Pope's Homily at Ordinary Public Consistory
"Logic of the Cross ... Is at the Bottom of All Exercise of Authority"
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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily Benedict XVI delivered Saturday during the consistory in which 24 new cardinals were created.
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Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Once again the Lord gives me the joy of carrying out this solemn act, in which the College of Cardinals is enriched with new members, chosen from different parts of the world: they are pastors who govern with zeal important diocesan communities, prelates assigned to dicasteries of the Roman Curia, or who have served the Church and the Holy See with exemplary fidelity. From today onward they become part of that "coetus peculiaris," which gives the Successor of Peter a more immediate and assiduous collaboration, supporting him in the exercise of his universal ministry. To them first of all, I address by affectionate greeting, renewing the expression of my esteem and of my heartfelt appreciation for the testimony that they render to the Church and to the world. In particular, I greet archbishop Angelo Amato and I thank him for the kind expressions he addressed to me. I then give my cordial welcome to the official delegations of several countries, to the representations of numerous dioceses, and to all those gathered here to take part in this event, during which these venerable and dear Brothers receive the sign of the cardinal's dignity with the imposition of the berretta and the assignment of the Title of a church of Rome.
The bond of special communion and affection, which links these new cardinals to the Pope, renders them singular and precious cooperators of the high mandate entrusted by Christ to Peter, to feed his sheep (cf. John 21:15-17), to gather the people with the solicitude of the charity of Christ. It is precisely from this love that the Church was born, called to live and journey according to the commandment of the Lord, in which is summarized all the Law and the prophets. To be united to Christ in faith and in communion with Him means to be "rooted and grounded in love" (Ephesians 3:17), the fabric that unites all the members of the Body of Christ.
In fact, the Word of God just proclaimed helps us to meditate on this very fundamental aspect. Placed before our eyes in the passage of the Gospel (Mark 10:32-45) is the icon of Jesus as the Messiah -- proclaimed ahead of time by Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 53) -- who did not come to be served, but to serve: his style of life becomes the basis of new relationships within the Christian community and a new way of exercising authority, Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem and proclaims for the third time, indicating to his disciples the way by which he intends to fulfill the work entrusted to him by the Father: it is the way of the humble gift of self to the sacrifice of his life, the way of the Passion, the way of the Cross. And yet, even after this announcement, as happened with those who preceded, the disciples reveal all their effort to understand, to undertake the necessary "exodus" from a worldly mentality to God's mentality. In this case it is the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, who ask Jesus for seats next to him in "glory", manifesting expectations and plans of greatness, authority, of honor according to the world. Jesus, who knows the human heart, is not disturbed by this request, but immediately brings to light the profound significance: "you do not know what you ask"; then he leads the two brothers to understand what it means to follow him.
What, then, is the way that must be followed by one who wishes to be a disciple? It is the way of the Master, it is the way of total obedience to God. Because of this Jesus asked James and John: are you ready to share and to fulfill to the end by choice the will of the Father? Are you prepared to follow this road that passes through humiliation, suffering and death out of love? The two disciples, with their sure answer, "we can," show once again that they did not understand the real meaning of what awaited their Master. And again Jesus, with patience, makes them understand a further step: not even experiencing the chalice of suffering and the baptism of death gives the right to the first places, because they are "for those from whom they have been prepared," it is in the hand of the heavenly Father; man must not calculate, he must simply abandon himself to God, without pretensions, conforming himself to his will.
The indignation of the other disciples becomes the occasion to extend the teaching to the whole community. First of all Jesus "called them to himself": it is the gesture of the original vocation, to which he invites them to return. Very significant is this reference to the constitutive moment of the vocation of the Twelve, to "being with Jesus" to be sent, because it reminds clearly that every ecclesial ministry is always a response to a call of God, it is never the fruit of one's own plan or of one's ambition, but it is to conform one's will to that of the Father who is in Heaven, as Christ at Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:42). No one is boss in the Church, but all are called, all are sent, all are gathered and guided by divine grace. And this is also our security. Only by listening again to the word of Jesus, who asks "come and follow me," only by returning to the original vocation is it possible to understand one's own presence and mission in the Church as genuine disciples.
James' and John's request and the indignation of the "other 10" Apostles raise a central question to which Jesus wishes to respond: who is great, who is "first" for God? First of all attention goes to the conduct that runs the risk of assuming it is "those that are considered the rulers of nations": "to dominate and oppress." Jesus points out to his disciples a completely different way: "Among you, however, it is not thus." His community follows another rule, another logic, another model: "Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be the slave of all." The criterion of greatness and primacy according to God is not dominion but service, diakonia is the fundamental law of the disciple and of the Christian community and it allows us to perceive something of the "Lordship of God." And Jesus also indicates the point of reference: the Son of man, who came to serve, summarizes his mission under the category of service, understood not in the generic sense, but in the concrete way of the Cross, of the total gift of life as "ransom," as redemption for many, and he indicates it as condition to follow him. It is a message that is true for the Apostles, for the whole Church, true above all for those who have tasks to guide the People of God. It is not the logic of dominion, of power according to human criteria, but the logic of bending down to wash the feet, the logic of service, the logic of the Cross which is at the bottom of all exercise of authority. At all times the Church is committed to be conformed to this logic and to attest it to make the true "Lordship of God " shine, which is that of love.
Venerable brothers elected to the dignity of cardinal, the mission to which God calls you today and that equips you to an ecclesial service that is even more charged with responsibility, requires an ever greater willingness to assume the style of the Son of God, who came among us as one who serves (cf. Luke 22:25-27. It is a question of following him in giving his humble and total love to the Church his Bride, on the Cross: it is on that wood that the grain of wheat, dropped by the Father on the field of the world, dies to become a mature fruit. Because of this there must be an even more profound and solid rootedness in Christ. The profound relationship with Him, which increasingly transforms life so as to be able to say with Saint Paul "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20), constitutes the primary exigency, for our service to be serene and joyful and be able to give the fruit that the Lord expects from us.
Dear brothers and sisters, who today crown the new cardinals: pray for them. Tomorrow, in this Basilica, during the concelebration of the solemnity of Christ King of the universe, I will hand the ring to them. It will be a further occasion in which "to praise the Lord, who remains forever faithful" (Psalm 145), as we repeated in the Responsorial Psalm. May his Spirit support the new cardinals in the commitment of service to the Church, following the Christ of the Cross even, if necessary, "usque ad effusionem sanguinis," always ready -- as St. Peter said to us in the reading -- always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls us to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). I entrust to Mary, Mother of the Church, the new cardinals and their ecclesial service, so that with apostolic ardor, they may proclaim to all people the merciful love of God. Amen.
[Translation by ZENIT]