Sunday, March 02, 2008

Baptism, Blindness and Healing: The Pope's "Rose" Message

A Happy Laetare Sunday to one and all.

While the shot of "Pepto Papa" comes from an earlier "Rose Sunday," below is a full translation of today's Angelus catechesis:
Dear brothers and sisters,

In these Sundays of Lent, journeying through the texts of the Gospel of John, the liturgy fleshes out for us a true and proper baptismal itinerary: last Sunday, Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman the gift of "living water"; today, curing the man born blind he reveals himself as "light of the world"; next Sunday, raising his friend Lazarus, he will present himself as "the resurrection and the life." Water, light, life: these are the symbols of Baptism, the sacrament that "immerses" believers in the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, freeing them from the slavery of sin and giving them eternal life.

Let's dwell briefly on the account of the man born blind (Jn 9:1-41). The disciples, according to the common mentality of the time, guess that his blindness is a consequence of his sin or that of his parents. Instead, Jesus rejects this prejudice and affirms: "“Neither he nor his parents sinned, but it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him" (Jn 9:3). What comfort these words offer us! They make us feel the living voice of God, who is life-giving and wise Love! Looking at the man marked by limitations and suffering, Jesus doesn't think of eventual faults, but of the will of God that created man for life. And thus he says solemnly: "We have to do the works of the one who sent me... While I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (Jn 9:5). And there the action takes place: with a bit of earth and saliva he makes some mud and smears it over the eyes of the blind man. This act alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recalls with the symbol of the earth formed and enlivened by the breath of God (cf Gn 2:7). "Adam" in fact means "soil," and the human body is, in effect, made up of the elements of the earth. Curing the man, Jesus works a new creation. But this healing provokes a lively discussion, because Jesus did this on the Sabbath, transgressing, according to the Pharisees, the festive precepts. So, at the end of the account, Jesus and the blind man find themselves together "thrown out" by the Pharisees: one because he violated the law and the other as, despite his healing, he remains marked as a sinner from birth.

To the man healed of his blindness Jesus reveals that he came into the world to work a judgment, to separate the curable blind men from those who are uncurable, who presume themselves to be healthy. The temptation is strong in man to build for oneself a system of ideological security: even religion itself can become part of this system, just like atheism, or secularism, allowing one to remain blinded by his own selfishness. Dear brothers, let us leave ourselves to be healed by Jesus, who can and wants to give us the light of God! Let us own up to our blindness, our shortsightedness, and above all to that which the Scriptures call the "great sin" (cf Ps 18:14): pride. May Mary Most Holy help us in this, who produced Christ in flesh and, so, gave the world its true light.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....
After the prayers, the Pope said the following:
With profound sadness I follow the drama surrounding the abduction of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul of the Chaldeans, in Iraq. I unite myself to the appeal of the Patriarch, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and of his collaborators, that the dear prelate, already in a difficult state of health, be promptly freed. At the same time, I elevate my prayer of suffrage for the souls of the three young men killed, who were with [Rahho] at the time of the kidnapping. I express above all my closeness to all the Church in Iraq and in particular to the Chaldean church, encouraging the pastors and all the faithful to be strong and united in hope, especially during this hard-hit time. May efforts multiply to support the dear Iraqi people, along with the graces of commitment and wisdom of all who seek peace and security, that they not be denied the future that is their right....

In the course of [last] week the Italian news has covered the tragic death of two young boys, Ciccio and Tore. Their loss has moved me deeply as it has many families and people. I'd like to take this occasion to take up a call on behalf of our children: let us take care of the little ones! They need love and help to grow. I say this to parents, but also to institutions. In making this appeal, my thoughts go to the children of every part of the world, particularly those most helpless, exploited and abused. I entrust each child to the heart of Christ, who said: "Let the little children come to me!" (Lk 18:16)
Aged 13 and 11, the bodies of Francesco and Salvatore Pappalardi were discovered last Monday trapped in a well in the southern Italian town of Gravina. The boys had been missing for almost two years.

A "virtual autopsy" performed on the brothers found that while Ciccio died from the fall, Tore jumped in hoping to save him and was trapped alive for days. The story has caused an emotional outpouring in Italy.