By Kathleen Naab

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 25, 2012 ( Continuing with his reflection on prayer in the early life of the Church, Benedict XVI today at the general audience commented on the apostles' discernment as they faced the problem of finding time to preach and serve.

Referring to the sixth chapter of Acts, the Pope spoke about the issue the apostles had to resolve regarding "the pastoral care of charity shown to those who were alone and in need of help and assistance."

He said that what stands out in the face of this "pastoral emergency" is the apostles’ discernment. 

"They are faced with the primary need to proclaim the Word of God according to the mandate of the Lord; but even though this is the primary demand placed upon the Church -- they consider with equal seriousness the duty of charity and of justice."

The Holy Father suggested two insights from the apostles' reaction: "first, that from that moment in the Church, there is a ministry of charity. The Church must not only proclaim the Word, she must also make the Word, which is charity and truth, a reality. And the second point: these men [chosen to serve] were to be not only of good repute; they must be men filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom; that is, they cannot be only organizers who know how to 'do'; they must 'do so' in the spirit of faith by the light of God, in wisdom of heart. Therefore, also their role -- though primarily of a practical nature -- is still a spiritual role. Charity and justice are not only social actions; rather, they are spiritual activities realized in the light of the Holy Spirit."


The Holy Father went on to note how the saints have taught of the importance of a "profound unity of life between prayer and action, between total love of God and love for the brethren."

He said this is a "precious reminder for us today, habituated as we are to evaluate everything based upon the criteria of productivity and efficiency."

The Pope reflected that this passage from Acts reminds us not only of the importance of work, but also of our need for God, "for His guidance, for His light, which gives us strength and hope."

"Without daily prayer faithfully lived out," he cautioned, "our activity becomes empty, it loses its deep soul, it is reduced to mere activism, which in the end leaves us unsatisfied."


The Bishop of Rome added that this lesson is particularly important for pastors, who should see "the primacy of prayer and of God’s Word" as their "first and most precious form of service paid to the flock entrusted to them."

"If the lungs of prayer and the Word of God fail to nourish the breath of our spiritual life, we risk suffocating in the middle of a thousand daily cares: prayer is the breath of the soul and of life," the Holy Father affirmed. "And there is another precious reminder that I would like to emphasize: in our relationship with God, in listening to His Word, in conversation with God, even when we find ourselves in the silence of a church or in our room, we are united in the Lord with so many brothers and sisters in faith, like an ensemble of instruments that, though retaining their individuality, offer to God one great symphony of intercession, of thanksgiving and of praise."

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