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POPE FRANCIS GENERAL AUDIENCE — Saint Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 10 April 2013

POPE FRANCIS

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good day!

Pope gives thumbs up as he leaves general audience in St. Peter's Square at VaticanIn the last Catechesis we have focused on the event of the Resurrection of Jesus, in which women have played a special role. Today I would like to reflect on its meaning for salvation. What does the Resurrection mean for our lives? And why, without it, is our faith in vain? Our faith is based on the death and resurrection of Christ, just like a house built on foundations: if they give in, the whole house collapses. On the Cross, Jesus offered himself taking sins upon himself our and going down into the abyss of death, and in the Resurrection he defeats them, he removes them and opens up to us the path to be reborn to a new life. St. Peter expresses it briefly at the beginning of his First Letter, as we have heard: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”(1:3-4).

The Apostle tells us that the Resurrection of Jesus is something new: we are freed from the slavery of sin and become children of God, that we are born to a new life. When does this happen to us? In the Sacrament of Baptism. In ancient times, it was normally received through immersion. Those to be baptized immersed themselves in the large pool within the Baptistery, leaving their clothes, and the bishop or the priest would pour water over their head three times, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then the baptized would emerge from the pool and put on a new vestment, a white one: they were born to a new life, immersing themselves in the death and resurrection of Christ. They had become children of God. In the Letter to the Romans Saint Paul writes: you ” For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father! ‘”(Rom. 8:15). It is the Holy Spirit that we received in baptism that teaches us, leads us to say to God, “Father.” Or rather, Abba Father. This is our God, He is a father to us. The Holy Spirit produces in us this new status as children of God, and this is the greatest gift we receive from the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. And God treats us as His children, He understands us, forgives us, embraces us, loves us even when we make mistakes . In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said that even though a mother may forget her child, God never, ever forgets us (cf. 49:15). And this is a beautiful thing, beautiful!

However, this filial relationship with God is not like a treasure to be kept in a corner of our lives. It must grow, it must be nourished every day by hearing the Word of God, prayer, participation in the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist and charity. We can live as children! We can live as children! And this is our dignity. So let us behave as true children! This means that each day we must let Christ transform us and make us like Him; it means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him, even if we see our limitations and our weaknesses. The temptation to put God to one side, to put ourselves at the center is ever-present and the experience of sin wounds our Christian life, our being children of God. This is why we must have the courage of faith, we must resist being led to the mentality that tells us: “There is no need for God, He is not that important for you”. It is the exact opposite: only by behaving as children of God, without being discouraged by our falls, can we feel loved by Him, our life will be new, inspired by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!

Dear brothers and sisters, we must first must firmly have this hope and we must be visible, clear, brilliant signs of hope in world. The Risen Lord is the hope that never fails, that does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). God’s hope never disappoints!. How many times in our life do our hopes vanish, how many times do the expectations that we carry in our heart not come true! The hope of Christians is strong, safe and sound in this land, where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity, because it is founded on God, who is always faithful. We should never forget this; God is always faithful! God is always faithful! Be risen with Christ through Baptism, with the gift of faith, to an imperishable inheritance, leads us to increasingly search for the things of God, to think of Him more, to pray more. Christianity is not simply a matter of following commandments; it is about living a new life, being in Christ, thinking and acting like Christ, and being transformed by the love of Christ, it is allowing Him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, to free them from the darkness of evil and sin.

Dear brothers and sisters, to those who ask us our reasons for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3:15), let us point to the Risen Christ. Let us point to Him with the proclamation of the Word, but especially with our resurrected life. Let us show the joy of being children of God, the freedom he gifts us to live in Christ, who is true freedom, freedom from the slavery of evil, sin and death! In looking to our heavenly home, we will also have a new light and strength in our commitment and in our daily efforts. It is a precious service that we give to our world, which is often no longer able to lift its gaze upwards, it no longer seems able to lift its gaze towards God.

