AP Photo/Plinio Lepri
~from Pope Benedict XVI's homily yesterday in Velletri:
Bonds of friendship link my native land to yours: This bronze column from Marktl am Inn, given to me in September last year in honor of my apostolic trip to Germany, is a testimony of that, and I wished it to remain here, as a further sign of my affection and my goodwill.Translated by Zenit
I know you have prepared for my visit here today with an intense spiritual journey, adopting as the motto a meaningful verse from the First Letter of John: "So we know and believe in the love that God has for us" (4:16). "Deus Caritas East," God is love: My first encyclical begins with these words, which pertain to the core of our faith --the Christian image of God and the resulting image of man and his journey.
I rejoice in the fact that you have chosen as your guide for the diocese's spiritual and pastoral journey this very expression: "We have known the love that God has for us and we have believed." Today's liturgy cannot but focus on this essential truth, on the love of God, able to impress upon human existence an absolutely new orientation and value. Love is the essence of Christianity, which renders the believer and the Christian community yeast of hope and peace in every situation, especially attentive to the necessities of the poor and needy. Love brings the Church into existence.
For the past few Sundays, St. Luke, the Gospel writer who more than the others is concerned to show the love Jesus has for the poor, he offered different ideas for reflection on the dangers of an excessive attachment to money, to material goods and to all that impedes us from loving the fullness of our vocation to love God and our brethren. Also today, through the parable that provokes a certain wonder in us because it speaks of a dishonest manager who ends up being praised (cf. Luke 16:1-13), and the Lord is offering is a salutary teaching. As he often does, he draws from current events: He speaks about a manager on the verge of being fired for his dishonest management of the affairs of his master and, to guarantee his own future, he tries to slyly come to agreements with his debtors. He is dishonest, but astute: The Gospel does not present him as a model to follow in his dishonesty, but as an example to imitate for his cautious craftiness. In fact, the brief parable ends with these words: "The master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly."
What does Jesus want to say to us? The Evangelist follows the parable of the unfaithful steward with a brief series of sayings and admonitions about the relationship we should have with money and the goods of this earth. Brief phrases that invite us to a choice that presupposes a radical decision, a constant interior tension. Life is in truth always a choice: between honesty and dishonesty, between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, between egoism and altruism, between good and evil. The conclusion of the Gospel selection is incisive and authoritative: "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).
Mammon is the original Phoenician term that evokes economic security and success in business; we could say that in wealth is found the idol in which one sacrifices everything to reach personal success. Therefore a fundamental decision is necessary -- the choice between the logic of profit as the ultimate criteria of our action and the logic of sharing and solidarity. The logic of profit, if it prevails, increases not only the disproportion between poor and rich, but also the devastating exploitation of the planet.
When, on the other hand, the logic of sharing and solidarity prevails, it is possible to correct the course of action and orient it toward proportional development, for the common good of all. In the end it is a decision between egoism and love, between justice and dishonesty, and a final choice between God and Satan. If loving Christ and our brethren is not considered as something accessorial and superficial, but moreover the true and final scope of our existence, we must know how to make fundamental choices, to be open to radical renunciations, even martyrdom if necessary. Today, like yesterday, the Christian life demands courage to go against the tide, to love as Jesus did, who ended up sacrificing himself on the cross.
We can say therefore, paraphrasing St. Augustine, that through earthly riches we should obtain those that are true and eternal: If in fact there are people who are ready for any kind of dishonest action to ensure material well-being, which isn't sure, how much more we Christians must try to provide for our eternal happiness with the goods of this earth (cf. "Discourses" 359:10). Now, the only way our personal gifts and abilities will be fruitful along with the wealth we possess is to share them with our brethren, showing ourselves to be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Jesus says: "Whoever is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in little will be dishonest also in much" (Luke 16:10-11).
The prophet Amos speaks about this fundamental choice to be performed day after day in today's first reading. With strong words, he stigmatizes a typical style of life of someone who lets themselves be drawn in by a selfish search for profit in every possible way and is transformed into a thirst for gain, a contempt for the poor and in exploitation of the poor for their own advantage (cf. Amos 4:5). The Christian must energetically reject all of this, opening his heart, on the contrary, to feelings of authentic generosity. A generosity that, as St. Paul tells us in today's second reading, is expressed in a sincere love for all and is manifested in the first place in prayer. A grand gesture of charity is to pray for others.
The Apostle invites us first of all to pray for those who carry out tasks of responsibility in the civil community, because -- he explains -- from their decisions, if they tend toward the common good, result in positive consequences, ensuring peace and "a calm and tranquil life with piety and dignity" for all (1 Timothy 2:2). Our prayer is just as valuable, a spiritual support for the edification of an ecclesial community faithful to Christ and to the construction of a more just and supportive society.