On Lent's Baptismal Journey

"Let Us Allow Jesus to Heal Us"

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these Sundays of Lent, through the texts of the Gospel of John, the liturgy leads us on a true and proper baptismal journey: Last Sunday Jesus promised the Samaritan woman the gift of "living water"; today, healing the blind man, Jesus reveals himself as the "light of the world"; next Sunday, resurrecting his friend Lazarus from the dead, he will present himself as "the resurrection and the light." Water, light, life: these are symbols of baptism, the sacrament that "immerses" believers in the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, freeing them from the slavery of sin and granting them eternal life.

Let us pause briefly over the story of the man born blind (John 9:41). The disciples, according to the mentality that was common at that time, take for granted that his blindness is the consequence of his sin or his parents' sin. Jesus, however, rejects this view and affirms: "Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (John 9:3).

What comfort these words offer us! They allow us to hear the living voice of God, who is provident and wise Love! Before the man marked by limitation and suffering Jesus does not think about possible faults, but about the will of God that created man for life. And so he solemnly declares: "We must do the works of the one who sent me ... While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5).

And he immediately takes action: With a little bit of earth and saliva he makes some mud and spreads it on the eyes of the blind man. This gesture alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of earth that is formed and animated by the breath of God (cf. Genesis 2:7). "Adam," in fact, means "soil," and the human body is indeed composed of elements of the earth. Healing the man, Jesus brings about a new creation.

But that healing provokes a heated debate because Jesus performed it on the Sabbath, thereby transgressing a precept of the feast. Thus, at the end of the episode, Jesus and the blind man meet up again, both being chased out by the Pharisees: one because he violated the law and the other because, despite the healing, he remains marked as a sinner from birth.

To the blind man whom he healed Jesus reveals that he has come into the world for judgment, to separate the blind who can be healed from those who do not allow themselves to be healed because they presume that they are healthy. The tendency in man to construct an ideological system of security is strong: Even religion itself can become an element in this system, as can atheism, or secularism; but in constructing this system, one becomes blind to his own egoism.

Dear brothers, let us allow Jesus to heal us, Jesus who can and wants to give us the light of God! Let us confess our own blindnesses, our myopias, and above all that which the Bible calls the "great sin" (Psalm 18:14): pride. May Mary Most Holy help us in this, who, giving birth to Christ in the flesh, gave the world the true light.

[After the Angelus the Holy Father said the following in Italian:]

With profound sadness I follow the dramatic event of the kidnapping of Monsignor Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, in Iraq. I join the call of the patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and his co-workers, for the dear prelate -- who is also in very poor health -- to be released immediately. I also elevate my prayer of supplication for the souls of the three young people who were with him and were killed at the time of the kidnapping. I express, moreover, my closeness to the entire Church in Iraq and in particular to the Chaldean Church, who have once again been dealt a serious blow, while I encourage all of the pastors and faithful to be strong and firm in hope. May the efforts of those who control the fate of the Iraqi people be multiplied so that, thanks to the commitment and wisdom of all, this people may again find peace and security, and the future to which it has a right not be destroyed.

Unfortunately, in recent days the tension between Israel and the Gaza Strip has reached very grave levels.

I renew my pressing invitation to Israeli and Palestinian officials, that this spiral of violence be stopped, unilaterally, without conditions: only by showing an absolute respect for human life, even that of the enemy, can one hope to provide a future of peace and coexistence for the young generations of those peoples who both have their roots in the Holy Land. I invite the whole Church to lift up supplications to the Almighty for peace in the land of Jesus and to show attentive and active solidarity with both populations, Israeli and Palestinian.

Over the course of the week the Italian news directed its attention to the sad end of two children, known as Ciccio and Tore. It is an end that has deeply stricken me as it has many families and persons. I would like to take this occasion to launch an appeal on behalf of childhood: let us care for our little ones! We must love them and help them to grow. I say this to parents but also to institutions. In launching this appeal, I think of childhood in every part of the world, above all of that which is defenseless, exploited and abused. I entrust every child to the heart of Christ, who said: "Let the children come unto me!" (Luke 18:16).

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

[After the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today's Gospel, we encounter Jesus, the light of the world, who cures the man born blind. By opening our eyes to faith, to the light that comes from God, Jesus continues to cure us from the darkness of confusion and sin present in this world. May his light always purify our hearts and renew our Christian love as we journey with him to Eternal Life. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana