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Pope Francis 2016 Lenten Message

PopeLentenMessage16

Pope Francis released his 2016 Lenten Message based on the verse ” I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Read the full text of his message, titled ‘The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee,’ below:

“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee

  1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized

In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” (Misericordiae Vultus, 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.

After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb (rahamim) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness (hesed) shown within marriage and family relationships.

  1. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy

The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.

This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by theShema, which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.

This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma, in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (Evangelii Gaudium, 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” (ibid., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” (Misericordiae Vultus, 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.

  1. The works of mercy

God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.

In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Lk16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.

Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk1:38).

From the Vatican, 4 October 2015

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

FRANCISCUS

CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters

Papal Decree on Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday

Francis prison foot washing 2015

The Pope decrees that not only men may be chosen for the washing of the feet in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday. Please see below for the full text of the decree and for a commentary on the decree by Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

 

Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum

DECREE

The restoration of Holy Week, with the decree Maxima Redemptionis nostrae mysteria (30 November 1955), granted the faculty for the washing of feet of twelve men during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper after the reading of the Gospel according to John, where a pastoral reason recommended it, in order to demonstrate in an almost representative way the humility and charity of Christ towards his disciples.

In the Roman Liturgy this rite was handed down with the name of the Mandatum of the Lord concerning fraternal charity from the words of Jesus (cf Jhn 13:34), which are sung in an Antiphon during the celebration.

Francis washing feet 2014In preforming this rite Bishops and priests are invited to intimately conform themselves to Christ who «came not to be served but to serve» (Mt 20:28) and, compelled by charity «to the end» (Jhn 13:1), to give his life for the salvation of the whole human race.

In order that the full meaning of this rite might be expressed to those who participate it seemed good to the Supreme Pontiff Pope Francis to vary the norm which is found in the rubrics of the Missale Romanum (p. 300 n. 11): «The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers…», which therefore must be changed as follows: «Those who are chosen from amongst the people of God are led by the ministers…» (and consequently in the Caeremoniali Episcoporum n. 301 and n. 299b: «seats for those chosen»), so that pastors may select a small group of the faithful to represent the variety and the unity of each part of the people of God. Such small groups can be made up of men and women, and it is appropriate that they consist of people young and old, healthy and sick, clerics, consecrated men and women and laity.

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, in virtue of the faculties granted by the Supreme Pontiff, introduces this innovation into the liturgical books of the Roman Rite, reminding pastors of their responsibility to adequately instruct both the chosen faithful as well as all others so that they may participate consciously, actively and fruitfully in the rite.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
6 January 2016, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
Robert Card. Sarah
Prefect

F1

Commentary by Archbishop Arthur Roche

I Have Given You An Example

With the decree In Missa in cena Domini the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, at the request of the Holy Father, has readjusted the rubric of the Missale Romanum regarding the washing of feet (p. 300 n. 11), variously linked down the centuries with Holy Thursday and which, from the reform of Holy Week in 1955, could also take place during the evening Mass that begins the Paschal Triduum.

Illuminated by the gospel of John the rite carries a double significance: an imitation of what Christ did in the Upper Room washing the feet of the Apostles and an expression of the self-gift signified by this gesture of service. It is not by accident this is called the Mandatum from the incipit of the antiphon which accompanied the action: «Mandatum novum do vobis, ut diligatis invicem, sicut dilexi vos, dicit Dominus» (Jhn 13:14). In fact the commandment to fraternal love binds all the disciples of Jesus without any distinction or exception.

