Sunday, July 01, 2007

"To Be a Christian..."

In the midst of tackling two complex conundra of modern Catholicism -- China and the 1962 Missal -- Benedict XVI turned to the faith's simplest, most profound truths in his weekly Angelus catechesis earlier today.

The English translation:
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

The Bible readings of this Sunday's Mass invite us to meditate on a charming theme which can be summarized thus: the freedom and the following of Christ. Luke the Evangelist tells of how Jesus, "when the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk 9:51). In the expression "resolutely" we can glimpse the freedom of Christ. He knows, in fact, that in Jerusalem, death by the cross awaits him, but in obedience to the will of the Father he offers himself for love. It is in this, his obedience to the Father, that Jesus fulfills his own conscious choice motivated by love. Who is more free than the One who is Omnipotent? But it was a freedom he didn't see as arbitrary or as one of dominion. It was one he viewed as service. In the process, he "restored" what freedom means, otherwise it would remain "empty" opportunities of doing or not doing something. And so in the life of man, freedom brings with it a sense of love. Who is actually more free? The one who withholds all possibilities for fear of losing, or the one who gives himself "resolutely" in service and so finds himself full of life thanks to the love he has given and received?
The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Galatia, currently in Turkey, says: "You, brothers, have been called to freedom. Yet this freedom must not become a pretext for living according to the flesh, but that of the love you give in service to others" (Gal 5:13). To live according to the flesh means to follow the egotistical tendency of human nature. To live according to the Spirit, however, is to let oneself be guided by the intentions and works of the love of God, which Christ has given us. Christian freedom is, therefore, anything other than arbitrary; it is the following of Christ in the gift of himself from the sacrifice of the Cross. It might seem a paradox, but the fullness of his freedom saw the Lord on the cross, as the summit of love. When they cried out on Calvary: "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!," he showed his own freedom, remaining on the gallows to complete once and for all the merciful will of the Father. From this experience, many other testimonies to the truth were shared: men and women who have displayed that they remained free even to the prison cell or under threat of torture. "The truth will set you free." The one who belongs to the truth will never be sullied by any power, but will always know to freely place himself at the service of his brethren.

Let us look to the Most Holy Mary, the humble handmaid of the Lord, the Virgin model of spiritual personhood, fully free and immaculate, free from sin and all holy, given to the service of God and neighbor. With her maternal haste, may she help us to follow Jesus, to know the truth and to live in the freedom of love.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....
In his greeting to the English-language pilgrims present in the Square, the Pope offered a convenient Cliff's Notes of his talk. "Today’s Liturgy reminds us that to be a Christian means to follow Jesus," he said.

"He is the Teacher, we are his disciples."

AP/Plinio Lepri