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Divine Mercy Sunday: Archbishop Sample on the Sacrament of Penance

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From Archbishop Sample’s Facebook page:

A blessed Divine Mercy Sunday to all of you! Our Lord Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Penance in a very powerful way on the VERY NIGHT of the Resurrection. “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'” (John 20:21-23)

Have you ever considered that the Apostles could not have known which sins to forgive and which sins to retain unless they had FIRST been confessed? The Sacrament of Penance manifests Christ’s will for the forgiveness of our sins. It is his gift to us which brings us true peace.

If it’s been a while for you, don’t waste another minute! Go to confession and know the mercy and peace only God can give you. “Jesus, I trust in you!”

 

St. Paul Street Evangelization — Cave Junction, Or. Reasons to Return to the Catholic Church

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EDITORS NOTE: Welcome to St. Paul Street Evangelization, Cave Junction, Or. Chapter!  If you have any questions concerning the faith or your journey home, you may e-mail me (Jimmy Evans) at Jamestevans0@yahoo.com 

Reasons to Return to the Catholic Church

Rome is Where the Heart is

If you once were a practicing Catholic and have been away from the Catholic Church for a while — no matter how long — you’re always welcome back. Your companion in this journey is our Lord Jesus Christ. He will walk alongside and guide you. Place your trust in Him; He will lead you home.

1. Reconciliation (Confession)

If you’re thinking about coming back, it’s very important to go to Confession (the “Sacrament of Reconciliation” or “Penance”). Jesus Christ Himself instituted Confession and He desired that His followers have a place to go to be absolved of their sins. He, in turn, gave authority to men to forgive sins.

“Jesus … said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (Jn 20:21–23).

All parishes around the world have set times for Confession, and finding out these times is a Google search away. You also have the right under Canon Law to ask the parish priest for an appointment for Confession. You should explain to the priest prior to your confession that you haven’t been to church for a while and haven’t been attending Confession. If you need a refresher, the priest will happily guide you through the steps of Confession.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).

2. The Communion of Saints

You may remember from your childhood that if you lost something, you’d pray to St. Anthony of Padua. If you were studying for a test, you’d pray to St. Joseph of Cupertino or St. Thomas Aquinas. Whatever your intention is, there is a saint to call on to pray with you.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1).

This “cloud of witnesses” cheers us on as we walk with Christ. The faithfully departed — the Church in Heaven — are ever concerned about the Church on earth.

“Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. … They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 956).

The communion of saints helps us by praying for us for we are joined in Christ’s Body, the Church, and it is our joy to bear one another’s burdens (cf. Gal 6:2) and to encourage one another (cf. 1 Thess 5:11).

3. The Eucharist

The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The Eucharist is Jesus Christ: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

At the Last Supper, the final meal Christ shared with His beloved disciples, He left them the means in which He would be physically present in the world.

“When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present: the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. ‘As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which “Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed” is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out’” (CCC 1364).

The Mass makes present the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. As He took bread and gave thanks, He said, “This is my body which is given for you” (Lk 22:19). Jesus speaks of the same Body in John 6: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:56). The sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same sacrifice; only the manner in which they are offered differs.

Therefore, weekly Mass attendance is important. As outlined in CCC 2042, the three precepts of the Church are:

1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.

2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year.

3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.

One must be in a state of grace in order to receive the Eucharist. This means we must not have any unconfessed mortal sin. The Eucharist is participation in Christ’s Body and Blood (cf. 1 Cor 10:16). To receive Holy Communion in such an unworthy manner is to profane against the Body and Blood of Christ (cf. 1 Cor 11:23–29) and is objectively a mortal sin, as is deliberately not attending Mass.

“Anyone who desires to receive Christ in Eucharistic communion must be in the state of grace. Anyone aware of having sinned mortally must not receive communion without having received absolution in the sacrament of penance” (CCC 1415).

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (CCC 2181).

The Eucharist is food for the journey, through which grace is conferred. Through the Eucharist, we are also physically united with Christ. Therefore, we must walk and grow in holiness in order to become vessels that give a witness of Christ to the world.

4. The Joy of Salvation

The mission of the Catholic Church is to bring the reality of God and salvation to all.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16–17).

