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Pope's Homily at Vatican's Parish Church

2/17/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"A Heartfelt 'Thank You' to All the Women "

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 17, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Feb. 5 when visiting St. Anne's Parish in the Vatican.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Gospel [passage] we have just listened to begins with a very nice, beautiful episode but is also full of meaning. The Lord went to the house of Simon Peter and Andrew and found Peter's mother-in-law sick with a fever. He took her by the hand and raised her, the fever left her, and she served them.

Jesus' entire mission is symbolically portrayed in this episode. Jesus, coming from the Father, visited peoples' homes on our earth and found a humanity that was sick, sick with fever, the fever of ideologies, idolatry, forgetfulness of God. The Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up and heals us.

And he does so in all ages; he takes us by the hand with his Word, thereby dispelling the fog of ideologies and forms of idolatry. He takes us by the hand in the sacraments, he heals us from the fever of our passions and sins through absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation.

He gives us the possibility to raise ourselves, to stand before God and before men and women. And precisely with this content of the Sunday liturgy, the Lord comes to meet us, he takes us by the hand, raises us and heals us ever anew with the gift of his words, the gift of himself.

But the second part of this episode is also important. This woman who has just been healed, the Gospel says, begins to serve them. She sets to work immediately to be available to others, and thus becomes a representative of so many good women, mothers, grandmothers, women in various professions, who are available, who get up and serve and are the soul of the family, the soul of the parish.

And here, on looking at the painting above the altar, we see that they do not only perform external services; St. Anne is introducing her great daughter, Our Lady, to the sacred Scriptures, to the hope of Israel, for which she was precisely to be the place of its fulfillment.

Moreover, women were the first messengers of the word of God in the Gospel, they were true evangelists. And it seems to me that this Gospel, with this apparently very modest episode, is offering us in this very Church of St. Anne an opportunity to say a heartfelt "thank you" to all the women who care for the parish, the women who serve in all its dimensions, who help us to know the Word of God ever anew, not only with our minds but also with our hearts.

Let us return to the Gospel: Jesus slept at Peter's house, but he rose before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted place to pray. And here the true center of the mystery of Jesus appears.

Jesus was conversing with the Father and raised his human spirit in communion with the Person of the Son, so that the humanity of the Son, united to him, might speak in the Trinitarian dialogue with the Father; and thus, he also made true prayer possible for us. In the liturgy Jesus prays with us, we pray with Jesus, and so we enter into real contact with God, we enter into the mystery of eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity.

Jesus speaks to the Father: This is the source and center of all Jesus' activities; we see his preaching, his cures, his miracles and lastly the passion, and they spring from this center of his being with the Father.

And in this way this Gospel teaches us that the center of our faith and our lives is indeed the primacy of God. Whenever God is not there, the human being is no longer respected either. Only if God's splendor shines on the human face, is the human image of God protected by a dignity which subsequently no one must violate.

The primacy of God

Let us see how the first three requests in the "Our Father" refer precisely to this primacy of God: that God's Name be sanctified, that respect for the divine mystery be alive and enliven the whole of our lives; that "may God's Kingdom come" and "may [his] will be done" are two sides of the same coin; where God's will is done heaven already exists, a little bit of heaven also begins on earth, and where God's will is done the Kingdom of God is present.

Since the Kingdom of God is not a series of things, the Kingdom of God is the presence of God, the person's union with God. It is to this destination that Jesus wants to guide us.

The center of his proclamation is the Kingdom of God, that is, God as the source and center of our lives, and he tells us: God alone is the redemption of man. And we can see in the history of the last century that in the states where God was abolished, not only was the economy destroyed, but above all the souls.

Moral destruction and the destruction of human dignity are fundamental forms of destruction, and renewal ...

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