The Culture of Love
The phrases 'culture of love' and 'civilisation of love' were coined by John Paul II and Benedict XVI to describe a new way of living faith in the face of a culture of death.
Our father Benedict XVI has said: "We must have the courage to create islands, oases, and then great stretches of land of Catholic culture where the Creator's design is lived out." This is what we try to do at Ty Mam Duw. Our father calls us to go back to the Word of God - and for us as Franciscans this is our first rule of life - and build our lives on the rock of the Lord's truth.
In the dark ages (the 8th -10th centuries) when Roman civilisation collapsed, the faith was kept alive in Europe by the monasteries. The monasteries made themselves oases and islands in a culture of violence and war. We try to do the same in the face of an anti-culture that belittles life, love and human dignity.
God called Israel on Sinai to be an oasis in the midst of the debauched religions and corrupt social economies that surrounded her.
In the world of the New Covenant, Paul set up a string of oases and islands around the Mediterranean world and they made the faith fertile with living water. It spread and grew it became "great stretches of land of Catholic culture where the Creator's design was lived out."
We are an oasis church in the desert of the world.
The presence of the Living God in our midst is the eternal oasis. When people come here for days of prayer and retreat, when they come here to join our family, it is to touch the life of the Lord. Heaven begins in the Eucharist, the centre of our life. And as John Paul II said, the spirituality of a community gathered round the Living presence of the Lord is "Openness, affection, understanding and forgiveness."
This is an invitation to all of us.
We do not have to buy in the values offered by the culture of consumerism and death. Our fathers offer us a new form of life; a life of love built on truth - a civilisation of love.
The Culture of Life
The Face of God, the content of this culture of life, the content of our great "yes", is expressed in the Ten Commandments, which are not a pack of prohibitions, of "noes", but actually present a great vision of life.
They are a "yes" to a God who gives meaning to life (the first three Commandments); a "yes" to the family (Fourth Commandment); a "yes" to life (Fifth Commandment); a "yes" to responsible love (Sixth Commandment); a "yes" to solidarity, to social responsibility, to justice (Seventh Commandment); a "yes" to the truth (Eighth Commandment); a "yes" to respect for others and for their belongings (Ninth and 10th Commandments).
This is the philosophy of life, the culture of life that becomes concrete and practical and beautiful in communion with Christ, the living God, who walks with us in the companionship of his friends, in the great family of the Church.
Benedict XVI. Baptism, 8 January 2006
You have joined a Church of sinners!
We believe that the Church is holy, but that there are sinners among her members. We need to reject the desire to identify only with those who are sinless. How could the Church have excluded sinners from her ranks? It is for their salvation that Jesus took flesh, died and rose again. We must therefore learn to live Christian penance with sincerity. By practising it, we confess individual sins in union with others, before them and before God.
Meeting with the clergy Warsaw Cathedral, 25 May 2006
Jesus wants us
We find it hard to believe that Christ called us specifically. Could he not have chosen someone else, more capable, more holy? But Jesus has looked lovingly upon each one of us, and in this gaze of his we may have confidence.
Let us not be consumed with haste, as if time dedicated to Christ in silent prayer were time wasted. On the contrary, it is precisely then that the most wonderful fruits of pastoral service come to birth. There is no need to be discouraged on account of the fact that prayer requires effort, or because of the impression that Jesus remains silent. He is indeed silent, but he is at work.
Faith to touch the Living God
God is hidden in mystery; to claim to understand him would mean to want to confine him within our thinking and knowing and consequently to lose him irremediably. With faith, however, we can open up a way through concepts, even theological concepts, and can "touch" the living God. And God, once touched, immediately gives us his power. When we abandon ourselves to the living God, when in humility of mind we have recourse to him, a kind of hidden stream of divine life pervades us. How important it is to believe in the power of faith, in its capacity to establish a close bond with the living God! We must give great attention to the development of our faith, so that it truly pervades all our attitudes, thoughts, actions and intentions. Faith has a place, not only in our state of soul and religious experiences, but above all in thought and action, in everyday work, in the struggle against ourselves, in community life and in the apostolate, because it ensures that our life is pervaded by the power of God himself. Faith can always bring us back to God even when our sin leads us astray.
How to learn Jesus
So much can be gained by reflecting on the way Mary learned from Jesus! From her very first "fiat", through the long, ordinary years of the hidden life, as she brought up Jesus, or when at Cana in Galilee she asked for the first sign, or when finally on Calvary, by the Cross, she looked on Jesus, she "learned" him moment by moment. Firstly in faith and then in her womb, she received the Body of Jesus and then gave birth to him. Day after day, enraptured, she adored him. She served him with solicitous love, singing the Magnificat in her heart. On your journey of preparation, and in your future priestly ministry, let Mary guide you as you "learn" Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed on him. Let him form you.
