Celebration of Vespers with the Bishops—25 March 2012
Dear Brother Bishops,
It gives me great joy to be able to pray with all of you in this Basilica-Cathedral of León, dedicated to our Lady of Light. In the lovely painting venerated in this basilica, the Blessed Virgin holds her Son in one hand with immense tenderness while extending her other hand to succor sinners. This is how the Church in every age sees Mary. We praise her for giving us the Redeemer and we put our trust in her as the Mother whom her divine Son bequeathed to us from the Cross. For this reason, we invoke her frequently as “our hope” because she has shown us Jesus and passed down to us the great things which God constantly does for humanity. She does so simply, as a mother teaches her children at home.
A decisive sign of these great things is given to us in the reading just proclaimed at these Vespers. The people of Jerusalem and their leaders did not acknowledge Christ, yet, by condemning him to death, they fulfilled the words of the prophets (Acts 13:27). Human evil and ignorance simply cannot thwart the divine plan of salvation and redemption. Evil is simply incapable of that. Another of God’s great works is evoked in the second of the psalms which we recited: “the rock” turns into “a pool, and flint into a spring of water” (Ps 113:8). What might have been a stumbling block and a scandal has, by Jesus’ triumph over death, become a cornerstone: “This is the work of the Lord, a marvel in our eyes” (Ps 117:23). There is no reason, then, to give in to the despotism of evil. Let us instead ask the risen Lord to manifest his power in our weakness and need.
I have greatly looked forward to this meeting with you, the Pastors of Christ’s pilgrim Church in Mexico and in the different countries of this great continent. I see this meeting as an occasion to turn our gaze together to Christ, who has entrusted you with the splendid duty of preaching the Gospel among these peoples of sturdy and deep-rooted Catholic faith. Certainly your dioceses face a number of challenges and difficulties at the present moment. Yet, in the sure knowledge that the Lord is risen, we are able to move forward confidently, in the conviction that evil does not have the last word in human history, and that God is able to open up new horizons to a hope that does not disappoint (Rom 5:5).
The initiatives planned for the Year of Faith must be aimed at guiding men and women to Christ; his grace will enable them to cast off the bonds of sin and slavery, and to progress along the path of authentic and responsible freedom. A great contribution will be made to this goal by the continental mission being launched from Aparecida, which is already reaping a harvest of ecclesial renewal in the particular Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes the study, dissemination and prayerful reading of sacred Scripture, which proclaims the love of God and our salvation. I encourage you to continue to share freely the treasures of the Gospel, so that they can become a powerful source of hope, freedom and salvation for everyone (cf. Rom 1:16). May you also be faithful witnesses and interpreters of the words of the incarnate Son, whose life was to do the will of the Father and who, as a man among men, gave himself up completely for our sake, even unto death... I urge you to be vigilant in proclaiming day and night the glory of God, which is the life of mankind.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am very pleased to be among you today and I express my sincere gratitude to the Most Reverend José Guadalupe Martín Rábago, Archbishop of León, for his kind words of welcome. I greet the Mexican Bishops, and the Cardinals and other Bishops present here, and in a special way those who have come from Latin America and the Caribbean...
We said, “A pure heart, create for me, O God” (Ps 50:12) during the responsorial psalm. This exclamation shows us how profoundly we must prepare to celebrate next week the great mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It also helps us to look deeply into the human heart, especially in times of sorrow as well as hope, as are the present times for the people of Mexico and of Latin America.
A pure heart, a new heart, is one which recognizes that, of itself, it is impotent and places itself in God’s hands so as to continue hoping in his promises. Then the psalmist can say to the Lord with conviction: “Sinners will return to you” (Ps 50:15). And towards the end of the psalm he will give an explanation which is at the same time a firm conviction of faith: “A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn” (v. 19)… Jesus’ answer, announcing his imminent passion, means that a casual encounter in those moments would have been superficial and perhaps deceptive. The Greeks will see the one they wished to meet raised up on the cross from which he will attract all to himself (cf. Jn 12:32). There his “glory” will begin, because of his sacrifice of expiation for all, as the grain of wheat fallen to the ground that by dying germinates and produces abundant fruit. They will find the one whom, unknown to them, they were seeking in their hearts, the true God who is made visible to all peoples. This was how Our Lady of Guadalupe showed her divine Son to Saint Juan Diego, not as a powerful legendary hero but as the very God of the living, by whom all live, the Creator of persons, of closeness and immediacy, of heaven and earth (Nican Mopohua, v.33). At that moment she did what she had done previously at the wedding feast of Cana. Faced with the embarrassment caused by the lack of wine, she told the servants clearly that the path to follow was her Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5).
