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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

50 Years Ago Today: Mass in the Vernacular

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On Saturday March 7, Pope Francis will visit the church of “Ognissanti’ (All Saints) in Rome to commemorate fifty years to the day that Blessed Paul VI celebrated the Eucharist for the first time in the vernacular rather than in the customary Latin language. It was the first time a new way of celebrating mass was inaugurated after Vatican II’s Decree on the Liturgy SACROSANCTUM CONCILIUM was promulgated on December 4, 1963. This important document, the first of Vatican II, was approved at the end of the second year of the Council.

When Paul VI celebrated mass 50 years ago today, he said that it was a great liturgical reform that would bring about an authentic spiritual renewal in the Church. This weekend is a good opportunity to recall some important points about the great changes that have taken place in the liturgy over the past half a century. The practices associated with the “New Mass” after the Council had their beginnings decades earlier. The reform of the liturgy did not simply begin with Vatican II. The practices introduced in 1964 had been suggested much earlier. Since the middle of the 19th century there had been an interest in various aspects of the liturgy, its history, ceremonies and music. Fr. Lambert Beauduin, a Belgian responsible for the liturgical movement in France held that the liturgy creates Christian community; it is the source and center of all Christian life – an idea that later made its way into the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy. The theological basis of the entire liturgical movement was the body of Christ. This idea “body of Christ” gained momentum and finally received papal approval in Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Mystici Corporis Christi.

Maria Laach Abbey GermanyBenedictines were real pioneers and leaders in the international Liturgical Movement. Benedictine liturgical scholars claim that the origin of the pastoral liturgical reform was in 1924, when the first Missa recitata, or dialogue Mass, was celebrated in a crypt of Maria Laach Abbey in Germany. This German abbey played a significant role in the 20th century, particularly in the field of liturgy. The Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, beginning with liturgical pioneer Fr. Virgil Michel were the founders of the Liturgical Movement in English-speaking countries. St. John’s Abbey was a real center of liturgical activity. Already in 1926, the Benedictines in Minnesota were publishing an influential liturgical journal, Orate Fratres (later renamed Worship).

Collegeville Abbey MinnesotaThe Collegeville abbey was instrumental in founding in 1940 the Benedictine Liturgical Conference that would host national meetings called Liturgical Weeks. They were attended by thousands of priests, religious and laity interested in liturgical reform. While at first the main concern of the Liturgical Movement was that people be educated about the liturgy so they could better understand and participate in it, at a later stage, liturgists decided that the people’s participation would be possible only if changes were made in the rites, and began to advocate such changes.

The First Instruction on the Proper Implementation of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy, Inter oecumenici, was issued by the Sacred Congregation for Rites on September 26, 1964, to take effect by March 7, 1965, the first Sunday of Lent. This document specified which parts of the Mass could be in the vernacular as permitted by SC #54. The normal Sunday experience for the vast majority of Catholics continued to be the new Mass celebrated in the vernacular. The new Mass could also be celebrated in Latin, something that I do often especially in international assemblies. The use of Latin is a beautiful way to express unity rather than division.

The Extraordinary Form

We must not forget that the Second Vatican Council never asked for the creation of a new rite for the liturgy, but for greater use of the vernacular language and greater participation of the faithful. On July 7, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI released his apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum” on the use of the Roman liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. The decree was issued “motu proprio,” a Latin term meaning on the Pope’s personal initiative in the matter. In the letter Benedict eased restrictions on the use of the 1962 Roman Missal, which was standard before the new Order of the Mass was introduced in 1970. The so-called “Tridentine” Mass an extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is not considered to be a distinct rite, but rather a different form of the same right.

Addressing fears of opponents of his apostolic letter, Benedict pointed out that the norms do not detract from the authority of Vatican II, nor do they question the liturgical reform that the council called for. In an explanatory letter that accompanied the document addressed to the bishops of the world, Benedict wrote that his decision was motivated by a desire to bring about “an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” In Pope Benedict’s decision about the greater use of the Tridentine Mass, there are no winners or losers. Whoever wants to appeal to the Motu proprio to ignite tensions, instead of fostering the spirit of reconciliation, will radically betray it.

