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New homilies from Benedict to be released; 1st on St. Joseph


Donatella Giagnori /EIDON/REPORTER

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 12/24/23

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave a homily on three aspects of St. Joseph for the 4th Sunday of Advent in 2013.

A previously unpublished homily from Benedict XVI was published by the Vatican’s semi-official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano; it is a reflection on St. Joseph, which the Emeritus Pope gave on the Fourth Sunday of Advent (liturgical cycle A), on December 22, 2013.

The homily was given by Benedict during a private Sunday celebration in the Chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery after his resignation.

And it is only the first of these homilies that will be published.

Fr. Federico Lombardi, longtime spokesman of the Vatican, explained in an interview accompanying the text published in German, that a collection of these “private” homilies have been made available.

These Italian-language homilies were recorded and transcribed by the “Memores Domini” – the consecrated women who lived with the Emeritus Pope – and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, his secretary and executor of his will, has entrusted them to the Dicastery of Communication (Libreria Editrice Vaticana), in collaboration with the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation.

They had already been mentioned by Archbishop Gänswein and the Pope Emeritus himself had spoken of preparing his Sunday homilies in retirement, working on them the previous week.

The collection contains more than 30 “private” homilies from the years of his pontificate and more than 100 from the first years after his resignation. They are in Italian and generally cover the liturgical cycles.

Fr. Lombardi is overseeing their publication, which is expected in the next few months.

“It will not be a volume from which to expect exegetical or theological novelties, but a substantial spiritual nourishment, in the line of the homiletic genre cultivated with care and deep priestly spirit by Joseph Ratzinger throughout his life,” a note from the Ratzinger Foundation explains.

The 1st: On St. Joseph

Vatican News in Italian has published the first homily.

The Pope Emeritus reflects on St. Joseph as “righteous,” considering this highest compliment of the Old Testament, but contrasting the Old and New Testaments.

“The fundamental act of a Christian is the encounter with Jesus, in Jesus with the word of God, which is Person,” the Pope Emeritus says (this is an Aleteia translation). But for the Old Testament, there cannot yet be a meeting of Christ; the Old Testament is God’s law, a path to prepare a meeting with Christ. So in the Old Testament, the fundamental act is following the law, being “righteous.”

The Pope said that this is “a danger and at the same time a promise, an open door.”

The danger is that in trying to fulfill the law, a person can remain inside himself, trying to perfect himself, and can even become bitter. “This is the danger: The mere observance of the law becomes impersonal, just a doing; man becomes hard and even bitter.” The Pope considered that this is also a danger in New Testament times, as heresies such as Jansenism have shown.

The promise, instead, is: “We can also see these prescriptions, not just as regulations, a package of norms, but as an expression of God’s will, in which God speaks to me, I speak to Him. By entering into this law I enter into dialogue with God, I learn the face of God, I begin to see God, and so I am on my way to the word of God himself, to Christ.”

This is how Joseph lived the Old Testament righteousness, the Pope explained.

He went on to consider two other qualities of St. Joseph: his discernment, and his simple and practical attitude.

Joseph was able to discern that it was God speaking through a dream. He had a sensitivity to the word of God that enabled him to understand that it wasn’t a mere dream, but a message.

And then, the third point, is St. Joseph’s response. Having recognized God’s voice, he believes and responds. Faith becomes “a foundation on which to act.”

“He was a practical and sober man, a man of decision, able to organize,” the Pope reflected. He found a place in Bethlehem, organized the escape to Egypt, finding a place to sleep … “this demanded a a practical man with a sense of action, with the ability to respond to challenges, to find ways to survive.”

So St. Joseph invites us on the one hand to this inner journey in the word of God, to be ever closer to the person to the Lord, but at the same time he invites us to a sober life, to work, to serve every day to do our duty in the great mosaic of history.

We thank God for the beautiful figure of St. Joseph. Let us pray, “Lord help us to be open for You, to find Your face more and more, to love You, to find love in the norm, to be rooted, fulfilled in love. Open us to the gift of discernment, to the ability to listen to You and to the sobriety of living according to Your will and in our vocation.” Amen!

Pope Benedict XVISaint Joseph
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