Testo integrale con le risposte del Papa nella Veglia di Pentecoste
Avere il coraggio della fede senza essere cristiani inamidati, costruire una cultura dell’incontro, aiutare il prossimo soprattutto le famiglie, il cui destino è più importante dei bilanci delle banche. Questo in sintesi quanto espresso da Papa Francesco nel discorso rivolto sabato sera alle circa 200 mila persone che hanno gremito Piazza San Pietro per partecipare alla Veglia di Pentecoste dedicata ai Movimenti, le nuove Comunità, le Associazioni e le Aggregazioni laicali. Questo il testo integrale con le risposte a braccio del Papa a quattro domande:
“La verità cristiana è attraente e persuasiva perché risponde al bisogno profondo dell’esistenza umana, annunciando in maniera convincente che Cristo è l’unico Salvatore di tutto l’uomo e di tutti gli uomini”. Santo Padre, queste Sue parole ci hanno profondamente colpito: esse esprimono in maniera diretta e radicale l’esperienza che ciascuno di noi desidera vivere soprattutto nell’Anno della fede e in questo pellegrinaggio che stasera ci ha portato qui. Siamo davanti a Lei per rinnovare la nostra fede, per confermarla, per rafforzarla. Sappiamo che la fede non può essere una volta per tutte. Come diceva Benedetto XVI nella Porta fidei: “la fede non è un presupposto ovvio”. Questa affermazione non riguarda soltanto il mondo, gli altri, la tradizione da cui veniamo: questa affermazione riguarda innanzitutto ciascuno di noi. Troppe volte ci rendiamo conto di come la fede sia un germoglio di novità, un inizio di cambiamento, ma stenti poi a investire la totalità della vita. Non diventa l’origine di tutto il nostro conoscere e agire. Santità, come Lei ha potuto raggiungere nella Sua vita la certezza sulla fede? E quale strada ci indica perché ciascuno di noi possa vincere la fragilità della fede?
Padre Santo, la mia è una esperienza di vita quotidiana come tante. Cerco di vivere la fede nell’ambiente di lavoro a contatto con gli altri come testimonianza sincera del bene ricevuto nell’incontro con il Signore. Sono, siamo “pensieri di Dio”, investiti da un Amore misterioso che ci ha dato la vita. Insegno in una scuola e questa coscienza mi dà il motivo per appassionarmi ai miei ragazzi e anche ai colleghi. Verifico spesso che molti cercano la felicità in tanti itinerari individuali in cui la vita e le sue grandi domande spesso si riducono al materialismo di chi vuole avere tutto e resta perennemente insoddisfatto o al nichilismo per cui nulla ha senso. Mi chiedo come la proposta della fede, che è quella di un incontro personale, di una comunità, di un popolo, possa raggiungere il cuore dell’uomo e della donna del nostro tempo. Siamo fatti per l’infinito -“giocate la vita per cose grandi!” ha detto Lei recentemente -, eppure tutto attorno a noi e ai nostri giovani sembra dire che bisogna accontentarsi di risposte mediocri, immediate e che l’uomo deve adattarsi al finito senza cercare altro. A volte siamo intimiditi, come i discepoli alla vigilia della Pentecoste. La Chiesa ci invita alla Nuova Evangelizzazione. Penso che tutti noi qui presenti sentiamo fortemente questa sfida, che è al cuore delle nostre esperienze. Per questo vorrei chiedere a Lei, Padre Santo, di aiutare me e tutti noi a capire come vivere questa sfida nel nostro tempo. Quale è per Lei la cosa più importante cui tutti noi movimenti, associazioni e comunità dobbiamo guardare per attuare il compito cui siamo chiamati? Come possiamo comunicare in modo efficace la fede oggi?
Padre Santo, ho ascoltato con emozione le parole che ha detto all’udienza con i giornalisti dopo la Sua elezione: “Come vorrei una Chiesa povera e per i poveri”. Molti di noi sono impegnati in opere di carità e giustizia: siamo parte attiva di quella radicata presenza della Chiesa lì dove l’uomo soffre. Sono una impiegata, ho la mia famiglia e, come posso, mi impegno personalmente nella vicinanza e nell’aiuto ai poveri. Ma non per questo mi sento a posto. Vorrei poter dire con Madre Teresa: tutto è per Cristo. Il grande aiuto a vivere questa esperienza sono i fratelli e le sorelle della mia comunità che si impegnano per lo stesso scopo. E in questo impegno siamo sostenuti dalla fede e dalla preghiera. Il bisogno è grande. Ce lo ha ricordato Lei: “Quanti poveri ci sono ancora nel mondo e quanta sofferenza incontrano queste persone". E la crisi ha aggravato tutto. Penso alla povertà che affligge tanti Paesi e che si è affacciata anche nel mondo del benessere, alla mancanza di lavoro, ai movimenti migratori di massa, alle nuove schiavitù, all’abbandono e alla solitudine di tante famiglie, di tanti anziani e di tante persone che non hanno casa o lavoro. Vorrei chiederle, Padre Santo: come io e tutti noi possiamo vivere una Chiesa povera e per i poveri? In che modo l'uomo sofferente è una domanda per la nostra fede? Noi tutti, come movimenti e associazioni laicali, quale contributo concreto ed efficace possiamo dare alla Chiesa e alla società per affrontare questa grave crisi che tocca l’etica pubblica, il modello di sviluppo, la politica, insomma un nuovo modo di essere uomini e donne?
Camminare, costruire, confessare. Questo Suo “programma” per una Chiesa-movimento, così almeno l’ho inteso sentendo una Sua omelia all’inizio del Pontificato, ci ha confortati e spronati. Confortati, perché ci siamo ritrovati in una unità profonda con gli amici della comunità cristiana e con tutta la Chiesa universale. Spronati, perché in un certo senso Lei ci ha costretto a togliere la polvere del tempo e della superficialità dalla nostra adesione a Cristo. Ma devo dire che non riesco a superare il senso di turbamento che una di queste parole mi provoca: confessare. Confessare, cioè testimoniare la fede. Pensiamo ai tanti nostri fratelli che soffrono a causa di essa, come abbiamo sentito anche poco fa. A chi la domenica mattina deve decidere se andare a Messa perché sa che andando a Messa rischia la vita. A chi si sente accerchiato e discriminato per la fede cristiana in tante, troppe parti del nostro mondo. Davanti a queste situazioni ci pare che il mio confessare, la nostra testimonianza sia timida e impacciata. Vorremmo fare di più, ma cosa? E come aiutare questi nostri fratelli? Come alleviare la loro sofferenza non potendo fare nulla, o ben poco, per cambiare il loro contesto politico e sociale?
Risposte del Santo Padre Francesco
Buonasera a tutti!
Sono contento di incontrarvi e che tutti noi ci incontriamo in questa piazza per pregare, per essere uniti e per aspettare il dono dello Spirito. Io conoscevo le vostre domande e ci ho pensato – questo, quindi, non è senza conoscenza! Primo, la verità! Le ho qui, scritte.
La prima - “come lei ha potuto raggiungere nella sua vita la certezza sulla fede; e quale strada ci indica perché ciascuno di noi possa vincere la fragilità della fede?” - è una domanda storica, perché riguarda la mia storia, la storia della mia vita!
Io ho avuto la grazia di crescere in una famiglia in cui la fede si viveva in modo semplice e concreto; ma è stata soprattutto mia nonna, la mamma di mio padre, che ha segnato il mio cammino di fede. Era una donna che ci spiegava, ci parlava di Gesù, ci insegnava il Catechismo. Ricordo sempre che il Venerdì Santo ci portava, la sera, alla processione delle candele, e alla fine di questa processione arrivava il “Cristo giacente”, e la nonna ci faceva – a noi bambini – inginocchiare e ci diceva: “Guardate, è morto, ma domani risuscita”. Ho ricevuto il primo annuncio cristiano proprio da questa donna, da mia nonna! E’ bellissimo, questo! Il primo annuncio in casa, con la famiglia! E questo mi fa pensare all’amore di tante mamme e di tante nonne nella trasmissione della fede. Sono loro che trasmettono la fede. Questo avveniva anche nei primi tempi, perché san Paolo diceva a Timoteo: “Io ricordo la fede della tua mamma e della tua nonna” (cfr 2Tm 1,5). Tutte le mamme che sono qui, tutte le nonne, pensate a questo! Trasmettere la fede. Perché Dio ci mette accanto delle persone che aiutano il nostro cammino di fede. Noi non troviamo la fede nell’astratto; no! E’ sempre una persona che predica, che ci dice chi è Gesù, che ci trasmette la fede, ci dà il primo annuncio. E così è stata la prima esperienza di fede che ho avuto.
