September 1, 2008
On the Reality
"It Is Not 'Optional' for Christians to Take Up the Cross"
CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a
translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before
reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in
the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Today, too, the apostle Peter is in the foreground of the Gospel
reading. But while last Sunday we admired his straightforward faith
in Jesus, whom he proclaimed Messiah and Son of God, this time, in
the episode that immediately follows, he displays a faith that is
still immature and too much influenced by the “mentality of this
world” (cf. Romans 12:2).
When, in fact, Jesus begins to speak openly about the fate that
awaits him in Jerusalem, when he says that he must suffer much, be
killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No
such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).
It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed
ways of thinking. Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced
that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the
cross. Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great
love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means
the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen.
On the other hand, he knows that the resurrection will be the last
word. Peter’s protest, though spoken in good faith and out of
sincere love of the Master, sounds to Jesus like temptation, an
invitation to save himself, while it is only in losing his life that
his life will be returned to him eternally for all of us.
If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it
certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father.
The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure
us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his
blood. In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus
defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God.
But the battle is not over: Evil exists and resists in every
generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence
visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes
the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God? And
how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that
defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the
mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood
and of being abandoned by many of his followers.
Dear brothers and sisters, to complete the work of salvation, the
Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women
who are ready to take up the cross and follow him. Just as with
Christ, it is not “optional” for Christians to take up the cross; it
is rather a mission to be embraced out of love.
In our present world, where the forces that divide and destroy seem
to prevail, Christ does not cease to propose his clear invitation to
all: Whosoever wants to be my disciple, he must renounce his
selfishness and carry the cross with me.
Let us invoke of the Holy Virgin, who was the first to follow Jesus
and followed him to the way of the cross. May she help us to follow
the Lord with decisiveness so as to experience from this point on,
and in trial too, the glory of the resurrection.
[Following the Angelus the Pope said the following:]
In recent weeks the news has reported the growth in the episodes of
irregular immigration in Africa. It is not rare that crossing the
Mediterranean toward the European continent -- which is seen as a
place of hope to escape adverse and often unbearable conditions --
ends in tragedy; what happened a few days ago seemed to surpass
previous incidents in terms of the number of victims.
Migration is a phenomenon that has been present from the dawn of
human history, and it has always, for this reason, characterized the
relations between peoples and nations. The emergency that migration
has become in our times, nevertheless, calls out to us and, while it
solicits our solidarity, demands, at the same time, effective
I know that many regional, national, and international institutions
are occupying themselves with the question of irregular migration: I
applaud them and encourage them to continue this meritorious work
with a sense of responsibility and humanitarian spirit. The
countries of origin must also show a sense of responsibility not
only because it is a matter of their own citizens, but also to
remove the causes of irregular migration and cut off at the root all
of the forms of criminality that are linked to these causes.
For their part, European countries, and all other countries that are
the destination of immigration, are called to, among other things,
develop through consensus initiatives and structures that continue
to adapt themselves to the needs of irregular migrants. The latter
must be made aware, on the one hand, of the value of their own
lives, which are a singular good, always precious, that should be
safeguarded in the face of the grave risks that the pursuit of
better situations exposes them to and, on the other hand, the duty
of legality that is imposed on all.
As the [Pope], I feel a profound obligation to recall everyone’s
attention to this problem and to ask for the generous cooperation of
individuals and institutions to deal with it and to find solutions.
May the Lord accompany us and make our efforts fruitful!
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[Then the Holy Father greeted the people in several languages. In
English, he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present for this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to
his disciples his coming passion, death and resurrection. He also
teaches us that, to follow him, we too must enter into the mystery
of the cross. Faithful obedience to God and loving service of our
neighbour do not always come easily. But to embrace the cross of
Christ is to share in his victory. May the Lord keep us in his love!
I wish you all a pleasant stay in Castel Gandolfo and Rome, and a
© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana