Follow along with the official for all of Pope Francis’ masses while on his first Apostolic Visit to Mexico.
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Follow along with the official for all of Pope Francis’ masses while on his first Apostolic Visit to Mexico.
Click here to follow along.
On Saturday, February 13, 2016, following the meeting with the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto and his meeting with the Authorities of Mexico, Pope Francis met with the Bishops of Mexico at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption in Mexico City. Below, find the full text of his prepared address, followed by the Angelus Address:
On Saturday, February 13, 2016, Pope Francis began his Apostolic Visit to Mexico in Mexico City. Below find the full text of the Pope’s address to the Mexican authorities.
Meeting with Authorities
I thank you, Mr President, for your words of welcome. I am happy to set foot on Mexican soil which holds a special place in the heart of the Americas. Today I come as a missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care.
Endeavouring to be a good son, following in our mother’s footsteps, I wish in turn to pay my respects to this people and to this land which is so rich in culture, history, and diversity. Through you, Mr President, I would like to greet and embrace the Mexican people in its numerous expressions and in the most diverse of situations it experiences. Thank you for welcoming me to your land.
Mexico is a great country. It is blessed with abundant natural resources and with an enormous biodiversity that extends across its vast territory. Its privileged geographical position makes it a reference point for America; and its indigenous, mestizo and criollo cultures endow it with its own identity that facilitates a cultural richness not always easy to find and, particularly, to value. The ancestral wisdom shown by your multiculturalism is, by far, one of your greatest biographical resources. It is an identity that learned gradually how to shape itself amid diversity and that now constitutes, without any doubt, a rich patrimony to be valued, encouraged and protected.
I believe and I dare to say that Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people. Just over half of the population is made up of youth. This makes it possible to contemplate and plan for a future, for a tomorrow. This offers hope and future prospects. A people with a youthful population is a people able to renew and transform itself; it is an invitation to look to the future with hope and, in turn, it challenges us in a positive way here and now. This reality inevitably leads us to think about one’s own responsibilities when it comes to constructing the kind of Mexico we want, the Mexico that we want to pass on to coming generations. It also leads us to the realization that a hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of men and women who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good, the “common good” which in this twenty-first century is not in such great demand. Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development.
The Mexican people anchors its hope in an identity which has been shaped in the trying and difficult moments of its history. It was forged by the wonderful witness of citizens who understood that, in order to overcome situations born of the obstinacy of individualism, it was necessary to have agreement between the political, social and financial institutions, and of all men and women committed to the common good and the promotion of the dignity of the human person.
An ancestral culture together with encouraging human resources such as yours, should be a stimulus to find new forms of dialogue, negotiation, and bridges that can lead us on the way of committed solidarity. Starting with those who call themselves Christians, it is a commitment to which all of us must give of ourselves, for the construction of a “political life on a truly human basis” (Gaudium et Spes, 73), and a society in which no one feels a victim of the culture of waste.
Leaders of social, cultural and political life have the particular duty to offer all citizens the opportunity to be worthy contributors of their own future, within their families and in all areas where human social interaction takes place. In this way they help citizens to have real access to the material and spiritual goods which are indispensable: adequate housing, dignified employment, food, true justice, effective security, a healthy and peaceful environment.
This is not just a question of laws which need to be updated and improved – something always necessary – but rather a need for urgent formation of the personal responsibility of each individual, with full respect for others as men and women jointly responsible in promoting the advancement of the nation. It is a task which involves all Mexicans in different spheres, public or private, collective or individual.
I assure you, Mr President, that in this effort, the Government of Mexico can count on the cooperation of the Catholic Church, which has accompanied the life of this nation and which renews its commitment and willingness to serve the great causes of mankind: the building of the civilization of love.
I am ready to travel around this beautiful and wide country as a missionary and as a pilgrim who wishes to renew with all of you the experience of mercy as a new horizon of opportunity which inevitably brings justice and peace. I also entrust myself to the gaze of Mary, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, so that by her intercession, the merciful Father may grant that these days and the future of this land be an opportunity for encounter, unity and peace. Thank you.