Already in an old ordo of the 7th century we find the following: «Pontifex suis cubicularibus pedes lavat et unusquisque clericorum in domo sua». Applied differently in the various dioceses and abbeys it is also found in the Roman Pontifical of the 12th century after Vespers on Holy Thursday and in the Pontifical of the Roman Curia of the 13th century («facit mandatum duodecim subdiaconos»). The Mandatum is described as follows in the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Pius V (1570): «Post denudationem altarium, hora competenti, facto signo cum tabula, conveniunt clerici ad faciendum mandatum. Maior abluit pedes minoribus: tergit et osculatur». It takes place during the singing of antiphons, the last of which is Ubi caritas and is concluded by the Pater noster and a prayer which links the commandment of service with purification from sins: «Adesto Domine, quaesumus, officio servitutis nostrae: et quia tu discipulis tuis pedes lavare dignatus es, ne despicias opera manuum tuarum, quae nobis retinenda mandasti: ut sicut hic nobis, et a nobis exterioria abluuntur inquinamenta; sic a te omnium nostrum interiora laventur peccata. Quod ipse praestare digneris, qui vivis et regnas, Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum». Enlightened by the gospel which has been heard during the morning Mass, the carrying out of this action is reserved to the clergy («conveniunt clerici») and the absence of an instruction to have “twelve” would seem to indicate that what counts isn’t just imitating what Jesus did in the Upper Room but rather putting the exemplary value of what Jesus did into practice, which is expected of all his disciples.

The description of the «De Mandato seu lotione pedum» in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum of 1600 is more detailed. It mentions the custom (after Vespers or at lunchtime, in a church, a chapter room or a suitable place) of the Bishop washing, drying and kissing the feet of “thirteen” poor people after having dressed them, fed them and given them a charitable donation. Likewise this could be done to thirteen canons, according to the local custom and wishes of the Bishop, who might choose poor people even where it is the practice that they be canons: «videtur enim eo pacto maiorem humilitatem, et charitatem prae se ferre, quam lavare pedes Canonicis». This meaningful gesture of the washing of feet, although not applied to the entirety of the people of God and reserved to the clergy, did not exclude local customs which take into account the poor or young people (e.g. the Missale Parisiense). The Caeremoniale Episcoporum expressly prescribed the Mandatum for cathedrals and collegiate churches.

With the reform of Pius XII which once more moved the Missa in cena Domini to the evening, the washing of feet could take place, for pastoral reasons, during the Mass, after the homily for «duodecim viros selectos», placed «in medio presbyterii vel in ipsa aula ecclesiae»; the celebrant washes and dries their feet (the kiss is no longer mentioned). This now goes beyond the rather clerical and reserved sense, taking place in the public assembly with the direction for «twelve men» which makes it more explicitly an imitative sign, almost a sacred representation, that facilitates what Jesus did and had in mind on the first Holy Thursday.

Jesus washing feet Maddox 1876 2

The Missale Romanum of 1970 retained the recently reformed rite, simplifying some elements: the number «twelve» is omitted; it takes place «in loco apto»; it omits one antiphon and simplifies the others; Ubi caritas is assigned to the presentation of gifts; the concluding part is omitted (Pater noster, verses and prayer), as this formerly took place outside of the Mass. The reservation solely to «viri» however remained for mimetic value

The current change foresees that individuals may be chosen from amongst all the members of the people of God. The significance does not now relate so much to the exterior imitation of what Jesus has done, rather as to the meaning of what he has accomplished which has a universal importance, namely the giving of himself «to the end» for the salvation of the human race, his charity which embraces all people and which makes all people brothers and sisters by following his example. In fact, the exemplum that he has given to us so that we might do as he has done goes beyond the physical washing of the feet of others to embrace everything that such a gesture expresses in service of the tangible love of our neighbour. All the antiphons proposed in the Missale during the washing of feet recall and illustrate the meaning of this gesture both for those who carry it out and for those who receive it as well as for those who look on and interiorise it through the chant.

The washing of feet is not obligatory in the Missa in cena Domini. It is for pastors to evaluate its desirability, according to the pastoral considerations and circumstances which exist, in such a way that it does not become something automatic or artificial, deprived of meaning and reduced to a staged event. Nor must it become so important as to grab all the attention during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, celebrated on «the most sacred day on which our Lord Jesus Christ was handed over for our sake» (i.e. Communicantes of the Roman Canon for this Mass). In the directions for the homily we are reminded of the distinctiveness of this Mass which commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, of the priestly Order and of the new commandment concerning fraternal charity, the supreme law for all and towards all in the Church.

It is for pastors to choose a small group of persons who are representative of the entire people of God – lay, ordained ministers, married, single, religious, healthy, sick, children, young people and the elderly – and not just one category or condition. Those chosen should offer themselves willingly. Lastly, it is for those who plan and organise the liturgical celebrations to prepare and dispose everything so that all may be helped to fruitfully participate in this moment: the anamnesis of the “new commandment” heard in the gospel which is the life of every disciple of the Lord.