Ma c’è un giorno per me molto importante: il 21 settembre del ‘53. Avevo quasi 17 anni. Era il “Giorno dello studente”, per noi il giorno della Primavera – da voi è il giorno dell’Autunno. Prima di andare alla festa, sono passato nella parrocchia dove andavo, ho trovato un prete, che non conoscevo, e ho sentito la necessità di confessarmi. Questa è stata per me un’esperienza di incontro: ho trovato che qualcuno mi aspettava. Ma non so cosa sia successo, non ricordo, non so proprio perché fosse quel prete là, che non conoscevo, perché avessi sentito questa voglia di confessarmi, ma la verità è che qualcuno m’aspettava. Mi stava aspettando da tempo. Dopo la Confessione ho sentito che qualcosa era cambiato. Io non ero lo stesso. Avevo sentito proprio come una voce, una chiamata: ero convinto che dovessi diventare sacerdote. Questa esperienza nella fede è importante. Noi diciamo che dobbiamo cercare Dio, andare da Lui a chiedere perdono, ma quando noi andiamo, Lui ci aspetta, Lui è prima! Noi, in spagnolo, abbiamo una parola che spiega bene questo: “Il Signore sempre ci primerea”, è primo, ci sta aspettando! E questa è proprio una grazia grande: trovare uno che ti sta aspettando. Tu vai peccatore, ma Lui ti sta aspettando per perdonarti. Questa è l’esperienza che i Profeti di Israele descrivevano dicendo che il Signore è come il fiore di mandorlo, il primo fiore della Primavera (cfr Ger 1,11-12). Prima che vengano gli altri fiori, c’è lui: lui che aspetta. Il Signore ci aspetta. E quando noi Lo cerchiamo, troviamo questa realtà: che è Lui ad aspettarci per accoglierci, per darci il suo amore. E questo ti porta nel cuore uno stupore tale che non lo credi, e così va crescendo la fede! Con l’incontro con una persona, con l’incontro con il Signore. Qualcuno dirà: “No, io preferisco studiare la fede nei libri!”. E’ importante studiarla, ma, guarda, questo solo non basta! L’importante è l’incontro con Gesù, l’incontro con Lui, e questo ti dà la fede, perché è proprio Lui che te la dà! Anche voi parlavate della fragilità della fede, come si fa per vincerla. Il nemico più grande che ha la fragilità - è curioso, eh? - è la paura. Ma non abbiate paura! Siamo fragili, e lo sappiamo. Ma Lui è più forte! Se tu vai con Lui, non c’è problema! Un bambino è fragilissimo - ne ho visti tanti, oggi -, ma era con il papà, con la mamma: è al sicuro! Con il Signore siamo sicuri. La fede cresce con il Signore, proprio dalla mano del Signore; questo ci fa crescere e ci rende forti. Ma se noi pensiamo di poterci arrangiare da soli… Pensiamo che cosa è successo a Pietro: “Signore, io mai ti rinnegherò!” (cfr Mt 26,33-35); e poi ha cantato il gallo e l’aveva rinnegato per tre volte! (cfr vv. 69-75). Pensiamo: quando noi abbiamo troppa fiducia in noi stessi, siamo più fragili, più fragili. Sempre con il Signore! E dire con il Signore significa dire con l’Eucaristia, con la Bibbia, con la preghiera… ma anche in famiglia, anche con la mamma, anche con lei, perché lei è quella che ci porta al Signore; è la madre, è quella che sa tutto. Quindi pregare anche la Madonna e chiederle che, come mamma, mi faccia forte. Questo è quello che io penso sulla fragilità, almeno è la mia esperienza. Una cosa che mi rende forte tutti i giorni è pregare il Rosario alla Madonna. Io sento una forza tanto grande perché vado da lei e mi sento forte.
Passiamo alla seconda domanda.
“Penso che tutti noi qui presenti sentiamo fortemente la sfida, la sfida della evangelizzazione, che è al cuore delle nostre esperienze. Per questo vorrei chiedere a Lei, Padre Santo, di aiutare me e tutti noi a capire come vivere questa sfida nel nostro tempo, qual è per lei la cosa più importante cui tutti noi movimenti, associazioni e comunità dobbiamo guardare per attuare il compito cui siamo chiamati. Come possiamo comunicare in modo efficace la fede di oggi?”.
Dirò soltanto tre parole.
La prima: Gesù. Chi è la cosa più importante? Gesù. Se noi andiamo avanti con l’organizzazione, con altre cose, con belle cose, ma senza Gesù, non andiamo avanti, la cosa non va. Gesù è più importante. Adesso, vorrei fare un piccolo rimprovero, ma fraternamente, tra noi. Tutti voi avete gridato nella piazza “Francesco, Francesco, Papa Francesco”. Ma, Gesù dov’era? Io avrei voluto che voi gridaste: “Gesù, Gesù è il Signore, ed è proprio in mezzo a noi!”. Da qui in avanti, niente “Francesco”, ma “Gesù”! La seconda parola è: la preghiera. Guardare il volto di Dio, ma soprattutto – e questo è collegato con quello che ho detto prima – sentirsi guardati. Il Signore ci guarda: ci guarda prima. La mia esperienza è ciò che sperimento davanti al sagrario [Tabernacolo] quando vado a pregare, la sera, davanti al Signore. Alcune volte mi addormento un pochettino; questo è vero, perché un po’ la stanchezza della giornata ti fa addormentare. Ma Lui mi capisce. E sento tanto conforto quando penso che Lui mi guarda. Noi pensiamo che dobbiamo pregare, parlare, parlare, parlare… No! Làsciati guardare dal Signore. Quando Lui ci guarda, ci dà forza e ci aiuta a testimoniarlo - perché la domanda era sulla testimonianza della fede, no? Primo “Gesù”, poi “preghiera” - sentiamo che Dio ci sta tenendo per mano. Sottolineo allora l’importanza di questo: lasciarsi guidare da Lui. Questo è più importante di qualsiasi calcolo. Siamo veri evangelizzatori lasciandoci guidare da Lui. Pensiamo a Pietro; forse stava facendo la siesta, dopo pranzo, e ha avuto una visione, la visione della tovaglia con tutti gli animali, e ha sentito che Gesù gli diceva qualcosa, ma lui non capiva. In quel momento, sono venuti alcuni non-ebrei a chiamarlo per andare in una casa, e ha visto come lo Spirito Santo era laggiù. Pietro si è lasciato guidare da Gesù per giungere a quella prima evangelizzazione ai gentili, che non erano ebrei: una cosa inimmaginabile in quel tempo (cfr At 10,9-33). E così, tutta la storia, tutta la storia! Lasciarsi guidare da Gesù. E’ proprio il leader; il nostro leader è Gesù. E terza: la testimonianza. Gesù, preghiera – la preghiera, quel lasciarsi guidare da Lui – e poi testimonianza. Ma vorrei aggiungere qualcosa. Questo lasciarsi guidare da Gesù ti porta alle sorprese di Gesù. Si può pensare che l’evangelizzazione dobbiamo programmarla a tavolino, pensando alle strategie, facendo dei piani. Ma questi sono strumenti, piccoli strumenti. L’importante è Gesù e lasciarsi guidare da Lui. Poi possiamo fare le strategie, ma questo è secondario. Infine, la testimonianza: la comunicazione della fede si può fare soltanto con la testimonianza, e questo è l’amore. Non con le nostre idee, ma con il Vangelo vissuto nella propria esistenza e che lo Spirito Santo fa vivere dentro di noi. E’ come una sinergia fra noi e lo Spirito Santo, e questo conduce alla testimonianza. La Chiesa la portano avanti i Santi, che sono proprio coloro che danno questa testimonianza. Come ha detto Giovanni Paolo II e anche Benedetto XVI, il mondo di oggi ha tanto bisogno di testimoni. Non tanto di maestri, ma di testimoni. Non parlare tanto, ma parlare con tutta la vita: la coerenza di vita, proprio la coerenza di vita! Una coerenza di vita che è vivere il cristianesimo come un incontro con Gesù che mi porta agli altri e non come un fatto sociale. Socialmente siamo così, siamo cristiani, chiusi in noi. No, questo no! La testimonianza!
La terza domanda: “Vorrei chiederle, Padre Santo, come io e tutti noi possiamo vivere una Chiesa povera e per i poveri. In che modo l’uomo sofferente è una domanda per la nostra fede? Noi tutti, come movimenti, associazioni laicali, quale contributo concreto ed efficace possiamo dare alla Chiesa e alla società per affrontare questa grave crisi che tocca l’etica pubblica” – questo è importante! – “il modello di sviluppo, la politica, insomma un nuovo modo di essere uomini e donne?”.
