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Homily

PAPAL MASS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
St Peter's Square
Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, is the crown of the liturgical year and this Holy Year of Mercy. The Gospel in fact presents the kingship of Jesus as the culmination of his saving work, and it does so in a surprising way. “The Christ of God, the Chosen One, the King” (Lk 23:35,37) appears without power or glory: he is on the cross, where he seems more to be conquered than conqueror. His kingship is paradoxical: his throne is the cross; his crown is made of thorns; he has no sceptre, but a reed is put into his hand; he does not have luxurious clothing, but is stripped of his tunic; he wears no shiny rings on his fingers, but his hands are pierced with nails; he has no treasure, but is sold for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus’ reign is truly not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36); but for this reason, Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading, we find redemption and forgiveness (cf. Col 1:13-14). For the grandeur of his kingdom is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things. Christ lowered himself to us out of this love, he lived our human misery, he suffered the lowest point of our human condition: injustice, betrayal, abandonment; he experienced death, the tomb, hell. And so our King went to the ends of the universe in order to embrace and save every living being. He did not condemn us, nor did he conquer us, and he never disregarded our freedom, but he paved the way with a humble love that forgives all things, hopes all things, sustains all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:7). This love alone overcame and continues to overcome our worst enemies: sin, death, fear.

Dear brothers and sisters, today we proclaim this singular victory, by which Jesus became the King of every age, the Lord of history: with the sole power of love, which is the nature of God, his very life, and which has no end (cf. 1 Cor 13:8). We joyfully share the splendour of having Jesus as our King: his rule of love transforms sin into grace, death into resurrection, fear into trust.

It would mean very little, however, if we believed Jesus was King of the universe, but did not make him Lord of our lives: all this is empty if we do not personally accept Jesus and if we do not also accept his way of being King. The people presented to us in today’s Gospel, however, help us. In addition to Jesus, three figures appear: the people who are looking on, those near the cross, and the criminal crucified next to Jesus.

First, the people: the Gospel says that “the people stood by, watching” (Lk 23:35): no one says a word, no one draws any closer. The people keep their distance, just to see what is happening. They are the same people who were pressing in on Jesus when they needed something, and who now keep their distance. Given the circumstances of our lives and our unfulfilled expectations, we too can be tempted to keep our distance from Jesus’ kingship, to not accept completely the scandal of his humble love, which unsettles and disturbs us. We prefer to remain at the window, to stand apart, rather than draw near and be with him. A people who are holy, however, who have Jesus as their King, are called to follow his way of tangible love; they are called to ask themselves, each one each day: “What does love ask of me, where is it urging me to go? What answer am I giving Jesus with my life?”

There is a second group, which includes various individuals: the leaders of the people, the soldiers and a criminal. They all mock Jesus. They provoke him in the same way: “Save yourself!” (Lk 23:35,37,39). This temptation is worse than that of the people. They tempt Jesus, just as the devil did at the beginning of the Gospel (cf. Lk 4:1-13), to give up reigning as God wills, and instead to reign according to the world’s ways: to come down from the cross and destroy his enemies! If he is God, let him show his power and superiority! This temptation is a direct attack on love: “save yourself” (vv. 37,39); not others, but yourself. Claim triumph for yourself with your power, with your glory, with your victory. It is the most terrible temptation, the first and the last of the Gospel. When confronted with this attack on his very way of being, Jesus does not speak, he does not react. He does not defend himself, he does not try to convince them, he does not mount a defence of his kingship. He continues rather to love; he forgives, he lives this moment of trial according to the Father’s will, certain that love will bear fruit.

In order to receive the kingship of Jesus, we are called to struggle against this temptation, called to fix our gaze on the Crucified One, to become ever more faithful to him. How many times, even among ourselves, do we seek out the comforts and certainties offered by the world. How many times are we tempted to come down from the Cross. The lure of power and success seem an easy, quick way to spread the Gospel; we soon forget how the Kingdom of God works. This Year of Mercy invites us to rediscover the core, to return to what is essential. This time of mercy calls us to look to the true face of our King, the one that shines out at Easter, and to rediscover the youthful, beautiful face of the Church, the face that is radiant when it is welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means but rich in love, on mission. Mercy, which takes us to the heart of the Gospel, urges us to give up habits and practices which may be obstacles to serving the Kingdom of God; mercy urges us to orient ourselves only in the perennial and humble kingship of Jesus, not in submission to the precarious regalities and changing powers of every age.

In the Gospel another person appears, closer to Jesus, the thief who begs him: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). This person, simply looking at Jesus, believed in his kingdom. He was not closed in on himself, but rather – with his errors, his sins and his troubles – he turned to Jesus. He asked to be remembered, and he experienced God’s mercy: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). As soon as we give God the chance, he remembers us. He is ready to completely and forever cancel our sin, because his memory – unlike our own – does not record evil that has been done or keep score of injustices experienced. God has no memory of sin, but only of us, of each of us, we who are his beloved children. And he believes that it is always possible to start anew, to raise ourselves up.

Let us also ask for the gift of this open and living memory. Let us ask for the grace of never closing the doors of reconciliation and pardon, but rather of knowing how to go beyond evil and differences, opening every possible pathway of hope. As God believes in us, infinitely beyond any merits we have, so too we are called to instil hope and provide opportunities to others. Because even if the Holy Door closes, the true door of mercy which is the heart of Christ always remains open wide for us. From the lacerated side of the Risen One until the very end of time flow mercy, consolation and hope.

So many pilgrims have crossed the threshold of the Holy Doors, and far away from the clamour of the daily news they have tasted the great goodness of the Lord. We give thanks for this, as we recall how we have received mercy in order to be merciful, in order that we too may become instruments of mercy. Let us go forward on this road together. May our Blessed Lady accompany us, she who was also close to the Cross, she who gave birth to us there as the tender Mother of the Church, who desires to gather all under her mantle. Beneath the Cross, she saw the good thief receive pardon, and she took Jesus’ disciple as her son. She is Mother of Mercy, to whom we entrust ourselves: every situation we are in, every prayer we make, when lifted up to his merciful eyes, will find an answer.

HOLY MASS IN SWEDBANK STADION, MALMÖ

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Malmö
Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Today, with the entire Church, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. In doing so, we remember not only those who have been proclaimed saints through the ages, but also our many brothers and sisters who, in a quiet and unassuming way, lived their Christian life in the fullness of faith and love. Surely among them are many of our relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Ours, then, is a celebration of holiness. A holiness that is seen not so much in great deeds and extraordinary events, but rather in daily fidelity to the demands of our baptism. A holiness that consists in the love of God and the love of our brothers and sisters. A love that remains faithful to the point of self-renunciation and complete devotion to others. We think of the lives of all those mothers and fathers who sacrifice for their families and are prepared to forego – though it is not always easy – so many things, so many personal plans and projects.

Yet if there is one thing typical of the saints, it is that they are genuinely happy. They found the secret of authentic happiness, which lies deep within the soul and has its source in the love of God. That is why we call the saints blessed. The Beatitudes are their path, their goal towards the homeland. The Beatitudes are the way of life that the Lord teaches us, so that we can follow in his footsteps. In the Gospel of today’s Mass, we heard how Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes before a great crowd on the hill by the Sea of Galilee.

The Beatitudes are the image of Christ and consequently of each Christian. Here I would like to mention only one: “Blessed are the meek”. Jesus says of himself: “Learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). This is his spiritual portrait and it reveals the abundance of his love. Meekness is a way of living and acting that draws us close to Jesus and to one another. It enables us to set aside everything that divides and estranges us, and to find ever new ways to advance along the path of unity. So it was with sons and daughters of this land, including Saint Mary Elizabeth Hesselblad, recently canonized, and Saint Bridget, Birgitta of Vadstena, co-patron of Europe. They prayed and worked to create bonds of unity and fellowship between Christians. One very eloquent sign of this is that here in your country, marked as it is by the coexistence of quite different peoples, we are jointly commemorating the fifth centenary of the Reformation. The saints bring about change through meekness of heart. With that meekness, we come to understand the grandeur of God and worship him with sincere hearts. For meekness is the attitude of those who have nothing to lose, because their only wealth is God.

The Beatitudes are in some sense the Christian’s identity card. They identify us as followers of Jesus. We are called to be blessed, to be followers of Jesus, to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus. Thus we ought to be able to recognize and respond to new situations with fresh spiritual energy. Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart. Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness. Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him. Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home. Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others. Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians. All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.

Dear brothers and sisters, the call to holiness is directed to everyone and must be received from the Lord in a spirit of faith. The saints spur us on by their lives and their intercession before God, and we ourselves need one another if we are to become saints. Helping one another to become saints! Together let us implore the grace to accept this call with joy and to join in bringing it to fulfilment. To our heavenly Mother, Queen of All Saints, we entrust our intentions and the dialogue aimed at the full communion of all Christians, so that we may be blessed in our efforts and may attain holiness in unity.

(31 OCTOBER - 1 NOVEMBER 2016)

COMMON ECUMENICAL PRAYER AT THE LUTHERAN CATHEDRAL OF LUND

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

“Abide in me as I abide in you” (Jn 15:4). These words, spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper, allow us to peer into the heart of Christ just before his ultimate sacrifice on the cross. We can feel his heart beating with love for us and his desire for the unity of all who believe in him. He tells us that he is the true vine and that we are the branches, that just as he is one with the Father, so we must be one with him if we wish to bear fruit.

Here in Lund, at this prayer service, we wish to manifest our shared desire to remain one with Christ, so that we may have life. We ask him, “Lord, help us by your grace to be more closely united to you and thus, together, to bear a more effective witness of faith, hope and love”. This is also a moment to thank God for the efforts of our many brothers and sisters from different ecclesial communities who refused to be resigned to division, but instead kept alive the hope of reconciliation among all who believe in the one Lord.

As Catholics and Lutherans, we have undertaken a common journey of reconciliation. Now, in the context of the commemoration of the Reformation of 1517, we have a new opportunity to accept a common path, one that has taken shape over the past fifty years in the ecumenical dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church. Nor can we be resigned to the division and distance that our separation has created between us. We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.

Jesus tells us that the Father is the “vinedresser” (cf. v. 1) who tends and prunes the vine in order to make it bear more fruit (cf. v. 2). The Father is constantly concerned for our relationship with Jesus, to see if we are truly one with him (cf. v. 4). He watches over us, and his gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to work in the present to bring about the future of unity that he so greatly desires.

We too must look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness, for God alone is our judge. We ought to recognize with the same honesty and love that our division distanced us from the primordial intuition of God’s people, who naturally yearn to be one, and that it was perpetuated historically by the powerful of this world rather than the faithful people, which always and everywhere needs to be guided surely and lovingly by its Good Shepherd. Certainly, there was a sincere will on the part of both sides to profess and uphold the true faith, but at the same time we realize that we closed in on ourselves out of fear or bias with regard to the faith which others profess with a different accent and language. As Pope John Paul II said, “We must not allow ourselves to be guided by the intention of setting ourselves up as judges of history but solely by the motive of understanding better what happened and of becoming messengers of truth” (Letter to Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, President of the Secretariat for Christian Unity, 31 October 1983). God is the vinedresser, who with immense love tends and protects the vine; let us be moved by his watchful gaze. The one thing he desires is for us to abide like living branches in his Son Jesus. With this new look at the past, we do not claim to realize an impracticable correction of what took place, but “to tell that history differently” (LUTHERAN-ROMAN CATHOLIC COMMISSION ON UNITY, From Conflict to Communion, 17 June 2013, 16).

Jesus reminds us: “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (v. 5). He is the one who sustains us and spurs us on to find ways to make our unity ever more visible. Certainly, our separation has been an immense source of suffering and misunderstanding, yet it has also led us to recognize honestly that without him we can do nothing; in this way it has enabled us to understand better some aspects of our faith. With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to sacred Scripture in the Church’s life. Through shared hearing of the word of God in the Scriptures, important steps forward have been taken in the dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation, whose fiftieth anniversary we are presently celebrating. Let us ask the Lord that his word may keep us united, for it is a source of nourishment and life; without its inspiration we can do nothing.

The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing. “How can I get a propitious God?” This is the question that haunted Luther. In effect, the question of a just relationship with God is the decisive question for our lives. As we know, Luther encountered that propitious God in the Good News of Jesus, incarnate, dead and risen. With the concept “by grace alone”, he reminds us that God always takes the initiative, prior to any human response, even as he seeks to awaken that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.

Jesus intercedes for us as our mediator before the Father; he asks him that his disciples may be one, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This is what comforts us and inspires us to be one with Jesus, and thus to pray: “Grant us the gift of unity, so that the world may believe in the power of your mercy”. This is the testimony the world expects from us. We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst. Together we can proclaim and manifest God’s mercy, concretely and joyfully, by upholding and promoting the dignity of every person. Without this service to the world and in the world, Christian faith is incomplete.

As Lutherans and Catholics, we pray together in this Cathedral, conscious that without God we can do nothing. We ask his help, so that we can be living members, abiding in him, ever in need of his grace, so that together we may bring his word to the world, which so greatly needs his tender love and mercy.


 

JOINT STATEMENT
on the occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation

Lund, 31 October 2016

 

«Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me» (John 15:4).

With thankful hearts

With this Joint Statement, we express joyful gratitude to God for this moment of common prayer in the Cathedral of Lund, as we begin the year commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation. Fifty years of sustained and fruitful ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans have helped us to overcome many differences, and have deepened our mutual understanding and trust. At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers. Rather, we have learned that what unites us is greater than what divides us.

Moving from conflict to communion

While we are profoundly thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, we also confess and lament before Christ that Lutherans and Catholics have wounded the visible unity of the Church. Theological differences were accompanied by prejudice and conflicts, and religion was instrumentalized for political ends. Our common faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism demand of us a daily conversion, by which we cast off the historical disagreements and conflicts that impede the ministry of reconciliation. While the past cannot be changed, what is remembered and how it is remembered can be transformed. We pray for the healing of our wounds and of the memories that cloud our view of one another. We emphatically reject all hatred and violence, past and present, especially that expressed in the name of religion. Today, we hear God’s command to set aside all conflict. We recognize that we are freed by grace to move towards the communion to which God continually calls us.

Our commitment to common witness

As we move beyond those episodes in history that burden us, we pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace, made visible in the crucified and risen Christ. Aware that the way we relate to one another shapes our witness to the Gospel, we commit ourselves to further growth in communion rooted in Baptism, as we seek to remove the remaining obstacles that hinder us from attaining full unity. Christ desires that we be one, so that the world may believe (cf. John 17:21).

Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavours, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.

We pray to God that Catholics and Lutherans will be able to witness together to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, inviting humanity to hear and receive the good news of God’s redeeming action. We pray to God for inspiration, encouragement and strength so that we may stand together in service, upholding human dignity and rights, especially for the poor, working for justice, and rejecting all forms of violence. God summons us to be close to all those who yearn for dignity, justice, peace and reconciliation. Today in particular, we raise our voices for an end to the violence and extremism which affect so many countries and communities, and countless sisters and brothers in Christ. We urge Lutherans and Catholics to work together to welcome the stranger, to come to the aid of those forced to flee because of war and persecution, and to defend the rights of refugees and those who seek asylum.

More than ever before, we realize that our joint service in this world must extend to God’s creation, which suffers exploitation and the effects of insatiable greed. We recognize the right of future generations to enjoy God’s world in all its potential and beauty. We pray for a change of hearts and minds that leads to a loving and responsible way to care for creation.

One in Christ

On this auspicious occasion, we express our gratitude to our brothers and sisters representing the various Christian World Communions and Fellowships who are present and join us in prayer. As we recommit ourselves to move from conflict to communion, we do so as part of the one Body of Christ, into which we are incorporated through Baptism. We invite our ecumenical partners to remind us of our commitments and to encourage us. We ask them to continue to pray for us, to walk with us, to support us in living out the prayerful commitments we express today.

Calling upon Catholics and Lutherans worldwide

We call upon all Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us. Rather than conflicts of the past, God’s gift of unity among us shall guide cooperation and deepen our solidarity. By drawing close in faith to Christ, by praying together, by listening to one another, by living Christ’s love in our relationships, we, Catholics and Lutherans, open ourselves to the power of the Triune God. Rooted in Christ and witnessing to him, we renew our determination to be faithful heralds of God’s boundless love for all humanity.

 

HOLY MASS AND CANONIZATION OF THE BLESSEDS:

Salomon Leclercq, José Sánchez del Río, Manuel González García, Lodovico Pavoni, Alfonso Maria Fusco,
José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero, Elisabeth of the Holy Trinity Catez

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

St Peter's Square
Sunday, 16 October 2016

At the start of today’s celebration, we addressed this prayer to the Lord: “Create in us a generous and steadfast heart, so that we may always serve you with fidelity and purity of spirit” (Collect).

By our own efforts, we cannot give ourselves such a heart.  Only God can do this, and so in the prayer we ask him to give it to us as his “creation”.  In this way, we come to the theme of prayer, which is central to this Sunday’s scriptural readings and challenges all of us who are gathered here for the canonization of new Saints.  The Saints attained the goal.  Thanks to prayer, they had a generous and steadfast heart.  They prayed mightily; they fought and they were victorious.

So pray!  Like Moses, who was above all a man of God, a man of prayer.  We see him today in the battle against Amalek, standing atop the hill with his arms raised.  From time to time, however, his arms would grow weary and fall, and then the tide would turn against the people.  So Aaron and Hur made Moses sit on a stone and they held up his arms, until the final victory was won.

This is the kind of spiritual life the Church asks of us: not to win by war, but to win with peace!

There is an important message in this story of Moses: commitment to prayer demands that we support one another.  Weariness is inevitable.  Sometimes we simply cannot go on, yet, with the support of our brothers and sisters, our prayer can persevere until the Lord completes his work.

Saint Paul writes to Timothy, his disciple and co-worker, and urges him to hold fast to what he has learned and believed (cf. 2 Tim 3:14).  But Timothy could not do this by his own efforts: the “battle” of perseverance cannot be won without prayer.  Not sporadic or hesitant prayer, but prayer offered as Jesus tells us in the Gospel:  “Pray always, without ever losing heart” (Lk 18:1).  This is the Christian way of life: remaining steadfast in prayer, in order to remain steadfast in faith and testimony.  Here once again we may hear a voice within us, saying: “But Lord, how can we not grow weary?  We are human… even Moses grew weary...!”  True, each of us grows weary.  Yet we are not alone; we are part of a Body!  We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, whose arms are raised day and night to heaven, thanks to the presence of the Risen Christ and his Holy Spirit.  Only in the Church, and thanks to the Church’s prayer, are we able to remain steadfast in faith and witness.

We have heard the promise Jesus makes in the Gospel: “God will grant justice to his chosen ones, who cry to him day and night” (cf. Lk 18:7).  This is the mystery of prayer: to keep crying out, not to lose heart, and if we should grow tired, asking help to keep our hands raised.  This is the prayer that Jesus has revealed to us and given us in the Holy Spirit.  To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm.  On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us.  For the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray.  He guides us in prayer and he enables us to pray as sons and daughters.

The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer.  Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them.  They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph, but not by their own efforts: the Lord triumphs in them and with them.  The seven witnesses who were canonized today also fought the good fight of faith and love by their prayers.  That is why they remained firm in faith, with a generous and steadfast heart.   Through their example and their intercession, may God also enable us to be men and women of prayer.  May we cry out day and night to God, without losing heart.  May we let the Holy Spirit pray in us, and may we support one another in prayer, in order to keep our arms raised, until Divine Mercy wins the victory.

 

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO GEORGIA AND AZERBAIJAN
(30 SEPTEMBER - 2 OCTOBER 2016)

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Mikheil Meskhi Stadium - Tbilisi
Saturday, 1 October 2016

Among the many treasures of this magnificent country, one that stands out is the importance of women. As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, whom we commemorate today, wrote: “they love God in much larger numbers than men do” (Autobiography, Manuscript A, 66). Here in Georgia there are a great number of grandmothers and mothers who unceasingly defend and pass on the faith that was sown in this land of Saint Nino; and they bring the fresh water of God’s consolation to countless situations of barrenness and conflict.

This enables us to appreciate the beauty of God’s message in the first reading: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Is 66:13). As a mother takes upon herself the burdens and weariness of her children, so too does God take upon himself our sins and troubles. He who knows us and loves us infinitely, is mindful of our prayers and wipes away our tears. As he looks at us, he is always moved and becomes tender-hearted, with a love from the depths of his being, for beyond any evil we are capable of, we always remain his children; he wants to take us in his arms, protect us, and free us from harm and evil. Let us allow these words of the Lord to resound in our hearts: “As a mother comforts, so will I comfort you”.

The consolation we need, amid the turmoil we experience in life, is precisely the presence of God in our hearts. God’s presence in us is the source of true consolation, which dwells in us, liberates us from evil, brings peace and increases our joy. For this reason, if we want to experience his consolation, we must give way to the Lord in our lives. And in order for the Lord to abide continually in us, we must open the doors of our hearts to him and not keep him outside. There are doors of consolation which must always be open, because Jesus especially loves to enter through them: the Gospel we read every day and carry around with us, our silent prayer in adoration, confession, the Eucharist. It is through these doors that the Lord enters and gives new flavour to reality. When the door of our heart is closed, however, his light cannot enter in and everything remains dark. We then get accustomed to pessimism, to things which aren’t right, to realities that never change. We end up absorbed in our own sadness, in the depths of anguish, isolated. If, on the other hand, we open wide the doors of consolation, the light of the Lord enters in!

Yet God does not console us only in our hearts; through the prophet Isaiah he adds: “You shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (66:13). In Jerusalem, that is, in the city of God, in the community: it is when we are united, in communion, that God’s consolation works in us. In the Church we find consolation, it is the house of consolation: here God wishes to console us. We may ask ourselves: I who am in the Church, do I bring the consolation of God? Do I know how to welcome others as guests and console those whom I see tired and disillusioned? Even when enduring affliction and rejection, a Christian is always called to bring hope to the hearts of those who have given up, to encourage the downhearted, to bring the light of Jesus, the warmth of his presence and his forgiveness which restores us. Countless people suffer trials and injustice, and live in anxiety. Our hearts need anointing with God’s consolation, which does not take away our problems, but gives us the power to love, to peacefully bear pain. Receiving and bringing God’s consolation: this mission of the Church is urgent. Dear brothers and sisters, let us take up this call: to not bury ourselves in what is going wrong around us or be saddened by the lack of harmony between us. It is not good for us to become accustomed to a closed ecclesial “micro-environment”; it is good for us to share wide horizons, horizons open to hope, having the courage to humbly open our doors and go beyond ourselves.

There is, however, an underlying condition to receiving God’s consolation, and his word today reminds us of this: to become little like children (cf. Mt 18:3-4), to be “like a child quieted at its mother’s breast” (Ps 130:2). To receive God’s love we need this littleness of heart: only little ones can be held in their mothers arms.

Whoever becomes like a little child, Jesus tells us, “is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:4). The true greatness of man consists in making himself small before God. For God is not known through grand ideas and extensive study, but rather through the littleness of a humble and trusting heart. To be great before the Most High does not require the accumulation of honour and prestige or earthly goods and success, but rather a complete self-emptying. A child has nothing to give and everything to receive. A child is vulnerable, and depends on his or her father and mother. The one who becomes like a little child is poor in self but rich in God.

Children, who have no problem in understanding God, have much to teach us: they tell us that he accomplishes great things in those who put up no resistance to him, who are simple and sincere, without duplicity. The Gospel shows us how great wonders are accomplished with small things: with a few loaves and two fishes (cf. Mt 14:15-20), with a tiny mustard seed (cf. Mk 4:30-32), with a grain of wheat that dies in the earth (cf. Jn 12:24), with the gift of just a single glass of water (cf. Mt 10:42), with the two coins of a poor widow (cf. Lk 21:1-4), with the humility of Mary, the servant of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:46-55).

This is the surprising greatness of God, of a God who is full of surprises and who loves surprises: let us always keep alive the desire for and trust in God’s surprises! It will help us to remember that we are constantly and primarily his children: not masters of our lives, but children of the Father; not autonomous and self-sufficient adults, but children who always need to be lifted up and embraced, who need love and forgiveness. Blessed are those Christian communities who live this authentic gospel simplicity! Poor in means, they are rich in God. Blessed are the Shepherds who do not ride the logic of worldly success, but follow the law of love: welcoming, listening, serving. Blessed is the Church who does not entrust herself to the criteria of functionalism and organizational efficiency, nor worries about her image. Little and beloved flock of Georgia, who are so committed to works of charity and education, receive the encouragement of the Good Shepherd, you who are entrusted to him who takes you on his shoulders and consoles you.

I would like to summarize these thoughts with some words from Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, whom we commemorate today. She shows her “little way” to God, “the trust of a little child who falls asleep without fear in his Father’s arms”, because “Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude” (Autobiography, Manuscript B, 1). Unfortunately, however, as she wrote then, and which still holds true today, God finds “few hearts who surrender to him without reservations, who understand the real tenderness of his infinite Love” (ibid). The young saint and Doctor of the Church, rather, was an expert in the “science of love” (ibid), and teaches us that “perfect charity consists in bearing with the faults of others, in not being surprised at their weakness, in being edified by the smallest acts of virtue we see them practice”; she reminds also that “charity cannot remain hidden in the depths our hearts” (Autobiography, Manuscript C, 12). Together let us all implore today the grace of a simple heart, of a heart that believes and lives in the gentle strength of love; let us ask to live in peaceful and complete trust in God’s mercy.


Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis at the conclusion of Holy Mass:

I am grateful to Monsignor Pasotto for his kind words offered on behalf of the Latin, Armenian and Syro-Chaldean communities. I greet Patriarch Sako and the Chaldean Bishops, Monsignor Minassian and also those from neighbouring Armenia, and all of you, the beloved faithful from the various regions of Georgia. I thank the President, the Authorities, the beloved friends of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Christian communities gathered here, and in a particular way I thank the faithful of the Georgian Orthodox Church who are present. In asking you to please pray for me, I assure you of my own prayerful remembrance and to all of you I renew my gratitude: Didi madloba! [many thanks!]

 

HOLY MASS AND CANONIZATION OF BLESSED
MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA

JUBILEE FOR WORKERS OF MERCY AND VOLUNTEERS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 4 September 2016

“Who can learn the counsel of God?” (Wis 9:13). This question from the Book of Wisdom that we have just heard in the first reading suggests that our life is a mystery and that we do not possess the key to understanding it. There are always two protagonists in history: God and man. Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, “What is God’s will in my life?”

We find the answer in the same passage of the Book of Wisdom: “People were taught what pleases you” (Wis 9:18). In order to ascertain the call of God, we must ask ourselves and understand what pleases God. On many occasions the prophets proclaimed what was pleasing to God. Their message found a wonderful synthesis in the words “I want mercy, not sacrifice” (Hos 6:6; Mt 9:13). God is pleased by every act of mercy, because in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognize the face of God which no one can see (cf. Jn 1:18). Each time we bend down to the needs of our brothers and sisters, we give Jesus something to eat and drink; we clothe, we help, and we visit the Son of God (cf. Mt 25:40). In a word, we touch the flesh of Christ.

We are thus called to translate into concrete acts that which we invoke in prayer and profess in faith. There is no alternative to charity: those who put themselves at the service of others, even when they don’t know it, are those who love God (cf. 1 Jn 3:16-18; Jas 2:14-18). The Christian life, however, is not merely extending a hand in times of need. If it is just this, it can be, certainly, a lovely expression of human solidarity which offers immediate benefits, but it is sterile because it lacks roots. The task which the Lord gives us, on the contrary, is the vocation to charity in which each of Christ’s disciples puts his or her entire life at his service, so to grow each day in love.

We heard in the Gospel, “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus” (Lk 14:25). Today, this “large crowd” is seen in the great number of volunteers who have come together for the Jubilee of Mercy. You are that crowd who follows the Master and who makes visible his concrete love for each person. I repeat to you the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have indeed received much joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philem 1:7). How many hearts have been comforted by volunteers! How many hands they have held; how many tears they have wiped away; how much love has been poured out in hidden, humble and selfless service! This praiseworthy service gives voice to the faith – it gives voice to the faith! – and expresses the mercy of the Father, who draws near to those in need.

Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and those who are cast aside, and to give oneself in their service. In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love. And each one of us can say: “Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own. Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be”. And I do this, keeping alive the memory of those times when the Lord’s hand reached out to me when I was in need.

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! I think, perhaps, we may have some difficult in calling her “Saint Teresa”: her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continual to spontaneously call her “Mother Teresa”. May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO POLAND
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XXXI WORLD YOUTH DAY

HOLY MASS FOR WORLD YOUTH DAY

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Campus Misericordiae - Kraków
Sunday, 31 July 2016

Dear young people, you have come to Krakow to meet Jesus.  Today’s Gospel speaks to us of just such a meeting between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (cf. Lk 19:1-10).   There Jesus does not simply preach or greet people; as the Evangelist tells us, he passed through the city (v. 1).  In other words, Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.

An amazing encounter then takes place, with Zacchaeus, the chief “publican” or tax collector.  Zacchaeus was thus a wealthy collaborator of the hated Roman occupiers, someone who exploited his own people, someone who, because of his ill repute, could not even approach the Master.  His encounter with Jesus changed his life, just as it has changed, and can daily still change, each of our lives.  But Zacchaeus had to face a number of obstacles in order to meet Jesus.  It was not easy for him; he had to face a number of obstacles. At least three of these can also say something to us.

The first obstacle is smallness of stature.  Zacchaeus couldn’t see the Master because he was little.  Even today we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy.  This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself.  For faith tells us that we are “children of God… that is what we are” (1 Jn 3:1).  We have been created in God’s own image; Jesus has taken upon himself our humanity and his heart will never be separated from us; the Holy Spirit wants to dwell within us.  We have been called to be happy for ever with God!

That is our real “stature”, our spiritual identity: we are God’s beloved children, always.  So you can see that not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, means not to recognize our deepest identity.  It is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me.  God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind.  As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts.  No one is insignificant.  He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important!  God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess.  In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern.  He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you, just as you are!  In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.

At times in our lives, we aim lower rather than higher.  At those times, it is good to realize that God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us.  The fact is, he loves us even more than we love ourselves.  He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves.  He is always “cheering us on”; he is our biggest fan.  He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries.  But such brooding is unworthy of our spiritual stature!  It is a kind of virus infecting and blocking everything; it closes doors and prevents us from getting up and starting over.  God, on the other hand, is hopelessly hopeful!  He believes that we can always get up, and he hates to see us glum and gloomy.  It is sad to see young people who are glum.  Because we are always his beloved sons and daughters.  Let us be mindful of this at the dawn of each new day.  It will do us good to pray every morning: “Lord, I thank you for loving me; I am sure that you love me; help me to be in love with my own life!”  Not with my faults, that need to be corrected, but with life itself, which is a great gift, for it is a time to love and to be loved.

Zacchaeus faced a second obstacle in meeting Jesus: the paralysis of shame.  We spoke a little about this yesterday.  We can imagine what was going on in his heart before he climbed that sycamore.  It must have been quite a struggle – on one hand, a healthy curiosity and desire to know Jesus; on the other, the risk of appearing completely ridiculous.  Zacchaeus was public figure, a man of power, but deeply hated.  He knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughingstock to all.  Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful.  You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them: we end up ready to do things we would never have even thought of doing.  Something similar took place in the heart of Zacchaeus, when he realized that Jesus was so important that he would do anything for him, since Jesus alone could pull him out of the mire of sin and discontent.  The paralysis of shame did not have the upper hand.  The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus “ran ahead”, “climbed” the tree, and then, when Jesus called him, he “hurried down” (vv. 4, 6).  He took a risk, he put his life on the line.  For us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away.  When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life – we can’t respond by thinking about it or “texting” a few words!

Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins.  He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace.  Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him!  Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice.  Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.

After his small stature, after the paralysis of shame, there was a third obstacle that Zacchaeus had to face.  It was no longer an interior one, but was all around him.  It was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him: How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner!  How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a “God who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4)!  People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad.  Instead, our heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45).  He demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies.  People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy.  But do not be afraid.  Think of the motto of these days: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7).  People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded.  Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!

That day the crowd judged Zacchaeus; they looked him over, up and down.  But Jesus did otherwise: he gazed up at him (v. 5).  Jesus looks beyond the faults and sees the person.  He does not halt before bygone evil, but sees future good.  His gaze remains constant, even when it is not met; it seeks the way of unity and communion.  In no case does it halt at appearances, but looks to the heart.  Jesus looks to our hearts, your heart, my heart.  With this gaze of Jesus, you can help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice.  Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks.  Instead, “download” the best “link” of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary.  The joy that you have freely received from God, please, freely give away (cf. Mt 10:8): so many people are waiting for it!  So many are waiting for it from you.

Finally let us listen to the words that Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, which to be seem meant for us today, for each one of us: “Come down, for I must stay at your house today” (v. 5).  “Come down, for I must stay with you today.  Open to me the door of your heart”.  Jesus extends the same invitation to you: “I must stay at your house today”.  We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on. The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone.  He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams.  How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer!  How much he hopes that, in all the “contacts” and “chats” of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer!  How much he wants his word to be able to speak to you day after day, so that you can make his Gospel your own, so that it can serve as a compass for you on the highways of life!

In asking to come to your house, Jesus calls you, as he did Zacchaeus, by name.  All of us, Jesus calls by name.  Your name is precious to him.  The name “Zacchaeus” would have made people back the think of the remembrance of God.  Trust the memory of God: his memory is not a “hard disk” that “saves” and “archives” all our data, his memory is a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in “erasing” in us every trace of evil.  May we too now try to imitate the faithful memory of God and treasure the good things we have received in these days.  In silence, let us remember this encounter, let us preserve the memory of the presence of God and his word, and let us listen once more to the voice of Jesus as he calls us by name.  So let us now pray silently, remembering and thanking the Lord wanted us to be here and has come here to meet us.

 

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO POLAND
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XXXI WORLD YOUTH DAY

HOLY MASS WITH PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS,
CONSECRATED PEOPLE AND POLISH SEMINARIANS

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Saint John Paul II Shrine - Kraków
Saturday, 30 July 2016

The words of the Gospel we have just heard (cf. Jn 20:19-31) speak to us of a place, a disciple and a book.

The place is where the disciples gathered on the evening of Easter; we read only that its doors were closed (cf. v. 19).  Eight days later, the disciples were once more gathered there, and the doors were still shut (cf. v. 26).  Jesus enters, stands in their midst and brings them his peace, the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins: in a word, God’s mercy.  Behind those closed doors there resounds Jesus’ call to his followers: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v. 21).

Jesus sends.  From the beginning, he wants his to be a Church on the move, a Church that goes out into the world.  And he wants it to do this just as he did.  He was not sent into the world by the Father to wield power, but to take the form of a slave (cf. Phil 2:7); he came not “to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45) and to bring the Good News (cf. Lk 4:18).  In the same way, his followers are sent forth in every age.  The contrast is striking: whereas the disciples had closed the doors out of fear, Jesus sends them out on mission.  He wants them to open the doors and go out to spread God’s pardon and peace, with the power of the Holy Spirit.

This call is also addressed to us.  How can we fail to hear its echo in the great appeal of Saint John Paul II: “Open the doors”?  Yet, in our lives as priests and consecrated persons, we can often be tempted to remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves and in our surroundings.  But Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves.  It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket.  It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake (cf. Mk 8:35) and setting out on the path of self-gift.  Nor does Jesus like journeys made halfway, doors half-closed, lives lived on two tracks.  He asks us to pack lightly for the journey, to set out renouncing our own security, with him alone as our strength.

In other words, the life of Jesus’ closest disciples, which is what we are called to be, is shaped by concrete love, a love, in other words, marked by service and availability.  It is a life that has no closed spaces or private property for our own use, or at least there shouldn’t be.  Those who choose to model their entire life on Jesus no longer choose their own places; they go where they are sent, in ready response to the one who calls.  They do not even choose their own times.  The house where they live does not belong to them, because the Church and the world are the open spaces of their mission.  Their wealth is to put the Lord in the midst of their lives and to seek nothing else for themselves.  So they flee the satisfaction of being at the centre of things; they do not build on the shaky foundations of worldly power, or settle into the comforts that compromise evangelization.  They do not waste time planning a secure future, lest they risk becoming isolated and gloomy, enclosed within the narrow walls of a joyless and desperate self-centredness.  Finding their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to others.  They love to take risks and to set out, not limited to trails already blazed, but open and faithful to the paths pointed out by the Spirit.  Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.

Secondly, today’s Gospel presents us with the one disciple who is named: Thomas.  In his hesitation and his efforts to understand, this disciple, albeit somewhat stubborn, is a bit like us and we find him likeable.  Without knowing it, he gives us a great gift: he brings us closer to God, because God does not hide from those who seek him.  Jesus shows Thomas his glorious wounds; he makes him touch with his hand the infinite tenderness of God, the vivid signs of how much he suffered out of love for humanity.

