Sword of the Sufferer – Part I: Prayer & Poverty
This talk is inspired on Pope Benedict's General audience of Oct 26, 2011:
“It Is Not the Sword of the Conqueror That Builds Peace, But the Sword of the Sufferer”
In front of St. Peter's Basilica there stand two great statues of Sts. Peter and Paul, which are easily identifiable: St. Peter holds keys in his hands, and Paul instead holds a sword. One who is unfamiliar with the story of the latter might think he is a great captain who commanded powerful armies and subjected peoples and nations with the sword, procuring for himself fame and riches by others' blood. Instead it is exactly the opposite: The sword he holds is the instrument with which Paul was put to death, with which he underwent martyrdom and shed his own blood. His battle was not one of violence and of war but of martyrdom for Christ. His only weapon was the proclamation of "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). His preaching was not based "on plausible words and wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power" (Verse 4). He dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel's message of reconciliation and peace, spending all his energy in order that it might resound to the very ends of the earth.
And this was his strength(St Paul's): He did not seek a tranquil, comfortable life, far from difficulties and contradictions; rather, he wore himself out for the sake of the Gospel, he gave himself entirely and without reserve, and in this way he became the great messenger of Christ's peace and reconciliation.
The sword that St. Paul holds also recalls the power of truth, which can often wound, can hurt: the Apostle remained faithful to this truth to the end; he served it; he suffered for it; he gave over his life for it. This same logic holds true also for us if we want to be bearers of the kingdom and peace announced by the Prophet Zechariah and fulfilled by Christ: We must be willing to pay personally, to suffer in the first person misunderstanding, rejection, persecution. It is not the sword of the conqueror that builds peace, but the sword of the sufferer, of he who knows how to give his very life.
God and peace
Whoever is on the path to God cannot but transmit peace, whoever builds peace cannot but come closer to God –Pope Benedict XVI.
As Christians, we believe that the most precious contribution we can make to the cause of peace is that of prayer... The Lord can enlighten our minds and hearts and guide us to be builders of justice and reconciliation in our daily lives and in the world. –Pope Benedict XVI.
Our Lord to us on prayer (8/23/2010):
When I say your life is a prayer, your life is an offering. To offer Me your life is the perfect prayer. Your thoughts directed to Me, directed to Love, is a prayer. Your touch is a most beautiful prayer. Your words of encouragement and love to others is a prayer. Your efforts to bring peace and unity in your families is a prayer. Your smile is a prayer. But your most perfect prayer is your pure suffering united to Me and My Mother. The prayer of pure suffering is the sweetest fragrance that reaches and delights the Heart of our Father. This is also the prayer that produces an abundance of fruit. This is the prayer that is most united to Mine as I intercede before the throne of My Father. This is why My Mother's suffering of solitude produced and continues to produce showers of graces upon the world. I wish the Mothers and Missionaries of the Cross to be perfected in the prayer of suffering. It is through contemplative prayer that you come to know Me and the prayer in which I fill, guide and form you, but it is the prayer of suffering in which you honor, console and love Me and participate in the redemption of souls. The prayer of thanksgiving and praise should be your every breath.
Pope Benedict XVI:
(In Bethlehem) The Angel announces a great joy which will come to all the people, and which is tied to a sign of poverty: a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (cf. Luke 2:8-12). And a multitude of the heavenly host sings 'Glory to God in the highest and on the earth peace among men, whom He loves' (Verse 14, to men of goodwill.
But let us also go to the final moments of Christ's life, when He enters Jerusalem welcomed by a jubilant crowd. The Prophet Zechariah's announcement (cf. Zechariah 9:10) of the coming of a meek and humble king returned to the minds of Jesus' disciples in a particular way after the events of the Passion, Death and Resurrection -- of the Paschal Mystery – when they reconsidered with the eyes of faith the Master's joyous entrance into the Holy City. He rides upon an ass, which was borrowed (cf. Matthew 21:2-7): He does not ride in a stately carriage or on horseback like the great ones. He does not enter Jerusalem accompanied by a powerful army of chariots and charioteers. He is a poor king, the king of God's poor. In the Greek text, the word praeîs appears, which means "gentle", "meek"; Jesus is the king of the anawim, of those whose hearts are free of the lust for power and material riches, free of the will and the search for dominion over others. Jesus is the king of all those who possess that interior freedom that enables them to overcome the greed and egoism of the world, and who know that God is their only wealth.
