Servant of All
In today’s First Reading, it’s like we have our ears pressed to the wall and can hear the murderous grumblings of the elders, chief priests and scribes who last week Jesus predicted would torture and kill Him (see Mark 8:31; 10:33-34).
The liturgy invites us to see this passage from the Book of Wisdom as a prophecy of the Lord’s Passion. We hear His enemies complain that “the Just One” has challenged their authority, reproached them for breaking the law of Moses, for betraying their training as leaders and teachers.
And we hear chilling words that foreshadow how they will mock Him as He hangs on the cross: “For if the Just One be the Son of God, He will … deliver Him.” (compare Matthew 27:41-43).
Today’s Gospel and Psalm give us the flip side of the First Reading. In both, we hear of Jesus’ sufferings from His point of view. Though His enemies surround Him, He offers himself freely in sacrifice, trusting that God will sustain Him.
But the apostles today don’t understand this second announcement of Christ’s passion. They begin arguing over issues of succession—over who among them is greatest, who will be chosen to lead after Christ is killed.
Again they are thinking not as God, but as human beings (see Mark 8:33). And again Jesus teaches the Twelve—the chosen leaders of His Church—that they must lead by imitating His example of love and self-sacrifice. They must be “servants of all,” especially the weak and the helpless symbolized by the child He embraces and places in their midst.
This is a lesson for us, too. We must have the mind of Christ, who humbled himself to come among us (see Philippians 2:5-11). We must freely offer ourselves, making everything we do a sacrifice in praise of His name.
As James says in today’s Epistle, we must seek wisdom from above, desiring humility not glory, and in all things be gentle and full of mercy.
Saint Leo the Great
Sixth Sermon for Christmas
The infancy that God’s majesty did not disdain reached mature manhood through his advance in years. Then, when the triumph of his passion and resurrection were completed, all the actions of his lowly state, which he adopted for love of us, became a thing of the past. Nevertheless, the feast of his nativity renews for us Jesus’ first moments, born of the Virgin Mary, and when we adore the birth of the Savior we find we are celebrating the origin of our own life.
For the birth of Christ is the source of life for all Christian people and the birthday of the Head is the birthday of the body. True, each individual who is called takes his place in his own proper order and the Church’s offspring appear at different periods of time. But just as the entire body of the faithful, born in the font of baptism, is crucified with Christ in his passion, raised again in his resurrection, and placed at the Father’s right hand in his ascension, so they are born with him in his nativity.
Any believer, from any part of the world, who is born again in Christ, having abandoned the sinful ways retained from his first beginnings, becomes a new person through his second birth. No longer does he belong to his father’s ancestry according to the flesh but to our Savior’s race. For he became Son of man that we might become sons of God.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus Address, September 24, 2006
In this Sunday’s Gospel, for the second time Jesus proclaims his passion, death and Resurrection to the disciples (cf. Mk 9: 30-31). The Evangelist Mark highlights the strong contrast between his mindset and that of the Twelve Apostles, who not only do not understand the Teacher’s words and clearly reject the idea that he is doomed to encounter death (cf. Mk 8: 32), but also discuss which of them is to be considered “the greatest” (Mk 9: 34).
Jesus patiently explains his logic to them, the logic of love that makes itself service to the point of the gift of self: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9: 35).
This is the logic of Christianity, which responds to the truth about man created in the image of God, but at the same time contrasts with human selfishness, a consequence of original sin. Every human person is attracted by love – which ultimately is God himself – but often errs in the concrete ways of loving; thus, an originally positive tendency but one polluted by sin can give rise to evil intentions and actions.
In today’s Liturgy, this is also recalled in the Letter of St James: “Wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity”. And the Apostle concludes: “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas 3: 16-18).
These words call to mind the witness of so many Christians who humbly and silently spend their lives serving others for the sake of the Lord Jesus, behaving in practice as servants of love, and hence, “artisans” of peace.
Sometimes, certain people are asked for the supreme testimony of blood, which also happened a few days ago to the Italian Religious, Sr Leonella Sgorbati, who died a victim of violence. This Sister, who served the poor and the lowly in Somalia for many years, died with the words “I forgive” on her lips: this is the most genuine Christian witness, a peaceful sign of contradiction that demonstrates the victory of love over hatred and evil.