Dear brothers and sisters, by coming here I have been able to visit the monument to Christ the King situated on top of the Cubilete. ...This monument represents Christ the King. But his crowns, one of a sovereign, the other of thorns, indicate that his royal status does not correspond to how it has been or is understood by many. His kingdom does not stand on the power of his armies subduing others through force or violence. It rests on a higher power that wins over hearts: the love of God that he brought into the world with his sacrifice and the truth to which he bore witness. This is his sovereignty which no one can take from him and which no one should forget. Hence it is right that this shrine should be above all a place of pilgrimage, of fervent prayer, of conversion, of reconciliation, of the search for truth and the acceptance of grace. We ask Christ to reign in our hearts, making them pure, docile, filled with hope and courageous in humility….
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
During the Jubilee of the Year 2000 the beloved Servant of God John Paul II established that throughout the Church the Sunday after Easter should be called Domenica in Albis and Divine Mercy Sunday. This occurred contemporaneously with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish Sister who was born in 1905 and died in 1938, a zealous messenger of the Merciful Jesus. Indeed, mercy is the central nucleus of the Gospel message; it is the very name of God, the Face with which he revealed himself in the Old Covenant and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creative and redemptive Love. May this merciful love also shine on the face of the Church and show itself through the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and in works of charity, both communitarian and individual. May all that the Church says and does manifest the mercy God feels for man, and therefore for us. When the Church has to recall an unrecognized truth or a betrayed good, she always does so impelled by merciful love, so that men and women may have life and have it abundantly (Jn 10: 10). From divine mercy, which brings peace to hearts, genuine peace flows into the world, peace between different peoples, cultures and religions.
Like St. Faustina, John Paul II in his turn made himself an apostle of Divine Mercy. In the evening of the unforgettable Saturday, 2 April 2005, when he closed his eyes on this world, it was precisely the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter and many people noted the rare coincidence that combined the Marian dimension - the first Saturday of the month - and the dimension of Divine Mercy. This was in fact the core of John Paul II's long and multi-faceted Pontificate. The whole of his mission at the service of the truth about God and man and of peace in the world is summed up in this declaration, as he himself said in Krakow-Łagiewniki in 2002 when he inaugurated the large Shrine of Divine Mercy: "Apart from the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for mankind". John Paul II's message, like St. Faustina's, thus leads back to the Face of Christ, a supreme revelation of God's mercy. Constant contemplation of this Face is the legacy he bequeathed to us which we joyfully welcome and make our own...
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Surrexit Dominus vere! Alleluja! The Lord’s Resurrection marks the renewal of our human condition. Christ triumphed over death, caused by our sin, and restores us to immortal life. This event gave rise to the whole of the Church’s life and to the very existence of Christians.
On this day, Easter Monday, we read in the first missionary discourse of the nascent Church: “This Jesus”, the Apostle Peter proclaimed, “God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
One of the characteristic signs of faith in the Resurrection is the greeting among Christians during Eastertide, inspired by the ancient liturgical hymn: “Christ is risen! / He is truly risen!”. It is a profession of faith and a commitment of life, as it was for the women described in Matthew’s Gospel: “And behold, Jesus met them and said: ‘Hail!’. And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.’”
“The whole Church”, the Servant of God Paul VI wrote, “receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole…. She remains as a sign — simultaneously obscure and luminous — of a new presence of Jesus, of his departure and of his permanent presence. She prolongs and continues him” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 8).
How can we encounter the Lord and increasingly become his authentic witnesses? St Maximus of Turin stated: “Anyone who wishes to reach the Saviour must first, in his own faith, seat him at the right hand of the Divinity, and place him with heartfelt conviction in Heaven,” in other words one must learn to focus the gaze of one’s mind and heart constantly on the heights of God, where the Risen Christ is. In this way God encounters man in prayer and adoration.
The theologian Romano Guardini noted that “adoration is not something additional, something secondary… it is a matter of the utmost importance, of feeling and of being. In adoration man recognizes what is valid in the pure, simple and holy sense.” Only if we are able to turn to God, to pray to him, do we discover the deepest meaning of our life and the daily routine is illumined by the light of the Risen One.