Monday, September 1, 2008

Pope: The Cross is not optional

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Today, too, the apostle Peter is in the foreground of the Gospel reading. But while last Sunday we admired his straightforward faith in Jesus, whom he proclaimed Messiah and Son of God, this time, in the episode that immediately follows, he displays a faith that is still immature and too much influenced by the “mentality of this world” (cf. Romans 12:2).

When, in fact, Jesus begins to speak openly about the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, when he says that he must suffer much, be killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).

It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed ways of thinking. Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the cross. Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen.

On the other hand, he knows that the resurrection will be the last word. Peter’s protest, though spoken in good faith and out of sincere love of the Master, sounds to Jesus like temptation, an invitation to save himself, while it is only in losing his life that his life will be returned to him eternally for all of us.

If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father. The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood. In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God.

But the battle is not over: Evil exists and resists in every generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God? And how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood and of being abandoned by many of his followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, to complete the work of salvation, the Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the cross and follow him. Just as with Christ, it is not “optional” for Christians to take up the cross; it is rather a mission to be embraced out of love.

In our present world, where the forces that divide and destroy seem to prevail, Christ does not cease to propose his clear invitation to all: Whosoever wants to be my disciple, he must renounce his selfishness and carry the cross with me.

Let us invoke of the Holy Virgin, who was the first to follow Jesus and followed him to the way of the cross. May she help us to follow the Lord with decisiveness so as to experience from this point on, and in trial too, the glory of the resurrection.

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