Retreat Focuses on Jesus’ Adherence to the Father’s Will

Last Full Day of Papal Spiritual Exercises

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 10, 2006 ( Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, his death on Calvary, and his resurrection were the focus of a pair of meditations on the last full day of the papal spiritual exercises.

Cardinal Marco Cé, the retired patriarch of Venice, continued today leading the meditations at the spiritual retreat in the Vatican attended by Benedict XVI and his aides in the Roman Curia.

This morning the cardinal began by reflecting on the solitude Jesus experienced in the Garden of Olives and his adherence to the Father’s will.

“The agony of Gethsemane enables us to enter ‘within’ the mystery of the Passion, to understand the core and the core is this: He willingly gave himself up to death,” indicated the preacher, as reported by Vatican Radio.

“The features that characterize Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane are the overwhelming psychological suffering, Jesus’ total solitude, the collapse of all his work and, at the same time, the total and radical conformity of his will with the Father’s,” continued the cardinal.

Jesus remained “tragically alone” in Gethsemane as death approached, added the preacher. Jesus asks that he not have to drink the “cup” of the passion but accepts without reservations the Father’s decision, the cardinal noted.

“There is no more human and painful prayer than this,” Cardinal Cé said. “But at the same time there is no more filial act of abandonment than this.”

“Jesus’ death out of love realizes fully the plan of salvation willed by the Father from eternity,” he said.

Light of Easter

The preacher noted that the centurion who was before the Crucified, seeing him die in this way, said: “‘Truly he was the Son of God.’ In the centurion’s confession of faith one can already see the light of Easter shine.”

In the second meditation, the preacher reflected on the first eight verses of the last chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, in which is described the surprise of the women before the empty tomb.

The young man announced to them the resurrection of Christ and told them that he awaited his disciples in Galilee.

“This conclusion of Mark is undoubtedly surprising,” the cardinal said. “The sending to Galilee, where the proclamation of the Gospel had begun, seems to make reference to a new beginning, that of the Church which leads the mystery of Jesus to fulfillment in time.”

In this Gospel page “is the act of faith that makes us Christians,” said the preacher.

The Gospel — “good news” — takes its name precisely from this moment: “that Jesus Christ, Son of God, is ‘good news’ depends precisely on the fact that the Crucified did not remain in the tomb but, on the contrary, rose,” Cardinal Cé said.

“He whom all considered a failure is truly the Son of God, as he said,” he added. “The whole Gospel of Mark is understood from the event of the Resurrection. … Evil is conquered and with it death, which is its seal.”

Two thousand years later, every Christian should relive the women’s surprise before the empty tomb, exhorted the cardinal.

“If faith in the resurrection of the Crucified is obfuscated, our hope collapses immediately. Evil remains as lord of history and we remain in the hands of despair,” he stressed.

The papal spiritual exercises, which began last Sunday, will end on Saturday morning.

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