Monday, November 21, 2011

Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple - The Holy Father's Closing Homily in Benin

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As we venerate the glorious memory of the most holy Virgin Mary, grant, we pray, O Lord, through her intercession, that we, too, may merit to receive the fullness of your grace. Through our Lord.   

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Les parents qui aiment vraiment Dieu Lui ont, de tout temps, consacré leurs enfants, avant et après leur naissance. Parmi les Juifs, existait de plus l'usage de consacrer quelques fois à Dieu les enfants en bas âge; on les amenait au Temple, où avait lieu la cérémonie de la consécration, puis ils habitaient dans les dépendances du Temple et servaient les prêtres et les lévites dans leurs fonctions. Nous avons des exemples de cette consécration spéciale dans la personne de Samuel et de quelques autres saints personnages. Il y avait aussi des appartements pour les femmes dévouées au service divin.
L'Évangile ne nous apprend rien de l'enfance de Marie; Son titre de Mère de Dieu efface tout le reste. Mais la tradition est plus explicite; elle nous apprend que la Sainte Vierge, dans Son enfance, fut solennellement offerte à Dieu dans Son Temple. Cette présentation est le sujet de la fête qu'on célèbre aujourd'hui. Ce sacrifice de Marie enfant renferme toutes les conditions du plus parfait sacrifice: il a été prompt, généreux, joyeux, sans retour, sans réserve. Combien il dut être agréable au Seigneur! Marie n'avait que trois ans, mais dans son âme la Trinité prenait déjà toutes Ses complaisances, et Dieu marquait le jour prochain où Elle ajouterait à tant d'autres gloires l'auréole incomparable de la maternité divine. Où mieux que loin du monde, dans l'enceinte du temple, Marie se fût-Elle préparée à Sa mission? Douze années de recueillement, de prière, de contemplation, telle fut la préparation de l'Élue de Dieu.
Voici, d'après saint Jérôme, comment se divisait la journée de Marie au Temple: Depuis l'aurore jusqu'à 9 heures du matin, Elle priait; de 9 heures à 3 heures Elle s'appliquait au travail des mains; ensuite Elle se remettait à la prière, jusqu'au moment où arrivait l'ange qui Lui apportait Sa nourriture. Elle était toujours la première aux veilles, la plus appliquée à l'étude, la plus fervente dans le chant des psaumes, la plus zélée dans les oeuvres de charité, la plus pure parmi les vierges ses compagnes, la plus parfaite dans la pratique de toutes les vertus. Marie, au jour de Sa Présentation, nous apparaît comme le porte-étendard de la virginité chrétienne. Après Elle viendront des légions innombrables de vierges consacrées au Seigneur, dans le monde ou à l'ombre des autels; Marie sera leur éternel modèle, leur patronne dévouée, leur guide sûr dans les voies de la perfection.
Abbé L. Jaud, Vie des Saints pour tous les jours de l'année, Tours, Mame, 1950.

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The Gospel which we have just heard tells us that Jesus, the Son of Man, the ultimate judge of our lives, wished to appear as one who hungers and thirsts, as a stranger, as one of those who are naked, sick or imprisoned, ultimately, of those who suffer or are outcast; how we treat them will be taken as the way we treat Jesus himself.
We do not see here a simple literary device, or a simple metaphor. Jesus’s entire existence is an example of it. He, the Son of God, became man, he shared our existence, even down to the smallest details, he became the servant of the least of his brothers and sisters. He who had nowhere to lay his head, was condemned to death on a cross. This is the King we celebrate!
Without a doubt this can appear a little disconcerting to us. Today, like two thousand years ago, accustomed to seeing the signs of royalty in success, power, money and ability, we find it hard to accept such a king, a king who makes himself the servant of the little ones, of the most humble, a king whose throne is a cross.
And yet, the Scriptures tell us, in this is the glory of Christ revealed; it is in the humility of his earthly existence that he finds his power to judge the world. For him, to reign is to serve! And what he asks of us is to follow him along the way, to serve, to be attentive to the cry of the poor, the weak, the outcast. The baptized know that the decision to follow Christ can entail great sacrifices, at times even the sacrifice of one’s life. However, as Saint Paul reminds us, Christ has overcome death and he brings us with him in his resurrection. He introduces us to a new world, a world of freedom and joy.
Today, so much still binds us to the world of the past, so many fears hold us prisoners and prevent us from living in freedom and happiness. Let us allow Christ to free us from the world of the past! Our faith in him, which frees us from all our fears and miseries, gives us access to a new world, a world where justice and truth are not a byword, a world of interior freedom and of peace with ourselves, with our neighbours and with God. This is the gift God gave us at our baptism!
“Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). Let us receive this word of blessing which the Son of Man will, on the Day of Judgement, address to those who have recognized his presence in the lowliest of their brethren, with a heart free and full of the love of the Lord! Brothers and sisters, the words of the Gospel are truly words of hope, because the King of the universe has drawn near to us, the servant of the least and lowliest.
Here I would like to greet with affection all those persons who are suffering, those who are sick, those affected by AIDS or by other illnesses, to all those forgotten by society. Have courage! The Pope is close to you in his thoughts and prayers. Have courage! Jesus wanted to identify himself with the poor, with the sick; he wanted to share your suffering and to see you as his brothers and sisters, to free you from every affliction, from all suffering. Every sick person, every poor person deserves our respect and our love because, through them, God shows us the way to heaven.
The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be concerned for evangelization in your country, and among the peoples of your continent and the whole world. The recent Synod of Bishops for Africa stated this in no uncertain terms: the man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters. This would be completely opposed to the example of Jesus.
The Christian is a tireless builder of communion, peace and solidarity - gifts which Jesus himself has given us. By being faithful to him, we will cooperate in the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be authentically converted to him. He alone gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. Rediscover the roots of your existence in the baptism which you received and which makes you children of God! May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith!

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The Preparation of the Gifts

One of the most noticeable changes is the priest’s injunction during the preparation of the gifts to the people: “Pray brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father”.

The sacrifice that we all offer at Mass is not only the bread and wine that will become the Body and Blood of Christ but also the sacrifice of our daily work, our prayers, and our family life – in short, the sacrifice of every area of our lives ‐ that we all offer to God at every Mass.

There is a Catholic traditional prayer that many people pray at the beginning of the day called “The Morning Offering” where we offer to God the whole day and everything in it – our works, our joys, our sufferings and our hopes – which echoes this total sacrifice of our lives to God.

That is why everyone who attends Mass participates in the sacrifice of the Mass in offering themselves on the altar with the bread and wine to God and so we reflect that reality in the priest’s words “my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable”.  Rev. Geoffrey Kerslake
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The Morning Offering

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for your favors, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.  

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