+Arthur Roche
Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi Address

Urbi_et_Orbi

Pope Francis did not give a homily at the Easter Sunday Eucharistic celebration this morning in St. Peter’s Square due to the long “Urbi et Orbi” address that followed the mass.  The English language version of his address – to the city and the world – is found below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus Christ is risen!

Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!

Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross.  For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe.  Jesus is Lord!

By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation.  This is the path which leads to glory.  Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God (cf. Col 3:1-4).  The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.

On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it.  To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves.  Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.

The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail…   But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.

This is not weakness, but true strength!  Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.

From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace.  We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence.

Resurrection-Piero-della Francesca

We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful relations may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the drama of the numerous refugees.

We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land.  May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.

We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person.  For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.

At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.

We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya –, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.

May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months.  May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.

We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family.  And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers.

May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: “Peace to you!” (Lk 24:36).  “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you” (cf. Roman Missal, Entrance Antiphon for Easter Day).

Easter Video Reflection: How shall we find words for the Resurrection?

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How shall we find words for the Resurrection? How can we give expression to the conquest of death and the harrowing of hell and the washing which has joined us to God’s life? There are no words – there are only the wrong words – metaphors, chains of images, verbal icons – that invite us into a mystery beyond words. Jesus’ victory over death belongs to the Church’s ongoing pastoral and sacramental life and its mission to the world. The Church is the community of those who have the competence to recognize Jesus as the Risen Lord. It specializes in discerning the Risen One. As long as we remain in dialogue with Jesus, our darkness will give way to dawn, and we will become “competent” for witness. In an age that places so much weight on competency, we would do well to focus every now and then on our competence to discern Resurrection.

Easter Vigil: Pope Francis’ Homily

Francis_Vigil_Mass1

Here is the official Vatican translation of Pope Francis’ Homily at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica on Holy Saturday evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venerdi Santo: Testo della Meditazione del Santo Padre

Pope Francis presides at Way of the Cross outside Colosseum in Rome

Testo della Meditazione del Santo Padre alla conclusione della Via Crucis al Colosseo – Venerdi Santo

Originale in italiano (Trascrizione dall’audio)

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan Mostaert smO Cristo crocifisso e vittorioso.

La Tua Via Crucis è la sintesi della Tua vita,
l’icona della Tua ubbidienza alla volontà del Padre,
è la realizzazione del Tuo infinito amore per noi peccatori.

E’ la prova della Tua missione.
E’ il compimento definitivo della rivelazione e della storia della salvezza.
Il peso della Tua croce ci libera di tutti i nostri fardelli.
Nella Tua ubbidienza alla volontà del Padre noi ci accorgiamo
della nostra ribellione e disubbidienza.

In Te, venduto, tradito. crocifisso dalla Tua gente e dai Tuoi cari,
noi vediamo i nostri quotidiani tradimenti e le nostre consuete infedeltà.

Nella Tua innocenza, Agnello Immacolato,
noi vediamo la nostra colpevolezza.

Nel Tuo viso schiaffeggiato, sputato, sfigurato,
noi vediamo la brutalità dei nostri peccati.
Nella crudeltà della Tua Passione, noi vediamo la crudeltà
del nostro cuore e delle nostre azioni.

Nel Tuo sentirTi abbandonato, noi vediamo tutti gli abbandonati dai familiari,
dalla società, dall’attenzione e dalla solidarietà.

Christ ByzantineNel Tuo corpo sacrificato, squarciato e dilaniato,
noi vediamo il corpo dei nostri fratelli abbandonati lungo le strade,
sfigurati dalla nostra negligenza e dalla nostra indifferenza.

Nella Tua sete Signore, noi vediamo la sete di Tuo Padre misericordioso
che in Te ha voluto abbracciare, perdonare e salvare tutta l’umanità.

In Te, Divino Amore, vediamo ancora oggi i nostri fratelli perseguitati,
decapitati, crocifissi per la loro fede in Te, sotto i nostri occhi
o spesso con il nostro silenzio complice.

Imprime Signore nel nostro cuore sentimenti di fede,
di speranza, di carità, di dolore per i nostri peccati
e portaci a pentirci per i nostri peccati che Ti hanno crocifisso.

