PALERMO, Italy, OCT. 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Sunday during an outdoor Mass in Palermo’s Foro Italico Umberto I.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
My joy is great to be able to break the bread of the Word of God and the Eucharist with you. I greet all of you with affection and I thank you for your warm welcome! I greet your pastor in particular, Archbishop Monsignor Paolo Romeo; I thank him for the expressions of welcome that he wished to offer me in the name of everyone, and also for the meaningful gift that he gave me. I also greet the archbishops and bishops present, the priests, religious, the representatives of the ecclesial associations and movements. I address a deferential thought to the mayor, Honorable Diego Cammarata, grateful for the courteous address of greeting, to the representative of the government and the civil and military authorities, who wished to honor our meeting with their presence. A special thank you to those who generously offered their cooperation for the organization and preparation of this day.
Dear Friends! My visit occurs on the occasion of an important regional ecclesial gathering of young people and families, whom I will meet this afternoon. But I also came to share the joys and hopes, toils and commitments, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. When the ancient Greeks landed in this area, as the mayor also recalled in his greetings, they called it “Panormo,” that is, “all port”: a name that was intended to indicate security, peace and serenity. Coming among you for the first time, my wish is that this city, taking inspiration from the most authentic values of its history and its tradition, always truly know how to make the augury of peace and serenity summed up in its name a reality for its inhabitants and the whole nation.
I know that in Palermo, as everywhere in Sicily, there is no lack of difficulties, problems and worries: I think, in particular, of those who concretely live their lives in precariousness because of the lack of work, the uncertainty of the future, physical and moral suffering and, as the archbishop noted, because of organized crime. Today I am with you to bear witness to my nearness to you and my prayers for you. I am here to give you strong encouragement to not be afraid to bear clear witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and the history of this place and its people.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, every liturgical assembly is a space of the presence of God. Gathered for the Holy Eucharist, the disciples of the Lord are immersed in the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, they proclaim that he is risen, he lives and is the giver of life, and they testify that his presence is grace, strength and joy. Let us open our hearts to his word and welcome the gift of his presence! All of the texts of liturgy this Sunday speak to us of faith, which is the foundation of the whole Christian life. Jesus taught his disciples how to grow in faith, to believe in him and entrust themselves to him more and more, to build their lives upon the rock. Thus, they ask him: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:6). It is a great request that they make of the Lord, it is the fundamental request: The disciples do not ask for material goods, they do not ask for privileges, rather they ask for the grace of faith, that orients and illuminates life as a whole; they ask for the grace to recognize God and to be able to abide in an intimate relationship with him, receiving from him all his gifts, including those of courage, love and hope.
Without responding directly to their prayer, Jesus has recourse to a paradoxical image to express the incredible vitality of faith. As a lever lifts much more than its own weight, faith too, even a modicum of faith, is capable of accomplishing unthinkable, extraordinary things, such as uprooting a great tree and planting it in the sea (Luke 17:6). Faith — trusting Christ, welcoming him, allowing him to transform us, following him completely — makes humanly impossible things possible in every situation. The prophet Habakkuk also bears witness to this in the first reading. He asks the Lord for deliverance from a situation that is full of violence, iniquity and oppression; and precisely in this difficult and uncertain situation, the prophet introduces a vision that offers a glimpse of the plan that the God is tracing and actualizing in history: “He who does not have a upright soul will falter while the just one shall live because of his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). The wicked one, he who does not act in obedience to God, puts his trust in his own power, but he is leaning on something fragile and inconsistent — that is why he will slip, he is destined to fall; the just man, however, puts his trust in a reality that is hidden but unshakable, he trusts in God and because of this he will have life.
In past centuries the Church in Palermo was enriched and animated by a fervid faith that found its highest and most successful expression in the saints. I think of St. Rosalia, whom you venerate and honor and who watches over your city, of which she is the patroness, from Monte Pellegrino. Neither must it be forgotten how your religious sense has always inspired and guided family life, nourishing values like your capacity to give and be in solidarity with others, especially the suffering, and your innate respect for life, which constitute a precious legacy to be jealously guarded and revivified in our day. Dear Friends, conserve this precious treasure of faith of your Church; may Christian values always guide your decisions and your actions!
