Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thoughts on Our Holy Father's Homily

In a world of rapid-fire, MTV-style cutaways in television programs and movies, driven by the assumption that young people have limited attention spans and thus little capacity for following a line of thought, Pope Benedict made no apologies Sunday morning for veering into a lengthy exegesis of the Greek word proskynesis and the Latin adoratio. (He later tossed in a Hebrew term, beracha, to boot). He used words such as "positivism" and "transmute" without bothering to explain them, as if all one million young people from 197 countries standing in the Marienfeld plain Sunday morning ought to have scored 700 or better on the SAT verbal.

It's quite likely that some portions of his Sunday morning homily will have sailed over the heads of part of his audience, especially since the majority heard most of it through translation, but that's not quite the point. Many will come away inspired because this man, whom most of the World Youth Day participants regard as brilliant and holy, didn't water his thinking down. He didn't act as if he was saving his best stuff for someone else -- he assumed these young people were capable of meaty content.

Benedict smiled, waved, and repeatedly thanked the youth for coming. The crowds seemed to genuinely like him, even if they tended to react to him like a respected teacher rather than a surrogate father, or grandfather, which is the relationship many Catholic youth felt to John Paul II.

What Benedict offered in his three major addresses -- the opening greeting on Thursday afternoon delivered from a boat on the Rhine, and the two homilies Saturday night and Sunday morning -- was instead some 35,000 words of teaching, moral exhortation and spiritual challenge.

-The National Catholic Reporter

This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood. But it must not stop there, on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world. I like to illustrate this new step urged upon us by the Last Supper by drawing out the different nuances of the word “adoration” in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it. We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio – mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.

The Eucharist must become the centre of our lives. If the Church tells us that the Eucharist is an essential part of Sunday, this is no mere positivism or thirst for power. On Easter morning, first the women and then the disciples had the grace of seeing the Lord. From that moment on, they knew that the first day of the week, Sunday, would be his day, the day of Christ the Lord. The day when creation began became the day when creation was renewed. Creation and redemption belong together. That is why Sunday is so important. It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a “week-end” of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present. Dear friends! Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time. Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. Let us pledge ourselves to do this – it is worth the effort! Let us discover the intimate riches of the Church’s liturgy and its true greatness: it is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the living God himself who is preparing a banquet for us. Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives.

Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on. In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him. But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything. People tend to exclaim: “This cannot be what life is about!” Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. Yet if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a “do-it-yourself” basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves. Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction. - BXVI

Frankly, I think it was stunning. The simple fact that he weaved in and out of such complex thoughts in several languages is a feat few can do so well. He follows the example of JP the Great and uses it to direct it completly to the Eucharist. I believe that his quiet presence and firm words are able to actively point to the love of God in so that he becomes less of a rock star and more of a messenger.

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