The Catholic Church offers to all the means of salvation, and the fullness of faith. She also unites the faithful with Christ. God’s gift is freely offered to us; we don’t deserve it, yet it is offered anyway. We must respond accordingly, in faith, to His free grace, so that we can be led by Him, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to walk in faith and to do the will of God, so that we may be perfected by Him (cf. Mt 7:21; Jas 2:14–26; Mt 5:48).

“In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that … doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor” (CCC 2013).

When Christ ascended into heaven, He left His disciples a final instruction.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19–20).

No matter what you’ve done (provided you truly repent of it, confess, and receive absolution), you have a home in the Catholic Church. By Christ’s work on the Cross and through the Sacraments that Christ Himself instituted, your heart will be made new.

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

“For it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God” (CCC 816).

“Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future” (Oscar Wilde).

5. The One True Church

What is it that sets the Catholic Church apart? Why not just go to the non-denominational church nearby? The answer is simple: no other church in the world (though they may possess much truth and a share of God’s grace) can claim that their founder is God: Jesus Christ Himself.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:18–19).

Jesus declared here with divine authority that the Catholic Church would teach all nations the Good News and would bring the hope of salvation to all. The Church would be a visible sign to the world that Christ remains with the world until the end of the age. When the Catholic Church teaches and speaks, it does so with the authority of Jesus Christ.

Christ bestowed upon St. Peter the authority to lead the visible church (thus setting in motion the office of the papacy), and the authority to (preeminently) “bind” and “loose.” These ancient rabbinical terms mean to “forbid” and “permit,” that is, to interpret the Law in special circumstances. Jesus, in John 20:22–23 extended the Church’s authority to include absolving sins or issuing penance for them.

The Church is known as the “pillar and bulwark of truth” (1 Tim 3:15) because the Holy Spirit guides it into all truth (cf. Jn 14:26; 16:13). When the Church teaches, it does so because the Holy Spirit has enabled it to. Not all Christians have this special protection, and some are even counterfeit “Christians.”

“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Mt 7:21–23).

So why should you consider returning to the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church is built on a rock-solid foundation and Christ Himself promised, “the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

“Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Mt 7:24–25).

Author bio

Stephen Spiteri is a happily married and proud Catholic husband and father. He currently teaches Religious Education at Irene McCormack Catholic College (Perth, Western Australia), sharing his knowledge and love for Christ and the Catholic Church. Stephen Spiteri is also the founder and author of the apologetics blog ‘The Spirit Magnus’ and has been answering questions and helping people learn more about the Catholic faith online in this way since late 2008. He has been a guest speaker at Catholic conferences, speaking on the topic of apologetics: defending the Catholic faith. Stephen Spiteri also taught a course on apologetics at the ‘Acts 2 Come’ Catholic Bible College in 2012. He is currently working on other projects that will help bring the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith to those interested in learning more about Catholicism.

Written by: Stephen Spiteri

Edited by: Dave Armstrong

Further Reading:

Biblical Evidence for the Communion of Saints
Biblical Catholic Eucharistic Theology
Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love”
Biblical Proofs for an Infallible Church and Papacy

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Full Text: Pope Francis First Homily — Sistine Chapel

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In these three readings I see that there is something in common: it is movement. In the first reading, movement is the journey [itself]; in the second reading, movement is in the up-building of the Church. In the third, in the Gospel, the movement is in [the act of] profession: walking, building, professing.

Walking: the House of Jacob. “O house of Jacob, Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” This is the first thing God said to Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” Walking: our life is a journey and when we stop, there is something wrong. Walking always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that blamelessness, which God asks of Abraham, in his promise.

Building: to build the Church. There is talk of stones: stones have consistency, but [the stones spoken of are] living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. Build up the Church, the Bride of Christ, the cornerstone of which is the same Lord. With [every] movement in our lives, let us build!

Third, professing: we can walk as much we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ. When one does not walk, one stalls. When one does not built on solid rocks, what happens? What happens is what happens to children on the beach when they make sandcastles: everything collapses, it is without consistency. When one does not profess Jesus Christ – I recall the phrase of Leon Bloy – “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil.” When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil.

