20 June 2011

Pope: We can always be secure in God's goodness, which never leaves us

This past weekend the Holy Father Benedict XVI went on pilgrimage to San Marino.  The text of the homily he preached yesterday - via Zenit - follows, with my emphases:
Dear brothers and sisters,

It is my great joy to be able to break the bread of God's Word and the Eucharist with you, and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. A special thought goes to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. With affection, I greet your Bishop Luigi Negri, and thank him for the kind words he addressed to me; with him, I also greet all of the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro. I greet each one of you and I express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the kindness and affection with which you have welcomed me.

I have come to share with you in the joys and hopes, the efforts and commitments, the ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that, also here, difficulties, problems and concerns are not lacking. I want to assure everyone of my closeness and my remembrance of you in prayer, and I unite to this my encouragement to persevere in your witness to human and Christian values, which are so profoundly rooted in the faith and history of this land and its people, with their granite-like faith, of which His Excellency spoke.

Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the feast day of God -- of the center of our faith. When we think of the Trinity, the aspect of mystery most often comes to mind: they are Three and they are One, one only God in three Persons. In reality, God in His greatness cannot be other than a mystery for us, and yet He has revealed Himself: we can know Him in His Son, and so also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Today's liturgy instead draws our attention not so much to the mystery, as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one, because [they are] love, and love is the absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a greater unity than a merely physical one. The Father gives all to the Son, the Son receives all from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is like the fruit of this reciprocal love of the Father and the Son.

The texts of today's Holy Mass speak of God and, therefore, speak of love. They dwell not so much upon the mystery of the three Persons, as they do upon the love which constitutes their substance and unity and trinity in the same moment.

The first passage we heard was taken from the Book of Exodus -- I looked at it in a recent Wednesday catechesis -- and it is surprising that the revelation of God's love occurs after the people have sinned gravely. The Covenant pact has just been concluded at Mount Sinai, and already the people fail in fidelity. Moses' absence lengthens, and the people say: "But where has this Moses gone, and where is his God?" And they ask Aaron to make them a god that is visible, accessible, manageable, within man's reach, instead of this invisible, distant, mysterious God. Aaron consents and fashions a golden calf. Coming down the mountain, Moses sees what has occurred and breaks the tables of the Covenant -- which is already broken, ruptured -- two stones on which were written the "Ten Words," the concrete content of their pact with God. All seems lost, the friendship, right from the beginning -- already broken.

And yet, in spite of the people's very grave sin, God -- through Moses' intercession -- decides to forgive and invites Moses to reascend the mountain to receive again His law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asks God to reveal Himself, to let him see His face. But God does not show His face; rather, He reveals His being, filled with goodness, with these words: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Exodus 34:8). And this is the Face of God. God's definition of Himself manifests His merciful love: a love that conquers sin, covers it, eliminates it. And we can always be secure in this goodness, which never leaves us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who abandons destroying the sinner and who wants to manifest His love in a still more profound and surprising way, precisely before the sinner, in order to offer [him] the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.

The Gospel completes the revelation that we hear about in the first reading, because it indicates to what point God has shown His mercy. The Evangelist John relates this expression of Jesus: "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish by have eternal life" (John 3:16). In the world there is evil, there is egoism, there is malice, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to castigate those who work in darkness. Instead He reveals His love for the world, His love for man, despite his sin, and He sends what is most precious to Him: His only-begotten Son. And not only does He send Him, but He makes Him a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins, welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave His very life for us: on the Cross God's merciful love reaches its culmination. And it is on the Cross that the Son of God obtains for us a participation in eternal life, which is communicated to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so, in the mystery of the Cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives His only-begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who carries out the Father's plan to the very end; the Holy Spirit -- poured out by Jesus at the moment of death – who comes to make us sharers in the divine life, to transform our existence, so that it might be animated by divine love.

Dear brothers and sisters! Faith in the Trinitarian God has also characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the stonecutting Saints Marino and Leone, who in the middle of the third century after Christ, arrived in Rimini from Dalmatia. For their holiness of life, they were consecrated -- the one a priest, the other a deacon -- by Bishop Gaudentius, and they were sent by him to the inland, one to Mount Feretro, which then took the name of San Leo, and the other to Mount Titano, which then took the name San Marino. Beyond the historical matters -- which is not our task to go into -- it is worth affirming how Marino and Leo brought new perspectives and values into the context of this local reality, with faith in the God who had revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, establishing the birth of a culture and of a society centered on the human person -- the image of God, and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of the different ethnicities -- Romans, Goths, and then Lombards -- that came in contact with them, at times in very conflicting ways, found in the common reference to the faith a potent element for ethical, cultural, social, and in some sense, political edification. It was evident to their eyes that a project for the building of civilization could not be considered complete until all of the elements constituting the people had become a living Christian community, well structured and well built upon faith in the Trinitarian God.

Rightly, therefore, can we say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear people of San Marino, was and is the faith, and that this faith created a truly unique society. In addition to this faith, it is also necessary to remember [San Marino's] absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, to whom this Church has always looked with devotion and affection, as well as its attention to the great tradition of the Eastern Church, and its profound devotion to the Virgin Mary.

You are rightly proud and grateful for all the Holy Spirit has accomplished down the centuries in your Church. But you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is by cultivating and enriching it. In reality, you are called to develop this precious deposit in one of the most decisive moments in history. Today, your mission is met by the necessity of confronting profound and rapid cultural, social, economic, and political changes that have determined new trends and modified mentalities, customs and sensibilities. Also here, in fact, as elsewhere, difficulties and obstacles are not wanting, due above all to hedonistic models that darken the mind and risk annihilating morality altogether. The temptation has crept in to hold that a man's wealth is not the faith, but his personal and social power, his intelligence, his culture and his ability to scientifically, technologically and socially manipulate reality. And so, also in these lands, some have begun to substitute the faith and Christian values with presumed riches that, in the end, reveal their emptiness and their inability to hold up to the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just which, for centuries, your ancestors identified with the experience of the faith.

We should not forget, then, the crisis of not a few families, which is aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual frailty of married couples, as well as the hardships experienced by many educators in obtaining formative continuity for the young who are conditioned by many uncertainties, first among them [the uncertainty of] their role in society and of the possibility of work.

Dear friends! I am well aware of the commitment of each element of this particular Church to promoting the Christian life in its various aspects. I exhort all of the faithful to be as leaven in the world, showing yourselves -- whether in Montefeltro or in San Marino -- as Christians who are present, resourceful and coherent. May priests, and men and women religious, always live in heartfelt and effective ecclesial communion by helping and listening to their diocesan pastor. The urgency of a renewal in vocations to the priesthood and to special consecration makes itself felt also among you: I make an appeal to families and to young people, to open their souls to a ready response to the Lord's call. You will never regret being generous with God!

To you laity, I urge you to actively commit yourselves within the community, so that, in addition to your particular civil, political, social and cultural tasks, you will be able to find time and availability for the life of faith, for the pastoral life. Dear people of San Marino! May you remain firmly faithful to the patrimony constructed down the centuries through the impetus of your great patrons, Marino and Leone. I invoke God's blessing upon your path today and your path tomorrow, and I entrust all of you "to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" (2 Corinthians 13:11). Amen!

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