Pontiff to Future Priests: Christianity Is a Gift
Visits Seminarians of Rome, Delivers "Lectio Divina"
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By Mirko Testa
ROME, FEB. 15, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Christianity does not consist of respecting external norms, but rather of penetrating the mystery of God, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this Friday evening when he met with about 200 seminarian students of the Diocese of Rome at the Chapel of the Major Roman Seminary. The seminarians were accompanied by their rectors, spiritual directors and educators, as well as by young men who may enter the seminary next year.
Tradition dictates that on the occasion of the Feast of the Patroness of the Institute -- Our Lady of Trust, which is celebrated on Feb. 13 -- the Pontiff meets with seminarians and dines with them.
For the first time, all of the seminarians of Rome gathered to meet with the Holy Father, including those of the Pontifical Roman Minor Seminary, the Diocesan College "Redemptoris Mater," the Almo Collegio Capranica and the Seminary of Our Lady of Divine Love.
Before the meeting, the rector of the Major Roman Seminary, Msgr. Giovanni Tani, greeted the Pontiff and said, "We live with joy and trepidation this moment, Holiness, during which you, as our first formator, will help us to listen to the Word of the Lord and to follow his will."
God, root of the vine
Benedict XVI then delivered a "lectio divina" centered on the parable of the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8), which he said "speaks indirectly, but profoundly, of the sacrament, of the calling, of being in the vineyard of the Lord and of being servants of his mystery."
He explained that the vine is an Old Testament image that serves to indicate the People of God: "God planted a vine in this world. God cultivated this vine, his vine, he protected his vine."
At the same time, the Pontiff continued, "this image of the vine, of the vineyard has a spousal meaning and is expression of the fact that God seeks the love of his creature, that he wishes to enter into a relationship of love, into a spousal relationship with the world through the People chosen by him."
However, commented the Holy Father, "the concrete history is a history of infidelity," that instead of producing "precious grapes" generated "only small uneatable things."
In fact, he said, "this unity, this union without conditions between man and God" did not transform itself "into communion of love." On the contrary, "man withdraws into himself, wants to have himself, wants to have God for himself, wants to have the world for himself. And so that vineyard is devastated" and "becomes a desert."
But "God makes himself man and thus becomes himself the root of the vine" and "thus the vine is indestructible because God himself implanted himself in this earth," continued the Pope.
Benedict XVI said that "Christianity is not a moralism. It is not we who must do what God expects from the world," because in reality "we must, first of all, enter into this ontological mystery in which God gives himself."
We must "be in Him," identify ourselves with him, be "ennobled in his blood" to "act with Christ," because "ethics is a consequence of being" and "being precedes acting," explained the Pope. "It is no longer an obedience, an external thing but is realization of the gift of the new being."
Live in love
Subsequently, the Pontiff recalled the invitation Jesus addressed to the Apostles in the context of the Last Supper: "Love one another as I have loved you." He said that what it expresses is "a radicalization of love of neighbor in imitation of Christ."
"But also here the true novelty is not what we do, the true novelty is what the Lord has done. The Lord has given us himself," he said, he "has given us the true novelty of being members of his Body."
Therefore, the Holy Father continued, "the new Law is not another command that is more difficult than others. The new Law is a gift," it is "the presence of the Holy Spirit given to us in the sacrament of Baptism, in the Chrism and given to us every day in the Most Holy Eucharist."
"Hence, the novelty is that God has made himself known, that God has shown himself, that God is no longer the unknown God, sought but not found and only imagined from afar," he said. "God has made himself seen in the face of Christ, [...] has shown himself in the totality of his reality, has shown that he is reason and love" and thus has made us his friends.
"However still today many live far from Christ, they do not know his face and thus the eternal temptation of dualism is always renewed and perhaps it is not only a principle of good but also a principle of evil," thus what must be checked is the vision of a world at the mercy of "two equally strong realities," noted the Pontiff.
"Spread now also in Catholic theology is this thesis that God is not omnipotent," continued Benedict XVI. Attempted, therefore, is a sort of "apologia of God," according to which God "is not responsible for the evil that we find amply in the world," he then lamented.
"But what a poor apologia: a God who is not omnipotent," he added. "And how can we entrust ourselves to this God, how can we be secure in his love if this love ends where the power of evil begins?"
"But God is no longer unknown," the Pope said. "In the face of the crucified Christ we see God and we see the true omnipotence, not the myth of omnipotence."
"True omnipotence," explained the Pontiff, "is to love to the point that God can suffer" for us.
Benedict XVI then concluded that true justice itself is no longer revealed as "obedience to some norms," but as "the creative love that finds by itself the richness and abundance of good"; as "living in creativity of the love with Christ and in Christ," of a love penetrated by "dynamism."
Prayer and purification
The Pope then went on to speak of the value of prayer and of the importance of invoking from God "the divine gift," "the great reality," "so that he will give us his Spirit in order than we can respond to the exigencies of life and help others in their sufferings."
"It is right to pray to God also for the small things of our everyday life, but at the same time prayer is a way, I would say a ladder: We must increasingly learn the things we can pray for and the things that should not be prayed for because they are expressions of my egoism" or of "my pride," specified the Pontiff.
In this way, he said, prayer "becomes a process of purification of our thoughts, of our desires."
The Holy Father said that "to remain in Christ is a process of slow purification, of liberation from myself," a "true way" that opens to joy and that is characterized by "a sacramental background."
"Thus we can learn that God responds to our prayers," and often "corrects them, transforms them, guides them so that we will finally and really be branches of his Son, of the 'true vine,' members of his Body," he continued.
"Let us thank God," the Holy Father ended, "for the grandeur of his love. Let us pray so that he will help us to grow in his love and to really remain in his love."