Walking, building-constructing, professing: the thing, however, is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in professing, there are sometimes shake-ups – there are movements that are not part of the path: there are movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.

My hope for all of us is that the Holy Spirit, that the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother, might grant us this grace: to walk, to build, to profess Jesus Christ Crucified. So be it.

FULL TEXT: The Final Angelus of Pope Benedict XVI

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The final Angelus……..with outstretched arms Pope Benedict XVI acknowledges a packed St. Peter’s Square beneath him as he delivers the the final Angelus devotion of his tenure as Pontiff 24 February 2013 in this handout photo provided by Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano. The Pontiff’s resignation officially takes effect at 8pm local time on 28 February 2013. EFE/EPA/OSSERVATORE — at Città Del Vatican

Full Text:

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

On the second Sunday of Lent, the liturgy always presents us with the Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The evangelist Luke places particular emphasis on the fact that Jesus was transfigured as he prayed: his is a profound experience of relationship with the Father during a sort of spiritual retreat that Jesus lives on a high mountain in the company of Peter, James and John , the three disciples always present in moments of divine manifestation of the Master (Luke 5:10, 8.51, 9.28).The Lord, who shortly before had foretold his death and resurrection (9:22), offers his disciples a foretaste of his glory. And even in the Transfiguration, as in baptism, we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One listen to him” (9:35). The presence of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets of the Old Covenant, it is highly significant: the whole history of the Alliance is focused on Him, the Christ, who accomplishes a new “exodus” (9:31) , not to the promised land as in the time of Moses, but to Heaven. Peter’s words: “Master, it is good that we are here” (9.33) represents the impossible attempt to stop this mystical experience. St. Augustine says: “[Peter] … on the mountain … had Christ as the food of the soul. Why should he come down to return to the labours and pains, while up there he was full of feelings of holy love for God that inspired in him a holy conduct? “(Sermon 78.3).

We can draw a very important lesson from meditating on this passage of the Gospel. First, the primacy of prayer, without which all the work of the apostolate and of charity is reduced to activism. In Lent we learn to give proper time to prayer, both personal and communal, which gives breath to our spiritual life. In addition, to pray is not to isolate oneself from the world and its contradictions, as Peter wanted on Tabor, instead prayer leads us back to the path, to action. “The Christian life – I wrote in my Message for Lent – consists in continuously scaling the mountain to meet God and then coming back down, bearing the love and strength drawn from him, so as to serve our brothers and sisters with God’s own love “(n. 3).Dear brothers and sisters, I feel that this Word of God is particularly directed at me, at this point in my life. The Lord is calling me to “climb the mountain”, to devote myself even more to prayer and meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church, indeed, if God is asking me to do this it is so that I can continue to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have done thus far, but in a way that is better suited to my age and my strength. Let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary: may she always help us all to follow the Lord Jesus in prayer and works of charity.

I offer a warm greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present for this Angelus prayer, especially the Schola Cantorum of the London Oratory School. I thank everyone for the many expressions of gratitude, affection and closeness in prayer which I have received in these days. As we continue our Lenten journey towards Easter, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus the Redeemer, whose glory was revealed on the mount of the Transfiguration. Upon all of you I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

END

Litany of the Pierced Side of Christ

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Litany of the Pierced Side of Christ

Lord have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
Christ have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
Lord havc mercy
R. Lord have mercy
God our Father in heaven
R. Have mercy on me
God the Son, Redeemer of the world
R. Have mercy on me
God the Holy Spirit
R. Have mercy on me
Holy Trinity, one God
R. Have mercy on me

(Each invocation should begin with: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of David” and end with, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”)

Who has suffered agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Who has been scourged at the pillar
Who has been crowned with thorns
Who has carried the Cross
Who has been nailed to the Cross
Who has died on the Cross
Whose side has been pierced with a lance
Who rose from the dead
Who ascended to the Father

