Pope Benedict XVI- Apostolic Journey to USA

Homily at Yankee Stadium
"Look to the Future With Hope"
Pope Benedict XVI
Yankee Stadium, New York City, USA
April 20, 2008

Here is the homily delivered by Pope Benedict XVI today during the Mass he celebrated in Yankee Stadium on the last day of his U.S. trip.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus tells his Apostles to put their faith in him, for he is "the way, and the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6). Christ is the way that leads to the Father, the truth which gives meaning to human existence, and the source of that life which is eternal joy with all the saints in his heavenly Kingdom. Let us take the Lord at his word! Let us renew our faith in him and put all our hope in his promises!

With this encouragement to persevere in the faith of Peter (cf. Lk 22:32; Mt 16:17), I greet all of you with great affection. I thank Cardinal Egan for his cordial words of welcome in your name. At this Mass, the Church in the United States celebrates the two hundredth anniversary of the creation of the Sees of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Louisville from the mother See of Baltimore. The presence around this altar of the Successor of Peter, his brother bishops and priests, and deacons, men and women religious, and lay faithful from throughout the fifty states of the Union, eloquently manifests our communion in the Catholic faith which comes to us from the Apostles.

Our celebration today is also a sign of the impressive growth which God has given to the Church in your country in the past two hundred years. From a small flock like that described in the first reading, the Church in America has been built up in fidelity to the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. In this land of freedom and opportunity, the Church has united a widely diverse flock in the profession of the faith and, through her many educational, charitable and social works, has also contributed significantly to the growth of American society as a whole.

This great accomplishment was not without its challenges. Todayís first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of linguistic and cultural tensions already present within the earliest Church community. At the same time, it shows the power of the word of God, authoritatively proclaimed by the Apostles and received in faith, to create a unity which transcends the divisions arising from human limitations and weakness. Here we are reminded of a fundamental truth: that the Churchís unity has no other basis than the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus our Lord. All external signs of identity, all structures, associations and programs, valuable or even essential as they may be, ultimately exist only to support and foster the deeper unity which, in Christ, is Godís indefectible gift to his Church.

The first reading also makes clear, as we see from the imposition of hands on the first deacons, that the Churchís unity is "apostolic". It is a visible unity, grounded in the Apostles whom Christ chose and appointed as witnesses to his resurrection, and it is born of what the Scriptures call "the obedience of faith" (Rom 1:5; cf. Acts 6:7).

"Authority" Ö "obedience". To be frank, these are not easy words to speak nowadays. Words like these represent a "stumbling stone" for many of our contemporaries, especially in a society which rightly places a high value on personal freedom. Yet, in the light of our faith in Jesus Christ -- "the way and the truth and the life" -- we come to see the fullest meaning, value, and indeed beauty, of those words. The Gospel teaches us that true freedom, the freedom of the children of God, is found only in the self-surrender which is part of the mystery of love. Only by losing ourselves, the Lord tells us, do we truly find ourselves (cf. Lk 17:33). True freedom blossoms when we turn away from the burden of sin, which clouds our perceptions and weakens our resolve, and find the source of our ultimate happiness in him who is infinite love, infinite freedom, infinite life. "In his will is our peace".

Real freedom, then, is Godís gracious gift, the fruit of conversion to his truth, the truth which makes us free (cf. Jn 8:32). And this freedom in truth brings in its wake a new and liberating way of seeing reality. When we put on "the mind of Christ" (cf. Phil 2:5), new horizons open before us! In the light of faith, within the communion of the Church, we also find the inspiration and strength to become a leaven of the Gospel in the world. We become the light of the world, the salt of the earth (cf. Mt 5:13-14), entrusted with the "apostolate" of making our own lives, and the world in which we live, conform ever more fully to Godís saving plan.

This magnificent vision of a world being transformed by the liberating truth of the Gospel is reflected in the description of the Church found in todayís second reading. The Apostle tells us that Christ, risen from the dead, is the keystone of a great temple which is even now rising in the Spirit. And we, the members of his body, through Baptism have become "living stones" in that temple, sharing in the life of God by grace, blessed with the freedom of the sons of God, and empowered to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to him (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). And what is this offering which we are called to make, if not to direct our every thought, word and action to the truth of the Gospel and to harness all our energies in the service of Godís Kingdom? Only in this way can we build with God, on the one foundation which is Christ (cf. 1 Cor 3:11). Only in this way can we build something that will truly endure. Only in this way can our lives find ultimate meaning and bear lasting fruit.