Portaci a trasformare la nostra conversione fatta di parole
in conversione di vita e di opere.

Portaci a custodire in noi un ricordo vivo del Tuo volto sfigurato
per non dimenticare mai l’immane prezzo che hai pagato per liberarci.

Shroud Turin smGesù crocifisso rafforza in noi la fede, che non crolli di fronte alle tentazioni,
ravviva in noi la speranza che non si smarrisca
seguendo le seduzioni del mondo.

Custodisci in noi la carità, che non si lasci ingannare
dalla corruzione e dalla mondanità.
Insegnaci che la croce è via alla risurrezione.

Insegnaci che il Venerdì Santo è strada verso la Pasqua della Luce.
Insegnaci che Dio non dimentica mai nessuno dei suoi figli
e non si stanca mai di perdonarci e di abbracciarci
con la sua infinita misericordia.

Ma insegnaci anche a non stancarci di chiederGli perdono
e di credere nella misericordia senza limiti del Padre.

Anima di Cristo santificaci!
Corpo di Cristo salvaci!
Sangue di Cristo inebriaci!
Acqua del costato di Cristo lavaci!
Passione di Cristo confortaci!
O Buon Gesù esauriscici!
Dentro delle tue piaghe nascondici!
Non permettere che ci separiamo da Te.
Dal nemico maligno difendici!
Nell’ora della nostra morte chiamaci!
E comanda che noi veniamo da Te affinché noi Ti lodiamo
con i Tuoi santi nei secoli dei secoli, Amen.

Good Friday: Meditation of Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Stations of Cross at the Colosseum Good Friday evening

Pope Francis presides at Way of the Cross outside Colosseum in Rome

(English working translation from television transmission by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB)

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan Mostaert smO Christ crucified and victorious,
Your Way of the Cross is the summary of your life,
the icon of Your obedience to the will of the Father,
and the realization of your infinite love for us sinners.

It is the proof of Your mission.
It is the final fulfillment of the revelation and the history of salvation.
The weight of Your cross frees us from all of our burdens.

In Your obedience to the will of the Father,
we become aware of our rebellion and disobedience.

In You, sold, betrayed, crucified by Your own people and those dear to you,
we see our own betrayals and our own usual infidelity.

In Your innocence, Immaculate Lamb, we see our guilt.
In Your face, slapped, spat on and disfigured,
we see the brutality of our sins.

Christ ByzantineIn the cruelty of Your passion,
we see the cruelty of our heart and of our actions.

In Your own feeling of abandonment,
we see those abandoned by their families,
by society, by attention and by solidarity.

In Your body, sacrificed, ripped and torn,
we see the body of our brothers who have been abandoned along the way,
disfigured by our negligence and our indifference.

In Your thirst Lord, we see the thirst of Your merciful Father,
who desired to embrace, forgive and save all of humanity.

In You, Divine Love, we see even today, before our very eyes,
and often with our silence and complicity, our persecuted brothers and sisters,
decapitated, crucified for their faith in You.

Imprint in our heart, Lord, sentiments of faith, hope and charity,
of sorrow for our sins, and lead us to repent for our sins that have crucified You.

Lead us to transform our conversion with words
into a conversion of life and works.

Help us to preserve within us a living memory of Your disfigured face,
so that we may never forget the terrible price You paid to free us.

Crucifed Jesus, strengthen in us a faith that does not collapse
in the face of temptations; awaken in us the hope that does get lost
following the temptations of the world.

Shroud Turin smPreserve in us the charity that is not fooled by the corruption of worldliness.
Teach us that the cross is the way to the resurrection.
Teach us that Good Friday is the way to the Easter of light.

Teach us that God never forgets any of his children,
and never tires of forgiving us and embracing us with His infinite mercy.

But also teach us to never tire of asking Him for forgiveness
and believing in the boundless mercy of the Father.

Soul of Christ, sanctify us!
Body of Christ, save us!
Blood of Christ, inebriate us!
Water from the side of Christ, wash us!
Passion of Christ, comfort us!
O Good Jesus, hear us!
Hide us in your wounds!
Do not allow us to separate from You!
From the evil enemy defend us!
In the hour of our death, call us!
And command us to come to You,
so that we may praise You with Your Saints forever and ever.

