Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - The risk of reducing religion to "practices of a secondary custom" pervades every religion, even Christianity: this is the warning that Benedict XVI launched today before praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo. After the Marian prayer, during his greetings, he remarked on the Lebanese pilgrims present, confirming his visit in Lebanon, scheduled for September 14 to 16.
Taking a cue from today's Gospel
(XXII Sunday year B, Mk 7 1-8.14-15.21-23), in which Jesus criticizes the
Scribes and Pharisees in their formalism in following the law, the pope said:
"The words of
Jesus in today's Gospel against the Scribes and Pharisees should make us stop
and think too. Jesus makes the words of the prophet Isaiah his own: "This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts"(Mk 7.6 to 7, cf. Is 29:13). He then concludes:" You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition "(Mk 7.8). Even the Apostle James, in his letter, warns against the danger of a false religion. He writes to the Christians: "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves" (James 1:22). "
The pope stated that the "law of God", the "commandment" are "an essential element of the Jewish religion and even Christianity, where it finds its fulfillment in love (cf. Rom 13:10)."
God's Law therefore is a positive thing because "it is his Word that guides man on the path of life, it frees him from the condition of his slavery of selfishness and introduces him to the" land "of true freedom and life. This is why in the Bible the Law is not seen as a burden, an overwhelming limitation, but as the most precious gift of the Lord, the testimony of His fatherly love, His desire to be close to His people, to be their Ally and write a love story together with them. Thus prays the pious Israelite, " In your statutes I take delight; I will never forget your word (...)Lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my delight" (Ps 119,16.35.) In the Old Testament, he who in the name of God transmits God's Law to the people is Moses. He, after the long journey through the desert, on the threshold of the Promised Land, proclaims: " Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you"(Deut. 4:1)."
"Here - he continued - is the problem: when the people settle in the land, and are the depositaries of the Law, they are tempted to entrust their safety and joy to something that is no longer the Word of the Lord: to material goods, power, other 'gods' that are actually empty, that are idols. Certainly, the Law of God remains, but it is no longer the most important thing, the rule of life, it becomes a facade, a cover, and life takes another direction, other roads, other rules, often the selfish interests of the individual and groups. So religion loses its true meaning, which is to live in listening to God, to do his will, and is reduced to secondary habit, to satisfy the rather human need to feel we have done right before God. This is a serious risk in every religion, which Jesus encountered in his time, but that may occur, unfortunately, even in Christianity. "
"May the Virgin Mary -
concluded the pope - to whom we now turn in prayer, help us to listen with an
open and sincere heart to the word of God, so it may guide our thoughts, our
choices and our actions, every day."
After the Angelus prayer, greeting the French-speaking pilgrims, he had a particular welcome for "the Lebanese present this morning, I assure you of my prayers and my joy to visit your beautiful country soon. I cordially bless you all". Thus confirming this visit, which some analysts have described as "difficult" and "unlikely" given the tensions in the Middle East. Instead, the Lebanese Church has always confirmed the trip of Pope Benedict XVI where he is expected to deliver the Apostolic Exhortation following the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East, held in October 2010.