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Vatican to publish ‘private’ homilies of Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI is pictured during Mass at Yankee Stadium in New York in this April 20, 2008 file photo. The Vatican publishing house announced it will release a book of some 130 homilies given by the late pope at private Sunday Masses -- 30 given while he was pope and more than 100 given to members of his household once he retired. (OSV News photo/Nancy Phelan Wiechec, CNS file)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Vatican publishing house announced it will release a book of some 130 homilies given by the late Pope Benedict XVI at private Sunday Masses — 30 given while he was pope and more than 100 given to members of his household once he retired.

The homilies were recorded and transcribed by the consecrated women, members of Memores Domini, who lived with him and ran his household, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, president of the board of directors of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation.

Announcing the publication Dec. 23, the foundation and the Vatican publishing house did not give a date for its release, but they published a homily Pope Benedict XVI had given Dec. 22, 2013, the fourth Sunday of Advent of his first year of retirement.

The homily focused on St. Joseph and the biblical description of him as a “just man,” which, before the birth of Jesus, would have signified that he followed the Torah, the law given to the people of Israel.

“The danger is that if the word of God is essentially law, it can be regarded as a sum of prescriptions and prohibitions, a package of norms, and the attitude therefore would be to observe the norms and thus be correct,” Pope Benedict had said in the homily.

“But if religion is like that, if that is all it is, there is no personal relationship with God, and man remains within himself, seeks to perfect himself, to be perfect,” he had said, and it is difficult to love a God “who presents himself only with rules and sometimes even threats.”

But with the coming of Jesus, the late pope said, the law is not a set of regulations to be observed, but it is “an expression of God’s will,” and by trying to understand and follow God’s will, one enters into a relationship with him.

“A truly righteous person like St Joseph is like this: for him the law is not simply the observance of rules, but presents itself as a word of love, an invitation to dialogue,” the homily continues. The dialogue leads one to discover “that all these norms do not apply for their own sake, but are rules of love, they serve so that love grows in me.”

When one understands that “the whole law is only love of God and neighbor,” one begins to see the face of God and is led to Christ, he said.

Pope Benedict said Christians face “the same temptation, the same danger that existed in the Old Testament: even a Christian can arrive at an attitude in which the Christian religion is regarded as a package of rules, of prohibitions and positive norms,” and they can believe that if one tries hard enough, he or she can reach perfection.

The point of faith, though, he said, is to find Jesus, “the way of life and the joy of faith.”

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