Benedict XVI: When the heart is fearful in the desert of life, entrust yourself to Christ…
(CUSA) – Selfishness: it seems like a good idea at the time. In fact it leads to sorrow and loneliness.
Instead, living a life of service a witness brings great joy, and although the world may not appreciate it, the children of God will. —Ed.
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FROM A HOMILY DURING A PASTORAL VISIT
VITERBO AND BAGNOREGIO
SEPTEMBER 6, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The setting in which we are celebrating Mass is truly original and evocative: we are in the “Valley” overlooking the ancient Port called Faul, a word whose four letters recall the four hills of the ancient Viterbium: Fanum-Arbanum-Vetulonia-Longula.
On one side stands the imposing Palace, once the residence of the Popes, which as your Bishop recalled witnessed five conclaves in the 13th century. We are surrounded by buildings and spaces, the testimony of many events in the past and today woven into the life of your City and Province.
In this context, which evokes centuries of civil and religious history, the whole of your Diocesan Community is gathered here, with the Successor of Peter, to be strengthened by him in fidelity to Christ and to his Gospel.
Dear brothers and sisters, every liturgical assembly is a space for the presence of God. Gathered for the Blessed Eucharist, disciples of the Lord proclaim that he is risen, that he is alive and is the Giver of life; and let us witness that his presence is grace, it is fulfillment, it is joy.
Let us open our hearts to his word and welcome the gift of his presence! In this Sunday’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah encourages those “who are of a fearful heart” and proclaims this marvelous newness which experience has confirmed: when the Lord is present the eyes of the blind are reopened, the ears of the deaf unstopped and the lame man leaps like a hart.
All things are reborn and all things are revived, for beneficial waters irrigate the desert. The “desert,” in Isaiah’s symbolic language, can call to mind the tragic events, difficult situations and loneliness that often mark life; the deepest desert is the human heart when it loses the capacity for listening, speaking and communicating with God and with others.
Eyes then become blind because they are incapable of seeing reality; ears are closed so as not to hear the cry of those who implore help; hearts are hardened in indifference and selfishness. But now, the Prophet proclaims, all is destined to change; the “dry land” of a closed heart will be watered by a new, divine sap. And when the Lord comes, to those who are fearful of heart in every epoch he says authoritatively: “Be strong, fear not!”
Here the Gospel episode recounted by St Mark fits in perfectly. Jesus heals a deaf-mute in the pagan land. First he welcomes him and takes care of him with the language of gestures which is more direct than words; and then, using an Aramaic term, he says “Eph’phatha”, that is, “be opened”, restoring the man’s hearing and speech. Full of wonder, the crowd exclaims: “he has done all things well.”
We can see in this “sign” Jesus’ ardent desire to overcome man’s loneliness and incommunicability created by selfishness, in order to bring about a “new humanity”, the humanity of listening and speech, of dialogue, of communication, of communion with God.
A “good” humanity, just as all of God’s Creation is good; a humanity without discrimination, without exclusion as the Apostle James recommends in his Letter so that the world is truly and for all a “scene of true brotherhood” in an opening to love of our common Father, who created us and made us his sons and daughters.
Dear Church of Viterbo, may Christ, whom we see in the Gospel opening ears and releasing the tongue of the deaf-mute, open your hearts and always give you the joy of listening to his word, the courage to proclaim his Gospel, the ability to speak of God and to speak in this way with your brothers and sisters and, finally, the courage to discover God’s Face and his Beauty!
However, for this to happen, as St Bonaventure of Bagnoregio, where I shall go this afternoon, recalls, the mind must, “in beholding these things, transcend and pass over, not only this visible world, but even itself.” This is the itinerary of salvation, illumined by the light of God’s word and nourished by the sacraments that bring together all Christians.
Education goes together with the witness of faith. “Faith”, St Paul writes, “work[s] through love.” It is from this perspective that the Church’s charitable action gains her identity: her initiatives, her works, are signs of faith and of the love of God who is Love, as I recalled frequently in my Encyclicals Deus Caritas Est and Caritas in Veritate.
Lastly, pay attention to the signs of God. As Jesus did with the deaf-mute, God continues likewise to reveal to us his project through “events and words.” Listening to his word and discerning his signs must therefore be the task of every Christian and every community.
The most immediate of God’s signs is undoubtedly attention to one’s neighbor in accordance with what Jesus said: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Furthermore, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed, the Christian is called to be “a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus, and a sign of the living God.” The priest whom Christ has chosen all for himself must be such in the first place.
During this Year for Priests, pray with greater intensity for priests, for seminarians and for vocations, so that they may be faithful to this vocation of theirs! Likewise, every consecrated and every baptized person must be a sign of the living God.
Lay faithful, young people and families, do not be afraid to live and to bear witness to the faith in the various sectors of society, in the many situations of human existence!
The seasons of history come and go, social contexts change, but the vocation of Christians to live the Gospel in solidarity with the human family, in step with the times, has not been silenced and does not go out of fashion. This is social commitment, this is the service proper to political action, this is integral human development.
Dear brothers and sisters, when the heart is fearful in the desert of life do not be afraid, entrust yourselves to Christ, the first-born of the new humanity: a family of brothers and sisters built in freedom and justice, in the truth and charity of God’s children.
Saints dear to you belong to this great family: Lawrence, Valentine, Hilary, Rose, Lucia, Bonaventure and many others.
Our common Mother is Mary whom you venerate with the title of Our Lady of the Oak as Patroness of the whole Diocese in its new configuration. May they keep you ever united and nourish in each one the desire to proclaim Christ’s presence and love with words and with deeds!