Watch Pope Francis and Russian Patriarch Kirill sign the Joint Declaration below:
Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you” (2 Cor 13:13).
1. By God the Father’s will, from which all gifts come, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the help of the Holy Spirit Consolator, we, Pope Francis and Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, have met today in Havana. We give thanks to God, glorified in the Trinity, for this meeting, the first in history.
It is with joy that we have met like brothers in the Christian faith who encounter one another “to speak face to face” (2 Jn 12), from heart to heart, to discuss the mutual relations between the Churches, the crucial problems of our faithful, and the outlook for the progress of human civilization.
2. Our fraternal meeting has taken place in Cuba, at the crossroads of North and South, East and West. It is from this island, the symbol of the hopes of the “New World” and the dramatic events of the history of the twentieth century, that we address our words to all the peoples of Latin America and of the other continents
It is a source of joy that the Christian faith is growing here in a dynamic way. The powerful religious potential of Latin America, its centuries–old Christian tradition, grounded in the personal experience of millions of people, are the pledge of a great future for this region.
3. By meeting far from the longstanding disputes of the “Old World”, we experience with a particular sense of urgency the need for the shared labour of Catholics and Orthodox, who are called, with gentleness and respect, to give an explanation to the world of the hope in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
4. We thank God for the gifts received from the coming into the world of His only Son. We share the same spiritual Tradition of the first millennium of Christianity. The witnesses of this Tradition are the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, and the saints we venerate. Among them are innumerable martyrs who have given witness to their faithfulness to Christ and have become the “seed of Christians”.
5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).
6. Mindful of the permanence of many obstacles, it is our hope that our meeting may contribute to the re–establishment of this unity willed by God, for which Christ prayed. May our meeting inspire Christians throughout the world to pray to the Lord with renewed fervour for the full unity of all His disciples. In a world which yearns not only for our words but also for tangible gestures, may this meeting be a sign of hope for all people of goodwill!
7. In our determination to undertake all that is necessary to overcome the historical divergences we have inherited, we wish to combine our efforts to give witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the shared heritage of the Church of the first millennium, responding together to the challenges of the contemporary world. Orthodox and Catholics must learn to give unanimously witness in those spheres in which this is possible and necessary. Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.
8. Our gaze must firstly turn to those regions of the world where Christians are victims of persecution. In many countries of the Middle East and North Africa whole families, villages and cities of our brothers and sisters in Christ are being completely exterminated. Their churches are being barbarously ravaged and looted, their sacred objects profaned, their monuments destroyed. It is with pain that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.
9. We call upon the international community to act urgently in order to prevent the further expulsion of Christians from the Middle East. In raising our voice in defence of persecuted Christians, we wish to express our compassion for the suffering experienced by the faithful of other religious traditions who have also become victims of civil war, chaos and terrorist violence.
10. Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance. We urge the international community to seek an end to the violence and terrorism and, at the same time, to contribute through dialogue to a swift return to civil peace. Large–scale humanitarian aid must be assured to the afflicted populations and to the many refugees seeking safety in neighbouring lands.
We call upon all those whose influence can be brought to bear upon the destiny of those kidnapped, including the Metropolitans of Aleppo, Paul and John Ibrahim, who were taken in April 2013, to make every effort to ensure their prompt liberation.
11. We lift our prayers to Christ, the Saviour of the world, asking for the return of peace in the Middle East, “the fruit of justice” (Is 32:17), so that fraternal co–existence among the various populations, Churches and religions may be strengthened, enabling refugees to return to their homes, wounds to be healed, and the souls of the slain innocent to rest in peace.
We address, in a fervent appeal, all the parts that may be involved in the conflicts to demonstrate good will and to take part in the negotiating table. At the same time, the international community must undertake every possible effort to end terrorism through common, joint and coordinated action. We call on all the countries involved in the struggle against terrorism to responsible and prudent action. We exhort all Christians and all believers of God to pray fervently to the providential Creator of the world to protect His creation from destruction and not permit a new world war. In order to ensure a solid and enduring peace, specific efforts must be undertaken to rediscover the common values uniting us, based on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
12. We bow before the martyrdom of those who, at the cost of their own lives, have given witness to the truth of the Gospel, preferring death to the denial of Christ. We believe that these martyrs of our times, who belong to various Churches but who are united by their shared suffering, are a pledge of the unity of Christians. It is to you who suffer for Christ’s sake that the word of the Apostle is directed: “Beloved … rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly” (1 Pet 4:12–13).