There is no doubt that following Christ is difficult, but, as he says, only those who lose their life for his sake and the Gospel’s will save it (cf. Mk 8: 35), giving full meaning to their existence. There is no other way of being his disciples, there is no other way of witnessing to his love and striving for Gospel perfection.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus Address, Sunday, September 23, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On our way through St Mark’s Gospel last Sunday we entered the second part, that is, the last journey towards Jerusalem and towards the culmination of Jesus’ mission. After Peter, on the disciples’ behalf, had professed his faith in him, recognizing him as the Messiah (cf. Mk 8:29), Jesus began to speak openly of what was going to happen to him at the end. The Evangelist records three successive predictions of his death and resurrection in chapters 8, 9 and 10. In them Jesus announces ever more clearly the destiny that awaits him and the intrinsic need for it. This Sunday’s passage contains the second of these announcements. Jesus says: “The Son of man” — an expression that designates himself — will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he is killed, after three days he will rise” (Mk 9:31). “But” the disciples “did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask him” (v. 32).
In fact, on reading this part of Mark’s account the great inner distance that existed between Jesus and his disciples is clearly apparent; they are, so to speak, on two different wavelengths so that the Teacher’s discourses are either not understood, or are only superficially understood. Straight after professing his faith in Jesus, the Apostle Peter takes the liberty of reproaching the Lord because he predicted that he was to be rejected and killed.
After the second prediction of the passion, the disciples began to discuss with one another who was the greatest among them (cf. Mk 9:34), and after the third, James and John asked Jesus to sit one at his right hand and one at his left when he would come into glory (cf Mk 10:35-40). However, there are various other signs of this gap: for example, the disciples do not succeed in healing an epileptic boy whom Jesus subsequently heals with the power of prayer (cf. Mk 9:14-29); and when children are brought to Jesus the disciples admonish them; Jesus on the contrary is indignant, has them stay and says that only those who are like them will enter the Kingdom of God (cf. Mk 10:13-16).
What does all this tell us? it reminds us that, the logic of God is always “different” from ours, just as God himself revealed through the mouth of Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, / neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55:8). For this reason following the Lord always demands of human beings — of all of us — a profound con-version, a change in our manner of thinking and living, it demands that the heart be opened to listening, to let ourselves be illuminated and transformed from within.
A key point in which God and man differ is pride: in God there is no pride, for he is wholly fullness and is wholly oriented to loving and giving life instead in we human beings pride is deeply rooted and requires constant vigilance and purification. We, who are small, aspire to appear great, to be among the first, whereas God who is truly great is not afraid of humbling himself and putting himself last. And the Virgin Mary is perfectly “in tune” with God: let us call upon her with trust, so that she may teach us to follow Jesus faithfully on the path of love and humility.
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday, the priest Louis Brisson was beatified in the French city of Troyes. He lived in the 19th century and was the Founder of the men and women Oblates of St Francis of Sales. I joyfully join in the thanksgiving of the diocesan community of Troyes and of all the spiritual sons and daughters of the new Blessed.
I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s Angelus prayer. In the Gospel today, our Lord reveals to his disciples that he will be delivered unto death and rise again for our salvation. As we reflect on the call to be “last of all and servants of all”, may Christ’s supreme act of love on Calvary always be our true measure of greatness. God bless you and your loved ones!
I am pleased to welcome the Sisters of the Missionary College Mater Ecclesiae from various countries in Castel Gandolfo and wish them a serene and fruitful year of formation and community life.
