Catholic World News News Feature
Pope stresses God's infinite mercy in Holy Thursday homily April 13, 2006
The rejection of God's love-- "not wanting to be loved, not wanting to love"-- debases man, Pope Benedict XVI said in his homily at Mass on Holy Thursday.
In the Eucharistic liturgy in the evening of April 13, as the Church commemorates the Last Supper, the Holy Father urged Christians humbly to accept the "limitless love" offered by a loving God, and to accept the pardon He offers.
The Pontiff reminded his listeners that the God of the Christian faith is not "too distant and too great" to concern Himself with the affairs of mortal men. On the contrary, he reminded them of the gesture reenacted in the Holy Thursday liturgy, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
Pope Benedict washed the feet of 12 laymen from Rome, representing different lay movements and Catholic associations, during the Thursday-evening liturgy, which was held in the basilica of St. John Lateran. But he observed that the gesture was only a symbol of Christ's much greater love. "The bath in which he washes us is his love-- even to the point of death," he said.
In his love for us, the Pope continued, Jesus "wishes to sit at the table with us, and for that reason He gives us the gift of purification." He went on to say that "only love of this purifying power can remove the dirt from us, and raise us to the heights of God." In the sacraments-- notably Baptism and Confession-- Christ repeatedly "kneels at our feet and carries out the duties of a slave," the Pope said. The love that Jesus offers, he repeated, "is inexorable, and it is love truly to the end."
Nevertheless, the Pope observed, mankind must recognize the mystery of refusal-- the fact that many men reject God's love. Pope Benedict underlined the distinction: "the Lord's love knows no limitations,' but "man can put limits on it."
As an example of this refusal the Holy Father cited Judas, whose betrayal of Jesus is part of the story of the Last Supper. Judas was more concerned with money than with responding to Christ's love, the said. For him, "only power and success are realities; love does not count."
"It is pride that sees no need for purification, and closes oneself off to the saving mercy of God," the Pope said. Judas closed himself off to the point where he could no longer return, repentant, to accept God's mercy.
"Today, the Lord puts us on guard against the self-reliance that puts a limit on his limitless love," Pope Benedict said. "He invites us to imitate his humility."
At the conclusion of the Mass-- the first ceremony of the Easter Triduum-- the Holy Father remained for a time of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, kept in reserve in a side chapel of the basilica. Mass will not be celebrated again until the Easter vigil.