13. Interreligious dialogue is indispensable in our disturbing times. Differences in the understanding of religious truths must not impede people of different faiths to live in peace and harmony. In our current context, religious leaders have the particular responsibility to educate their faithful in a spirit which is respectful of the convictions of those belonging to other religious traditions. Attempts to justify criminal acts with religious slogans are altogether unacceptable. No crime may be committed in God’s name, “since God is not the God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).
14. In affirming the foremost value of religious freedom, we give thanks to God for the current unprecedented renewal of the Christian faith in Russia, as well as in many other countries of Eastern Europe, formerly dominated for decades by atheist regimes. Today, the chains of militant atheism have been broken and in many places Christians can now freely confess their faith. Thousands of new churches have been built over the last quarter of a century, as well as hundreds of monasteries and theological institutions. Christian communities undertake notable works in the fields of charitable aid and social development, providing diversified forms of assistance to the needy. Orthodox and Catholics often work side by side. Giving witness to the values of the Gospel they attest to the existence of the shared spiritual foundations of human co–existence.
15. At the same time, we are concerned about the situation in many countries in which Christians are increasingly confronted by restrictions to religious freedom, to the right to witness to one’s convictions and to live in conformity with them. In particular, we observe that the transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all reference to God and to His truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom. It is a source of concern for us that there is a current curtailment of the rights of Christians, if not their outright discrimination, when certain political forces, guided by an often very aggressive secularist ideology, seek to relegate them to the margins of public life.
16. The process of European integration, which began after centuries of blood–soaked conflicts, was welcomed by many with hope, as a guarantee of peace and security. Nonetheless, we invite vigilance against an integration that is devoid of respect for religious identities. While remaining open to the contribution of other religions to our civilization, it is our conviction that Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots. We call upon Christians of Eastern and Western Europe to unite in their shared witness to Christ and the Gospel, so that Europe may preserve its soul, shaped by two thousand years of Christian tradition.
17. Our gaze is also directed to those facing serious difficulties, who live in extreme need and poverty while the material wealth of humanity increases. We cannot remain indifferent to the destinies of millions of migrants and refugees knocking on the doors of wealthy nations. The unrelenting consumerism of some more developed countries is gradually depleting the resources of our planet. The growing inequality in the distribution of material goods increases the feeling of the injustice of the international order that has emerged.
18. The Christian churches are called to defend the demands of justice, the respect for peoples’ traditions, and an authentic solidarity towards all those who suffer. We Christians cannot forget that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:27–29).
19. The family is the natural centre of human life and society. We are concerned about the crisis in the family in many countries. Orthodox and Catholics share the same conception of the family, and are called to witness that it is a path of holiness, testifying to the faithfulness of the spouses in their mutual interaction, to their openness to the procreation and rearing of their children, to solidarity between the generations and to respect for the weakest.
20. The family is based on marriage, an act of freely given and faithful love between a man and a woman. It is love that seals their union and teaches them to accept one another as a gift. Marriage is a school of love and faithfulness. We regret that other forms of cohabitation have been placed on the same level as this union, while the concept, consecrated in the biblical tradition, of paternity and maternity as the distinct vocation of man and woman in marriage is being banished from the public conscience.
21. We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10).
The emergence of so-called euthanasia leads elderly people and the disabled begin to feel that they are a burden on their families and on society in general.
We are also concerned about the development of biomedical reproduction technology, as the manipulation of human life represents an attack on the foundations of human existence, created in the image of God. We believe that it is our duty to recall the immutability of Christian moral principles, based on respect for the dignity of the individual called into being according to the Creator’s plan.
