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JORDAN: The Pope’s Sunday homily

Radio Vaticana
has published an English version of the homily given by Pope Benedict
XVI on Sunday morning in Amman, Jordan. He addressed a crowd of 20,000
during an open-air mass at a sports stadium. Today is his last day in

Pope Benedict XVI waves to worshipers on his arrival to celebrate a Mass at a stadium in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, May 10, 2009. Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday urged Middle East Christians to persevere in their faith despite hardships threatening the existence of their ancient communities. Pope Benedict XVI is on a week long tour in the Middle East that includes Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. (Nader Daoud / Associated Press) “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I rejoice that we are able
to celebrate this Eucharist together at the beginning of my Pilgrimage
to the Holy Land. Yesterday, from the heights of Mount Nebo, I stood
and looked out upon this great land, the land of Moses, Elijah, and
John the Baptist, the land where God’s ancient promises were fulfilled
in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus our Lord. This land witnessed his
preaching and miracles, his death and resurrection, and the outpouring
of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the sacrament of a reconciled and
renewed humanity. As I pondered the mystery of God’s fidelity, I prayed
that the Church in these lands would be confirmed in hope and
strengthened in her witness to the Risen Christ, the Savior of mankind.
Truly, as Saint Peter tells us in today’s first reading, “there is no
other name under heaven given among men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

joyful celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice expresses the rich
diversity of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land. I greet all of you
with affection in the Lord. I thank His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin
Patriarch of Jerusalem, for his kind words of welcome. With respect and
gratitude I likewise greet His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi Bin
Mohammad, who represents the King of Jordan, and I thank him for his
presence in our midst. My greeting goes also to the many young people
from Catholic schools who today bring their enthusiasm to this
Eucharistic celebration.

In the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus proclaims: “I am the good shepherd… who lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). As the Successor of Saint Peter, to whom the Lord entrusted the care of his flock (cf. Jn 21:15-17),
I have long awaited this opportunity to stand before you as a witness
to the Risen Savior, and to encourage you to persevere in faith, hope
and love, in fidelity to the ancient traditions and the distinguished
history of Christian witness which you trace back to the age of the
Apostles. The Catholic community here is deeply touched by the
difficulties and uncertainties which affect all the people of the
Middle East. May you never forget the great dignity which derives from
your Christian heritage, or fail to sense the loving solidarity of all
your brothers and sisters in the Church throughout the world!

“I am the good shepherd,” the Lord tells us, “I know my own, and my own know me” (Jn 10:14).
Today in Jordan we celebrate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. As
we reflect on the Gospel of the Good Shepherd, let us ask the Lord to
open our hearts and minds ever more fully to hear his call. Truly,
Jesus “knows us” even more deeply than we know ourselves, and he has a
plan for each one of us. We know, too, that wherever he calls us, we
will find happiness and fulfilment; indeed, we will find our very
selves (cf. Mt 10:39). Today I invite the many young people
here present to consider how the Lord is calling you to follow him and
to build up his Church. Whether it be in the priestly ministry, in
consecrated life or in the sacrament of marriage, Jesus needs you to
make his voice heard and to work for the growth of his Kingdom.

In today’s second reading, Saint John invites us to “think of the love
that the Father has lavished on us” by making us his adopted children
in Christ. Hearing these words should make us grateful for the
experience of the Father’s love which we have had in our families, from
the love of our fathers and mothers, our grandparents, our brothers and
sisters. During the celebration of the present Year of the Family, the
Church throughout the Holy Land has reflected on the family as a
mystery of life-giving love, endowed in God’s plan with its own proper
calling and mission: to radiate the divine Love which is the source and
the ultimate fulfilment of all the other loves of our lives. May every
Christian family grow in fidelity to its lofty vocation to be a true
school of prayer, where children learn a sincere love of God, where
they mature in self-discipline and concern for the needs of others, and
where, shaped by the wisdom born of faith, they contribute to the
building of an ever more just and fraternal society. The strong
Christian families of these lands are a great legacy handed down from
earlier generations. May today’s families be faithful to that
impressive heritage, and never lack the material and moral assistance
they need to carry out their irreplaceable role in service to society.

An important aspect of your reflection during this Year of the Family
has been the particular dignity, vocation and mission of women in God’s
plan. How much the Church in these lands owes to the patient, loving
and faithful witness of countless Christian mothers, religious Sisters,
teachers, doctors and nurses! How much your society owes to all
those women who in different and at times courageous ways have devoted
their lives to building peace and fostering love! From the very first
pages of the Bible, we see how man and woman, created in the image of
God, are meant to complement one another as stewards of God’s gifts and
partners in communicating his gift of life, both physical and
spiritual, to our world. Sadly, this God-given dignity and role of
women has not always been sufficiently understood and esteemed. The
Church, and society as a whole, has come to realize how urgently we
need what the late Pope John Paul II called the “prophetic charism” of
women (cf. Mulieris Dignitatem, 29) as bearers of love,
teachers of mercy and artisans of peace, bringing warmth and humanity
to a world that all too often judges the value of a person by the cold
criteria of usefulness and profit. By its public witness of respect for
women, and its defence of the innate dignity of every human person, the
Church in the Holy Land can make an important contribution to the
advancement of a culture of true humanity and the building of the
civilization of love.

friends, let us return to the words
of Jesus in today’s Gospel. I believe that they contain a special
message for you, his faithful flock in these lands where he once dwelt.
“The good shepherd,” he tells us, “lays down his life for his sheep.”
At the beginning of this Mass, we asked the Father to “give us new
strength from the courage of Christ our shepherd”, who remained
steadfast in fidelity to the Father’s will (cf. Opening Prayer,
Mass of the Fourth Sunday of Easter). May the courage of Christ our
shepherd inspire and sustain you daily in your efforts to bear witness
to the Christian faith and to maintain the Church’s presence in the
changing social fabric of these ancient lands.

Fidelity to
your Christian roots, fidelity to the Church’s mission in the Holy
Land, demands of each of you a particular kind of courage: the courage
of conviction, born of personal faith, not mere social convention or
family tradition; the courage to engage in dialogue and to work side by
side with other Christians in the service of the Gospel and solidarity
with the poor, the displaced, and the victims of profound human
tragedies; the courage to build new bridges to enable a fruitful
encounter of people of different religions and cultures, and thus to
enrich the fabric of society. It also means bearing witness to the love
which inspires us to “lay down” our lives in the service of others, and
thus to counter ways of thinking which justify “taking” innocent lives.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own, and my own know me” (Jn 10:14).
Rejoice that the Lord has made you members of his flock and knows each
of you by name! Follow him with joy and let him guide you in all your
ways. Jesus knows what challenges you face, what trials you endure, and
the good that you do in his name. Trust in him, in his enduring love
for all the members of his flock, and persevere in your witness to the
triumph of his love. May Saint John the Baptist, the patron of Jordan,
and Mary, Virgin and Mother, sustain you by their example and prayers,
and lead you to the fullness of joy in the eternal pastures where we
will experience for ever the presence of the Good Shepherd and know for
ever the depths of his love. Amen.”

– Jessica Roy / Los Angeles Times

Pope Benedict XVI waves to worshipers on his arrival to celebrate a
Mass at a stadium in Amman, Jordan, Sunday, May 10, 2009. Pope Benedict
XVI on Sunday urged Middle East Christians to persevere in their faith
despite hardships threatening the existence of their ancient
communities. Pope Benedict XVI is on a week long tour in the Middle
East that includes Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories.
(Nader Daoud / Associated Press)