AMEN.

Good Friday: Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap. Preacher of the Papal Household

File photo of Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa preaching at Vatican

Homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM, Cap. Preacher of the Papal Household, at Good Friday Serivice for the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica.

We have just heard the account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. There is one point in particular in that account on which we need to pause.

 Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and clothed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, “Hail King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. . . . So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” [Ecce Homo!] (Jn 19:1-3, 5)

Among the innumerable paintings that have the Ecce Homo as their subject, there is one that has always impressed me. It is by the sixteenth-century Flemish painter, Jan Mostaert. Let me try to describe it. It will help imprint the episode better in our minds, since the artist only transcribes faithfully in paint the facts of the gospel account, especially that of Mark (see Mk 15:16-20).

Jesus has a crown of thorns on his head. A sheaf of thorny branches found in the courtyard, perhaps to light a fire, furnished the soldiers an opportunity for this parody of his royalty. Drops of blood run down his face. His mouth is half open, like someone who is having trouble breathing. On his shoulders there is heavy and worn-out mantle, more similar to tinplate than to cloth. His shoulders have cuts from recent blows during his flogging. His wrists are bound together by a coarse rope looped around twice. They have put a reed in one of his hands as a kind of scepter and a bundle of branches in the other, symbols mocking his royalty. Jesus cannot move even a finger; this is a man reduced to total powerlessness, the prototype of all the people in history with their hands bound.

Meditating on the passion, the philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote these words one day: “Christ will be in agony until the end of the world; we must not sleep during this time.”There is a sense in which these words apply to the person of Christ himself, that is, to the  head of the mystical body, and not just to its members. Not despite being risen and alive now but precisely because he is risen and alive. But let us leave aside this meaning that is too enigmatic and talk instead about the most obvious meaning of these words. Jesus is in agony until the end of the world in every man or woman who is subjected to his same torments. “You did it to me!” (Matt 25:40). He said these words not only about believers in him; he also said it about every man or woman who is hungry, naked, mistreated, or incarcerated.

For once let us not think about social evils collectively: hunger, poverty, injustice, the exploitation of the weak. These evils are spoken about often (even if it is never enough), but there is the risk that they become abstractions—categories rather than persons. Let us think instead of the suffering of individuals, people with names and specific identities; of the tortures that are decided upon in cold blood and voluntarily inflicted at this very moment by human beings on other human beings, even on babies.

XIR47615How many instances of “Ecce homo” (“Behold the man!”) there are in the world! How many prisoners who find themselves in the same situation as Jesus in Pilate’s praetorium: alone, hand-cuffed, tortured, at the mercy of rough soldiers full of hate who engage in every kind of physical and psychological cruelty and who enjoy watching people suffer. “We must not sleep; we must not leave them alone!”

The exclamation “Ecce homo!”  applies not only to victims but also to the torturers. It means, “Behold what man is capable of!” With fear and trembling, let us also say, “Behold what we human beings are capable of!” How far we are from the unstoppable march forward, from the homo sapiens sapiens (the enlightened modern human being), from the kind of man who, according to someone, was to be born from the death of God and replace him!

Christians are of course not the only victims of homicidal violence in the world, but we cannot ignore the fact that in many countries they are the most frequently intended victims.  Jesus said to his disciples one day, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (Jn 16:2). Perhaps never before have these words found such  precise fulfillment as they do today.

A third-century bishop, Dionysius of Alexandria, has left us a testimony of an Easter celebrated by Christians during the fierce persecutions by the Roman emperor Decius:

First we were set on and surrounded by persecutors and murderers, yet we were the only ones to keep festival even then. Every spot where we were attacked became for us a place for celebrations whether field, desert, ship, inn, or prison. The most brilliant festival of all was kept by the fulfilled martyrs, who were feasted in heaven.

This is the way Easter will be for many Christians this year, 2015 after Christ.

There was someone who, in the secular press, had the courage to denounce the disturbing indifference of world institutions and public opinion in the face of all this killing of Christians, recalling what such indifference has sometimes brought about in the past. All of us and all our institutions in the West risk being Pilates who wash our hands.

