Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Sons of Israel, bless the Lord”
October 12, 2005
Dear Brothers and
1. We have just
heard and enjoyed as a prayer one of the most beautiful and fervent
songs of ascents. It is Psalm 122, a living, shared
celebration of Jerusalem, the Holy City to which the pilgrims climb.
Indeed, in the
opening line, two moments lived by the faithful are amalgamated:
that of the day on which the pilgrim rejoiced when he accepted the
invitation to "go to God's house" (v. 1), and that of his joyful
arrival at the "gates" of Jerusalem (cf. v. 2); now at last he is
walking on that beloved Holy Land. A festive hymn is on his lips at
that very moment in honour of Zion, whose deep spiritual
significance he contemplates.
2. As a "strongly
compact" city (v. 3), a symbol of security and stability, Jerusalem
is the heart of the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel that converge
towards it as the centre of their faith and worship. They go up
there, in fact, "to praise the Lord's name" (v. 4) in the place that
"Israel's law" (Dt 12: 13-14; 16: 16) has chosen as the only
legitimate and perfect shrine.
There is another
important reality in Jerusalem that is also a sign of God's presence
in Israel: "the thrones... of the House of David" (cf. v. 5); that
is, the Davidic dynasty governs, an expression of the divine action
in history that was to lead to the Messiah (II Sam 7: 8-16).
3. The "thrones...
of the House of David" are at the same time called "thrones of
judgment" (v. 5), because the king was also the supreme judge. Thus,
Jerusalem, a political capital, was also the highest tribunal where
controversies were settled in the final instance: in this way, when
Jewish pilgrims left Zion, they returned to their villages feeling
more righteous and peaceful.
The Psalm thus
traced an ideal portrait of the Holy City with her religious and
social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract
nor intimistic, but a leaven of justice and solidarity. Communion
with God is necessarily followed by the communion of brothers and
sisters with one another.
4. We now come to
the final invocation (cf. v. 6-9). It is marked throughout by the
Jewish word shalom, "peace", traditionally considered to be
the etymological root of Jerushalajim, the Holy City itself,
interpreted as "city of peace".
It is well known
that shalom alludes to the messianic peace that in itself
brings joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance. Indeed, in the
pilgrim's final farewell to the temple, to the "house of the Lord
our God", he adds "good" to "peace": "I will ask for your good" (v.
9). This anticipates the Franciscan greeting: "Peace and good!". We
all have something of a Franciscan soul. This greeting expresses the
hope that blessings will be poured out upon the faithful who love
the Holy City, upon the physical reality of its walls and buildings
in which the life of a people pulsates, on all its brothers and
sisters and friends. In this way, Jerusalem will become a hearth of
harmony and peace.
5. Let us end our
meditation on Psalm 122 with an idea for reflection suggested
by the Fathers of the Church for whom the ancient Jerusalem was the
sign of another Jerusalem, also "built as a city strongly compact".
This city, St
Gregory the Great says in his Homilies on Ezekiel, "has here
a great construction in the customs of the saints. In a building,
one stone supports the other, because each stone is set upon
another, and the one that supports another is in turn supported by
another. This is exactly how in our Holy Church each one is
sustaining and sustained. The closest support one another, and so it
is by using them that the building of charity is erected.
Paul's exhortation: "Help carry one another's burdens; in that way
you will fulfil the law of Christ' (Gal 6: 2). Emphasizing the force
of this law, he says: "Love is the fulfilment of the law' (Rom 13:
"Indeed, if I do
not make an effort to accept you as you are and you do not strive to
accept me as I am, the building of love between us can no longer be
erected, bound though we may be by reciprocal and patient love".
And to complete the
image, let us not forget that "there is one foundation that supports
the full weight of the construction; and it is our Redeemer, who
alone bears all together the customs of us all. The Apostle says of
him: "No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been
laid, namely, Jesus Christ' (I Cor 3: 11). The foundation sustains
the stones but the stones do not sustain the foundation: in other
words, our Redeemer bore the burden of all our sins, but in him
there was no sin to be borne" (2, 1, 5: Opere di Gregorio Magno,
III/2, Rome, 1993, pp. 27, 29).
Thus, Pope St
Gregory the Great tells us what the Psalm means for our lives in
practice. He tells us that we must be a true Jerusalem in the Church
today, that is, a place of peace, "supporting one another" as we
are; "supporting one another together" in the joyful certainty that
the Lord "supports us all". In this way the Church will grow like a
true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city
of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter
of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace.
I extend a warm
welcome to the members of the Derry Diocesan Pilgrimage from
Northern Ireland. My greetings also go to the Extended General
Councils of the Sisters of the Order of St Basil the Great and the
School Sisters of Notre Dame, and to the participants in the NATO
Defense College. Upon all present at today's Audience, including the
many pilgrims from England, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Norway,
Australia, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, India,
Canada and the United States, I cordially invoke God's Blessings of
joy and peace.
Lastly, my thoughts
go to the sick, the newly-weds and the young
people, especially the students of the "Marri-Santa Umiltà"
Foundation in Faenza. I hope that you will all imitate the example
of Bl. John XXIII, whose memorial we celebrated yesterday: strive
like him to live your Christian vocation authentically.
Let us end our
meeting with the singing of the Pater Noster.
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