Riprendo dalla testimonianza. Prima di tutto, vivere il Vangelo è il principale contributo che possiamo dare. La Chiesa non è un movimento politico, né una struttura ben organizzata: non è questo. Noi non siamo una ONG, e quando la Chiesa diventa una ONG perde il sale, non ha sapore, è soltanto una vuota organizzazione. E in questo siate furbi, perché il diavolo ci inganna, perché c’è il pericolo dell’efficientismo. Una cosa è predicare Gesù, un’altra cosa è l’efficacia, essere efficienti. No, quello è un altro valore. Il valore della Chiesa, fondamentalmente, è vivere il Vangelo e dare testimonianza della nostra fede. La Chiesa è sale della terra, è luce del mondo, è chiamata a rendere presente nella società il lievito del Regno di Dio e lo fa prima di tutto con la sua testimonianza, la testimonianza dell’amore fraterno, della solidarietà, della condivisione. Quando si sentono alcuni dire che la solidarietà non è un valore, ma è un “atteggiamento primario” che deve sparire… questo non va! Si sta pensando ad un’efficacia soltanto mondana. I momenti di crisi, come quelli che stiamo vivendo – ma tu hai detto prima che “siamo in un mondo di menzogne” –, questo momento di crisi, stiamo attenti, non consiste in una crisi soltanto economica; non è una crisi culturale. E’ una crisi dell’uomo: ciò che è in crisi è l’uomo! E ciò che può essere distrutto è l’uomo! Ma l’uomo è immagine di Dio! Per questo è una crisi profonda! In questo momento di crisi non possiamo preoccuparci soltanto di noi stessi, chiuderci nella solitudine, nello scoraggiamento, nel senso di impotenza di fronte ai problemi. Non chiudersi, per favore! Questo è un pericolo: ci chiudiamo nella parrocchia, con gli amici, nel movimento, con coloro con i quali pensiamo le stesse cose… ma sapete che cosa succede? Quando la Chiesa diventa chiusa, si ammala, si ammala. Pensate ad una stanza chiusa per un anno; quando tu vai, c’è odore di umidità, ci sono tante cose che non vanno. Una Chiesa chiusa è la stessa cosa: è una Chiesa ammalata. La Chiesa deve uscire da se stessa. Dove? Verso le periferie esistenziali, qualsiasi esse siano, ma uscire. Gesù ci dice: “Andate per tutto il mondo! Andate! Predicate! Date testimonianza del Vangelo!” (cfr Mc 16,15). Ma che cosa succede se uno esce da se stesso? Può succedere quello che può capitare a tutti quelli che escono di casa e vanno per la strada: un incidente. Ma io vi dico: preferisco mille volte una Chiesa incidentata, incorsa in un incidente, che una Chiesa ammalata per chiusura! Uscite fuori, uscite! Pensate anche a quello che dice l’Apocalisse. Dice una cosa bella: che Gesù è alla porta e chiama, chiama per entrare nel nostro cuore (cfr Ap 3,20). Questo è il senso dell’Apocalisse. Ma fatevi questa domanda: quante volte Gesù è dentro e bussa alla porta per uscire, per uscire fuori, e noi non lo lasciamo uscire, per le nostre sicurezze, perché tante volte siamo chiusi in strutture caduche, che servono soltanto per farci schiavi, e non liberi figli di Dio? In questa “uscita” è importante andare all’incontro; questa parola per me è molto importante: l’incontro con gli altri. Perché? Perché la fede è un incontro con Gesù, e noi dobbiamo fare la stessa cosa che fa Gesù: incontrare gli altri. Noi viviamo una cultura dello scontro, una cultura della frammentazione, una cultura in cui quello che non mi serve lo getto via, la cultura dello scarto. Ma su questo punto, vi invito a pensare – ed è parte della crisi – agli anziani, che sono la saggezza di un popolo, ai bambini… la cultura dello scarto! Ma noi dobbiamo andare all’incontro e dobbiamo creare con la nostra fede una “cultura dell’incontro”, una cultura dell’amicizia, una cultura dove troviamo fratelli, dove possiamo parlare anche con quelli che non la pensano come noi, anche con quelli che hanno un’altra fede, che non hanno la stessa fede. Tutti hanno qualcosa in comune con noi: sono immagini di Dio, sono figli di Dio. Andare all’incontro con tutti, senza negoziare la nostra appartenenza. E un altro punto è importante: con i poveri. Se usciamo da noi stessi, troviamo la povertà. Oggi – questo fa male al cuore dirlo – oggi, trovare un barbone morto di freddo non è notizia. Oggi è notizia, forse, uno scandalo. Uno scandalo: ah, quello è notizia! Oggi, pensare che tanti bambini non hanno da mangiare non è notizia. Questo è grave, questo è grave! Noi non possiamo restare tranquilli! Mah… le cose sono così. Noi non possiamo diventare cristiani inamidati, quei cristiani troppo educati, che parlano di cose teologiche mentre prendono il tè, tranquilli. No! Noi dobbiamo diventare cristiani coraggiosi e andare a cercare quelli che sono proprio la carne di Cristo, quelli che sono la carne di Cristo! Quando io vado a confessare - ancora non posso, perché per uscire a confessare… di qui non si può uscire, ma questo è un altro problema - quando io andavo a confessare nella diocesi precedente, venivano alcuni e sempre facevo questa domanda: “Ma, lei dà l’elemosina?” – “Sì, padre!”. “Ah, bene, bene”. E gliene facevo due in più: “Mi dica, quando lei dà l’elemosina, guarda negli occhi quello o quella a cui dà l’elemosina?” – “Ah, non so, non me ne sono accorto”. Seconda domanda: “E quando lei dà l’elemosina, tocca la mano di quello al quale dà l’elemosina, o gli getta la moneta?”. Questo è il problema: la carne di Cristo, toccare la carne di Cristo, prendere su di noi questo dolore per i poveri. La povertà, per noi cristiani, non è una categoria sociologica o filosofica o culturale: no, è una categoria teologale. Direi, forse la prima categoria, perché quel Dio, il Figlio di Dio, si è abbassato, si è fatto povero per camminare con noi sulla strada. E questa è la nostra povertà: la povertà della carne di Cristo, la povertà che ci ha portato il Figlio di Dio con la sua Incarnazione. Una Chiesa povera per i poveri incomincia con l’andare verso la carne di Cristo. Se noi andiamo verso la carne di Cristo, incominciamo a capire qualcosa, a capire che cosa sia questa povertà, la povertà del Signore. E questo non è facile. Ma c’è un problema che non fa bene ai cristiani: lo spirito del mondo, lo spirito mondano, la mondanità spirituale. Questo ci porta ad una sufficienza, a vivere lo spirito del mondo e non quello di Gesù. La domanda che facevate voi: come si deve vivere per affrontare questa crisi che tocca l’etica pubblica, il modello di sviluppo, la politica. Siccome questa è una crisi dell’uomo, una crisi che distrugge l’uomo, è una crisi che spoglia l’uomo dell’etica. Nella vita pubblica, nella politica, se non c’è l’etica, un’etica di riferimento, tutto è possibile e tutto si può fare. E noi vediamo, quando leggiamo i giornali, come la mancanza di etica nella vita pubblica faccia tanto male all’umanità intera. Vorrei raccontarvi una storia. L’ho fatto già due volte questa settimana, ma lo farò una terza volta con voi. E’ la storia che racconta un midrash biblico di un Rabbino del secolo XII. Lui narra la storia della costruzione della Torre di Babele e dice che, per costruire la Torre di Babele, era necessario fare i mattoni. Che cosa significa questo? Andare, impastare il fango, portare la paglia, fare tutto… poi, al forno. E quando il mattone era fatto doveva essere portato su, per la costruzione della Torre di Babele. Un mattone era un tesoro, per tutto il lavoro che ci voleva per farlo. Quando cadeva un mattone, era una tragedia nazionale e l’operaio colpevole era punito; era tanto prezioso un mattone che se cadeva era un dramma. Ma se cadeva un operaio, non succedeva niente, era un’altra cosa. Questo succede oggi: se gli investimenti nelle banche calano un po’… tragedia… come si fa? Ma se muoiono di fame le persone, se non hanno da mangiare, se non hanno salute, non fa niente! Questa è la nostra crisi di oggi! E la testimonianza di una Chiesa povera per i poveri va contro questa mentalità.
La quarta domanda: “Davanti a queste situazioni, mi pare che il mio confessare, la mia testimonianza sia timida e impacciata. Vorrei fare di più, ma cosa? E come aiutare questi nostri fratelli, come alleviare la loro sofferenza non potendo fare nulla o ben poco per cambiare il loro contesto politico-sociale?”.
Per annunciare il Vangelo sono necessarie due virtù: il coraggio e la pazienza. Loro [i cristiani che soffrono] sono nella Chiesa della pazienza. Loro soffrono e ci sono più martiri oggi che nei primi secoli della Chiesa; più martiri! Fratelli e sorelle nostri. Soffrono! Loro portano la fede fino al martirio. Ma il martirio non è mai una sconfitta; il martirio è il grado più alto della testimonianza che noi dobbiamo dare. Noi siamo in cammino verso il martirio, dei piccoli martìri: rinunciare a questo, fare questo… ma siamo in cammino. E loro, poveretti, danno la vita, ma la danno – come abbiamo sentito la situazione nel Pakistan – per amore a Gesù, testimoniando Gesù. Un cristiano deve sempre avere questo atteggiamento di mitezza, di umiltà, proprio l’atteggiamento che hanno loro, confidando in Gesù, affidandosi a Gesù. Bisogna precisare che tante volte questi conflitti non hanno un’origine religiosa; spesso ci sono altre cause, di tipo sociale e politico, e purtroppo le appartenenze religiose vengono utilizzate come benzina sul fuoco. Un cristiano deve saper sempre rispondere al male con il bene, anche se spesso è difficile. Noi cerchiamo di far sentire loro, a questi fratelli e sorelle, che siamo profondamente uniti – profondamente uniti! – alla loro situazione, che noi sappiamo che sono cristiani “entrati nella pazienza”. Quando Gesù va incontro alla Passione, entra nella pazienza. Loro sono entrati nella pazienza: farlo sapere a loro, ma anche farlo sapere al Signore. Vi pongo la domanda: pregate per questi fratelli e queste sorelle? Voi pregate per loro? Nella preghiera di tutti i giorni? Io non chiederò ora che alzi la mano colui che prega: no. Non lo chiederò, adesso. Ma pensatelo bene. Nella preghiera di tutti i giorni diciamo a Gesù: “Signore, guarda questo fratello, guarda a questa sorella che soffre tanto, che soffre tanto!”. Loro fanno l’esperienza del limite, proprio del limite tra la vita e la morte. E anche per noi: questa esperienza deve portarci a promuovere la libertà religiosa per tutti, per tutti! Ogni uomo e ogni donna devono essere liberi nella propria confessione religiosa, qualsiasi essa sia. Perché? Perché quell’uomo e quella donna sono figli di Dio. E così, credo di avere detto qualcosa sulle vostre domande; mi scuso se sono stato troppo lungo. Grazie tante! Grazie a voi, e non dimenticate: niente di una Chiesa chiusa, ma una Chiesa che va fuori, che va alle periferie dell’esistenza. Che il Signore ci guidi laggiù. Grazie.
