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Benedict XVI's Homily in Blonie Park

"Standing on Earth; Looking to Heaven"

KRAKOW, Poland, MAY 30, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Sunday when celebrating Mass on the solemnity of the Lord's Ascension in Blonie Park in Krakow.

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"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?" (Acts 1:11)

Brothers and sisters, today in Blonie Park in Krakow we hear once again this question from the Acts of the Apostles. This time it is directed to all of us: "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?" The answer to this question involves the fundamental truth about the life and destiny of every man and woman.

The question has to do with our attitude to two basic realities which shape every human life: earth and heaven. First, the earth: "Why do you stand?" -- Why are you here on earth? Our answer is that we are here on earth because our Maker has put us here as the crowning work of his creation.

Almighty God, in his ineffable plan of love, created the universe, bringing it forth from nothing. Then, at the completion of this work, he bestowed life on men and women, creating them in his own image and likeness (cf. Genesis 1:26-27). He gave them the dignity of being children of God and the gift of immortality.

We know that man went astray, misused the gift of freedom and said "No" to God, thus condemning himself to a life marked by evil, sin, suffering and death. But we also know that God was not resigned to this situation, but entered directly into humanity's history, which then became a history of salvation.

"We stand" on the earth, we are rooted in the earth and we grow from it. Here we do good in the many areas of everyday life, in the material and spiritual realms, in our relationships with other people, in our efforts to build up the human community and in culture. Here too we experience the weariness of those who make their way toward a goal by long and winding paths, amid hesitations, tensions, uncertainties, in the conviction that the journey will one day come to an end. That is when the question arises: Is this all there is? Is this earth on which "we stand" our final destiny?

And so we need to turn to the second part of the biblical question: "Why do you stand looking up to heaven?"

We have read that, just as the apostles were asking the Risen Lord about the restoration of Israel's earthly kingdom, "He was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight." And "they looked up to heaven as he went" (cf. Acts 1:9-10). They looked up to heaven because they looked to Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, raised up on high. We do not know whether at that precise moment they realized that a magnificent, infinite horizon was opening up before their eyes: the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage.

Perhaps they only realized this at Pentecost, in the light of the Holy Spirit. But for us, at a distance of 2,000 years, the meaning of that event is quite clear. Here on earth, we are called to look up to heaven, to turn our minds and hearts to the inexpressible mystery of God. We are called to look toward this divine reality, to which we have been directed from our creation. For there we find life's ultimate meaning.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am deeply moved to be able to celebrate this Eucharist today in Blonie Park in Krakow, where Pope John Paul II often celebrated Mass during his unforgettable apostolic visits to his native land.

Through his liturgical celebrations he met the People of God in almost every corner of the world, but surely his celebration of Holy Mass in Blonie Park in Krakow was always something special. Here he returned in mind and heart to his roots, to the sources of his faith and his service to the Church. From here he could see Krakow and all Poland.

In his first apostolic visit to Poland, on June 10, 1979, at the end of his homily in this park, he said with nostalgia: "Allow me, before leaving you, to look out once again on Krakow, this Krakow whose every stone and brick is dear to me. And to look out once again from here on Poland."

During the last Mass he celebrated here, on August 18, 2002, he said in his homily: "I am grateful for the invitation to visit my Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me" (No. 2).

I wish to take up these words, to make them my own and repeat them today: I thank you with all my heart "for the invitation to visit my Krakow and for the hospitality you have given me." Krakow, the city of Karol Wojtyla and of John Paul II, is also my Krakow!

Krakow has a special place in the hearts of countless Christians throughout the world who know that John Paul II came to Vatican Hill from this city, from Wawel Hill, "from a far country," which thus became a country dear to all.

At the beginning of the second year of my pontificate, I have felt a deep ...

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