The Pope spoke during one of the rare public appearances he made during his short holiday in Italy’s mountain region of Valle d’Aosta, something which he appeared to enjoy.
Despite an accident in which he broke his right wrist, he appeared quite relaxed tonight, smiling, readily greeting thousands of people, those who lined up the road on which his open car travelled and those who crowded the cathedral.
On leaving the church Benedict XVI joked about his accident. “I would just like to thank you for the sympathy and affection you have shown me,” he said. “I wish you a good holiday like mine’s, but without any accidents.”
Benedict XVI began his homily saying that “in my recent Encyclical I tried to show how God is a priority in our personal history and in that of society and the world.” Of course, he noted, God as a personal priority is “fundamental; if it is not active it is experienced” and “all other priorities cannot find their true form. [. . .] This is true for humanity. If God is missing, there is no compass to find the way, the direction.”
“How can we help others find this?” The Pontiff explained that during ad limina visits with bishops from Asia and Africa traditional religions were discussed. “There are common elements. Everyone knows that God exists; that there is only one God; that the gods are not God.” At the same time though, such a God appears absent, far off, hiding. We don’t know how he looks like and so religions tend to powers that are closer, like spirits, ancestors.
“Evangelisation consists precisely in the fact that the far off God truly comes closer, that he lets us get to know him, reveals himself. The veil disappears and God shows us his face. He “is close to us; enters the world”. We need no “settle” with intermediary powers “because He is the true power, the almighty.”
Even though we “feel almost threatened by this omnipotence,” which “seems to limit our own strength, we must learn not to fear for God can do all things” since “he is goodness, love [and] freedom. Whatever he does cannot be against goodness, love, [and] true freedom.” God is the “guardian of our freedom,” not “an evil eye policing us;” in fact “he gives us the certainty that goodness exists,” that “there is love that gives us that which is good to live.”
During his address the Pope also mentioned a Roman prayer that asks God to show his omnipotence through forgiveness and mercy. This, the Holy Father said, shows how the “height of God’s power is mercy and forgiving,”
In asking “The Pope? How many divisions has he got?” Stalin saw power in terms of military might; “yet Revelation tells us that that is not how things are. True power is the power of grace and mercy, and God shows true power” because God “has suffered”; “through his Son he suffers with us.” God’s power is strongest because “he can suffer with us”. In so doing, he “shows us his true power so that in our suffering we are never alone.”
“A hard question remains: why was it necessary to suffer in order to save the world?” Benedict XVI answers by saying that “an ocean of evil exists in the world, an ocean of injustice, hatred, [and] violence. Its many victims have a right to justice and God cannot ignore the cries of those who suffer or are repressed.”
Since “forgiving does not mean ignoring but transforming, God must come to oppose this ocean of evil with one that is even mightier.” He must come like a “boundless river” carrying that which is good, something that “is greater than all the injustice in the world combined; a river of goodness, truth and love.”
“This way God can transform our world”, letting his “river of goodness flow mightier than all the evil found in it,” with an invitation “to all of us to flee such an ocean of evil and enter his river of love.”
This is an issue that priests must also address. “As priests we have the task of consecrating the world so that it may become a living host and liturgy, so that the cosmos may become a living host.”
“Let us pray for God’s help to be priests in this sense” so “that our lives can be about God, as true liturgy announcing God, and be a true gift of ourselves to God.”