For us who are disciples, it is important to put our humanity in contact with the flesh of the Lord, to bring to him, with complete trust and utter sincerity, our whole being.  As Jesus told Saint Faustina, he is happy when we tell him everything: he is not bored with our lives, which he already knows; he waits for us to tell him even about the events of our day (cf. Diary, 6 September 1937).  That is the way to seek God: through prayer that is transparent and unafraid to hand over to him our troubles, our struggles and our resistance.  Jesus’ heart is won over by sincere openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God’s mercy will be active.

What does Jesus ask of us?  He desires hearts that are truly consecrated, hearts that draw life from his forgiveness in order to pour it out with compassion on our brothers and sisters.  Jesus wants hearts that are open and tender towards the weak, never hearts that are hardened.  He wants docile and transparent hearts that do not dissimulate before those whom the Church appoints as our guides.  Disciples do not hesitate to ask questions, they have the courage to face their misgivings and bring them to the Lord, to their formators and superiors, without calculations or reticence.  A faithful disciple engages in constant watchful discernment, knowing that the heart must be trained daily, beginning with the affections, to flee every form of duplicity in attitudes and in life.

The Apostle Thomas, at the conclusion of his impassioned quest, not only came to believe in the resurrection, but found in Jesus his life’s greatest treasure, his Lord.  He says to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  We would do well, today, and every day, to pray these magnificent words, and to say to the Lord: You are my one treasure, the path I must follow, the core of my life, my all.

The final verse of today’s Gospel speaks of a book: it is the Gospel that, we are told, does not contain all the many other signs that Jesus worked (v. 30).  After the great sign of his mercy, we could say that there is no longer a need to add another.  Yet one challenge does remain.  There is room left for the signs needing to be worked by us, who have received the Spirit of love and are called to spread mercy.  It might be said that the Gospel, the living book of God’s mercy that must be continually read and reread, still has many blank pages left.  It remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by the works of mercy we practise.  Let me ask you this, dear brothers and sisters: What are the pages of your books like?  Are they blank?  May the Mother of God help us in this.  May she, who fully welcomed the word of God into her life (cf. Lk 8:20-21), give us the grace to be living writers of the Gospel.  May our Mother of Mercy teach us how to take concrete care of the wounds of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in need, those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant, because by serving those who suffer we honour the flesh of Christ.  May the Virgin Mary help us to spend ourselves completely for the good of the faithful entrusted to us, and to show concern for one another as true brothers and sisters in the communion of the Church, our holy Mother.

Dear brothers and sisters, each of us holds in his or her heart a very personal page of the book of God’s mercy.  It is the story of our own calling, the voice of the love that attracted us and transformed our life, leading us to leave everything at his word and to follow him (cf. Lk 5:11).  Today let us gratefully rekindle the memory of his call, which is stronger than any resistance and weariness on our part.  As we continue this celebration of the Eucharist, the centre of our lives, let us thank the Lord for having entered through our closed doors with his mercy, for calling us, like Thomas, by name, and for giving us the grace to continue writing his Gospel of love.

 

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO POLAND
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XXXI WORLD YOUTH DAY

HOLY MASS ON THE OCCASION OF THE 1050th ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAPTISM OF POLAND

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Area near the Shrine of Częstochowa
Thursday, 28 July 2016

From the readings of this Liturgy a divine thread emerges, one that passes through human history and weaves the history of salvation.

The apostle Paul tells us of God’s great plan: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). But history tells us that when this “fullness of time” came, when God became man, humanity was not especially well-disposed, nor was there even a period of stability and peace: there was no “Golden Age”. The scenario of this world did not merit the coming of God; indeed, “his own received him not” (Jn 1:11). The fullness of time was thus a gift of grace: God filled our time out of the abundance of his mercy. Out of sheer love, he inaugurated the fullness of time.

It is particularly striking how the coming of God into history came about: he was “born of a woman”. There was no triumphal entrance or striking epiphany of the Almighty. He did not reveal himself as a brilliantly rising sun, but entered the world in the simplest of ways, as a child from his mother, with that “style” that Scripture tells us is like a rainfall upon the land (cf. Is 55:10), like the smallest of seeds which sprouts and grows (cf. Mk 4:31-32). Thus, contrary to our expectations and perhaps even our desires, the kingdom of God, now as then, “does not come in a way that attracts attention” (Lk 17:20), but rather in littleness, in humility.

Today’s Gospel takes up this divine thread delicately passing through history: from the fullness of time we come to the “third day” of Jesus’ ministry (cf. Jn 2:1) and the proclamation of the “hour” of salvation (cf. v. 4). Time shortens, God always shows himself in littleness. And so we come to “the first of the signs that Jesus did” (v. 11), in Cana of Galilee.

There is no amazing deed done before the crowd, or even a word to settle a heated political question like that of the subjection of the people to the power of Rome. Instead, in a small village, a simple miracle takes place and brings joy to the wedding of a young and completely anonymous family. At the same time, the water that became wine at the wedding banquet is a great sign, for it reveals to us the spousal face of God, a God who sits at table with us, who dreams and holds communion with us. It tells us that the Lord does not keep his distance, but is near and real. He is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power. He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater. To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.

God saves us, then by making himself little, near and real. First God makes himself little. The Lord, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), especially loves the little ones, to whom the kingdom of God is revealed (Mt 11:25); they are great in his eyes and he looks to them (cf. Is 66:2). He especially loves them because they are opposed to the “pride of life” that belongs to the world (cf. 1 Jn 2:16). The little ones speak his own language, that of the humble love that brings freedom. So he calls the simple and receptive to be his spokespersons; he entrusts to them the revelation of his name and the secrets of his heart. Our minds turn to so many sons and daughters of your own people, like the martyrs made the defenseless power of the Gospel shine forth, like those ordinary yet remarkable people who bore witness to the Lord’s love amid great trials, and those meek and powerful heralds of mercy who were Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina. Through these “channels” of his love, the Lord has granted priceless gifts to the whole Church and to all mankind. It is significant that this anniversary of the baptism of your people exactly coincides with the Jubilee of mercy.

Then too, God is near, his kingdom is at hand (cf. Mk 1:15). The Lord does not want to be feared like a powerful and aloof sovereign. He does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us. As we think of the gift of a millennium so filled with faith, we do well before all else to thank God for having walked with your people, having taken you by the hand, as a father takes the hand of his child, and accompanied you in so many situations. That is what we too, in the Church, are constantly called to do: to listen, to get involved and be neighbours, sharing in people’s joys and struggles, so that the Gospel can spread every more consistently and fruitfully: radiating goodness through the transparency of our lives.

Finally, God is real. Today’s readings make it clear that everything about God’s way of acting is real and concrete. Divine wisdom “is like a master worker” and “plays” (cf. Prov 8:30). The Word becomes flesh, is born of a mother, is born under the law (cf. Gal 4:4), has friends and goes to a party. The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations. Your own history, shaped by the Gospel, the Cross and fidelity to the Church, has seen the contagious power of a genuine faith, passed down from family to family, from fathers to sons and above all from mothers and grandmothers, whom we need so much to thank. In particular, you have been able to touch with your hand the real and provident tenderness of the Mother of all, whom I have come here as a pilgrim to venerate and whom we have acclaimed in the Psalm as the “great pride of our nation” (Jud 15:9).

It is to Mary, then that we, who have gathered here, now look. In her, we find complete conformity to the Lord. Throughout history, interwoven with the divine thread, is also a “Marian thread”. If there is any human glory, any merit of our own in the fullness of time, it is she. Mary is that space, preserved free from sin, where God chose to mirror himself. She is the stairway God took to descend and draw near to us. She is the clearest sign of the fullness of time.

In the life of Mary we admire that littleness that God loves, for he “looked upon the humility of his servant”, and “lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:48, 52). He was so pleased with her that he let his flesh be woven from hers, so that the Virgin became the Mother of God, as an ancient hymn, sung for centuries, proclaims. To you who uninterruptedly come to her, converging upon this, the spiritual capital of the country, may she continue to point the way. May she help you to weave in your own lives the humble and simple thread of the Gospel.

At Cana, as here in Jasna Góra, Mary offers us her nearness and helps us to discover what we need to live life to the full. Now as then, she does this with a mother’s love, by her presence and counsel, teaching us to avoid hasty decisions and grumbling in our communities. As the Mother of a family, she wants to keep us together. Through unity, the journey of your people has surmounted any number of harsh experiences. May the Mother, who stood steadfast at the foot of the Cross and persevered in prayer with the disciples in awaiting the Holy Spirit, obtain for you the desire to leave behind all past wrongs and wounds, and to build fellowship with all, without ever yielding to the temptation to withdraw or to domineer.

At Cana, Our Lady showed great realism. She is a Mother who takes people’s problems to heart and acts. She recognizes moments of difficulty and handles them discreetly, efficiently and decisively. She is neither imperious nor intrusive, but a Mother and a handmaid. Let us ask for the grace to imitate her sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favourites or distinctions. May Mary, Cause of our Joy, who brings peace amid the profusion of sin and the turmoil of history, obtain for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and enable us to be good and faithful servants

Through her intercession, may the fullness of time come about also for us. The transition from before to after Christ means little if it remains a date in the annals of history. May each one of us be able to make an interior passage, a Passover of the heart, towards the divine “style” incarnated by Mary. May we do everything in littleness, and accompany others at close hand, with a simple and open heart.

 

HOLY MASS AND BLESSING OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
FOR THE NEW METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The word of God in today’s liturgy presents a clear central contrast between closing and opening. Together with this image we can consider the symbol of the keys that Jesus promises to Simon Peter so that he can open the entrance to the kingdom of heaven, and not close it before people, like some of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus reproached (cf. Mt 23:13).

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-11) shows us three examples of “closing”: Peter is cast into prison; the community gathers behind closed doors in prayer; and – in the continuation of our reading – Peter knocks at the closed door of the house of Mary, the mother of John called Mark, after being set free.

In these three examples of “closing”, prayer appears as the main way out. It is a way out for the community, which risks closing in on itself out of persecution and fear.  It is a way out for Peter who, at the very beginning of the mission given him by the Lord, is cast into prison by Herod and risks execution.  And while Peter was in prison, “the church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5).  The Lord responds to that prayer and sends his angel to liberate Peter, “rescuing him from the hand of Herod” (cf. v. 11). Prayer, as humble entrustment to God and his holy will, is always the way out of our becoming “closed”, as individuals and as a community. It is always the eminent way out of our becoming “closed”.

Paul too, writing to Timothy, speaks of his experience of liberation, of finding a way out of his own impending execution. He tells us that the Lord stood by him and gave him strength to carry out the work of evangelizing the nations (cf. 2 Tim 4:17). But Paul speaks too of a much greater “opening”, towards an infinitely more vast horizon. It is the horizon of eternal life, which awaits him at the end of his earthly “race”. We can see the whole life of the Apostle in terms of “going out” in service to the Gospel. Paul’s life was utterly projected forward, in bringing Christ to those who did not know him, and then in rushing, as it were, into Christ’s arms, to be “saved for his heavenly kingdom” (v. 18).

Let us return to Peter. The Gospel account (Mt 16:13-19) of his confession of faith and the mission entrusted to him by Jesus shows us that the life of Simon, the fishermen of Galilee – like the life of each of us – opens, opens up fully, when it receives from God the Father the grace of faith.  Simon sets out on the journey – a long and difficult journey – that will lead him to go out of himself, leaving all his human supports behind, especially his pride tinged with courage and generous selflessness. In this, his process of liberation, the prayer of Jesus is decisive: “I have prayed for you [Simon], that your own faith may not fail” (Lk 22:32). Likewise decisive is the compassionate gaze of the Lord after Peter had denied him three times: a gaze that pierces the heart and brings tears of repentance (cf. Lk 22:61-62). At that moment, Simon Peter was set free from the prison of his selfish pride and of his fear, and overcame the temptation of closing his heart to Jesus’s call to follow him along the way of the cross.

I mentioned that, in the continuation of the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, there is a detail worthy of consideration (cf. 12:12-17). When Peter finds himself miraculously freed from Herod’s prison, he goes to the home of the mother of John called Mark. He knocks on the closed door and a servant by the name of Rhoda comes. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in disbelief and joy, instead of opening the door, she runs to tell her mistress. The account, which can seem comical, and which could give rise to the “Rhoda complex”, makes us perceive the climate of fear that led the Christian community to stay behind closed doors, but also closed to God’s surprises.  Peter knocks at the door. Behold! There is joy, there is fear… “Do we open, do we not?...”. He is in danger, since the guards can come and take him.  But fear paralyzes us, it always paralyzes us; it makes us close in on ourselves, closed to God’s surprises. This detail speaks to us of a constant temptation for the Church, that of closing in on herself in the face of danger. But we also see the small openings through which God can work. Saint Luke tells us that in that house “many had gathered and were praying” (v. 12). Prayer enable grace to open a way out from closure to openness, from fear to courage, from sadness to joy. And we can add: from division to unity. Yes, we say this today with confidence, together with our brothers from the Delegation sent by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to take part in the celebration of the Holy Patrons of Rome. Today is also a celebration of communion for the whole Church, as seen by the presence of the metropolitan archbishops who have come for the blessing of the pallia, which they will receive from my representatives in their respective sees.

May Saints Peter and Paul intercede for us, so that we can joyfully advance on this journey, experience the liberating action of God, and bear witness to it before the world.

 

HOLY MASS AND CANONIZATION OF THE BLESSEDS
STANISLAUS OF JESUS AND MARY AND MARIA ELISABETH HESSELBLAD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

St Peter's Square
Sunday, 5 June 2016

The word of God, which we have just heard, points us to the central event of our faith: God’s victory over suffering and death.  It proclaims the Gospel of hope, born of Christ’s paschal mystery, whose splendour is seen on the face of the Risen Lord and reveals God our Father as one who comforts all of us in our afflictions.  That word calls us to remain united to the Passion of the Lord Jesus, so that the power of his resurrection may be revealed in us.

In the Passion of Christ, we find God’s response to the desperate and at times indignant cry that the experience of pain and death evokes in us.  He tells us that we cannot flee from the Cross, but must remain at its foot, as Our Lady did.  In suffering with Jesus, she received the grace of hoping against all hope (cf. Rom 4:18).

This was the experience of Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, and Maria Elizabeth Hesselblad, who today are proclaimed saints.  They remained deeply united to the passion of Jesus, and in them the power of his resurrection was revealed.

This Sunday’s first reading and Gospel offer us amazing signs of death and resurrection.  The first took place at the hand of the Prophet Isaiah, the second by Jesus.  In both cases, they involved the young children of widows, who were then given back alive to their mothers.

The widow of Zarephath – a woman who was not a Jew, yet had received the Prophet Elijah in her home – was upset with the prophet and with God, because when Elijah was a guest in her home her child had taken ill and had died in her arms.  Elijah says to her: “Give me your son” (1 Kings 17:19).  What he says is significant.  His words tell us something about God’s response to our own death, however it may come about.  He does not say: “Hold on to it; sort it out yourself!”  Instead, he says: “Give it to me”.  And indeed the prophet takes the child and carries him to the upper room, and there, by himself, in prayer “fights with God”, pointing out to him the absurdity of that death.  The Lord heard the voice of Elijah, for it was in fact he, God, who spoke and acted in the person of the prophet.  It was God who, speaking through Elijah, told the woman: “Give me your son”.  And now it was God who gave the child back alive to his mother.

God’s tenderness is fully revealed in Jesus.  We heard in the Gospel (Lk 7:11-17) of the “great compassion” (v. 13) which Jesus felt for the widow of Nain in Galilee, who was accompanying her only son, a mere adolescent, to his burial.  Jesus draws close, touches the bier, stops the funeral procession, and must have caressed that poor mother’s face bathed in tears.  “Do not weep”, he says to her (Lk 7:13), as to say: “Give me your son”.  Jesus asks to takes our death upon himself, to free us from it and to restore our life.  The young man then awoke as if from a deep sleep and began to speak.  Jesus “gave him to his mother” (v. 15).  Jesus is no wizard!  It is God’s tenderness incarnate; the Father’s immense compassion is at work in Jesus.

The experience of the Apostle Paul was also a kind of resurrection.  From a fierce enemy and persecutor of Christians, he became a witness and herald of the Gospel (cf. Gal 1:13-17).  This radical change was not his own work, but a gift of God’s mercy.  God “chose” him and “called him by his grace”.  “In him”, God desired to reveal his Son, so that Paul might proclaim Christ among the Gentiles (vv. 15-16).  Paul says that God the Father was pleased to reveal his Son not only to him, but in him, impressing as it were in his own person, flesh and spirit, the death and resurrection of Christ.  As a result, the Apostle was not only to be a messenger, but above all a witness.

So it is with each and every sinner.  Jesus constantly makes the victory of life-giving grace shine forth.  Today, and every day, he says to Mother Church: “Give me your children”, which means all of us.  He takes our sins upon himself, takes them away and gives us back alive to the Mother Church.  All that happens in a special way during this Holy Year of Mercy.

The Church today offers us two of her children who are exemplary witnesses to this mystery of resurrection.  Both can sing forever in the words of the Psalmist: “You have changed my mourning into dancing / O Lord, my God, I will thank you forever” (Ps 30:12).  Let us all join in saying: “I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up” (Antiphon of the Responsorial Psalm).

HOLY MASS, PROCESSION TO SAINT MARY MAJOR AND EUCHARISTIC BLESSING
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Saint John Lateran Square
Thursday, 26 May 2016

« Do this in remembrance of me » (1 Cor 11 :24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous – who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.

 

HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 15 May 2016

“I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18).

The central purpose of Jesus mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, says: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, which enables us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom 8:14-15). Here we see our relationship renewed: the paternity of God is re-established in us thanks to the redemptive work of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father. The entire work of salvation is one of “re-generation”, in which the fatherhood of God, through the gift of the Son and the Holy Spirit, frees us from the condition of being orphans into which we had fallen. In our own day also, we see various signs of our being orphans: in the interior loneliness which we feel even when we are surrounded by people, a loneliness which can become an existential sadness; in the attempt to be free of God, even if accompanied by a desire for his presence; in the all-too-common spiritual illiteracy which renders us incapable of prayer; in the difficulty in grasping the truth and reality of eternal life as that fullness of communion which begins on earth and reaches full flower after death; in the effort to see others as “brothers” and “sisters”, since we are children of the same Father; and other such signs.

Being children of God runs contrary to all this and is our primordial vocation. We were made to be God’s children, it is in our DNA. But this filial relationship was ruined and required the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son in order to be restored. From the immense gift of love which is Jesus’ death on the cross, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon humanity like a vast torrent of grace. Those who by faith are immersed into this mystery of regeneration are reborn to the fullness of filial life.

“I will not leave you orphans”. Today, on the feast of Pentecost, Jesus’ words remind us also of the maternal presence of Mary in the Upper Room. The Mother of Jesus is with the community of disciples gathered in prayer: she is the living remembrance of the Son and the living invocation of the Holy Spirit. She is the Mother of the Church. We entrust to her intercession, in a particular way, all Christians, families and communities that at this moment are most in need of the Spirit, the Paraclete, the Defender and Comforter, the Spirit of truth, freedom and peace.

The Spirit, as Saint Paul says, unites us to Christ: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). Strengthening our relationship of belonging to the Lord Jesus, the Spirit enables us to enter into a new experience of fraternity. By means of our universal Brother – Jesus – we can relate to one another in a new way; no longer as orphans, but rather as children of the same good and merciful Father. And this changes everything! We can see each other as brothers and sisters whose differences can only increase our joy and wonder at sharing in this unique fatherhood and brotherhood.

 

EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Holy Saturday, 26 March 2016

“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12).  What thoughts crossed Peter’s mind and stirred his heart as he ran to the tomb? The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women, their Easter proclamation. Quite the contrary, “these words seemed to them an idle tale” (v. 11). Thus there was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of the beloved Master and disillusionment for having denied him three times during his Passion.

There is, however, something which signals a change in him: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “Peter rose” (v. 12). He did not remain sedentary, in thought; he did not stay at home as the others did. He did not succumb to the sombre atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the continuous gossip that leads nowhere. He was looking for Jesus, not himself. He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up, just as he was, and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed” (v. 12). This marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart. Without giving in to sadness or darkness, he made room for hope: he allowed the light of God to enter into his heart, without smothering it.

The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the perfumed ointments to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (v. 5).

We, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by being sad, bereft of hope. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves, but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord – each of us knows what they are – so that he may enter and grant us life. Let us give him the stones of our rancour and the boulders of our past, those heavy burdens of our weaknesses and falls. Christ wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our anguish. This is the first stone to be moved aside this night: the lack of hope which imprisons us within ourselves. May the Lord free us from this trap, from being Christians without hope, who live as if the Lord were not risen, as if our problems were the centre of our lives.

We see and will continue to see problems both within and without. They will always be there. But tonight it is important to shed the light of the Risen Lord upon our problems, and in a certain sense, to “evangelize” them. To evangelize our problems. Let us not allow darkness and fear to distract us and control us; we must cry out to them: the Lord “is not here, but has risen!” (v. 6). He is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.

This is the foundation of our hope, which is not mere optimism, nor a psychological attitude or desire to be courageous. Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him. This hope does not disappoint us because the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). The Paraclete does not make everything look appealing. He does not remove evil with a magic wand. But he pours into us the vitality of life, which is not the absence of problems, but the certainty of being loved and always forgiven by Christ, who for us has conquered sin, conquered death and conquered fear. Today is the celebration of our hope, the celebration of this truth: nothing and no one will ever be able to separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:39).

The Lord is alive and wants to be sought among the living. After having found him, each person is sent out by him to announce the Easter message, to awaken and resurrect hope in hearts burdened by sadness, in those who struggle to find meaning in life. There is so necessary today. However, we must not proclaim ourselves. Rather, as joyful servants of hope, we must announce the Risen One by our lives and by our love; otherwise we will be only an international organization full of followers and good rules, yet incapable of offering the hope for which the world longs.

How can we strengthen our hope? The liturgy of this night offers some guidance. It teaches us to remember the works of God. The readings describe God’s faithfulness, the history of his love towards us. The living word of God is able to involve us in this history of love, nourishing our hope and renewing our joy. The Gospel also reminds us of this: in order to kindle hope in the hearts of the women, the angel tells them: “Remember what [Jesus] told you” (v. 6). Remember the words of Jesus, remember all that he has done in our lives. Let us not forget his words and his works, otherwise we will lose hope and become “hopeless” Christians. Let us instead remember the Lord, his goodness and his life-giving words which have touched us. Let us remember them and make them ours, to be sentinels of the morning who know how to help others see the signs of the Risen Lord.

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ is risen! And we have the possibility of opening our hearts and receiving his gift of hope. Let us open our hearts to hope and go forth. May the memory of his works and his words be the bright star which directs our steps in the ways of faith towards that Easter that will have no end

MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

C.A.R.A. Auxilium
Castelnuovo di Porto (Rome)
Holy Thursday, 24 March 2016

Actions speak louder than images and words. Acts.... There are, in this Word of God that we have read, two acts: Jesus who serves, who washes feet.... He, who was the “master”, washes the feet of others, his [disciples], of the least. An act. The second act: Judas who goes to Jesus’ enemies, to those who do not want peace with Jesus, in order to take the money for which he betrayed Him, 30 pieces of silver. Two acts. Today too, here, there are two acts: this one, all of us, together: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers and sisters, children of the same God, who want to live in peace, integrated. An act. Three days ago, an act of war, of destruction in a European city, by people who do not want to live in peace. But behind that act, as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas were those who paid money for Jesus to be delivered. Behind “that” act [in Brussels] are weapons producers and traffickers who want blood, not peace; who want war, not brotherhood.

Two parallel acts: on the one hand, Jesus washes the feet, while Judas sells Jesus for money; and on the other hand, you, we, everyone together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers and sisters, while those unfortunate ones buy weapons to destroy brotherhood. Today, at this moment, as I perform the same act as Jesus by washing the feet of you twelve, we are all engaged in the act of brotherhood, and we are all saying: “We are diverse, we are different, we have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and sisters and we want to live in peace”. This is the act that I carry out with you. Each of us has a history on our shoulders, each of you has a history on your shoulders: so many crosses, so much pain, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Each one, in your own religious language, pray the Lord that this brotherhood infect the world, that there be no 30 pieces of silver to kill a brother, that there always be brotherhood and goodness. Let it be.

At the end of the Mass, the Holy Father said:

I now greet you one by one, with all my heart. I thank you for this encounter. Let us just remember and show that it is beautiful to live together as brothers and sisters, with different cultures, religions and traditions: we are all brothers and sisters! And this is called peace and love. Thank you.

CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
XXXI World Youth Day
Sunday, 20 March 2016

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (cf. Lk 19:38), the crowd of Jerusalem exclaimed joyfully as they welcomed Jesus. We have made that enthusiasm our own: by waving our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our desire to receive Jesus who comes to us. Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he comes to us in humility; he comes “in the name of the Lord”. Through the power of his divine love he forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father and with ourselves.

Jesus is pleased with the crowd’s showing their affection for him. When the Pharisees ask him to silence the children and the others who are acclaiming him, he responds: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40). Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for Jesus’ entry. May nothing prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness.

Today’s liturgy teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles. The Apostle Paul, in the second reading, epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself (Phil 2:7-8). These two verbs show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin. Even more, he lived among us in “the condition of a servant” (v. 7); not of a king or a prince, but of a servant. Therefore he humbled himself, and the abyss of his humiliation, as Holy Week shows us, seems to be bottomless.

The first sign of this love “without end” (Jn 13:1) is the washing of the feet. “The Lord and Master” (Jn 13:14) stoops to his disciples’ feet, as only servants would have done. He shows us by example that we need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us; we cannot do any less, we cannot love without letting ourselves be loved by him first, without experiencing his surprising tenderness and without accepting that true love consists in concrete service.

But this is only the beginning. The humiliation of Jesus reaches its utmost in the Passion: he is sold for thirty pieces of silver and betrayed by the kiss of a disciple whom he had chosen and called his friend. Nearly all the others flee and abandon him; Peter denies him three times in the courtyard of the temple. Humiliated in his spirit by mockery, insults and spitting, he suffers in his body terrible brutality: the blows, the scourging and the crown of thorns make his face unrecognizable. He also experiences shame and disgraceful condemnation by religious and political authorities: he is made into sin and considered to be unjust. Pilate then sends him to Herod, who in turn sends him to the Roman governor. Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences in his own flesh indifference, since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate. And I think of the many people, so many outcasts, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees, all of those for whose fate no one wishes to take responsibility. The crowd, who just a little earlier had acclaimed him, now changes their praise into a cry of accusation, even to the point of preferring that a murderer be released in his place. And so the hour of death on the cross arrives, that most painful form of shame reserved for traitors, slaves and the worst kind of criminals. But isolation, defamation and pain are not yet the full extent of his deprivation. To be totally in solidarity with us, he also experiences on the Cross the mysterious abandonment of the Father. In his abandonment, however, he prays and entrusts himself: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:46). Hanging from the wood of the cross, beside derision he now confronts the last temptation: to come down from the Cross, to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God. Jesus, however, even here at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy. He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite, reaching even to the tomb and to hell. He takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred.

God’s way of acting may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little. He comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves. Let us walk this path, pausing in these days to gaze upon the Crucifix; it is the “royal seat of God”. I invite you during this week to gaze often upon this “royal seat of God”, to learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame. By humbling himself, Jesus invites us to walk on his path. Let us turn our faces to him, let us ask for the grace to understand at least something of the mystery of his obliteration for our sake; and then, in silence, let us contemplate the mystery of this Week.

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO MEXICO

(12-18 FEBRUARY 2016)

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Ciudad Juárez Fair Grounds
Wednesday, 17 February 2016

In the second century St Irenaeus wrote that the glory of God is the life of man. It is an expression which continues to echo in the heart of the Church. The glory of the Father is the life of his sons and daughters. There is no greater glory for a father than to see his children blossom, no greater satisfaction than to see his children grow up, developing and flourishing. The first reading that we have just heard points to this. The great city of Nineveh was self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice. The grand capital’s days were numbered because the violence within it could not continue. Then the Lord appeared and stirred Jonah’s heart: the Father called and sent forth his messenger. Jonah was summoned to receive a mission. “Go”, he was told, because in “40 days Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jon 3:4). Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organizing themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression. Make them see this is no way to live, neither for the king nor his subjects, nor for farm fields nor for the cattle. Go and tell them that they have become used to this degrading way of life and have lost their sensitivity to pain. Go and tell them that injustice has infected their way of seeing the world. “Therefore, go Jonah!”. God sent him to testify to what was happening, he sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves.

In this text we find ourselves before the mystery of divine mercy. Mercy, which always rejects wickedness, takes the human person in great earnest. Mercy always appeals to the goodness of each person, even though it be dormant and numbed. Far from bringing destruction, as we so often desire or want to bring about ourselves, mercy seeks to transform each situation from within. Herein lies the mystery of divine mercy. It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it. It is the mystery of God our Father: he sends his Son who pierced into what was evil, he took on sin in order to transform evil. This is his mercy.

The king listened to Jonah, the inhabitants of the city responded and penance was decreed. God’s mercy has entered the heart, revealing and showing wherein our certainty and hope lie: there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity. Mercy encourages us to look to the present, and to trust what is healthy and good beating in every heart. God’s mercy is our shield and our strength.

Jonah helped them to see, helped them to become aware. Following this, his call found men and women able to repent, and able to weep. To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression. These are tears that lead to transformation, that soften the heart; they are the tears that purify our gaze and enable us to see the cycle of sin into which very often we have sunk. They are tears that can sensitize our gaze and our attitude hardened and especially dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion. This is what happened to Peter after having denied Jesus; he cried and those tears opened his heart.

This word echoes forcefully today among us; this word is the voice crying out in the wilderness, inviting us to conversion. In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion.

Here in Ciudad Juárez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over “to the other side”. Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human trafficking, the trafficking of persons.

We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometres through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones. The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure all these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are “cannon fodder”, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs. And what can we say about the many women whose lives have been unjustly robbed?

Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is always time to change, always a way out and always an opportunity, there is always the time to implore the mercy of God.

Just as in Jonas’ time, so too today may we commit ourselves to conversion; may we be signs lighting the way and announcing salvation. I know of the work of countless civil organizations working to support the rights of migrants. I know too of the committed work of so many men and women religious, priests and lay people in accompanying migrants and in defending life. They are on the front lines, often risking their own lives. By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens her arms and sustains.

This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy. And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: In your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us... cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit (cf. Ps 51[50]:3, 4, 12).

And now I also want to greet from here all our beloved brothers and sisters who are joining us simultaneously from the other side of the frontier, especially those who are gathered in the Stadium of the University of El Paso, known as The Sun Bowl, under the guidance of your Bishop, Monsignor Mark Seitz. Thanks to technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together that merciful love which God gives us, and which no frontier can prevent us from sharing. Thank you, brothers and sisters of El Paso, for making us feel one single family and one same Christian community.

EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY

HOLY MASS AND OPENING OF THE HOLY DOOR - BASILICA OF ST MARY MAJOR

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Friday, 1st January 2016
Mary Most Holy, the Holy Mother of God

Salve, Mater Misericordiae!

With this invocation we turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Roman Basilica dedicated to her under the title of Mother of God. It is the first line of an ancient hymn which we will sing at the conclusion of this Holy Eucharist. Composed by an unknown author, it has come down to us as a heartfelt prayer spontaneously rising up from the hearts of the faithful: “Hail Mother of mercy, Mother of God, Mother of forgiveness, Mother of hope, Mother of grace and Mother full of holy gladness”. In these few words we find a summary of the faith of generations of men and women who, with their eyes fixed firmly on the icon of the Blessed Virgin, have sought her intercession and consolation.

It is most fitting that on this day we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary above all as Mother of mercy. The door we have opened is, in fact, a Door of Mercy. Those who cross its threshold are called to enter into the merciful love of the Father with complete trust and freedom from fear; they can leave this Basilica knowing – truly knowing – that Mary is ever at their side. She is the Mother of mercy, because she bore in her womb the very Face of divine mercy, Jesus, Emmanuel, the Expectation of the nations, the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5). The Son of God, made incarnate for our salvation, has given us his Mother, who joins us on our pilgrimage through this life, so that we may never be left alone, especially at times of trouble and uncertainty.

Mary is the Mother of God, she is the Mother of God who forgives, who bestows forgiveness, and so we can rightly call her Mother of forgiveness. This word – “forgiveness” – so misunderstood in today’s world, points to the new and original fruit of Christian faith. A person unable to forgive has not yet known the fullness of love. Only one who truly loves is able to forgive and forget. At the foot of the Cross, Mary sees her Son offer himself totally, showing us what it means to love as God loves. At that moment she heard Jesus utter words which probably reflected what he had learned from her as a child: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:24). At that moment, Mary became for all of us the Mother of forgiveness. Following Jesus’ example and by his grace, she herself could forgive those who killed her innocent Son.

For us, Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it. The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits. Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back. The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet. There is no other way. It is for this purpose that the Holy Spirit made the Apostles the effective ministers of forgiveness, so what was obtained by the death of Jesus may reach all men and women in every age (cf. Jn 20:19-23).

The Marian hymn continues: “Mother of hope and Mother of grace, Mother of holy gladness”. Hope, grace and holy gladness are all sisters: they are the gift of Christ; indeed, they are so many names written on his body. The gift that Mary bestows in offering us Jesus is the forgiveness which renews life, enables us once more to do God’s will and fills us with true happiness. This grace frees the heart to look to the future with the joy born of hope. This is the teaching of the Psalm: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. […] Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (51:10,12). The power of forgiveness is the true antidote to the sadness caused by resentment and vengeance. Forgiveness leads to joy and serenity because it frees the heart from thoughts of death, whereas resentment and vengeance trouble the mind and wound the heart, robbing it of rest and peace. What horrible things are resentment and vengeance.

Let us, then, pass through the Holy Door of Mercy knowing that at our side is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God, who intercedes for us. Let us allow her to lead us to the rediscovery of the beauty of an encounter with her Son Jesus. Let us open wide the doors of our heart to the joy of forgiveness, conscious that we have been given new confidence and hope, and thus make our daily lives a humble instrument of God’s love.

And with the love and affection of children, let us cry out to Our Lady as did the faithful people of God in Ephesus during the historic Council: “Holy Mother of God!” I invite you to repeat together this acclamation three times, aloud and with all your heart and with all your love: “Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God! Holy Mother of God!”

SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOST HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

XLIX WORLD DAY OF PEACE
HOLY MASS WITH THE PRESENCE OF THE PUERI CANTORES
FOR THE CLOSING OF THEIR XL INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Friday, 1st January 2016

We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).

What does it mean to say that Jesus was born in “the fullness of time”? If we consider that particular moment of history, we might quickly be deluded. Rome had subjugated a great part of the known world by her military might. The Emperor Augustus had come to power after five civil wars. Israel itself had been conquered by the Roman Empire and the Chosen People had lost their freedom. For Jesus’ contemporaries, it was certainly not the best of times. To define the fullness of time, then, we should not look to the geopolitical sphere.

Another interpretation is needed, one which views that fullness from God’s standpoint. It is when God decided that the time had come to fulfil his promise, that the fullness of time came for humanity. History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness. For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise. As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes: “God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word” (1:1-3). The fullness of time, then, is the presence of God himself in our history. Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made “little” in a baby. Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness. The use of our personal time can also find its fullness in the encounter with Jesus Christ, God made man.

Nonetheless, this mystery constantly clashes with the dramatic experience of human history. Each day, as we seek to be sustained by the signs of God’s presence, we encounter new signs to the contrary, negative signs which tend to make us think instead that he is absent. The fullness of time seems to fade before the countless forms of injustice and violence which daily wound our human family. Sometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world. We ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims. How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights? A torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ. Remember, dear pueri cantores, this was the third question you asked me yesterday: how do we explain this… even children are aware of this.

And yet this swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world. All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing. The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God’s original creation.

At the beginning of a new year, the Church invites us to contemplate Mary’s divine maternity as an icon of peace. The ancient promise finds fulfilment in her person. She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her “yes”, the fullness of time came about. The Gospel we have just heard tells us that the Virgin Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart” (Lk 2:19). She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright. Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world. Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot arrive, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ’s Gospel, can arrive, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation.

Blessed are you, Mary, for you gave the Son of God to our world. But even more blessed are you for having believed in him. Full of faith, you conceived Jesus first in your heart and then in your womb, and thus became the Mother of all believers (cf. Saint Augustine, Sermo 215,4). Send us, O Mother, your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace. Amen.

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO ECUADOR, BOLIVIA AND PARAGUAY
(5-13 JULY 2015)

HOLY MASS AT CAMPO GRANDE

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Ñu Guazú, Asunción (Paraguay)
Sunday, 12 July 2015

“The Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. These are the words of the Psalm. We are invited to celebrate this mysterious communion between God and his People, between God and us. The rain is a sign of his presence, in the earth tilled by our hands. It reminds us that our communion with God always brings forth fruit, always gives life. This confidence is born of faith, from knowing that we depend on grace, which will always transform and nourish our land.