Pentecost Vigil: The Church must bring Jesus to a humanity in crisis (Vatican Radio)
Pope Francis puts his certainty of faith down to his grandmother, from whom he first heard the Christian proclamation; to a life changing encounter with Christ at age 17, through a unknown priest who heard his Confession; to his daily praying of the Rosary to his ‘Mother’, Our Lady and to allowing himself to be held in God’s gaze even when he nods off after a tiring day, while in prayer before the Tabernacle. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:
These are just some of the personal insights that Pope Francis shared with over 200 thousand people who stretched from St Peter’s Basilica down to the banks of the Tiber and millions more who joined him last night via TV and radio to celebrate a Prayer Vigil for the Feast of Pentecost with New Movements.
He also told them "today mankind is in crisis, this is why the current crisis is a profound one". Where the death of a homless man or a starving child does not make news headlines but a drop in the stock market is treated like a national tragedy. This - he said - is also why we must not isolate ourselves “in the parish, among friends, in our movement, with those who think like us ...". "The Church must go out to the outskirst of existence itself."
Convoked by the Pope as part of the great events for the Year of Faith, the Movements – over 150 in total – filled the square bring half of Rome to a standstill from early afternoon. They heard testimonies from members of the various realities from Renewal in the Spirit to the Foccolari Movement, St Egidio Community, Communion and Liberation and the Neocatecheumenal Way but to name a few.
At 17: 30 the Pope entered the square on his jeep and for a full 30 minutes toured through the throng arriving half-way down the Via della Conciliazione to greet as many people as possible. Greeting the Pope, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, said that the impetus for this oceanic gathering "is to find the most appropriate and consistent way to live and witness to the Gospel in today's world."
After two readings taken from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the treatise of St. Irenaeus, there were two testimonies. John Waters, an Irish journalist, spoke of his leaving the faith, in search of a freedom that "makes us feel all-powerful and deeply powerless," typical man of today who "seeks to dominate everything and that's why he feels isolated and alone" . He then recalled being brought to “ his knees" by alcoholism, from which he was saved thanks to some friends who helped him rediscover the faith of his childhood. Now, he concluded "I am not only John, but one with the One who created me and I could not be free in any other way."
The second testimony was that of Paul Bhatti, former minister for minorities in Pakistan, who thanked Pope Francis for being able to "share the pain and hopes of the Christians of Pakistan." He recalled the mission of his brother Shahbaz, who was killed by Islamic extremists March 2, 2011, his commitment to the poor, the marginalized, the weak who "are the body of the persecuted Christ." At the same time, his brother never stopped dreaming of "a Pakistan free and open to all communities and minorities", in dialogue with Muslims, who "bear witness to the love of Jesus."
Four representatives from the Movements then addressed their questions to Pope Francis. Pope, who had previously read the questions, gave an unscripted response, apologizing at the end that he was "too long". The dialogue lasted for at least 40 minutes:
Pope Francis began by wishing everyone his signatory “Good evening”. He said “I am very happy to meet you and that we are all coming together in this square, to pray, to be united and to wait for the gift of the Spirit. I knew your questions beforehand so I thought about them - this is not without some thought! First, the truth! I have them written here. But that first one, "how were you able to achieve certainty of faith in your life, and what the path can you indicate to us so that each one of us can overcome our fragility of faith?" Is a historical question, because it is about my history, my life , no?
I have had the good fortune to grow up in a family where the faith was lived in a simple and concrete manner, but it was especially my grandmother, my father's mother, who marked my journey of faith. She was a woman who explained everything to us, who spoke to us of Jesus, who taught us the Catechism ... I always remember that on Good Friday in the evening, she would take us to the Candle-light Procession, and at the end of this Procession, we would arrive before the recumbent Christ, and my grandmother made us - us kids - kneel down and she would say: "Look, He is dead, but tomorrow he will Rise up!." I received my first Christian proclamation right from this woman, from my grandmother, right? That is something beautiful! The first proclamation is in the home, within the family, right? And this makes me think of the love of many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith. They are the ones that transmit the faith. Even in the early days, because St. Paul said to Timothy: "I remember the faith of your mother and your grandmother." To all the mothers who are here, to all grandmothers, [I ask you to ] think about this! Transmitting the faith. Because God puts people alongside us who help our journey of faith. We do not find our faith 'in the abstract, no: it is always a person who preaches it to us, who tells us who Jesus is, who gives us the faith, who gives us the first announcement. And so it was in my first experience of faith.
But…there is a very important day for me: September 21, 1953. I was almost 17 It was the "Day of the Student," for us the start of Spring – for you the start of Autumn. Before going to the festival, I went to my parish. And there I found a priest I did not know, but I felt the need to confess. And this was for me an experience of encounter: I found that someone was waiting for me. I do not know what happened, I do not remember, I do not know if it was that priest who was there, whom I did not know, why I felt this urge to confess, but the truth is that someone was waiting for me. Someone was waiting for me for a long time. And after the confession I felt that something had changed. I was not the same. I felt a voice call me: I was convinced that I had to become a priest. And this experience of faith is important. We say that we must seek God, go to Him to ask for forgiveness ... but when we go, He is waiting for us, He is the first one there! We, in Spanish, we have a word that explains this well: "The Lord always there primerea" is first, is waiting for you! And it is a really great grace to find Someone who is waiting for you. You go to Him a sinner, but He is already waiting to forgive you. That experience that the Prophets of Israel said that the Lord is like the flower of almond trees, the first flowers of Spring. Before any other flowers appear, there He is: He who waits. The Lord is waiting for us. And when we seek Him out, we find this reality: that He is waiting to welcome us, to give us His love. And this creates wonder in the heart of those who do not believe, and this is how faith grows! With an encounter with a Person, with an encounter with the Lord. Some will say, "No, I prefer to study faith in books!" Ah, yes it is important to study. But look, that alone is not enough! The important thing is our encounter with Jesus, our encounter with Him, and that gives us faith, because it is He who gives us Faith! While you were talking about the fragility of faith: how do we overcome it. Fragility’s biggest enemy curiously enough, is fear. But do not be afraid! We are weak, we know it but He is stronger! If you are with Him, then there is no problem! A child is fragile: I have seen many today. But they are with their father, their mother: so they are safe! We too are safe with the Lord, we are secure. Faith grows with the Lord, out of the very hands of the Lord. And that makes us grow and makes us stronger. But if we think that we can make it on our own, ah, think of Peter, what happened to him, "Lord, I will never disown you," and then the cock crowed three times and he had, no? We think, when we have too much faith in our own abilities, we are more fragile, more fragile. Always with the Lord, speaking with the Lord, with Him in the Eucharist, in the Bible, in prayer ... Even as a family, with our Mother, even with her because she is the one that leads us to the Lord, the mother who knows everything the Lord. So let us pray to Our Lady and ask her as our Mother to make us strong. That is what I think about the fragility: at least, in my experience. The one thing that makes me stronger every day is to pray the Rosary to Our Lady. I feel great strength because I go to her and I feel strong”.
Moving on to the second question, the Pope discussed the challenge of Evangelization for the Movements, of how to effectively communicate the faith in today’s world".
Pope Francis said “I will say three words only. First: Jesus. What is the most important thing? Jesus . If we push ahead with planning and organization, beautiful things indeed, but without Jesus, then we are on the wrong road. Jesus is the most important thing. I would like to take the opportunity now to make a small, but fraternal, reproach, among ourselves, alright? All of you in the square shouted out: "Francis, Francis, Pope Francis " ... But, where was Jesus? I want to hear you shout out. "Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and He is in our midst." From now on , no more "Francis", only "Jesus". Alright?
