Saturday, April 27, 2013

Homily for the Feast of Saint George


EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION
WITH THE EMINENT CARDINALS RESIDENT IN ROME
ON THE OCCASION OF THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Pauline Chapel
Tuesday, 23 April 2013

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. Acts 11:20). 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 an Apostolic 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: this Apostolic Visitation of Barnabas. He took a look and saw that things were going well (cf. Acts 11:23). 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 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. […]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). […] 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. […]

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.

 

(Cited on April 26, 2013 from: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130423_omelia-san-giorgio_en.html)

Friday, April 26, 2013

We will be judged by God on charity

General Audience April 26, 2013

KEY AT FINAL JUDGEMENT WILL BE LOVE

 Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of his Wednesday general audience to three Gospel texts that help us to enter into the mystery of one of the truths professed in the Creed: that Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. The three texts are: the parable of the ten virgins; the parable of the talents; and the final judgement. They all form part of Jesus' teaching on the end of time in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

Before the more than 75,000 persons filling St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father spoke of the “immediate time between Jesus' first and final comings, which is precisely the time in which we are living. The parable of the ten virgins is located within this context.” They are awaiting the Bridegroom but fall asleep because he is late in arriving. Five of them, who are wise, keep oil aside and can light their lamps when the Bridegroom arrives unexpectedly. The other, foolish ones, do not have it and, while they look for it, the nuptial celebrations have already begun and the door to enter into the banquet is closed to them.
“The Bridegroom is the Lord and the time of awaiting his arrival is the time that He gives us, with mercy and patience, before his final coming. It is a time of vigilance, a time in which we must keep the lamps of faith, hope, and love lit. [It is a time] to keep our hearts open to the good, to beauty, and to truth; a time to live according to God because we do not know either the day or the hour of Christ's return. What is asked of us is to be prepared for the encounter, which means knowing how to read the signs of his presence, to keep our faith alive with prayer and the Sacraments, and to be vigilant so as not to fall asleep, not to forget God. The life of Christians who are sleeping is a sad life, not a happy life. Christians must be happy, [feeling] the joy of Jesus.”

The second parable, of the talents, “makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts
we have received from God and his return when he will ask us how we have used them. … This tells us that our awaiting the Lord's return is a time of action … time to make the most of God's gifts, nor for ourselves, but for him, for the Church, for others. [It is] the time in which to always seek to make good grow in the world. Particularly in this time of crisis, today, it is important not to be locked up in ourselves, removing our talents, our spiritual and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open ourselves, to be compassionate, to be attentive to others.”

“In the square today there are many young persons. Is this true? Are there many youth? Where are they? To you, who are at the beginning of life's path, I ask: have you thought of the talents that God has given you? Have you thought of how to put them at the service of others? Don't take your talents away! Bet on great ideals, those ideals that enlarge our hearts, those ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. We were not given life so that we might hold it back, jealously, for ourselves, but it was given to us so that we might offer it. Dear young persons, you have great souls! Don't be afraid to dream of great things!”

The Holy Father then spoke of the story of the final judgement that tells of the second coming of the Lord when He will judge all human beings, living and dead. At his right hand will be those who have acted in accordance with God's will, helping the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner, the naked, the ill, the imprisoned—I said 'foreigner'. I am thinking of all the foreigners who are here in the Diocese of
Rome. What are we doing for them?“ the Pope asked.

In the story, at the Lord's left hand are those who did not assist their neighbour. “This tells us that we will be judged by God on charity, on how we have love our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most needy of them. Of course, we always have to keep in mind that we are judged, we are saved by grace, by an act of God's gratuitous love that always precedes us. Alone we can do nothing. Faith is foremost a gift that we have received. But, to bear fruit, God's grace always requires our openness to him, our free and concrete response. Christ comes to bring us the mercy of the God who saves. We have been asked to entrust ourselves to him, to make our good lives—made of deeds inspired by faith and love—match the gift of his love.”

“Looking to the final judgement must never frighten us,” the pontiff concluded. “Rather, it urges us to live the present better. With mercy and patience, God offers us this time so that we might learn every day to recognize him in the poor and the small, might strive for the good, and might be vigilant in prayer and love. The Lord, at the end of our existence and of history, may then recognize us as good and faithful servants.”