22. Today, in a particular way, we address young Christians. You, young people, have the task of not hiding your talent in the ground (cf. Mt 25:25), but of using all the abilities God has given you to confirm Christ’s truth in the world, incarnating in your own lives the evangelical commandments of the love of God and of one’s neighbour. Do not be afraid of going against the current, defending God’s truth, to which contemporary secular norms are often far from conforming.
23. God loves each of you and expects you to be His disciples and apostles. Be the light of the world so that those around you may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:14, 16). Raise your children in the Christian faith, transmitting to them the pearl of great price that is the faith (cf. Mt 13:46) you have received from your parents and forbears. Remember that “you have been purchased at a great price” (1 Cor 6:20), at the cost of the death on the cross of the Man–God Jesus Christ.
24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism. We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another’s foundation” (Rm 15:20).
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
28. In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.
29. May our bold witness to God’s truth and to the Good News of salvation be sustained by the Man–God Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, who strengthens us with the unfailing promise: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom” (Lk 12:32)!
Christ is the well–spring of joy and hope. Faith in Him transfigures human life, fills it with meaning. This is the conviction borne of the experience of all those to whom Peter refers in his words: “Once you were ‘no people’ but now you are God’s people; you ‘had not received mercy’ but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet 2:10).
30. With grace–filled gratitude for the gift of mutual understanding manifested during our meeting, let us with hope turn to the Most Holy Mother of God, invoking her with the words of this ancient prayer: “We seek refuge under the protection of your mercy, Holy Mother of God”. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, through her intercession, inspire fraternity in all those who venerate her, so that they may be reunited, in God’s own time, in the peace and harmony of the one people of God, for the glory of the Most Holy and indivisible Trinity!
CNS photo/Paul Haring
Just before Pope Francis’ trip to the United States in September last year I had the chance to visit with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, DC. At the time, the media was speculating about what Pope Francis was going to say, especially to the US Congress, and what impact it would have on the presidential hopefuls ahead of the 2016 election. I felt that the Pope’s visit was far enough removed from the election that it wouldn’t factor much into the campaign. The Cardinal looked at me very seriously and said, “Sebastian, here in the US we are always in campaign mode.”
The 24-hour news era has given us immediate access to candidates, polls and analytics to follow every inch of a campaign for months and even years in advance. The US, and to a lesser degree Canada, seems to be obsessed with the politics of the day. A big part of this lingering drama is the question of how Catholics can and should vote.
There’s no question that engaged, practicing Catholics in North America feel a responsibility to vote, while various independent Catholic commentators seem to feel an equal responsibility to tell Catholics how or how not to vote. Typically Bishop’s Conferences will put out guidelines, like the “2015 Federal Election Guide” of the CCCB, or the USCCB’s teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” (Note that neither the CCCB nor the USCCB explicitly states that a Catholic must or must not vote for a particular candidate or party.)
This US election campaign is particularly interesting because of the surprising buoyancy of fringe candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. When they burst onto the scene announcing their respective candidacies, political commentators across the board said it was only a matter of time before they sank. That hasn’t happened, we’ve discovered, since a good portion of the general population has had enough politics-as-usual and is searching for answers beyond the traditional political establishment. The possibility of one or both of them winning the party’s nomination is quite real, and that means thinking seriously about how Catholics could vote in the upcoming federal election.
Of the various commentaries I’ve read over the past few weeks that deal with this question, none is more comprehensive, balanced and Catholic, frankly, than San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy’s, “The Greatness of a Nation” featured in next week’s issue of America. Here are 6 points from his analysis Catholics should keep in mind when they vote:
Filed Under: Featured
‘I HAVE SET BEFORE YOU LIFE AND DEATH’
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
The readings of the liturgy for the opening days of Lent invite us to focus on some basic questions as we begin our journey through this sacred season. What does it mean to repent and believe the Good News? What difference should faith make to our living and dying? How do we convert hearts and lives? The Old Testament reading for the Thursday after Ash Wednesday has particular significance this year for us as God’s people and as a country: I call heaven and earth to witness … that I have set before you life and death …. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live…. (Deuteronomy 30.19)
The Supreme Court of Canada a year ago, in its decision in the case of Carter v. Canada, invited those in our land to choose death. Any adult suffering from an illness, disease or disability would have the option of physician-assisted suicide. Already, various voices in our country have argued in favour of this even being extended to minors. Appalling as that is, it is not surprising. Children as well as incapacitated adults are being euthanized in the handful of other countries where assisted suicide and euthanasia are now legal.