Today we recall the bicentennial of a watershed in the history of the Church in the United States: its first great chapter of growth. In these two hundred years, the face of the Catholic community in your country has changed greatly. We think of the successive waves of immigrants whose traditions have so enriched the Church in America. We think of the strong faith which built up the network of churches, educational, healthcare and social institutions which have long been the hallmark of the Church in this land. We think also of those countless fathers and mothers who passed on the faith to their children, the steady ministry of the many priests who devoted their lives to the care of souls, and the incalculable contribution made by so many men and women religious, who not only taught generations of children how to read and write, but also inspired in them a lifelong desire to know God, to love him and to serve him. How many "spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God" have been offered up in these two centuries! In this land of religious liberty, Catholics found freedom not only to practice their faith, but also to participate fully in civic life, bringing their deepest moral convictions to the public square and cooperating with their neighbors in shaping a vibrant, democratic society. Todayís celebration is more than an occasion of gratitude for graces received. It is also a summons to move forward with firm resolve to use wisely the blessings of freedom, in order to build a future of hope for coming generations.

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people he claims for his own, to proclaim his glorious works" (1 Pet 2:9). These words of the Apostle Peter do not simply remind us of the dignity which is ours by Godís grace; they also challenge us to an ever greater fidelity to the glorious inheritance which we have received in Christ (cf. Eph 1:18). They challenge us to examine our consciences, to purify our hearts, to renew our baptismal commitment to reject Satan and all his empty promises. They challenge us to be a people of joy, heralds of the unfailing hope (cf. Rom 5:5) born of faith in Godís word, and trust in his promises.

Each day, throughout this land, you and so many of your neighbors pray to the Father in the Lordís own words: "Thy Kingdom come". This prayer needs to shape the mind and heart of every Christian in this nation. It needs to bear fruit in the way you lead your lives and in the way you build up your families and your communities. It needs to create new "settings of hope" (cf. Spe Salvi, 32ff.) where Godís Kingdom becomes present in all its saving power.

Praying fervently for the coming of the Kingdom also means being constantly alert for the signs of its presence, and working for its growth in every sector of society. It means facing the challenges of present and future with confidence in Christís victory and a commitment to extending his reign. It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness. It also means rejecting a false dichotomy between faith and political life, since, as the Second Vatican Council put it, "there is no human activity -- even in secular affairs -- which can be withdrawn from Godís dominion" (Lumen Gentium, 36). It means working to enrich American society and culture with the beauty and truth of the Gospel, and never losing sight of that great hope which gives meaning and value to all the other hopes which inspire our lives.

And this, dear friends, is the particular challenge which the Successor of Saint Peter sets before you today. As "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation", follow faithfully in the footsteps of those who have gone before you! Hasten the coming of Godís Kingdom in this land! Past generations have left you an impressive legacy. In our day too, the Catholic community in this nation has been outstanding in its prophetic witness in the defense of life, in the education of the young, in care for the poor, the sick and the stranger in your midst. On these solid foundations, the future of the Church in America must even now begin to rise!

Yesterday, not far from here, I was moved by the joy, the hope and the generous love of Christ which I saw on the faces of the many young people assembled in Dunwoodie. They are the Churchís future, and they deserve all the prayer and support that you can give them. And so I wish to close by adding a special word of encouragement to them. My dear young friends, like the seven men, "filled with the Spirit and wisdom" whom the Apostles charged with care for the young Church, may you step forward and take up the responsibility which your faith in Christ sets before you! May you find the courage to proclaim Christ, "the same, yesterday, and today and for ever" and the unchanging truths which have their foundation in him (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10; Heb 13:8). These are the truths that set us free! They are the truths which alone can guarantee respect for the inalienable dignity and rights of each man, woman and child in our world -- including the most defenseless of all human beings, the unborn child in the motherís womb. In a world where, as Pope John Paul II, speaking in this very place, reminded us, Lazarus continues to stand at our door (Homily at Yankee Stadium, October 2, 1979, No. 7), let your faith and love bear rich fruit in outreach to the poor, the needy and those without a voice. Young men and women of America, I urge you: open your hearts to the Lordís call to follow him in the priesthood and the religious life. Can there be any greater mark of love than this: to follow in the footsteps of Christ, who was willing to lay down his life for his friends (cf. Jn 15:13)?

