"Teaching That Comes From Above and Touches the Human Condition"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 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 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Gospel presents the first great sermon that the Lord addresses to the people, on the beautiful hills near the Sea of Galilee. "When Jesus saw the crowds," St. Matthew writes, "he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him" (Matthew 5:1-2). Jesus, the new Moses, “takes his seat on the ‘cathedra’ of the mountain” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” Ignatius Press, 2008, p. 65) and proclaims as “blessed” the poor in spirit, the afflicted, the merciful, those who hunger for justice, the pure of heart and the persecuted (cf. Matthew 5:3-10). This is not a new ideology but a teaching that comes from above and touches the human condition -- precisely that which the Lord, becoming incarnate, chose to assume -- to save it. Thus “the Sermon on the Mount addresses the entire world, the present and the future … and can be understood and lived out only by following Jesus and accompanying him on his journey” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” p. 69). The Beatitudes are a new program of life to liberate us from the false values of the world and open us to the true goods, present and future. When, in fact, God consoles, satiates the hunger for justice, dries the tears of the afflicted, it means that, besides recompensing everyone in a material way, he opens the Kingdom of Heaven. “The Beatitudes are the transposition of Cross and Resurrection into discipleship” (ibid., p. 74). The Beatitudes reflect the life of the Son of God who allows himself to be persecuted, despised to the point of being condemned to death, so that men be granted salvation.
An old hermit said: “The Beatitudes are gifts of God, and we must give him great thanks for them and for the recompenses that come from them, that is, the Kingdom of Heaven in the world to come, consolation here, the fullness of every good and mercy from God … once we become the images of God on earth” (Peter of Damascus, in Filocalia, vol. 3, Torino 1985, p. 79). The history itself of the Church, the history of Christian sanctity, are a commentary on the Gospel of the Beatitudes because, as St. Paul writes, “what is weak in the eyes of the world God has chosen to confound the strong; what is ignoble and despised in the eyes of the world, that which is nothing, God chose these to reduce to nothing the things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28). This is why the Church does not fear poverty, scorn and persecution in a society that is often attracted by material well-being and worldly power. St. Augustine reminds us that “it is not worthwhile to suffer these evils, but to endure them for the name of Jesus, not only with a peaceful soul but even with joy” (“De sermone Domini in monte,” I, 5,13: CCL 35, 13).
Dear brothers and sisters, we invoke the Virgin Mary, the one who is Blessed par excellence, asking for the strength to seek the Lord (cf. Sophonias 2:3) and to follow him always, with joy, on the path of the Beatitudes.
This Sunday we celebrate “World Leprosy Day,” which was promoted in the 1950s by Raoul Follereau and officially recognized by the U.N.. Leprosy, although it is diminishing, unfortunately still strikes many people in conditions of great misery. I assure all the sick of a special prayer, which I extend to those who care for them and who in various ways work to eliminate Hansen’s Disease. I especially greet l’Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau, which celebrates its 50th anniversary.
In the days that follow, various countries of the Far East will celebrate with joy, especially in the intimacy of families, the Lunar New Year. To all those great peoples I wish from my heart serenity and prosperity.
Today is also the “International Day for Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land.” I join with the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the Custody of the Holy Land in inviting everyone to pray to the Lord that he bring minds and hearts together in concrete peace projects.
I greet warmly all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus. In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear the eight Beatitudes, that beautiful account of what Christian discipleship demands of us. Jesus himself showed us the way by the manner of his life and death, and by rising from the dead he revealed the new life that awaits those who follow him along the path of love. Upon all of you here today, and upon your families and loved ones at home, I invoke abundant blessings of peace and joy.