It is a confidence which is learned, which is taught. A confidence nurtured within a community, in the life of a family. A confidence which radiates from the faces of all those people who encourage us to follow Jesus, to be disciples of the One who can never deceive. A disciple knows that he or she is called to have this confidence; we feel Jesus’s invitation to be his friend, to share his lot, his very life. “No longer do I call you servants... but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you”. The disciples are those who learn how to live trusting in the friendship offered by Jesus.

The Gospel speaks to us of this kind of discipleship. It shows us the identity card of the Christian. Our calling card, our credentials.

Jesus calls his disciples and sends them out, giving them clear and precise instructions. He challenges them to take on a whole range of attitudes and ways of acting. Sometimes these can strike us as exaggerated or even absurd. It would be easier to interpret these attitudes symbolically or “spiritually”. But Jesus is quite precise, very clear. He doesn’t tell them simply to do whatever they think they can.

Let us think about some of these attitudes: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money...” “When you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (cf. Mk 6:8-11). All this might seem quite unrealistic.

We could concentrate on the words, “bread”, “money”, “bag”, “staff”, “sandals” and “tunic”. And this would be fine. But it strikes me that one key word can easily pass unnoticed among the challenging words I have just listed. It is a word at the heart of Christian spirituality, of our experience of discipleship: “welcome”. Jesus as the good master, the good teacher, sends them out to be welcomed, to experience hospitality. He says to them: “Where you enter a house, stay there”. He sends them out to learn one of the hallmarks of the community of believers. We might say that a Christian is someone who has learned to welcome others, who has learned to show hospitality.

Jesus does not send them out as men of influence, landlords, officials armed with rules and regulations. Instead, he makes them see that the Christian journey is simply about changing hearts. One’s own heart first all, and then helping to transform the hearts of others. It is about learning to live differently, under a different law, with different rules. It is about turning from the path of selfishness, conflict, division and superiority, and taking instead the path of life, generosity and love. It is about passing from a mentality which domineers, stifles and manipulates to a mentality which welcomes, accepts and cares.

These are two contrasting mentalities, two ways of approaching our life and our mission.

How many times do we see mission in terms of plans and programs. How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by simply learning how to welcome them.

The Church is a mother with an open heart. She knows how to welcome and accept, especially those in need of greater care, those in greater difficulty. The Church, as desired by Jesus, is the home of hospitality. And how much good we can do, if only we try to speak this language of hospitality, this language of receiving and welcoming. How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home! This requires open doors, especially the doors of our heart. Welcoming the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner (Mt 25:34-37), the leper and the paralytic. Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it. And sometimes, we are to blame. Welcoming the persecuted, the unemployed. Welcoming the different cultures, of which our earth is so richly blessed. Welcoming sinners, because each one of us is also a sinner.

So often we forget that there is an evil underlying our sins, that precedes our sins. There is a bitter root which causes damage, great damage, and silently destroys so many lives. There is an evil which, bit by bit, finds a place in our hearts and eats away at our life: it is isolation. Isolation which can have many roots, many causes. How much it destroys our life and how much harm it does us. It makes us turn our back on others, God, the community. It makes us closed in on ourselves. From here we see that the real work of the Church, our mother, should not be mainly about managing works and projects, but rather about learning to experience fraternity with others. A welcome-filled fraternity is the best witness that God is our Father, for “by this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

In this way, Jesus teaches us a new way of thinking. He opens before us a horizon brimming with life, beauty, truth and fulfillment.

God never closes off horizons; he is never unconcerned about the lives and sufferings of his children. God never allows himself to be outdone in generosity. So he sends us his Son, he gives him to us, he hands him over, he shares him... so that we can learn the way of fraternity, of self-giving. In a definitive way, he opens up a new horizon; he is a new word which sheds light on so many situations of exclusion, disintegration, loneliness and isolation. He is a word which breaks the silence of loneliness.

And when we are weary or worn down by our efforts to evangelize, it is good to remember that the life which Jesus holds out to us responds to the deepest needs of people. “We were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters” (Evangelii Gaudium, 265).

On thing is sure: we cannot force anyone to receive us, to welcome us; this is itself part of our poverty and freedom. But neither can anyone force us not to be welcoming, hospitable in the lives of our people. No one can tell us not to accept and embrace the lives of our brothers and sisters, especially those who have lost hope and zest for life. How good it would be to think of our parishes, communities, chapels, wherever there are Christians, with open doors, true centers of encounter between ourselves and God.

The Church is a mother, like Mary. In her, we have a model. We too must provide a home, like Mary, who did not lord it over the word of God, but rather welcomed that word, bore it in her womb and gave it to others.

We too must provide a home, like the earth, which does not choke the seed, but receives it, nourishes it and makes it grow.

That is how we want to be Christians, that is how we want to live the faith on this Paraguayan soil, like Mary, accepting and welcoming God’s life in our brothers and sisters, in confidence and with the certainty that “the Lord will shower down blessings, and our land will yield its increase”. May it be so.

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO ECUADOR, BOLIVIA AND PARAGUAY
(5-13 JULY 2015)

HOLY MASS FOR FAMILIES

HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER

Samanes Park, Guayaquil (Ecuador)
Monday, 6 July 2015

The Gospel passage which we have just heard is the first momentous sign in the Gospel according to John. Mary’s maternal concern is seen in her plea to Jesus: “They have no wine”, and Jesus’ reference to “his hour” will be more fully understood later, in the story of his Passion.

And this is good, because it allows us to see Jesus’ eagerness to teach, to accompany, to heal and to give joy, thanks to the words of his Mother: “They have no wine”.

The wedding at Cana is repeated in every generation, in every family, in every one of us and our efforts to let our hearts find rest in strong love, fruitful love and joyful love. Let us make room for Mary, “the Mother” as the evangelist calls her. Let us journey with her now to Cana.

Mary is attentive, she is attentive in the course of this wedding feast, she is concerned for the needs of the newlyweds. She is not closed in on herself, worried only about her little world. Her love makes her “outgoing” towards others. She does not seek her friends to say what is happening, to criticize the poor organization of the wedding feast. And since she is attentive, she discretely notices that the wine has run out. Wine is a sign of happiness, love and plenty. How many of our adolescents and young people sense that these is no longer any of that wine to be found in their homes? How many women, sad and lonely, wonder when love left, when it slipped away from their lives? How many elderly people feel left out of family celebrations, cast aside and longing each day for a little love, from their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren? This lack of this “wine” can also be due to unemployment, illness and difficult situations which our families around the world may experience. Mary is not a “demanding” mother, nor a mother-in-law who revels in our lack of experience, our mistakes and the things we forget to do. Mary, quite simply, is a Mother! She is there, attentive and concerned. It is gratifying to hear this: Mary is a Mother! I invite you to repeat this with me: Mary is a Mother! Once again: Mary is a Mother! And once more: Mary is a Mother!

But Mary, at the very moment she perceives that there is no wine, approaches Jesus with confidence: this means that Mary prays. She goes to Jesus, she prays. She does not go to the steward, she immediately tells her Son of the newlyweds’ problem. The response she receives seems disheartening: “What does it have to do with you and me? My hour has not yet come” (v. 4). But she nonetheless places the problem in God’s hands. Her deep concern to meet the needs of others hastens Jesus’ hour. And Mary was a part of that hour, from the cradle to the cross. She was able “to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286). She accepted us as her sons and daughters when the sword pierced her heart. She teaches us to put our families in God’s hands; she teaches us to pray, to kindle the hope which shows us that our concerns are also God’s concerns.

Praying always lifts us out of our worries and concerns. It makes us rise above everything that hurts, upsets or disappoints us, and helps to put ourselves in the place of others, in their shoes. The family is a school where prayer also reminds us that we are not isolated individuals; we are one and we have a neighbor close at hand: he or she is living under the same roof, is a part of our life, and is in need.

And finally, Mary acts. Her words, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5), addressed to the attendants, are also an invitation to us to open our hearts to Jesus, who came to serve and not to be served. Service is the sign of true love. Those who love know how to serve others. We learn this especially in the family, where we become servants out of love for one another. In the heart of the family, no one is rejected; all have the same value. I remember once how my mother was asked which of her five children – we are five brothers – did she love the most. And she said: it is like the fingers on my hand, if I prick one of them, then it is as if the others are pricked also. A mother loves her children as they are. And in the family, children are loved as they are. None are rejected. “In the family we learn how to ask without demanding, to say ‘thank you’ as an expression of genuine gratitude for what we have been given, to control our aggressivity and greed, and to ask forgiveness when we have caused harm, when we quarrel, because in all families there are quarrels. The challenge is to then ask for forgiveness. These simple gestures of heartfelt courtesy help to create a culture of shared life and respect for our surroundings” (Laudato Si’, 213). The family is the nearest hospital; when a family member is ill, it is in the home that they are cared for as long as possible. The family is the first school for the young, the best home for the elderly. The family constitutes the best “social capital”. It cannot be replaced by other institutions. It needs to be helped and strengthened, lest we lose our proper sense of the services which society as a whole provides. Those services which society offers to its citizens are not a type of alms, but rather a genuine “social debt” with respect to the institution of the family, which is foundational and which contributes to the common good.

The family is also a small Church, called a “domestic Church” which, along with life, also mediates God’s tenderness and mercy. In the family, we imbibe faith with our mother’s milk. When we experience the love of our parents, we feel the closeness of God’s love.

In the family, and we are all witnesses of this, miracles are performed with what little we have, with what we are, with what is at hand… and many times, it is not ideal, it is not what we dreamt of, nor what “should have been”. There is one detail that makes us think: the new wine, that good wine mentioned by the steward at the wedding feast of Cana, came from the water jars, the jars used for ablutions, we might even say from the place where everyone had left their sins…it came from the “worst” because “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). In our own families and in the greater family to which we all belong, nothing is thrown away, nothing is useless. Shortly before the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Church will celebrate the Ordinary Synod devoted to the family, deepen her spiritual discernment and consider concrete solutions and help to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families today. I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, like the water in the jars scandalizing or threatening us, and turn it – by making it part of his “hour” – into a miracle. The family today needs this miracle.

All this began because “they had no wine”. It could all be done because a woman – the Virgin Mary – was attentive, left her concerns in God’s hands and acted sensibly and courageously. But there is a further detail, the best was to come: everyone went on to enjoy the finest of wines. And this is the good news: the finest wines are yet to be tasted; for families, the richest, deepest and most beautiful things are yet to come. The time is coming when we will taste love daily, when our children will come to appreciate the home we share, and our elderly will be present each day in the joys of life. The finest of wines is expressed by hope, this wine will come for every person who stakes everything on love. And the best wine is yet to come, in spite of all the variables and statistics which say otherwise. The best wine will come to those who today feel hopelessly lost. Say it to yourselves until you are convinced of it. Say it to yourselves, in your hearts: the best wine is yet to come. Whisper it to the hopeless and the loveless. Have patience, hope, and follow Mary’s example, pray, open your heart, because the best wine is yet to come. God always seeks out the peripheries, those who have run out of wine, those who drink only of discouragement. Jesus feels their weakness, in order to pour out the best wines for those who, for whatever reason, feel that all their jars have been broken.

As Mary bids us, let us “do what the Lord tells us”. Do what he tells you. And let us be thankful that in this, our time and our hour, the new wine, the finest wine, will make us recover the joy of families, the joy of living in a family. Let it be so.


Remarks of the Holy Father at the end of Mass at Samanes Park in Guayaquil:

May God bless you and accompany you. I pray for each of your families and I ask you to follow Mary’s example. Please do not forget to pray for me. Until we meet again!

HOLY MASS AND BLESSING OF THE SACRED PALLIUM
FOR THE NEW METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOPS
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL, APOSTLES

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Monday, 29 June 2015

The reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks to us of the first Christian community besieged by persecution. A community harshly persecuted by Herod who “laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the Church… proceeded to arrest Peter also… and when he had seized him he put him in prison” (12:1-4).

However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all. I would like instead to pay homage today to the courage of the Apostles and that of the first Christian community. This courage carried forward the work of evangelisation, free of fear of death and martyrdom, within the social context of a pagan empire; their Christian life is for us, the Christians of today, a powerful call to prayer, to faith and to witness.

A call to prayer: the first community was a Church at prayer: “Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). And if we think of Rome, the catacombs were not places to escape to from persecution but rather, they were places of prayer, for sanctifying the Lord’s day and for raising up, from the heart of the earth, adoration to God who never forgets his sons and daughters.

The community of Peter and Paul teaches us that the Church at prayer is a Church on her feet, strong, moving forward! Indeed, a Christian who prays is a Christian who is protected, guarded and sustained, and above all, who is never alone.

The first reading continues: “Sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side… And the chains fell off his hands” (12:6-7).

Let us think about how many times the Lord has heard our prayer and sent us an angel? An angel who unexpectedly comes to pull us out of a difficult situation? Who comes to snatch us from the hands of death and from the evil one; who points out the wrong path; who rekindles in us the flame of hope; who gives us tender comfort; who consoles our broken hearts; who awakens us from our slumber to the world; or who simply tells us, “You are not alone”.

How many angels he places on our path, and yet when we are overwhelmed by fear, unbelief or even euphoria, we leave them outside the door, just as happened to Peter when he knocked on the door of the house and the “maid named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the door” (12:13-14).

No Christian community can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer! Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down; with God who is faithful to his word; with God who does not abandon his children. Jesus asked himself: “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night?” (Lk 18:7). In prayer, believers express their faith and their trust, and God reveals his closeness, also by giving us the angels, his messengers.

A call to faith: in the second reading Saint Paul writes to Timothy: “But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully… So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for his heavenly Kingdom” (2 Tim 4:17-18). God does not take his children out of the world or away from evil but he does grant them strength to prevail. Only the one who believes can truly say: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” (Ps 23:1).

How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful! She remains inexplicably solid, so that, as Saint Paul says, she may acclaim: “To him be glory forever and ever” (2 Tim 4:18).

Everything passes, only God remains. Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ. Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of life, after the example of Peter and Paul.

In the name of Christ, believers have raised the dead; they have healed the sick; they have loved their persecutors; they have shown how there is no power capable of defeating the one who has the power of faith!

A call to witness: Peter and Paul, like all the Apostles of Christ who in their earthly life sowed the seeds of the Church by their blood, drank the Lord’s cup, and became friends of God.

Paul writes in a moving way to Timothy: “My son, I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim 4: 6-8).

A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water! The Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble witness of her children. She has conquered evil thanks to proclaiming with conviction: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. Mt 16:13-18).

Dear Archbishops who today receive the Pallium, it is a sign which represents the sheep that the shepherd carries on his shoulders as Christ the Good Shepherd does, and it is therefore a symbol of your pastoral mission. The Pallium is “a liturgical sign of communion that unites the See of Peter and his Successor to the Metropolitans, and through them to the other Bishops of the world” (Benedict XVI, Angelus of 29 June 2005).

Today, by these Palliums, I wish to entrust you with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.

The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of worldliness. For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity!

The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ!

The Church wants you to be men of witness. Saint Francis used to tell his brothers: “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!” (cf. Franciscan sources, 43). There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle! Today there is no great need for masters, but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing; witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross; not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world. And this follows the example of Peter and Paul and so many other witnesses along the course of the Church’s history, witnesses who, yet belonging to different Christian confessions, have contributed to demonstrating and bringing growth to the one Body of Christ. I am pleased to emphasize this, and am always pleased to do so, in the presence of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by my beloved brother Bartholomew I.

This is not so straightforward: because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others!

Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!

 

HOLY MASS, PROCESSION TO SAINT MARY MAJOR AND EUCHARISTIC BLESSING
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Saint John Lateran Square
Thursday, 4 June 2015

We heard: how at the [Last] Supper Jesus gives his Body and his Blood through the bread and wine, to leave us the memorial of his sacrifice of infinite love. And with this “Viaticum” filled with grace, the disciples had everything necessary for their journey through history, to extend to all the Kingdom of God. The gift that Jesus made of himself, by his voluntary immolation on the Cross, will be light and strength for them. And this Bread of Life has come down to us! The Church’s amazement at this reality is unending. An astonishment which always feeds contemplation, adoration, and memory. This is shown to us by a really beautiful text from today’s Liturgy, the Responsory to the Second Reading from the Office of Readings, which reads: “See in this bread the body of Christ which hung upon the cross, and in this cup the blood which flowed from his side. Take his body, then, and eat it; take his blood and drink it, and you will become his members. The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness”.

There is a danger, there is a threat: to have no part in him, to despair. What does it mean today, this “to have no part in him” and “to despair”?

We have no part in him when we are not docile to the Word of the Lord, when we do not live in fraternity among ourselves, when we compete for first place — climbers — when we do not find the courage to witness to charity, when we are incapable of offering hope. This is when we have no part in him. The Eucharist enables us to abide in him, for it is the bond which unites us to him, it is the fulfillment of the Covenant, the living sign of the love of Christ who humbled and lowered himself in order that we remain united. Participating in the Eucharist and being nourished of him, we are included in a journey which admits no division. Christ present in our midst, in the sign of the bread and wine, demands that the power of love overcome every laceration, and at the same time that it also become communion with the poorest, support for the weak, fraternal attention to those who have difficulty in bearing the weight of daily life, and are in danger of losing their faith.

And then the other phrase: what does it mean for us today to “despair”, or to water down our Christian dignity? It means allowing ourselves to be undermined by the idolatries of our time: appearances, consumerism, egocentrism; but also competitiveness, arrogance as a winning attitude, never admitting to mistakes or to being in need. All this leads us to despair, making us mediocre Christians, lukewarm, bland, pagans.

Jesus poured out his Blood as the price and the laver, so that we might be purified of all sin: not to lose hope, let us look to Him, drink at his font, to be shielded from the risk of corruption. Then we will feel the grace of transformation: we will always be poor sinners, but the Blood of Christ will free us from our sins and restore our dignity. It will free us from corruption. Not by our merit, with sincere humility, we will be able to bring our brothers the love of our Lord and Saviour. We will be his eyes which go in search of Zacchaeus and Mary Magdalene; we will be his hand which soothes those who are sick in body and spirit; we will be his heart which loves those in need of reconciliation, mercy and understanding.

Thus the Eucharist fulfills the Covenant which sanctifies us, purifies us and unites us in worthy communion with God. Thus we learn that the Eucharist is not a prize for the good, but is strength for the weak, for sinners. It is forgiveness, it is the Viaticum that helps us to move forward, to walk.

Today, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we have the joy not only to celebrate this mystery, but also to praise it and sing it through the streets of our City. May the procession we will make at the end of Mass express our gratitude for the whole journey that God has made us travel through the desert of our poverty, to deliver us from servitude, nourishing us with his Love through the Sacrament of his Body and his Blood.

Soon, while we walk along the street, we will feel we are in communion with so many of our brothers and sisters who do not have the freedom to express their faith in the Lord Jesus. Let us feel united with them: let us sing with them, praise with them, adore with them. And let us venerate in our heart those brothers and sisters of whom the supreme sacrifice was demanded for faithfulness to Christ: may their blood united with the Lord’s be a pledge of peace and reconciliation for the entire world.

And let us not forget: “The body of Christ is the bond which unites you to him: eat it, or you will have no part in him. The blood is the price he paid for your redemption: drink it, lest you despair of your sinfulness”.

HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 24 May 2015

“As the Father has sent me, even so I send you... Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:21-22); this is what Jesus says to us. The gift of the Spirit on the evening of the Resurrection took place once again on the day of Pentecost, intensified this time by extraordinary outward signs. On the evening of Easter, Jesus appeared to the Apostles and breathed on them his Spirit (cf. Jn 20:22); on the morning of Pentecost the outpouring occurred in a resounding way, like a wind which shook the place the Apostles were in, filling their minds and hearts. They received a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim Christ’s Resurrection in different languages: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). Together with them was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the first disciple, there too as Mother of the nascent Church. With her peace, with her smile, with her maternity, she accompanied the joyful young Bride, the Church of Jesus.

The word of God, especially in today’s readings, tells us that the Spirit is at work in individuals and communities filled with himself; the Spirit makes them capable of recipere Deum [receiving God], capax Dei [with the capacity for God], as the holy Church Fathers say. And what does the Holy Spirit do with this new capability which he gives us? He guides us into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13), he renews the face of the earth (Ps 103:30), and he gives us his fruits (cf. Gal 5:22-23). He guides, he renews and he makes fruitful.

In the Gospel, Jesus promises his disciples that, when he has returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all the truth (cf. Jn 16:13). Indeed he calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth”, and explains to his disciples that the Spirit will bring them to understand ever more clearly what he, the Messiah, has said and done, especially in regard to his death and resurrection. To the Apostles, who could not bear the scandal of their Master’s sufferings, the Spirit would give a new understanding of the truth and beauty of that saving event. At first they were paralyzed with fear, shut in the Upper Room to avoid the aftermath of Good Friday. Now they would no longer be ashamed to be Christ’s disciples; they would no longer tremble before the courts of men. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they would now understand “all the truth”: that the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love, a love that, in the Resurrection, conquers death and exalts Jesus as the Living One, the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, the Lord of history and of the world. This truth, to which the Apostles were witnesses, became Good News, to be proclaimed to all.

Then the Holy Spirit renews – guides and renews – renews the earth. The Psalmist says: “You send forth your Spirit… and you renew the face of the earth” (Ps 103:30). The account of the birth of the Church in the Acts of the Apostles is significantly linked to this Psalm, which is a great hymn of praise to God the Creator. The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same. Respect for creation, then, is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15). Yet this is possible only if Adam – the man formed from the earth – allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit, only if he allows himself to be re-formed by the Father on the model of Christ, the new Adam. In this way, renewed by the Spirit, we will indeed be able to experience the freedom of the sons and daughters, in harmony with all creation. In every creature we will be able to see reflected the glory of the Creator, as another Psalm says: “How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth!” (Ps 8:2, 10). He guides, he renews and he gives; he gives fruits.

In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul wants to show the “fruits” manifested in the lives of those who walk in the way of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). On the one hand, he presents “the flesh”, with its list of attendant vices: the works of selfish people closed to God. On the other hand, there are those who by faith allow the Spirit of God to break into their lives. In them, God’s gifts blossom, summed up in nine joyful virtues which Paul calls “fruits of the Spirit”. Hence his appeal, at the start and the end of the reading, as a programme for life: “Walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:6, 25).

The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit. Closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin. There are many ways one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit: by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways. However, the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as Saint Paul lists them: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22). The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace. Strengthened by the Spirit – who guides, who guides us into the truth, who renews us and the whole earth, and who gives us his fruits – strengthened in the Spirit and by these many gifts, may we be able to battle uncompromisingly against sin, to battle uncompromisingly against corruption, which continues to spread in the world day after day, by devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.

CELEBRATION OF FIRST VESPERS OF THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER OR DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Saturday, 11 April 2015


 

The greeting of the Risen Christ to his disciples on the evening of Easter, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19), continues to resound in us all. Peace, especially during this Easter season, remains the desire of so many people who suffer unprecedented violence of discrimination and death simply because they bear the name “Christian”. Our prayer is all the more intense and becomes a cry for help to the Father, who is rich in mercy, that he may sustain the faith of our many brothers and sisters who are in pain. At the same time, we ask for the grace of the conversion of our own hearts so as to move from indifference to compassion.

Saint Paul reminds us that we have been saved through the mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He is the Reconciler, who is alive in our midst offering the way to reconciliation with God and with each other. The Apostle recalls that, notwithstanding the difficulties and the sufferings of life, the hope of salvation which Christ has sown in our hearts nonetheless continues to grow. The mercy of God is poured out upon us, making us just and giving us peace.

Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This is not the time to be distracted; on the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential. This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy (cf. Jn 20:21-23). For this reason, the Holy Year must keep alive the desire to know how to welcome the numerous signs of the tenderness which God offers to the whole world and, above all, to those who suffer, who are alone and abandoned, without hope of being pardoned or feeling the Father’s love. A Holy Year to experience strongly within ourselves the joy of having been found by Jesus, the Good Shepherd who has come in search of us because we were lost. A Jubilee to receive the warmth of his love when he bears us upon his shoulders and brings us back to the Father’s house. A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy. Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.

May the Mother of God open our eyes, so that we may comprehend the task to which we have been called; and may she obtain for us the grace to experience this Jubilee of Mercy as faithful and fruitful witnesses of Christ.

 

EASTER VIGIL IN THE HOLY NIGHT

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Holy Saturday, 4 April 2015


 

Tonight is a night of vigil. The Lord is not sleeping; the Watchman is watching over his people (cf. Ps 121:4), to bring them out of slavery and to open before them the way to freedom.

The Lord is keeping watch and, by the power of his love, he is bringing his people through the Red Sea. He is also bringing Jesus through the abyss of death and the netherworld.

This was a night of vigil for the disciples of Jesus, a night of sadness and fear. The men remained locked in the Upper Room. Yet, the women went to the tomb at dawn on Sunday to anoint Jesus’ body. Their hearts were overwhelmed and they were asking themselves: “How will we enter? Who will roll back the stone of the tomb?…” But here was the first sign of the great event: the large stone was already rolled back and the tomb was open!

“Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe…” (Mk 16:5). The women were the first to see this great sign, the empty tomb; and they were the first to enter…

Entering the tomb”. It is good for us, on this Vigil night, to reflect on the experience of the women, which also speaks to us. For that is why we are here: to enter, to enter into the Mystery which God has accomplished with his vigil of love.

We cannot live Easter without entering into the mystery. It is not something intellectual, something we only know or read about… It is more, much more!

“To enter into the mystery” means the ability to wonder, to contemplate; the ability to listen to the silence and to hear the tiny whisper amid great silence by which God speaks to us (cf 1 Kings 19:12).

To enter into the mystery demands that we not be afraid of reality: that we not be locked into ourselves, that we not flee from what we fail to understand, that we not close our eyes to problems or deny them, that we not dismiss our questions…

To enter into the mystery means going beyond our own comfort zone, beyond the laziness and indifference which hold us back, and going out in search of truth, beauty and love. It is seeking a deeper meaning, an answer, and not an easy one, to the questions which challenge our faith, our fidelity and our very existence.

To enter into the mystery, we need humility, the lowliness to abase ourselves, to come down from the pedestal of our “I” which is so proud, of our presumption; the humility not to take ourselves so seriously, recognizing who we really are: creatures with strengths and weaknesses, sinners in need of forgiveness. To enter into the mystery we need the lowliness that is powerlessness, the renunciation of our idols… in a word, we need to adore. Without adoration, we cannot enter into the mystery.

The women who were Jesus’ disciples teach us all of this. They kept watch that night, together with Mary. And she, the Virgin Mother, helped them not to lose faith and hope. As a result, they did not remain prisoners of fear and sadness, but at the first light of dawn they went out carrying their ointments, their hearts anointed with love. They went forth and found the tomb open. And they went in. They had kept watch, they went forth and they entered into the Mystery. May we learn from them to keep watch with God and with Mary our Mother, so that we too may enter into the Mystery which leads from death to life.

 

HOLY CHRISM MASS

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Holy Thursday, 2 April 2015


 

“My hand shall ever abide with him, my arms also shall strengthen him” (Ps 89:21).

This is what the Lord means when he says: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (v. 20). It is also what our Father thinks whenever he “encounters” a priest. And he goes on to say: “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him… He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation”’ (vv. 24, 26).

It is good to enter with the Psalmist into this monologue of our God. He is talking about us, his priests, his pastors. But it is not really a monologue, since he is not the only one speaking. The Father says to Jesus: “Your friends, those who love you, can say to me in a particular way: ‘You are my Father’” (cf. Jn 14:21). If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is not easy, it is demanding; it can tire us. We experience this in so many ways: from the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom.

The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself. I pray for you as you labour amid the people of God entrusted to your care, many of you in lonely and dangerous places. Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven (cf. Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3-4). Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father.

Know that the Blessed Virgin Mary is well aware of this tiredness and she brings it straight to the Lord. As our Mother, she knows when her children are weary, and this is her greatest concern. “Welcome! Rest, my child. We will speak afterwards…”.  “Whenever we draw near to her, she says to us: “Am I not here with you, I who am your Mother?” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 286). And to her Son she will say, as she did at Cana, “They have no wine” (Jn 2:3).

It can also happen that, whenever we feel weighed down by pastoral work, we can be tempted to rest however we please, as if rest were not itself a gift of God. We must not fall into this temptation. Our weariness is precious in the eyes of Jesus who embraces us and lifts us up. “Come to me, all who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Whenever a priest feels dead tired, yet is able to bow down in adoration and say: “Enough for today Lord”, and entrust himself to the Father, he knows that he will not fall but be renewed. The one who anoints God’s faithful people with oil is also himself anointed by the Lord: “He gives you a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (cf. Is 61:3).

Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest! This says much about our trust and our ability to realize that that we too are sheep: we need the help of the Shepherd.  A few questions can help us in this regard.

Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly “rest in times of weariness” for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest? Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption? Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God? Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection? Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: “I know him in whom I have placed my trust” (2 Tim 1:12)?

Let us return for a moment to what today’s liturgy describes as the work of the priest: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour. Isaiah also mentions consoling the broken-hearted and comforting the afflicted.

These are not easy or purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish…  The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be “moved” and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one…  All these emotions…if we do not have an open heart, can exhaust the heart of a shepherd. For us priests, what happens in the lives of our people is not like a news bulletin: we know our people, we sense what is going on in their hearts.  Our own heart, sharing in their suffering, feels “com-passion”, is exhausted, broken into a thousand pieces, moved and even “consumed” by the people. Take this, eat this… These are the words the priest of Jesus whispers repeatedly while caring for his faithful people: Take this, eat this; take this, drink this… In this way our priestly life is given over in service, in closeness to the People of God… and this always leaves us weary.

I wish to share with you some forms of weariness on which I have meditated.

There is what we can call “the weariness of people, the weariness of the crowd”. For the Lord, and for us, this can be exhausting – so the Gospel tells us – yet it is a good weariness, a fruitful and joyful exhaustion. The people who followed Jesus, the families which brought their children to him to be blessed, those who had been cured, those who came with their friends, the young people who were so excited about the Master…  they did not even leave him time to eat. But the Lord never tired of being with people. On the contrary, he seemed renewed by their presence (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 11). This weariness in the midst of activity is a grace on which all priests can draw (cf. ibid., 279). And how beautiful it is!  People love their priests, they want and need their shepherds! The faithful never leave us without something to do, unless we hide in our offices or go out in our cars wearing sun glasses. There is a good and healthy tiredness. It is the exhaustion of the priest who wears the smell of the sheep… but also smiles the smile of a father rejoicing in his children or grandchildren. It has nothing to do with those who wear expensive cologne and who look at others from afar and from above (cf. ibid., 97). We are the friends of the Bridegroom: this is our joy. If Jesus is shepherding the flock in our midst, we cannot be shepherds who are glum, plaintive or, even worse, bored. The smell of the sheep and the smile of a father…. Weary, yes, but with the joy of those who hear the Lord saying: “Come, O blessed of my Father” (Mt 25:34).

There is also the kind of weariness which we can call “the weariness of enemies”. The devil and his minions never sleep and, since their ears cannot bear to hear the word of God, they work tirelessly to silence that word and to distort it. Confronting them is more wearying. It involves not only doing good, with all the exertion this entails, but also defending the flock and oneself from evil (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 83). The evil one is far more astute than we are, and he is able to demolish in a moment what it took us years of patience to build up. Here we need to implore the grace to learn how to “offset” (and it is an important habit to acquire):  to thwart evil without pulling up the good wheat, or presuming to protect like supermen what the Lord alone can protect. All this helps us not to let our guard down before the depths of iniquity, before the mockery of the wicked. In these situations of weariness, the Lord says to us: “Have courage! I have overcome the world!” (Jn 16:33). The word of God gives us strength.

And finally – I say finally lest you be too wearied by this homily itself! – there is also “weariness of ourselves” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 277). This may be the most dangerous weariness of all. That is because the other two kinds come from being exposed, from going out of ourselves to anoint and to do battle (for our job is to care for others). But this third kind of weariness is more “self-referential”: it is dissatisfaction with oneself, but not the dissatisfaction of someone who directly confronts himself and serenely acknowledges his sinfulness and his need for God’s mercy, his help; such people ask for help and then move forward. Here we are speaking of a weariness associated with “wanting yet not wanting”, having given up everything but continuing to yearn for the fleshpots of Egypt, toying with the illusion of being something different. I like to call this kind of weariness “flirting with spiritual worldliness”. When we are alone, we realize how many areas of our life are steeped in this worldliness, so much so that we may feel that it can never be completely washed away. This can be a dangerous kind of weariness. The Book of Revelation shows us the reason for this weariness: “You have borne up for my sake and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev 2:3-4). Only love gives true rest. What is not loved becomes tiresome, and in time, brings about a harmful weariness.

The most profound and mysterious image of how the Lord deals with our pastoral tiredness is that, “having loved his own, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1): the scene of his washing the feet of his disciples. I like to think of this as the cleansing of discipleship. The Lord purifies the path of discipleship itself. He “gets involved” with us (Evangelii Gaudium, 24), becomes personally responsible for removing every stain, all that grimy, worldly smog which clings to us from the journey we make in his name.

From our feet, we can tell how the rest of our body is doing. The way we follow the Lord reveals how our heart is faring. The wounds on our feet, our sprains and our weariness, are signs of how we have followed him, of the paths we have taken in seeking the lost sheep and in leading the flock to green pastures and still waters (cf. ibid., 270). The Lord washes us and cleanses us of all the dirt our feet have accumulated in following him. This is something holy. Do not let your feet remain dirty. Like battle wounds, the Lord kisses them and washes away the grime of our labours.

Our discipleship itself is cleansed by Jesus, so that we can rightly feel “joyful”, “fulfilled”, “free of fear and guilt”, and impelled to go out “even to the ends of the earth, to every periphery”. In this way we can bring the good news to the most abandoned, knowing that “he is with us always, even to the end of the world”. And please, let us ask for the grace to learn how to be weary, but weary in the best of ways!

 

 

CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
XXX World Youth Day
Sunday, 29 March 2015


 

At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.

These words show us God’s way and, consequently, that which must be the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!

Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the the story of the Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!

We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted. We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times. We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabas be freed and Jesus crucified. We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.

This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.

Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7). In the end, humility also means service. It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself”, as Scripture says (v. 7). This – the pouring out of oneself - is the greatest humiliation of all.

There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ. It is worldliness, the way of the world. The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success… the other way. The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it. With him, and only by his grace, with his help, we too can overcome this temptation to vanity, to worldliness, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.

In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person, the homeless…

We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price. We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time – and there are many. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way. In truth, we can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” – the martyrs of our own time (cf. Heb 12:1).

During this week, let us set about with determination along this same path of humility, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength. For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn 12:26).

HOLY MASS, BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF THE ASHES

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Santa Sabina
Wednesday, 18 February 2015

As the People of God begin the journey of Lent, the time in which we seek to be more firmly united to the Lord, to share the mystery of His Passion and His Resurrection.

Today’s liturgy offers us first and foremost a passage from the Prophet Joel, whom God sent to call the People of God to repentance and conversion, due to a natural disaster (a plague of locusts) which was devastating Judea. The Lord alone can save us from the scourge and it is therefore necessary to entreat Him with prayer and fasting, confessing one’s sins.

The Prophet emphasizes interior conversion: “return to me with all your heart” (2:12).

Returning to the Lord “with all your heart” means to begin the journey not of a superficial and transitory conversion, but rather of a spiritual itinerary with regard to the most intimate place of our person. The heart is, indeed, the seat of our feelings, the centre in which our decisions, our attitudes mature. That “return to me with all your heart” involves not only individuals, but is extended to the community as a whole. It is a convocation directed to everyone: “gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber” (v. 16). The Prophet pauses particularly on the prayer of the priests, pointing out that it is to be accompanied by tears. It will do us good, all of us, but especially for us as priests, at the beginning of Lent, to ask for the gift of tears, so as to render our prayer and our journey of conversion ever more authentic and free from hypocrisy. It will do us good to ask ourselves this question: “Do I weep? Does the Pope weep? Do the cardinals weep? Do bishops weep? Do the consecrated weep? Do priests weep? Is there weeping in our prayers?”. And this is precisely the message of today’s Gospel. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus again reads the three works of mercy called for by Mosaic law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. He distinguishes the external disposition from the interior disposition, from the weeping of the heart. Over time, these prescriptions were corroded by external formalism, or they even mutated into a sign of social superiority. Jesus highlighted a common temptation in these three works, that can be summarized precisely as hypocrisy (He mentions it three times): “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them.... When you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do.... And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray... that they may be seen by men.... And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites...” (Mt 6:1, 2, 5, 16). You know, brothers, that hypocrites do not know how to weep, they have forgotten how to weep, they do not ask for the gift of tears.

When one performs a good work, the desire arises almost instinctively in us to be esteemed and admired for this good action, to gain satisfaction from it. Jesus calls us to perform these gestures without ostentation, and to rely solely on the reward of the Father “who sees in secret” (Mt 6:4, 6, 18).

