, 3, 21, 5: “Già e Non Ancora”, CCCXX, Milan, 1997, p. 285).

And thus, we see God’s faithfulness in the great span of time that goes from the ancient Psalm to the Incarnation of the Lord. The mystery of a God who dwells among us, a God who becomes one with us in the Incarnation, already appears and transpires in the Psalm. And this faithfulness of God and our trust throughout the changes of history contribute to our joy.


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Pope Benedict XVI”s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 138

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 18, 2011

Psalm 138[137]
Judaic hymn of thanksgiving

1. Psalm 138[137], the hymn of thanksgiving that we have just heard, attributed by the Judaic tradition to the patronage of David although it probably came into being in a later epoch, opens with a personal hymn by the person praying. He lifts up his voice in the setting of the assembly in the temple or at least makes a reference to the Shrine of Zion, the chair of the Lord’s presence and the place of his encounter with the people of the faithful.

Indeed, the Psalmist confesses that he will “adore before your holy temple” in Jerusalem (cf. v. 2):  there he sings before God, who is in heaven with his court of angels but is also listening in the earthly space of the temple (cf. v. 1). The person praying is sure that the “name” of the Lord, that is, his personal reality, alive and active, and his virtues of faithfulness and mercy, signs of the Covenant with his people, are the support of all faithfulness and hope (cf. v. 2).

2. He then briefly turns his gaze to the past, to the day of affliction:  at that time the divine voice answered the anguished cry of the believer. Indeed, it instilled courage in the distressed soul (cf. v. 3). The original Hebrew speaks literally of the Lord who “increased the strength of soul” of the righteous one who is oppressed. It is as if an impetuous wind had broken into it, sweeping away hesitations and fears, instilling in it new, vital energy and making fortitude and faithfulness flourish.

After this seemingly personal premise, the Psalmist broadens his gaze to the world and imagines that his testimony takes in the whole horizon:  “all earth’s kings”, in a sort of universalistic adherence, join with the Jewish person praying in a common song of praise to honour the greatness and sovereign power of the Lord (cf. vv. 4-6).

3. The content of this unanimous praise that rises from all people already shows the future Church of the pagans, the future universal Church. The first theme of this content is the “glory” and the “ways of the Lord” (cf. v. 5), that is, his projects of salvation and revelation.

Thus, one discovers that God is certainly “exalted” and transcendent, but he looks on the “lowly” with affection while he turns his face away from the proud as a sign of rejection and judgment (cf. v. 6).

As Isaiah proclaimed:  “For thus says he who is high and exalted, living eternally, whose name is the Holy One:  On high I dwell, and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed” (Is 57: 15).

God therefore chooses to take the side of the weak, victims, the lowliest:  this is made known to all kings so that they will know what their option should be in the governing of nations.

Naturally, this is not only said to kings and to all governments but also to all of us, because we too must know what choice to make, what the option is:  to side with the humble and the lowliest, with the poor and the weak.

4. After calling into question national leaders worldwide, not only those of that time but of all times, the person praying returns to his personal prayer of praise (cf. Ps 138[137]: 7-8). Turning his gaze to his future life, he implores God for help also for the trials that existence may still have in store for him. And we all pray like this, with this prayerful person of that time.

He speaks in concise terms of the “anger of the foes” (cf. v. 7), a sort of symbol of all the hostilities that may spring up before the righteous person on his way through history. But he knows, and with him we also know, that the Lord will never abandon him and will stretch out his hand to save and guide him.

The finale of the Psalm, then, is a last passionate profession of trust in God whose goodness is eternal:  he will not “discard… the work of [his] hands”, in other words, his creature (v. 8). And we too must live in this trust, in this certainty of God’s goodness.

We must be sure that however burdensome and tempestuous the trials that await us may be, we will never be left on our own, we will never fall out of the Lord’s hands, those hands that created us and now sustain us on our journey through life. As St Paul was to confess:  “he who has begun the good work in you will carry it through to completion” (Phil 1: 6).

5. Thus, we too have prayed with a psalm of praise, thanksgiving and trust. Let us continue to follow this thread of hymnodic praise through the witness of a Christian hymn-writer, the great Ephrem the Syrian (fourth century), the author of texts with an extraordinary poetic and spiritual fragrance.

