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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

HOLY THURSDAY: JESUS RESOLVES THE FALSE OPPOSITION BETWEEN OBEDIENCE AND FREEDOM


Vatican City, 5 April 2012 (VIS) - At 5.30 p.m. today in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, cathedral of Rome, Benedict XVI presided at the Mass of the Lord's Supper, thus beginning the Eater Triduum of 2012. During the celebration, imitating the gesture of the Lord towards the Apostles, the Pope washed the feet of twelve priests.

Holy Thursday, the Holy Father said in his homily, "is not only the day of the institution of the Blessed Eucharist, whose splendour bathes all else and in some ways draws it to itself. To Holy Thursday also belongs the dark night of the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus goes with His disciples; the solitude and abandonment of Jesus, Who in prayer goes forth to encounter the darkness of death".

"The disciples, whom Jesus wanted to have close to Him as an element of human support in that hour of extreme distress, quickly fell asleep. Yet they heard some fragments of the words of Jesus’ prayer and they witnessed His way of acting. Both were deeply impressed on their hearts and they transmitted them to Christians for all time. Jesus called God “Abba”. The word means - as they add - “Father”. Yet it is not the usual form of the word “father”, but rather a children’s word - an affectionate name which one would not have dared to use in speaking to God. It is the language of the one who is truly a “child”, the Son of the Father, the one who is conscious of being in communion with God, in deepest union with Him.

"If we ask ourselves what is most characteristic of the figure of Jesus in the Gospels, we have to say that it is His relationship with God. ... Now we know God as He truly is. He is Father, and this in an absolute goodness to which we can entrust ourselves. ... The One Who is Goodness is at the same time Power; He is all-powerful. Power is goodness and goodness is power. We can learn this trust from Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives".

Luke, the Holy Father went on, "tells us that Jesus prayed on His knees. In the Acts of the Apostles, he speaks of the saints praying on their knees. ... In this way Luke has sketched a brief history of prayer on one’s knees in the early Church. Christians, in kneeling, enter into Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. When menaced by the power of evil, as they kneel, they are upright before the world, while as sons and daughters, they kneel before the Father. Before God’s glory we Christians kneel and acknowledge His divinity; by that posture we also express our confidence that He will prevail.

"Jesus struggles with the Father. He struggles with Himself. And He struggles for us. He experiences anguish before the power of death. First and foremost this is simply the dread natural to every living creature in the face of death. In Jesus, however, something more is at work. His gaze peers deeper, into the nights of evil. He sees the filthy flood of all the lies and all the disgrace which He will encounter in that chalice from which He must drink. His is the dread of one who is completely pure and holy as He sees the entire flood of this world’s evil bursting upon Him. ... The Letter to the Hebrews describes the struggle of Jesus on the Mount of Olives as a priestly event. In this prayer of Jesus, pervaded by mortal anguish, the Lord performs the office of a priest: He takes upon Himself the sins of humanity, of us all, and He brings us before the Father.

"Lastly", Pope Benedict concluded, "we must also pay attention to the content of Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives. Jesus says: “Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want”. The natural will of the man Jesus recoils in fear before the enormity of the matter. He asks to be spared. Yet as the Son, He places this human will into the Father’s will: not I, but you. In this way He transformed the stance of Adam, the primordial human sin, and thus heals humanity. The stance of Adam was: not what you, O God, have desired; rather, I myself want to be a god. ... This is the fundamental rebellion present throughout history and the fundamental lie which perverts life. When human beings set themselves against God, they set themselves against the truth of their own being and consequently do not become free, but alienated from themselves. We are free only if we stand in the truth of our being, if we are united to God. Then we become truly “like God” - not by resisting God, eliminating Him, or denying Him. In His anguished prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus resolved the false opposition between obedience and freedom, and opened the path to freedom".

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