Witnesses of love
Form your minds and your hearts on the works of the great masters and witnesses of the faith, knowing that the schools of spirituality must not be a treasure locked up in monastic libraries. The Gospel wisdom, contained in the writings of the great saints and attested to in their lives, must be brought in a mature way, not childishly or aggressively, to the world of culture and work, to the world of the media and politics, to the world of family and social life. The authenticity of your faith and mission, which does not draw attention to itself but truly radiates faith and love.
Czezstochowa, 26 May 2006
Body and soul
Human love must be purified, it must mature and go beyond its own limits in order to become truly human, to be the origin of true and lasting joy, to respond to that demand for eternity it carries within itself and which it cannot relinquish without betraying itself. This is the fundamental reason for which love between man and woman is fully realised only in marriage
St John Lateran 5 June 2006
The House of Love
My friends, in the heart of every man there is the desire for a house. Even more so in the young person's heart there is a great longing for a proper house, a stable house, one to which he can not only return with joy, but where every guest who arrives can be joyfully welcomed. There is a yearning for a house where the daily bread is love, pardon and understanding. It is a place where the truth is the source out of which flows peace of heart. There is a longing for a house you can be proud of, where you need not be ashamed and where you never fear its loss. These longings are simply the desire for a full, happy and successful life. Do not be afraid of this desire! Do not run away from this desire! Do not be discouraged at the sight of crumbling houses, frustrated desires and faded longings. God the Creator, who inspires in young hearts an immense yearning for happiness, will not abandon you in the difficult construction of the house called life.
My friends, this brings about a question: "How do we build this house?" Without doubt, this is a question that you have already faced many times and that you will face many times more. Every day you must look into your heart and ask: "How do I build that house called life?" Jesus, whose words we just heard in the passage from the evangelist Matthew, encourages us to build on the rock. In fact, it is only in this way that the house will not crumble. But what does it mean to build a house on the rock? Building on the rock means, first of all, to build on Christ and with Christ. Jesus says: "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Mt 7:24). These are not just the empty words of some person or another; these are the words of Jesus. We are not listening to any person: we are listening to Jesus. We are not asked to commit to just anything; we are asked to commit ourselves to the words of Jesus.
The rock of cruciform love
To build on Christ and with Christ means to build on a foundation that is called "crucified love". It means to build with Someone who, knowing us better than we know ourselves, says to us: "You are precious in my eyes and honoured, and I love you" (Is 43:4). It means to build with Someone, who is always faithful, even when we are lacking in faith, because he cannot deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). It means to build with Someone who constantly looks down on the wounded heart of man and says: " I do not condemn you, go and do not sin again" (cf. Jn 8:11). It means to build with Someone who, from the Cross, extends his arms and repeats for all eternity: "O man, I give my life for you because I love you." In short, building on Christ means basing all your desires, aspirations, dreams, ambitions and plans on his will. It means saying to yourself, to your family, to your friends, to the whole world and, above all to Christ: "Lord, in life I wish to do nothing against you, because you know what is best for me. Only you have the words of eternal life" (cf. Jn 6:68). My friends, do not be afraid to lean on Christ! Long for Christ, as the foundation of your life! Enkindle within you the desire to build your life on him and for him! Because no one who depends on the crucified love of the Incarnate Word can ever lose.
I stand at the door
To build on the rock means to build on Christ and with Christ, who is the rock. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul, speaking of the journey of the chosen people through the desert, explains that all "drank from the supernatural rock, which followed them, and the rock was Christ" (1 Cor 10:4). The fathers of the Chosen People certainly did not know that the rock was Christ. They were not aware of being accompanied by him who in the fulness of time would become incarnate and take on a human body. They did not need to understand that their thirst would be satiated by the very Source of life, capable of offering the living water which quenches every heart. Nonetheless, they drank from this spiritual rock that is Christ, because they yearned for this living water, and needed it. On the road of life we may sometimes not be aware of Jesus' presence. However, it is really this presence, living and true, in the work of creation, in the Word of God and in the Eucharist, in the community of believers and in every man redeemed by the precious Blood of Christ, which is the inexhaustible source of human strength. Jesus of Nazareth, God made Man, is beside us during the good times and the bad times and he thirsts for this relationship, which is, in reality, the foundation of authentic humanity. We read in the book of Revelation these important words: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20).
Facing closed doors
My friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means building on Someone who was rejected. Saint Peter speaks to the faithful of Christ as a "living stone rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious" (1 Pet 2:4). The undeniable fact of the election of Jesus by God does not conceal the mystery of evil, whereby man is able to reject Him who has loved to the very end. This rejection of Jesus by man, which Saint Peter mentions, extends throughout human history, even to our own time. One does not need great mental acuity to be aware of the many ways of rejecting Christ, even on our own doorstep. Often, Jesus is ignored, he is mocked and he is declared a king of the past who is not for today and certainly not for tomorrow. He is relegated to a storeroom of questions and persons one dare not mention publicly in a loud voice. If in the process of building the house of your life you encounter those who scorn the foundation on which you are building, do not be discouraged! A strong faith must endure tests. A living faith must always grow. Our faith in Jesus Christ, to be such, must frequently face others' lack of faith.
