"The Church Has Recognized in the Way a Special Gift That the Holy Spirit Has Given Our Time"
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 20, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today to members of the Neocatechumenal Way.
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Dear brothers and sisters,
This year I have the joy to meet you and share with you this moment of sending out for the mission. A special greeting to Kiko Argüello, Carmen Hernández and Father Mario Pezzi, and an affectionate greeting to you all: priests, seminarians, families, formators and members of the Neocatechumenal Way. Your presence today is a visible testimony of your joyful commitment to living the faith, in communion with the whole Church and with the Successor of Peter, and to be courageous heralds of the Gospel.
In the passage we heard from St. Matthew, the apostles received a clear mandate from Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). At first they doubted, in their hearts there was still uncertainty, wonder before the event of the Resurrection. And it is Jesus himself, the Risen one -- the Evangelist underlines -- who draws close to them, makes his presence felt, sends them to teach all that he has communicated to them, giving a certainty that accompanies every preacher of Christ: "And behold I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). They are words that resonate strongly in your hearts. You have sung Resurrexit, expressing faith in the Living One, the One who, in a supreme act of love has conquered sin and death and gives to man, to us, the warmth of the love of God, the hope of being saved, a future of eternity.
In these decades of life of the Way, one of your strong commitments has been to proclaim the Risen Christ, responding with generosity to his words, often abandoning personal and material safety, even leaving your own countries, facing new and not always easy situations. Bringing Christ to the people and bringing people to Christ: this is what breathes life into each work of evangelization. You do it in a way that helps those who have already received the baptism of faith discover the beauty of the life of faith, the joy of being Christians. The "following of Christ" requires the personal adventure of looking for him, of going with him, and always involves going out of the closed-ness of one's ego, breaking down the individualism that often characterizes the society of our time, to replace selfishness with the community of the new man in Jesus Christ. And this happens in a deep personal relationship with him, in listening to his word, in walking the path that he has shown us, but it also happens inseparably with believing with his Church, with the saints, in whom one always discovers again and again the true face of the Bride of Christ.
It is a commitment -- we know -- that is not always easy. Sometimes you are present in places where there is need for a first proclamation of the Gospel, the mission ad gentes; often, however, in areas that, despite having known Christ, have become indifferent to faith: secularism has eclipsed the sense of God there, and eclipsed Christian values. Here, your commitment and your testimony is like yeast that, with patience, in time, with sensus Ecclesiae, causes the dough to rise. The Church has recognized in the Way a special gift that the Holy Spirit has given our time, and the approval of the Statutes and of the "Catechetical Directory" are a sign of this. I encourage you to offer your original contribution to the cause of the Gospel. In your valuable work, seek always a deep communion with the Apostolic See and with the Pastors of particular Churches, to which you belong: the unity and harmony of the body of the Church are an important witness to Christ and his Gospel in the world we live in.
Dear families, the Church thanks you; it needs you for the new evangelization. The family is an important cell for the ecclesial community, where one is formed in human and Christian life. With great joy I see your children, many children who look to you, dear parents, to your example. One hundred families are leaving for 12 missions ad gentes. I invite you not to be afraid: he who carries the Gospel is never alone. I greet with affection the priests and seminarians: love Christ and the Church, communicate the joy of having met him and the beauty of having given Him everything. I also greet the itinerants, directors and all the communities of the Way. Continue to be generous with the Lord: He will sustain you with his consolation!
A while ago I was reading the decree with which the celebrations which are in the "Catechetical Directory of the Neocatechumenal Way" are approved; celebrations which are not strictly liturgical, but are part of the itinerary of growth in faith. It is another element that shows you how the Church accompanies you with a patient discernment that includes your richness, but also looks to the communion and harmony of the whole Corpus Ecclesiae.
This gives me the opportunity to offer a brief thought on the value of the liturgy. The Second Vatican Council defines it as the work of Christ the Priest and of His Body the Church (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 7). At first glance this might seem strange, because it seems that the work of Christ refers to the historical redemptive action of Jesus, his Passion, Death and Resurrection. In what sense, then, is the liturgy the work of Christ? The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus are not only historical events; they reach into and penetrate history, but also transcend it and are always present in the heart of Christ. In the liturgical action of the Church there is the active presence of the Risen Christ who makes present and effective for us today the same Paschal Mystery; it draws us into this act of gift of Self that in his heart is always present, and causes us to participate in this presence of the Paschal Mystery. This work of the Lord Jesus, who is the real content of the Liturgy, the entering into the presence of the Paschal Mystery, is also the work of the Church, which, as his body, is a single entity with Christ -- Totus Christus caput et corpus -- says St. Augustine. In the celebration of the sacraments, Christ immerses us in the Paschal Mystery for us to pass from death to life, from sin to new life in Christ.
This applies most especially for the celebration of the Eucharist, which, being the summit of Christian life, is also the cornerstone of its rediscovery, to which the Neocatechumenate tends. As your Statutes read, "The Eucharist is essential to the Neocatechumenate, as a post-baptismal catechumenate, lived in small communities" (art. 13 §1). Precisely in order to promote the rapprochement to the wealth of the sacramental life by people who have strayed from the Church, or have not received adequate training, the Neocatechumenals may celebrate the Eucharist in small communities, after the first Vespers of Sunday, according to the provisions of the diocesan bishop (cf. Statutes, art. 13 §2). But every Eucharistic celebration is an action of the one Christ together with his one Church and therefore essentially open to all those who belong to this Church. This public character of the Holy Eucharist is expressed in the fact that every celebration of Holy Mass is ultimately directed by the Bishop as a member of the Episcopal College, responsible for a particular local church (cf. Vatican Council II, Dogmatic Constitution. Lumen Gentium, 26). The celebration in small communities, regulated by the liturgical books, which should be followed faithfully, and with the particular features approved in the Statutes of the Way, has the task of helping those who are undergoing the Neocatechumenal itinerary to receive the grace of being inserted into the saving mystery of Christ, which makes possible a Christian witness capable of assuming the traits of radicality. At the same time, the gradual growth in faith of the individual and of the small communities should promote their integration into the life of the larger ecclesial community, that finds in the liturgical celebration of the parish, in which and for which the Neocatechumenate is implemented (cf. Statutes, art. 6), its ordinary form. But even during the way it is important not to separate from the parish community, right in the celebration of the Eucharist which is the true place of the unity of all, where the Lord embraces us in the various states of our spiritual maturity and unites us in the one bread that makes us one body (cf. 1 Corinthian 10:16f).
Courage! The Lord does not fail to accompany you and I assure you of my prayers and I thank you for the many signs of closeness. I also ask you to remember me, too, in your prayers. May the Holy Virgin Mary with her maternal gaze assist you and may my Apostolic Blessing sustain you, which I extend to all the members of the Way. Thank you!