However, we are not allowed to make any denunciations today. We would be betraying the mystery we are celebrating. Jesus died, crying out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). This prayer was not simply murmured under his breath; it was cried out so that people could hear it well. Neither is it even a prayer; it is a peremptory request made with the authority that comes from being the Son: ”Father, forgive them!” And since he himself had said that the Father heard all his prayers (see Jn 11:42), we have to believe that he heard this last prayer from the cross and consequently that the crucifiers of Christ were then forgiven by God (not of course without in some way being repentant) and are with him in paradise, to testify for all eternity to what extremes the love of God is capable of going.

Ignorance, per se, existed exclusively among the soldiers. But Jesus’ prayer is not limited to them. The divine grandeur of his forgiveness consists in the fact that it was also offered to his most relentless enemies. The excuse of ignorance is brought forward precisely for them. Even though they acted with cunning and malice, in reality they did not know what they were doing; they did not think they were nailing to the cross a man who was actually the Messiah and the Son of God! Instead of accusing his adversaries, or of forgiving them and entrusting the task of vengeance to his heavenly Father, he defended them.

Jesus Crowned with thorns Jan MostaertHe presents his disciples with an example of infinite generosity. To forgive with his same greatness of soul does not entail just a negative attitude through which one renounces wishing evil on those who do evil; it has to be transformed instead into a positive will to do good to them, even if it is only by means of a prayer to God on their behalf. “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). This kind of forgiveness cannot seek recompense in the hope of divine punishment. It must be inspired by a charity that excuses one’s neighbor without, however, closing one’s eyes to the truth but, on the contrary, seeing to stop evildoers in such a way that they will do no more harm to others and to themselves.

We might want to say,  “Lord, you are asking us to do the impossible!” He would answer, “I know, but I died to give you what I am asking of you. I not only gave you thecommand to forgive and not only an heroic example of forgiveness, but through my death I also obtained for you the grace that enables you to forgive. I did not give the world just a teaching on mercy as so many others have. I am also God and I have poured out for you  rivers of mercy through my death. From them you can draw as much mercy as you want during the coming jubilee year of Mercy.”

Someone could say, “So then, does following Christ always mean surrendering oneself passively to defeat and to death?” On the contrary! He says to his disciples, “Be of good cheer” before entering into his passion: “I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Christ has overcome the world by overcoming the evil of the world. The definitive victory of good over evil that will be manifested at the end of time has already come to pass, legally and de facto, on the cross of Christ. “Now,” he said, “is the judgment of this world” (Jn 12:31). From that day forth, evil is losing, and it is losing that much more when it seems to be triumphing more. It has already been judged and condemned in its ultimate expression with a sentence that cannot be appealed.

Jesus overcame violence not by opposing it with a greater violence but by enduring it and exposing all its injustice and futility. He inaugurated a new kind of victory that St. Augustine summed up in three words: “Victor quia victima: “Victor because victim.” It was seeing him die this way that caused the Roman centurion to exclaim, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mk 15:39). Others asked themselves what the “loud cry” emitted by the dying Jesus could mean (see Mk 15:37). The centurion, who was an expert in combatants and battles, recognized at once that it was a cry of victory.

The problem of violence disturbs us, shocks us, and it has invented new and horrendous forms of cruelty and barbarism today. We Christians are horrified at the idea that people can kill in God’s name. Someone, however, could object, “But isn’t the Bible also full of stories of violence? Isn’t God called ‘the Lord of hosts’? Isn’t the order to condemn whole cities to extermination attributed to him? Isn’t he the one who prescribes numerous cases for the death penalty in the Mosaic Law?”

If they had addressed those same objections to Jesus during his life, he would surely have responded with what he said regarding divorce: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so” (Mt 19:8). The same is true for violence: “at the beginning it was not so.” The first chapter of Genesis presents a world where violence is not even thinkable, neither among human beings themselves nor between people and animals. Not even to avenge the death of Abel, and therefore punish a murderer, is it permissible to kill (see Gen 4:15).

God’s true intention is expressed by the commandment “You shall not kill” more than by the exceptions to that command in the law, which are concessions to the “hardness of heart” and to people’s practices. Violence, along with sin, is unfortunately part of life, and the Old Testament, which reflects life and must be useful for life as it is, seeks through its legislation and the penalty of death at least to channel and curb violence so that it does not degenerate into personal discretion and people then tear each other apart.