Text: Vatican Information Service, Vatican City, 24 April 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

A few homilies

April 22, 2013

As part of a continuing desire by Pope Francis to come to know the Diocese of Rome, he has decided to visit each of the four major basilicas during the Easter Season.  Included below are the homilies or talks he gave at the three he has visited thus far.  He will go to Saint Mary Major the first week in May.  Enjoy!



HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS


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

It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection […].  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 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. […]

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, W├╝rzburg, 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. […]  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. […] 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. […]  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. […]

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.

(cited on April 16, 2013 from http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130407_omelia-possesso-cattedra-laterano_en.html)


 

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls
Third Sunday of Easter, 14 April 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

It is a joy for me to celebrate Mass with you in this Basilica. […] 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”. […] 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? […]  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 colors 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, […].    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! […] 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. […] 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. […] 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; […].  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.


 
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Ascension: He is living among us in a new way.

General audience.  April 17, 2013
CHRIST IS OUR ADVOCATE, AWAITING AND DEFENDING US

The meaning of the Ascension, the event culminating Jesus' earthly life, was the central theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square and attended by over 50,000 people.
Greeting Pope Francis before the audience begins.


Pope Francis had this to say:
“In the Creed, we confess our faith in Christ who 'ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father'. … What does this mean for our lives? While he 'ascends' to [Jerusalem], where his 'exodus' from this life will take place, Jesus already sees the goal, Heaven, but he knows well that the path that will take him back to the Father's glory passes through the Cross, through obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity. … We also must be clear, in our Christian lives, that entering into God's glory demands daily fidelity to his will, even when it requires sacrifice, when it sometimes requires us to change our plans.”

 

The Pope explained the Ascension in light of St. Luke's Gospel, which gives a short version of it. “Jesus led his disciples 'as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven'. .. This is the first important point: Jesus is the only and eternal Priest who, by his passion, has traversed death and the grave and is risen and ascended into Heaven. He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favour. As St. John affirms in his First Letter: He is our Advocate.”

He then added: “How wonderful it is to hear this! When someone is called in front of a judge or goes to court, the first thing he does is look for a lawyer to defend him. We've got one who always defends us, who defends us from the devil's snares, defends us from ourselves, from our sins! Dear brothers and sisters, we have this Advocate. Let us not be afraid to go to him and ask forgiveness, to ask for blessing, to ask for mercy. He always forgives us. He is our Advocate. He defends us always. Never forget this!”


“Jesus' Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”

“The Ascension,” Francis concluded, “doesn't indicate Jesus' absence, but rather it tells us that He is living among us in a new way. He is no longer in a particular place in the world as He was before the Ascension. Now He is in the Lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each of us. In our lives we are never alone: we have this Advocate who awaits us and defends us. We are never alone. The crucified and risen Lord guides us. With us there are many brothers and sisters who, in their family life and their work, in their problems and difficulties, in their joys and hopes, daily live the faith and bring, together with us, the Lordship of God's love to the world. In Jesus Christ, risen and ascended into Heaven, we have an Advocate.”

(The translation above is available from VIS.)

Also, from yesterday:
Vatican City, 16 April 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis, through Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., has sent a telegram to Cardinal Sean O'Malley, O.F.M. Cap, archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, USA in response to the attack that took place yesterday afternoon in that city during its annual marathon causing three deaths and leaving over 100 wounded.

“Deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of violence perpetrated last evening in Boston, His Holiness Pope Francis wishes me to assure you of his sympathy and closeness in prayer. In the aftermath of this senseless tragedy, His Holiness invokes God’s peace upon the dead, his consolation upon the suffering, and his strength upon all those engaged in the continuing work of relief and response. At this time of mourning the Holy Father prays that all Bostonians will be united in a resolve not to be overcome by evil, but to combat evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21), working together to build an ever more just, free and secure society for generations yet to come.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Strength for the witness


Regina Caeli

April 14, 2013

 

On Sunday, April 14, 2013, Pope Francis, with those gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, prayed the Regina Caeli, especially in union with those Christians who are being persecuted for their faith.  Reflecting on the First Reading from Sunday’s Mass, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, our Holy Father had this to say:

Dear brothers and sisters, a good day to you!

