BKCC - Message From Peter's Throne

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter's Square
Sunday, 12 October 2008

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, four new figures of Saints are proposed for the veneration of the universal Church: Gaetano Errico, Maria Bernarda Bütler, Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception and Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán. The liturgy presents them to us with the Gospel image of the guests who take part at the banquet clad in the wedding garment. We also find the image of the banquet in the First Reading and in other passages in the Bible: it is a joyful image because the banquet accompanies a wedding feast, the Covenant of love between God and his People. The Old Testament prophets constantly led Israel to expect this Covenant. And in an epoch marked by trials of every kind, it was when the difficulties risked discouraging the chosen People that the Prophet Isaiah raised his reassuring voice: "the Lord of hosts", he says, "will make for all peoples a feast of rich and choice wine, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines (25: 6). God will put an end to the sorrow and shame of his People, who will be able at last to live in the happiness of communion with him. God never abandons his People: for this reason the Prophet invites us to rejoice: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us... let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us" (v. 9).

If the First Reading exalts God's fidelity to his promise, the Gospel, with the parable of the marriage feast, makes us reflect on the human response. Several of those first invited refused the invitation because they were attracted by different interests; others even disdained the king's invitation, provoking a punishment that afflicted not only them but also the entire city. However, the king was not discouraged and sent his servants out to seek other guests to fill his banquet hall. Thus the aspect of the refusal of those initially invited caused the invitation to be extended to all, with a special predilection for the poor and the disadvantaged. This is what occurred in the Paschal Mystery: the force of evil is defeated by the omnipotence of God's love. The Risen Lord can now invite everyone to the banquet of Paschal joy and he himself can provide the guests with a wedding garment, symbol of the free gift of sanctifying grace.

However, the human being must reciprocate God's generosity by freely adhering to him. It is precisely this generous path that was taken by those who we are venerating today as Saints. In Baptism they received the wedding garment of divine grace, they kept it clean and purified it and made it radiant during their life through the Sacraments. They are now taking part in the wedding feast in Heaven. The banquet of the Eucharist is an anticipation of the final feast in Heaven, to which the Lord invites us every day and in which we must take part, clothed in the wedding garment of his grace. Should it happen that we soil or even tear this garment with sin, God's goodness does not reject or abandon us to our destiny but rather offers us, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the possibility of restoring the wedding garment to the pristine state required for the feast.

"He will swallow up death for ever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces" (Is 25: 8). These words of the prophet Isaiah contain the promise which sustained Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception through a life of extreme physical and spiritual suffering. This exceptional woman, who today is offered to the people of India as their first canonized saint, was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father. By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the "rich fare and choice wines" of the heavenly kingdom (cf. Is 25: 6). She wrote, "I consider a day without suffering as a day lost". May we imitate her in shouldering our own crosses so as to join her one day in paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank the Lord for the gift of holiness that is today resplendent in the Church with singular beauty. Jesus invites each one of us to follow him, like these Saints, on the way of the Cross, so that we might then inherit the eternal life that he, dying, gave to us. May their examples be an encouragement to us; may their teachings guide and comfort us; may their intercession sustain us in our daily efforts so that we too may one day come to share with them and with all the saints the joy of the eternal banquet in the heavenly Jerusalem. Above all may Mary Queen of All Saints, who in this month of October we venerate with special devotion, obtain this grace for us. Amen.

[Relevant parts of homily of His Holiness Benedict XVI at St Peter's Square on Sunday, 12 October 2008, taken from www.vatican.va]

Last Updated on Friday, 28 January 2011 18:20