Today, Pope Benedict prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered at the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandalfo. Before the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Holy Father reflected on the day’s readings. The Gospel of the day relates the story of the reaction of Christ’s disciples to the Bread of Life discourse. Many of the those disciples left Jesus, the Pope said, because Christ’s revelation that He was the “living bread which came down from heaven” were incomprehensible for them. They had understood Jesus’ words in a material sense, when in reality they were a revelation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus. The Apostles, however, remained with the Lord. Pope Benedict, quoting Saint Augustine, said the Apostles understood that Jesus had the words of eternal life because they had first believed.
One of those who remained with Jesus, though, did not believe. Judas, expecting a worldly Messiah, felt betrayed by Jesus, and decided to betray Him. Judas’ problem, the Pope said, was that, not believing in Jesus, he nonetheless remained with Him. “The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil.” Concluding his remarks, Pope Benedict prayed that Mary would “help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people.”
The full text of Pope Benedict’s Angelus message is below:
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the past few Sundays we have meditated on the “Bread of Life” discourse that Jesus pronounced in the synagogue of Capernaum after feeding thousands of people with five loaves and two fishes. Today, the Gospel presents the disciples’ reaction to that speech, a reaction that Christ Himself knowingly provoked. First of all, John the Evangelist – who was present along with the other Apostles – reports that “from that time many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him” (Jn 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe the words of Jesus when He said: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever” (cf. Jn 6,51.54). This revelation remained incomprehensible to them, because they understood it only in a material sense, while in fact these words foretold the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, that He would give Himself for the salvation of the world.
Seeing that many of His disciples were leaving, Jesus addressed the Apostles, saying: “Will you also go away?” (Jn 6:67). As in other cases, it is Peter who replied on behalf of the Twelve: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and know that You are the Holy One of God “(Jn 6:68-69). On this passage we have a beautiful commentary of St. Augustine, who says: “Do you see how Peter, by the grace of God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has understood? Why did he understand? Because he believed. You have the words of eternal life. You give us eternal life by offering your body and your blood. And we have believed and understood. He does not say we have understood and believed, but we believed and understood. We have believed in order to be able to understand; if, in fact, we wanted to understand before believing, we would not be able either to understand or to believe. What have we believed and what have we understood? That You are the Christ, the Son of God, that is, that You are that very eternal life, and that You give in Your flesh and blood only that which You are” (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 27, 9).
Finally, Jesus knew that even among the twelve apostles there was one that did not believe: Judas. Judas could have left, as many of the disciples did; indeed, he would have left if he were honest. Instead he remained with Jesus. He did not remain because of faith, or because of love, but with the secret intention of taking vengeance on the Master. Why? Because Judas felt betrayed by Jesus, and decided that he in turn would betray Him. Judas was a Zealot, and wanted a triumphant Messiah, who would lead a revolt against the Romans. But Jesus had disappointed those expectations. The problem is that Judas did not go away, and his most serious fault was falsehood, which is the mark of the devil. This is why Jesus said to the Twelve: “One of you is a devil” (John 6.70). We pray to the Virgin Mary, help us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, and to always be sincere with Him and with all people.
After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Benedict pilgrims and visitors from around the world. Speaking to the English speaking groups, the Holy Father offered special greetings to the new American seminarians of the Pontifical North American college. He prayed that we might all “remain faithful to the Lord, even when our faith in His teaching is tested.”
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. I also greet the new students of the Pontifical North American College. Dear seminarians, use your time in Rome to conform yourselves more completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us remain faithful to the Lord, even when our faith in his teachings is tested. May God bless you all!