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week. Thank you! A good Sunday to you all.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus Address, Sunday, September 20, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, for the customary Sunday Reflection I am drawing inspiration from the passage of the Letter of James which is offered to us in today’s Liturgy (3: 15-4, 3) and I linger in particular over a phrase whose beauty and timeliness are striking. It is the description of true wisdom, with which the Apostle counters false wisdom. Whereas the latter is “earthly, unspiritual, devilish”, and can be recognized by the fact that it provokes jealousy, disputes, disorder and every vile practice (cf. 3: 16), on the contrary, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3: 17). These seven qualities are listed in accordance with biblical usage; among them stand out the perfection of authentic wisdom and the positive effects it produces. St James mentions “purity” that is, holiness, the transparent reflection, so to speak, of God in the human soul as the first and principal quality, placed almost as a premise of the others. And, like God from whom it comes, wisdom does not need to be forcefully imposed for it possesses the invincible power of truth and love that are assertive in themselves. It is therefore peaceful, gentle and compliant. It has no use for partiality, nor even less does it resort to lies; it is indulgent and generous, it is recognized from the fruits of good which it generates in abundance.
Why not stop and contemplate the beauty of this wisdom every now and then? Why not draw from the uncontaminated source of God’s love that wisdom of heart which purges us from the scum of falsehood and selfishness? This applies to one and all, but in the first place to those who are called to be advocates and “weavers” of peace in religious and civil communities, in social and political affairs and in international relations. In our day, perhaps also because of certain dynamics proper to the mass society, not infrequently we note a lack of respect for the truth and the word given, together with a widespread tendency to aggression, hatred and revenge. “The harvest of righteousness is sown in peace” St James writes, “by those who make peace” (Jas 3: 18). But to do deeds of peace it is necessary to be people of peace, learning from “wisdom… such as comes down from above” in order to assimilate its qualities and produce its effects. If each one in his own environment were to succeed in rejecting falsehood and violence in his intentions, words and actions, taking pains to foster sentiments of respect, understanding and esteem for others, perhaps not all the problems of daily life would be solved but it would be possible to deal with them more serenely and effectively.
Dear friends, once again Sacred Scripture has led us to reflect on the moral aspects of human existence, but on the basis of a reality that precedes morality itself, that is, on the basis of true wisdom. Let us ask God with confidence for wisdom of heart through the intercession of the One who welcomed and conceived in her womb Wisdom incarnate, Jesus Christ Our Lord. Mary, Seat of Wisdom, pray for us!
After the Angelus:
Because of the numerous situations of conflict that exist in the world, we hear almost every day tragic news of the victims they claim in both military and civilian circles. These are events to which we can never become accustomed and which, in societies which have the good of peace and civil coexistence at heart, give rise to deep disapproval, not to mention indignation. In the past few days the news of the very serious attack in Afghanistan on several Italian soldiers has caused me profound sorrow. I join with prayer in the suffering of their families and of the civil and military communities. At the same time, I am thinking with the same sentiments of solidarity of other international situations which recently have also claimed victims, in which peace and the development of institutions, so vital for human coexistence, are being actively promoted. I assure you all of my remembrance before the Lord, with a special thought for the beloved civilian populations, and I invite everyone to raise our prayer to God. I would also like here to renew my encouragement for the promotion of solidarity among nations in order to oppose the logic of violence and death, to promote justice, reconciliation and peace and to support the development of peoples on the basis of love and mutual understanding, as I recently wrote in my Encyclical Caritas in Veritate (n. 72).
From next Saturday, 26 September, until Monday the 28th, please God, I shall be making an Apostolic Journey to the Czech Republic. I shall stay in Prague, the capital, but will also be visiting Brno, in Moravia, and Stará Boleslav where St Wenceslas, the nation’s principal Patron, was martyred. The Czech Republic is located geographically and historically in the heart of Europe. After passing through the tragedies of the past century it needs as does the entire continent to rediscover reasons for faith and hope. Following in the footsteps of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II who visited that country three times, I too shall pay homage to the heroic Gospel witnesses, ancient and recent, and will encourage everyone to persevere in charity and in truth. From this moment, I thank all those who will accompany me on this Journey with their prayers so that the Lord will bless it and make it fruitful.
I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims here at Castel Gandolfo and in Rome! Dear friends, this Saturday I begin my Apostolic Visit to the Czech Republic. I ask all of you to join me in praying for the spiritual success of this journey. Today’s Gospel reminds us that the one who wishes to be greatest must become a servant of all. May God grant us to be humble servants of others and witnesses to his goodness. Upon all of you and your loved ones, I gladly invoke the strength and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I always remember you in my prayers and I wish you all a good Sunday and a good week.