Pope Benedict held his usual general audience today in the Pope Paul VI audience hall. As a side note, no tickets will be issued for Wednesday audiences held during August.

Citing Paul VI and John Paul II, Benedict XVI today renewed his appeal for peace in the Middle East at the end of his weekly catechesis held in Paul VI Hall. “Dear brothers and sisters,” said the pope, “my mind, full of concern, is turned once again to the beloved region of the Middle East. With reference to the tragic ongoing conflict, I put forward again the words of Pope Paul VI to the UN in October 1965: ‘No longer one against the other, no longer, ever! … If you want to be brothers, let the arms fall from your hands.’ In the face of efforts under way to finally reach a ceasefire and a just and lasting solution to the conflict, I repeat, together with my immediate predecessor John Paul II, that it is possible to change the course of events when reason, goodwill and faith in the other prevail, as well as the implementation of commitments assumed, and cooperation between responsible partners (cfr Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 13 January 2003). To all, I renew my exhortation to intensify prayer to obtain the desired gift of peace.”

Benedict XVI arrived from his
summer residence of Castel Gandolfo by helicopter. In Paul VI Hall, packed with pilgrims from all over the world, the pontiff continued his analysis of the figures of the apostles, dedicating today’s teaching to the contents of John’s writings, the gospel and the letter, of which “the characteristic topic… is love”. He said: “It is not by chance that I wanted to start my first encyclical letter with the words of this Apostle: ‘God is love’ (Deus caritas est); those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them’ (1 Jn 4:16). It is very difficult to find such writings in other religions. And so such expressions bring us face to face with a fact that is truly unique to Christianity.”

Starting out not from “an abstract treatment, but from a real
experience of love, with direct and concrete reference, that may even be verified, to real people”, John highlights the components of Christian love that the pope summed up in three points. The pontiff said: “The first regards the very Source of love that the Apostle places in God, reaching the point where he affirms that ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:8,16). John is the only writer of the New Testament who gives us definitions of God. He says, for example, that ‘God is Spirit’ (Jn 4:24) or that ‘God is light’ (1 Jn 1:5). Here he proclaims with striking intuition that ‘God is love’. Take note: this is not a simple affirmation that ‘God loves’, still less is it that ‘love is God’! In other words: John does not limit himself to describing divine conduct, he goes right to its roots. Further, he does not intend to attribute a divine quality to a
generic, perhaps impersonal love; he does not rise from love to God, but he turns directly to God to define his nature with the infinite dimension of love. By this, John wants to say that the essential constituent of God is love and hence all the activities of God are born from love and are stamped with love: everything God does, he does for love and with love.”

The second point, continued the pope, is that God, in his love, “did not limit himself to verbal statements, but he truly committed himself and he ‘paid’ himself. As John in fact writes, ‘God so loved the world (that is, all of us) that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16). Now, the love of God for mankind is concretized and manifested in the love of Jesus himself. Once again, it is John who writes: Jesus, ‘having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end’ (Jn 13:1). In virtue of this sacrificial and total love, we are all radically saved from sin, as the Apostle writes once again: ‘My little children… if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 Jn 2:1-2; cfr 1 Jn 1:7). This is how far the love of Jesus went for us: until the shedding of his own blood for oursalvation! The Christian, pausing in contemplation before this “excess” of love, cannot but ask himself what a dutiful response would be.”

The third moment of the “dynamic of love” is that in which “as receptive recipients of a love that precedes and overpowers
us, we are called to a commitment of active response, which to be adequate can only be an answer of love. John talks about a ‘commandment’. He refers in fact to these words of Jesus: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another’ (Jn 13:34). Where is the novelty that Jesus is referring to? It lies in the fact that he was not content to repeat what had already been asked in the Old Testament and which we read in the other Gospels too: ‘Love your neighbour asyourself’ (Lev. 19:18; cfr Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:29-31; Lk 10:27). In the old precept, the normative criterion was inferred by man (‘as yourself’), while in the precept mentioned by John, Jesus presents himself as the motive and norm of our love. And this is how love becomes truly Christian: in the sense that it must be addressed towards everyone without distinction and especially in as much as it reaches the extent of extreme consequence, not having any other measure than being without measure. These words of Jesus, ‘as I have loved you’, invite us and unnerve us at the same time; they are a Christological goal that may appear unreachable, but at the same time they are a stimulus that does not allow us to stop and rest on what we have been able to achieve.”

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