Dear brothers and sisters, the Lord never tires of having mercy on us, and wants to offer us His forgiveness once again — we all need it — , inviting us to return to Him with a new heart, purified of evil, purified by tears, to take part in His joy. How should we accept this invitation? St Paul advises us: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). This power of conversion is not only the work of mankind, it is letting oneself be reconciled. Reconciliation between us and God is possible thanks to the mercy of the Father who, out of love for us, did not hesitate to sacrifice His only begotten Son. Indeed Christ, who was just and without sin, was made to be sin (cf. v. 21) when, on the Cross, He took on the burden of our sins, and in this way He redeemed and justified us before God. “In Him” we can become just, in Him we can change, if we accept the grace of God and do not allow this “acceptable time” to pass in vain (6:2). Please, let us stop, let us stop a while and let ourselves be reconciled to God.

With this awareness, we begin the Lenten journey with trust and joy. May Immaculate Mother Mary, without sin, sustain our spiritual battle against sin, accompany us at this acceptable time, so that we may come together to sing of the exultant victory on Easter Day. And as a sign of the will to let ourselves be reconciled to God, in addition to the tears that will be “in secret”, in public we will perform this gesture of the imposition of Ashes on the head. The celebrant speaks these words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (cf. Gen 3:19); or repeats the exhortation of Jesus: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (cf. Mk 1:15). Both formulae are a reference to the truth of human existence: we are limited creatures, always sinners in need of repentance and conversion. How important it is to listen to and accept this call in this time of ours! The call to conversion is thus an incentive to return, as the son in the parable did, to the arms of God, gentle and merciful Father, to weep in that embrace, to trust in Him and entrust ourselves to Him.

 

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO SRI LANKA AND THE PHILIPPINES

(12-19 JANUARY 2015)

HOLY MASS AND CANONIZATION OF BLESSED JOSEPH VAZ

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Galle Face Green, Colombo
Wednesday, 14 January 2015

“All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Is 52:10)

This is the magnificent prophecy which we heard in today’s first reading. Isaiah foretells the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the ends of the earth. This prophecy has a special meaning for us, as we celebrate the canonization of a great missionary of the Gospel, Saint Joseph Vaz. Like countless other missionaries in the history of the Church, he responded to the Risen Lord’s command to make disciples of every nation (cf. Mt 28:19). By his words, but more importantly, by the example of his life, he led the people of this country to the faith which gives us “an inheritance among all God’s holy ones” (cf. Acts 20:32).

In Saint Joseph we see a powerful sign of God’s goodness and love for the people of Sri Lanka. But we also see in him a challenge to persevere in the paths of the Gospel, to grow in holiness ourselves, and to testify to the Gospel message of reconciliation to which he dedicated his life.

A priest of the Oratory in his native Goa, Saint Joseph Vaz came to this country inspired by missionary zeal and a great love of its people. Because of religious persecution, he dressed as a beggar, performing his priestly duties in secret meetings of the faithful, often at night. His efforts provided spiritual and moral strength to the beleaguered Catholic population. He had a particular desire to serve the ill and suffering. His ministry to the sick was so appreciated by the king during a smallpox epidemic in Kandy that he was allowed greater freedom to minister. From Kandy, he could reach out to other parts of the island. He spent himself in missionary work and died, exhausted, at the age of fifty-nine, revered for his holiness.

Saint Joseph Vaz continues to be an example and a teacher for many reasons, but I would like to focus on three. First, he was an exemplary priest. Here today with us are many priests and religious, both men and women, who, like Joseph Vaz, are consecrated to the service of God and neighbour. I encourage each of you to look to Saint Joseph as a sure guide. He teaches us how to go out to the peripheries, to make Jesus Christ everywhere known and loved. He is also an example of patient suffering in the cause of the Gospel, of obedience to our superiors, of loving care for the Church of God (cf. Acts 20:28). Like ourselves, Saint Joseph Vaz lived in a period of rapid and profound transformation; Catholics were a minority, and often divided within; there was occasional hostility, even persecution, from without. And yet, because he was constantly united with the crucified Lord in prayer, he could become for all people a living icon of God’s mercy and reconciling love.

Second, Saint Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace. His undivided love for God opened him to love for his neighbour; he ministered to those in need, whoever and wherever they were. His example continues to inspire the Church in Sri Lanka today. She gladly and generously serves all members of society. She makes no distinction of race, creed, tribe, status or religion in the service she provides through her schools, hospitals, clinics, and many other charitable works. All she asks in return is the freedom to carry out this mission. Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion. As the life of Saint Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all.

Finally, Saint Joseph gives us an example of missionary zeal. Though he came to Ceylon to minister to the Catholic community, in his evangelical charity he reached out to everyone. Leaving behind his home, his family, the comfort of his familiar surroundings, he responded to the call to go forth, to speak of Christ wherever he was led. Saint Joseph knew how to offer the truth and the beauty of the Gospel in a multi-religious context, with respect, dedication, perseverance and humility. This is also the way for the followers of Jesus today. We are called to go forth with the same zeal, the same courage, of Saint Joseph, but also with his sensitivity, his reverence for others, his desire to share with them that word of grace (cf. Acts 20:32) which has the power to build them up. We are called to be missionary disciples.

Dear brothers and sisters, I pray that, following the example of Saint Joseph Vaz, the Christians of this country may be confirmed in faith and make an ever greater contribution to peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lankan society. This is what Christ asks of you. This is what Saint Joseph teaches you. This is what the Church needs of you. I commend all of you to the prayers of our new saint, so that, in union with the Church throughout the world, you may sing a new song to the Lord and declare his glory to all the ends of the earth. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (cf. Ps 96: 1-4)! Amen.

SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 24 December 2014


“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk 2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in joy and happiness.

We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the “great light”. By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.

The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy, killed his brother Abel (cf. Gen 4:8). As a result, the unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting. God was waiting. He waited for so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf. 2 Tim 2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples. The patience of God. How difficult it is to comprehend this: God’s patience towards us.

Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns; and every day, with patience. The patience of God.

Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the shepherds, they did so with these words: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). The “sign” is in fact the humility of God, the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.

On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?

More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God, the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.

The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life, give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, people open to receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: “O Mary, show us Jesus!”.

 

MASS OF THANKSGIVING FOR THE
EQUIVALENT CANONIZATION OF TWO CANADIAN SAINTS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 12 October 2014

We have heard Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…” (Is 25:8). These words, full of hope in God, point us to the goal, they show the future towards which we are journeying. Along this path the Saints go before us and guide us. These words also describe the vocation of men and women missionaries.

Missionaries are those who, in docility to the Holy Spirit, have the courage to live the Gospel. Even this Gospel which we have just heard: “Go, therefore, into the byways…”, the king tells his servants (Mt 22:9). The servants then go out and assemble all those they find, “both good and bad”, and bring them to the King’s wedding feast (cf. v. 10).

Missionaries have received this call: they have gone out to call everyone, in the highways and byways of the world. In this way they have done immense good for the Church, for once the Church stops moving, once she becomes closed in on herself, she falls ill, she can be corrupted, whether by sins or by that false knowledge cut off from God which is worldly secularism.

Missionaries have turned their gaze to Christ crucified; they have received his grace and they have not kept it for themselves. Like Saint Paul, they have become all things to all people; they have been able to live in poverty and abundance, in plenty and hunger; they have been able to do all things in him who strengthens them (cf. Phil 4:12-13). With this God-given strength, they have the courage to “go forth” into the highways of the world with confidence in the Lord who has called them. Such is the life of every missionary man and woman… ending up far from home, far from their homeland; very often, they are killed, assassinated! This is what has happened even now to many of our brothers and sisters.

The Church’s mission of evangelization is essentially a proclamation of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Missionaries have served the Church’s mission by breaking the bread of God’s word for the poor and those far off, and by bringing to all the gift of the unfathomable love welling up from the heart of the Saviour.

Such was the case with Saint François de Laval and Saint Marie de l’Incarnation. Dear pilgrims from Canada, today I would like to leave you with two words of advice drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews. Keeping missionaries in mind, they will be of great benefit for your communities.

The first is this: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (13:7). The memory of the missionaries sustains us at a time when we are experiencing a scarcity of labourers in the service of the Gospel. Their example attracts us, they inspire us to imitate their faith. They are fruitful witnesses who bring forth life!

The second is this: “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings… Do not therefore abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance…” (10:32,35-36). Honouring those who endured suffering to bring us the Gospel means being ready ourselves to fight the good fight of faith with humility, meekness, and mercy, in our daily lives. And this bears fruit.

We must always remember those who have gone before us, those who founded the fruitful Church in Quebéc! The missionaries from Quebec who went everywhere were fruitful. The world was full of Canadian missionaries like François de Laval and Marie de l’Incarnation. So a word of advice: remembering them prevents us from renouncing candour and courage. Perhaps – indeed, even without perhaps – the devil is jealous and will not tolerate that a land could be such fertile ground for missionaries. Let us pray to the Lord, that Quebéc may once again bear much fruit, that it may give the world many missionaries. May the two missionaries, who we celebrate today, and who – in a manner of speaking – founded the Church in Québec, help us by their intercession. May the seed that they sowed grow and bear fruit in new courageous men and women, who are far-sighted, with hearts open to the Lord’s call. Today, each one must ask this for your homeland. The saints will intercede for us from heaven. May Quebéc once again be a source of brave and holy missionaries.

This, then, is the joy and the challenge of this pilgrimage of yours: to commemorate the witnesses, the missionaries of the faith in your country. Their memory sustains us always in our journey towards the future, towards the goal, when “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…”.

HOLY MASS FOR THE OPENING
OF THE EXTRAORDINARY SYNOD ON THE FAMILY

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 5 October 2014

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard.  The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nurture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO TIRANA (ALBANIA)

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Mother Teresa Square (Tirana)
Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Gospel we have just heard tells us that, as well as the Twelve Apostles, Jesus calls another seventy-two disciples and that he sends them to the villages and cities to announce the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk 10:1-9, 17-20). He comes to bring the love of God to the world and he wishes to share it by means of communion and fraternity. To this end he immediately forms a community of disciples, a missionary community, and he trains them how to “go out” on mission. The method is both clear and simple: the disciples visit homes and their preaching begins with a greeting which is charged with meaning: “Peace be to this house!”. It is not only a greeting, but also a gift: the gift of peace. Being here with you today, dear brothers and sisters of Albania, in this Square dedicated to a humble and great daughter of this land, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I wish to repeat to you this greeting: May peace be in your homes! May peace reign in your hearts! Peace in your country! Peace!

In the mission of the seventy-two disciples we see a reflection of the Christian community’s missionary experience in every age: the risen and living Lord sends not only the Twelve, but the entire Church; he sends each of the baptized to announce the Gospel to all peoples. Through the ages, the message of peace brought by Jesus’ messengers has not always been accepted; at times, the doors have been closed to them. In the recent past, the doors of your country were also closed, locked by the chains of prohibitions and prescriptions of a system which denied God and impeded religious freedom. Those who were afraid of the truth did everything they could to banish God from the hearts of men and women and to exclude Christ and the Church from the history of your country, even though it was one of the first to receive the light of the Gospel. In the second reading, in fact, we heard a reference being made to Illyria, which in Paul’s time included the territory of modern-day Albania.

Recalling the decades of atrocious suffering and harsh persecutions against Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, we can say that Albania was a land of martyrs: many bishops, priests, men and women religious, laity, and clerics and ministers of other religions paid for their fidelity with their lives. Demonstrations of great courage and constancy in the profession of the faith are not lacking. How many Christians did not succumb when threatened, but persevered without wavering on the path they had undertaken! I stand spiritually at that wall of the cemetery of Scutari, a symbolic place of the martyrdom of Catholics before the firing squads, and with profound emotion I place the flower of my prayer and of my grateful and undying remembrance. The Lord was close to you, dear brothers and sisters, to sustain you; he led you and consoled you and in the end he has raised you up on eagle’s wings as he did for the ancient people of Israel, as we heard in the First Reading. The eagle, depicted on your nation’s flag, calls to mind hope, and the need to always place your trust in God, who does not lead us astray and who is ever at our side, especially in moments of difficulty.

Today, the doors of Albania have been reopened and a season of new missionary vitality is growing for all of the members of the people of God: each baptized person has his or her role to fulfil in the Church and in society. Each one must experience the call to dedicate themselves generously to the announcing of the Gospel and to the witness of charity; called to strengthen the bonds of solidarity so as to create more just and fraternal living conditions for all. Today, I have come to thank you for your witness and also to encourage you to cultivate hope among yourselves and within your hearts. Never forget the eagle! The eagle does not forget its nest, but flies into the heights. All of you, fly into the heights! Go high! I have also come to involve the young generations; to nourish you assiduously on the Word of God, opening your hearts to Christ, to the Gospel, to an encounter with God, to an encounter with one another, as you are already doing and by which you witness to the whole of Europe.

In the spirit of communion among bishops, priests, consecrated persons and laity, I encourage you to bring vitality to your pastoral activities, which are activities of service, and to continuously seek new ways of making the Church present in society. In particular, I extend an invitation to the young, of whom there were so many along the way from the airport to here. This is a young people, very young! And where there is youth, there is hope. Listen to God, worship him and love one another as a people, as brothers and sisters.

To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say “thank you” for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. So may it be.

 

HOLY MASS FOR PEACE AND RECONCILIATION

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Cathedral of Myeong-dong (Seoul)
Monday, 18 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea. Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia. Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation. This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula. Today’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20). How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division. For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us. Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3). God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years. But God’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society. It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many. And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22). These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace. In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”. Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation. In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it. What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross. The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea. Trust in the power of Christ’s cross! Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others! I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of reconciliation in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life. I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land. Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people. They speak the same language.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank President Park Geun-hye, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible. I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’s people in faith, hope and love. I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops. Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew. May Christ’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’s richest blessings of harmony and peace! Amen.

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

World Cup Stadium (Daejeon)
Friday, 15 August 2014

In union with the whole Church, we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. Mary’s Assumption shows us our own destiny as God’s adoptive children and members of the body of Christ. Like Mary our Mother, we are called to share fully in the Lord’s victory over sin and death, and to reign with him in his eternal Kingdom. This is our vocation.

The “great sign” presented in today’s first reading invites us to contemplate Mary enthroned in glory beside her divine Son. It also invites us to acknowledge the future which even now the Risen Lord is opening before us. Koreans traditionally celebrate this feast in the light of their historical experience, seeing the loving intercession of Our Lady at work in the history of the nation and the lives of its people.

In today’s second reading, we heard Saint Paul tell us that Christ is the new Adam, whose obedience to the Father’s will has overturned the reign of sin and bondage and inaugurated the reign of life and freedom (cf. 1 Cor 15:24-25). True freedom is found in our loving embrace of the Father’s will. From Mary, full of grace, we learn that Christian freedom is more than liberation from sin. It is freedom for a new, spiritual way of seeing earthly realities. It is the freedom to love God and our brothers and sisters with a pure heart, and to live a life of joyful hope for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom.

Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.

As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst.

In celebrating this feast, we join the Church throughout the world in looking to Mary as our Mother of Hope. Her song of praise reminds us that God never forgets his promise of mercy (cf. Lk 1:54-55). Mary is the one who is blessed because “she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). In her, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real; even now it reaches as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19) to where Jesus is seated in glory.

This hope, dear brothers and sisters, the hope held out by the Gospel, is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like a cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent, yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness. Upon how many of our young has this despair taken its toll! May they, the young who surround us in these days with their joy and confidence, never be robbed of their hope!

Let us turn to Our Lady and implore the grace to rejoice in the freedom of the children of God, to use that freedom wisely in the service of our brothers and sisters, and to live and work as signs of the hope which will find its fulfillment in that eternal Kingdom where to reign is to serve. Amen.

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Park of the Royal Palace of Caserta
Saturday, 26 July 2014

Jesus addressed his listeners with simple words that everyone could understand. This evening too, that is what we heard. He speaks to us through short parables, which refer to the everyday life of the people of that time. The similes of the treasure hidden in a field and of the pearl of great value have as protagonists a poor labourer and a rich merchant. The merchant searches his whole life for an object of value to satisfy his thirst for beauty, travelling the world, never giving up, in the hope of finding what he is searching for. The other, the farmer, never goes far from his field and always does his work, as a daily routine. And the outcome is the same for both of them: the discovery of something precious, for one a treasure, for the other a pearl of great value. They are both joined by a common sentiment: the surprise and the joy of having every desire fulfilled. In the end, neither hesitates to sell all in order to obtain the treasure he has found. Through these two parables Jesus teaches what the Kingdom of Heaven is, how to find it, what to do to obtain it.

What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Jesus did not go out of his way to explain it. He pronounced it from the very start of his Gospel: “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”; — even today it is nearby, among us — however he never lets us see it directly, but always by reflection, recounting the act of a master, of a king, of 10 virgins.... He prefers to leave it open to interpretation, with parables and similes, manifesting above all the effects: the Kingdom of Heaven can change the world, like yeast hidden in dough; it is small and humble like a mustard seed, which however will become tall like a tree. The two parables on which we reflect help us understand that the Kingdom of God is present in the very person of Jesus. He is the hidden treasure, He is the pearl of great value. One understands the joy of the farmer and the merchant: they had found Him! It is the joy we each have when we discover the closeness and the presence of Jesus in our life. A presence which transforms our existence and makes us open to the needs of our brothers and sisters; a presence which prompts us to welcome every other presence, even that of the foreigner and the immigrant. His is a welcoming presence, and a joyous presence, his is a fruitful presence: in this way the Kingdom of God is inside us.

You may ask me: How does one find the Kingdom of God? Each of us has a particular journey, each of us has his path in life. For some the encounter with Jesus is awaited, desired, long sought, as it is revealed to us in the parable of the merchant who travels the world in search of something valuable. For others it happens suddenly, almost by chance, as in the parable of the farmer. This reminds us that God allows Himself to be met, because He is the first who desires to encounter us and the first to seek that encounter with us: he came to be “God with us”. And Jesus is among us, He is here today. He said: when you are gathered in my name, I am among you. The Lord is here, He is with us, He is in our midst! It is He who seeks us, it is He who lets Himself be found even by those who do not seek Him. At times He allows Himself to be found in unusual places and at unexpected times. When one finds Jesus, that person is captivated, overcome, and it is a joy to leave our usual lifestyle, sometimes desolate and apathetic, to embrace the Gospel, to let ourselves be guided by the new logic of love and of humble and unselfish service. The Word of Jesus, the Gospel. I’ll ask you a question, but I don’t want you to answer: How many of you read a passage of the Gospel every day? How many of you, perhaps, rush to finish work so you don’t miss a TV program.... To have the Gospel in your hands, to have the Gospel on your bedside table, to have the Gospel in your pocket, to open it and read the Word of Jesus: this is how the Kingdom of God comes. Contact with the Word of God draws us near to the Kingdom of God. Consider this: a small Gospel always at hand, ready to open when the opportunity arises, ready to read what Jesus says; Jesus is there.

How does one obtain the Kingdom of God? Jesus is very explicit on this point: it’s not enough to have enthusiasm, but the joy of discovery. It is essential to place the precious pearl of the Kingdom before every other worldly good; we must place God first in our life, prefer Him to all else. Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say ‘no’ to evil, ‘no’ to violence, ‘no’ to oppression, to live a life in service of others and which fosters lawfulness and the common good. When a person discovers God, the true treasure, he abandons a selfish lifestyle and seeks to share with others the charity which comes from God. He who becomes a friend of God, loves his brothers and sisters, commits himself to safeguarding their life and their health, and also to respecting the environment and nature. I know that you suffer because of these things. Today, when I arrived, one of you approached me and told me: Father may you give us hope. But I cannot give you hope, I can tell you that where Jesus is, there is hope; where Jesus is there is love for brothers and sisters, there is the commitment to safeguarding their life and their health and to respecting the environment and nature. This is the hope that never disappoints, the hope which Jesus gives! This is particularly important in this beautiful land which needs to be protected and conserved, which requires the courage to say ‘no’ to every form of corruption and unlawfulness — we all know what this kind of corruption and unlawfulness is called — it requires all of us to be servants of the truth and to assume an evangelical lifestyle, which is demonstrated in the giving of oneself and in attention to the poor and the outcast. Take care of the poor and the outcast! The Bible is full of these exhortations. The Lord says: it is not important to me that you do this or that, it is important to me that the orphan is cared for, that the widow is cared for, that the outcast person is heard, that creation is protected. This is the Kingdom of God!

Today is the Feast of Saint Anne, whom I like to call Jesus’ grandma and today is a beautiful day to celebrate grandmothers. While I was incensing I saw something beautiful: the statue of St Anne is not crowned, her daughter, Mary, is crowned. And this is beautiful. St Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a good job! St Anne, patron saint of Caserta, gathered in this square various parts of the Diocesan Community with the Bishop and with the presence of the civic leaders and representatives of various social organizations. I wish to encourage all of you to experience the feast of the patron saint free of all prejudice, in the pure expression of the faith of a people who recognize themselves as the family of God and which strengthens the bonds of brotherhood and solidarity. Perhaps St Anne heard her daughter Mary proclaim the words of the Magnificat, which Mary surely repeated many times: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things” (Lk 1:52-53). May she help you to seek the sole treasure, Jesus, and teach you to discover God’s criteria for behaviour; He overturns the world’s judgments and comes in aid of the poor and the small ones and fills the lowly with good things, those who entrust their existence to Him. Have hope, the hope which does not disappoint. And I like to repeat to you: do not let them steal your hope!

At the end of Mass in Caserta, before the final blessing, the Holy Father addressed these spontaneous remarks to the faithful:

I thank the Bishop for his words: thank you, your words were so kind! Thank you very much! And I thank you for the warm and brotherly welcome. Thank you! Thank you so much! And please, I ask you to pray for me. I also thank the Cardinal Archbishop of Naples. I heard that the people of Naples are perhaps a little jealous over my visit, but I want to assure the people of Naples that I will definitely go there this year.

HOLY MASS IN THE CHAPEL OF THE DOMUS SANCTAE MARTHAE
WITH A GROUP OF CLERGY SEX ABUSE VICTIMS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Monday, 7 July 2014

The scene where Peter sees Jesus emerge after a terrible interrogation… Peter whose eyes meet the gaze of Jesus and weeps… This scene comes to my mind as I look at you, and think of so many men and women, boys and girls. I feel the gaze of Jesus and I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons. Today, I am very grateful to you for having travelled so far to come here.

For some time now I have felt in my heart deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained until someone realized that Jesus was looking and others the same… and they set about to sustain that gaze.

And those few who began to weep have touched our conscience for this crime and grave sin. This is what causes me distress and pain at the fact that some priests and bishops, by sexually abusing minors, violated their innocence and their own priestly vocation. It is something more than despicable actions. It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God. And those people sacrificed them to the idol of their own concupiscence. They profane the very image of God in whose likeness we were created. Childhood, as we all know, young hearts, so open and trusting, have their own way of understanding the mysteries of God’s love and are eager to grow in the faith. Today the heart of the Church looks into the eyes of Jesus in these boys and girls and wants to weep; she asks the grace to weep before the execrable acts of abuse which have left life long scars.

I know that these wounds are a source of deep and often unrelenting emotional and spiritual pain, and even despair. Many of those who have suffered in this way have also sought relief in the path of addiction. Others have experienced difficulties in significant relationships, with parents, spouses and children. Suffering in families has been especially grave, since the damage provoked by abuse affects these vital family relationships.

Some have even had to deal with the terrible tragedy of the death of a loved one by suicide. The deaths of these so beloved children of God weigh upon the heart and my conscience and that of the whole Church. To these families I express my heartfelt love and sorrow. Jesus, tortured and interrogated with passionate hatred, is taken to another place and he looks out. He looks out upon one of his own torturers, the one who denied him, and he makes him weep. Let us implore this grace together with that of making amends.

Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God. Some of you have held fast to faith, while for others the experience of betrayal and abandonment has led to a weakening of faith in God. Your presence here speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness. Surely it is a sign of God’s mercy that today we have this opportunity to encounter one another, to adore God, to look in one another’s eyes and seek the grace of reconciliation.

Before God and his people I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you. And I humbly ask forgiveness.

I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members, as well as by abuse victims themselves. This led to even greater suffering on the part of those who were abused and it endangered other minors who were at risk.

On the other hand, the courage that you and others have shown by speaking up, by telling the truth, was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the Church. There is no place in the Church’s ministry for those who commit these abuses, and I commit myself not to tolerate harm done to a minor by any individual, whether a cleric or not. All bishops must carry out their pastoral ministry with the utmost care in order to help foster the protection of minors, and they will be held accountable.

What Jesus says about those who cause scandal applies to all of us: the millstone and the sea (cf. Mt 18:6).

By the same token we will continue to exercise vigilance in priestly formation. I am counting on the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, all minors, whatever religion they belong to, they are little flowers which God looks lovingly upon.

I ask this support so as to help me ensure that we develop better policies and procedures in the universal Church for the protection of minors and for the training of church personnel in implementing those policies and procedures. We need to do everything in our power to ensure that these sins have no place in the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, because we are all members of God’s family, we are called to live lives shaped by mercy. The Lord Jesus, our Savior, is the supreme example of this; though innocent, he took our sins upon himself on the cross. To be reconciled is the very essence of our shared identity as followers of Jesus Christ. By turning back to him, accompanied by our most holy Mother, who stood sorrowing at the foot of the cross, let us seek the grace of reconciliation with the entire people of God. The loving intercession of Our Lady of Tender Mercy is an unfailing source of help in the process of our healing.

You and all those who were abused by clergy are loved by God. I pray that the remnants of the darkness which touched you may be healed by the embrace of the Child Jesus and that the harm which was done to you will give way to renewed faith and joy.

I am grateful for this meeting. And please pray for me, so that the eyes of my heart will always clearly see the path of merciful love, and that God will grant me the courage to persevere on this path for the good of all children and young people. Jesus comes forth from an unjust trial, from a cruel interrogation and he looks in the eyes of Peter, and Peter weeps. We ask that he look at us and that we allow ourselves to be looked upon and to weep and that he give us the grace to be ashamed, so that, like Peter, forty days later, we can reply: “You know that I love you”; and hear him say: “go back and feed my sheep” – and I would add – “let no wolf enter the sheepfold”.

 

PASTORAL VISIT TO THE DIOCESES OF
CAMPOBASSO-BOIANO
AND
ISERNIA-VENAFRO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Old Romagnoli Stadium (Campobasso)
Saturday, 5 July 2014

“Wisdom rescued from troubles those who served her” (Wis 10:9).

The First Reading recalls the characteristics of Divine Wisdom, which frees from evil and oppression those who put themselves at the service of the Lord. He, indeed, is not neutral, but with his wisdom stands on the side of those fragile, discriminated and oppressed people, who abandon themselves in trust to Him. The experience of Jacob and Joseph, told in the Old Testament, brings to light two essential aspects of the life of the Church: the Church is a people who serves God; and the Church is a people who lives in the freedom granted by Him.

Above all, we are a people who serve God. Service to God is realized in different ways, in particular in prayer and in adoration, in proclaiming the Gospel and in the testimony of love. And always, the icon of the Church is the Virgin Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38; cf. 1:48). Immediately after having received the news from the Angel and having conceived Jesus, Mary sets out in haste to go and help her elderly relative Elizabeth. And thus, she reveals that the privileged path to serve God is to serve our brothers and sisters in need.

In the school of the Mother, the Church learns to become each day the “handmaid of the Lord”, to be ready to set out to meet the situations of greatest need, to be attentive to the little ones and the excluded. But we are all called to live this service of love in ordinary situations, that is, in the family, in the parish, at work, with our neighbours.... It is everyday love, ordinary charity.

The testimony of love is the royal road of evangelization. In this the Church has always been “on the front lines”, a motherly and brotherly presence that shares in the difficulties and frailties of the people. In this way, the Christian community seeks to instill in society that “supplement of soul” that allows one to watch over others and to hope.

It is what you, too, dear brothers and sisters of this Diocese, are doing generously, sustained by the pastoral zeal of your Bishop. I encourage you all, priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful, to persevere on this path, serving God in service to your brothers, and spreading everywhere the culture of solidarity. There is so much need for this commitment, in the face of situations of material and spiritual instability, especially in the face of unemployment, an open sore that demands every effort and a great deal of courage on the part of all to heal. The issue of employment particularly challenges the institutions, the world of finance and the entrepreneurial sector to react. It is necessary to put the dignity of the human person at the centre of every prospect and of every action. Other interests, even legitimate ones, are secondary. The dignity of the human person is at the centre! Why? Because the human person is the image of God, created in the image of God and we are all images of God!

Therefore, the Church is the people who serve the Lord. Thus, she is the people who experience liberation and live in this freedom which he grants to her. True freedom is always given to her by the Lord. Freedom first of all from sin, from selfishness in all its forms: freedom to give oneself and to do it with joy, like the Virgin of Nazareth who is free of herself, does not close in on herself in her condition — and she would indeed have had cause! — but thinks of those who in that moment are in greater need. She is free in the freedom of God, which is manifest in love. And this is the freedom that God has given to us, and we must not lose it: the freedom to adore God, to serve God and to serve him also in our brothers.

This is the freedom which, by the grace of God, we experience in the Christian community, when we put ourselves at the service of one another. Without jealousy, impartially, without chatter.... Serving one another, serving! Then, the Lord frees us of ambition and rivalry, which undermine unity and communion. He frees us from distrust, from sadness — this sadness is dangerous because it casts us down. It casts us down. It is dangerous. Be careful! He frees us from fear, from interior emptiness, isolation, regret, and complaints. Even in our communities, in fact, there is no shortage of negative attitudes that make people self-referential, more concerned with defending themselves than with giving of themselves. But Christ frees us from this existential grayness, as we proclaimed in the Responsorial Psalm, “You are my help and my deliverer”. For this reason, we disciples of the Lord, though still always weak and sinners — we are all so! — but although weak and sinners, we are called to live our faith with joy and courage, communion with God and with our brothers, in adoration of God, and to face with fortitude life’s labours and trials.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Virgin, whom you venerate in particular with the title of Madonna della Libera, obtain for you the joy of serving the Lord and of walking in the freedom that He has given us: in the freedom of adoration, prayer and service to others. May Mary help you to be a maternal Church, welcoming and caring towards everyone. May she always be beside you, your sick, your elderly, who are the wisdom of the people, and your youth. For all your people, may she be a sign of consolation and sure hope. May the Madonna della Libera accompany us, help us, console us and give us peace and joy!

 

PASTORAL VISIT TO CASSANO ALL'JONIO

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Piana di Sibari (Calabria, Italy)
Saturday, 21 June 2014

On the Feast of Corpus Christi we celebrate Jesus “the living bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:51), food for our hunger for eternal life, strength for our journey. I thank the Lord who today allows me to celebrate Corpus Christi with you, brothers and sisters of this Church in Cassano all’Jonio.

Today is the feast in which the Church praises the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist. While on Holy Thursday we commemorate its institution at the Last Supper, today is for giving thanks and adoration. And in fact, there is a traditional procession with the Most Holy Sacrament on this day. To adore Eucharistic Jesus and to walk with him. These are the two inseparable aspects of today’s feast, two aspects that characterize the entire life of the Christian people: a people who adore God and a people who walk: who do not stand still, who journey!

First of all we are a people who adore God. We adore God who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave himself for us, offered himself on the Cross to atone for our sins, and by the power of this love rose from the dead and lives in his Church. We have no other God but He!

When adoration of money is substituted for adoration of the Lord, this pathway leads to sin, to personal interest and exploitation; when God, the Lord, is not adored, we become adorers of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence. Your land, so beautiful, knows the signs and consequences of this sin. This is ’ndrangheta: Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good. This evil must be fought, it must be cast out! One must say ‘no’ to it! The Church, which I know is so committed to raising awareness, must be ever more concerned that goodness prevail. Our kids demand it, our youth, in need of hope, demand it. Faith can help empower us to respond to these needs. Those who follow this evil path in life, such as members of the mafia, are not in communion with God: they are excommunicated!

Today let us confess it as we turn our gaze to the Corpus Christi, the Sacrament on the altar. And by this faith, we renounce Satan and all his machinations; we renounce the idols of money, vanity, pride, power and violence. We Christians don’t want to worship anything and anyone in this world except for Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Eucharist. Perhaps we don’t always understand the full meaning of our profession of faith, what consequences it has or should have.

This our faith in the true presence of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, in the consecrated Bread and Wine, is authentic if we commit ourselves to walk behind Him and with Him. To adore and to walk: a people who adore are a people who walk! Walk with Him and behind Him, as we seek to practice His Commandment, the one he gave the disciples precisely at the Last Supper: “Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). People who adore God in the Eucharist are people who walk in charity. To adore God in the Eucharist, to walk with God in fraternal charity.

Today, as Bishop of Rome, I am here to confirm you not only in the faith but also in charity, to accompany you and encourage you on your journey with JesusCaritas. I should like to express my support to the Bishop, to the clergy and the deacons of this Church, and also of the Eparchy of Lungro, rich in its Greek and Byzantine tradition. I extend it to all, to all the Pastors and faithful of the Church in Calabria, courageously committed to evangelization and to promoting lifestyles and initiatives that focus on the needs of the poor and the least. And I also extend it to the civil authorities who seek to authentically live the political and administrative commitment in service to the common good.

I encourage all of you to witness to concrete solidarity with brothers and sisters, especially those who are most in need of justice, hope and tenderness. The tenderness of Jesus, Eucharistic tenderness: that love so delicate, so fraternal, so pure. Thanks be to God there are so many signs of hope in our families, in the parishes, associations, and Church movements. The Lord Jesus never ceases to inspire acts of charity in his people journeying along the path! A concrete sign of hope is the Progetto Policoro, for the young people who want to compete and create employment possibilities for themselves and for others. You, dear young people, let no one steal your hope! I’ve said it many times and I will repeat it once more: don’t let them steal your hope! Adoring Jesus in your hearts and staying united with Him you will know how to stand up to evil, to injustice, and to violence with the strength of goodness, honesty and virtue.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist has brought you together. The Body of the Lord makes us a single thing, a single family, the People of God reunited around Jesus, the Bread of life. What I told the young people I say to everyone: if you adore Christ and walk behind Him and with Him, your diocesan Church and your parishes will grow in faith and in charity, in the joy of evangelizing. You’ll be a Church in which fathers, mothers, priests, men and women religious, catechists, children, old and young people walk alongside each other, support each other, help each other, love each other like brothers and sisters, especially in difficult times.

May Mary, our Mother, Woman of the Eucharist, whom you venerate in so many Sanctuaries, especially the one in Castrovillari, go before you on this pilgrimage of faith. May she help you, help you always to be united so that, through your testimony as well, the Lord may continue to give life to the world. So be it.

 

HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Saint John Lateran Square
Thursday, 19 June 2014

“The Lord your God ... fed you with manna, which you did not know” (Dt 8:2-3).

These words from Deuteronomy make reference to the history of the Israelites, whom God led out of Egypt, out of slavery, and for 40 years led through the desert toward the promised land. Once established on the land, the Chosen People attain a certain autonomy, a certain wellbeing, and run the risk of forgetting the harrowing events of the past, overcome thanks to God’s intervention and to his infinite goodness. And so the Scriptures urge the people to recall, to remember, to memorize, the entire walk through the desert, in times of famine and desperation. The command of Moses is to return to the basics, to the experience of total dependence on God, when survival was placed in his hands, so the people would understand that “man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Dt 8:3).

Besides physical hunger, man experiences another hunger, a hunger that cannot be satiated with ordinary food. It’s a hunger for life, a hunger for love, a hunger for eternity. And the sign of manna — like the entire experience of Exodus — also contains in itself this dimension: it was the symbol of a food that satisfies this deep human hunger. Jesus gives us this food, rather, He himself is the living bread that gives life to the world (cf. Jn 6:51). His Body is the true food in the form of bread; his Blood is the true drink in the form of wine. It isn’t simple nourishment to satisfy the body, like manna; the Body of Christ is the bread of the last times, capable of giving life, eternal life, because this bread is made of love.

The Eucharist communicates the Lord’s love for us: a love so great that it nourishes us with Himself; a freely given love, always available to every person who hungers and needs to regenerate his own strength. To live the experience of faith means to allow oneself to be nourished by the Lord and to build one’s own existence not with material goods but with the reality that does not perish: the gifts of God, his Word and his Body.

If we look around, we realize that there are so many offers of food which do not come from the Lord and which appear to be more satisfying. Some nourish themselves with money, others with success and vanity, others with power and pride. But the food that truly nourishes and satiates us is only that which the Lord gives us! The food the Lord offers us is different from other food, and perhaps it doesn’t seem as flavourful to us as certain other dishes the world offers us. So we dream of other dishes, like the Hebrews in the desert, who longed for the meat and onions they ate in Egypt, but forgot that they had eaten those meals at the table of slavery. In those moments of temptation, they had a memory, but a sick memory, a selective memory. A slave memory, not a free one.

