Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“On Israel, peace”
H.H. Benedict XVI
Aug 3, 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters:
1. After my
holidays spent in the Aosta Valley, our journey in the Liturgy of
Vespers continues at this meeting. Psalm 125 is now our focus;
it is part of that intense and evocative collection known as the
"Songs of Ascents", an ideal little prayer book for the pilgrimage
to Zion with a view to the encounter with the Lord in the temple
(cf. Ps 120-134).
We shall now
meditate briefly on a sapiential text that gives rise to trust in
the Lord and contains a short prayer (cf. Ps 125: 4).
The first sentence
proclaims the stability of "those who put their trust in the Lord",
comparing it to the safety and firmness of "Mount Zion", that
"cannot be shaken". This is obviously due to the presence of God,
"rock, fortress, saviour... refuge, shield, mighty help,
stronghold", as another Psalm says (cf. 18: 3).
Even when the
believer feels lonely and is surrounded by risks and hostility, his
faith must be serene because the Lord is always with us; his power
surrounds us and protects us.
The Prophet Isaiah
also testifies to hearing God speak these words, destined for the
faithful: "See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been
tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; he who puts his
faith in it shall not be shaken" (Is 28: 16).
2. However, the
Psalmist continues, the trust that is the atmosphere of faith of the
faithful has a further support: the Lord is, as it were, encamped to
defend his people, just as the mountains that surround Jerusalem
make it a naturally fortified city (cf. Ps 125: 2). In a
prophecy by Zechariah, God says of Jerusalem: "I will be for her an
encircling wall of fire... and I will be the glory in her midst" (Zec
In this atmosphere
of deeply-rooted trust, which is the atmosphere of faith, the
Psalmist reassures "the upright of heart", the believers. Their
situation in itself can be worrying because of the tyranny of the
wicked, who wish to impose their domination.
There might also be
a temptation for the just to make themselves accomplices of evil to
avoid serious difficulties, but the Lord protects them from
oppression: "For the sceptre of the wicked shall not rest over the
land of the just" (Ps 125: 3); at the same time, he
preserves them from the temptation to turn their hands to evil (cf.
Thus, the Psalm
instils deep trust in the soul. This is a powerful help in facing
difficult situations when the external crisis of loneliness, irony
and contempt of believers is associated with the interior crisis
that consists of discouragement, mediocrity and weariness. We know
this situation, but the Psalm tells us that if we have trust, we are
stronger than these evils.
3. The finale of
the Psalm contains the prayer addressed to the Lord for the "good"
and the "upright of heart" (cf. v. 4), and an announcement of
misfortune to "the crooked and those who do evil" (v. 5).
On the one hand,
the Psalmist asks the Lord to manifest himself as a loving father to
the just and the faithful who bear aloft the torch of a righteous
life and a clear conscience.
On the other hand,
the hope is expressed that he will prove to be a just judge to those
who have taken the winding path of evil, which leads ultimately to
The Psalm is sealed
by the traditional greeting, shalom, "On Israel, peace", a
greeting that by assonance rhymes with Jerushalajim, on
Jerusalem (cf. v. 2), the city that is a symbol of peace and
becomes a wish of hope: We can explain it in St Paul's words: "Peace
and mercy on all who follow this rule of life, and on the Israel of
God" (Gal 6: 16).
4. In his
commentary on this Psalm, St Augustine compares "the crooked and
those who do evil" with "the upright of heart", who never stray from
God. If the former are to find themselves associated with the
destiny of "those who do evil", what will be the destiny of the
"upright of heart"?
In the hope that together with his listeners he too will share in
their happy destiny, the Bishop of Hippo wonders: "What will we
possess? What will be our inheritance? What will be our homeland?
What will it be called?".
And he answers
himself, pointing out its name. I make these words my own: "Peace.
We greet you with the wish of peace; I proclaim peace to you; may
the mountains receive peace, while justice spreads over the hills
(cf. Ps 72: 3). Now, our peace is Christ: Indeed, "It is
he who is our peace' (Eph 2: 14)" (Esposizioni sui Salmi,
IV, Nuova Biblioteca Agostiniana, XXVIII, Rome, 1977, p.
concludes with an exhortation which at the same time is a wish: "We
are the Israel of God and let us cling tightly to peace, for
Jerusalem means a vision of peace and we are Israel: the Israel on
which is peace" (ibid., p. 107), and peace is Christ.
I offer a warm
welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at
today's Audience. I greet with particular affection the group of
priests from China. I also welcome the groups from Hong Kong,
Ireland, The Philippines, Australia and the United States of
America. Wishing you all a pleasant stay in Rome, I cordially invoke
upon you the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lastly, I address
the young people, the sick, and the newly-weds.
Tomorrow, the liturgy commemorates a priest who was deeply loved by
his contemporaries: St John Mary Vianney, the Holy Curé d'Ars. Dear
friends, may his example be an incentive and an encouragement to you
all to respond generously to divine grace.
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