On Christian Perfection

“He Who Welcomes the Lord in His Life … Can Begin Again”

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time the biblical readings speak to us about God’s will to make men participants in his life: “Be holy because I the Lord your God am holy,” we read in the Book of Leviticus (19:1). With these words and the precepts that follow from them, the Lord invited the Chosen People to be faithful to the covenant with him, walking in his ways, and established the social legislation on the commandment that says that “you will love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). If we listen, then, to Jesus in whom God took on a mortal body to become every man’s neighbor and reveal his infinite love for us, we hear again that same call, that same objective audacity. The Lord, in fact, says: “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). But who can become perfect? Our perfection is to live as children of God in humility concretely doing his will. St. Cyprian wrote that “to God’s paternity there must correspond a conduct as children of God so that God might be glorified and praised by man’s good conduct” (De zelo et livore, 15: CCL 3a, 83).

In what way can we imitate Jesus? Jesus himself says: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you will be children of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). He who welcomes the Lord in his life and loves him with all of his heart can begin again. He is able to do God’s will: to realize a new form of existence animated by love and destined for eternity. Paul the Apostle adds: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we are truly aware of this reality and our life is deeply formed by it, then our witness becomes clear, eloquent and efficacious. An [early Christian] author wrote: “When the whole being of man is mixed, so to speak, with God’s love, then his soul’s splendor is also reflected on the outside” (John Climacus, “Scala Paradisi,” XXX: PG 88, 1157 B), in the whole of his life. “Love is a great thing,” we read in “The Imitation of Christ,” [it is] “a good that makes every heavy thing light and easily endures every hardship. Love aspires to sail on high, not to be held back by any earthly thing. It is born of God and only in God can it find rest” (III, V, 3).

Dear friends, the day after tomorrow, Feb. 22, we will celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter. To him, the first among the Apostles, Christ entrusted the task of Teacher and Shepherd for the spiritual guidance of the People of God, so that they might be raised up to heaven. Thus, I exhort all pastors “to assimilate that ‘new style of life’ which was inaugurated by the Lord Jesus and taken up by the Apostles” (“Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests”). We call on the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and of the Church, that she teach us how to love each other and to welcome each other as brothers, children of the same heavenly Father.

[After the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the faithful in several languages. In English he said:]

I offer heartfelt greetings to all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus! In particular I greet the young singers from the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London. The Cardinal’s motto, “Amare et Servire,” is a beautiful expression of the Christian way of life. We are all called to love unconditionally, as today’s Gospel reminds us, and to place ourselves generously at the service of our neighbor. Upon everyone here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings.

© Copyright 2011 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[Concluding in Italian, he said:]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week. Thanks for your attention. Have a good Sunday, goodbye!

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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