The second word is prayer. Look at the face of God, but above all - and this is related to what I said before – know that you are being looked at in turn. The Lord looks at us: He looks at us first. And this is my experience , this is what I experience in front of the Tabernacle when I go to pray in the evening, before the Lord. Sometimes I nod off a little bit, No?, It’s true, because the strains of the day’s work makes you fall asleep. But He understands me. I feel so much comfort when I think that He is looking at me. We think that we have to pray, talk, talk, talk ... No! Just let the Lord gaze at you. When He looks at us, He empowers us and helps us to witness to Him. Because the question was on the testimony of faith, right? Prayer ... first, "Jesus", then "prayer" and feeling that God is holding me by the hand. And the importance of this is to allow ourselves be guided by Him. And that's more important than any planning or calculations. We are true evangelizers when we let ourselves be guided by Him. Think of Peter ... maybe he was taking a siesta after lunch and had the vision, the vision of the tablecloth with all the animals and that Jesus was saying something but he did not understand. Then, some non-Jews came to call him to go into a house, and he saw how the Holy Spirit was there. Peter was guided by Jesus in that first evangelization of the Gentiles, who were not Jews, something unimaginable at that time. And so it has been, throughout history, throughout history. Be guided by Jesus. This is our leader: Jesus is our leader.
And third, "witness." We have Jesus, then prayer - prayer, letting oneself be guided by Him - and then witness. But I would like to add something. This allowing ourselves to be guided by Jesus opens us us to being surprised by Jesus. When people think of evangelization, they think of projects, strategies, making plans? But ... they are only tools, small tools. The important thing is that Jesus, and being guided by Him, and then come the strategies. But that is secondary. Witness, the communication of faith ... but the faith can only be communicated through witness and that is through love. Not with our ideas, but by living the Gospel in our own lives, which the Holy Spirit breathes within us. It’s like a synergy between us and the Holy Spirit, and this is witness. The Church is brought forward by the Saints, who are the ones who really give this witness. And like Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI said, the world today has so much need of witnesses. Not so much of teachers, but of witnesses. Less talk, speak through the way you live: the unity of your life, the consistency of your life! Consistency of life means living Christianity like an encounter with Jesus that leads me towards the other and not as a social fact, but ... is this how we are socially? Are we Christians? Closed in on ourselves? No, not that. Witness”.
The third question regarded how we can live as a poor Church, for the poor. How does the suffering of others question our faith? How can we all, as Movements, Lay Associations, offer a concrete and effective contribution to the Church and society to address this crisis that touches the public ethics "- this is important! - The "model of development, politics, in short, a new way of being men and women?.
Pope Francis responded “I will pick up again from the subject of witness. First of all, the main contribution we can make is to live the Gospel . The Church is not a political movement, or a well-organized structure: it is not that. We are not an NGO, and when the Church becomes an NGO it loses its salt, it has no taste, it's just an empty organization. And this - be clever! Because the devil deceives us, because there is the danger of hyper - efficiency. One thing is to preach Jesus, effectiveness, being efficient is another thing: no, that's another value. The value of the Church, basically, is to live the Gospel and give witness to our faith. To be the 'salt of the earth, light of the world’, is called to make present in society the yeast of the Kingdom of God and do it first with our witness, our witness of fraternal love, solidarity, sharing. When you hear some say that solidarity is not a value, it is a primary attitude that needs to be done away with... there’s something wrong! Today people are only concerned with worldly efficacy. The moments of crisis, such as the one we are experiencing – as you mentioned before, "we are in a world of lies", no? Lies, it is a crisis - this time of crisis, but ... let's be careful, ok? It is not only an economic crisis, it is a cultural crisis. It is a human crisis: what is in crisis is mankind! And what can be destroyed, is mankind! Mankind, the image of God! For this is a deep crisis. In this time of crisis we cannot worry only about ourselves, close in on ourselves in loneliness, discouragement, in a sense of helplessness before our problems. Please do not close in on yourselves! That is a danger. But ... we lock ourselves up inside our parish, among our friends, in our movement, with people who think the same as we do ... But, what is happening? When the Church becomes closed in on itself, it gets sick. Think of a closed room, a room locked for a year, when you go, there is a smell of damp, all these things here, that's not right. A Church that is closed in on itself is just the same, it is a sick Church.
“The Church must go out from herself. Where? Towards the existential outskirts”, even if that means risking accidents along the way, in the outward journey. To those who worry about what can happen to the Pope responds : “I prefer a thousand times a Church damaged by an accident, than a sick Church closed in on itself”. Faith- he added - is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do the same, help others to encounter Jesus.
Pope Francis continued “we live in a culture of confrontation, no?, A culture of fragmentation, a culture of what we don’t really need. A culture of the disposable. But,– this is part of the crisis - just think about the elderly, who have the wisdom of a people; think of the children who are ... The culture of waste. But, we have to bring about encounter, we have to make our faith a culture of encounter and of friendship, a culture where we find brothers and sisters, we can talk even with those who do not think like us, even with those with which have a different faith, who do not have the same faith as our own. But everyone has something in common with us: they are made in the image of God! They are children of God!. Being open to an encounter with everyone, without negotiating the faith we belong to. And this is important: with the poor. If we step outside ourselves, we find poverty. Today, and it breaks my heart to say it, finding a homeless person who has died of cold, is not news. Today, the news is scandals, that is news, but the many children who don't have food - that's not news. This is grave. We can't rest easy while things are this way!
But ... this is the way things are. We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea. We have to become courageous Christians and seek out those who are the flesh of Christ, those who are the flesh of Christ”.
Pope Francis spoke of when he would hear Confessions, he would always ask: “Do you give alms to the beggers on the Street?” “Yes, father”. "Ah, good, good". And I was add: "Tell me, when you give alms, do you look into the eyes of the person you are giving alms to?" - "Ah, I don’t know, I haven’t noticed." My next question: "And when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the one to whom you give alms, or throw the coin and [wipe your hands]?" That's the problem: the flesh of Christ, touching the flesh of Christ, to take upon ourselves this pain for the poor. Poverty, for us Christians, is not a philosophical or cultural or sociological category: no, it is a theological category. I would say, perhaps the first category, because God, the Son of God, humbled himself, became poor to walk along the road with us”.
The Holy Father continued: “Being a poor Church for the poor begins by embracing the flesh of Christ. If we embrace to the flesh of Christ, we begin to understand something about what poverty is, the poverty of the Lord. And that's not easy. But there is a problem which is not good for Christians: the spirit of the world, the worldly spirit. Spiritual worldliness. This leads us to a certain sufficiency, to live according to the spirit of the world and not that of Jesus”. Pope Francis said that in order to address the current crisis that touches public ethics, the development model, politics we must first understand that it is a “human crisis, it destroys the man, it has stripped man of ethics. And in public life, in politics, if there is no ethics, an ethics of reference that makes us transcendent, everything, everything is possible and we can do anything we want. And we see this when we read the newspapers, how this lack of ethics in public life greatly wounds all of humanity.
I would like to tell you a story. I have told this twice this week, but I'll tell it a third to you. It’s the story about a biblical midrash, a rabbi of the twelfth century. He tells the story of the building of the Tower of Babel, and he says that to build the Tower of Babel bricks had to be made. This meant making the mud, bringing the straw, mixing them ... then, in the oven, and when the brick was made it had to be hoisted up, to build the Tower of Babel. Every brick was a treasure, for all the work it took to make. When a brick fell, it was a national tragedy, and that worker guilty of breaking it was punished. But if a worker fell, nothing happened: it was something else. This still happens today: if investments in banks, drop a little , it’s a tragedy! But if people are starving, if they have nothing to eat, if they are not healthy, it does not matter! This is our crisis today! And the witness of a poor Church for the poor goes against this mentality.
Pope Francis then turned to the fourth question about how we can help and support our brothers and sisters who still today are persecuted for their faith. He said:
“Two virtues are needed to proclaim the Gospel: courage and patience. They are in the Church of patience. They suffer and there are more martyrs today than in the early centuries of the Church. More martyrs. Our brothers and sisters. They suffer. They carry the faith until martyrdom. But martyrdom is never a defeat: martyrdom is the highest rank of witness that we have to give. We are all on the way to martyrdom. [We are ] small martyrs: we give up this, do that ... they, poor things, give up their life, but they give it up - as we heard in the situation in Pakistan – they give it up for love for Jesus, to witness Jesus. A Christian must always have this attitude of meekness, humility, the attitude that they have, trusting in Jesus, entrusting themselves to Jesus. It should be noted that many times these conflicts do not have a religious origin, often there are other causes of a social and political nature and unfortunately, religious affiliations are used like fuel to the fire. A Christian must always know how to respond to evil with good, although it is often difficult”.
We must try to make them feel, these brothers and sisters, that we are deeply united - deeply united! - to their situation, that we know that they are Christians who have entered a state of patience. When Jesus goes to his Passion, he enters [a state of ]patience. We must make it known to them, but also make it known to the Lord. I ask the question again: Do you pray for these brothers and sisters? Do you pray for them? In your every day prayers? I will not ask you to raise your hands. But think well, do we in our everyday prayer say to Jesus: "Lord, look at these brothers, look at these sisters who suffer so much, so much suffering." And they experience the limits, they very limits between life and death. And to us, this experience should lead us to promote religious freedom for all: for everyone! Every man and woman should be free in his religious confession, whatever it is. Why? Because that man, that woman are children of God”.