We, today, may ask ourselves: what about me? Where do I want to eat? At which table to I want to be nourished? At the Lord’s table? Or do I dream about eating flavourful foods, but in slavery? Moreover, we may ask ourselves: what do I recall? The Lord who saves me, or the garlic and onions of slavery? Which recollection satiates my soul?

The Father tells us: “I fed you with manna, which you did not know”. Let us recover this memory. This is the task, to recover that memory. And let us learn to recognize the false bread that deceives and corrupts, because it comes from selfishness, from self-reliance and from sin.

Soon, in the procession, we will follow Jesus truly present in the Eucharist. The Host is our manna, through which the Lord gives himself to us. We turn to Him with faith: Jesus, defend us from the temptation of worldly food which enslaves us, tainted food; purify our memory, so it isn’t imprisoned in selfish and worldly selectivity, but that it may be a living memory of your presence throughout the history of your people, a memory that makes a “monument” of your gesture of redeeming love. Amen.

HOLY MASS WITH THE ORDINARIES OF THE HOLY LAND
AND THE PAPAL ENTOURAGE

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

The Upper Room (Jerusalem)
Monday, 26 May 2014

It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist. I greet you with fraternal joy and I wish to express my affection to the Oriental Catholic Patriarchs who have taken part in my pilgrimage during these days. I want to thank them for their significant presence, particularly dear to me and I assure them of a special place in my heart and in my prayers. Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples, here the Church was born, and she was born to go forth. From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.

In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with his power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).

To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.

The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet. Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another. It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast, those whom I find difficult, those who annoy me.

The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice. In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.

The Upper Room also reminds us of friendship. “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self. This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus, and discovering in our hearts that he is our friend.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and hispromise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal. We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves. How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent. All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, our holy Mother the hierarchical Church established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary. Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life. All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.

These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church.

From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit. Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Manger Square (Bethlehem)
Sunday, 25 May 2014

 

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).

What a great grace it is to celebrate the Eucharist in the place where Jesus was born! I thank God and I thank all of you who have welcomed me on my pilgrimage: President Mahmoud Abbas and the other civil authorities; Patriarch Fouad Twal and the other bishops and ordinaries of the Holy Land, the priests, the good Franciscans, the consecrated persons and all those who labor to keep faith, hope and love alive in these lands; the faithful who have come from Gaza and Galilee, and the immigrants from Asia and Africa. Thank you for your welcome!

The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is the sign given by God to those who awaited salvation, and he remains forever the sign of God’s tenderness and presence in our world. The angel announces to the shepherds: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child…”.

Today too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a “diagnostic” sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy and the world is more human. Here we can think of the work carried out by the Ephpheta Paul VI institute for hearing and speech impaired Palestinian children: it is a very real sign of God’s goodness. It is a clear sign that society is healthier.

To us, the men and women of the twenty-first century, God today also says: “This will be a sign for you”, look to the child…

The Child of Bethlehem is frail, like all newborn children. He cannot speak and yet he is the Word made flesh who came to transform the hearts and lives of all men and women. This Child, like every other child, is vulnerable; he needs to be accepted and protected. Today too, children need to be welcomed and defended, from the moment of their conception.

Sadly, in this world, with all its highly developed technology, great numbers of children continue to live in inhuman situations, on the fringes of society, in the peripheries of great cities and in the countryside. All too many children continue to be exploited, maltreated, enslaved, prey to violence and illicit trafficking. Still too many children live in exile, as refugees, at times lost at sea, particularly in the waters of the Mediterranean. Today, in acknowledging this, we feel shame before God, before God who became a child.

And we have to ask ourselves: Who are we, as we stand before the Child Jesus? Who are we, standing as we stand before today’s children? Are we like Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus and care for him with the love of a father and a mother? Or are we like Herod, who wanted to eliminate him? Are we like the shepherds, who went in haste to kneel before him in worship and offer him their humble gifts? Or are we indifferent? Are we perhaps people who use fine and pious words, yet exploit pictures of poor children in order to make money? Are we ready to be there for children, to “waste time” with them? Are we ready to listen to them, to care for them, to pray for them and with them? Or do we ignore them because we are too caught up in our own affairs?

“This will be a sign for us: you will find a child…”. Perhaps that little boy or girl is crying. He is crying because he is hungry, because she is cold, because he or she wants to be picked up and held in our arms… Today too, children are crying, they are crying a lot, and their crying challenges us. In a world which daily discards tons of food and medicine there are children, hungry and suffering from easily curable diseases, who cry out in vain. In an age which insists on the protection of minors, there is a flourishing trade in weapons which end up in the hands of child-soldiers, there is a ready market for goods produced by the slave labor of small children. Their cry is stifled: the cry of these children is stifled! They must fight, they must work, they cannot cry! But their mothers cry for them, as modern-day Rachels: they weep for their children, and they refuse to be consoled (cf. Mt 2:18).

“This will be a sign for you”: you will find a child. The Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, every child who is born and grows up in every part of our world, is a diagnostic sign indicating the state of health of our families, our communities, our nation. Such a frank and honest diagnosis can lead us to a new kind of lifestyle where our relationships are no longer marked by conflict, oppression and consumerism, but fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation, solidarity and love.

Mary, Mother of Jesus,
you who accepted, teach us how to accept;
you who adored, teach us how to adore;
you who followed, teach us how to follow. Amen.

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

International Stadium (Amman)
Saturday, 24 May 2014

 

In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus promise the disciples: “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever” (Jn 14:16). The first Paraclete is Jesus himself; the other is the Holy Spirit.

We are not far from where the Holy Spirit descended with power on Jesus of Nazareth after his baptism by John in the River Jordan (cf. Mt 3:16) and today I will go there. Today’s Gospel, and this place to which, by God’s grace, I have come as a pilgrim, invite us to meditate on the Holy Spirit and on all that he has brought about in Christ and in us. In a word, we can say that the Holy Spirit carries out three actions – he prepares, he anoints and he sends.

At the baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus to prepare him for his mission of salvation, the mission of one who is a Servant, humble and meek, ready to share and give himself completely. Yet the Holy Spirit, present from the beginning of salvation history, had already been at work in Jesus from the moment of his conception in the virginal womb of Mary of Nazareth, by bringing about the wondrous event of the Incarnation: “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, will overshadow you – the Angel said to Mary – and you will give birth to a son who will be named Jesus” (cf. Lk 1:35). The Holy Spirit had then acted in Simeon and Anna on the day of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple (cf. Lk 2:22). Both were awaiting the Messiah, and both were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna, upon seeing the child, knew immediately that he was the one long awaited by the people. They gave prophetic expression to the joy of encountering the Redeemer and, in a certain sense, served as a preparation for the encounter between the Messiah and the people.

These various works of the Holy Spirit are part of a harmonious action, a sole divine plan of love. The mission of the Holy Spirit, in fact, is to beget harmony – he is himself harmony – and to create peace in different situations and between different people. Diversity of ideas and persons should not trigger rejection or prove an obstacle, for variety always enriches. So today, with fervent hearts, we invoke the Holy Spirit and ask him to prepare the path to peace and unity.

The Holy Spirit also anoints. He anointed Jesus inwardly and he anoints his disciples, so that they can have the mind of Christ and thus be disposed to live lives of peace and communion. Through the anointing of the Spirit, our human nature is sealed with the holiness of Jesus Christ and we are enabled to love our brothers and sisters with the same love which God has for us. We ought, therefore, to show concrete signs of humility, fraternity, forgiveness and reconciliation. These signs are the prerequisite of a true, stable and lasting peace. Let us ask the Father to anoint us so that we may fully become his children, ever more conformed to Christ, and may learn to see one another as brothers and sisters. Thus, by putting aside our grievances and divisions, we can show fraternal love for one another. This is what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you for ever” (Jn 14:15-16).

Lastly, the Holy Spirit sends. Jesus is the one who is sent forth, filled with the Spirit of the Father. Anointed by the same Spirit, we also aresent as messengers and witnesses of peace. The world has much need of us as messengers of peace, witnesses of peace! The world needs this. The world asks us to bring peace and to be a sign of peace!

Peace is not something which can be bought or sold; peace is a gift to be sought patiently and to be “crafted” through the actions, great and small, of our everyday lives. The way of peace is strengthened if we realize that we are all of the same stock and members of the one human family; if we never forget that we have the same Father in heaven and that we are all his children, made in his image and likeness.

It is in this spirit that I embrace all of you: the Patriarch, my brother bishops and priests, the consecrated men and women, the lay faithful, and the many children who today make their First Holy Communion, together with their families. I also embrace with affection the many Christian refugees; let us all earnestly turn our attention to them, to the many Christian refugees from Palestine, Syria and Iraq: please bring my greeting to your families and communities, and assure them of my closeness.

Dear friends! Dear brothers and sisters! The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the Jordan and thus inaugurated his work of redemption to free the world from sin and death. Let us ask the Spirit to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion. Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the oil of his mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings and disputes. And let us ask him for the grace to send us forth, in humility and meekness, along the demanding but enriching path of seeking peace.

 

POPE FRANCIS

GENERAL AUDIENCE

St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We have already had occasion to point out that the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist together constitute the mystery of "Christian initiation", a single great event of grace that regenerates us in Christ. This is the fundamental vocation which unites everyone in the Church as disciples of the Lord Jesus. There are then two Sacraments which correspond to two specific vocations: Holy Orders and Matrimony. They constitute two great paths by which the Christian can make his life a gift of love, after the example and in the name of Christ, and thus cooperate in the building up of the Church.

Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the Sacrament that enables a man to exercise the ministry which the Lord Jesus entrusted to the Apostles, to shepherd his flock, in the power of his Spirit and according to his Heart. Tending Jesus' flock not by the power of human strength or by one's own power, but by the Spirit's and according to his Heart, the Heart of Jesus which is a heart of love. The priest, the bishop, the deacon must shepherd the Lord's flock with love. It is useless if it is not done with love. And in this sense, the ministers who are chosen and consecrated for this service extend Jesus' presence in time, if they do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, in God's name and with love.

1. A first aspect. Those who are ordained are placed at the head of the community. They are "at the head", yes, but for Jesus this means placing ones authority at the service , as Jesus himself showed and taught his disciples with these words: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:25-28/Mk 10:42-45). A bishop who is not at the service of the community fails to perform his duty; a priest who is not at the service of his community fails to perform his duty, he errs.

2. Another characteristic which also derives from this sacramental union with Christ is a passionate love for the Church. Let us think of that passage from the Letter to the Ephesians in which St Paul states that Christ "loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing" (5:25-27). Through Holy Orders the minister dedicates himself entirely to his community and loves it with all his heart: it is his family. The bishop and the priest love the Church in their own community, they love it greatly. How? As Christ loves the Church. St Paul will say the same of marriage: the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church. It is a great mystery of love: this of priestly ministry and that of matrimony are two Sacraments, pathways which people normally take to go to the Lord.

3. A final aspect. The Apostle Paul recommends to the disciple Timothy that he not neglect, indeed, that he always rekindle the gift that is within him. The gift that he has been given through the laying on of hands (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). When the ministry is not fostered — the ministry of the bishop, the ministry of the priest — through prayer, through listening to the Word of God, through the daily celebration of the Eucharist and also through regularly going to the Sacrament of Penance, he inevitably ends up losing sight of the authentic meaning of his own service and the joy which comes from a profound communion with Jesus.

4. The bishop who does not pray, the bishop who does not listen to the Word of God, who does not celebrate every day, who does not regularly confess — and the same is true for the priest who does not do these things — in the long run lose their union with Jesus and become so mediocre that they do not benefit the Church. That is why we must help bishops and priests to pray, to listen to the Word of God which is one's daily nourishment, to celebrate the Eucharist each day and to confess regularly. This is so important precisely because it concerns the sanctification of bishops and priests.

5. I would like to conclude with something which comes to mind: how does one become a priest, where is access to the priesthood sold? No. It is not sold. This is an initiative which the Lord takes. The Lord calls. He calls each of those whom he wills to become priests. Perhaps there are some young men present here who have heard this call in their hearts, the aspiration to become a priest, the desire to serve others in the things of God, the desire to spend one's entire life in service in order to catechize, baptize, forgive, celebrate the Eucharist, heal the sick... the whole of one's life in this way. If some of you have heard this call in your heart, it is Jesus who has placed it there. Pay attention to this invitation and pray that it might grow and bear fruit for the whole Church.

 

PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH
OF "SANTA MARIA DELL'ORAZIONE"

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Second Sunday of Lent, 16 March 2014

In the prayer at the beginning of the Mass we asked the Lord for two graces: “To listen to Your beloved Son”, so that our faith might be nourished by the Word of God, and another grace — “to purify the eyes of our spirit, so that we might one day enjoy the vision of glory”. To listen, the grace to listen, and the grace to purify our eyes. This is directly related to the Gospel we heard. When the Lord is transfigured before Peter, James and John, they hear the voice of God the Father say: “This is my beloved Son! listen to him!”. The grace to listen to Jesus. Why? To nourish our faith with the Word of God. And this is the duty of the Christian. What are the duties of the Christian? Perhaps you will say to me: to go to Mass on Sundays; to fast and abstain during Holy Week; to do this.... Yet the first duty of the Christian is to listen to the Word of God, to listen to Jesus, because he speaks to us and he saves us by his word. And by this word he makes our faith even stronger and more robust. Listen to Jesus! “But, Father, I do listen to Jesus, I listen a lot!”. “Yes? What do you listen to?”. “I listen to the radio, I listen to the television, I listen to people gossip”. We listen to so many things throughout the day, so many things.... But I ask you a question: do we take a little time each day to listen to Jesus, to listen to Jesus’ word? Do we have the Gospels at home? And do we listen to Jesus each day in the Gospel, do we read a passage from the Gospel? Or are we afraid of this, or unaccustomed to reading it? To listen to Jesus’ word in order to nourish ourselves! This means that Jesus’ word is the most nourishing food for the soul: it nourishes our souls, it nourishes our faith! I suggest that each day you take a few minutes and read a nice passage of the Gospel and hear what happens there. Hearing Jesus, and each day Jesus’ word enters our hearts and makes us stronger in faith. I also suggest that you have a little Gospel, very little, to carry in your pocket, in your purse, and when we have a little time, perhaps on the bus ... when it’s possible on the bus, because on the bus it’s often a bit difficult to keep our balance and guard our pockets, isn’t it?.... But when you are seated, here or there, you can also read during the day. Take the Gospel and read two little words. Having the Gospel with us always! It was said that several of the early martyrs — St Cecilia for example — always carried the Gospel with them: they carried the Gospel; she, Cecilia, carried the Gospel. Because it is truly our basic meal, it is Jesus’ word, which nourishes our faith.

And then the second grace we requested was the grace of purifying our eyes, the eyes of our spirit, to prepare the eyes of the spirit for eternal life. Purifying the eyes! I am invited to listen to Jesus, and Jesus manifests himself, and by his Transfiguration he invites us to gaze at him. And looking at Jesus purifies our eyes and prepares them for eternal life, for the vision of heaven. Perhaps our eyes are a little sick because we see so many things that are not of Jesus, things that are even against Jesus: worldly things, things that do not benefit the light of the soul. And in this way, this light is slowly extinguished, and without knowing it, we end up in interior darkness, in spiritual darkness, in a darkened faith: darkness, because we are unaccustomed to looking and imagining the things of Jesus.

This is what we asked today of the Father, who teaches us to listen to Jesus and to gaze at Jesus. To listen to his word, and think about what I was telling you about the Gospel: it is very important! And to see, when I read the Gospel imagining and looking at what Jesus was like, how he did things. And thus our minds, our hearts go forward on the journey of hope on which the Lord places us, as we heard he did to our father Abraham. Always remember: to listen to Jesus, to make our faith stronger; to gaze at Jesus, to prepare our eyes for the beautiful vision of his Face, where we all — may the Lord grant us the grace — will be at a Mass without end. So be it.

 

HOLY MASS, BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF THE ASHES

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Santa Sabina
Wednesday, 5 March 2014

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:13).

With these penetrating words of the Prophet Joel, the liturgy today introduces us into Lent, pointing to conversion of heart as the chief characteristic of this season of grace. The prophetic appeal challenges all of us without exception, and it reminds us that conversion is not to be reduced to outward forms or to vague intentions, but engages and transforms one’s entire existence beginning from the centre of the person, from the conscience. We are invited to embark upon a journey on which, by defying routine, we strive to open our eyes and ears, but especially to open our hearts, in order to go beyond our own “backyard”.

Opening oneself to God and to the brethren. We know that this increasingly artificial world would have us live in a culture of “doing”, of the “useful”, where we exclude God from our horizon without realizing it. But we also exclude the horizon itself! Lent beacons us to “rouse ourselves”, to remind ourselves that we are creatures, simply put, that we are not God. In the little daily scene, as I look at some of the power struggles to occupy spaces, I think: these people are playing God the Creator. They still have not realized that they are not God.

And we also risk closing ourselves off to others and forgetting them. But only when the difficulties and suffering of others confront and question us may we begin our journey of conversion towards Easter. It is an itinerary which involves the Cross and self-denial. Today’s Gospel indicates the elements of this spiritual journey: prayer, fasting and almsgiving (cf. Mt 6:1-6; 16-18). All three exclude the need for appearances: what counts is not appearances; the value of life does not depend on the approval of others or on success, but on what we have inside us.

The first element is prayer. Prayer is the strength of the Christian and of every person who believes. In the weakness and frailty of our lives, we can turn to God with the confidence of children and enter into communion with him. In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.

The second key element of the Lenten journey is fasting. We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth “satisfies” us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him. Fasting involves choosing a sober lifestyle; a way of life that does not waste, a way of life that does not “throw away”. Fasting helps us to attune our hearts to the essential and to sharing. It is a sign of awareness and responsibility in the face of injustice, abuse, especially to the poor and the little ones, and it is a sign of the trust we place in God and in his providence.

The third element is almsgiving: it points to giving freely, for in almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely. Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.

With its invitations to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to rouse us from torpor, from the risk of moving forward by inertia. The exhortation which the Lord addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear: “Return to me with all your heart” (Jl 2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, in the Church and we need to change, to give it a new direction. And this is called needing to convert! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, always faithful, for he cannot deny himself, he continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and he is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, let us set out on the journey!

HOLY MASS WITH THE NEW CARDINALS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 23 February 2014

“Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit” (Opening Prayer).

This prayer, the opening prayer of today’s Mass, reminds us of something fundamental: we are called to listen to the Holy Spirit who enlivens and guides the Church. By his creative and renewing power, the Spirit always sustains the hope of God’s People as we make our pilgrim way through history, and, as the Paraclete, he always supports the witness of Christians. In this moment, together with the new Cardinals, all of us want to listen to the voice of the Spirit as he speaks to us through the Scriptures we have just heard.

In the first reading, the Lord’s call to his people resounds: “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). In the Gospel Jesus echoes this call: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). These words challenge all of us, as the Lord’s disciples. Today, they are especially addressed to me and to you, dear brother Cardinals, and in a particular way to those of you who yesterday entered the College. Imitating the holiness and perfection of God might seem an unattainable goal. Yet, the first reading and the Gospel offer us concrete examples which enable God’s way of acting to become the norm for our own. Yet we – all of us – must never forget that without the Holy Spirit our efforts are in vain! Christian holiness is not first and foremost our own work, but the fruit of docility – willed and cultivated – to the Spirit of God thrice holy.

The Book of Leviticus says: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart … You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge … but you shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:17-18). These attitudes are born of the holiness of God. We, however, tend to be so different, so selfish and proud … and yet, God’s goodness and beauty attract us, and the Holy Spirit is able to purify, transform and shape us day by day. To make effort to be converted, to experience a heartfelt conversion: this is something that all of us – especially you Cardinals and myself – must do. Conversion!

In the Gospel Jesus also speaks to us of holiness, and explains to us the new law, his law. He does this by contrasting the imperfect justice of the scribes and Pharisees with the higher justice of the Kingdom of God. The first contrast of today’s passage refers to revenge. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you … if anyone should strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:38-39). We are required not only to avoid repaying others the evil they have done to us, but also to seek generously to do good to them.

The second contrast refers to our enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:43-44). Jesus asks those who would follow him to love those who do not deserve it, without expecting anything in return, and in this way to fill the emptiness present in human hearts, relationships, families, communities and in the entire world. My brother Cardinals, Jesus did not come to teach us good manners, how to behave well at the table! To do that, he would not have had to come down from heaven and die on the Cross. Christ came to save us, to show us the way, the only way out of the quicksand of sin, and this way of holiness is mercy, that mercy which he has shown, and daily continues to show, to us. To be a saint is not a luxury. It is necessary for the salvation of the world. This is what the Lord is asking of us.

Dear brother Cardinals, the Lord Jesus and mother Church ask us to witness with greater zeal and ardour to these ways of being holy. It is exactly in this greater self-gift, freely offered, that the holiness of a Cardinal consists. We love, therefore, those who are hostile to us; we bless those who speak ill of us; we greet with a smile those who may not deserve it. We do not aim to assert ourselves; we oppose arrogance with meekness; we forget the humiliations that we have endured. May we always allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, who sacrificed himself on the Cross so that we could be “channels” through which his charity might flow. This is the attitude of a Cardinal, this must be how he acts. A Cardinal – I say this especially to you – enters the Church of Rome, my brothers, not a royal court. May all of us avoid, and help others to avoid, habits and ways of acting typical of a court: intrigue, gossip, cliques, favouritism and partiality. May our language be that of the Gospel: “yes when we mean yes; no when we mean no”; may our attitudes be those of the Beatitudes, and our way be that of holiness. Let pray once more: “Merciful Father, by your help, may we be ever attentive to the voice of the Spirit”

The Holy Spirit also speaks to us today through the words of Saint Paul: “You are God’s temple … God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are” (1 Cor 3:16-17). In this temple, which we are, an existential liturgy is being celebrated: that of goodness, forgiveness, service; in a word, the liturgy of love. This temple of ours is defiled if we neglect our duties towards our neighbour. Whenever the least of our brothers and sisters finds a place in our hearts, it is God himself who finds a place there. When that brother or sister is shut out, it is God himself who is not being welcomed. A heart without love is like a deconsecrated church, a building withdrawn from God’s service and given over to another use.

Dear brother Cardinals, may we remain united in Christ and among ourselves! I ask you to remain close to me, with your prayers, your advice and your help. And I ask all of you, bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and laity, together to implore the Holy Spirit, that the College of Cardinals may always be ever more fervent in pastoral charity and filled with holiness, in order to serve the Gospel and to help the Church radiate Christ’s love in our world.

 

 

ORDINARY PUBLIC CONSISTORY FOR THE CREATION OF NEW CARDINALS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica Vatican Basilica
Saturday, 22 February 2014

“Jesus was walking ahead of them…” (Mk 10:32).

At this moment too, Jesus is walking ahead of us. He is always before us. He goes ahead of us and leads the way… This is the source of our confidence and our joy: to be his disciples, to remain with him, to walk behind him, to follow him…

When with the Cardinals we concelebrated the first Mass in the Sistine Chapel, the first word which the Lord proposed to us was “to walk”, to journey with him: to journey, and then to build and to profess.

Today this same word is repeated, but now as an action, an action of Jesus which is ongoing: “Jesus was walking…”. This is something striking about the Gospels: Jesus is often walking and he teaches his disciples along the way. This is important. Jesus did not come to teach a philosophy, an ideology… but rather “a way”, a journey to be undertaken with him, and we learn the way as we go, by walking. Yes, dear brothers, this is our joy: to walk with Jesus.

And this is not easy, or comfortable, because the way that Jesus chooses is the way of the Cross. As they journey together, he speaks to his disciples about what will happen in Jerusalem: he foretells his passion, death and resurrection. And they are “shocked” and “full of fear”. They were shocked, certainly, because for them going up to Jerusalem meant sharing in the triumph of the Messiah, in his victory – we see this in the request made by James and John. But they were also full of fear for what was about to happen to Jesus, and for what they themselves might have to endure.

Unlike the disciples in those days, we know that Jesus has won, and that we need not fear the Cross; indeed, the Cross is our hope. And yet, we are all too human, sinners, tempted to think as men do, not as God does.

And once we follow the thinking of the world, what happens? The Gospel tells us: “When the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John” (Mk 10:41). They were indignant. Whenever a worldly mentality predominates, the result is rivalry, jealousy, factions…

And so the word which Jesus speaks to us today is most salutary. It purifies us inwardly, it enlightens our consciences and helps us to unite ourselves fully with Jesus, and to do so together, at this time when the College of Cardinals is enlarged by the entrance of new members.

“And Jesus called them to himself…” (Mk 10:42). Here is the other action of Jesus. Along the way, he is aware that he needs to speak to the Twelve; he stops and calls them to himself. Brothers, let us allow Jesus to call us to himself! Let us be “con-voked” by him. And let us listen to him, with the joy that comes from receiving his word together, from letting ourselves be taught by that word and by the Holy Spirit, and to become ever more of one heart and soul, gathered around him.

And as we are thus “con-voked”, “called to himself” by our one Teacher, I will tell you what the Church needs: she needs you, your cooperation, and even more your communion, with me and among yourselves. The Church needs your courage, to proclaim the Gospel at all times, both in season and out of season, and to bear witness to the truth. The Church needs your prayer for the progress of Christ’s flock, that prayer – let us not forget this! – which, along with the proclamation of the Word, is the primary task of the Bishop. The Church needs your compassion, especially at this time of pain and suffering for so many countries throughout the world. Let us together express our spiritual closeness to the ecclesial communities and to all Christians suffering from discrimination and persecution. We must fight every form of discrimination! The Church needs our prayer for them, that they may be firm in faith and capable of responding to evil with good. And this prayer of ours extends to every man and women suffering injustice on account of their religious convictions.

The Church needs us also to be peacemakers, building peace by our words, our hopes and our prayers. Building peace! Being peacemakers! Let us therefore invoke peace and reconciliation for those peoples presently experiencing violence, exclusion and war.

Thank you, dear Brothers! Thank you! Let us walk together behind the Lord, and let us always be called together by him, in the midst of his faithful people, the holy People of God, holy Mother the Church. Thank you!

CELEBRATION OF VESPERS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls
Saturday, 25 January 2014

“Has Christ been divided?” (1 Cor 1:13). The urgent appeal which Saint Paul makes at the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians, and which has been proclaimed at this evening’s liturgy, was chosen by a group of our fellow Christians in Canada as the theme for our meditation during this year’s Week of Prayer.

The Apostle was grieved to learn that the Christians of Corinth had split into different factions. Some claimed: “I belong to Paul”; while others claimed: “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas”, and others yet claimed: “I belong to Christ” (cf. v. 12). Paul could not even praise those who claimed to belong to Christ, since they were using the name of the one Saviour to set themselves apart from their other brothers and sisters within the community. In other words, the particular experience of each individual, or an attachment to certain significant persons in the community, had become a yardstick for judging the faith of others.

Amid this divisiveness, Paul appeals to the Christians of Corinth “by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” to be in agreement, so that divisions will not reign among them, but rather a perfect union of mind and purpose (cf. v. 10). The communion for which the Apostle pleads, however, cannot be the fruit of human strategies. Perfect union among brothers and sisters can only come from looking to the mind and heart of Christ (cf. Phil 2:5). This evening, as we gather here in prayer, may we realize that Christ, who cannot be divided, wants to draw us to himself, to the sentiments of his heart, to his complete and confident surrender into the hands of the Father, to his radical self-emptying for love of humanity. Christ alone can be the principle, the cause and the driving force behind our unity.

As we find ourselves in his presence, we realize all the more that we may not regard divisions in the Church as something natural, inevitable in any form of human association. Our divisions wound Christ’s body, they impair the witness which we are called to give to him before the world. The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, appealing to the text of Saint Paul which we have reflected on, significantly states: “Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communities present themselves to people as the true inheritance of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but they differ in outlook and go their different ways, as if Christ were divided”. And the Council continues: “Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the sacred cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 1). We have all been damaged by these divisions. None of us wishes to become a cause of scandal. And so we are all journeying together, fraternally, on the road towards unity, bringing about unity even as we walk; that unity comes from the Holy Spirit and brings us something unique which only the Holy Spirit can do, that is, reconciling our differences. The Lord waits for us all, accompanies us all, and is with us all on this path of unity.

Christ, dear friends, cannot be divided! This conviction must sustain and encourage us to persevere with humility and trust on the way to the restoration of full visible unity among all believers in Christ. Tonight I think of the work of two great Popes: Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II. In the course of their own lives, both came to realize the urgency of the cause of unity and, once elected Bishops of Rome, they guided the entire Catholic flock decisively on the paths of ecumenism. Pope John blazed new trails which earlier would have been almost unthinkable. Pope John Paul held up ecumenical dialogue as an ordinary and indispensable aspect of the life of each Particular Church. With them, I think too of Pope Paul VI, another great promoter of dialogue; in these very days we are commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of his historic embrace with the Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople.

The work of these, my predecessors, enabled ecumenical dialogue to become an essential dimension of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, so that today the Petrine ministry cannot be fully understood without this openness to dialogue with all believers in Christ. We can say also that the journey of ecumenism has allowed us to come to a deeper understanding of the ministry of the Successor of Peter, and we must be confident that it will continue to do so in the future. As we look with gratitude to the progress which the Lord has enabled us to make, and without ignoring the difficulties which ecumenical dialogue is presently experiencing, let us all pray that we may put on the mind of Christ and thus progress towards the unity which he wills. And to journey together is already to be making unity!

In this climate of prayer for the gift of unity, I address a cordial and fraternal greeting to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and to His Grace David Moxon, the representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here this evening. With these two brothers representing everyone, we have prayed at the Tomb of Paul and have said to one another: “Let us pray that he will help us on this path, on this path of unity and of love, as we advance towards unity”. Unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in journeying; the Holy Spirit does this on the journey. If we do not walk together, if we do not pray for one another, if we do not collaborate in the many ways that we can in this world for the People of God, then unity will not come about! But it will happen on this journey, in each step we take. And it is not we who are doing this, but rather the Holy Spirit, who sees our goodwill.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord Jesus, who has made us living members of his body, to keep us deeply united to him, to help us overcome our conflicts, our divisions and our self-seeking; and let us remember that unity is always better than conflict! And so may he help us to be united to one another by one force, by the power of love which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Amen.

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Monday, 6 January 2014

Lumen requirunt lumine”. These evocative words from a liturgical hymn for the Epiphany speak of the experience of the Magi: following a light, they were searching for the Light. The star appearing in the sky kindled in their minds and in their hearts a light that moved them to seek the great Light of Christ. The Magi followed faithfully that light which filled their hearts, and they encountered the Lord.

The destiny of every person is symbolized in this journey of the Magi of the East: our life is a journey, illuminated by the lights which brighten our way, to find the fullness of truth and love which we Christians recognize in Jesus, the Light of the World. Like the Magi, every person has two great “books” which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God who speaks to us, who always speaks to us. As the Psalm says in referring to the Law of the Lord: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). Listening to the Gospel, reading it, meditating on it and making it our spiritual nourishment especially allows us to encounter the living Jesus, to experience him and his love.

The first reading echoes, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the call of God to Jerusalem: “Arise, shine!” (Is 60:1). Jerusalem is called to be the city of light which reflects God’s light to the world and helps humanity to walk in his ways. This is the vocation and the mission of the People of God in the world. But Jerusalem can fail to respond to this call of the Lord. The Gospel tells us that the Magi, when they arrived in Jerusalem, lost sight of the star for a time. They no longer saw it. Its light was particularly absent from the palace of King Herod: his dwelling was gloomy, filled with darkness, suspicion, fear, envy. Herod, in fact, proved himself distrustful and preoccupied with the birth of a frail Child whom he thought of as a rival. In realty Jesus came not to overthrow him, a wretched puppet, but to overthrow the Prince of this world! Nonetheless, the king and his counsellors sensed that the foundations of their power were crumbling. They feared that the rules of the game were being turned upside down, that appearances were being unmasked. A whole world built on power, on success, possessions and corruption was being thrown into crisis by a child! Herod went so far as to kill the children. As Saint Quodvultdeus writes, “You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart” (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655). This was in fact the case: Herod was fearful and on account of this fear, he became insane.

The Magi were able to overcome that dangerous moment of darkness before Herod, because they believed the Scriptures, the words of the prophets which indicated that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And so they fled the darkness and dreariness of the night of the world. They resumed their journey towards Bethlehem and there they once more saw the star, and the gospel tells us that they experienced “a great joy” (Mt 2:10). The very star which could not be seen in that dark, worldly palace.

One aspect of the light which guides us on the journey of faith is holy “cunning”. This holy “cunning” is also a virtue. It consists of a spiritual shrewdness which enables us to recognize danger and avoid it. The Magi used this light of “cunning” when, on the way back, they decided not to pass by the gloomy palace of Herod, but to take another route. These wise men from the East teach us how not to fall into the snares of darkness and how to defend ourselves from the shadows which seek to envelop our life. By this holy “cunning”, the Magi guarded the faith. We too need to guard the faith, guard it from darkness. Many times, however, it is a darkness under the guise of light. This is because the devil, as saint Paul, says, disguises himself at times as an angel of light. And this is where a holy “cunning” is necessary in order to protect the faith, guarding it from those alarmist voices that exclaim: “Listen, today we must do this, or that...”. Faith though, is a grace, it is a gift. We are entrusted with the task of guarding it, by means of this holy “cunning” and by prayer, love, charity. We need to welcome the light of God into our hearts and, at the same time, to cultivate that spiritual cunning which is able to combine simplicity with astuteness, as Jesus told his disciples: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16).

On the feast of the Epiphany, as we recall Jesus’ manifestation to humanity in the face of a Child, may we sense the Magi at our side, as wise companions on the way. Their example helps us to lift our gaze towards the star and to follow the great desires of our heart. They teach us not to be content with a life of mediocrity, of “playing it safe”, but to let ourselves be attracted always by what is good, true and beautiful… by God, who is all of this, and so much more! And they teach us not to be deceived by appearances, by what the world considers great, wise and powerful. We must not stop at that. It is necessary to guard the faith. Today this is of vital importance: to keep the faith. We must press on further, beyond the darkness, beyond the voices that raise alarm, beyond worldliness, beyond so many forms of modernity that exist today. We must press on towards Bethlehem, where, in the simplicity of a dwelling on the outskirts, beside a mother and father full of love and of faith, there shines forth the Sun from on high, the King of the universe. By the example of the Magi, with our little lights, may we seek the Light and keep the faith. May it be so.

 

HOLY MASS ON THE LITURGICAL MEMORIAL OF THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Church of the Gesù, Rome
Friday, 3 January 2014

St Paul tells us, as we heard: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2:5-9). We, Jesuits, want to be designated by the name of Jesus, to serve under the banner of the Cross, and this means: having the same mind as Christ. It means thinking like him, loving like him, seeing like him, walking like him. It means doing what he did and with his same sentiments, with the sentiments of his Heart.

The heart of Christ is the heart of a God who, out of love, “emptied” himself. Each one of us, as Jesuits, who follow Jesus should be ready to empty himself. We are called to this humility: to be “emptied” beings. To be men who are not centred on themselves because the centre of the Society is Christ and his Church. And God is the Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us. And if the God of surprises is not at the centre, the Society becomes disorientated. Because of this, to be a Jesuit means to be a person of incomplete thought, of open thought: because he thinks always looking to the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us. And this is the restlessness of our inner abyss. This holy and beautiful restlessness!

However, because we are sinners, we can ask ourselves if our heart has preserved the restlessness of the search or if instead it has atrophied; if our heart is always in tension: a heart that does not rest, that does not close in on itself but beats to the rhythm of a journey undertaken together with all the people faithful to God. We need to seek God in order to find him, and find him in order to seek him again and always. Only this restlessness gives peace to the heart of a Jesuit, a restlessness that is also apostolic, but which must not let us grow tired of proclaiming the kerygma, of evangelizing with courage. It is the restlessness that prepares us to receive the gift of apostolic fruitfulness. Without restlessness we are sterile.

It was this restlessness that Peter Faber had, a man of great aspirations, another Daniel. Faber was a “modest, sensitive man with a profound inner life. He was endowed with the gift of making friends with people from every walk of life” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Jesuits, 22 April 2006). Yet his was also a restless, unsettled, spirit that was never satisfied. Under the guidance of St Ignatius he learned to unite his restless but also sweet — I would say exquisite — sensibility, with the ability to make decisions. He was a man with great aspirations; he was aware of his desires, he acknowledged them. Indeed for Faber, it is precisely when difficult things are proposed that the true spirit is revealed which moves one to action (cf. Memoriale, 301). An authentic faith always involves a profound desire to change the world. Here is the question we must ask ourselves: do we also have great vision and impetus? Are we also daring? Do our dreams fly high? Does zeal consume us (cf. Ps 68:10)? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our “made in the lab” apostolic programmes? Let us always remember: the Church’s strength does not reside in herself and in her organizational abilities, but it rests hidden in the deep waters of God. And these waters stir up our aspirations and desires expanding the heart. It is as St Augustine says: pray to desire and aspire to expand the heart. Faber could discern God’s voice in his desires. One goes nowhere without desire and that is why we need to offer our own desires to the Lord. The Constitutions say that: “we help our neighbour by the desires we present to the Lord our God” (Constitutions, 638).