Paul speaks about a period of time that is characterized by the “forbearance” of God (see Rom 3:25). God forbears violence the way he forbears polygamy, divorce, and other things, but he is preparing people for a time in which his original plan will be “recapitulated” and restored in honor, as though through a new creation. That time arrived with Jesus, who proclaims on the mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right check, turn to him the other also. . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:38-39, 43-44).

The true “Sermon on the Mount” that changed history is not, however, the one spoken on a hill in Galilee but the one now proclaimed, silently, from the cross. On Calvary Christ delivers a definitive “no” to violence, setting in opposition to it not just non-violence but, even more, forgiveness, meekness, and love. Although violence will still continue to exist, it will no longer—not even remotely—be able to link itself to God and cloak itself in his authority. To do so would make the concept of God regress to primitive and crude stages in history that have been surpassed by the religious and civilized conscience of humanity.

True martyrs for Christ do not die with clenched fists but with their hands joined in prayer. We have had many recent examples of this. Christ is the one who gave the twenty-one Coptic Christians beheaded in Libya by ISIS this past February 22 the strength to die whispering the name of Jesus.

Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith and for all the Ecce Homo human beings who are on the face of the earth at this moment, Christian and non-Christian. Mary, at the foot of the cross you united yourself to your Son, and you whispered, after him,  “Father, forgive them!” Help us overcome evil with good, not only on the world scene but also in our daily lives, within the walls of our homes. You “shared his sufferings as he died on the cross. Thus, in a very special way you cooperated by your obedience, faith, hope and burning charity in the work of the Savior.” May you inspire the men and women of our time with thoughts of peace and mercy. And of forgiveness. Amen.

Holy Thursday: Pope Francis’ for Mass of the Lord’s Supper

Holy_Thursday

Read below the English translation of the Holy Father’s homily during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on April 2, 2015, at the Roman prison in Rebibbia, courtesy of the Zenit International News Service:

This Thursday, Jesus is at table with the disciples, celebrating the feast of Passover. The passage of the Gospel that we have heard says a word that is precisely the center of what Jesus did for all of us: “He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. (Jn. 13,2).” Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. But without limits, always to the end. The love of Jesus for us has no limits, it is always more. He never tires of loving anyone. He loves all of us to the point of giving His life. Yes, He gives his life for all of us, He gives his life for each one of us. And each one of us can say: “He gave His life for me.” He gave his life for you, for you, for you, for me for each one, with first and last name, because His love is like that: personal.

The love of Jesus never deceives because he never tires of loving, as He also never tires of forgiving, He never tires of embracing us. This is the first thing I wanted to tell you: Jesus loved each one of you “to the end.”

And then He does something that the disciples did not understand: He washed their feet. In that time, it was common; it was customary because the people, when they would arrive to a house, their feet were dirty with dust from the road. There weren’t any Sampietrini [stone pavement] in that time!

And at the entrance of the house, they would wash their feet. But it was not done by the head of the household; it was done by the slaves. It was the work of slaves. And Jesus cleans our feet, the feet of the disciples, like a slave. And He says to them: “What I am doing, you do not understand now,” he says to Peter, “but you will understand later.” (Jn. 13:7)

Jesus, has so much love that He made Himself a slave in order to serve us, to heal us, to clean us. And today, in this Mass, the Church wants the priest to wash the feet of 12 persons, in memory of the 12 disciples there. But in our heart, we must have the certainty, we must be sure that the Lord, when he washes our feet, He washes everything, He purifies us! He makes us feel once again His love.

In the Bible there is a sentence from the prophet Isaiah that is very beautiful. It says: “Can a mother forget her own child? Though a mother may forget her child, I will not forget you!” (Is. 49:15) That is how the love of God is for us.

And I will wash today the feet of 12 of you, but in these brothers and sisters, there are all of you. Everyone, everyone! All those who live here. You represent them, but I also have a need to be cleaned by the Lord. And for this, pray during this Mass so that the Lord may also clean my filth, so that I may become more your slave, more of a slave in the service of people, as Jesus was. Now, we will begin this part of the ceremony.