And concluding his unscripted response to the questions put before him, on how to be certain in the faith, on how these Movements could live out their mission, about being a poor Church for the poor and about supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, Pope Francis repeated : Never be a Church closed in on itself. Be a Church that goes outside, which is on the outskirts of existence. May the Lord guide us there. Thank you”.
Pope Francis Homily during the Easter vigile
Holy Saturday, 30 March 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. In the Gospel of this radiant night of the Easter Vigil, we first meet the women who go the tomb of Jesus with spices to anoint his body (cf. Lk 24:1-3). They go to perform an act of compassion, a traditional act of affection and love for a dear departed person, just as we would. They had followed Jesus, they had listened to his words, they had felt understood by him in their dignity and they had accompanied him to the very end, to Calvary and to the moment when he was taken down from the cross. We can imagine their feelings as they make their way to the tomb: a certain sadness, sorrow that Jesus had left them, he had died, his life had come to an end. Life would now go on as before. Yet the women continued to feel love, the love for Jesus which now led them to his tomb. But at this point, something completely new and unexpected happens, something which upsets their hearts and their plans, something which will upset their whole life: they see the stone removed from before the tomb, they draw near and they do not find the Lord’s body. It is an event which leaves them perplexed, hesitant, full of questions: “What happened?”, “What is the meaning of all this?” (cf.Lk 24:4). Doesn’t the same thing also happen to us when something completely new occurs in our everyday life? We stop short, we don’t understand, we don’t know what to do. Newness often makes us fearful, including the newness which God brings us, the newness which God asks of us. We are like the Apostles in the Gospel: often we would prefer to hold on to our own security, to stand in front of a tomb, to think about someone who has died, someone who ultimately lives on only as a memory, like the great historical figures from the past. We are afraid of God’s surprises. Dear brothers and sisters, we are afraid of God’s surprises! He always surprises us! The Lord is like that.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives! Are we often weary, disheartened and sad? Do we feel weighed down by our sins? Do we think that we won’t be able to cope? Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him.
2. But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he isalive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting “today” of God. This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.
3. There is one last little element that I would like to emphasize in the Gospel for this Easter Vigil. The women encounter the newness of God. Jesus has risen, he is alive! But faced with empty tomb and the two men in brilliant clothes, their first reaction is one of fear: “they were terrified and bowed their faced to the ground”, Saint Luke tells us – they didn’t even have courage to look. But when they hear the message of the Resurrection, they accept it in faith. And the two men in dazzling clothes tell them something of crucial importance: remember. “Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee… And they remembered his words” (Lk 24:6,8). This is the invitation toremember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles and all the others (cf. Lk 24:9). To remember what God has done and continues to do for me, for us, to remember the road we have travelled; this is what opens our hearts to hope for the future. May we learn to remember everything that God has done in our lives.
On this radiant night, let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who treasured all these events in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51) and ask the Lord to give us a share in his Resurrection. May he open us to the newness that transforms, to the beautiful surprises of God. May he make us men and women capable of remembering all that he has done in our own lives and in the history of our world. May he help us to feel his presence as the one who is alive and at work in our midst. And may he teach us each day, dear brothers and sisters, not to look among the dead for the Living One. Amen
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Basilica of Saint John Lateran
Second Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday, 7 April 2013 Photo Gallery
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.
WORDS OF THE HOLY FATHER
FROM THE LOGGIA OF BLESSINGS
OF THE LATERAN BASILICA
Brothers and Sisters, Good Evening!
Thank you very much for your company in the Mass today. Thank you very much! I ask that you pray for me, I need it. Never forget this. Thank you everyone!
And let us go forward all together, the people and the Bishop, all together; forward always with the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus; He is always at our side.
May the Lord bless you! After he blessed the crowd, he said:
Thank you so much! See you soon!
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls Third Sunday of Easter, 14 April 2013 Photo Gallery Dear Brothers and Sisters!
It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. I greet the Archpriest, Cardinal James Harvey, and I thank him for the words that he has addressed to me. Along with him, I greet and thank the various institutions that form part of this Basilica, and all of you. We are at the tomb of Saint Paul, a great yet humble Apostle of the Lord, who proclaimed him by word, bore witness to him by martyrdom and worshipped him with all his heart. These are the three key ideas on which I would like to reflect in the light of the word of God that we have heard: proclamation, witness, worship.
1. In the First Reading, what strikes us is the strength of Peter and the other Apostles. In response to the order to be silent, no longer to teach in the name of Jesus, no longer to proclaim his message, they respond clearly: “We must obey God, rather than men”. And they remain undeterred even when flogged, ill-treated and imprisoned. Peter and the Apostles proclaim courageously, fearlessly, what they have received: the Gospel of Jesus. And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live? Do we know how to speak of Christ, of what he represents for us, in our families, among the people who form part of our daily lives? Faith is born from listening, and is strengthened by proclamation.
2. But let us take a further step: the proclamation made by Peter and the Apostles does not merely consist of words: fidelity to Christ affects their whole lives, which are changed, given a new direction, and it is through their lives that they bear witness to the faith and to the proclamation of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times to feed his flock, to feed it with his love, and he prophesies to him: “When you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). These words are addressed first and foremost to those of us who are pastors: we cannot feed God’s flock unless we let ourselves be carried by God’s will even where we would rather not go, unless we are prepared to bear witness to Christ with the gift of ourselves, unreservedly, not in a calculating way, sometimes even at the cost of our lives. But this also applies to everyone: we all have to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel. We should all ask ourselves: How do I bear witness to Christ through my faith? Do I have the courage of Peter and the other Apostles, to think, to choose and to live as a Christian, obedient to God? To be sure, the testimony of faith comes in very many forms, just as in a great fresco, there is a variety of colours and shades; yet they are all important, even those which do not stand out. In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships. There are the saints of every day, the “hidden” saints, a sort of “middle class of holiness”, as a French author said, that “middle class of holiness” to which we can all belong. But in different parts of the world, there are also those who suffer, like Peter and the Apostles, on account of the Gospel; there are those who give their lives in order to remain faithful to Christ by means of a witness marked by the shedding of their blood. Let us all remember this: one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life. Those who listen to us and observe us must be able to see in our actions what they hear from our lips, and so give glory to God! I am thinking now of some advice that Saint Francis of Assisi gave his brothers: preach the Gospel and, if necessary, use words. Preaching with your life, with your witness. Inconsistency on the part of pastors and the faithful between what they say and what they do, between word and manner of life, is undermining the Church’s credibility.
3. But all this is possible only if we recognize Jesus Christ, because it is he who has called us, he who has invited us to travel his path, he who has chosen us. Proclamation and witness are only possible if we are close to him, just as Peter, John and the other disciples in today’s Gospel passage were gathered around the Risen Jesus; there is a daily closeness to him: they know very well who he is, they know him. The Evangelist stresses the fact that “no one dared ask him: ‘Who are you?’ – they knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21:12). And this is important for us: living an intense relationship with Jesus, an intimacy of dialogue and of life, in such a way as to recognize him as “the Lord”. Worshipping him! The passage that we heard from the Book of Revelation speaks to us of worship: the myriads of angels, all creatures, the living beings, the elders, prostrate themselves before the Throne of God and of the Lamb that was slain, namely Christ, to whom be praise, honour and glory (cf. Rev 5:11-14). I would like all of us to ask ourselves this question: You, I, do we worship the Lord? Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him, or do we also turn to him to worship him? What does it mean, then, to worship God? It means learning to be with him, it means that we stop trying to dialogue with him, and it means sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all. All of us, in our own lives, consciously and perhaps sometimes unconsciously, have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important. Worshipping the Lord means giving him the place that he must have; worshipping the Lord means stating, believing – not only by our words – that he alone truly guides our lives; worshipping the Lord means that we are convinced before him that he is the only God, the God of our lives, the God of our history.
This has a consequence in our lives: we have to empty ourselves of the many small or great idols that we have and in which we take refuge, on which we often seek to base our security. They are idols that we sometimes keep well hidden; they can be ambition, careerism, a taste for success, placing ourselves at the centre, the tendency to dominate others, the claim to be the sole masters of our lives, some sins to which we are bound, and many others. This evening I would like a question to resound in the heart of each one of you, and I would like you to answer it honestly: Have I considered which idol lies hidden in my life that prevents me from worshipping the Lord? Worshipping is stripping ourselves of our idols, even the most hidden ones, and choosing the Lord as the centre, as the highway of our lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, each day the Lord calls us to follow him with courage and fidelity; he has made us the great gift of choosing us as his disciples; he invites us to proclaim him with joy as the Risen one, but he asks us to do so by word and by the witness of our lives, in daily life. The Lord is the only God of our lives, and he invites us to strip ourselves of our many idols and to worship him alone. To proclaim, to witness, to adore. May the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Paul help us on this journey and intercede for us. Amen.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Vatican Basilica Fourth Sunday of Easter, 21 April 2013 Photo Gallery
The homily delivered by the Holy Father is based on the one that appears in thePontificale Romanumfor the ordination of priests, with one or two personal additions.
