Yesterday (Sunday), Benedict stopped by a prayer service in the village of Rhemes-St.-Georges. He listened to the readings, from the Mass of the day, and then spoke extemporaneously for seven minutes to the congregation – about a hundred people. Courtesy of Teresa Benedetta at the Papa Ratzinger Forum, here is a transcription/translation:
(if you are interested in matters papal, or even church news as reported in the European press, the Papa Ratzinger Forum should be on your favorites list.)
First, the reading from St. Paul (Ephesians 2,13-18):
"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."
The Pope’s meditation
Just a brief word of meditation on this reading. What strikes us, with the background of the dramatic situation in the Near East, is the beauty of this vision: Christ is our peace. He has reconciled one with the other, Jews and pagans. By uniting together in His body, they have overcome enmities. In His body on the Cross, with His death, He has overcome all enmity and he has united us all in His peace.
The beauty of this vision strikes us even more forcefully in contrast with the reality that we are experiencing and witnessing. We cannot do other than ask the Lord at first: Lord, what does Your Apostle tell us? He says: they are reconciled. But we see that in truth, they are not reconciled. There is still is war among Christians, Muslims, Jews. And there are others who foment the war, and everyone is still full of enmities and violence.
Lord, what remains of the effects of Your sacrifice? Where in history is this peace of which Your apostle speaks to us?
We humans cannot resolve the mystery of history – the mystery of human freedom saying no to the peace of God. We cannot resolve all the mystery of the relation between God and man, of His actions and our responses. We must accept the mystery, but nevertheless, there are elements of response that the Lord gives us.
The first element is that the reconciliation effected by the Lord, through His sacrifice, has not been without effect. There is the great reality of communion in the universal Church, of all peoples, the network of eucharistic communion which transcends the frontiers of cultures and civilizations, of peoples and of time.
There is this communion, and there are islands of peace, in the Body of Christ (the Church). There are forces for peace in the world. We see it in history.
We can see great saints of charity who created oases of God’s peace on earth, who succeeded in rekindling their light with renewed capacity to reconcile peoples and to create peace.
There are the martyrs who have suffered with Christ, who have given their testimony of peace and of love which sets a limit to violence.
And seeing that there is that kind of reality, even if the other reality remains, we can look more deeply into the letter that St. Paul wrote the Ephesians.
Christ triumphed on the Cross – He did not win by setting up a new empire, with a force so strong that He could destroy others. He triumphed through a love unto death. This is God’s way of winning. To violence He does not oppose a greater violence. To violence, he opposes the very contrary: love to the end, to His cross. This is God’s humble way of winning.
With His love, and only thus, is it possible to place a limit on violence. This method of winning appears to us too slow, but it is the true way to defeat evil, to defeat violence, and we should trust in the divine way of winning.
To trust means to enter actively into this divine love, to participate in it in order that we may become what the Lord says, "Blessed are the peacemakers because they are the children of God."
We should bring our love in every way we can to all those who suffer, knowing that the Judge at the Final Judgment identifies with the suffering. Therefore, whatever we do for the suffering, we do for the ultimate Judge of our life.
This is important even at this moment: we can bring His victory to the world by participating actively in His charity.
Today in the world, many men of culture, many religious persons, many are tempted to say: It is better for the peace of the world among religions and cultures not to speak too much of the specifics of Christianity, that is, not speak too much of Christ, of the Church, of the sacraments. It is better, they say, to limit ourselves to the things that can be common to everyone.
But that is not true. Precisely at this time, which is also a time of great abuse of the name of God, we need the God who wins
on the Cross, who wins not through violence but through His love. Precisely at this time, we need the face of Christ so we may recognize the true face of God and thus bring reconciliation and light to the world.
That is why, together with the message of love, with all that we can possibly do for those who suffer in our world, we should also bear witness on behalf of this God, for the victory of God in non-violence on His Cross.