I would like to touch briefly on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which we read in the liturgy of this Third Sunday of Easter.  This text says that the first preaching of the Apostles in Jerusalem filled the cities with the news that Jesus had truly risen, according to the Scriptures, and he was the Messiah foretold by the Prophets.  The chief priests and the rulers of the city tried to nip the community of Christian believers in the bud.  They imprisoned the Apostles, ordering them not to teach in his name.  Peter and the other eleven answered, however, “We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus … exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior … And we are witnesses to these things and so is the Holy Spirit[.](Acts 5:29-32)”  So they scourged the Apostles and commanded them not to speak again in the name of Jesus.  And they went, “rejoic[ing] that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]. (Acts 5:41)” 

And I ask myself: “Where were the first disciples the strength for this their testimony?” Not only: whence came to them the courage to preach and the joy of preaching, notwithstanding the obstacles and violence [they faced]?  Do not forget that the Apostles were simple men.  They were neither scribes, nor teachers of the law, nor of the priestly class.  How could they, with [all] their limits, and opposed by the authorities, fill Jerusalem with their teaching (cf. Acts 5:28)?  Only the presence of the Risen Lord with them, and the action of the Holy Spirit can explain this.  It was the Lord, who was with them, and the Spirit, who moved them to preach: [this] explains this extraordinary episode.  Their faith was based on so powerful and personal an experience of Christ crucified and risen, that they were not afraid of anything or anyone, and even saw their persecution as a badge of honor, that made them capable of following in the footsteps of Jesus and to be like Him, bearing witness [to Him] with their lives.

This history of the first Christian community tells us something very important, which applies to the Church in every age, and so to us: when a person truly knows Jesus Christ and believes in Him, one experiences His presence and the power of His Resurrection in one’s life, and one cannot help but communicate this experience. If it encounters misunderstanding or adversity, one behaves like Jesus in His Passion: one responds with love and with the power of truth.

As we pray the Regina Caeli together, let us ask the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary that the Church worldwide might proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord with frankness and courage, and bear effective witness through signs of brotherly love – for brotherly love is the most intimate witness we can bear to [the truth] that Jesus is alive and with us, that Jesus is Risen. Let us pray especially for Christians who suffer persecution – [and] in these times, there are many Christians who suffer persecution, a great many, in many countries: let us pray for them from our heart, with love, that they might feel the living and comforting presence of the Risen Lord.

 


When our Holy Father speaks and preaches, one cannot help but be drawn into what he is saying.  He emphatic tone and his sincerity are able to pierce each heart who hears and listens to him.  May we join together with him and pray for those members of our Church being persecuted for their faith.  Blessed Third Week of Easter!

Friday, April 12, 2013

The joy of being children of God

General Audience April 10, 2013
BEING ADOPTED CHILDREN OF GOD IS GREATEST GIFT OF PASCHAL MYSTERY


Vatican City, 10 April 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience to the salvific importance of Jesus' resurrection.  The Christian faith “is based upon Christ's death and resurrection, just like a house is built on its foundations.  If those give way, the whole house topples. On the cross, Jesus offers himself, taking our sins upon himself and descending into the abyss of death, defeating it by his resurrection, eliminating it and opening the way to be reborn to new life.”

“With Jesus' resurrection,” he continued, “something entirely new occurs. We are freed from the bondage of sin and become children of God. That is, we are reborn to a new life. When does this happen for us? In the Sacrament of Baptism [we] were born to a new life, immersed in Christ's Death and Resurrection. In Baptism, we become a child of God. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, writes: 'you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”' It is precisely the Holy Spirit that we have received in Baptism that teaches us, that urges us to say to God: 'Father', or better 'Abba', which means 'dad'. This is our God: he is a dad to us. The Holy Spirit creates in us this new condition of being children of God and this is the greatest gift we receive from Jesus' Paschal Mystery. God treats us as children, understands us, forgives us, embraces us, loves us, even when we make mistakes.”

Nevertheless, this filial relationship with God “isn't like a treasure that we keep in a corner of our lives but it must grow, must be nourished every day by listening to the Word of God, by prayer, by participating in the Sacraments, especially those of Penance and the Eucharist, and by charity. We can live as children! This is our dignity: we have the dignity of children. Let us act as true children! This means that, every day, we have to allow Christ to transform us ... It means trying to live as Christians, trying to follow him even if we see our limits and our weaknesses. The temptation to leave God aside and put ourselves in the centre is always at the door … That is why we must have the courage of faith and not let ourselves be led by the mentality that tells us: 'You don't need God. He's not important for you,' and so on. It is just the opposite: only by living as children of God, without being discouraged by our missteps or by our sins, feeling loved by him will our lives be new, inspired by serenity and joy. God is our strength! God is our hope!”