Holy Thursday: Pope Francis’ Chrism Mass Homily

Francis_Chrism_Mass

At 9:30 this morning in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis as Bishop of Rome presided at the Mass of Chrism, a celebration that takes places in all the Cathedrals of the world this week. Cardinals, Bishops and priests (religious and diocesan) present in Rome concelebrated the mass with him.  During the Eucharistic celebration, the priests renewed the promises they made at the moment of their ordination.  Holy Oils were then blessed: the oil of the sick the oil of catechumens and the sacred chrism.  Below is the homily delivered by Pope Francis after the proclamation of the Gospel.

“My hand shall ever abide with him, my arms also shall strengthen him” (Ps 89:21). This is what the Lord means when he says: “I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him” (v. 20). It is also what our Father thinks whenever he “encounters” a priest. And he goes on to say: “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him… He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation”’ (vv. 24, 26).

It is good to enter with the Psalmist into this monologue of our God. He is talking about us, his priests, his pastors. But it is not really a monologue, since he is not the only one speaking. The Father says to Jesus: “Your friends, those who love you, can say to me in a particular way: ‘You are my Father’” (cf. Jn14:21). If the Lord is so concerned about helping us, it is because he knows that the task of anointing his faithful people is demanding; it can tire us. We experience this in so many ways: from the ordinary fatigue brought on by our daily apostolate to the weariness of sickness, death and even martyrdom. The tiredness of priests! Do you know how often I think about this weariness which all of you experience? I think about it and I pray about it, often, especially when I am tired myself. I pray for you as you labour amid the people of God entrusted to your care, many of you in lonely and dangerous places. Our weariness, dear priests, is like incense which silently rises up to heaven (cf. Ps 141:2; Rev 8:3-4). Our weariness goes straight to the heart of the Father.

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

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

Let us never forget that a key to fruitful priestly ministry lies in how we rest and in how we look at the way the Lord deals with our weariness. How difficult it is to learn how to rest! This says much about our trust and our ability to realize that that we too are sheep. A few questions can help us in this regard. Do I know how to rest by accepting the love, gratitude and affection which I receive from God’s faithful people? Or, once my pastoral work is done, do I seek more refined relaxations, not those of the poor but those provided by a consumerist society? Is the Holy Spirit truly “rest in times of weariness” for me, or is he just someone who keeps me busy? Do I know how to seek help from a wise priest? Do I know how to take a break from myself, from the demands I make on myself, from my self-seeking and from my self-absorption? Do I know how to spend time with Jesus, with the Father, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, with my patron saints, and to find rest in their demands, which are easy and light, and in their pleasures, for they delight to be in my company, and in their concerns and standards, which have only to do with the greater glory of God? Do I know how to rest from my enemies under the Lord’s protection? Am I preoccupied with how I should speak and act, or do I entrust myself to the Holy Spirit, who will teach me what I need to say in every situation? Do I worry needlessly, or, like Paul, do I find repose by saying: “I know him in whom I have placed my trust” (2 Tim 1:12)?

Let us return for a moment to what today’s liturgy describes as the work of the priest: to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to prisoners and healing to the blind, to offer liberation to the downtrodden and to announce the year of the Lord’s favour. Isaiah also mentions consoling the broken-hearted and comforting the afflicted. These are not easy or purely mechanical jobs, like running an office, building a parish hall or laying out a soccer field for the young of the parish… The tasks of which Jesus speaks call for the ability to show compassion; our hearts are to be “moved” and fully engaged in carrying them out. We are to rejoice with couples who marry; we are to laugh with the children brought to the baptismal font; we are to accompany young fiancés and families; we are to suffer with those who receive the anointing of the sick in their hospital beds; we are to mourn with those burying a loved one… All these emotions can exhaust the heart of a pastor. For us priests, what happens in the lives of our people is not like a news bulletin: we know our people, we sense what is going on in their hearts. Our own heart, sharing in their suffering, feels “com-passion”, is exhausted, broken into a thousand pieces, moved and even “consumed” by the people. Take this, eat this… These are the words the priest of Jesus whispers repeatedly while caring for his faithful people: Take this, eat this; take this, drink this… In this way our priestly life is given over in service, in closeness to the People of God… and this always leaves us weary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chrism Mass Booklet Vatican April 2, 2015