Faber had the true and deep desire “to be expanded in God”: he was completely centred in God, and because of this he could go, in a spirit of obedience, often on foot, throughout Europe and with charm dialogue with everyone and proclaim the Gospel. The thought comes to mind of the temptation, which perhaps we might have and which so many have of condemnation, of connecting the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial blows. No, the Gospel is proclaimed with gentleness, with fraternity, with love. His familiarity with God led him to understand that interior experience and apostolic life always go together. He writes in his Memoriale that the heart’s first movement should be that of “desiring what is essential and primordial, that is, the first place be left to the perfect intention of finding our Lord God” (Memoriale, 63). Faber experiences the desire to “allow Christ to occupy the centre of his heart” (Memoriale, 68). It is only possible to go to the limits of the world if we are centred in God! And Faber travelled without pause to the geographic frontiers, so much so that it was said of him: “it seems he was born not to stay put anywhere” (mi, Epistolae i, 362). Faber was consumed by the intense desire to communicate the Lord. If we do not have his same desire, then we need to pause in prayer, and, with silent fervour, ask the Lord, through the intercession of our brother Peter, to return and attract us: that fascination with the Lord that led Peter to such apostolic “folly”.

We are men in tension, we are also contradictory and inconsistent men, sinners, all of us. But we are men who want to journey under Jesus’ gaze. We are small, we are sinners, but we want to fight under the banner of the Cross in the Society designated by the name of Jesus. We who are selfish want nonetheless to live life aspiring to great deeds. Let us renew then our oblation to the Eternal Lord of the universe so that by the help of his glorious Mother we may will, desire and live the mind of Christ who emptied himself. As St Peter Faber wrote, “let us never seek in this life to be tied to any name but that of Jesus” (Memoriale, 205). And let us pray to Our Lady that we may be emissaries with her Son.

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Wednesday, 1st January 2014

In the first reading we find the ancient prayer of blessing which God gave to Moses to hand on to Aaron and his sons: “The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace” (Num 6:24-25). There is no more meaningful time than the beginning of a new year to hear these words of blessing: they will accompany our journey through the year opening up before us. They are words of strength, courage and hope. Not an illusory hope, based on frail human promises, or a naïve hope which presumes that the future will be better simply because it is the future. Rather, it is a hope that has its foundation precisely in God’s blessing, a blessing which contains the greatest message of good wishes there can be; and this is the message which the Church brings to each of us, filled with the Lord’s loving care and providential help.

The message of hope contained in this blessing was fully realized in a woman, Mary, who was destined to become the Mother of God, and it was fulfilled in her before all creatures.

The Mother of God. This is the first and most important title of Our Lady. It refers to a quality, a role which the faith of the Christian people, in its tender and genuine devotion to our heavenly Mother, has understood from the beginning.

We recall that great moment in the history of the ancient Church, the Council of Ephesus, in which the divine motherhood of the Virgin Mary was authoritatively defined. The truth of her divine maternity found an echo in Rome where, a little later, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major was built, the first Marian shrine in Rome and in the entire West, in which the image of the Mother of God – the Theotokos – is venerated under the title of Salus Populi Romani. It is said that the residents of Ephesus used to gather at the gates of the basilica where the bishops were meeting and shout, “Mother of God!”. The faithful, by asking them to officially define this title of Our Lady, showed that they acknowledged her divine motherhood. Theirs was the spontaneous and sincere reaction of children who know their Mother well, for they love her with immense tenderness. But it is more: it is the sensus fidei of the holy People of God which, in its unity, never errs.

Mary has always been present in the hearts, the piety and above all the pilgrimage of faith of the Christian people. “The Church journeys through time… and on this journey she proceeds along the path already trodden by the Virgin Mary” (Redemptoris Mater, 2). Our journey of faith is the same as that of Mary, and so we feel that she is particularly close to us. As far as faith, the hinge of the Christian life, is concerned, the Mother of God shared our condition. She had to take the same path as ourselves, a path which is sometimes difficult and obscure. She had to advance in the “pilgrimage of faith” (Lumen gentium, 58).

Our pilgrimage of faith has been inseparably linked to Mary ever since Jesus, dying on the Cross, gave her to us as our Mother, saying: “Behold your Mother!” (Jn 19:27). These words serve as a testament, bequeathing to the world a Mother. From that moment on, the Mother of God also became our Mother! When the faith of the disciples was most tested by difficulties and uncertainties, Jesus entrusted them to Mary, who was the first to believe, and whose faith would never fail. The “woman” became our Mother when she lost her divine Son. Her sorrowing heart was enlarged to make room for all men and women, all, whether good or bad, and she loves them as she loved Jesus. The woman who at the wedding at Cana in Galilee gave her faith-filled cooperation so that the wonders of God could be displayed in the world, at Calvary kept alive the flame of faith in the resurrection of her Son, and she communicates this with maternal affection to each and every person. Mary becomes in this way a source of hope and true joy!

The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation. In this way our mission will be fruitful, because it is modeled on the motherhood of Mary. To her let us entrust our journey of faith, the desires of our heart, our needs and the needs of the whole world, especially of those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace, and for God. Let us then together invoke her, and I invite you to invoke her three times, following the example of those brothers and sisters of Ephesus: Mother of God! Mother of God! Mother of God! Amen.

MIDNIGHT MASS

SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Tuesday, 24 December 2013

1. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).

This prophecy of Isaiah never ceases to touch us, especially when we hear it proclaimed in the liturgy of Christmas Night. This is not simply an emotional or sentimental matter. It moves us because it states the deep reality of what we are: a people who walk, and all around us – and within us as well – there is darkness and light. In this night, as the spirit of darkness enfolds the world, there takes place anew the event which always amazes and surprises us: the people who walk see a great light. A light which makes us reflect on this mystery: the mystery of walking and seeing.

Walking. This verb makes us reflect on the course of history, that long journey which is the history of salvation, starting with Abraham, our father in faith, whom the Lord called one day to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him. From that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land. This history has always been accompanied by the Lord! He is ever faithful to his covenant and to his promises. Because he is faithful, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). Yet on the part of the people there are times of both light and darkness, fidelity and infidelity, obedience, and rebellion; times of being a pilgrim people and times of being a people adrift.

In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us. “Whoever hates his brother – writes the Apostle John – is in the darkness; he walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 Jn 2:11). A people who walk, but as a pilgrim people who do not want to go astray.

2. On this night, like a burst of brilliant light, there rings out the proclamation of the Apostle: “God's grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race” (Tit 2:11).

The grace which was revealed in our world is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, true man and true God. He has entered our history; he has shared our journey. He came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the tender love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom, he is not an ideal for which we strive while knowing that we are hopelessly distant from it. He is the meaning of life and history, who has pitched his tent in our midst.

3. The shepherds were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last, the outcast. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks. The pilgrim is bound by duty to keep watch and the shepherds did just that. Together with them, let us pause before the Child, let us pause in silence. Together with them, let us thank the Lord for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you, Lord God most high, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich and you made yourself poor; you are all-powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.

On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). As the angels said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid!”. And I also repeat to all of you: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is mercy: our Father always forgives us. He is our peace. Amen.

 

SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter's Square
2nd Sunday of Advent, 8 December 2013

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

This second Sunday of Advent falls on the day of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and thus our gaze is drawn to the beauty of the Mother of Jesus, our Mother! With great joy the Church contemplates her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), and starting with these words we salute her together: “Full of grace!” Let us say it three times: “Full of grace!”. Everyone: Full of grace! Full of grace! Full of grace! This is how God saw her from the first moment of his loving design. He saw her as beautiful, full of grace. Our Mother is beautiful! Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent Season in expectation of the Lord. For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit us all on the feast, but also, each one, in our own hearts. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him!

The Gospel of St Luke presents us with Mary, a girl from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, in the outskirts of the Roman Empire and on the outskirts of Israel as well. A village. Yet the Lord’s gaze rested on her, on this little girl from that distant village, on the one he had chosen to be the mother of his Son. In view of this motherhood, Mary was preserved from original sin, from that fracture in communion with God, with others and with creation, which deeply wounds every human being. But this fracture was healed in advance in the Mother of the One who came to free us from the slavery of sin. The Immaculata was written in God’s design; she is the fruit of God’s love that saves the world.

And Our Lady never distanced herself from that love: throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love, it is the “yes” to God. But that didn’t make life easy for her! When the Angel calls her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), she is “greatly troubled” for in her humility she feels she is nothing before God. The Angel consoles her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (v. 30,31). This announcement troubles her even more because she was not yet married to Joseph; but the Angel adds: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (v. 35). Mary listens, interiorly obeys and responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v.38).

The mystery of this girl from Nazareth, who is in the heart of God, is not estranged from us. She is not there and we over here. No, we are connected. Indeed, God rests his loving gaze on every man and every woman! By name and surname. His gaze of love is on every one of us. The Apostle Paul states that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). We too, from all time, were chosen by God to live a holy life, free of sin. It is a plan of love that God renews every time we come to him, especially through the Sacraments.

On this Solemnity, then, by contemplating our beautiful Immaculate Mother, let us also recognize our truest destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love, to be transformed by the beauty of God. Let us look to her, our Mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our mother and she loves us so much; let us allow ourselves to be watched over by her so that we may learn how to be more humble, and also more courageous in following the Word of God; to welcome the tender embrace of her Son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and peace.

 

After the Angelus:

Let us join in spirit with the Church in North America which is today remembering the foundation of its first parish Notre-Dame de Québec 350 years ago. Let us give thanks for the ground covered since then, especially for the saints and martyrs who made those lands fertile. I warmly bless all the faithful celebrating this jubilee.

This afternoon, following an old tradition, I will go to Piazza di Spagna to pray at the foot of the monument to the Immaculate Conception. I ask you to join me spiritually in this pilgrimage, an act of fililal devotion to Mary in order to entrust the city of Rome, the Church and humanity as a whole to her. Before returning, I shall stop briefly at St Mary Major to pray to Salus Populi Romani and I will pray for all of you, for all the people of Rome.

I wish everyone a happy Sunday and a good feast of our Mother. Have a good lunch and see you soon.

 

PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH OF SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2013

 

In the First Reading we heard the Prophet Isaiah speak to us about a journey, and he says that in the latter days, at the end of the journey, the mountain of the Lord’s Temple shall be established as the highest mountain. He says this to tell us that our life is a journey: we must go on this journey to arrive at the mountain of the Lord, to encounter Jesus. The most important thing that can happen to a person is to meet Jesus: this encounter with Jesus who loves us, who has saved us, who has given his life for us. Encounter Jesus. And we are journeying in order to meet Jesus.

We could ask ourselves this question: But when do I meet Jesus? Only at the end? No, no! We meet him every day. How? In prayer, when you pray, you meet Jesus. When you receive Communion, you meet Jesus in the Sacraments. When you bring your child to be baptized, you meet Jesus, you find Jesus. And today, you who are receiving Confirmation, you too will encounter Jesus; then you will meet him in Communion. “And then, Father, after Confirmation, goodbye?”, because they say that Confirmation is called “the sacrament of goodbye”. Is this true or not? After Confirmation you never go back to Church: true or false? … so, so! However, after Confirmation even, our whole life is an encounter with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good works, when we visit the sick, when we help the poor, when we think of others, when we are not selfish, when we are loving... in these things we always meet Jesus. And the journey of life is precisely this: journeying in order to meet Jesus.

And today, it is also a joy for me to come and visit you, because today in the Mass we shall all meet Jesus, and we will walk a portion of the journey together.

Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey. It is for the Christian to continually encounter Jesus, to watch him, to let himself be watched over by Jesus, because Jesus watches us with love; he loves us so much, he loves us so much and he is always watching over us. To encounter Jesus also means allowing oneself to be gazed upon by him. “But, Father, you know,” one of you might say to me, “you know that this journey is horrible for me, I am such a sinner, I have committed many sins... how can I encounter Jesus?”. And you know that the people whom Jesus most sought out were the greatest sinners; and they reproached him for this, and the people — those who believed themselves righteous — would say: this is no true prophet, look what lovely company he keeps! He was with sinners... And he said: I came for those in need of salvation, in need of healing. Jesus heals our sins. And along the way Jesus comes and forgives us — all of us sinners, we are all sinners — even when we make a mistake, when we commit a sin, when we sin. And this forgiveness that we receive in Confession is an encounter with Jesus. We always encounter Jesus.

So let us go forward in life like this, as the Prophet says, to the mountain, until the day when we shall attain the final encounter, when we will be able to look upon the beautiful gaze of Jesus, it is so beautiful. This is the Christian life: to walk, to go forward, united as brothers and sisters, loving one another. Encounter Jesus. Do you agree, the nine of you? Do you want to meet Jesus in your lives? Yes? This is important in the Christian life. Today, with the seal of the Holy Spirit, you will have greater strength for the journey, for the encounter with Jesus. Take courage, do not be afraid! Life is this journey. And the most beautiful gift is to meet Jesus. Go forward, be brave!

And now, let us proceed with the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 

POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter's Square
1st Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2013

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today, on the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year; that is, a new journey of the People of God with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, who guides us through history toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, this day has a special charm, it makes us experience deeply the meaning of history. We rediscover the beauty of all being on a journey: the Church, with her vocation and mission, and all humanity, peoples, civilizations, cultures, all on a journey across the paths of time.

But where are we journeying? Is there a common goal? And what is this goal? The Lord responds to us through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’”(2:2-3). This is what Isaiah says regarding the goal toward which we are travelling. It is a universal pilgrimage toward a common goal, which in the Old Testament is Jerusalem, where the Temple of the Lord rises. For from there, from Jerusalem came the revelation of the Face of God and of his Law. Revelation found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and he, the Word made flesh, became the “Temple of the Lord”: he is both guide and goal of our pilgrimage, of the pilgrimage of the entire People of God; and in his light the other peoples may also walk toward the Kingdom of justice, toward the Kingdom of peace. The Prophet continues: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (2:4). Allow me to repeat what the Prophet says; listen carefully: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. But when will this occur? What a beautiful day it shall be, when weapons are dismantled in order to be transformed into tools for work! What a beautiful day that shall be! And this is possible! Let us bet on hope, on the hope for peace, and it will be possible!

This journey never comes to an end. Just as in each of our lives we always need to begin again, to get up again, to rediscover the meaning of the goal of our lives, so also for the great human family it is always necessary to rediscover the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes for a good journey. The season of Advent, which we begin again today, restores this horizon of hope, a hope which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Word. A hope which does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful! He does not disappoint! Let us think about and feel this beauty.

The model of this spiritual disposition, of this way of being and journeying in life, is the Virgin Mary. A simple girl from the country who carries within her heart the fullness of hope in God! In her womb, God’s hope took flesh, it became man, it became history: Jesus Christ. Her Magnificat is the canticle of the People of God on a journey, and of all men and women who hope in God and in the power of his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by her, she who is mother, a mamma and knows how to guide us. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by her during this season of active waiting and watchfulness.

 

After the Angelus:

Dear brothers and sisters, today is the World Day for the battle against HIV/AIDS. We express our closeness to all people whom it has affected, especially children. This closeness is made concrete through the silent commitment of so many missionaries and workers. Let us pray for everyone, also for the doctors and those involved in research. May every sick person, without exception, have access to the care they need.

With affection I greet all the pilgrims here present: the families, parishes, associations.

I wish everyone a blessed beginning of Advent. Have a good lunch and goodbye.

 

HOLY MASS FOR THE CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 24 November 2013

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.

With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.

The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the center, Christ is the center. Christ is the center of creation, Christ is the center of his people and Christ is the center of history.

1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the center of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.

This image enables to see that Jesus is the center of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this center is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.

2. Besides being the center of creation and the center of reconciliation, Christ is the center of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.

Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the center, do we receive our identity as a people.

3. Finally, Christ is the center of the history of humanity and also the center of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the center, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.

Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the center, you are truly in your kingdom!” How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. “Remember me, Lord, you who are at the center, you who are in your kingdom”.

Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom!

Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!

Amen!

 

HOLY MASS FOR THE FAMILY DAY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 27 October 2013

The readings this Sunday invite us to reflect on some basic features of the Christian family.

1. First: the family prays.  The Gospel passage speaks about two ways of praying, one is false – that of the Pharisee – and the other is authentic – that of the tax collector.  The Pharisee embodies an attitude which does not express thanksgiving to God for his blessings and his mercy, but rather self-satisfaction.  The Pharisee feels himself justified, he feels his life is in order, he boasts of this, and he judges others from his pedestal.  The tax collector, on the other hand, does not multiply words.  His prayer is humble, sober, pervaded by a consciousness of his own unworthiness, of his own needs.  Here is a man who truly realizes that he needs God’s forgiveness and his mercy.

The prayer of the tax collector is the prayer of the poor man, a prayer pleasing to God.  It is a prayer which, as the first reading says, “will reach to the clouds” (Sir 35:20), unlike the prayer of the Pharisee, which is weighed down by vanity.

In the light of God’s word, I would like to ask you, dear families: Do you pray together from time to time as a family?  Some of you do, I know.  But so many people say to me: But how can we? As the tax collector does, it is clear: humbly, before God.  Each one, with humility, allowing themselves to be gazed upon by the Lord and imploring his goodness, that he may visit us.  But in the family how is this done? After all, prayer seems to be something personal, and besides there is never a good time, a moment of peace…  Yes, all that is true enough, but it is also a matter of humility, of realizing that we need God, like the tax collector!  And all familes, we need God: all of us! We need his help, his strength, his blessing, his mercy, his forgiveness.  And we need simplicity to pray as a family: simplicity is necessary! Praying the Our Father together, around the table, is not something extraordinary: it’s easy. And praying the Rosary together, as a family, is very beautiful and a source of great strength!  And also praying for one another! The husband for his wife, the wife for her husband, both together for their children, the children for their grandparents….praying for each other.  This is what it means to pray in the family and it is what makes the family strong: prayer.

2. The second reading suggests another thought: the family keeps the faith.  The Apostle Paul, at the end of his life, makes a final reckoning and says: “I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).  But how did he keep the faith?  Not in a strong box!  Nor did he hide it underground, like the somewhat lazy servant.  Saint Paul compares his life to a fight and to a race.  He kept the faith because he didn’t just defend it, but proclaimed it, spread it, brought it to distant lands.  He stood up to all those who wanted to preserve, to “embalm” the message of Christ within the limits of Palestine.  That is why he made courageous decisions, he went into hostile territory, he let himself be challenged by distant peoples and different cultures, he spoke frankly and fearlessly.  Saint Paul kept the faith because, in the same way that he received it, he gave it away, he went out to the fringes, and didn’t dig himself into defensive positions.

Here too, we can ask: How do we keep our faith as a family?  Do we keep it for ourselves, in our families, as a personal treasure like a bank account, or are we able to share it by our witness, by our acceptance of others, by our openness?  We all know that families, especially young families, are often “racing” from one place to another, with lots to do.  But did you ever think that this “racing” could also be the race of faith?  Christian families are missionary families. Yesterday in this square we heard the testimonies of missionary families. They are missionary also in everyday life, in their doing everyday things, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith!  Keeping the faith in families and bringing to everyday things the salt and the leaven of faith.

3. And one more thought we can take from God’s word: the family experiences joy.  In the responsorial psalm we find these words: “let the humble hear and be glad” (33/34:2).  The entire psalm is a hymn to the Lord who is the source of joy and peace.  What is the reason for this gladness?  It  is that the Lord is near, he hears the cry of the lowly and he frees them from evil.  As Saint Paul himself writes: “Rejoice always … The Lord is near” (Phil 4:4-5).  I would like to ask you all a question today. But each of you keep it in your heart and take it home. You can regard it as a kind of “homework”.  Only you must answer.  How are things when it comes to joy at home?  Is there joy in your family?   You can answer this question.

Dear families, you know very well that the true joy which we experience in the family is not superficial; it does not come from material objects, from the fact that everything seems to be going well...  True joy comes from a profound harmony between persons, something which we all feel in our hearts and which makes us experience the beauty of togetherness, of mutual support along life’s journey.  But the basis of this feeling of deep joy is the presence of God, the presence of God in the family and his love, which is welcoming, merciful, and respectful towards all.  And above all, a love which is patient: patience is a virtue of God and he teaches us how to cultivate it in family life, how to be patient, and lovingly so, with each other. To be patient among ourselves. A patient love.  God alone knows how to create harmony from differences.  But if God’s love is lacking, the family loses its harmony, self-centredness prevails and joy fades.  But the family which experiences the joy of faith communicates it naturally.  That family is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, it is the leaven of society as a whole.

Dear families, always live in faith and simplicity, like the Holy Family of Nazareth!  The joy and peace of the Lord be always with you!

 

 

HOLY MASS FOR THE MARIAN DAY
ON THE OCCASION OF THE YEAR OF FAITH

HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 13 October 2013

In the Psalm we said: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous things” (Ps 98:1).

Today we consider one of the marvellous things which the Lord has done: Mary! A lowly and weak creature like ourselves, she was chosen to be the Mother of God, the Mother of her Creator.

Considering Mary in the light of the readings we have just heard, I would like to reflect with you on three things: first, God surprises us, second, God asks us to be faithful, and third, God is our strength.

1. First: God surprises us. The story of Naaman, the commander of the army of the king of Aram, is remarkable. In order to be healed of leprosy, he turns to the prophet of God, Elisha, who does not perform magic or demand anything unusual of him, but asks him simply to trust in God and to wash in the waters of the river. Not, however, in one of the great rivers of Damascus, but in the little stream of the Jordan. Naaman is left surprised, even taken aback. What kind of God is this who asks for something so simple? He wants to turn back, but then he goes ahead, he immerses himself in the Jordan and is immediately healed (cf. 2 Kg 5:1-4). There it is: God surprises us. It is precisely in poverty, in weakness and in humility that he reveals himself and grants us his love, which saves us, heals us and gives us strength. He asks us only to obey his word and to trust in him.

This was the experience of the Virgin Mary. At the message of the angel, she does not hide her surprise. It is the astonishment of realizing that God, to become man, had chosen her, a simple maid of Nazareth. Not someone who lived in a palace amid power and riches, or one who had done extraordinary things, but simply someone who was open to God and put her trust in him, even without understanding everything: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). That was her answer. God constantly surprises us, he bursts our categories, he wreaks havoc with our plans. And he tells us: Trust me, do not be afraid, let yourself be surprised, leave yourself behind and follow me!

Today let us all ask ourselves whether we are afraid of what God might ask, or of what he does ask. Do I let myself be surprised by God, as Mary was, or do I remain caught up in my own safety zone: in forms of material, intellectual or ideological security, taking refuge in my own projects and plans? Do I truly let God into my life? How do I answer him?

2. In the passage from Saint Paul which we have heard, the Apostle tells his disciple Timothy: Remember Jesus Christ; if we persevere with him, we will also reign with him (cf. 2 Tim 2:8-13). This is the second thing: to remember Christ always – to be mindful of Jesus Christ – and thus to persevere in faith. God surprises us with his love, but he demands that we be faithful in following him. We can be unfaithful, but he cannot: he is “the faithful one” and he demands of us that same fidelity. Think of all the times when we were excited about something or other, some initiative, some task, but afterwards, at the first sign of difficulty, we threw in the towel. Sadly, this also happens in the case of fundamental decisions, such as marriage. It is the difficulty of remaining steadfast, faithful to decisions we have made and to commitments we have made. Often it is easy enough to say “yes”, but then we fail to repeat this “yes” each and every day. We fail to be faithful.

Mary said her “yes” to God: a “yes” which threw her simple life in Nazareth into turmoil, and not only once. Any number of times she had to utter a heartfelt “yes” at moments of joy and sorrow, culminating in the “yes” she spoke at the foot of the Cross. Here today there are many mothers present; think of the full extent of Mary’s faithfulness to God: seeing her only Son hanging on the Cross. The faithful woman, still standing, utterly heartbroken, yet faithful and strong.

And I ask myself: Am I a Christian by fits and starts, or am I a Christian full-time? Our culture of the ephemeral, the relative, also takes it toll on the way we live our faith. God asks us to be faithful to him, daily, in our everyday life. He goes on to say that, even if we are sometimes unfaithful to him, he remains faithful. In his mercy, he never tires of stretching out his hand to lift us up, to encourage us to continue our journey, to come back and tell him of our weakness, so that he can grant us his strength. This is the real journey: to walk with the Lord always, even at moments of weakness, even in our sins. Never to prefer a makeshift path of our own. That kills us. Faith is ultimate fidelity, like that of Mary.

3. The last thing: God is our strength. I think of the ten lepers in the Gospel who were healed by Jesus. They approach him and, keeping their distance, they call out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (Lk 17:13). They are sick, they need love and strength, and they are looking for someone to heal them. Jesus responds by freeing them from their disease. Strikingly, however, only one of them comes back, praising God and thanking him in a loud voice. Jesus notes this: ten asked to be healed and only one returned to praise God in a loud voice and to acknowledge that he is our strength. Knowing how to give thanks, to give praise for everything that the Lord has done for us.

Take Mary. After the Annunciation, her first act is one of charity towards her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth. Her first words are: “My soul magnifies the Lord”, in other words, a song of praise and thanksgiving to God not only for what he did for her, but for what he had done throughout the history of salvation. Everything is his gift. If we can realize that everything is God’s gift, how happy will our hearts be! Everything is his gift. He is our strength! Saying “thank you” is such an easy thing, and yet so hard! How often do we say “thank you” to one another in our families? These are essential words for our life in common. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. If families can say these three things, they will be fine. “Sorry”, “excuse me”, “thank you”. How often do we say “thank you” in our families? How often do we say “thank you” to those who help us, those close to us, those at our side throughout life? All too often we take everything for granted! This happens with God too. It is easy to approach the Lord to ask for something, but to go and thank him: “Well, I don’t need to”.

As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, let us invoke Mary’s intercession. May she help us to be open to God’s surprises, to be faithful to him each and every day, and to praise and thank him, for he is our strength. Amen.

HOLY MASS

HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Saint Francis Square, Assisi
Friday, 4 October 2013

“I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25).

Peace and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray together.

Today, I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for all that he wished to reveal to one of the “little ones” mentioned in today’s Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse “Lady Poverty” and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. This decision of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ: he clothed himself anew, putting on Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor in order to make us rich by his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of the same coin.

What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?

1. The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.

Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.

2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:28-29).

This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20:19-20).

Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.

3. Francis began the Canticle of the Creatures with these words: “Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.

We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation!

Finally, I cannot forget the fact that today Italy celebrates Saint Francis as her patron saint. I greet all the Italian people, represented by the Head of Government, who is present among us. The traditional offering of oil for the votive lamp, which this year is given by the Region of Umbria, is an expression of this. Let us pray for Italy, that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to what unites us, rather than what divides us.

I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for the world: “I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and for all ages. Amen.” (The Mirror of Perfection, 124: FF, 1824).

HOLY MASS AT THE SHRINE OF "OUR LADY OF BONARIA"

HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Cagliari
Sunday, 22 September 2013

Sa paghe ‘e Nostru Segnore siat sempre chin bois

Today the desire to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, that I had announced in St Peter’s Square before the summer began, has come true.

1. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, the struggles and responsibilities, the ideals and aspirations of your island, and to strengthen you in the faith. Here in Cagliari, as in all Sardinia, there is no lack of difficulties — there are so many — of problems and concerns. I am thinking especially of the lack of work and of job insecurity, and therefore of uncertainty about the future. Your beautiful region of Sardinia has long suffered from many situations of poverty, which have been worsened by its condition as an island. The faithful collaboration of everyone, along with the responsible commitment of institutions — including the Church — is necessary in order to guarantee that fundamental rights are accorded to persons and to families, and in order to foster a more stable and fraternal society. The right to work, the right to bring home bread, bread earned through work must be guaranteed! I am close to you! I am close to you, I remember you in prayer and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and of its people. May you always keep the light of hope burning!

2. I have come among you to place myself, together with you, at the feet of Our Lady, who gives us her Son. I am well aware that Mary, our Mother, is very much in your hearts, as this Shrine testifies, to which many generations of Sardinians have climbed — and will continue to climb! — in order to invoke the protection of Our Lady of Bonaria, Principle Patroness of the Island. Here you bring the joys and sufferings of this land, of your families, and even of those of its children who live far away, who have left with great pain and longing, in order to find work and a future for themselves and for those who are dear to them. Today, we who gather here want thank Mary, because she is always near to us. We want to renew our trust and our love for her.

The first Reading we heard shows us Mary in prayer, in the Upper Room, together with the Apostles. Mary prays, she prays together with the community of the disciples, and she teaches us to have complete trust in God and in his mercy. This is the power of prayer! Let us never tire of knocking at God's door. Everyday through Mary let us carry our entire life to God's heart! Knock at the door of God's heart!

In the Gospel, however, we take in Jesus’ last gaze upon his Mother (cf. Jn 19:25-27). From the Cross, Jesus looks at his Mother and entrusts her to the Apostle John, saying: This is your son. We are all present in John, even us, and Jesus’ look of love entrusts us to the maternal care of the Mother. Mary would have remembered another look of love, when she was a girl: the gaze of God the Father, who looked upon her humility, her littleness. Mary teaches us that God does not abandon us; he can do great things even with our weaknesses. Let us trust in him! Let us knock at the door of his heart!

3. The third thought: today I have come among you; or rather, we have come together, to encounter the gaze of Mary, since there, as it were, is reflected the gaze of the Father, who made her the Mother of God, and the gaze of the Son on the Cross, who made her our Mother. It is with that gaze that Mary watches us today. We need her tender gaze, her maternal gaze, which knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care. Mary, today we want to tell you: Mother grant us your gaze! Your gaze leads us to God, your gaze is a gift of the good Father who waits for us at every turn of our path, it is a gift of Jesus Christ on the Cross, who takes upon himself our sufferings, our struggles, our sin. And in order to meet this Father who is full of love, today we say to her: Mother, give us your gaze! Let’s say it all together: “Mother, grant us your gaze!”. “Mother, grant us your gaze!”.

Along our path, which is often difficult, we are not alone. We are so many, we are a people, and the gaze of Our Lady helps us to look at one another as brothers and sisters. Let us look upon one another in a more fraternal way! Mary teaches us to have that gaze which strives to welcome, to accompany and to protect. Let us learn to look at one another beneath Mary's maternal gaze! There are people whom we instinctively consider less and who instead are in greater need: the most abandoned, the sick, those who have nothing to live on, those who do not know Jesus, youth who find themselves in difficulty, young people who cannot find work. Let us not be afraid to go out and to look upon our brothers and sisters with Our Lady's gaze. She invites us to be true brothers and sisters. And let us never allow something or someone to come between us and Our Lady’s gaze. Mother, grant us your gaze! May no one hide from it! May our childlike heart know how to defend itself from the many “windbags” who make false promises? from those who have a gaze greedy for an easy life and full of promises that cannot be fulfilled. May they not rob us of Mary’s gaze, which is full of tenderness, which gives us strength and builds solidarity among us. Let us say together: Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze!

Nostra Segnora ‘e Bonaria bos acumpanzet sempre in sa vida.

 

Vigil of Prayer for Peace

WORDS OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Square
Saturday, 7 September 2013

“And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:12, 18, 21, 25). The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: “It is good”. This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message.

We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?

1. It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the “house of harmony and peace”, and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel “at home”, because it is “good”. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

2. But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war”. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.

When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (cf. Gen 3: 10), he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. v. 12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear ....

It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!

After the chaos of the flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. Today, I think also of that olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.

3. And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children: look upon these… look at the sorrow of your brother, stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.

 

HOLY MASS FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE GENERAL CHAPTER
OF THE ORDER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

HOMILY OF HOLY FATHER FRANCIS

Basilica of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio, Rome
Wednesday, 28 August 2013

“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions, 1, 1, 1). With these famous words St Augustine addresses God in his Confessions, and these words sum up his whole life.

“Restlessness”: this word makes an impression on me and sets me thinking. I would like to start with a question: what fundamental restlessness did Augustine live in his life? Or perhaps I should say: what kinds of restlessness does this great and holy man ask us to awaken and to keep alive in our own existence? I am proposing three kinds: the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.

1. The first: the restlessness of spiritual seeking. Augustine lived an experience that is fairly common today: common enough among today’s young people. He was raised in the Christian faith by his mother Monica, even though he did not receive Baptism. However, as he grew up he fell away from the faith, failing to find the answer to his questions, to his heart’s desires, and was attracted by other proposals. He then joined a group of Manichaeans, devoted himself diligently to his studies, did not give up carefree pleasures, the spectacles of his time and deep friendships. He experienced intense love and had a brilliant career as a teacher of rhetoric that even took him to the imperial court in Milan. Augustine was a man who had “made it”, he had everything. Nevertheless, his heart still yearned for life’s deep meaning; his heart had not been overcome by sleep. I would say it had not been anaesthetized by success, by things or by power. Augustine did not withdraw into himself, he did not settle down, he continued his quest for the truth, for the meaning of life. He continued to seek God’s face. Of course he made mistakes, he took wrong turns, he sinned, he was a sinner. Yet he retained the restlessness of spiritual seeking. In this way he discovered that God was waiting for him, indeed, that he had never ceased to be the first to seek him. I would like to tell those who feel indifferent to God, to faith, and those who are far from God or who have distanced themselves from him, that we too, with our “distancing” and our “abandonment” of God, that may seem insignificant but are so numerous in our daily life: look into the depths of your heart, look into your own inner depths and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things? Has your heart preserved the restlessness of seeking or have you let it be suffocated by things that end by hardening it? God awaits you, he seeks you; how do you respond to him? Are you aware of the situation of your soul? Or have you nodded off? Do you believe God is waiting for you or does this truth consist only of “words”?

2. In Augustine it was this very restlessness in his heart which brought him to a personal encounter with Christ, brought him to understand that the remote God he was seeking was the God who is close to every human being, the God close to our heart, who was “more inward than my innermost self” (cf. ibid. III, 6, 11). However even in the discovery of and encounter with God, Augustine did not stop, he did not give up, he did not withdraw into himself like those who have already arrived, but continued his search. The restlessness of seeking the truth, of seeking God, became the restlessness to know him ever better and of coming out of himself to make others know him. It was precisely the restlessness of love. He would have liked a peaceful life of study and prayer but God called him to be a Pastor in Hippo, in a difficult period, with a split community and war at the gates. And Augustine let God make him restless, he never tired of proclaiming him, of evangelizing with courage and without fear, he sought to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep (cf. Jn 10:14). Indeed, as I like to repeat, he “knew the odour of his sheep”, and went out to search for those that had strayed. Augustine lived as St Paul had instructed Timothy and each one of us: he proclaimed the word, he insisted in season and out of season, he proclaimed the Gospel with a magnanimous heart, with a great heart (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), that of a Pastor who is anxious about his sheep. Augustine’s treasure is this very attitude: always going towards God, always going out towards the flock.... He was a man constantly stretched between these poles; never “privatizing” love... always journeying on! Always be on the way, the Father said. As for you, always be restless!

And this is the peace of restlessness. We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? Or do I allow that spiritual worldliness to attract me which impels people to do everything for love of themselves? We consecrated people think of our personal interests, of the functionality of our works, of our careers. Eh! We can think of so many things.... Have I, so to speak, “made myself ‘comfy’” in my Christian life, in my priestly life, in my religious life, and also in my community life? Or do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?

3. And let us come to the last kind of restlessness, the anxiety of love. Here I cannot but look at the mother: this Monica! How many tears did that holy woman shed for her son’s conversion! And today too how many mothers shed tears so that their children will return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God’s grace! In the Confessions we read this sentence that a bishop said to St Monica who was asking him to help her son find the road to faith: “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish” (III, 12, 21). After his conversion Augustine himself, addressing God, wrote: “my mother, your faithful one, wept before you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children” (ibid., III, 11, 19). A restless woman, this woman who at the end of her life said these beautiful words: “cumulatius hoc mihi Deus praestitit!” [my God has exceeded my expectations abundantly] (ibid., IX, 10, 26). God lavishly rewarded her tearful request! And Augustine was Monica’s heir, from her he received the seed of restlessness. This, then, is the restlessness of love: ceaselessly seeking the good of the other, of the beloved, without ever stopping and with the intensity that leads even to tears. Then I think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus; of Peter who, after denying Jesus, encounters his gaze full of mercy and love, weeps bitterly, and of the father who waits on the terrace for his son’s return and when he spies him still far off runs to meet him; the Virgin Mary comes to mind lovingly following her Son Jesus even to the Cross. Do we feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others? Or are we unconcerned by this? Not in an abstract manner, not only in words, but as a real brother to those we come across, the brother who is beside us! Are we moved by their needs or do we remain closed in on ourselves, in our communities which are often “handy communities” for us? At times we can live in a building without knowing our next door neighbour; or we can be in a community without really knowing our own confreres: I think sorrowfully of the consecrated people who are infertile “old bachelors”. The restlessness of love is always an incentive to go towards the other, without waiting for the other to manifest his need. The restlessness of love gives us the gift of pastoral fecundity, and we must ask ourselves, each one of us: is my spiritual fecundity healthy, is my apostolate fertile?

Let us ask the Lord for you, dear Augustinians who are beginning your General Chapter, and for all of us, that he keep in our hearts the spiritual restlessness that prompts us to seek him always, the restlessness to proclaim him courageously, the restlessness of love for every brother and sister. So be it.

 

HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY
OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Castel Gandolfo, 15 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of its Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council left us a very beautiful meditation on Mary Most Holy. Let me just recall the words referring to the mystery we celebrate today: “the immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things” (no. 59). Then towards the end, there is: “the Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and the beginning of the church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come” (no. 68). In the light of this most beautiful image of our Mother, we are able to see the message of the biblical readings that we have just heard. We can focus on three key words: struggle, resurrection, hope.

The passage from Revelation presents the vision of the struggle between the woman and the dragon. The figure of the woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail. And the Church is like that: if in heaven she is already associated in some way with the glory of her Lord, in history she continually lives through the trials and challenges which the conflict between God and the evil one, the perennial enemy, brings. And in the struggle which the disciples must confront – all of us, all the disciples of Jesus, we must face this struggle - Mary does not leave them alone: the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us. And in a way, Mary shares this dual condition. She has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.

The second reading speaks to us of resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, insists that being Christian means believing that Christ is truly risen from the dead. Our whole faith is based upon this fundamental truth which is not an idea but an event. Even the mystery of Mary’s Assumption body and soul is fully inscribed in the resurrection of Christ. The Mother’s humanity is “attracted” by the Son in his own passage from death to life. Once and for all, Jesus entered into eternal life with all the humanity he had drawn from Mary; and she, the Mother, who followed him faithfully throughout her life, followed him with her heart, and entered with him into eternal life which we also call heaven, paradise, the Father’s house.

Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son’s Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of “those who are in Christ”. She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.

The Gospel suggests to us the third word: hope. Hope is the virtue of those who, experiencing conflict – the struggle between life and death, good and evil – believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love. We heard the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble. Mary says: “My souls glorifies the Lord” – today, the Church too sings this in every part of the world. This song is particularly strong in places where the Body of Christ is suffering the Passion. For us Christians, wherever the Cross is, there is hope, always. If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope. May we not be robbed of hope, because this strength is a grace, a gift from God which carries us forward with our eyes fixed on heaven. And Mary is always there, near those communities, our brothers and sisters, she accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings the Magnificat of hope with them.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey. Amen.

 

The Homily Pope Francis Preached for

His Brothers on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola

at Rome's Gesu Church, July 31, 2013

In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in light of the Readings we have heard, I would like to propose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: to put Christ and the Church in the centre; to allow ourselves to be conquered by Him in order to serve; to feel the shame of our limitations and our sins, in order to be humble before Him and before the brothers.

1. The emblem of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of "Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind" (IHS). Every one of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this crest continually reminds us of a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us and for the whole Company, the Company that Saint Ignatius wanted to name "of Jesus" to indicate the point of reference. Moreover, even at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises he places our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (Spiritual Exercises, 6) in front of us.

And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be "decentred," to have "Christ more and more" before us, the "Deus semper maior", the "intimior intimo meo", that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a "going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests" (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn't it obvious, the question for us? For all of us?

"Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?" Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre. And when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ in the centre, he goes astray. In the first Reading, Moses forcefully calls upon the people to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, "because He is your life" (cf. Deut. 30, 16-20). Christ is our life!

The centrality of Christ corresponds also to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in and with the Church. And even in this case we Jesuits and the whole Company, are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, "displaced", we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cf. Sp. Ex. 353).

To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

2. What is the way to live this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of Saint Paul, which was also the experience of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we heard, writes: I press on towards the perfection of Christ, "because I have indeed been conquered by Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:12). For Paul it came along the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in his house at Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to allow oneself to be conquered by Christ.

I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, that explains this well: He "primerea" first ahead of us, "El nos primerea". He is always first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. And here I want to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week.

Christ our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying to us: "He who wants to come with Me must work with Me, because following Me in suffering, he will follow after Me likewise in glory" (Sp. Ex. 95): Being conquered by Christ in order to offer to this King our whole person and all our hard work (cf. Sp. Ex. 96); to say to the Lord that he would do anything for His greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even injury, contempt, poverty (Sp. Ex. 98).

But I think of our brother in Syria in this moment. To allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ means to be always directed towards what is in front of me, toward the goal of Christ (cf. Phil. 3:14), and to ask oneself with truth and sincerity: "What have I done for Christ? What am doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ?" (cf. Sp. Ex. 53).

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: "Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it . If anyone is ashamed of me . " (Lk 9:23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is for us to never be ashamed of Him, but to always follow Him with total dedication, trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him.

But looking at Jesus, as Saint Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we have that very human and noble feeling that is the shame of not reaching the highest point; we look at the wisdom of Christ and at our ignorance; at His omnipotence and our weakness; at His justice and our iniquity; at His goodness and our wickedness (cf. Sp. Ex. 59).

Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ who is made sin for me; the shame that harmonises our heart in tears and accompanies us in the daily following of "my Lord". And this always brings us, as individuals and as a Company, to humility, to living this great virtue.

Humility that makes us understand, each day, that it is not for us to build the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of God working within us; humility that pushes us to put our whole being not at the service of ourselves and our own ideas, but at the service of Christ and of the Church, like clay pots, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but having within them an immense treasure that we carry and that we communicate (2 Cor. 4:7).

It is always pleasant for me to think of the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun goes down. And two icons of the sunset of the Jesuit always come to me: one classical, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking at China. Art has painted this sunset so many times, this 'end' of Xavier. Even in literature, in that beautiful peace by Pemàn. At the end, having nothing, but in the sight of the Lord; it does me good to thing about this.

The other sunset, the other icon that comes to me as an example, is that of Padre Arrupe in the last interview in the refugee camp, when he told us - something he himself said - "I say this as if it were my swan song: pray." Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after having said this, he caught the plane, and arrived at Rome with the stroke that was the beginning of so long and so exemplary a sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that all of us would do well to look at, and to go back to these two. And to ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theirs.

Dear brothers, let us turn again to Our Lady, to her who bore Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May she help us to always put Christ and His Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. May she, who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son help us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ in order to follow Him and to serve Him in every situation.

May she that answered the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word" (Lk 1:38), make us feel the shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, in order to live the virtue of humility before God. May our journey be accompanied by the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Jesuit saints, who continue to teach us to do all things "ad majorem Dei gloriam" ["to the greater glory of God"].

 

Homily of Pope Francis

World Youth Day, July 28, 2012

 

Brother Bishops and Priests,

Dear Young Friends,

“Go and make disciples of all nations”. With these words, Jesus is speaking to each one of us, saying: “It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.” Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission! Today, in the light of the word of God that we have heard, what is the Lord saying to us? Three simple ideas: Go, do not be afraid, and serve.

1. Go. During these days here in Rio, you have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of meeting Jesus, meeting him together with others, and you have sensed the joy of faith. But the experience of this encounter must not remain locked up in your life or in the small group of your parish, your movement, or your community. That would be like withholding oxygen from a flame that was burning strongly. Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ, the Lord of life and history (cf. Rom10:9).

Careful, though! Jesus did not say: “if you would like to, if you have the time”, but: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.

Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.

In particular, I would like Christ’s command: “Go” to resonate in you young people from the Church in Latin America, engaged in the continental mission promoted by the Bishops. Brazil, Latin America, the whole world needs Christ! Saint Paul says: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This continent has received the proclamation of the Gospel which has marked its history and borne much fruit. Now this proclamation is entrusted also to you, that it may resound with fresh power. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. A great Apostle of Brazil, Blessed José de Anchieta, set off on the mission when he was only nineteen years old. Do you know what the best tool is for evangelizing the young? Another young person. This is the path to follow!

2. Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us! “Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.

And then, Jesus did not say: “One of you go”, but “All of you go”: we are sent together. Dear young friends, be aware of the companionship of the whole Church and also the communion of the saints on this mission. When we face challenges together, then we are strong, we discover resources we did not know we had. Jesus did not call the Apostles to live in isolation, he called them to form a group, a community. I would like to address you, dear priests concelebrating with me at this Eucharist: you have come to accompany your young people, and this is wonderful, to share this experience of faith with them! But it is a stage on the journey. Continue to accompany them with generosity and joy, help them to become actively engaged in the Church; never let them feel alone!

3. The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service. In our Second Reading today, Saint Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more” (1 Cor9:19). In order to proclaim Jesus, Paul made himself “a slave to all”. Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren, as Jesus did.

Go, do not be afraid, and serve. If you follow these three ideas, you will experience that the one who evangelizes is evangelized, the one who transmits the joy of faith receives joy. Dear young friends, as you return to your homes, do not be afraid to be generous with Christ, to bear witness to his Gospel. In the first Reading, when God sends the prophet Jeremiah, he gives him the power to “pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (1:10). It is the same for you. Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world.

Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Amen.

 

Papal Address, World Youth Day

Saturday Vigil, July 27, 2013

Dear Young Friends,

We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: “Francis, go, rebuild my house.” The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her. Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church.

Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we are able to learn something from what has happened these days: how we had to move this vigil from Campus Fidei in Guaratiba because of the bad weather. Would not the Lord be willing to say to us that the real area of faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place but are we that very place? Yes! Each of us, each one of you. And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are the Campus Fidei of God! Starting with the name of the place where we are, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.

A field is a place for sowing seeds. We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.

Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22).

But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not “starchy” and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make him our guide!

A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team.” I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion.

Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples. Saint Paul tells us: “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, “to get in shape,” so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true “athletes of Christ!”

A field is a construction site. When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when “we build up a sweat” in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks. In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!

In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world and also here in Brazil who have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society. They are young people who what to be protagonists of change. I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible way, motivated by the values of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns present in their countries.

But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own “yes” to God: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Amen!

 

Pope Francis Address on Copacabana Beach

July 25, 2013

Dear Young Friends,

Good evening! In you I see the beauty of Christ’s young face and I am filled with joy. I recall the first World Youth Day on an international level. It was celebrated in 1987 in Argentina, in my home city of Buenos Aires. I still cherish the words of Blessed John Paul II to the young people on that occasion: “I have great hope in you! I hope above all that you will renew your fidelity to Jesus Christ and to his redeeming Cross” (Address to Young People, Buenos Aires, 11 April 1987).

Before I continue, I would like to call to mind the tragic accident in French Guiana in which young Sophie Morinière was killed and other young people were wounded. I invite all of you to observe a minute’s silence and to pray for Sophie, for the wounded, and for their families.

This year, World Youth Day comes to Latin America for the second time. And you, young people, have responded in great number to the invitation extended by Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate this occasion. We express to him our heartfelt thanks. I am looking at the large crowd before me – there are so many of you! And you have come from every continent! In many cases you have come from afar, not only geographically, but also existentially, culturally, socially and humanly. But today you are all here, or better yet, we are all here together as one, in order to share the faith and the joy of an encounter with Christ, of being his disciples. This week Rio has become the centre of the Church, its heart both youthful and vibrant, because you have responded generously and courageously to the invitation that Christ has made to you to be with him and to become his friends.

The train of this World Youth Day has come from afar and has travelled across all of Brazil following the stages of the project entitled “Bota fé – put on faith!” Today the train has arrived at Rio de Janeiro. From Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer embraces us and blesses us. Looking out to this sea, the beach and all of you gathered here, I am reminded of the moment when Jesus called the first disciples to follow him by the shores of Lake Tiberias. Today Christ asks each of us again: Do you want to be my disciple? Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be a witness to my Gospel? In the spirit of The Year of Faith, these questions invite us to renew our commitment as Christians. Your families and local communities have passed on to you the great gift of faith, Christ has grown in you. I have come today to confirm you in this faith, faith in the living Christ who dwells within you, but I have also come to be confirmed by the enthusiasm of your faith!

I greet you with great affection. To all of you assembled here from the five continents and, through you, to all young people of the world, and in particular to those who have not been able to come to Rio de Janeiro but who are following us by means of radio, television and internet, I say: Welcome to this immense feast of faith! In several parts of the world, at this very moment, many young people have come together to share this event: let us all experience the joy of being united with each other in friendship and faith. And be sure of this: my pastoral heart embraces all of you with universal affection. From the summit of the mountain of Corcovado, Christ the Redeemer welcomes you to this beautiful city of Rio!

I wish to extend greetings to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the dear and tireless Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, and to all who work with him. I thank Archbishop Orani João Tempesta, of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, for the warm welcome given to me and for the considerable work of preparation for this World Youth Day, together with the many Dioceses of this vast country of Brazil. I would also like to express my gratitude to all the national, state and local authorities and to those who have worked to make possible this unique moment of celebration of unity, faith and fraternity. Thank you to my brother Bishops, to the priests, seminarians, consecrated persons and the lay faithful that have accompanied the young from various parts of the world on their pilgrimage to Jesus. To each and every one of you I offer my affectionate embrace in the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, dear friends, welcome to the XXVIII World Youth Day in this marvellous city of Rio de Janeiro!

Homily of Pope Francis during prayer service:

Dear Friends,

“It is good for us to be here!”, Peter cries out after seeing the Lord Jesus transfigured in glory. Do we want to repeat these words with him? I think the answer is yes, because here today, it is good for all of us to be gathered together around Jesus! It is he who welcomes us and who is present in our midst here in Rio. In the Gospel we have heard God the Father say: “This is my Son, my chosen one; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35). If it is Jesus who welcomes us, we too ought to welcome him and listen to his words; it is precisely through the welcome we give to Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, that the Holy Spirit transforms us, lights up our way to the future, and enables us joyfully to advance along that way with wings of hope (cf. Lumen Fidei, 7).

But what can we do? “Bota fé – put on faith”. The World Youth Day Cross has proclaimed these words throughout its pilgrimage in Brazil. “Put on faith”: what does this mean? When we prepare a plate of food and we see that it needs salt, well, we “put on” salt; when it needs oil, then you “put on” oil. “To put on”, that is, to place on top of, to pour over. And so it is in our life, dear young friends: if we want it to have real meaning and fulfilment, as you want and as you deserve, I say to each one of you, “Put on faith”, and your life will take on a new flavour, it will have a compass to show you the way; “put on hope” and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark, but luminous; “put on love”, and your life will be like a house built on rock, your journey will be joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you. Put on faith, put on hope, put on love!

But who can give us all this? In the Gospel we have just heard the answer: Christ. “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him!” Jesus is the one who brings God to us and us to God. With him, our life is transformed and renewed, and we can see reality with new eyes, from Jesus’ standpoint, with his own eyes (cf. Lumen Fidei, 18). For this reason, I want to insist with you today: “Put on Christ!” in your life, and you will find a friend in whom you can always trust; “put on Christ” and you will see the wings of hope spreading and letting you journey with joy towards the future; “put on Christ” and your life will be full of his love; it will be a fruitful life.

Today, I would like each of us to ask sincerely: in whom do we place our trust? In ourselves, in material things, or in Jesus? We are all tempted to put ourselves at the centre, to think that we alone build our lives or that our life can only be happy if built on possessions, money, or power. But it is not so. Certainly, possessions, money and power can give a momentary thrill, the illusion of being happy, but they end up possessing us and making us always want to have more, never satisfied. “Put on Christ” in your life, place your trust in him and you will never be disappointed! You see how faith accomplishes a revolution in us, one which we can call Copernican, because it removes us from the centre and restores it to God; faith immerses us in his love and gives us security, strength, and hope. To all appearances, nothing has changed; yet, in the depths of our being, everything is different. Peace, consolation, gentleness, courage, serenity and joy, which are all fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22), find a home in our heart, and our very being is transformed; our way of thinking and acting is made new, it becomes Jesus’ own, God’s own, way of thinking and acting. During the Year of Faith, this World Youth Day is truly a gift offered to us to draw us closer to the Lord, to be his disciples and his missionaries, to let him renew our lives.

Dear young people: “Put on Christ” in your lives. In these days, Christ awaits you in his word; listen carefully to him and your heart will be warmed by his presence; “Put on Christ”: he awaits you in the sacrament of Penance, to heal by his mercy the wounds caused by sin. Do not be afraid to ask God’s forgiveness! He never tires of forgiving us, like a father who loves us. God is pure mercy! “Put on Christ”: he is waiting for you in his flesh in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his presence and his sacrifice of love, and in the humanity of the many young people who will enrich you with their friendship, encourage you by their witness to the faith, and teach you the language of charity, goodness and service.

You too, dear young people, can be joyful witnesses of his love, courageous witnesses of his Gospel, carrying to this world a ray of his light.

“It is good for us to be here”, putting on Christ in our lives, putting on the faith, hope and love which he gives us. Dear friends, in this celebration we have welcomed the image of Our Lady of Aparecida. With Mary, may we be disciples and missionaries. Like her, may we say “Yes” to God. Let us ask that her maternal heart intercede for us, so that our hearts may be open to loving Jesus and making others love him. He is waiting for us, and he is counting on us. Amen.

 

Pope Francis Address from Rio Hospital

July 25, 2013

Dear Archbishop Tempesta, brother Bishops,
Distinguished Authorities,
Members of the Venerable Third Order of Saint Francis of Penance,
Doctors, Nurses, and Health Care Workers,
Dear Young People and Family Members,

God has willed that my journey, after the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, should take me to a particular shrine of human suffering – the Saint Francis of Assisi Hospital. The conversion of your patron saint is well known: the young Francis abandoned the riches and comfort of the world in order to become a poor man among the poor. He understood that true joy and riches do not come from the idols of this world – material things and the possession of them – but are to be found only in following Christ and serving others. Less well known, perhaps, is the moment when this understanding took concrete form in his own life. It was when Francis embraced a leper. This brother, suffering and an outcast, was the “mediator of light … for Saint Francis of Assisi” (Lumen Fidei, 57), because in every suffering brother and sister that we embrace, we embrace the suffering Body of Christ. Today, in this place where people struggle with drug addiction, I wish to embrace each and every one of you, who are the flesh of Christ, and to ask God to renew your journey, and also mine, with purpose and steadfast hope.

To embrace – we all have to learn to embrace the one in need, as Saint Francis did. There are so many situations in Brazil, and throughout the world, that require attention, care and love, like the fight against chemical dependency. Often, instead, it is selfishness that prevails in our society. How many “dealers of death” there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage. A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalisation of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America. Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future. We all need to look upon one another with the loving eyes of Christ, and to learn to embrace those in need, in order to show our closeness, affection and love.

To embrace someone is not enough, however. We must hold the hand of the one in need, of the one who has fallen into the darkness of dependency perhaps without even knowing how, and we must say to him or her: You can get up, you can stand up. It is difficult, but it is possible if you want to. Dear friends, I wish to say to each of you, but especially to all those others who have not had the courage to embark on our journey: You have to want to stand up; this is the indispensible condition! You will find an outstretched hand ready to help you, but no one is able to stand up in your place. But you are never alone! The Church and so many people are close to you.

Look ahead with confidence. Yours is a long and difficult journey, but look ahead, there is “a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world, yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives” (Lumen Fidei, 57). To all of you, I repeat: Do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! And not only that, but I say to us all: let us not rob others of hope, let us become bearers of hope!

In the Gospel, we read the parable of the Good Samaritan, that speaks of a man assaulted by robbers and left half dead at the side of the road. People pass by him and look at him. But they do not stop, they just continue on their journey, indifferent to him: it is none of their business! Only a Samaritan, a stranger, sees him, stops, lifts him up, takes him by the hand, and cares for him (cf. Lk 10:29-35). Dear friends, I believe that here, in this hospital, the parable of the Good Samaritan is made tangible. Here there is no indifference, but concern. There is no apathy, but love.

The Saint Francis Association and the Network for the Treatment of Drug Addiction show how to reach out to those in difficulty because in them we see the face of Christ, because in these persons, the flesh of Christ suffers. Thanks are due to all the medical professionals and their associates who work here. Your service is precious; undertake it always with love. It is a service given to Christ present in our brothers and sisters. As Jesus says to us: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

And I wish to repeat to all of you who struggle against drug addiction, and to those family members who share in your difficulties: the Church is not distant from your troubles, but accompanies you with affection. The Lord is near you and he takes you by the hand. Look to him in your most difficult moments and he will give you consolation and hope. And trust in the maternal love of his Mother Mary. This morning, in the Shrine of Aparecida, I entrusted each of you to her heart. Where there is a cross to carry, she, our Mother, is always there with us. I leave you in her hands, while with great affection I bless all of you.

 

 

 

Pope Francis Address in Rio Slum

July 25, 2013

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is wonderful to be here with you! From the start, my wish in planning this visit to Brazil was to be able to visit every district throughout the nation. I would have liked to knock on every door, to say “good morning”, to ask for a glass of cold water, to take a cafezinho, to speak as one would to family friends, to listen to each person pouring out his or her heart – parents, children, grandparents … But Brazil is so vast! It is impossible to knock on every door! So I chose to come here, to visit your community, which today stands for every district in Brazil. How wonderful it is to be welcomed with such love, generosity, and joy! One need only look at the way you have decorated the streets of the community; this is a further mark of affection, it comes from your heart, from the heart of all Brazilians in festive mood. Many thanks to each of you for this kind welcome! And I thank Archbishop Orani Tempesta as well as Rangler and Joana for their kind words.

1) From the moment I first set foot on Brazilian soil, right up to this meeting here with you, I have been made to feel welcome. And it is important to be able to make people welcome; this is something even more beautiful than any kind of ornament or decoration. I say this because when we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them – some food, a place in our homes, our time – not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always “add more water to the beans”! And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things, but in the heart!

And the Brazilian people, particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable. I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.

I would like to encourage the efforts that Brazilian society is making to integrate all its members, including those who suffer most and are in greatest need, through the fight against hunger and deprivation. No amount of “peace-building” will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins, or excludes a part of itself. A society of that kind simply impoverishes itself, it loses something essential. Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied! The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty!

2) I would also like to tell you that the Church, the “advocate of justice and defender of the poor in the face of intolerable social and economic inequalities which cry to heaven” (Aparecida Document, 395), wishes to offer her support for every initiative that can signify genuine development for every person and for the whole person. Dear friends, it is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry – this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy. There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods: life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.

I would like to add one final point. Here, as in the whole of Brazil, there are many young people. Dear young friends, you have a particular sensitivity towards injustice, but you are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good. To you and to all, I repeat: never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change, people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good, do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it. The Church is with you, bringing you the precious good of faith, bringing Jesus Christ, who “came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

Today, to all of you, especially to the residents of this Community of Varginha, I say: you are not alone, the Church is with you, the Pope is with you. I carry each of you in my heart and I make my own the intentions that you carry deep within you: thanksgiving for joys, pleas for help in times of difficulty, a desire for consolation in times of grief and suffering. I entrust all this to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, Mother of all the poor of Brazil, and with great affection I impart my blessing.

 

Arrival Speech in Rio de Janeiro

July 22nd, 2013

Madam President,
Distinguished Authorities,
Brethren and Friends!

In his loving providence, God wished that the first international trip of my pontificate should take me back to my beloved Latin America, specifically to Brazil, a country proud of its links to the Apostolic See and of its deep sentiments of faith and friendship that have always kept it united in a special way to the Successor of Peter. I am grateful for this divine benevolence.

I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ! I have come in his name, to feed the flame of fraternal love that burns in every heart; and I wish my greeting to reach one and all: The peace of Christ be with you!

I cordially greet the President and the distinguished members of her government. I thank her for her warm welcome and for the words by which she expressed the joy of all Brazilians at my presence in their country. I also greet the state governor who is hosting us in the government palace, and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, as well as the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the government of Brazil, the other authorities present and all those who worked hard to make my visit here a reality.

I would like to greet affectionately my brother bishops, to whom falls the serious task of guiding God’s flock in this vast country, as well as their beloved local churches. With this visit, I wish to pursue the pastoral mission proper to the Bishop of Rome of confirming my brothers in their faith in Christ, of encouraging them to give an account of the reasons for the hope which comes from him, and of inspiring them to offer everyone the inexhaustible riches of his love.

As you know, the principal reason for my visit to Brazil goes beyond its borders. I have actually come for World Youth Day. I am here to meet young people coming from all over the world, drawn to the open arms of Christ the Redeemer. They want to find a refuge in his embrace, close to his heart, to listen again to his clear and powerful appeal: “Go and make disciples of all nations”.

These young people are from every continent, they speak many languages, they bring with them different cultures, and yet they also find in Christ the answer to their highest aspirations, held in common, and they can satisfy the hunger for a pure truth and an authentic love which binds them together in spite of differences.

Christ offers them space, knowing that there is no force more powerful than the one released from the hearts of young people when they have been conquered by the experience of friendship with him. Christ has confidence in young people and entrusts them with the very future of his mission, “Go and make disciples”. Go beyond the confines of what is humanly possible and create a world of brothers and sisters! And young people have confidence in Christ: they are not afraid to risk for him the only life they have, because they know they will not be disappointed.

As I begin my visit to Brazil, I am well aware that, in addressing young people, I am also speaking to their families, their local and national church communities, the societies they come from, and the men and women upon whom this new generation largely depends.

Here it is common for parents to say, “Our children are the apple of our eyes”. How beautiful is this expression of Brazilian wisdom, which applies to young people an image drawn from our eyes, which are the window through which light enters into us, granting us the miracle of sight! What would become of us if we didn’t look after our eyes? How could we move forward? I hope that, during this week, each one of us will ask ourselves this thought-provoking question.

Young people are the window through which the future enters the world, thus presenting us with great challenges. Our generation will show that it can realize the promise found in each young person when we know how to give them space; how to create the material and spiritual conditions for their full development; how to give them a solid basis on which to build their lives; how to guarantee their safety and their education to be everything they can be; how to pass on to them lasting values that make life worth living; how to give them a transcendent horizon for their thirst for authentic happiness and their creativity for the good; how to give them the legacy of a world worthy of human life; and how to awaken in them their greatest potential as builders of their own destiny, sharing responsibility for the future of everyone.

As I conclude, I ask everyone to show consideration towards each other and, if possible, the sympathy needed to establish friendly dialogue. The arms of the Pope now spread to embrace all of Brazil in its human, cultural and religious complexity and richness. From the Amazon Basin to the pampas, from the dry regions to the Pantanal, from the villages to the great cities, no one is excluded from the Pope’s affection. In two days’ time, God willing, I will remember all of you before Our Lady of Aparecida, invoking her maternal protection on your homes and families. But for now I give all of you my blessing. Thank you for your welcome!

 

HOLY MASS WITH SEMINARIANS, NOVICES AND THOSE DISCERNING THEIR VOCATION

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
Sunday, 7 July 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting you, and today our joy is even greater, because we have gathered for the Eucharist on the Lord’s Day.  You are seminarians, novices, young people on a vocational journey, from every part of the world.  You represent the Church’s youth!  If the Church is the Bride of Christ, you in a certain sense represent the moment of betrothal, the Spring of vocation, the season of discovery, assessment, formation.  And it is a very beautiful season, in which foundations are laid for the future.  Thank you for coming!

Today the word of God speaks to us of mission.  Where does mission originate?  The answer is simple: it originates from a call, the Lord’s call, and when he calls people, he does so with a view to sending them out.  How is the one sent out meant to live?  What are the reference points of Christian mission?  The readings we have heard suggest three: the joy of consolation, the Cross and prayer.

1. The first element: the joy of consolation.  The prophet Isaiah is addressing a people that has been through a dark period of exile, a very difficult trial.  But now the time of consolation has come for Jerusalem; sadness and fear must give way to joy: “Rejoice ... be glad ... rejoice with her in joy,” says the prophet (66:10).  It is a great invitation to joy.  Why?  What is the reason for this invitation to joy?  Because the Lord is going to pour out over the Holy City and its inhabitants a “cascade” of consolation, a veritable overflow of consolation – such that it will be overcome – a cascade of maternal tenderness:  “You shall be carried upon her hip and dandled upon her knees” (vv. 12).  As when a mother takes her child upon her knee and caresses him or her: so the Lord will do and does with us. This is the cascade of tenderness which gives us much consolation. “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (v. 13). Every Christian, and especially you and I, is called to be a bearer of this message of hope that gives serenity and joy: God’s consolation, his tenderness towards all.  But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by him, of being loved by him, then we can bring that joy to others.  This is important if our mission is to be fruitful: to feel God’s consolation and to pass it on to others!  I have occasionally met consecrated persons who are afraid of the consolations of God, and … the poor things, they were tormented, because they are of this divine tenderness. But be not afraid. Do not be afraid, because the Lord is the Lord of consolation, he is the Lord of tenderness. The Lord is a Father and he says that he will be for us like a mother with her baby, with a mother’s tenderness. Do not be afraid of the consolations of the Lord.  Isaiah’s invitation must resound in our hearts:  “Comfort, comfort my people” (40:1) and this must lead to mission.  We must find the Lord who consoles us and go to console the people of God. This is the mission. People today certainly need words, but most of all they need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards the good.  What a joy it is to bring God’s consolation to others!

2. The second reference point of mission is the Cross of Christ.  Saint Paul, writing to the Galatians, says: “Far be it from me to glory except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (6:14).  And he speaks of the “marks of Jesus”, that is, the wounds of the crucified Lord, as a countersign, as the distinctive mark of his life as an Apostle of the Gospel.  In his ministry Paul experienced suffering, weakness and defeat, but also joy and consolation.  This is the Paschal mystery of Jesus: the mystery of death and resurrection.  And it was precisely by letting himself be conformed to the death of Jesus that Saint Paul became a sharer in his resurrection, in his victory.  In the hour of darkness, in the hour of trial, the dawn of light and salvation is already present and operative.  The Paschal mystery is the beating heart of the Church’s mission!  And if we remain within this mystery, we are sheltered both from a worldly and triumphalistic view of mission and from the discouragement that can result from trials and failures.  Pastoral fruitfulness, the fruitfulness of the Gospel proclamation is measured neither by success nor by failure according to the criteria of human evaluation, but by becoming conformed to the logic of the Cross of Jesus, which is the logic of stepping outside oneself and spending oneself, the logic of love.  It is the Cross – always the Cross that is present with Christ, because at times we are offered the Cross without Christ: this has not purpose!  – it is the Cross, and always the Cross with Christ, which guarantees the fruitfulness of our mission.  And it is from the Cross, the supreme act of mercy and love, that we are reborn as a “new creation” (Gal 6:15).

3. Finally the third element: prayer.  In the Gospel we heard: “Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest, to send out labourers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2).  The labourers for the harvest are not chosen through advertising campaigns or appeals of service and generosity, but they are “chosen” and “sent” by God.  It is he who chooses, it is he who sends, it is Lord who sends, it is he who gives the mission. For this, prayer is important.  The Church, as Benedict XVI has often reiterated, is not ours, but God’s; and how many times do we, consecrated men and women, think that the Church is ours! We make of it… something that we invent in our minds. But it is not ours!, it is God’s. The field to be cultivated is his.  The mission is grace.  And if the Apostle is born of prayer, he finds in prayer the light and strength of his action.  Our mission ceases to bear fruit, indeed, it is extinguished the moment the link with its source, with the Lord, is interrupted.

Dear seminarians, dear novices, dear young people discerning your vocations. One of you, one of your formators, said to me the other days, “evangeliser, on le fait à genoux” “evangelization is done on one’s knees”. Listen well: “evangelization is done on one’s knees”. Without a constant relationship with God, the mission becomes a job.  But for what do you work? As a tailor, a cook a priest, is your job being a priest, being a sister? No. It is not a job, but rather something else. The risk of activism, of relying too much on structures, is an ever-present danger.  If we look towards Jesus, we see that prior to any important decision or event he recollected himself in intense and prolonged prayer.  Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties.  And the more the mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be the more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love.  Herein lies the secret of pastoral fruitfulness, of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord!

Jesus sends his followers out with no “purse, no bag, no sandals” (Lk 10:4).  The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources.  What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.

Dear friends, with great confidence I entrust you to the intercession of Mary Most Holy.  She is the Mother who helps us to take life decisions freely and without fear.  May she help you to bear witness to the joy of God’s consolation, without being afraid of joy, she will help you to conform yourselves to the logic of love of the Cross, to grow in ever deeper union with the Lord in prayer.  Then your lives will be rich and fruitful!  Amen.

 

 

Pope Francis’ homily for Mass

celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi,

Thursday 30 May 2013.

Dear brothers and sisters,
In the Gospel we have just heard, there is an expression of Jesus that always strikes me: “Give you them to eat. (Lk 9:13)” Starting from this sentence, I let myself be guided by three words: discipleship, fellowship and sharing.
1. First of all: who are those to whom we are to give to eat? The answer is found at the beginning of the Gospel: it is the crowd, the multitude. Jesus is in the midst of the people: He welcomes them, talks to them, He cures them, He shows them the mercy of God. In their midst, he chooses the twelve Apostles to be with Him, and like Him, to immerse themselves in the concrete situations of the world. People follow Him, listen to Him, because Jesus speaks and acts in a new way, with the authority of someone who is authentic and consistent, who speaks and acts with truth, who gives the hope that comes from God, who is revelation of the face of a God who is love - and the people with joy, bless God.
This evening we are the crowd of [which] the Gospel [tells]: let us also strive to follow Jesus to listen to him, to enter into communion with Him in the Eucharist, to accompany Him and in order that He accompany us. Let us ask ourselves: how do I follow Jesus? Jesus speaks in silence in the Mystery of the Eucharist and every time reminds us that to follow Him means to come out of ourselves and make of our own lives, not a possession, but a gift to Him and to others.
2. Let us take a step forward: whence is born the invitation that Jesus makes to his disciples to feed the multitude themselves? It is born from two elements: first, the crowd, having followed Jesus, now finds itself in the open, away from inhabited areas, as evening falls, and then, because of the concern of the disciples, who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd, that they might seek food and lodging in the nearby towns (cf. Lk 9:12). Faced with the neediness of the crowd, the solution of the disciples is that every man should take care of himself: “Dismiss the crowd!” [the disciples say]. How many times do we Christians have this temptation! We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful, “God help you.” Jesus’ solution, on the other hand, goes in another direction, a direction that surprises the disciples: [He says], “You give them something to eat.”
But how is it that we are to feed a multitude? “We have only five loaves and two fish, unless we go and buy food for all these people.” But Jesus is not discouraged. He asks the disciples to seat people in communities of fifty people, He raises his eyes to heaven, recites the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples for distribution.

It is a moment of profound communion: the crowd, whose thirst has been quenched by the word of the Lord, is now nourished by His bread of life – and they all ate their fill, the Evangelist tells us.
This evening, we too are gathered around the Lord’s table, the table of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, in which He gives us once again His body, makes present the one sacrifice of the Cross. It is in listening to his Word, in nourishing ourselves with his Body and his Blood, that He makes us go from being a multitude to being a community, from [being strangers] to being [in] communion. The Eucharist is the sacrament of communion, which brings us out from individualism to live together our journey in His footsteps, our faith in Him. We ought, therefore, to ask ourselves before the Lord: How do I live the Eucharist? Do I live it anonymously or as a moment of true communion with the Lord, [and] also with many brothers and sisters who share this same table? How are our Eucharistic celebrations?
3. A final element: whence is born the multiplication of the loaves? The answer lies in the invitation of Jesus to his disciples: “You yourselves give [to them]...,” “give,” share. What do the disciples share? What little they have: five loaves and two fishes. But it is precisely those loaves and fishes that in God’s hands feed the whole crowd.
And it is the disciples, bewildered by the inability of their means, by the poverty of what they have at their disposal, who invite the people to sit down, and - trusting the Word of Jesus – distribute the loaves and fishes that feed the crowd. This tells us that in the Church, but also in society, a keyword that we need not fear is “solidarity,” that is, knowing how to place what we have at God’s disposal: our humble abilities, because [it is] only in the sharing, in the giving of them, that our lives will be fecund, will bear fruit. Solidarity: a word upon which the spirit of the world looks unkindly!
Tonight, once again, the Lord distributes for us the bread which is His body, He makes a gift of Himself. We, too, are experiencing the “solidarity of God” with man, a solidarity that never runs out, a solidarity that never ceases to amaze us: God draws near to us; in the sacrifice of the Cross He lowers Himself, entering into the darkness of death in order to give us His life, which overcomes evil, selfishness, death.
Jesus this evening gives Himself to us in the Eucharist, shares our same journey – indeed, He becomes food, real food that sustains our life even at times when the going is rough, when obstacles slow down our steps. The Lord in the Eucharist makes us follow His path, that of service, of sharing, of giving – and what little we have, what little we are, if shared, becomes wealth, because the power of God, which is that of love, descends into our poverty to transform it.
Let us ask ourselves this evening, adoring the Christ truly present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by Him? Do I let the Lord who gives Himself to me, guide me to come out more and more from my little fence to get out and be not afraid to give, to share, to love Him and others?
Discipleship, communion and sharing. Let us pray that participation in the Eucharist move us always to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion, to share with Him and with our neighbor who we are. Then our lives will be truly fruitful. Amen.