In todayís Gospel, the Lord promises his disciples that they will perform works even greater than his (cf. Jn 14:12). Dear friends, only God in his providence knows what works his grace has yet to bring forth in your lives and in the life of the Church in the United States. Yet Christís promise fills us with sure hope. Let us now join our prayers to his, as living stones in that spiritual temple which is his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Let us lift our eyes to him, for even now he is preparing for us a place in his Fatherís house. And empowered by his Holy Spirit, let us work with renewed zeal for the spread of his Kingdom.

"Happy are you who believe!" (cf. 1 Pet 2:7). Let us turn to Jesus! He alone is the way that leads to eternal happiness, the truth who satisfies the deepest longings of every heart, and the life who brings ever new joy and hope, to us and to our world. Amen.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[The Pope continued in Spanish:]

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

I greet you with affection and I am happy to celebrate this holy Mass in thanksgiving to God for the bicentennial of the moment in which the Catholic Church in this nation began to develop. Upon looking at the path of faith taken in these years, not without difficulties, we praise the Lord for the fruits that the Word of God has given these lands and shows to him our desire that Christ, the way, the truth and the life, be know and love more each day.

Here, in this country of freedom, I want to proclaim with strength that the Word of Christ does not eliminate our aspirations to a full and free life, but rather in it we discover our true dignity as sons of God and it encourages us to fight against all that enslaves us, beginning with our own egotism and whims. At the same time, it encourages us to manifest our faith through our life of charity and make our ecclesial lives be each day more welcoming and fraternal.

Above all to the youth I entrust you to take on the great challenge that comes with believing in Christ, and to manifest your faith through closeness to the poor, and through generous responses to the calls that he continues to make to leave everything and begin a life of total consecration to God and the Church, in the priestly or religious life.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invite you to look to the future with hope, allowing Jesus to enter into your lives. Only he is the path that leads to the happiness that never ends, the truth that satisfies the noblest human aspirations, and the life overflowing with joy for the good of the Church and the world.

May God bless you.

[Translation by ZENIT]
 

 

Cardinal Egan's Greeting at Papal Mass
We "Feel Especially Blessed By Your Coming Among Us"
Yankee Stadium, New York City, USA
April 20, 2008

Here is the greeting Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York, gave to Benedict XVI before the Pontiff celebrated Mass today at Yankee Stadium.

Most Holy Father, welcome to New York!

Your pastoral visit is for all of us gathered here this afternoon an immense blessing for which we are truly and deeply grateful.

Two hundred years ago this month, your wise and heroic predecessor of happy memory, Pope Pius VII, elevated the Diocese of Baltimore, the only Diocese in the nation at the time, to the dignity of an Archdiocese and created within its Metropolitan Province four Suffragan Sees. They were Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Bardstown, which is now Louisville. All four have since become Archdioceses and, along with Baltimore, are engaged in Bicentennial Celebrations which, in the providence of God, culminate most fittingly with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered by the Vicar of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, here in our midst. For your visit and your leading us in this Eucharist, Most Holy Father, we express our humble and heartfelt gratitude.

With us on this splendid and grace-filled occasion are cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and faithful from all 195 dioceses and archdioceses of the United States of America. They represent an extraordinary variety of races and ethnic backgrounds, all united in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of which you are the Supreme Shepherd. They are joined by clergy and laity of many faiths and communions, political leaders, and men, women, and children from every corner of this land. It is an extraordinary privilege to be allowed to tell you on their behalf what a splendid and deeply appreciated grace your presence is for all of us.

Most Holy Father, we have read with pleasure and gratitude your most recent Encyclical Letter, ďSaved by Hope.Ē It sets the theme for this Eucharist, ďChrist, Our Easter Hope,Ē and points out most tellingly the path we need to follow with unlimited trust and confidence in the Lord over the years that lie ahead. Thank you most sincerely for that Encyclical and for all that you have said, written, and done over the past three years as Successor of Saint Peter to deepen our faith and strengthen our commitment to live as the Lord has taught us to live.

Finally, Most Holy Father, allow me to add that we in New York feel especially blessed by your coming among us in our Cathedral, at our seminary, in one of our parish churches, before the world community at the United Nations, and in Lower Manhattan at what we have come to call ďGround Zero,Ē a place of tragedy hallowed by your concern and prayer.

Please know that your visit inspires and heightens in the hearts of all of us that ďlife-changing and life-sustaining hopeĒ about which you wrote in your Encyclical Letter with such depth and learning. We pray for the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff, and the Vicar of Christ; and we promise to continue that prayer throughout the years that lie ahead with ever-greater love and hope.

Most Holy Father, welcome!
 

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