“However great may be our wonder for you, O Lord, your glory exceeds what our tongues can express”, Ephrem sang in one hymn (Inni sulla Verginità, 7:  L’Arpa dello Spirito, Rome, 1999, p. 66); and in another:  “Praise to you, to whom all things are easy, for you are almighty” (Inni sulla Natività, 11:  ibid., p. 48). And this is a further reason for our trust:  that God has the power of mercy and uses his power for mercy. And lastly, a final quote:  “Praise to you from all who understand your truth” (Inni sulla Fede, 14:  ibid., p. 27).

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Friday, June 24: Pope Benedict’s Angelus Address for the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 18, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 24 June, the liturgy invites us to celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist, whose life was totally directed to Christ, as was that of Mary, Christ’s Mother.

John the Baptist was the forerunner, the “voice” sent to proclaim the Incarnate Word. Thus, commemorating his birth actually means celebrating Christ, the fulfilment of the promises of all the prophets, among whom the greatest was the Baptist, called to “prepare the way” for the Messiah (cf. Mt 11: 9-10).

All the Gospels introduce the narrative of Jesus’ public life with the account of his baptism by John in the River Jordan. St Luke frames the Baptist’s entrance on the scene in a solemn historical setting.

My book Jesus of Nazareth also begins with the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, an event which had enormous echoes in his day. People flocked from Jerusalem and every part of Judea to listen to John the Baptist and have themselves baptized in the river by him, confessing their sins (cf. Mk 1: 5).
The baptizing prophet became so famous that many asked themselves whether he was the Messiah. The Evangelist, however, specifically denied this: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1: 20).

Nevertheless, he was the first “witness” of Jesus, having received instructions from Heaven: “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn 1: 33).
This happened precisely when Jesus, after receiving baptism, emerged from the water: John saw the Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove. It was then that he “knew” the full reality of Jesus of Nazareth and began to make him “known to Israel” (Jn 1: 31), pointing him out as the Son of God and Redeemer of man: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1: 29).

As an authentic prophet, John bore witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced transgressions of God’s commandments, even when it was the powerful who were responsible for them. Thus, when he accused Herod and Herodias of adultery, he paid with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ who is Truth in person.

Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, so that also in our day the Church will remain ever faithful to Christ and courageously witness to his truth and his love for all. (source)

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Monday, June 6: Father Callan’s Commentary on Today’s First Reading (Acts 19:1-8)

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 3, 2011

Notes in red are my additions.

1. And it came to pass, while Apollo was at Corinth, that Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples.

The upper coasts; i.e., the mountainous parts of Galatia and Phrygia (Acts 18:23). Certain disciples, who, like Apollo, had been insufficiently instructed by John the Baptist, or some one of his  disciples, and who, consequently, knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but little more than that. See map here.

Apollo(Apollos). “This name is probably an abbreviation of Apollonius or Apollodorus. Although this is a pagan name, he was a fervent Jew from Alexandria, Egypt. Luke, in his book, the Acts of the Apostles, describes him as “an eloquent man, well versed in the Scriptures… fervent in spirit” (Acts 18:24-25).

“Apollos’ entry on the scene of the first evangelization took place in the city of Ephesus. He had gone there to preach and had the good fortune to come across the Christian couple, Priscilla and Aquila, who introduced him to a fuller knowledge of the “way of God” (cf. Acts 18:26).

“From Ephesus he went to Achaia and reached the city of Corinth: where he arrived with a letter of recommendation from the Christians of Ephesus, in which they charged the Corinthians to give him a good welcome (cf. Acts 18:27). In Corinth, as Luke wrote: “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Acts 18:27-28), the Messiah.

His success in that city, however had a problematic sequence since there were certain members of that Church who, fascinated by his way of speaking, opposed the others in his name (cf. 1 Cor 1:12; 3:4-6; 4:6).

“In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul expressed his appreciation of Apollos’ work, but reprimanded the Corinthians for wounding the Body of Christ by splitting it into opposing factions. From this whole affair he drew an important teaching: Be it I or Apollos, he says, we are none other than diakonoi, that is, simple ministers, through whom you have come to the faith (cf. 1 Cor 3:5).

“Everyone has a different task in the field of the Lord: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth…. we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Cor 3:6-9).