Beloved brothers and sisters: because these our sons, who are your relatives and friends, are now to be advanced to the Order of priests, consider carefully the nature of the rank in the Church to which they are about to be raised.
It is true that God has made his entire holy people a royal priesthood in Christ. Nevertheless, our great Priest himself, Jesus Christ, chose certain disciples to carry out publicly in his name, and on behalf of mankind, a priestly office in the Church. For Christ was sent by the Father and he in turn sent the Apostles into the world, so that through them and their successors, the Bishops, he might continue to exercise his office of Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd. Indeed, priests are established co-workers of the Order of Bishops, with whom they are joined in the priestly office and with whom they are called to the service of the people of God.
After mature deliberation and prayer, these, our brothers, are now to be ordained to the priesthood in the Order of the presbyterate so as to serve Christ the Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd, by whose ministry his body, that is, the Church, is built and grows into the people of God, a holy temple.
In being configured to Christ the eternal High Priest and joined to the priesthood of the Bishops, they will be consecrated as true priests of the New Testament, to preach the Gospel, to shepherd God’s people, and to celebrate the sacred Liturgy, especially the Lord’s sacrifice.
Now, my dear brothers and sons, you are to be raised to the Order of the Priesthood. For your part you will exercise the sacred duty of teaching in the name of Christ the Teacher. Impart to everyone the word of God which you have received with joy. Remember your mothers, your grandmothers, your catechists, who gave you the word of God, the faith ... the gift of faith! They transmitted to you this gift of faith. Meditating on the law of the Lord, see that you believe what you read, that you teach what you believe, and that you practise what you teach. Remember too that the word of God is not your property: it is the word of God. And the Church is the custodian of the word of God.
In this way, let what you teach be nourishment for the people of God. Let the holiness of your lives be a delightful fragrance to Christ’s faithful, so that by word and example you may build up the house which is God’s Church.
Likewise you will exercise in Christ the office of sanctifying. For by your ministry the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful will be made perfect, being united to the sacrifice of Christ, which will be offered through your hands in an unbloody way on the altar, in union with the faithful, in the celebration of the sacraments. Understand, therefore, what you do and imitate what you celebrate. As celebrants of the mystery of the Lord’s death and resurrection, strive to put to death whatever in your members is sinful and to walk in newness of life.
You will gather others into the people of God through Baptism, and you will forgive sins in the name of Christ and the Church in the sacrament of Penance. Today I ask you in the name of Christ and the Church, never tire of being merciful. You will comfort the sick and the elderly with holy oil: do not hesitate to show tenderness towards the elderly. When you celebrate the sacred rites, when you offer prayers of praise and thanks to God throughout the hours of the day, not only for the people of God but for the world—remember then that you are taken from among men and appointed on their behalf for those things that pertain to God. Therefore, carry out the ministry of Christ the Priest with constant joy and genuine love, attending not to your own concerns but to those of Jesus Christ. You are pastors, not functionaries. Be mediators, not intermediaries.
Finally, dear sons, exercising for your part the office of Christ, Head and Shepherd, while united with the Bishop and subject to him, strive to bring the faithful together into one family, so that you may lead them to God the Father through Christ in the Holy Spirit. Keep always before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd who came not to be served but to serve, and who came to seek out and save what was lost.
I thank His Eminence, the Cardinal Dean, for his words: Thank you, Your Eminence, many thanks.
I also thank those of you who came today. Thank you! Because I feel warmly welcomed by you. Thank you! I feel at home with you, and that pleases me.
Today’s first reading makes me think that, at the very moment when persecution broke out, the Church’s missionary nature also "broke out". These Christians went all the way to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word (cf. Acts 11:19). They had this apostolic fervor in their hearts; and so the faith spread! Some people from Cyprus and Cyrene, not these but others who had become Christians, came to Antioch and began to speak also to the Greeks (cf. Acts11:20). This is yet another step. And so the Church moves forward. Who took this initiative of speaking to the Greeks, something unheard of, since they were preaching only to Jews? It was the Holy Spirit, the one who was pushing them on, on and on, unceasingly.
But back in Jerusalem, when somebody heard about this, he got a little nervous and they sent aApostolic Visitation: they sent Barnabas (cf. Acts 11:22). Perhaps, with a touch of humor, we can say that this was the theological origin of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: thisApostolic Visitation of Barnabas. He took a look and saw that things were going well (cf. Acts11:23). And in this way the Church is increasingly a Mother, a Mother of many, many children: she becomes a Mother, ever more fully a Mother, a Mother who gives us faith, a Mother who gives us our identity. But Christian identity is not an identity card. Christian identity means being a member of the Church, since all these people belonged to the Church, to Mother Church, for apart from the Church it is not possible to find Jesus. The great Paul VI said: it is an absurd dichotomy to wish to live with Jesus but without the Church, to follow Jesus but without the Church, to love Jesus but without the Church (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 16). And that Mother Church who gives us Jesus also gives us an identity which is not simply a rubber stamp: it is membership. Identity means membership, belonging. Belonging to the Church: this is beautiful!
The third idea which comes to my mind – the first was the outbreak of the Church’s missionary nature, and second, the Church as Mother – is that, when Barnabas saw that crowd – the text says: "and a great many people were brought to the Lord" (Acts 11:24) – when he saw that crowd, he rejoiced. "When he came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced" (Acts 11:23). It is the special joy of the evangelizer. It is, as Paul VI said, "the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing" (cf.Evangelii Nuntiandi, 80). This joy begins with persecution, with great sadness, and ends in joy. And so the Church moves forward, as a Saint tells us, amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of the Lord (cf. Saint Augustine, De Civitate Dei, 18:51,2: PL 41, 614). This is the life of the Church. If we want to take the path of worldliness, bargaining with the world – as the Maccabeans were tempted to do back then – we will never have the consolation of the Lord. And if we seek consolation alone, it will be a superficial consolation, not the Lord’s consolation, but a human consolation. The Church always advances between the cross and the resurrection, between persecutions and the consolations of the Lord. This is the path: those who take this path do not go wrong.
Today let us think about the missionary nature of the Church: these disciples who took the initiative to go forth, and those who had the courage to proclaim Jesus to the Greeks, something which at that time was almost scandalous (cf. Acts 11:19-20). Let us think of Mother Church, who is increasing, growing with new children to whom she gives the identity of faith, for one cannot believe in Jesus without the Church. Jesus himself says so in the Gospel: but you do not believe because you do not belong to my sheep (cf. Jn 10:26). Unless we are "Jesus’ sheep", faith does not come; it is a faith which is watered down, insubstantial. And let us think of the consolation which Barnabas experienced, which was precisely the "delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing". Let us ask the Lord for this parrhesia, this apostolic fervour which impels us to move forward, as brothers and sisters, all of us: forward! Forward, bearing the name of Jesus in the bosom of holy Mother Church, as Saint Ignatius said, hierarchical and Catholic. Amen.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Saint Peter's Square
Fifth Sunday of Easter, 28 April 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
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.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS Saint Peter's Square
Sixth Sunday of Easter, 5 May 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is brave of you to come here in this rain … May the Lord bless you abundantly!
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 centred 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 centre 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 was 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). This is wonderful! A legitimate way of living the faith, a way of feeling that we are 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: earlier on it was a variety of umbrellas, and now of colours 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 is 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 visit shrines, when you bring your family, your children, you are engaged in a real work of evangelization. This needs to continue. 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! Be missionaries of God’s mercy, which always forgives us, always awaits us and loves us dearly.
Evangelical spirit, ecclesial spirit, missionary spirit. Three themes! Do not 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 extremely beautiful shrine, 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.
Below, please find the complete text of Pope Francis’ remarks before Sunday’s Regina Caeli:
In this moment of profound communion in Christ, we feel the spiritual presence of the Virgin Mary alive in our midst – a maternal presence, a familiar presence, especially for you are take part in the Confraternities. The love for the Madonna is one of the characteristics of popular piety, which needs to be strengthened and well oriented. For this reason, I invite you to meditate on the last chapter of the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church, Lumen gentium, which speaks precisely of Mary in the mystery of Christ and of the Church. There it is said that Mary "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" (n. 58). Dear friends, in the Year of Faith I leave you this icon of Mary the pilgrim, who follows Jesus the Son, and goes before all of us in the journey of faith.
Today the Eastern Churches that follow the Julian Calendar celebrate the feast of Easter. I wish to send to these brothers and sisters a special greeting, uniting myself to them with all my heart in proclaiming the joyful news: Christ is risen! Gathered in prayer around Mary, we ask God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, that He might counsel and comfort all Christians, especially those who celebrate Easter amongst trials and sufferings, and might guide them in the ways of reconciliation and peace.
Yesterday, in Brazil, Francisca de Paula De Jesus, called "Nha Chica," was beatified. Her simple life was totally dedicated to God and to charity – so much so that she was called “mother of the poor.” I unite myself to the joy of the Church in Brazil for this luminous disciple of the Lord.
I greet with affection all the Confraternities present, who came from so many countries. Thank you for your testimony of faith! And I greet also the parish groups and families, as well as the grand parade of marching bands and various associations of Schützen [riflemen] from Germany.