 

 

Homily of the Holy Father
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Confraternities
(Saint Peter’s Square, 5 May 2013)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

You were very courageous to come with this rain. . . . May the Lord bless you very much!
As part of the journey of the Year of Faith, I am happy to celebrate this Eucharist dedicated in a special way to confraternities: a traditional reality in the Church, which in recent times has experienced renewal and rediscovery. I greet all of you with affection, particularly the confraternities which have come here from all over the world! Thank you for your presence and your witness!
1. In the Gospel we heard a passage from the farewell discourses of Jesus, as related by the evangelist John in the context of the Last Supper. Jesus entrusts his last thoughts, as a spiritual testament, to the apostles before he leaves them. Today’s text makes it clear that Christian faith is completely centered on the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Whoever loves the Lord Jesus welcomes him and his Father interiorly, and thanks to the Holy Spirit receives the Gospel in his or her heart and life. Here we are shown the center from which everything must go forth and to which everything must lead: loving God and being Christ’s disciples by living the Gospel. When Benedict XVI spoke to you, he used this expression: evangelical spirit. Dear confraternities, the popular piety of which you are an important sign is a treasure possessed by the Church, which the bishops of Latin America defined, significantly, as a spirituality, a form of mysticism, which is “a place of encounter with Jesus Christ”. Draw always from Christ, the inexhaustible wellspring; strengthen your faith by attending to your spiritual formation, to personal and communitarian prayer, and to the liturgy. Down the centuries confraternities have been crucibles of holiness for countless people who have lived in utter simplicity an intense relationship with the Lord. Advance with determination along the path of holiness; do not rest content with a mediocre Christian life, but let your affiliation serve as a stimulus, above all for you yourselves, to an ever greater love of Jesus Christ.
2. The passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we heard also speaks to us about what is essential. In the early Church there was immediately a need to discern what was essential about being a Christian, about following Christ, and what is not. The apostles and the other elders held an important meeting in Jerusalem, a first “council”, on this theme, to discuss the problems which arose after the Gospel had been preached to the pagans, to non-Jews. It was a providential opportunity for better understanding what is essential, namely, belief in Jesus Christ who died and rose for our sins, and loving him as he loved us. But note how the difficulties were overcome: not from without, but from within the Church. And this brings up a second element which I want to remind you of, as Benedict XVI did, namely: ecclesial spirit. Popular piety is a road which leads to what is essential, if it is lived in the Church in profound communion with your pastors. Dear brothers and sisters, the Church loves you! Be an active presence in the community, as living cells, as living stones. The Latin American Bishops wrote that the popular piety which you reflect is “a legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are part of the Church” (Aparecida Document, 264). And this is beautiful, eh? A legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that you are a part of the Church. Love the Church! Let yourselves be guided by her! In your parishes, in your dioceses, be a true “lung” of faith and Christian life. A breath of fresh air. . . . In this Square I see a great variety, first of umbrellas, and then of colors and signs. This is also the case with the Church: a great wealth and variety of expressions in which everything leads back to unity, the variety leads back to unity and unity to the encounter with Christ.
3. I would like to add a third expression which must distinguish you: missionary spirit. You have a specific and important mission, that of keeping alive the relationship between the faith and the cultures of the peoples to whom you belong. You do this through popular piety. When, for example, you carry the crucifix in procession with such great veneration and love for the Lord, you are not performing a simple outward act; you are pointing to the centrality of the Lord’s paschal mystery, his passion, death and resurrection which have redeemed us, and you are reminding yourselves first, as well as the community, that we have to follow Christ along the concrete path of our daily lives so that he can transform us. Likewise, when you express profound devotion for the Virgin Mary, you are pointing to the highest realization of the Christian life, the one who by her faith and obedience to God’s will, and by her meditation on the words and deeds of Jesus, is the Lord’s perfect disciple (cf. Lumen Gentium, 53). You express this faith, born of hearing the word of God, in ways that engage the senses, the emotions and the symbols of the different cultures. . . . In doing so you help to transmit it to others, and especially the simple persons whom, in the Gospels, Jesus calls “the little ones”. In effect, “journeying together towards shrines, and participating in other demonstrations of popular piety, bringing along your children and engaging other people, is itself a work of evangelization” (Aparecida Document, 264). When you go to the shrines, when you bring the family, your children, you are doing the proper work of evangelization. You must go on doing so! May you also be true evangelizers! May your initiatives be “bridges”, means of bringing others to Christ, so as to journey together with him. And in this spirit may you always be attentive to charity. Each individual Christian and every community is missionary to the extent that they bring to others and live the Gospel, and testify to God’s love for all, especially those experiencing difficulties. Be missionaries of God’s love and tenderness! You are missionaries of the Mercy of God, which always pardons us, always awaits us. . . . He loves us so much!
Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Three words – don’t forget them: Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Let us ask the Lord always to direct our minds and hearts to him, as living stones of the Church, so that all that we do, our whole Christian life, may be a luminous witness to his mercy and love. In this way we will make our way towards the goal of our earthly pilgrimage, towards that most beautiful sanctuary, the heavenly Jerusalem. There, there is no longer any temple: God himself and the Lamb are its temple; and the light of the sun and the moon give way to the glory of the Most High. Amen.

 

 

Pope's Homily

at Holy Mass in St Peter's Square with the Rite of Confirmation.

April 28, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Confirmands,I would like to offer three short and simple thoughts for your reflection.
1. In the second reading, we listened to the beautiful vision of Saint John: new heavens and a new earth, and then the Holy City coming down from God. All is new, changed into good, beauty and truth; there are no more tears or mourning… This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus - and be with him forever, in his love.
You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person! How beautiful!
2. A second thought. In the first reading Paul and Barnabas say that “we must undergo many trials if we are to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The journey of the Church, and our own personal journeys as Christians, are not always easy; they meet with difficulties and trials. To follow the Lord, to let his Spirit transform the shadowy parts of our lives, our ungodly ways of acting, and cleanse us of our sins, is to set out on a path with many obstacles, both in the world around us but also within us, in the heart. But difficulties and trials are part of the path that leads to God’s glory, just as they were for Jesus, who was glorified on the cross; we will always encounter them in life! Do not be discouraged! We have the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome these trials!
3. And here I come to my last point. It is an invitation which I make to you, young confirmandi, and to all present. Remain steadfast in the journey of faith, with firm hope in the Lord. This is the secret of our journey! He gives us the courage to swim against the tide. Pay attention, my young friends: to go against the current; this is good for the heart, but we need courage to swim against the tide. Jesus gives us this courage! There are no difficulties, trials or misunderstandings to fear, provided we remain united to God as branches to the vine, provided we do not lose our friendship with him, provided we make ever more room for him in our lives. This is especially so whenever we feel poor, weak and sinful, because God grants strength to our weakness, riches to our poverty, conversion and forgiveness to our sinfulness. The Lord is so rich in mercy: every time, if we go to him, he forgives us. Let us trust in God’s work! With him we can do great things; he will give us the joy of being his disciples, his witnesses. Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals, my dear young people!
The new things of God, the trials of life, remaining steadfast in the Lord. Dear friends, let us open wide the door of our lives to the new things of God which the Holy Spirit gives us. May he transform us, confirm us in our trials, strengthen our union with the Lord, our steadfastness in him: this is a true joy! So may it be.

 

Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday, 7 April 2013

It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection: my very dear Cardinal Vicar, the auxiliary bishops, the diocesan presbyterate, the deacons, the men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I also greet the Mayor, his wife and all the authorities present. Together let us walk in the light of the risen Lord.

1. Today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as "Divine Mercy Sunday". What a beautiful truth of faith this is for our lives: the mercy of God! God’s love for us is so great, so deep; it is an unfailing love, one which always takes us by the hand and supports us, lifts us up and leads us on.

2. In today’s Gospel, the Apostle Thomas personally experiences this mercy of God, which has a concrete face, the face of Jesus, the risen Jesus. Thomas does not believe it when the other Apostles tell him: "We have seen the Lord". It isn’t enough for him that Jesus had foretold it, promised it: "On the third day I will rise". He wants to see, he wants to put his hand in the place of the nails and in Jesus’ side. And how does Jesus react? With patience: Jesus does not abandon Thomas in his stubborn unbelief; he gives him a week’s time, he does not close the door, he waits. And Thomas acknowledges his own poverty, his little faith. "My Lord and my God!": with this simple yet faith-filled invocation, he responds to Jesus’ patience. He lets himself be enveloped by divine mercy; he sees it before his eyes, in the wounds of Christ’s hands and feet and in his open side, and he discovers trust: he is a new man, no longer an unbeliever, but a believer.

Let us also remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: "Peter, don’t be afraid of your weakness, trust in me". Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus, and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus – how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God!

Let us think too of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus: their sad faces, their barren journey, their despair. But Jesus does not abandon them: he walks beside them, and not only that! Patiently he explains the Scriptures which spoke of him, and he stays to share a meal with them. This is God’s way of doing things: he is not impatient like us, who often want everything all at once, even in our dealings with other people. God is patient with us because he loves us, and those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive. Let us remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind! He is never far from us, and if we return to him, he is ready to embrace us.

I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful Father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the Father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance; he goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the Father, yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the Father’s house and he goes back. And the Father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar, he was waiting for him every hour of every day, the son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The Father, with patience, love, hope and mercy, had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: he has returned! And that is the joy of the Father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us, he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope – always! A great German theologian, Romano Guardini, said that God responds to our weakness by his patience, and this is the reason for our confidence, our hope (cf. Glaubenserkenntnis, Würzburg, 1949, p. 28). It is like a dialogue between our weakness and the patience of God, it is a dialogue that, if we do it, will grant us hope.

3. I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in the wounds of his hands and his feet, and in his side. We too can enter into the wounds of Jesus, we can actually touch him. This happens every time that we receive the sacraments with faith. Saint Bernard, in a fine homily, says: "Through the wounds of Jesus I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty rock (cf. Deut 32:13), I can taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (On the Song of Songs, 61:4). It is there, in the wounds of Jesus, that we are truly secure; there we encounter the boundless love of his heart. Thomas understood this. Saint Bernard goes on to ask: But what can I count on? My own merits? No, "My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits" (ibid., 5). This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love. Saint Bernard even states: "So what if my conscience gnaws at me for my many sins? ‘Where sin has abounded, there grace has abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20)" (ibid.). Maybe someone among us here is thinking: my sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable, my unbelief is like that of Thomas; I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. How many times in my pastoral ministry have I heard it said: "Father, I have many sins"; and I have always pleaded: "Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything". We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important, indeed we are the most important thing to him; even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.

Adam, after his sin, experiences shame, he feels naked, he senses the weight of what he has done; and yet God does not abandon him: if that moment of sin marks the beginning of his exile from God, there is already a promise of return, a possibility of return. God immediately asks: "Adam, where are you?" He seeks him out. Jesus took on our nakedness, he took upon himself the shame of Adam, the nakedness of his sin, in order to wash away our sin: by his wounds we have been healed. Remember what Saint Paul says: "What shall I boast of, if not my weakness, my poverty? Precisely in feeling my sinfulness, in looking at my sins, I can see and encounter God’s mercy, his love, and go to him to receive forgiveness.

In my own life, I have so often seen God’s merciful countenance, his patience; I have also seen so many people find the courage to enter the wounds of Jesus by saying to him: Lord, I am here, accept my poverty, hide my sin in your wounds, wash it away with your blood. And I have always seen that God did just this – he accepted them, consoled them, cleansed them, loved them.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us be enveloped by the mercy of God; let us trust in his patience, which always gives us more time. Let us find the courage to return to his house, to dwell in his loving wounds, allowing ourselves be loved by him and to encounter his mercy in the sacraments. We will feel his wonderful tenderness, we will feel his embrace, and we too will become more capable of mercy, patience, forgiveness and love.

 

Homily of our Holy Father Pope Francis, Palm Sunday March 24, 2013

Jesus enters Jerusalem. The crowd of disciples accompanies him in festive mood, their garments are stretched out before him, there is talk of the miracles he has accomplished, and loud praises are heard: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38).

Crowds, celebrating, praise, blessing, peace: joy fills the air. Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.

This is Jesus. This is his heart which looks to all of us, to our sicknesses, to our sins. The love of Jesus is great. And thus he enters Jerusalem, with this love, and looks at us. It is a beautiful scene, full of light - the light of the love of Jesus, the love of his heart - of joy, of celebration.

At the beginning of Mass, we too repeated it. We waved our palms, our olive branches. We too welcomed Jesus; we too expressed our joy at accompanying him, at knowing him to be close, present in us and among us as a friend, a brother, and also as a King: that is, a shining beacon for our lives. Jesus is God, but he lowered himself to walk with us. He is our friend, our brother. He illumines our path here. And in this way we have welcomed him today. And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but from having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst; it is born from knowing that with him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable, and there are so many of them! And in this moment the enemy, the devil, comes, often disguised as an angel, and slyly speaks his word to us. Do not listen to him! Let us follow Jesus! We accompany, we follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world. Please do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Do not let hope be stolen! The hope that Jesus gives us.

2. The second word. Why does Jesus enter Jerusalem? Or better: how does Jesus enter Jerusalem? The crowds acclaim him as King. And he does not deny it, he does not tell them to be silent (cf. Lk 19:39-40). But what kind of a King is Jesus? Let us take a look at him: he is riding on a donkey, he is not accompanied by a court, he is not surrounded by an army as a symbol of power. He is received by humble people, simple folk who have the sense to see something more in Jesus; they have that sense of the faith which says: here is the Saviour. Jesus does not enter the Holy City to receive the honours reserved to earthly kings, to the powerful, to rulers; he enters to be scourged, insulted and abused, as Isaiah foretold in the First Reading (cf. Is 50:6). He enters to receive a crown of thorns, a staff, a purple robe: his kingship becomes an object of derision. He enters to climb Calvary, carrying his burden of wood. And this brings us to the second word: Cross. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to die on the Cross. And it is precisely here that his kingship shines forth in godly fashion: his royal throne is the wood of the Cross! It reminds me of what Benedict XVI said to the Cardinals: you are princes, but of a king crucified. That is the throne of Jesus. Jesus takes it upon himself… Why the Cross? Because Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God. Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil! Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money that you can’t take with you and have to leave. When we were small, our grandmother used to say: a shroud has no pocket. Love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation! And – as each one of us knows and is aware - our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation. Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection. This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross. Christ’s Cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy, to the joy of having been saved and of doing a little of what he did on the day of his death.

3. Today in this Square, there are many young people: for twenty-eight years Palm Sunday has been World Youth Day! This is our third word: youth! Dear young people, I saw you in the procession as you were coming in; I think of you celebrating around Jesus, waving your olive branches. I think of you crying out his name and expressing your joy at being with him! You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always: a young heart, even at the age of seventy or eighty. Dear young people! With Christ, the heart never grows old! Yet all of us, all of you know very well that the King whom we follow and who accompanies us is very special: he is a King who loves even to the Cross and who teaches us to serve and to love. And you are not ashamed of his Cross! On the contrary, you embrace it, because you have understood that it is in giving ourselves, in giving ourselves, in emerging from ourselves that we have true joy and that, with his love, God conquered evil. You carry the pilgrim Cross through all the Continents, along the highways of the world! You carry it in response to Jesus’ call: “Go, make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), which is the theme of World Youth Day this year. You carry it so as to tell everyone that on the Cross Jesus knocked down the wall of enmity that divides people and nations, and he brought reconciliation and peace. Dear friends, I too am setting out on a journey with you, starting today, in the footsteps of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. We are already close to the next stage of this great pilgrimage of the Cross. I look forward joyfully to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I will see you in that great city in Brazil! Prepare well – prepare spiritually above all – in your communities, so that our gathering in Rio may be a sign of faith for the whole world. Young people must say to the world: to follow Christ is good; to go with Christ is good; the message of Christ is good; emerging from ourselves, to the ends of the earth and of existence, to take Jesus there, is good! Three points, then: joy, Cross, young people.

Let us ask the intercession of the Virgin Mary. She teaches us the joy of meeting Christ, the love with which we must look to the foot of the Cross, the enthusiasm of the young heart with which we must follow him during this Holy Week and throughout our lives. May it be so.

 

 

Homily of the Holy Father at the Inauguration of his Papal Ministry 19 March 2013:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: we are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.
I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial Communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps.
In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).
How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.
How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Francis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.
Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors”, we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!
Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!
Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!
In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.
To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!
I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.

 

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS (portions)
BENEDICT XVI
FOR LENT 2013

"Believing in charity calls forth charity"
“We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (1 Jn 4:16)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The celebration of Lent, in the context of the Year of Faith, offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God – the God of Jesus Christ – and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.

2. Charity as life in faith

The entire Christian life is a response to God’s love. The first response is precisely faith as the acceptance, filled with wonder and gratitude, of the unprecedented divine initiative that precedes us and summons us. And the “yes” of faith marks the beginning of a radiant story of friendship with the Lord, which fills and gives full meaning to our whole life. But it is not enough for God that we simply accept his gratuitous love. Not only does he love us, but he wants to draw us to himself, to transform us in such a profound way as to bring us to say with Saint Paul: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (cf. Gal 2:20).

When we make room for the love of God, then we become like him, sharing in his own charity. If we open ourselves to his love, we allow him to live in us and to bring us to love with him, in him and like him; only then does our faith become truly “active through love” (Gal 5:6); only then does he abide in us (cf. 1 Jn 4:12).

Faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); charity is “walking” in the truth (cf. Eph 4:15). Through faith we enter into friendship with the Lord, through charity this friendship is lived and cultivated (cf. Jn 15:14ff). Faith causes us to embrace the commandment of our Lord and Master; charity gives us the happiness of putting it into practice (cf. Jn 13:13-17). In faith we are begotten as children of God (cf. Jn 1:12ff); charity causes us to persevere concretely in our divine sonship, bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22). Faith enables us to recognize the gifts that the good and generous God has entrusted to us; charity makes them fruitful (cf. Mt 25:14-30).

4. Priority of faith, primacy of charity

Like any gift of God, faith and charity have their origin in the action of one and the same Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 13), the Spirit within us that cries out “Abba, Father” (Gal 4:6), and makes us say: “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3) and “Maranatha!” (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20).

Faith, as gift and response, causes us to know the truth of Christ as Love incarnate and crucified, as full and perfect obedience to the Father’s will and infinite divine mercy towards neighbour; faith implants in hearts and minds the firm conviction that only this Love is able to conquer evil and death. Faith invites us to look towards the future with the virtue of hope, in the confident expectation that the victory of Christ’s love will come to its fullness. For its part, charity ushers us into the love of God manifested in Christ and joins us in a personal and existential way to the total and unconditional self-giving of Jesus to the Father and to his brothers and sisters. By filling our hearts with his love, the Holy Spirit makes us sharers in Jesus’ filial devotion to God and fraternal devotion to every man (cf. Rom 5:5).

The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbour”), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).

Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!

 

 

Homily for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord
2013-01-13


Dear brothers and sisters!
The joy arising from the celebration of Christmas finds its completion today in the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. To this joy is added another reason for those of us who are gathered here: in the Sacrament of Baptism that will soon be administered to these infants, the living and active presence of the Holy Spirit is manifested, enriching the Church with new children, enlivening and making them grow, and we cannot help but rejoice. I wish to extend a special greeting to you, dear parents and godparents, who today bear witness to your faith by requesting Baptism for these children, because they are regenerated to new life in Christ and become part of the community of believers.
The Gospel account of Jesus' baptism, which we have heard today according to St Luke’s account, shows the path of abasement and humility that the Son of God freely chose in order to adhere to the plan of the Father, to be obedient to His loving will for mankind in all things, even to the sacrifice on the Cross. Having reached adulthood, Jesus begins His public ministry by going to the River Jordan to receive from John the baptism of repentance and conversion. What happens may appear paradoxical to our eyes. Does Jesus need repentance and conversion? Of course not. Yet He Who is without sin is placed among the sinners to be baptized, to fulfil this act of repentance; the Holy One of God joins those who recognize in themselves the need for forgiveness and ask God for the gift of conversion – that is, the grace to turn to Him with their whole heart, to be totally His. Jesus wills to put Himself on the side of sinners, by being in solidarity with them, expressing the nearness of God. Jesus shows solidarity with us, with our effort to convert, to leave behind our selfishness, to detach ourselves from our sins, saying to us that if we accept Him into our lives, He is able to raise us up and lead us the heights of God the Father. And this solidarity of Jesus is not, so to speak, a mere exercise of the mind and will. Jesus was really immersed in our human condition; He lived it to the utmost – although without sin – and in such a way that He understands weakness and fragility. Therefore He is moved to compassion; He chooses to “suffer with” men, to be penitent together with us. This is the work of God that Jesus wishes to accomplish: the divine mission to heal those who are wounded and to cure those who are sick, to take upon Himself the sin of the world.
What happens at the moment when Jesus was baptized by John? In the face of this humble act of love on the part of the Son of God, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit is visibly manifested in the form of a dove, while a voice from on high expresses the pleasure of the Father, Who recognizes the Only-begotten Son, the Beloved. It is a true manifestation of the Holy Trinity, which gives testimony to the divinity of Jesus, to His being the promised Messiah, the One whom God has sent to free His people, so that His people might be saved (cf. Is 40, 2). Thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that we heard in the first reading: the Lord God comes with power to destroy the works of sin and His arm exercises dominion to disarm the Evil one; but keep in mind that this arm is the arm extended on the Cross, and the power of Christ is the power of the One who suffers for us: this is the power of God, differing from the power of the world. Thus God comes in power to destroy sin. Jesus truly acts as the good shepherd, that feeds His flock and gathers it together so that it will not be scattered (cf. Is 40, 10-11), and offers His own life that it might live. It is through His redemptive death that man is freed from the dominion of sin and reconciled with the Father; and through His resurrection that man is saved from eternal death and is made victorious over the Evil one.
Dear brothers and sisters, what happens in Baptism, which will soon be administered to your children? What happens is this: they will be united in a profound way and forever with Jesus, immersed in the mystery of His power, that is, in the mystery of His death, which is the source of life, in order to share in His resurrection, to be reborn to new life. See the miracle that is repeated today for your children: receiving baptism, they are reborn as children of God, partakers of the filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father, able to turn to God and call upon Him with full trust and confidence: “Abba, Father!” On your children, too, the heavens are opened, and God says: “these are my children, with whom I am well pleased.” Inserted into this relationship and freed from original sin, they become living members of the unique body which is the Church, and are enabled to live fully their vocation to holiness, so as to inherit eternal life, obtained for us by the resurrection of Jesus.
Dear parents, in asking for Baptism for your children, you manifest and bear witness to your faith, to the joy of being a Christian and of belonging to the Church. It is the joy that comes from knowing you have received a great gift from God – the faith – a gift that none of us have merited, but that has been freely given and to which we have responded with our “yes.” It is the joy of recognizing ourselves as children of God, of discovering that we have been entrusted into His hands, to know that we are welcomed into a loving embrace, in the same way that a mother supports and embraces her child. This joy, that directs the path of every Christian, is based on a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship that guides the whole of human existence. He, in fact, is the meaning of our life, the One upon Whom it is worthy to gaze, in order to be enlightened by His Truth and be able to live life to the fullest. The way of faith that begins today for these children is therefore based on a certainty, on the experience that there is nothing greater than to know Christ and to communicate friendship with Him to others; only in this friendship is the great potential of the human condition truly revealed and we can experience what is beautiful and what is free (cf. Homily at Mass for the beginning of his pontificate, April 24, 2005). Those who have this experience are not willing to give up their faith for anything in the world.
Dear godfathers and godmothers, yours is the important duty of supporting and contributing to the work of parents in education, working alongside them in the transmission of the truths of faith and in witnessing to the values ​​of the Gospel, in raising these children in an ever deeper friendship with the Lord. May you always give them your good example, through the exercise of Christian virtues. It is not easy to demonstrate what you believe in openly and without compromise, especially in the context in which we live, in the face of a society that often considers those who live by faith in Jesus to be old-fashioned and out of date. In the wake of this mentality, there can be, even among Christians, the risk of understanding the relationship with Jesus as limiting, as something that is detrimental to personal fulfilment, “God is seen as a limitation of our freedom, a limitation that destroys man’s ability to be himself” (The Infancy of Jesus, 101). But it is not so! This view demonstrates that it has understood nothing of the relationship with God, because, proceeding along the path of faith, we understand that Jesus exercises over us the freeing action of God's love that takes us beyond our selfishness and keeps us from being turned in on ourselves, in order to lead a full life, a life in communion with God and open to others. “‘God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God abides in him’ (1 Jn 4:16). These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny” (Encyclical Deus caritas est, 1).
The water with which these children will be signed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit immerses them in the “fount” of life that is God Himself and that will make them His own children. And the seed of the theological virtues, infused by God – faith, hope and charity – the seed that today is placed in their hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit, must always be fed by the Word of God and the Sacraments, so that these virtues of the Christian can grow and reach full maturity, in order to make each one of them a true witness of the Lord. While we invoke upon these little children the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we entrust them to the protection of the Holy Virgin: May she always guard them with her maternal presence and accompany them at every moment of their lives. Amen.





Homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord
6 January 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history. Thus the liturgy reads the Gospel which relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah and Psalm 71, which depict in bold imagery the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem. Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied the poor of Israel and more generally those humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the East embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles – the men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him. The Church calls this feast “Epiphany” – the appearance of the Godhead. If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place, of every continent, of all the different cultures, mentalities and lifestyles, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity (cf. Tit 3:4).
Following a tradition begun by Pope John Paul II, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord also as the day when episcopal ordination will be conferred on four priests who will now cooperate in different ways in the ministry of the Pope for the unity of the one Church of Jesus Christ in the multiplicity of the Particular Churches. The connection between this episcopal ordination and the theme of the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jesus Christ is evident. It is the task of the Bishop in this pilgrimage not merely to walk beside the others, but to go before them, showing the way. But in this liturgy I would like to reflect with you on a more concrete question. Based on the account of Matthew, we can gain a certain idea of what sort of men these were, who followed the sign of the star and set off to find that King who would establish not only for Israel but for all mankind a new kind of kingship. What kind of men were they? And we can also ask whether, despite the difference of times and tasks, we can glimpse in them something of what a Bishop is and how he is to carry out his task.
These men who set out towards the unknown were, in any event, men with a restless heart. Men driven by a restless quest for God and the salvation of the world. They were filled with expectation, not satisfied with their secure income and their respectable place in society. They were looking for something greater. They were no doubt learned men, quite knowledgeable about the heavens and probably possessed of a fine philosophical formation. But they desired more than simply knowledge about things. They wanted above all else to know what is essential. They wanted to know how we succeed in being human. And therefore they wanted to know if God exists, and where and how he exists. Whether he is concerned about us and how we can encounter him. Nor did they want just to know. They wanted to understand the truth about ourselves and about God and the world. Their outward pilgrimage was an expression of their inward journey, the inner pilgrimage of their hearts. They were men who sought God and were ultimately on the way towards him. They were seekers after God.
Here we come to the question: What sort of man must he be, upon whom hands are laid in episcopal ordination in the Church of Jesus Christ? We can say that he must above all be a man concerned for God, for only then will he also be truly concerned about men. Inversely, we could also say that a Bishop must be a man concerned for others, one who is concerned about what happens to them. He must be a man for others. But he can only truly be so if he is a man seized by God, if concern for God has also become for him concern for God’s creature who is man. Like the Wise Men from the East, a Bishop must not be someone who merely does his job and is content with that. No, he must be gripped by God’s concern for men and women. He must in some way think and feel with God. Human beings have an innate restlessness for God, but this restlessness is a participation in God’s own restlessness for us. Since God is concerned about us, he follows us even to the crib, even to the Cross. “Thou with weary steps hast sought me, crucified hast dearly bought me, may thy pains not be in vain”, the Church prays in the Dies Irae. The restlessness of men for God and hence the restlessness of God for men must unsettle the Bishop. This is what we mean when we say that, above all else, the Bishop must be a man of faith. For faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love. On this pilgrimage the Bishop must go ahead, he must be the guide pointing out to men and women the way to faith, hope and love.
Faith’s inner pilgrimage towards God occurs above all in prayer. Saint Augustine once said that prayer is ultimately nothing more than the realization and radicalization of our yearning for God. Instead of “yearning”, we could also translate the word as “restlessness” and say that prayer would detach us from our false security, from our being enclosed within material and visible realities, and would give us a restlessness for God and thus an openness to and concern for one another. The Bishop, as a pilgrim of God, must be above all a man of prayer. He must live be in constant inner contact with God; his soul must be open wide to God. He must bring before God his own needs and the needs of others, as well as his joys and the joys of others, and thus in his own way establish contact between God and the world in communion with Christ, so that Christ’s light can shine in the world.
Let us return to the Wise Men from the East. These were also, and above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth – towards the unknown, the uncertain, on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision: the scorn of those realists who could only mock the reveries of such men. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world, so apparently clever.
How can we not think, in this context, of the task of a Bishop in our own time? The humility of faith, of sharing the faith of the Church of every age, will constantly be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom of those who cling to what seems certain. Anyone who lives and proclaims the faith of the Church is on many points out of step with the prevalent way of thinking, even in our own day. Today’s regnant agnosticism has its own dogmas and is extremely intolerant regarding anything that would question it and the criteria it employs. Therefore the courage to contradict the prevailing mindset is particularly urgent for a Bishop today. He must be courageous. And this courage or forcefulness does not consist in striking out or in acting aggressively, but rather in allowing oneself to be struck and to be steadfast before the principles of the prevalent way of thinking. The courage to stand firm in the truth is unavoidably demanded of those whom the Lord sends like sheep among wolves. “Those who fear the Lord will not be timid”, says the Book of Sirach (34:16). The fear of God frees us from the fear of men. It liberates.
Here I am reminded of an episode at the very beginning of Christianity which Saint Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles. After the speech of Gamaliel, who advised against violence in dealing with the earliest community of believers in Jesus, the Sanhedrin summoned the Apostles and had them flogged. It then forbade them from preaching in the name of Jesus and set them free. Saint Luke continues: “As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the name of Jesus. And every day… they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah” (Acts 5:40ff.). The successors of the Apostles must also expect to be repeatedly beaten, by contemporary methods, if they continue to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that can be heard and understood. Then they can rejoice that they have been considered worthy of suffering for him. Like the Apostles, we naturally want to convince people and in this sense to obtain their approval. Naturally, we are not provocative; on the contrary we invite all to enter into the joy of that truth which shows us the way. The approval of the prevailing wisdom, however, is not the criterion to which we submit. Our criterion is the Lord himself. If we defend his cause, we will constantly gain others to the way of the Gospel. But, inevitably, we will also be beaten by those who live lives opposed to the Gospel, and then we can be grateful for having been judged worthy to share in the passion of Christ.
The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, to the great Light which enlightens everyone coming into this world (cf. Jn 1:9). As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history and they show us the way. The saints are God’s true constellations, which light up the nights of this world, serving as our guides. Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, told his faithful that they must shine like stars in the world (cf. 2:15).
Dear friends, this holds true for us too. It holds true above all for you who are now to be ordained Bishops of the Church of Jesus Christ. If you live with Christ, bound to him anew in this sacrament, then you too will become wise men. Then you will become stars which go before men and women, pointing out to them the right path in life. All of us here are now praying for you, that the Lord may fill you with the light of faith and love. That that restlessness of God for man may seize you, so that all may experience his closeness and receive the gift of his joy. We are praying for you, that the Lord may always grant you the courage and humility of faith. We ask Mary, who showed to the Wise Men the new King of the world (cf. Mt 2:11), as a loving mother, to show Jesus Christ also to you and to help you to be guides along the way which leads to him. Amen.

 

 

SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
46th WORLD DAY OF PEACE

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

 

Vatican Basilica
Tuesday, 1st January 2013

[Video]
Photo Gallery

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“May God bless us and make his face to shine upon us.” We proclaimed these words from Psalm 66 after hearing in the first reading the ancient priestly blessing upon the people of the covenant. It is especially significant that at the start of every new year God sheds upon us, his people, the light of his Holy Name, the Name pronounced three times in the solemn form of biblical blessing. Nor is it less significant that to the Word of God – who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14) as “the true light that enlightens every man” (1:9) – is given, as today’s Gospel tells us, the Name of Jesus eight days after his birth (cf. Lk 2:21).

It is in this Name that we are gathered here today. I cordially greet all present, beginning with the Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. I greet with affection Cardinal Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Turkson, with all the officials of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; I am particularly grateful to them for their effort to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace, which this year has as its theme “Blessed are the Peacemakers”.

Although the world is sadly marked by “hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism,” as well as by various forms of terrorism and crime, I am convinced that “the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift. All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Mt 5:9)” (Message, 1). This beatitude “tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort … It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation” (ibid., 2, 3). Indeed, peace is the supreme good to ask as a gift from God and, at the same time, that which is to be built with our every effort.

We may ask ourselves: what is the basis, the origin, the root of peace? How can we experience that peace within ourselves, in spite of problems, darkness and anxieties? The reply is given to us by the readings of today’s liturgy. The biblical texts, especially the one just read from the Gospel of Luke, ask us to contemplate the interior peace of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. During the days in which “she gave birth to her first-born son” (Lk 2:7), many unexpected things occurred: not only the birth of the Son but, even before, the tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn, the search for a chance place to stay for the night; then the song of the angels and the unexpected visit of the shepherds. In all this, however, Mary remains even tempered, she does not get agitated, she is not overcome by events greater than herself; in silence she considers what happens, keeping it in her mind and heart, and pondering it calmly and serenely. This is the interior peace which we ought to have amid the sometimes tumultuous and confusing events of history, events whose meaning we often do not grasp and which disconcert us.

The Gospel passage finishes with a mention of the circumcision of Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, eight days after birth, baby boys were to be circumcised and then given their name. Through his messenger, God himself had said to Mary – as well as to Joseph – that the Name to be given to the child was “Jesus” (cf. Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31); and so it came to be. The Name which God had already chosen, even before the child had been conceived, is now officially conferred upon him at the moment of circumcision. This also changes Mary’s identity once and for all: she becomes “the mother of Jesus”, that is the mother of the Saviour, of Christ, of the Lord. Jesus is not a man like any other, but the Word of God, one of the Divine Persons, the Son of God: therefore the Church has given Mary the title Theotokos or Mother of God.

The first reading reminds us that peace is a gift from God and is linked to the splendour of the face of God, according to the text from the Book of Numbers, which hands down the blessing used by the priests of the People of Israel in their liturgical assemblies. This blessing repeats three times the Holy Name of God, a Name not to be spoken, and each time it is linked to two words indicating an action in favour of man: “The Lord bless you and keep you: the Lord make his face to shine upon you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (6:24-26). So peace is the summit of these six actions of God in our favour, in which he turns towards us the splendour of his face.

For sacred Scripture, contemplating the face of God is the greatest happiness: “You gladden him with the joy of your face” (Ps 21:7). From the contemplation of the face of God are born joy, security and peace. But what does it mean concretely to contemplate the face of the Lord, as understood in the New Testament? It means knowing him directly, in so far as is possible in this life, through Jesus Christ in whom he is revealed. To rejoice in the splendour of God’s face means penetrating the mystery of his Name made known to us in Jesus, understanding something of his interior life and of his will, so that we can live according to his plan of love for humanity. In the second reading, taken from the Letter to the Galatians (4:4-7), Saint Paul says as much as he describes the Spirit who, in our inmost hearts, cries: “Abba! Father!” It is the cry that rises from the contemplation of the true face of God, from the revelation of the mystery of his Name. Jesus declares, “I have manifested thy name to men” (Jn 17:6). God’s Son made man has let us know the Father, he has let us know the hidden face of the Father through his visible human face; by the gift of the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, he has led us to understand that, in him, we too are children of God, as Saint Paul says in the passage we have just heard: “The proof that you are sons is that God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts: the Spirit that cries, ‘Abba, Father’” (Gal 4:6).

Here, dear brothers and sisters, is the foundation of our peace: the certainty of contemplating in Jesus Christ the splendour of the face of God the Father, of being sons in the Son, and thus of having, on life’s journey, the same security that a child feels in the arms of a loving and all-powerful Father. The splendour of the face of God, shining upon us and granting us peace, is the manifestation of his fatherhood: the Lord turns his face to us, he reveals himself as our Father and grants us peace. Here is the principle of that profound peace – “peace with God” – which is firmly linked to faith and grace, as Saint Paul tells the Christians of Rome (cf. Rom 5:2). Nothing can take this peace from believers, not even the difficulties and sufferings of life. Indeed, sufferings, trials and darkness do not undermine but build up our hope, a hope which does not deceive because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (5:5).

May the Virgin Mary, whom today we venerate with the title of Mother of God, help us to contemplate the face of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. May she sustain us and accompany us in this New Year: and may she obtain for us and for the whole world the gift of peace. Amen!

 

© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana



 

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