The second part of today’s Gospel presents another teaching, a teaching about humility that, nevertheless, is closely connected with faith. Jesus invites us to be humble and offers the example of a servant who works in the fields. When he returns home the master asks him to continue working. According to the mentality of Jesus’ time the master had every right to do this. The servant owed the master his complete availability; and the master did not think himself obligated to him if he carried out his orders. Jesus makes us aware that, before God, we find ourselves in a similar situation: we are God’s servants; we are not his creditors but we are always debtors in relation to him because we owe him everything, because everything is his gift. Accepting and doing his will is the way that we must live every day, in every moment of our life. Before God we must not present ourselves as those who believe that they have done a service and deserve a great recompense. This is an illusion that can arise in everyone, even in persons who do a much work in the Lord’s service, in the Church. We must instead be aware that we never do enough for God. We must say, as Jesus suggests: “We are useless servants. We did what we were obliged to do” (Luke 17:10). This is an attitude of humility that truly puts us in our place and permits the Lord to be very generous with us. In fact, in another passage of the Gospel, he promises us that “he will gird himself, have us sit at table and will serve us” (cf. Luke 12:37). Dear Friends, if we do the Lord’s will every day, with humility, without expecting anything from him, Jesus himself will serve us, help us, encourage us, give us strength and peace.
In today’s second reading the Apostle Paul also speaks of faith. Timothy is invited to have faith, and through it, to exercise charity. The disciple is exhorted to stir up in faith the gift of God that is in him through the imposition of Paul’s hands, that is, the gift of priestly ordination, received to carry out the apostolic ministry as Paul’s co-worker (cf. 2 Timothy 1:6). He must not let this gift be extinguished but must make it ever more alive through faith. And the Apostle adds: “God, in fact, has not given us a spirit of fear but of strength, of charity and of prudence” (1:7).
Dear Citizens of Palermo and dear Sicilians! Your beautiful island was among the first regions of Italy to accept the faith of the Apostles, to receive the proclamation of the Word of God, to adhere to the faith in a generous way so that even in the midst of hardships and persecutions the flower of sanctity blossomed in it. Sicily was and is a land of saints, who belonged to every condition of life, who lived the Gospel with simplicity and integrity. To you, faithful laypeople, I repeat: Do not be afraid to live and bear witness to the faith in the various spheres of society, in the multiple situations of human existence, above all in the difficult ones! Faith gives you the strength of God to be always confident and courageous, to go forward with new decision, to embark on the initiatives that are necessary to give a face to your land that is ever more beautiful. And when you encounter the world’s opposition, listen to the words of the Apostle: “Do not be ashamed therefore to bear witness to our Lord” (v. 8).
We must be ashamed of evil, of that which offends God, of that which offends man; we must be ashamed of the evil that afflicts the civil and religious community with actions that do not like to come into the light! The temptation of discouragement, of resignation, comes to those who are weak in faith, to those who confuse evil with good, to those who think that in the face of evil, often great evil, there is nothing to be done. But those who stand firmly on faith, those who are full of trust in God and live in the Church, are able to unleash the explosive power of the Gospel. This is how the saints lived, who flourished over the course of the centuries in Palermo and in every part of Sicily, and how the laypeople and priests of today live whom you know well, like, for example, Don Pino Puglisi. May they be the ones who always keep you united and who encourage you in the desire to proclaim, with words and with deeds, the presence and the love of Christ. People of Sicily, look with hope to your future! Bring forth in all of its splendor the good that you wish for, that you seek and that you have! Live the values of the Gospel with courage to make the light of the good shine! With the power of God all things are possible! May the Mother of Christ, the Virgin Odigitria greatly venerated by you, assist you and lead you to the profound knowledge of her Son. Amen![Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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