Vienna (AsiaNews) – Sunday is an “interior necessity” for Christians, but also for all of the west where activism has reduced rest to time that is “free ….. and empty”, and with is exploitation of natural resources ahs exposed God’s creation to “multiple dangers”: with these Christian, ecological and human motivations Benedict XVI reaffirmed the value of Sunday as a day of rest , of “encounter with the Lord”, of humanity’s recreation from a society such as Austria’s – and many others – which seeks to reduce Sunday to yet another day of commercial trade or another “empty” day.
The pope was speaking in the splendid setting of Vienna’s St Stephen’s Cathedral, on the last day of his pilgrimage in Austria, in the presence of tens of thousands of people, inside and outside of the Church, beneath a humid and rainy sky.
“Sunday – said the pontiff, has been transformed in our Western societies into the week-end, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus – the encounter with him who is our origin and goal”.
This is why, for us Christians the Eucharistic celebration is not “a precept, but an interior necessity”; “Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish”; “We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God’s creative love, from which we come and towards which we are travelling”.
This re-discovering Christ, the foundation of our lives, of his “interior dignity and …. beauty” is spread throughout the entire week and in daily reality: “Sunday is also the Church’s weekly feast of creation – the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God’s creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God’s rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God’s creatures”.
The other theme discussed by Benedict XVI in his homily was the radical nature of the mission of the disciples of Jesus. Referring to today’s Gospel (anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple”, Luke 14,…) he explained that this Christ’s request is addressed to some people in particular, above all the 12 disciples: “The Twelve must first of all overcome the scandal of the Cross…… they must be prepared to assume the seemingly absurd task of travelling to the ends of the earth and, with their minimal education, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world filled with claims to erudition and with real or apparent education – and naturally also to the poor and the simple” even to the point of “martyrdom”. But he adds “Jesus calls people of all times to count exclusively on him, to leave everything else behind, so as to be totally available for him, and hence totally available for others: to create oases of selfless love in a world where so often only power and wealth seem to count for anything”. Among these radical witness the pope cites saints, both male and (many) female : Benedict, Scolastica, Elisabeth of Hungary, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Padre Pio.
However the pontiff also underlined that “losing one’s life” is indeed the best way to “win it back”: “Whoever wants to keep his life just for himself will lose it. Only by giving ourselves do we receive our life. In other words: only the one who loves discovers life. And love always demands going out of oneself, it demands leaving oneself. Anyone who looks just to himself, who wants the other only for himself, will lose both himself and the other. Without this profound losing of oneself, there is no life. The restless craving for life, so widespread among people today, leads to the barrenness of a lost life. “Whoever loses his life for my sake … ”, says the Lord: a radical letting-go of our self is only possible if in the process we end up, not by falling into the void, but into the hands of Love eternal”.
“If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, - concluded the pope - then we are fearless and free”.