Throughout the Church’s funeral rite, we are reminded that each life and each death has an important impact on the life of others. In the words of Saint Paul, We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves (Romans 14.7). A consequence of this for Christians is that our mission and our glory is to defend and protect life from conception to natural death as a sacred gift from God, Source of all life.
This year, the Thursday after Ash Wednesday is also the World Day of the Sick. In his Message for this day, Pope Francis reminds us that when we experience suffering, pain and vulnerability, our faith in God is on the one hand tested, yet at the same time can reveal all of its positive resources. Not because faith makes illness, pain, or the questions which they raise, disappear, but because it offers a key by which we can discover the deepest meaning of what we are experiencing; a key that helps us to see how illness can be the way to draw nearer to Jesus who walks at our side, weighed down by the Cross. And this key is given to us by Mary, our Mother, who has known this way at first hand.
Today we begin that long walk towards Holy Week, which culminates in celebrating the greatest event in human history: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Something that never fails to inspire awe in me however, is just how diverse our expressions of faith are. Encountering different Catholic rituals around the world, sometimes I’m intrigued, other times shocked.
Nevertheless, all of these devotions are an opportunity to reflect more deeply on Christ.
In the coming days, I’ll share with you images of Lent from around the world in a blog series entitled:
A Walk with the Lord. I hope you’ll enjoy!
All photos are courtesy of our friends at Catholic News Service.
Ambassadors for Christ and Ministers of God’s Justice
Ash Wednesday makes one’s faith very visible and public. Not offensively, but also not easy to miss, the sign of our faith shows up in the office, at school, on buses and subways, in lines at grocery store, or at the gas station. This small symbol of the cross of ashes on our foreheads expresses an important truth: faith doesn’t happen only at church, but lives among us, in public, every day.
The Scripture texts for the liturgy of Ash Wednesday do not only remind us of sin and death; they are a loud call to overcome sin, to be converted to Christ and the Gospel and to prepare for the new life of Easter. I would like to offer some reflections on what it means to be reconciled to God, to be an “Ambassador for Christ” [II Cor 5:20-21], and the meaning of authentic piety and devotion as outlined in Matthew’s Gospel text for today’s liturgy [6:1-6, 16-18]. I will conclude with some thoughts on Pope Francis 2016 Lenten Message that has as its theme: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.
Be reconciled to God!
Today – the liturgy tells us – is the “acceptable time” for our reconciliation with God. Reconciliation is a gratuitous gift of God. Reconciliation must involve everyone: individuals, families, nations and peoples. In the passage from II Corinthians 5:20-21, Paul encouraged the fractious Corinthian community to recognize that God has “reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” [5:18]. Paul speaks of “the new creation in Christ” [cf. II Cor 5:17] and goes on to tell us: “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, not holding individuals’ faults against them, and he has entrusted to us the news that we are reconciled… the appeal we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God” [II Cor 5:19-20].
When we speak of the world as reconciled to God, we are speaking not only of individuals but also of every community: families, communities, clans, tribes, nations and states. In his providence, God made covenant after covenant with the human family: the covenant with our first parents in the Garden of Eden; the covenant with Noah after the Flood and the covenant with Abraham. In the Book of Joshua we learn about the covenant made with Israel, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in the land of Egypt. And God has now made the final and definitive covenant with all of humanity in Jesus Christ, who reconciled individual men and women — as well as entire nations — to God by his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we celebrate the mystery of our redemption and full reconciliation with God. It is through his passion, death and resurrection that Jesus has saved the world. Before receiving the body and blood of the Lord, we show that we are at peace with one another. The Eucharist is celebrated by a reconciled community. When the celebration is ended, we are sent out to spread this peace and message of reconciliation to others.