The liturgy accompanies the Church on her journey through history. We have two forms of the mass: one ordinary and the other extraordinary – of a single rite of celebration of the Mass. The mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord is so great that it cannot be identified or limited in a definitive and exclusive way with one form or the other of the rite that is celebrated. Both Popes Benedict and Francis strongly desire to support reconciliation among Catholics and to reconcile the church with its rich liturgical past. It is through the liturgy that we encounter the Lord Jesus, his death and resurrection. He is the source and summit of our life. He is our reconciliation and our lasting peace.

The Voice Crying out in the Wilderness

Bolivians celebrate as it is announced that the next Missionary Congress will take place in their country in 2018.

This an adaptation of my homily for the  second Sunday in Advent, Year A. The readings were: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72;  Romans 15:4-9 and Matthew 3:1-12.

On this Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist it is good to reflect on the meaning of being a “voice”.

The voice crying out in the wilderness “prepare the way of the Lord!” I love John the Baptist. He’s my role model. I guess we can say that John the Baptist is the  first proclaimer. Maybe we can say that he is the first  missionary.

I’ve been  thinking about missionaries a lot for a number of reasons. The first is that  last November, Pope Francis published his first Apostolic Exhortation. It’s  not like an encyclical, or a letter; it’s more like a book! It’s 214 pages!  It’s called Evangelii Gaudium: The joy of the Gospel. And he writes about a  lot of things, all in the context of the joy of the Gospel and the joy with  which we should always share the gospel. In it he writes, “I am a mission on  this earth.” [EG 273] That really struck me. It’s more than simply I am called  to be a missionary or I have a mission: I AM a mission. And he doesn’t mean  that he alone is mission; he means that all of us are mission. We are the  mission of the Father: The Church is the mission of God. And who better to say  that about than John the Baptist? John was mission. On the day he was born his  Father, Zechariah (remember he had lost his voice because he doubted the  angel) regained his voice and prays a beautiful canticle (Luke 1:68-79), the  Canticle of Zechariah: “You my child shall  become the prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to  prepare his way; to give his people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness  of their sins.” From the day he was born, John had a mission and he  became that mission: to prepare the way. Even before Jesus himself was  proclaiming the Good News, John was proclaiming the Good  News.

I’ve  actually been thinking about mission since this summer at World Youth Day.  That event was all about mission: Go be missionaries. The theme was from  Matthew 28:19, “Go make disciples of all nations.” That passage has been my  favourite since my first World Youth Day in 2002. In fact the whole section,  from verse 28 to 20 is my favourite: “All  authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make  disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the  Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have  commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the very end of the  age.” Everything we need to know about what we have to do as  Christians is there: Go, baptize, teach and remember.

And  especially, I’ve been thinking about mission because at the end of November  last year, I had the opportunity to attend the Missionary Congress of  the Americas in Maracaibo,  Venezuela. It’s a congress that takes place every 5 years to promote missions  and encourage missionaries from the whole continent, from Canada down to  Argentina, including the Caribbean. There were some 4000 participants, mostly  missionaries; 400 priests, 70 bishops – it was a great gathering and the motto  was very simple: “share your faith”. And so I’ve been thinking about how we  share our faith; or rather how we don’t share our faith.

It may be  a Canadian thing, I don’t know (it’s certainly different in  Latin America) but either we are too afraid, or shy, embarrassed  or ashamed. Or perhaps we are too “politically correct” and we really believe  that we shouldn’t meddle in other people’s business. We’ve really bought into  the idea that anyone can believe and do whatever they want as long as they  don’t bother me and that faith is private and personal; but it’s not. We  gather as Church in community because faith is public. It has to be shared.  And so our idea of mission is to take school supplies to children in the  Dominican Republic. We go on mission trips to build homes in Mexico; dig wells  in Uganda. I went on a mission  trip  with a group to paint a church up in the Yukon .  Don’t get me wrong, these things are important. We are called to do acts of  charity. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those who  are sick and in prison (Matthew 25:34-40). Jesus himself healed the sick and  comforted the afflicted. We must do all that, but if that is all we do, then  who is preaching the good news? Who is proclaiming the Gospel? Who is making  disciples of all nations? Who is baptising? Who is teaching? Who is the voice  crying in the wilderness? We love that expression that is attributed to St.  Francis that says, “preach the Gospel at all times and use words if  necessary.” We love it because it gives us an excuse to not use words. But we  must use words. I don’t even  need to know my faith in order to fill shoe boxes with toiletries and send  them to Honduras; but we must know our faith so we can share it. We cannot be  ignorant of our faith.

