God's Power Nothing to Fear, Says Pope
Notes Reason for Suffering
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The Pope affirmed this in reflecting on the closing prayer of vespers Friday, which he celebrated in the cathedral of Aosta, together with some 400 priests, religious and lay representatives. Aosta is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) from the vacation residence where the Holy Father will be staying until Wednesday.
With his broken right wrist, the Pontiff delivered the homily without notes.
The concluding prayer of the celebration, he observed, has two parts: "an address -- a heading, so to speak -- and then two requests. Let us begin with the address that has, in its turn, two parts. The 'you' with which we speak gets a little more concretized here to help us to knock at God's heart with more force. In the Italian text we simply read 'Merciful Father.' The original Latin text says 'Omnipotent and merciful God.'"
"I do not know why the Italian text omits the word 'omnipotent,'" Benedict XVI said, "but it is true that we feel a little threatened by omnipotence; it seems to limit our freedom, it seems too great a burden, but we must learn that the omnipotence of God is not an arbitrary power, because God is the good, he is the truth, and therefore God can do everything but he cannot go against the good, he cannot go against the truth, he cannot go against love and freedom [...] The contrary is true: God is the safeguard of our freedom, of love, of truth."
The Pope noted how a Roman prayer linked with a phrase from the Book of Wisdom says, "O God, who manifests his omnipotence above all in mercy and forgiveness."
Thus, he affirmed: "The height of God's power is mercy and forgiveness. In our worldly concept of power we think that those who have many possessions have power; economically speaking, it is the one who has something to say, who has capital, who can influence the world of the market; we think that those who have military power, who can threaten, have power. And Stalin's question -- 'How many divisions has the Pope?' -- still characterizes the idea the media has of power. [...]
"But revelation tells us that it is not this way. True power is the power of grace and mercy. [...] God suffered and in his Son he suffers with us and this is the ultimate apex of his power: that he can suffer with us. [...] He wanted to suffer with us and for us and he has never abandoned us in our sufferings. God suffered in his Son and is near to us in our sufferings."
Still, Benedict XVI acknowledged, the difficult question of suffering lingers.
Suffering was needed to save the world because of the "ocean of evil, of injustice, of hatred, of violence," which has many victims who "have a right to justice," he affirmed.
"God cannot ignore this cry of the suffering, who are oppressed by injustice," the Pope stated. "Forgiving is not ignoring but transforming. And God must enter into this world and oppose the ocean of injustice with a larger ocean of goodness and love. This is the event of the cross, which, from that moment went against the ocean of evil.
"There is an infinite river that is always greater than all the injustices of the world. It is a river of goodness, of truth, of love. Thus in forgiving, God transforms the world and enters into our world so that there truly be a power, a river of goodness greater than all the evil that could ever exist."
At the end of vespers, the Holy Father alluded to his broken wrist, jokingly wishing everyone a good vacation "free of accidents."
Some 20,000 people turned out to welcome the Pope, despite the rainy afternoon.