Ambassadors for Christ
Because we have been entrusted with this message of reconciliation, we are “ambassadors for Christ” [5:20]. The mission that we have been given is one of high rank. It is a mission that ennobles us. Because we have been called to be ambassadors, we have to be true and loyal to the one we represent. An ambassador is known by his or her credentials. Ambassadors must give credible proof that they have been sent. As ambassadors of Christ we too must give proof of our mission. And the greatest proof is our own fidelity to the Christian way of life.
If we are reconciled with God, with ourselves and with others, and if we in turn foster Christ’s reconciliation in society, we can make a convincing claim to be ambassadors of the Prince of Peace. Just as God took the initiative in sending his son to reconcile the world, so he expects us to take the initiative to restore harmony to a broken world and an often-divided Church.
Can we apply this Christian vision, this wonderful mission of reconciliation, to our own situations? Can we put it into practice among family, friends and community members and try over and over again when we fail? It is very sad when grudges are carried for long periods of time, when people refuse to speak together, when the joy of attending reunions or celebrations is denied someone, perhaps for a misdemeanor that occurred long ago and whose circumstances are practically forgotten!
Jesus’ three-fold process of self-denial
Matthew’s Gospel [6:1-6, 16-18] issues a warning against doing good in order to be seen and gives three examples for right living: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In each, the conduct of the hypocrites [6:2] is contrasted with the behavior demanded of the disciples. The sayings about reward found here and elsewhere [Matthew 5:12, 46; 10:41-42] show that this is a genuine element of Christian moral exhortation.
Let us look closely at what the Gospel demands of us in this threefold process of self-denial: we must pray: “Go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in private.” We must fast: “No one must see you are fasting but your Father.” We must give alms: “Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” There is nothing ambiguous about what is required of us this season. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars of the Lenten journey for Christians. This is the piety, the devotion and the sincerity that the Lord seeks from us this Lent.
Here is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ Message for Lent this year: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.
Video Reflection for Ash Wednesday: It Took 40 Days
First Sunday of Lent, Year C – February 14, 2016
An ancient proverb says: “Good habits result from resisting temptation.” On Ash Wednesday we heard three fundamental orientations for this season in the rich Scripture readings: almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
Lent is a season of solidarity, of sharing, of openness to our neighbor, especially toward the most needy. Lent is also the favorable time for personal and community prayer, nourished by the Word of God as proclaimed each day in the liturgy. This year at the beginning of Lent, we are invited to focus our attention on Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. How can we develop some good habits this Lent as we strive to overcome our temptations?
Led by the Spirit into the wilderness
Most of us are very familiar with the three graphic temptations of Jesus as related by Matthew and Luke in their Gospel accounts of Jesus in the desert. As a result of the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22), that same Spirit leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. The mention of 40 days recalls the 40 years of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites during the Exodus (Deuteronomy 8:2).
At the outset we must ask ourselves as countless people have asked throughout the ages: How could it be said that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into temptation? If Jesus was God, and God is incapable of being tempted, how could Jesus have been tempted? Such questions arise when we consider the temptations of Christ. How do we reconcile what we know about God, Jesus, and temptation, with what is said to have happened in the gospel accounts regarding Christ‚s temptations?
Lukan aspects of the temptations of Christ
Let us consider several important aspects of this Sunday’s Gospel story of Jesus tempted. The Holy Spirit did not lead Jesus into temptation. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. The evil one would utilize the moment of Jesus‚ physical weakness and exhaustion in the desert to tempt him. Satan would consider this “an opportune time,” and he would look for other “seasons” as well. The devil did the tempting, not the Holy Spirit!
Neither Matthew (4:1-11) nor Luke claim to represent the chronological sequence of the temptations. Luke may have reflected on the scene from the standpoint of geography, relating the two in the wilderness first, and then the one on the temple’s pinnacle. Matthew records that after the temptation on the high mountain, Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan.” Matthew’s order, therefore, may be the chronological sequence, but there is no contradiction between the two evangelists.
