Move Forward in Hope, Urges Pontiff
Celebrates Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral
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NEW YORK, APRIL 19, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI urged those who live inside the life and communion of the Church in the United States to move forward in hope and look toward a new spiritual renewal.
The Pope said this today, the third anniversary of his election to the pontificate, during a Mass he said in St. Patrick's Cathedral, attended by some 3,000 priests, religious and deacons.
In his address, the Pontiff reflected on four aspects of the architecture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, beginning with the stained glass windows, "which flood the interior with mystic light."
"From the outside," he said, "those windows are dark, heavy, even dreary. But once one enters the church, they suddenly come alive; reflecting the light passing through them, they reveal all their splendor."
The Holy Father said the image of the stained glass is often used to "illustrate the mystery of the Church herself."
Benedict XVI explained: "It is only from the inside, from the experience of faith and ecclesial life, that we see the Church as she truly is: flooded with grace, resplendent in beauty, adorned by the manifold gifts of the Spirit. It follows that we, who live the life of grace within the Church’s communion, are called to draw all people into this mystery of light.
"This is no easy task in a world which can tend to look at the Church, like those stained glass windows, 'from the outside': a world which deeply senses a need for spirituality, yet finds it difficult to 'enter into' the mystery of the Church."
The Pope said that even for those inside the Church, "the light of faith can be dimmed by routine, and the splendor of the Church obscured by the sins and weaknesses of her members. It can be dimmed too, by the obstacles encountered in a society which sometimes seems to have forgotten God and to resent even the most elementary demands of Christian morality."
He continued: "You, who have devoted your lives to bearing witness to the love of Christ and the building up of his Body, know from your daily contact with the world around us how tempting it is at times to give way to frustration, disappointment and even pessimism about the future.
"In a word, it is not always easy to see the light of the Spirit all about us, the splendor of the Risen Lord illuminating our lives and instilling renewed hope in his victory over the world.
"Yet the word of God reminds us that, in faith, we see the heavens opened, and the grace of the Holy Spirit lighting up the Church and bringing sure hope to our world."
Benedict XVI said that, like all Gothic cathedrals, St. Patrick's ""is a highly complex structure, whose exact and harmonious proportions symbolize the unity of God’s creation."
The Pope explained: "Medieval artists often portrayed Christ, the creative Word of God, as a heavenly 'geometer,' compass in hand, who orders the cosmos with infinite wisdom and purpose.
"Does this not bring to mind our need to see all things with the eyes of faith, and thus to grasp them in their truest perspective, in the unity of God’s eternal plan?"
He said to do this, one needs "constant conversion, and a commitment to acquiring 'a fresh, spiritual way of thinking.'"
"It also calls for the cultivation of those virtues which enable each of us to grow in holiness and to bear spiritual fruit within our particular state of life," the Pontiff continued. "Is not this ongoing 'intellectual' conversion as necessary as 'moral' conversion for our own growth in faith, our discernment of the signs of the times, and our personal contribution to the Church’s life and mission?"
Mentioning the Second Vatican Council, the Holy Father said that for many the greatest disappointment following the council, which called "for a greater engagement in the Church’s mission to the world, has been the experience of division between different groups, different generations, different members of the same religious family."
"We can only move forward," Benedict XVI said, "if we turn our gaze together to Christ! In the light of faith, we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions.
"Thus we can value the perspectives of others, be they younger or older than ourselves, and ultimately hear 'what the Spirit is saying' to us and to the Church.
"In this way, we will move together toward that true spiritual renewal desired by the Council, a renewal which can only strengthen the Church in that holiness and unity indispensable for the effective proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world."
The Pope asked, "Was not this unity of vision and purpose -- rooted in faith and a spirit of constant conversion and self-sacrifice -- the secret of the impressive growth of the Church in this country?"
Addressing the sexual abuse crisis the Holy Father said, "I simply wish to assure you, dear priests and religious, of my spiritual closeness as you strive to respond with Christian hope to the continuing challenges that this situation presents.
"I join you in praying that this will be a time of purification for each and every particular Church and religious community, and a time for healing. I also encourage you to cooperate with your Bishops who continue to work effectively to resolve this issue."
He urged the Church to "move forward in hope, in love for the truth and for one another."
Benedict XVI compared the unity of the Church to the unity of a Gothic temple, which he described as "a unity born of the dynamic tension of diverse forces which impel the architecture upward, pointing it to heaven."
He recalled the image used by St. Paul to describe the unity of the Church, "a living body composed of many different members, each with its own role and purpose."
"Here too," the Pope explained, "we see our need to acknowledge and reverence the gifts of each and every member of the body as 'manifestations of the Spirit given for the good of all.'"
The Pontiff acknowledged a difference between the hierarchical and charismatic gifts in the Church, but added, "Yet the very variety and richness of the graces bestowed by the Spirit invite us constantly to discern how these gifts are to be rightly ordered in the service of the Church’s mission."
Despite the difference, Benedict XVI said all priests, deacons and religious "are called to be forces of unity within Christ’s Body. By your personal witness, and your fidelity to the ministry or apostolate entrusted to you, you prepare a path for the Spirit."
The Pope continued: "So let us lift our gaze upward! And with great humility and confidence, let us ask the Spirit to enable us each day to grow in the holiness that will make us living stones in the temple which he is even now raising up in the midst of our world.
"If we are to be true forces of unity, let us be the first to seek inner reconciliation through penance. Let us forgive the wrongs we have suffered and put aside all anger and contention.
"Let us be the first to demonstrate the humility and purity of heart which are required to approach the splendor of God’s truth. In fidelity to the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles, let us be joyful witnesses of the transforming power of the Gospel!"
Commenting on the spires of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which Benedict XVI said are "dwarfed by the skyscrapers of the Manhattan skyline," he noted that they are "a vivid reminder of the constant yearning of the human spirit to rise to God."
He concluded, "Let us go forth as heralds of hope in the midst of this city, and all those places where God’s grace has placed us. In this way, the Church in America will know a new springtime in the Spirit."