Dear friends, what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock means being aware that there will be misfortunes. Christ says: "The rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon the house ... " (Mt 7:25). These natural phenomena are not only an image of the many misfortunes of the human lot, but they also indicate that such misfortunes are normally to be expected. Christ does not promise that a downpour will never inundate a house under construction, he does not promise that a devastating wave will never sweep away that which is most dear to us, he does not promise that strong winds will never carry away what we have built, sometimes with enormous sacrifice. Christ not only understands man's desire for a lasting house, but he is also fully aware of all that can wreck man's happiness. Do not be surprised therefore by misfortunes, whatever they may be! Do not be discouraged by them! An edifice built on the rock is not the same as a building removed from the forces of nature, which are inscribed in the mystery of man. To have built on rock means being able to count on the knowledge that at difficult times there is a reliable force upon which you can trust.
My friends, allow me to ask again: what does it mean to build on the rock? It means to build wisely. It is not without reason that Jesus compares those who hear his words and put them into practice to a wise man who has built his house on the rock. It is foolish, in fact, to build on sand, when you can do so on rock and therefore have a house that is capable of withstanding every storm. It is foolish to build a house on ground that that does not offer the guarantee of support during the most difficult times. Maybe it is easier to base one's life on the shifting sands of one's own world view, building a future far from the word of Jesus and sometimes even opposed to it. Be assured that he who builds in this way is not prudent, because he wants to convince himself and others that in his life no storm will rage and no wave will strike his house. To be wise means to know that the solidity of a house depends on the choice of foundation. Do not be afraid to be wise; that is to say, do not be afraid to build on the rock!
You know that I love you
My friends, once again: what does it mean to build on the rock? Building on the rock also means to build on Peter and with Peter. In fact the Lord said to him: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18). If Christ, the Rock, the living and precious stone, calls his Apostle "rock", it means that he wants Peter, and together with him the entire Church, to be a visible sign of the one Saviour and Lord.
Do not be afraid to build your life on the Church and with the Church. Do not be fooled by those who want to play Christ against the Church. There is one foundation on which it is worthwhile to build a house. This foundation is Christ. There is only one rock on which it is worthwhile to place everything. This rock is the one to whom Christ said: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18).
You know well the Rock of our times. Accordingly, do not forget that neither that Peter (our beloved John Paul II) who is watching our gathering from the window of God the Father, nor this Peter (me, your unworthy servant) who is now standing in front of you, nor any successive Peter will ever be opposed to you or the building of a lasting house on the rock. Indeed, he will offer his heart and his hands to help you construct a life on Christ and with Christ.
We can stand, together
Dear friends, meditating on Christ's words describing the rock as an adequate foundation for a house, we cannot help but notice that the last word is a hopeful one. Jesus says that, notwithstanding the harshness of the elements, the house is not destroyed, because it was built on the rock. In his word there is an extraordinary confidence in the strength of the foundation, a faith that does not fear contradictions because it is confirmed by the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the faith that years later was professed by Saint Peter in his letter: " Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame" (1 Pet 2:6). Certainly "he will not be put to shame." Dear young friends, the fear of failure can at times frustrate even the most beautiful dreams. It can paralyse the will, making one incapable of believing that it is really possible to build a house on the rock. It can convince one that the yearning for such a house is only a childish aspiration and not a plan for life. Together with Jesus, say to this fear: "A house founded on the rock cannot collapse!" Together with Saint Peter say to the temptation to doubt: "He who believes in Christ will not be put to shame!" You are all witnesses to hope, to that hope which is not afraid to build the house of one's own life because it is certain that it can count on the foundation that will never crumble: Jesus Christ our Lord.
Meeting with young people. Kraków-Blonie, 27 May 2006
Staying together is the stipulation made by Jesus for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit; the premise of this harmony is prolonged prayer. In this way we are offered a formidable lesson for every Christian community.
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit makes our hearts capable of understanding each other's languages, as it re-establishes the bridge of authentic communication between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is love.
But, how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of love be understood? The Gospel passage takes us today to the Cenacle. The Last Supper is over; the apostles are saddened and disconcerted. The reason was that Jesus' words aroused disturbing questions: He spoke of the world's hatred of him and of his own, he spoke of his mysterious departure; much remained to be said but at that moment the apostles were not able to bear the weight of it all (cf. John 16:12).
To comfort them, he explained the meaning of his departure: He would go, but he would return; meanwhile, he would not abandon them, he would not leave them orphans. He would send the Consoler, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit would enable them to know that Christ's work is a work of love: love of him who gave himself, love of the Father who has given him.
This is the mystery of Pentecost: The Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, on revealing Christ, crucified and risen, indicates the way to become more like him, that is, to be an expression and instrument of the love that comes from him.
Pentecost Mass. 4 June 2006