Because of your suffering, your Father has swept away my transgressions like a cloud
Because of your suffering, your Father has made my scarlet sins white as snow
Because of your suffering, your Father has loved me with a great love
Because of your suffering, your Father has made me alive with You
Because of your suffering, your Father has raised me up with You

You have born my sins in your body on the Cross
You have freed me from sin
You have enabled me to live righteously
By your wounds I have been healed

From whose side water and blood flowed
From whose side the Church was born
From whose side, a fountain has come to wash away the sin and impurity of the Church
From whose side the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist have sprung

You are the Lamb of God and You take away the sins of the world (3x)

Father,
You so loved the world you gave us your only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. May my heart be open to this truth and may I obtain eternal life through the merits of your Son. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen

Pope’s Homily at Mass for Feast of the Epiphany

SOURCE

“Not Only Are We Restless for God: God’s Heart Is Restless for Us”

pope1_0_653343Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Epiphany is a feast of light. “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Is 60:1). With these words of the prophet Isaiah, the Church describes the content of the feast. He who is the true light, and by whom we too are made to be light, has indeed come into the world. He gives us the power to become children of God (cf. Jn 1:9,12). The journey of the wise men from the East is, for the liturgy, just the beginning of a great procession that continues throughout history. With the Magi, humanity’s pilgrimage to Jesus Christ begins – to the God who was born in a stable, who died on the Cross and who, having risen from the dead, remains with us always, until the consummation of the world (cf. Mt 28:20). The Church reads this account from Matthew’s Gospel alongside the vision of the prophet Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the journey of these men is just the beginning. Before them came the shepherds – simple souls, who dwelt closer to the God who became a child, and could more easily “go over” to him (Lk 2:15) and recognize him as Lord. But now the wise of this world are also coming. Great and small, kings and slaves, men of all cultures and all peoples are coming. The men from the East are the first, followed by many more throughout the centuries. After the great vision of Isaiah, the reading from the Letter to the Ephesians expresses the same idea in sober and simple terms: the Gentiles share the same heritage (cf. Eph3:6). Psalm 2 puts it like this: “I shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession” (v. 8).

The wise men from the East lead the way. They open up the path of the Gentiles to Christ. During this holy Mass, I will ordain two priests to the episcopate, I will consecrate them as shepherds of God’s people. According to the words of Jesus, part of a shepherd’s task is to go ahead of the flock (cf. Jn 10:4). So, allowing for all the differences in vocation and mission, we may well look to these figures, the first Gentiles to find the pathway to Christ, for indications concerning the task of bishops. What kind of people were they? The experts tell us that they belonged to the great astronomical tradition that had developed in Mesopotamia over the centuries and continued to flourish. But this information of itself is not enough. No doubt there were many astronomers in ancient Babylon, but only these few set off to follow the star that they recognized as the star of the promise, pointing them along the path towards the true King and Saviour. They were, as we might say, men of science, but not simply in the sense that they were searching for a wide range of knowledge: they wanted something more. They wanted to understand what being human is all about. They had doubtless heard of the prophecy of the Gentile prophet Balaam: “A star shall come forth out of Jacob and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Num24:17). They explored this promise. They were men with restless hearts, not satisfied with the superficial and the ordinary. They were men in search of the promise, in search of God. And they were watchful men, capable of reading God’s signs, his soft and penetrating language. But they were also courageous, yet humble: we can imagine them having to endure a certain amount of mockery for setting off to find the King of the Jews, at the cost of so much effort. For them it mattered little what this or that person, what even influential and clever people thought and said about them. For them it was a question of truth itself, not human opinion. Hence they took upon themselves the sacrifices and the effort of a long and uncertain journey. Their humble courage was what enabled them to bend down before the child of poor people and to recognize in him the promised King, the one they had set out, on both their outward and their inward journey, to seek and to know.