Union with the Cross
Pope Benedict XVI:
Jesus is the poor king among the poor, meek among those who desire to be meek. In this way, He is the king of peace, thanks to the power of God, which is the power of good, the power of love. He is a king who causes the chariots and charioteers of battle to disappear, who will shatter the bows of war; He is a king who will bring peace to fulfillment on the Cross by joining heaven and earth, and by throwing a bridge of brotherhood between all peoples. The Cross is the new bow of peace, the sign and instrument of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of understanding, a sign of the love that is stronger than all violence and oppression, stronger than death: Evil is conquered with good, with love.
This is the new kingdom of peace whose king is Christ; and it is a kingdom that extends over all the earth. The Prophet Zechariah announces that this humble, peaceful king will have dominion "from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth" (Zechariah 9:10). The reign inaugurated by Christ has universal dimensions. The horizons of this poor and gentle king are neither a territory nor a state, but rather the very ends of the earth; transcending every barrier of race, language and culture, He creates communion; He creates unity.
And where do we see this announcement fulfilled today? The prophecy of Zechariah shines with splendor in the great net of Eucharistic communities that extends over all the earth. These form a great mosaic of communities in which this gentle and peaceful king's sacrifice of love is made present; they form a multitude of "islands of peace" that radiate peace. Everywhere, in every circumstance and reality, in every culture, from the great cities with their palaces to tiny villages with their humble abodes, from towering cathedrals to little chapels, He comes, He makes Himself present; and in entering into communion with Him, men are also united with one another in one body, overcoming division, rivalries, and resentment. The Lord comes in the Eucharist to take us away from our individualism, our particularities that exclude others, to form of us one body, one kingdom of peace in a divided world.
Dear family, this is essential to our way of life. This is the meaning of poverty. 1-Jesus' humility, gentleness, meekness and poverty must become our own. He is the king of the anawim. 2-For this transformation to occur we must be a Eucharistic community, 3-Not just receiving Him but joining His sacrifice of love, becoming one with Him and thus making him present through us. (Victims of love in Him) 4-This is the way of unity with God and with our brothers and sisters. This is the only way to overcome individualism, division, rivalries and resentment. This is the power of the cross applied to us.
Jesus does not shepherd wolfs but only sheep
Pope Benedict XVI:
But how can we build this kingdom of peace in which Christ is king? The commandment which he leaves his Apostles and, through them, each of us is: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations... and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19). Like Jesus, the messengers of peace of his kingdom must set out, they must respond to his invitation. They must go, but not with the might of war or the force of power. In the Gospel passage that we listened to Jesus sends 70 disciples out into the great harvest, which is the world, inviting them to pray the Lord of the harvest that there may be no lack of labourers in his harvest (cf. Lk 10:1-3); but he does not send them with powerful means, but “as lambs in the midst of wolves” (v. 3), without purse, bag, or sandals (cf. v. 4). St John Chrysostom, in one of his homilies, comments: “For so long as we are sheep, we conquer: though ten thousand wolves prowl around, we overcome and prevail. But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us” (Homily 33, 1: PG 57, 389). Christians must never yield to the temptation to become wolves among wolves; it is not with might, with force, with violence that Christ’s kingdom of peace grows, but with the gift of self, with love carried to the extreme, even towards enemies. Jesus does not conquer the world with the force of arms, but with the force of the Cross, which is the true guarantee of victory. The consequence of this for those who want to be disciples of the Lord, his envoys, is to be prepared for the passion and martyrdom, to lose their own life for him, so that in the world goodness, love and peace may triumph. This is the prerequisite needed to say, upon entering into every situation: “Peace be to this house” (Lk 10:5).