A special greeting goes today to the “METER” Association on the day for children who are victims of violence. And this gives me the opportunity to turn my thoughts to those who have suffered and are suffering because of abuse. I would like to assure them that are present in my prayers, but I would also say emphatically that we must all commit ourselves with clarity and courage to every human person, especially children, who are among the most vulnerable, that they might always be defended and protected.
I also encourage those with pulmonary hypertension and their families.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass, proclaims new saints (full text)
(Vatican Radio) At Mass for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Pope Francis canonized 800 Martyrs from the Italian city of Otranto, along with two Latin American religious Foundresses, Mother Laura Montoya e Upegui – the first Colombian saint – and Mother Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, from Mexico.
In his homily, the Holy Father asked us to “look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savor.”
Dear brothers and sisters!
In this seventh Sunday of Easter we are gathered to celebrate with joy a feast of holiness. Thanks be to God who has made His glory – the glory of Love – to shine on the Martyrs of Otranto, on Mother Laura Montoya and María Guadalupe García Zavala. I greet all of you who have come to this celebration - from Italy, Colombia, Mexico, from other countries - and I thank you! Let us look on the new saints in the light of the Word of God proclaimed: a Word that invited us to be faithful to Christ, even unto martyrdom; a word that recalled to us the urgency and the beauty of bringing Christ and his Gospel to everyone; a word that spoke to us about the witness of charity, without which even martyrdom and mission lose their Christian savour.
The Acts of the Apostles, when they speak of the Deacon, Stephen, the first martyr, insist on telling us that he was a man “full of the Holy Spirit (6:5, 7:55).” What does this mean? It means that he was full of the love of God, that his whole person, his whole life was animated by the Spirit of the risen Christ, so as to follow Jesus with total fidelity, even unto to the gift of self.
Today the Church proposes for our veneration a host of martyrs, who were called together to the supreme witness to the Gospel in 1480. About eight hundred people, [who], having survived the siege and invasion of Otranto, were beheaded near that city. They refused to renounce their faith and died confessing the risen Christ. Where did they find the strength to remain faithful? Precisely in faith, which allows us to see beyond the limits of our human eyes, beyond the boundaries of earthly life, to contemplate “the heavens opened” – as St. Stephen said – and the living Christ at the right hand of the Father. Dear friends, let us conserve the faith [that] we have received and that is our true treasure, let us renew our fidelity to the Lord, even in the midst of obstacles and misunderstandings; God will never allow us to want [for] strength and serenity. As we venerate the martyrs of Otranto, let us ask God to sustain those many Christians who, in these times and in many parts of the world, right now, still suffer violence, and give them the courage and fidelity to respond to evil with good.
The second idea can be drawn from the words of Jesus that we heard in the Gospel: “I pray for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may be one, as You, Father, are in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us. (Jn 17:20)” Saint Laura Montoya was an instrument of evangelization, first as teacher and then as the spiritual mother of the indigenous peoples, in whom she infused hope, welcoming them with the love [she] learned from God, and bringing them to him with pedagogical efficacy that respected, and was not opposed to, their own culture. In her work of evangelization, Mother Laura became, in the words of St. Paul, truly everything to everyone, (cf. 1 Cor 9:22). Even today her spiritual daughters live and bring the Gospel to the most remote and needy places, as a kind of vanguard of the Church.
This first saint born on the beautiful Colombian soil, teaches us to be generous [together] with God, not to live the faith alone - as if we could live our faith in isolation - but to communicate, to radiate the joy of the Gospel by word and witness of life in every place we find ourselves. She teaches us to see the face of Jesus reflected in the other, to overcome indifference and individualism, welcoming everyone without prejudice or constraints, with love, giving the best of ourselves and above all, sharing with them the most valuable thing we have, which is not our works or our organizations, no: the most valuable thing we have is Christ and his Gospel.
Finally, a third thought. In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays to the Father with these words: “I have made known thy name to them and will make it known: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (Jn 17:26)” The martyrs’ faithfulness even unto death, the proclamation of the Gospel are rooted in the love of God that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), and in the witness we must bear to this love in our daily lives. St. Maria Guadalupe García Zavala knew this well. Giving up a comfortable life – how much damage does the comfortable life, life of comfort, do? The gentrification of the heart paralyzes us – and [she], giving up a comfortable life to follow the call of Jesus, taught people to love poverty, in order the more to love the poor and the sick. Mother Lupita knelt on the floor of the hospital before the sick, before the abandoned, to serve them with tenderness and compassion. This is what it means to touch the flesh of Christ. The poor, the abandoned, the sick, the marginalized are the flesh of Christ. And Mother Lupita touched the flesh of Christ and taught us this conduct: [to be] unabashed,[to be] unafraid, [to be] not loathe to touch the flesh of Christ. Mother Lupita understood what it means “to touch the flesh of Christ.” Today her spiritual daughters also seek to reflect the love of God in works of charity, without sparing sacrifices, and [while] facing with meekness, with apostolic constancy (hypomone), any obstacle.
This new Mexican saint invites us to love as Jesus loved us, and this leads one not to retreat into oneself, into one’s own problems, into one’s own ideas, into one’s own interests in this little world that has done us so much damage, but to get up and go to meet those who need care, understanding and support, to bring the warm closeness of God’s love through gestures of delicacy and sincere affection and love.
Fidelity to Christ and his Gospel, in order to proclaim it in word and deed, bearing witness to God’s love with our love, with our charity toward all: the saints proclaimed today offer shining examples and teachings of these. They also pose questions to our Christian life: how am I faithful to Christ? Let us take this question with us to consider during the day: how am I faithful to Christ? I am able to “show” my faith with respect, but also with courage? Am I attentive to others, do I recognize when someone is in need, do I see in everyone a brother and a sister to love? Let us ask that, by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the new saints, the Lord might fill our lives with the joy of His love. So be it.
Pope at Pentecost: Newness, harmony and mission
(2013-05-19 Vatican Radio)
Below the official English language translation of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass for the Feast of Pentecost with New Movements:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we contemplate and re-live in the liturgy the outpouring of the Holy Spirit sent by the risen Christ upon his Church; an event of grace which filled the Upper Room in Jerusalem and then spread throughout the world.
But what happened on that day, so distant from us and yet so close as to touch the very depths of our hearts? Luke gives us the answer in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles which we have heard (2:1-11). The evangelist brings us back to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room where the apostles were gathered. The first element which draws our attention is the sound which suddenly came from heaven “like the rush of a violent wind”, and filled the house; then the “tongues as of fire” which divided and came to rest on each of the apostles. Sound and tongues of fire: these are clear, concrete signs which touch the apostles not only from without but also within: deep in their minds and hearts. As a result, “all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit”, who unleashed his irresistible power with amazing consequences: they all “began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”. A completely unexpected scene opens up before our eyes: a great crowd gathers, astonished because each one heard the apostles speaking in his own language. They all experience something new, something which had never happened before: “We hear them, each of us, speaking our own language”. And what is it that they are they speaking about? “God’s deeds of power”.
In the light of this passage from Acts, I would like to reflect on three words linked to the working of the Holy Spirit: newness, harmony and mission.
1. Newness always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, programme and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences. This is also the case when it comes to God. Often we follow him, we accept him, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves to him with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to be the soul and guide of our lives in our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind our all too narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own. Yet throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change, and demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel. This is not a question of novelty for novelty’s sake, the search for something new to relieve our boredom, as is so often the case in our own day. The newness which God brings into our life is something that actually brings fulfilment, that gives true joy, true serenity, because God loves us and desires only our good. Let us ask ourselves: Are we open to “God’s surprises”? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which God’s newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?
2. A second thought: the Holy Spirit would appear to create disorder in the Church, since he brings the diversity of charisms and gifts; yet all this, by his working, is a great source of wealth, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which does not mean uniformity, but which leads everything back to harmony. In the Church, it is the Holy Spirit who creates harmony. One of Fathers of the Church has an expression which I love: the Holy Spirit himself is harmony –“Ipse harmonia est”. Only the Spirit can awaken diversity, plurality and multiplicity, while at the same time building unity. Here too, when we are the ones who try to create diversity and close ourselves up in what makes us different and other, we bring division. When we are the ones who want to build unity in accordance with our human plans, we end up creating uniformity, standardization. But if instead we let ourselve be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become a source of conflict, because he impels us to experience variety within the communion of the Church. Journeying together in the Church, under the guidance of her pastors who possess a special charism and ministry, is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit. Having a sense of the Church is something fundamental for every Christian, every community and every movement. It is the Church which brings Christ to me, and me to Christ; parallel journeys are dangerous! When we venture beyond (proagon) the Church’s teaching and community, and do not remain in them, we are not one with the God of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Jn 9). So let us ask ourselves: Am I open to the harmony of the Holy Spirit, overcoming every form of exclusivity? Do I let myself be guided by him, living in the Church and with the Church?
3. A final point. The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward. The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission. The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone. As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission?
Today’s liturgy is a great prayer which the Church, in union with Jesus, raises up to the Father, asking him to renew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May each of us, and every group and movement, in the harmony of the Church, cry out to the Father and implore this gift. Today too, as at her origins, the Church, in union with Mary, cries out:“Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen.