01-02-2009 - Traces, n. 2

No Tear Is Lost Before God

Saint Peter’s Square,
Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters, This year, among the Sunday celebrations, the Liturgy proposes the Gospel of St. Mark for our meditation. A unique characteristic of this Gospel is what is called the “messianic secret”–namely, the fact that, for the moment, Jesus does not want it to be known outside the small group of His disciples that He is the Christ, the Son of God. Moreover, at this point He warns both the Apostles and the sick whom He heals not to reveal His identity to anyone. For example, this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mk 1:21–28) tells of a man possessed by the devil who suddenly shouts: “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are, the Holy One of God.” And Jesus commands the spirit: “Quiet! Come out of him!” And immediately the Evangelist notes the unclean spirit, with excruciating cries, came out of that man. Jesus not only drives demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery, but prevents the demons themselves from revealing His identity. And He insists on this “secret” because what is at stake is the success of His very mission, on which our salvation depends. Indeed, He knows that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin He will have to be sacrificed on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb. The devil, for his part, seeks to dissuade Him so as to divert Him instead toward the human logic of a powerful and successful Messiah. The Cross of Christ will be the devil’s ruin, and this is why Jesus always taught His disciples that in order to enter into His glory He must suffer much, He must be rejected, condemned, and crucified (cf. Lk 24:26), for suffering is an integral part of His mission.

JESUS SUFFERED AND DIED on the Cross for love. On close consideration, it was in this way that He gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age have understood and made their own, experiencing profound tranquility even in the bitterness of harsh physical and moral trials. And the theme that the Italian Bishops have chosen for their customary Message on the occasion of today’s Pro-Life Day is, precisely, “The strength of life in suffering.” I wholeheartedly make their words my own, in which is seen the love of Pastors for their people and their courage in proclaiming the truth with the courage to say clearly, for example, that euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution unworthy of man. Indeed, the true response cannot be to put someone to death, however “kindly,” but rather to witness to the love that helps people to face their pain and agony in a human way. We can be certain that no tear, neither of those who are suffering nor of those who are close to them, is lost before God.

THE VIRGIN MARY kept her Son’s secret in her maternal heart and shared in the painful hour of the Passion and Crucifixion, sustained by her hope in the Resurrection. Let us entrust to her the people who are suffering and those who work every day to support them, serving life in all of its phases: parents, healthcare workers, priests, religious, researchers, volunteers, and many others. Let us pray for them all.


Mass and Administration of the Sacrament
of Baptism - Homily (excerpts), the Sistine Chapel, Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters, The words that the Evangelist Mark recounts at the beginning of his Gospel: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (1:11), introduce us into the heart of today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord with which the Christmas Season ends. The cycle of the Christmas Solemnities leads us to meditate on the birth of Jesus, announced by the angels who were surrounded with the luminous splendor of God; the Christmas Season speaks to us of the star that guided the Magi of the East to the House in Bethlehem, and invites us to look to Heaven, which opens above the Jordan as God’s voice resounds. These are all signs through which the Lord never tires of repeating: “Yes, I am here. I know you. I love you. There is a path that leads from Me to you. And there is a path that rises from you to Me.” The Creator assumed the dimensions of a child in Jesus, of a human being like us, to make Himself visible and tangible. At the same time, by making Himself small, God caused the light of His greatness to shine. For precisely by lowering Himself to the point of defenseless vulnerability of love, He shows what His true greatness is indeed, what it means to be God.[…]

THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISM OF JESUS introduces us into the daily regularity of a personal relationship with Him. Indeed, by immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united Himself with us. Baptism is, so to speak, the bridge He built between Himself and us, the road on which He makes Himself accessible to us. It is the divine rainbow over our lives, the promise of God’s great “yes,” the door of hope and, at the same time, the sign that that indicates to us the path to take actively and joyfully in order to encounter Him and feel loved by Him.

DEAR FRIENDS, I AM TRULY GLAD that this year too, on this feast day, I have been granted the opportunity to baptize these children. God’s “favor” rests on them today. Ever since the Only-Begotten Son of the Father had Himself baptized, the heavens are truly open and continue to open, and we may entrust every new life that begins into the hands of the One who is more powerful than the dark powers of evil. This effectively includes Baptism: we restore to God what came from Him. The child is not the property of the parents but is entrusted to their responsibility by the Creator, freely and in a way that is ever new, in order that they may help him or her to be a free child of God. Only if the parents develop this awareness will they succeed in finding the proper balance between the claim that their children are at their disposal, as though they were a private possession, shaping them on the basis of their own ideas and desires, and the libertarian approach that is expressed in letting them grow in full autonomy, satisfying their every desire and aspiration, deeming this the right way to cultivate their personality. If, with this sacrament, the newly baptized becomes an adoptive child of God, the object of God’s infinite love that safeguards him and protects him from the dark forces of the evil one, it is necessary to teach the child to recognize God as Father and to be able to relate to him with a filial attitude. And therefore, when in accordance with the Christian tradition as we are doing today children are baptized and introduced into the light of God and of His teachings, no violence is done to them. Rather, they are given the riches of divine life in which is rooted the true freedom that belongs to the children of God, a freedom that must be educated and modeled as the years pass to render it capable of responsible personal decisions.

DEAR PARENTS, dear godfathers and godmothers, I greet you all with affection and join in your joy for these little ones who today are reborn into eternal life. May you be aware of the gift received and never cease to thank the Lord who, with today’s sacrament, introduces your children into a new family, larger and more stable, more open and more numerous than your own; I am referring to the family of believers, to the Church, to a family that has God as Father and in which all recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. Today, therefore, you are entrusting your children to God’s goodness, which is a force of light and love and they, even amid life’s difficulties, will never feel abandoned if they stay united with Him. Therefore, be concerned with educating them in the faith, teaching them to pray and grow as Jesus did and with His help, “in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2: 52).