04/01/2010, 00.00
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Pope: eternal life begins in this world, it is "knowledge" of God

Benedict XVI celebrates Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper and performs the ritual washing of feet. At the Last Supper and in Jesus’ prayer are the institution of the Eucharist and the beginning of the missionary mandate to the apostles and their successors.

Rome (AsiaNews) - At the Last Supper, there is the washing of the feet, in which the “redemptive ministry on behalf of a humanity needing purification is summed up in a gesture of humility”, then there is the gift of himself, in the bread and wine, then the prayer in which Jesus asks for  " prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ" because in the "knowledge" of God there is the possibility of eternal life.  

The celebration of the Mass "of the Lord's Last Supper," this afternoon in the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, Benedict XVI explained the significance of the ceremony, which commemorates the institution Eucharist and the beginning of the missionary mandate to the apostles and their successors.

During the liturgy, the pope carried out the ritual of washing the feet of twelve priests. Upon presentation of the gifts Benedict XVI was entrusted a collection for the reconstruction of the seminar in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

In his homily, the Pope noted how in the prayer of Jesus, narrated by John, first there are the words: " This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3).  Everyone wants to have life - said Benedict XVI -  We long for a life which is authentic, complete, worthwhile, full of joy.  This yearning for life coexists with a resistance to death, which nonetheless remains unescapable.  When Jesus speaks about eternal life, he is referring to real and true life, a life worthy of being lived.  He is not simply speaking about life after death.  He is talking about authentic life, a life fully alive and thus not subject to death, yet one which can already, and indeed must, begin in this world.  Only if we learn even now how to live authentically, if we learn how to live the life which death cannot take away, does the promise of eternity become meaningful.  But how does this happen?  What is this true and eternal life which death cannot touch? ".

Jesus’ answer is in the words “that they may know you – God – and the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ.  Much to our surprise, we are told that life is knowledge.  This means first of all that life is relationship.  No one has life from himself and only for himself.  We have it from others and in a relationship with others.  If it is a relationship in truth and love, a giving and receiving, it gives fullness to life and makes it beautiful.  But for that very reason, the destruction of that relationship by death can be especially painful, it can put life itself in question.  Only a relationship with the One who is himself Life can preserve my life beyond the floodwaters of death, can bring me through them alive”.

The best-known petition of the priestly prayer continued the Pope is the petition for the unity of the disciples now and yet to come”. “He prays to the Father for the Church and for her unity.  It has been said that in the Gospel of John the Church is not present.  Yet here she appears in her essential features: as the community of disciples who through the apostolic preaching believe in Jesus Christ and thus become one.  Jesus prays for the Church to be one and apostolic.  This prayer, then, is properly speaking an act which founds the Church.  The Lord prays to the Father for the Church.  She is born of the prayer of Jesus and through the preaching of the Apostles, who make known God’s name and introduce men and women into the fellowship of love with God.  Jesus thus prays that the preaching of the disciples will continue for all time, that it will gather together men and women who know God and the one he has sent, his Son Jesus Christ.  He prays that men and women may be led to faith and, through faith, to love.  He asks the Father that these believers “be in us” (v. 21); that they will live, in other words, in interior communion with God and Jesus Christ, and that this inward being in communion with God may give rise to visible unity.  Twice the Lord says that this unity should make the world believe in the mission of Jesus.  It must thus be a unity which can be seen – a unity which so transcends ordinary human possibilities as to become a sign before the world and to authenticate the mission of Jesus Christ.  ”.

“Jesus’ prayer gives us the assurance that the preaching of the Apostles will never fail throughout history; that it will always awaken faith and gather men and women into unity – into a unity which becomes a testimony to the mission of Jesus Christ.  But this prayer also challenges us to a constant examination of conscience.  At this hour the Lord is asking us: are you living, through faith, in fellowship with me and thus in fellowship with God?  Or are you rather living for yourself, and thus apart from faith?  And are you not thus guilty of the inconsistency which obscures my mission in the world and prevents men and women from encountering God’s love?  It was part of the historical Passion of Jesus, and remains part of his ongoing Passion throughout history, that he saw, and even now continues to see, all that threatens and destroys unity.  As we meditate on the Passion of the Lord, let us also feel Jesus’ pain at the way that we contradict his prayer, that we resist his love, that we oppose the unity which should bear witness before the world to his mission”.





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