Tag Archives: Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict and the rich man and Lazarus

Today’s Gospel, from Luke 16: 19-31, is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Some translations call the rich man “Dives,” but that is only the Latin word for “rich.”

Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy will include his concern for the poor and his critique of the Western economic system. But it is rooted in his concern for the poor and their dignity.

In his 2012 Lenten message he wrote these words about today’s parable:

In [the parable] of Dives and Lazarus, the rich man is heedless of the poverty of Lazarus, who is starving to death at his very door (cf. Lk 16:19). Both parables [the Good Samaritan and the Rich Man and Lazarus] show examples of the opposite of “being concerned”, of looking upon others with love and compassion. What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor. Humbleness of heart and the personal experience of suffering can awaken within us a sense of compassion and empathy. “The upright understands the cause of the weak, the wicked has not the wit to understand it” (Prov 29:7). We can then understand the beatitude of “those who mourn” (Mt 5:5), those who in effect are capable of looking beyond themselves and feeling compassion for the suffering of others. Reaching out to others and opening our hearts to their needs can become an opportunity for salvation and blessedness.

May we learn to see the poor as our sisters and brothers, to not hold on to our possessions and power, but to share in “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted…” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 1)

That perhaps would be the best way we could remember and honor Pope Benedict XVI.


Ash Wednesday, fraternal correction, and the White Rose

In his Lenten message this year Pope Benedict called Catholics to renew the practice of “fraternal correction,” recovering the spiritual work of mercy of “admonishing the sinner” as a dimension of Christian charity.

I believe that admonishing the sinner is not only something that concerns individuals. I believe that we are called to denounce injustices in our society as failures of love. That’s why I share stories of witnesses who have given their lives.

On this day, February 22, in 1943, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and Christopher Probst, three young Germans, members of the White Rose, were put to death by the Nazis. The White Rose was a clandestine group of mostly young Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Germans in the Munich area who opposed Hitler and disseminated written material by mail, by night distribution, and by throwing pamphlets in public places.

Sophie and Hans were caught after distributing the leaflets at a Munich University.

Another member, Alexander Schmorell, was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on February 4 of this year. Jim Forest has some beautiful and moving pictures of the canonization, of places connected with the White Rose, and of some of the members in his Flickr set.

A few years ago a moving film on Sophie Scholl was produced, called “Sophie Scholl: The Final Days.”

As Lent begins it is helpful to remember these witnesses against evil for their courage and ingenuity in resisting. For many of them their faith and the search for God sustained them in the struggle and the difficult times of Nazi Germany.

This is clear from these words of Sophie Scholl:

The only remedy for a barren heart is prayer, however poor and inadequate…

I’m still so remote from God that I don’t even sense his presence when I pray. Sometimes when I utter God’s name, in fact, I feel like sinking into a void. It isn’t a frightening or dizzying sensation, it’s nothing at all — and that’s far more terrible. But prayer is the only remedy for it, and however many devils scurry around inside me, I shall cling to the rope God has thrown me, even if my numb hands can no longer feel it.

This Lent let us cling to the rope God has thrown us, pray often, and speak out against injustice – admonishing our society and our nation to stop practices of injustice and oppression.


A New Year for Peace

From Pope Benedict XVI’s message for World Peace Day, January 1, 2012:

Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9). Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice, according to one’s particular areas of competence and responsibility. To the young, who have such a strong attachment to ideals, I extend a particular invitation to be patient and persevering in seeking justice and peace, in cultivating the taste for what is just and true, even when it involves sacrifice and swimming against the tide.