“After returning to Ephesus, Apollos resisted Paul’s invitation to return to Corinth immediately, postponing the journey to a later date of which we know nothing (cf. 1 Cor 16:12). We have no further information about him, even though some scholars believe he is a possible author of the Letter to the Hebrews which Tertullian believed Barnabas had written” (Pope Benedict XVI)

2. And he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?But they said to him: We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost.

We have not . . . heard whether, etc. This cannot mean that John’s disciples were ignorant of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity of whom John himself had spoken (John 1:33), and of whom the Old Testament often spoke (Gen 1:2; Isa 32:15; 11:2, 3; 2 Sam 23:2, etc.); but only that they had not yet received the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation, or did not know that it was possible so to receive Him. This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that these disciples of John’s were most probably Jews, familiar with the Old Testament, and not pagans, as some have thought; we have no trace of any disciples belonging to John among the pagans. Luke Timothy Johnson, in his commentary on Acts, is probably right when he notes that the statement of ignorance concerning the Spirit is probably applicable only to the Spirit’s reception in baptism, and not to a complete ignorance of the Spirit’s existence.

3. And he said: In what then were you baptized? Who said: In John’s baptism.
4. Then Paul said: John baptized the people with the baptism of penance, saying: that they should believe in him who was to come after him, that is to say, in Jesus.

Since it was customary to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation immediately after Baptism, and since the disciples seemed to know nothing about Confirmation, St. Paul was moved to ask what baptism they had received. The baptism of John was only a preparation for the Baptism of Christ.

5. Having heard these things, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

They were baptized; i.e., they received the Sacrament of Baptism.

6. And when Paul had imposed his hands on them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

Imposed his hands; i.e., administered the Sacrament of Confirmation.

They spoke with tongues, etc. See on Acts 2:17; 8:16; 10:46; 13:1.

7. And all the men were about twelve.

About twelve. It is typical of Luke to give estimates rather than exact figures (Acts 2:4; 4:4; 5:7 etc).  The number and the effects of the Spirit recall Acts 1:15-2:13.

8. And entering into the synagogue, he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the kingdom of God.

He spoke boldly. A characteristic of the apostolic preaching in this book (see Acts 2:29; 4:13, 29, 31; 9:27-28; 13:46, etc).  For disputing and exhorting see Acts 17:2, 4, 17; 18:4.

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Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily on the Ascension, May 28, 2006

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2011

Brothers and Sisters, today in Blonie Park in Kraków we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: “Why do you stand?” – Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation. Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf.  Gen  Gen 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality. We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said “No” to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity’s history, which then became a history of salvation. “We stand” on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way towards a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which “we stand” our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: “Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” We have read that, just as the Apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom, “He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight.” And “they looked up to heaven as he went” (cf.  Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of two thousand years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look towards this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life’s ultimate meaning.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am deeply moved to be able to celebrate this Eucharist today in Blonie Park in Kraków, where Pope John Paul II often celebrated Mass during his unforgettable Apostolic Visits to his native land. Through his liturgical celebrations he met the People of God in almost every corner of the world, but surely his celebration of Holy Mass in Blonie   Park in Kraków was always something special. Here he returned in mind and heart to his roots, to the sources of his faith and his service to the Church. From here he could see Kraków and all Poland. In his first Apostolic Visit to Poland, on 10 June 1979, at the end of his homily in this Park, he said with nostalgia: “Allow me, before leaving you, to look out once again on Kraków, this Kraków whose every stone and brick is dear to me. And to look out once again from here on Poland.” During the last Mass he celebrated here, on 18 August 2002, he said in his homily: “I am grateful for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me” (no. 2). I wish to take up these words, to make them my own and repeat them today: I thank you with all my heart “for the invitation to visit my Kraków and for the hospitality you have given me.” Kraków, the city of Karol Wojtyla and of John Paul II, is also my Kraków! Kraków has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to the Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, “from a far country”, which thus became a country dear to all.

At the beginning of the second year of my Pontificate, I have felt a deep need to visit Poland and Kraków as a pilgrim in the footsteps of my predecessor. I wanted to breathe the air of his homeland. I wanted to see the land where he was born, where he grew up and undertook his tireless service to Christ and the universal Church. I wanted especially to meet the living men and women of his country, to experience your faith, which gave him life and strength, and to know that you continue firm in that faith. Here I wish to ask God to preserve that legacy of faith, hope and charity which John Paul II gave to the world, and to you in particular.

