Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Open-handed, he gives to the poor”
H.H. Benedict XVI
November 2, 2005
After yesterday's celebration of the Solemnity of all the saints of
Heaven, we remember today all of the faithful departed. The liturgy
invites us to pray for all our loved ones who have passed away,
turning our thoughts to the mystery of death, an inheritance common
to all men and women.
faith, we look upon the human enigma of death with serenity and
hope. Indeed, according to Scripture, it is more than an end; it is
a new birth, it is the obligatory passageway through which the
fullness of life may be attained by those who model their earthly
existence according to the indications of the Word of God.
a composition with a sapiental slant, presents us with the figure of
these righteous ones who fear the Lord; they recognize his
transcendence and trustingly and lovingly conform themselves to his
will in the expectation of encountering him after death.
A "beatitude" is
reserved to these faithful: "Happy the man who fears the Lord" (v.
1). The Psalmist immediately explains what this fear consists in: it
is shown in docility to God's commandments. He who "takes delight"
in observing his commandments is blessed, finding in them joy and
2. Docility to
God is therefore the root of hope and interior and exterior harmony.
Observance of the moral law is the source of profound peace of
conscience. According to the biblical vision of "retribution", the
mantle of the divine blessing is spread over the righteous, giving
stability and success to his works and to those of his descendents:
"His sons will be powerful on earth; the children of the upright are
blessed. Riches and wealth are in his house" (vv. 2-3; cf. v. 9).
However, to this
optimistic vision are opposed the bitter observations made by Job, a
just man who experiences the mystery of sorrow, feels himself
unjustly punished and subjected to apparently senseless trials. Job
represents many people who suffer harshly in the world. It is
necessary then to read this Psalm in the global context of
Revelation, which embraces the reality of human life under all its
At any rate, the
trust the Psalmist wishes to communicate and be lived by those who
have chosen to follow the path of morally irreprehensible conduct
remains valid, rejecting every other alternative of illusory success
gained through injustice and immorality.
3. The heart of
this fidelity to the divine Word consists in a fundamental choice of
charity towards the poor and needy: "The good man takes pity and
lends.... Open-handed, he gives to the poor" (vv. 5, 9). The person
of faith, then, is generous; respecting the biblical norms, he
offers help to his brother in need, asking nothing in return (cf. Dt
15: 7-11), and without falling into the shame of usury which
destroys the lives of the poor.
one, heeding the continual warning of the prophets, puts himself on
the side of the disenfranchised and sustains them with abundant
help. "Open-handed, he gives to the poor", as is written in verse 9,
thereby expressing an extreme generosity without any self-interest.
4. In addition
to the portrait of the faithful and charitable man, "generous,
merciful and just", Psalm 112 presents finally, in only one
verse (cf. v. 10), the profile of the wicked man. This individual
sees the success of the righteous person and is tortured with anger
and jealousy. It is the torment of one who has an evil conscience,
different from the generous man who has a "firm" and "steadfast
heart" (vv. 7-8).
We fix our gaze
on the serene face of the faithful person who "open-handed, gives to
the poor", and we listen to the words of Clement of Alexandria, the
third-century Father of the Church who commented on an affirmation
of the Lord that is difficult to understand. In the parable of the
unjust steward, the expression appears according to which we must do
good with "unjust money". From there arises the question: are money
and wealth unjust in themselves, or what does the Lord wish to say?
Alexandria explains this parable very well in his homily "What rich
man can be saved?", and he states: Jesus "declares unjust by nature
any possession one has for oneself as one's own good and does not
make it available for those who need it; rather, he declares that
from this injustice it is possible to accomplish a just and
praiseworthy work, giving relief to one of those little ones who
have an eternal dwelling-place near the Father (cf. Mt 10: 42; 18:
10)" (31, 6; Collana di Testi Patristici, CXLVIII, Rome,
1999, pp. 56-57).
reader, Clement warns: "See in the first place that he has not
ordered you to ask, nor wait to be asked, but you yourself search
out those who are worth being listened to, insofar as they are
disciples of the Saviour" (31, 7: ibid., p. 57).
another biblical text, he comments: "Beautiful, therefore, is the
saying of the Apostle: "God loves a cheerful giver' (II Cor 9: 7),
who enjoys giving and does not sparingly sow, so as to reap in the
same way; instead, he shares without ramifications and distinctions
and sorrow: this is authentic of doing good" (31, 8: ibid.).
On this day in
which we commemorate the dead, as I was saying at the beginning of
our meeting, we are all called to face the enigma of death and
therefore with the question of how to live well, how to find
happiness. This Psalm answers: happy is the man who gives; happy is
the man who does not live life for himself but gives; happy is the
man who is merciful, generous and just; happy is the man who lives
in the love of God and neighbour. In this way we live well and have
no reason to fear death because we experience the everlasting
happiness that comes from God.
I offer a warm
welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at
today's Audience. I extend particular greetings to the groups from
England, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Malta, Canada and the
United States of America. May your pilgrimage strengthen your faith
and renew your love for the Lord, the Giver of Life, and may God
bless you all!
Lastly, I greet
the young people, sick people and newly-weds. The
Solemnity of All Saints that we celebrated yesterday and today's
Commemoration of the Faithful Departed give us the opportunity to
reflect once more on the authentic meaning of earthly existence and
on its value for eternity.
May these days
of reflection and prayer be for you, dear young people, an
invitation to imitate the heroism of the saints, who spent their
lives for God and neighbour. May they be a consolation for you, dear
sick people, associated with the mystery of Christ's passion.
May they be a favourable occasion for you, dear newly-weds,
to understand ever better that you are called to witness by your
reciprocal fidelity to the love with which God encompasses every
We conclude our
meeting with the singing of the Pater Noster.
2005 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
This page is the work of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and