New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Power of Intercession: the Prophet Elijah's Prayer

In his general audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square, the Pope resumed his series of catecheses dedicated to the subject of prayer, focusing today on the Prophet Elijah "whom God sent to bring the people to conversion".

The Holy Father explained how "upon Mount Carmel Elijah revealed himself in all his power as intercessor when, before the whole of Israel, he prayed to the Lord to show Himself and convert people's hearts. The episode is recounted in chapter 18 of the First Book of Kings".

"The contest between Elijah and the followers of Baal (which was, in fact, a contest between the Lord of Israel, God of salvation and life, and a mute and ineffective idol which can do nothing for either good or evil) also marked the beginning of a confrontation between two completely different ways to address God and to pray". The oblations of the prophets of Baal "revealed only the illusory reality of the idol ... which closed people in the confines of a desperate search for self".

On the other hand, Elijah "called on the people to come closer, involving them in his actions and his prayer. ... The prophet built an alter using 'twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob', ... to represent all Israel. ... Elijah then addressed the Lord calling Him Lord of the fathers, thus implicitly recalling the divine promises and the history of choice and alliance which had indissolubly united the Lord to His people".

The prophet's request "was that the people might finally and fully come to know and understand Who their God is, and make the decisive decision to follow only Him. Only in this way could God be recognised as Absolute and Transcendent". Only in this way would it be clear that "no other gods could be placed at His side, as this would deny His absoluteness and relativize Him".

Benedict XVI highlighted how "believers must respond to the absoluteness of God with absolute and total love, a love involving all their lives, their energies, their hearts. ... In his intercession, Elijah asked of God what God Himself wished to do: to show Himself in all His mercy, faithful to His nature as Lord of life Who forgives, converts and transforms".

"The Lord responded unequivocally, not only burning the offering but even consuming all the water that had been poured around the altar. Israel could no longer doubt: divine mercy had responded to its weakness, to its doubts, to its lack of faith. Now Baal, the vain idol, was beaten and the people, who seemed lost, had rediscovered the way of truth, they had rediscovered themselves".

The Holy Father concluded by asking himself what this story has to tell us today. "Firstly", he said, "is the priority of the first commandment of God's Law: having no god but God. When God disappears man falls into slavery, into idolatry, as has happened in our time under totalitarian regimes and with the various forms of nihilism which make man dependent on idols and idolatry, which enslave". Secondly, he continued, "the main objective of prayer is conversion: the fire of God which transforms our hearts and makes us capable of seeing God and living for Him and for others". Thirdly, "the Church Fathers tell us that this story is ... a foretaste of the future, which is Christ. It is a step on the journey towards Christ".

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pentecost Was the Baptism of the Church

At midday today, following this morning's celebration of the Eucharist in the Vatican Basilica for the Feast of Pentecost, the Pope appeared at the window of his study to pray the Regina Coeli with faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"The Paschal Mystery - the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ, and His Ascension to heaven - reaches fulfilment in the powerful effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, who were gathered with Mary ... and the other disciples. This was the 'Baptism' of the Church", he said.

"The voice of God makes the human language of the Apostles divine, and they become capable of 'polyphonically' proclaiming the one Divine Word. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, it generates faith, it draws people to truth, it prepares the way for unity", the Pope explained. He then went on to quote some words written by Blessed Antonio Rosmini: "On the day of Pentecost God promulgated ... His law of charity, writing it by means of the Holy Spirit, not upon tablets of stone, but in the hearts of the Apostles and, through the Apostles, communicating it to the whole Church".

The Holy Spirit, "Who is the Lord and the Giver of Life, ... has the power to sanctify, to remove divisions, to dissolve the confusion caused by sin. ... The Spirit distributes divine goodness and supports living beings that they may act in accordance with that goodness. As intelligible Light, it gives meaning to prayer, invigorates the mission of evangelisation, sets aflame the hearts of those who hear the happy message, and inspires Christian art and liturgical music. ... It creates faith within us at the moment of our Baptism and allows us to live as conscious and responsible children of God, in keeping with the image of the Only-begotten Son".

After praying the Regina Coeli, the Pope recalled that the priest and martyr Alois Andritzki, killed by the Nazis in 1943, will be beatified tomorrow in the German city of Dresden. He was a "heroic witness of the faith who joins the ranks of those who gave their lives in Christ's name in the concentration camps. On this day of Pentecost I would like to entrust the cause of peace in the world to their intercession. May the Holy Spirit inspire heroic intentions of peace and support the commitment to see them through to fulfilment, that dialogue may triumph over arms and respect for man's dignity may prevail over self-interest. May the Spirit, the bond of communion, cure hearts warped by selfishness and help the human family to rediscover and protect its fundamental unity".

Benedict XVI also mentioned the fact that 14 June marks World Blood Donor Day, which involves "millions of people who silently contribute to helping their brothers and sisters in difficulties. I send a cordial greeting to all blood donors and invite young people to follow their example".

Finally, the Pope greeted a group of people currently meeting in Pistoia, Italy, for the Catholic Information Forum for the Protection of Creation, organised by the 'Greenaccord' association on the theme: Man's shared space in the creation. "I encourage all journalists working to safeguard the environment", he said.

The Church Was Catholic from the Very First Moment

At 9.30 a.m. today, the Feast of Pentecost, the Holy Father presided at Mass in the Vatican Basilica.

In his homily the Holy Father said that "the Spirit which created all things, and the Holy Spirit which Christ caused to descend from the Father upon the community of disciples, are one and the same. Creation and redemption are mutually intertwined and constitute a single mystery of love and salvation".

"The Holy Spirit", he went on, "is first and foremost the Spirit of creation; and so Pentecost is the feast of creation. For we Christians the world is the result of an act of love by God, Who made all things. ... Thus God is not the Absolute Other, indescribable and obscure, God reveals Himself, He has a face, God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty".

Benedict XVI explained that "the Holy Spirit is the One Who enables us to recognise ourselves in Christ the Lord, and causes us to pronounce the Church's profession of faith: 'Jesus is Lord'". In this context, he also pointed out that "by reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the Pentecost. ... The Creed brings us together from all over the world. Through the Holy Spirit, it ensures we understand one another though speaking different languages. Through faith, hope and love, the new community of the Church of God is formed".

"The Holy Spirit animates the Church", the Pope said. "The Church is not the result of human will, of reflection, of man's abilities or his capacity for organisation. If this were the case she would have passed out of existence a long time ago, just as all human things pass. She is, rather, the Body of Christ animated by the Holy Spirit".

"The Church was catholic from the first moment of her existence. Her universality is not the result of the subsequent inclusion of different communities: from the first instant the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples. She embraces the entire world, crossing frontiers of race, class and nation, breaking down barriers and uniting mankind in the proclamation of the One and Triune God. From her beginnings, the Church was one, catholic and apostolic. This is her true nature and as such she must be recognised. She is holy, not thanks to any capacity of her members, but because God Himself, with His Spirit, continuously creates, purifies and sanctifies her".

Benedict XVI concluded by quoting from today's Gospel: "'the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord'. ... Today, at Pentecost, this phrase also includes us, because in the faith we can see Him, in the faith He comes among us and shows us His hands and side, and we too can rejoice. Thus we pray: Lord show Yourself. Give us the gift of Your presence that we might have the greatest gift: Your joy!"