I cordially greet all those gathered in Blonie Park, for as far as my eyes can see and even farther. I wish I could meet each of you personally. I embrace all those who are taking part in our Eucharist by radio and television. I greet all of Poland! I greet the children and young people, individuals and families, the sick and those suffering in body or spirit, who are deprived of the joy of life. I greet all those whose daily labours are helping this country to grow in prosperity. I greet the Polish people living abroad, everywhere in the world. I thank Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kraków, for his warm words of welcome. I greet Cardinal Franciszek Macharski and all the Cardinals, Bishops, priests and consecrated men and women, as well as the other guests who have come from many lands, particularly the neighbouring countries. My greetings go to the President of the Republic and to the Prime Minister, and to the representatives of the national, territorial and local Authorities.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have taken as the motto of my pilgrimage to Poland in the footsteps of John Paul II the words: “Stand firm in your faith!” This appeal is directed to us all as members of the community of Christ’s disciples, to each and every one of us. Faith is a deeply personal and human act, an act which has two aspects. To believe means first to accept as true what our mind cannot fully comprehend. We have to accept what God reveals to us about himself, about ourselves, about everything around us, including the things that are invisible, inexpressible and beyond our imagination. This act of accepting revealed truth broadens the horizon of our knowledge and draws us to the mystery in which our lives are immersed. Letting our reason be limited in this way is not something easy to do. Here we see the second aspect of faith: it is trust in a person, no ordinary person, but Jesus Christ himself. What we believe is important, but even more important is the One in whom we believe.

Saint Paul speaks of this in the passage from the Letter to the Ephesians which we have heard today. God has given us a spirit of wisdom and “enlightened the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great power in Christ” (cf.  Eph EP 1,17-20). Believing means surrendering ourselves to God and entrusting our destiny to him. Believing means entering into a personal relationship with our Creator and Redeemer in the power of the Holy Spirit, and making this relationship the basis of our whole life.

Today we heard the words of Jesus: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (AC 1,8). Centuries ago these words reached Poland. They challenged, and continue to challenge all those who say they belong to Christ, who consider his to be the greatest cause. We need to be witnesses of Jesus, who lives in the Church and in human hearts. He has given us a mission. On the day he ascended to heaven, he said to his Apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation … And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it” (MC 16,15,20). Dear brothers and sisters! When Karol Wojtyla was elected to the See of Peter in order to serve the universal Church, your land became a place of special witness to faith in Jesus Christ. You were called to give this witness before the whole world. This vocation of yours is always needed, and it is perhaps even more urgent than ever, now that the Servant of God has passed from this life. Do not deprive the world of this witness!

Before I return to Rome to continue my ministry, I appeal to all of you in the words spoken here by Pope John Paul II in 1979: “You must be strong, dear brothers and sisters. You must be strong with the strength that comes from faith. You must be strong with the strength of faith. You must be faithful. Today, more than in any other age, you need this strength. You must be strong with the strength of hope, the hope that brings perfect joy in life and which prevents us from ever grieving the Holy Spirit! You must be strong with love, the love which is stronger than death … You must be strong with the strength of faith, hope and charity, a charity that is conscious, mature and responsible, and which can help us at this moment of our history to carry on the great dialogue with man and the world, a dialogue rooted in dialogue with God himself, with the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit, the dialogue of salvation” (Homily, 10 June 1979, no. 4).

I too, Benedict XVI, the Successor of Pope John Paul II, am asking you to look up from earth to heaven, to lift your eyes to the One to whom succeeding generations have looked for two thousand years, and in whom they have discovered life’s ultimate meaning. Strengthened by faith in God, devote yourselves fervently to consolidating his Kingdom on earth, a Kingdom of goodness, justice, solidarity and mercy. I ask you to bear courageous witness to the Gospel before today’s world, bringing hope to the poor, the suffering, the lost and abandoned, the desperate and those yearning for freedom, truth and peace. By doing good to your neighbour and showing your concern for the common good, you bear witness that God is love.

I ask you, finally, to share with the other peoples of Europe and the world the treasure of your faith, not least as a way of honouring the memory of your countryman, who, as the Successor of Saint Peter, did this with extraordinary power and effectiveness. And remember me in your prayers and sacrifices, even as you remembered my great Predecessor, so that I can carry out the mission Christ has given me. I ask you to stand firm in your faith! Stand firm in your hope! Stand firm in your love! Amen!

