VATICAN CITY, JAN. 31, 2010 ( Benedict XVI says one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible is found in today's liturgy, and it indicates the path to reach perfection.

The Pope spoke of St. Paul's "hymn to charity" (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13) before he prayed the midday Angelus today with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.

The Holy Father noted how Paul says the way of perfection "does not consist in possessing exceptional qualities: speaking new languages, knowing all the mysteries, having a prodigious faith, or doing heroic deeds. It consists rather in charity -- 'agape' -- that is, in authentic love, that love that God revealed to us in Jesus Christ."

"Charity is the 'greatest' gift," the Pontiff affirmed, saying it "confers worth on others, and yet 'does not boast, does not puff up with pride,' indeed, 'it rejoices in truth' and the good of others."

"In the end," he continued, "when we will meet God face to face, all the other gifts will disappear; the only one that will remain in eternity will be charity, because God is love and we will be like him, in complete communion with him."

The Pope added that while we are in this world, "charity is the Christian difference."

"The Christian’s whole life is summed up by charity: what he believes and what he does," he said. "For this reason, at the beginning of my pontificate, I wanted to dedicate my first encyclical precisely to the theme of love: 'Deus caritas est.'"

Benedict XVI recalled how the encyclical illustrates the two components of charity: meaning and practice.

"Love is the essence of God himself, it is the meaning of creation and history, it is the light that gives goodness and beauty to every man’s existence," he explained. "At the same time, love is the 'style,' of God and the believer, it is the comportment of him who, responding to God’s love, makes his own life a gift of self to God and neighbor."

And these two aspects "form a perfect unity" in Jesus, the Pontiff said. "Fixing our gaze upon him, we can confess with the Apostle John: 'We have seen the love that God has for us and we have believed in it.'"


Benedict XVI noted how the saints, with the "variety of their spiritual gifts, and also their human characters" are "hymn[s] to charity."

The saints are, he affirmed, "a living canticle to God’s love!"

Recalling the saint whose feast is today, St. John Bosco, the Bishop of Rome concluded by invoking his intercession "so that priests always be educators and fathers for young people; and that, experiencing this pastoral charity, many young people will welcome the call to give their life for Christ and the Gospel. May Mary Our Help, model of charity, obtain these graces for us."

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