“We have to be the first to have a strong hold on this hope and we have to be its visible, clear, and bright sign for all. The Risen Lord is the hope that never fails, that does not disappoint. Hope does not disappoint, the hope of the Lord! How many times in our lives do hopes fade? How many times are the expectations that we hold in our hearts unrealized? Our hope as Christians is strong, sure, strong in this land where God has called us to walk, and is open to eternity because it is founded in God who ... is always faithful to us. … Being a Christian cannot be reduced to following commands but means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him. It means letting him take possession of our lives and change them, transform them, free them from the darkness of evil and sin.”

“To anyone who asks for a reason for our hope, let us point to the Risen Christ. Let us point him out with the proclamation of the Word, but especially with our resurrected lives. Let us show the joy of being children of God; the freedom that living in Christ gives us, which is the true freedom that saves us from the slavery of evil, sin, and death! Let us look to the heavenly Kingdom from which we have new light and strength in our commitment and our daily efforts. It is a precious service that we must give to our world, which often cannot lift its gaze upward and is unable to lift its gaze toward God.”




Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain."

General audience: April 3, 2013

The Resurrection, the heart of the Christian message, and the two ways it is announced—profession of faith and narration—were the themes with which Pope Francis returned to the catechesis for the Year of Faith in this morning's general audience.  The following translation is from the Vatican Information Service.

The Holy Father began his catechesis with the quote of the celebrated passage of St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians: “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain”. 

“Unfortunately, there have often been attempts to obscure the faith in Jesus' Resurrection and doubts have crept in even among believers themselves. Our faith is 'watered down', we might say; not strong faith. Sometimes this has been because of superficiality, sometimes because of indifference, because we are busy with thousands of other things that seem more important than our faith, or even because we have a limited view of life. But it is precisely the Resurrection that offers us the greatest hope because it opens our lives and the life of the world to God's eternal future, to complete happiness, to the certainty that evil, sin, and death can be conquered. This leads us to living our everyday lives more confidently, to facing them courageously and committedly. Christ's Resurrection shines new light on our everyday realities. Christ's Resurrection is our strength!”

In the New Testament, the faith in the resurrection is often expressed in very conciese formulas, like the one from Saint Paul above.  Today, the Pope emphasized the witness that goes along with these formulas and takes the form of a story, recalling above all that, in these types of testimonials, women are the first witnesses. They are the ones who, at dawn, go to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body and find the first sign: the empty tomb. They then encounter the divine messenger who tells them: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, is not here. He is risen.

“The women are compelled by love and know how to welcome this announcement with faith. They believe and immediately they share [the announcement]. They don't keep it for themselves but convey it. They can't contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their hearts. This should also happen in our lives. We should feel the joy of being Christians! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! We must have the courage to 'go out' to bring this joy and this light to all the areas of our lives. Christ's Resurrection is our greatest certainty. It is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this certainty, with others? It is not just for us: it is to be proclaimed; to be given to others; to be shared with others. This is precisely our witness.”

Francis noted another element of the profession of faith in the New Testament: that only men are recorded as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles but no women. “This is because,” he explained, “according to Jewish law of the time, women and children couldn't give reliable, credible witness. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. We can see here an argument in favour of the historical actuality of the Resurrection. If it had been made up, in the context of the time, it would not have been connected to the testimonials of women. The evangelists instead simply narrate what had happened: the women were the first witnesses. This says that God's choices are not made in accordance with human criteria. The first witnesses of Jesus' birth are the shepherds, simple and humble people. The first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful. And this is a bit the mission of women, of mothers and women: witnessing to their children and their grandchildren that Jesus is alive. He is the Living One. He is the Risen One. Mothers and women, go forward with this witness! For God, what counts is our hearts.”

“This also leads us to reflect on how women, in the Church and in the journey of faith, have had and still today have a unique role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and conveying his face, because seeing with faith always takes love's gaze, which is simple and profound. It is more difficult for the Apostles and disciples to believe: not for the women. Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb. Thomas has to touch the wounds on Jesus' body with his own hands. Even in our faith journeys it is important to know and to feel that God loves us; not to be afraid to love him: faith is professed with the mouth and with the heart, with words and with love.”