 

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Wedneday, May 25: Pope Benedict XVI on Today’s Psalm (122)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 21, 2011

1. We have just heard and enjoyed as a prayer one of the most beautiful and fervent songs of ascents. It is Psalm 122[121], a living, shared celebration of Jerusalem, the Holy City to which the pilgrims climb.

Indeed, in the opening line, two moments lived by the faithful are amalgamated:  that of the day on which the pilgrim rejoiced when he accepted the invitation to “go to God’s house” (v. 1), and that of his joyful arrival at the “gates” of Jerusalem (cf. v. 2); now at last he is walking on that beloved Holy Land. A festive hymn is on his lips at that very moment in honour of Zion, whose deep spiritual significance he contemplates.

2. As a “strongly compact” city (v. 3), a symbol of security and stability, Jerusalem is the heart of the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel that converge towards it as the centre of their faith and worship. They go up there, in fact, “to praise the Lord’s name” (v. 4) in the place that “Israel’s law” (Dt 12: 13-14; 16: 16) has chosen as the only legitimate and perfect shrine.

There is another important reality in Jerusalem that is also a sign of God’s presence in Israel: “the thrones… of the House of David” (cf. v. 5); that is, the Davidic dynasty governs, an expression of the divine action in history that was to lead to the Messiah (II Sam 7: 8-16).

3. The “thrones… of the House of David” are at the same time called “thrones of judgment” (v. 5), because the king was also the supreme judge. Thus, Jerusalem, a political capital, was also the highest tribunal where controversies were settled in the final instance: in this way, when Jewish pilgrims left Zion, they returned to their villages feeling more righteous and peaceful.

The Psalm thus traced an ideal portrait of the Holy City with her religious and social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract nor intimistic, but a leaven of justice and solidarity. Communion with God is necessarily followed by the communion of brothers and sisters with one another.

4. We now come to the final invocation (cf. v. 6-9). It is marked throughout by the Jewish word shalom, “peace”, traditionally considered to be the etymological root of Jerushalajim, the Holy City itself, interpreted as “city of peace”.

It is well known that shalom alludes to the messianic peace that in itself brings joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance. Indeed, in the pilgrim’s final farewell to the temple, to the “house of the Lord our God”, he adds “good” to “peace”: “I will ask for your good” (v. 9). This anticipates the Franciscan greeting: “Peace and good!”. We all have something of a Franciscan soul. This greeting expresses the hope that blessings will be poured out upon the faithful who love the Holy City, upon the physical reality of its walls and buildings in which the life of a people pulsates, on all its brothers and sisters and friends. In this way, Jerusalem will become a hearth of harmony and peace.

5. Let us end our meditation on Psalm 122[121] with an idea for reflection suggested by the Fathers of the Church for whom the ancient Jerusalem was the sign of another Jerusalem, also “built as a city strongly compact”.

This city, St Gregory the Great says in his Homilies on Ezekiel, “has here a great construction in the customs of the saints. In a building, one stone supports the other, because each stone is set upon another, and the one that supports another is in turn supported by another. This is exactly how in our Holy Church each one is sustaining and sustained. The closest support one another, and so it is by using them that the building of charity is erected.

“This explains Paul’s exhortation: “Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal 6: 2). Emphasizing the force of this law, he says: “Love is the fulfilment of the law’ (Rom 13: 10).

“Indeed, if I do not make an effort to accept you as you are and you do not strive to accept me as I am, the building of love between us can no longer be erected, bound though we may be by reciprocal and patient love”.

And to complete the image, let us not forget that “there is one foundation that supports the full weight of the construction; and it is our Redeemer, who alone bears all together the customs of us all. The Apostle says of him: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ’ (I Cor 3: 11). The foundation sustains the stones but the stones do not sustain the foundation: in other words, our Redeemer bore the burden of all our sins, but in him there was no sin to be borne” (2, 1, 5: Opere di Gregorio Magno, III/2, Rome, 1993, pp. 27, 29).

Thus, Pope St Gregory the Great tells us what the Psalm means for our lives in practice. He tells us that we must be a true Jerusalem in the Church today, that is, a place of peace, “supporting one another” as we are; “supporting one another together” in the joyful certainty that the Lord “supports us all”. In this way the Church will grow like a true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace.

Posted in BENEDICT XVI CATECHESIS, Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, liturgy, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, PAPAL COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Quotes, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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