Dear friends, how can we fail to recognize in all this certain essential elements of episcopal ministry? The bishop too must be a man of restless heart, not satisfied with the ordinary things of this world, but inwardly driven by his heart’s unrest to draw ever closer to God, to seek his face, to recognize him more and more, to be able to love him more and more. The bishop too must be a man of watchful heart, who recognizes the gentle language of God and understands how to distinguish truth from mere appearance. The bishop too must be filled with the courage of humility, not asking what prevailing opinion says about him, but following the criterion of God’s truth and taking his stand accordingly – “opportune – importune”. He must be able to go ahead and mark out the path. He must go ahead, in the footsteps of him who went ahead of us all because he is the true shepherd, the true star of the promise: Jesus Christ. And he must have the humility to bend down before the God who made himself so tangible and so simple that he contradicts our foolish pride in its reluctance to see God so close and so small. He must devote his life to adoration of the incarnate Son of God, which constantly points him towards the path.

The liturgy of episcopal ordination interprets the essential features of this ministry in eight questions addressed to the candidates, each beginning with the word “Vultis? – Do you want?” These questions direct the will and mark out the path to be followed. Here I shall briefly cite just a few of the most important words of this presentation, where we find explicit mention of the elements we have just considered in connection with the wise men of today’s feast. The bishops’ task is praedicare Evangelium Christi, it is custodire et dirigere, it is pauperibus se misericordes praebere, it is indesinenter orare. Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, going ahead and leading, guarding the sacred heritage of our faith, showing mercy and charity to the needy and the poor, thus mirroring God’s merciful love for us, and finally, praying without ceasing: these are the fundamental features of the episcopal ministry. Praying without ceasing means: never losing contact with God, letting ourselves be constantly touched by him in the depths of our hearts and, in this way, being penetrated by his light. Only someone who actually knows God can lead others to God. Only someone who leads people to God leads them along the path of life.

The restless heart of which we spoke earlier, echoing Saint Augustine, is the heart that is ultimately satisfied with nothing less than God, and in this way becomes a loving heart. Our heart is restless for God and remains so, even if every effort is made today, by means of most effective anaesthetizing methods, to deliver people from this unrest. But not only are we restless for God: God’s heart is restless for us. God is waiting for us. He is looking for us. He knows no rest either, until he finds us. God’s heart is restless, and that is why he set out on the path towards us – to Bethlehem, to Calvary, from Jerusalem to Galilee and on to the very ends of the earth. God is restless for us, he looks out for people willing to “catch” his unrest, his passion for us, people who carry within them the searching of their own hearts and at the same time open themselves to be touched by God’s search for us. Dear friends, this was the task of the Apostles: to receive God’s unrest for man and then to bring God himself to man. And this is your task as successors of the Apostles: let yourselves be touched by God’s unrest, so that God’s longing for man may be fulfilled.

The wise men followed the star. Through the language of creation, they discovered the God of history. To be sure – the language of creation alone is not enough. Only God’s word, which we encounter in sacred Scripture, was able to mark out their path definitively. Creation and Scripture, reason and faith, must come together, so as to lead us forward to the living God. There has been much discussion over what kind of star it was that the wise men were following. Some suggest a planetary constellation, or a supernova, that is to say one of those stars that is initially quite weak, in which an inner explosion releases a brilliant light for a certain time, or a comet, etc. This debate we may leave to the experts. The great star, the true supernova that leads us on, is Christ himself. He is as it were the explosion of God’s love, which causes the great white light of his heart to shine upon the world. And we may add: the wise men from the East, who feature in today’s Gospel, like all the saints, have themselves gradually become constellations of God that mark out the path. In all these people, being touched by God’s word has, as it were, released an explosion of light, through which God’s radiance shines upon our world and shows us the path. The saints are stars of God, by whom we let ourselves be led to him for whom our whole being longs. Dear friends: you followed the star Jesus Christ when you said “yes” to the priesthood and to the episcopacy. And no doubt smaller stars have enlightened and helped you not to lose your way. In the litany of saints we call upon all these stars of God, that they may continue to shine upon you and show you the path. As you are ordained bishops, you too are called to be stars of God for men, leading them along the path towards the true light, towards Christ. So let us pray to all the saints at this hour, asking them that you may always live up to this mission you have received, to show God’s light to mankind.

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