Pope Benedict's Homily on World Day of Consecrated Life
"An Eloquent Sign of the Presence of God's Kingdom"
VATICAN CITY, FEB. 18, 2006 (ZENIT) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI gave Feb. 2, World Day of Consecrated Life, in St. Peter's Basilica. The Pope spoke at an evening Mass for religious on the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Feast of Jesus' Presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf. Luke 2:22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him. We are in the presence of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new humanity.
The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is "the King of glory," "the Lord, mighty in battle" (Psalm 24:7,8). But who is the powerful God who enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what the Law prescribed: the purification of the mother, the offering of the firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.
In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet Malachi: "The Lord ... will suddenly come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1). These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries. "The angel of the Covenant" at last entered his house and submitted to the Law: He came to Jerusalem to enter God's house in an attitude of obedience.
The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today. Christ, the mediator who unites God and man, abolishing distances, eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation, is presented to us here.
Christ comes as a new "merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Hebrews 2:17). Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating solidarity with human beings.
While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to follow to the very end.
The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says: "In the days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications ... to him who was able to save him from death .... Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (cf. Hebrews 5:7-9).
The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience, proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary. The Gospel text portrays her in the act of offering her Son: an unconditional offering that involves her in the first person.
Mary is the Mother of the One who is "the glory of [his] people Israel" and a "light for revelation to the Gentiles," but also "a sign that is spoken against" (cf. Luke 2:32,34). And in her immaculate soul, she herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son.
Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love.
The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon: "My eyes have seen your salvation" (Luke 2:30), are echoed in the heart of the prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ's light, were able to see in the Child Jesus "the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a light that illuminates history.
Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart: for this reason he could contemplate the One whom numerous prophets and kings had desired to see: Christ, light of revelation for the Gentiles.
He recognized that Child as the Savior, but he foresaw in the Spirit that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form one ...
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