The Holy Father recalled that, after the apparitions to the women, there were others in which Jesus made himself present in a new way. “He is the Crucified One but his body is glorious. He did not return to his earthly life, but rather in a new condition. At first they don't recognize him and only through his words and his deeds are their eyes opened. Encountering the Risen One transforms them, gives new strength to their faith, an unshakeable foundation. For us too, there are many signs by which the Risen One makes himself known: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other Sacraments, charity, these gestures of love bring a ray of the Risen One. Let us be enlightened by Christ's Resurrection and transformed by its power so that, through us too, the signs of death might give way to signs of life in the world.”

At the end, seeing that there were many young persons in the square, the Pope addressed them: “Take this certainty to all, the lord is alive and walks beside us in our lives. This is your mission. Take this hope forward with you. Be anchored to this hope, this anchor that is heaven. Hold tight to the lifeline. Be anchored and carry this hope forward. You, witnesses of Jesus, carry forward the testimony that Jesus is alive and that this will give us hope; it will bring hope to this world that has grown a bit old because of wars, evil, and sin. Young people, go forward!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Triduum homilies and messages

Christ is risen!  Happy Easter!  Below you'll Pope Francis' homilies from the past few days.  Rome has been packed for the last week--people from all over the world are coming to see and pray with our new Pope.  He continues to ask for our prayers, as well.



HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter's Basilica
Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This morning I have the joy of celebrating my first Chrism Mass as the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with affection, especially you, dear priests, who, like myself, today recall the day of your ordination.

The readings and the Psalm of our Mass speak of God’s “anointed ones”: The suffering Servant of Isaiah, King David and Jesus our Lord. All three have this in common: The anointing that they receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed… A fine image of this “being for” others can be found in the Psalm 133: “It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe” (v. 2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.

The sacred robes of the High Priest are rich in symbolism. One such symbol is that the names of the children of Israel were engraved on the onyx stones mounted on the shoulder-pieces of the ephod, the ancestor of our present-day chasuble […].  When we put on our simple chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens and the faces of our faithful people, our saints and martyrs who are numerous in these times. […]

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction”, they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem”, “Bless me Father”, “Pray for me” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. What I want to emphasize is that we need constantly to stir up God’s grace and perceive in every request, even those requests that are inconvenient and at times purely material or downright banal – but only apparently so – the desire of our people to be anointed with fragrant oil, since they know that we have it. […]

We need to “go out”, then, in order to experience our own anointing, its power and its redemptive efficacy: to the “outskirts” where there is suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters. It is not in soul-searching or constant introspection that we encounter the Lord: self-help courses can be useful in life, but to live our priestly life going from one course to another, from one method to another, leads us to become pelagians and to minimize the power of grace, which comes alive and flourishes to the extent that we, in faith, go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.

The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, the people take the oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason for the dissatisfaction of some, who end up sad – sad priests - in some sense becoming collectors of antiques or novelties, instead of being shepherds living with “the odour of the sheep”. This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men. […]

Dear lay faithful, be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.

Dear priests, may God the Father renew in us the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed. May he renew his Spirit in our hearts, that this anointing may spread to everyone, even to those “outskirts” where our faithful people most look for it and most appreciate it. May our people sense that we are the Lord’s disciples; may they feel that their names are written upon our priestly vestments and that we seek no other identity; and may they receive through our words and deeds the oil of gladness which Jesus, the Anointed One, came to bring us. Amen.

 


 

MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Prison for Minors "Casal del Marmo", Rome
Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013

 




This is moving. Jesus, washing the feet of his disciples. Peter didn’t understood it at all, he refused. But Jesus explained it for him. Jesus – God – did this! He himself explains to his disciples: “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:12-15).

It is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign, right? Washing feet means: “I am at your service”. And with us too, don’t we have to wash each other’s feet day after day? But what does this mean? That all of us must help one another. Sometimes I am angry with someone or other … but… let it go, let it go, and if he or she asks you a favour, do it.

Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty which comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another: help one another always. One another. In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good.

Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: “Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?”. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.


 
 
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Vatican Basilica
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 is alive! 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 to remember 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.