Luke represents the three specific temptations as occurring after the 40 days of fasting (4:2-3). The Lord may have endured many temptations during the 40 days, but the three temptations were the culminating, most intense testing, of Jesus‚ wilderness solitude. Luke’s temptations conclude on the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem, the city of destiny in the third Gospel. It is in Jerusalem that Jesus will ultimately face his destiny (9:51; 13:33).
In the first temptation in the desert, Jesus responds to the evil one, not by denying human dependence on sustenance (food), but rather by putting human life and the human journey in perspective. Those who follow Jesus cannot become dependent on the things of this world. When we are so dependent on material things, and not on God, we give in to temptation and sin.
The second temptation deals with the adoration of the devil rather than God. Jesus once again reminds the evil one that God is in control. This is so important for us to hear and believe, especially when our own temptations seem to overpower us, when everything around us might indicate shadows, darkness and evil. It is God who is ultimately in charge of our destiny.
In the third temptation, the devil asks for a revelation or manifestation of God’s love in favor of Jesus. Jesus answers the evil one by saying that he doesn’t have to prove that God loves him.
Luke says that the devil left him when he “had ended every temptation” (4:13). Are we to understand that the devil never tempted the Lord again? Luke 4:13 indicates that the devil’s temptations ended on that occasion “for a season,” or “until an opportune time.” The devil’s opportune time will occur before the passion and death of Jesus (22:3, 31-32, 53). It was after Jesus endured the desert wilderness that he withstood temptation. Alone and defenseless against the wind and the weather, exposed to both day and night, and even exposed to the seeming absence of God, this experience of desert wilderness is a part of human growth and maturity.
At the very beginning of his campaign for this world and for each one of us, Jesus openly confronted the enemy. He began his fight using the power of Scripture during a night of doubt, confusion, and temptation. It will do us well not to forget Jesus‚ example, so that we won’t be seduced by the devil’s deception. We are tempted in the same ways Jesus was — wanting to have power over life and death, wanting to control our economic futures, putting our appetite for food ahead of our appetite for God. But trusting in God, as Jesus did, will make us strong.
Temptation is everything that makes us small, ugly, and mean. Temptation uses the trickiest moves that the evil one can think up. And his power is greater and stronger than our own human power. The more the devil has control of us, the less we want to acknowledge that he is fighting for every millimeter of this earth. Jesus didn’t let him get away with that.
Jesus’ desert experience raises important questions for us. What are some of the “desert” experiences I have experienced in my life? What desert experience am I living through right now? When and how do I find moments of contemplation in the midst of a busy life? How have I lived in the midst of my own desert wilderness? Have I been courageous and persistent in fighting with the demons? How have I resisted transforming my own deserts into places of abundant life?
Far from creating a great divide between Jesus Christ and ourselves, our own trials and weaknesses have become the privileged place of our encounter with him, and not only with him, but with God himself, thanks to this man of the cross. Jesus has been tested in all respects like us — he knows all of our difficulties; he is a tried man; he knows our condition from the inside and from the outside — by this did he acquire a profound capacity for compassion. For one must have suffered in order to truly feel for others. From Jesus we learn that God is present and sustaining us in the midst of test, temptation and yes, even sinfulness.
As Christians, we are in a constant fight with the desires born of our sinful natures. We are unable to resist temptation without God’s grace. We are called to trust the Lord (not ourselves) for strength to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is not the temptation itself that leads us to sin, but the lack of resistance and trust in the Lord for deliverance.
Christ identifies with our struggles
Jesus, the friend of tax collectors and sinners, knew well that temptation could simply overcome people. Victims of poverty, ignorance, prejudice, oppression, abuse, violence and drugs reveal to us how easily people can be driven beyond endurance. Those who pray with Jesus share his profound sense of ultimate human helplessness and dependence.
Christ was human and He can identify with our struggles. Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Lord, lead us not into temptation! Rather, guide us into the pathways of justice, love and peace during these Lenten days. Give us the grace and fidelity to be faithful to our God and Father in heaven. Give us the courage to accept who we really are and where we should be.
[The readings for the 1st Sunday of Lent are: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; and Luke 4:1-13]
(Image: “Jesus Tempted” by Tissot)