When I  arrived in Venezuela we had to wait for two hours for the bus to  pick us up and so I began speaking with a gentleman at the airport. Turns out  he was an evangelical pastor. Guess what that conversation was like! He was  evangelizing me and I was sharing my faith and we were evangelizing each  other. It was a great conversation. We really shared a lot and I believe that  we grew in communion with each other. But if I didn’t know Scripture and if I  didn’t know what the Church teaches about Mary and the Eucharist and about the  Papacy (because that is what he wanted to talk about), I could not have had  that conversation. Could you have that conversation? We have to share our  faith and we must use words.

That’s  what the Year of Faith was about. Remember the Year of Faith? We had three  things to do with our faith: Learn about it; live it and share it. Did you  take up the challenge? We have to learn about our faith. It’s not enough to go  to Mass on Sundays and pay attention to the homily. We have to read Scripture;  we have to study it; we have to study what the Church teaches and understand  it, so we can teach it. We have to live our faith, that’s why we have to do  charitable works, why we send money and resources to the victims of the  typhoon in the Philippines. And we have to share our faith. In  order to do that, words are necessary! And it’s not just with our family and  close friends, although that’s a good place to start. We are called to go out.  Pope Francis keeps telling us to go to the peripheries, to the margins. The  doors of the Church have to be open so that people can go out. That is what  the Church calls “missio ad gentes”: mission to those who are outside. We have  to go out to the wilderness. Part of today’s readings are about that: That  beautiful prophecy from Isaiah is for “all the nations.” It’s not just for the  Jewish people. And Paul writes to the Romans that the promise is not just for  the circumcised; the Jews. It’s for the gentiles; for everyone! Not just for  those in the Church. And what does John say to the Pharisees and Saduccees in  the Gospel? “Don’t think that salvation is just for you because you are  children of Abraham.” Salvation has come for everyone – not just for those in  the Church! And we have to go and get them. We are to happy being the ones  listening to the voice crying out in the wilderness; but we have to become the  voice in the wilderness. We have one mission: Go make disciples of all  nations!

At the  end of Mass the deacon says “Go”. In Latin it used to be “Ite, missa est.”  “Missa” that’s where the word for “Mass” comes from. “Ite, missa est.” It  means, “Go, you are sent” or “Go, you are dismissed.” (later, when the whole  celebration was called “Missa”, this phrase in Latin comes to mean, “Go, the  Mass is over.” But originally it literally means, “go, you are dismissed” –  “dimissa est”) The root of that word, “missa”; “Mass”, “dismissal” is the same  root as the word “mission.” That’s what the Mass is all about: to send us on a  mission. Everything the Church does is because the Church is missionary. The  Church would not have grown had it not been missionary. The Gospels were  written because the Church is missionary. The Bible was put together because  the Church is missionary. The printing press was invented because the Church  is missionary. Great art and sculptures and music was created because the  Church is missionary. We have Mass because the Church is missionary. We have  Catholic Schools because the Church is missionary. We baptise because the  Church is missionary. Everything we do is because we have one mission: to make  disciples of all nations and we have to become that mission.

I can’t  tell you what words to use, except that we must learn about our faith so we  can share it. Perhaps a good place to start is by always using words of hope;  always preaching with joy (that’s why the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation is  called “The Joy of the Gospel”). Truly, John the Baptist is not just for the  Advent season, as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We must  prepare our own hearts at all times and we must help others prepare too. Let’s  be, like John the Baptist, the voice (using words) the cries in the  wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

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Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi’s homily at Vancouver’s mega celebration for Two Popes Two Saints on Sunday April 27, 2014.

I greet all of you with great joy. I bring and offer each one of you the greetings and paternal affection of Pope Francis. In the communion of the great family that is the Church, Pope Francis is spiritually here with us: he thanks you and blesses you.

I thank your beloved Pastor, Archbishop Michael Miller, who wanted to give me a gift: to be with you and share with you the experience of celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday on the very day when in Rome, in the presence of a great multitude, Pope Francis proclaimed as saints, two great Popes: Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

I will first ask you a favor: have mercy on my poor English. I rely very much upon the generosity of your attentive listening. I know, indeed, that the attention and love of those who are listening give beauty and flavor to the words of the speaker. I invite you all to be protagonists in this moment: you, listening with love; me offering to you these modest words! Thank you.

Some beautiful words of Pope Benedict XVI help me to begin my homely. In his encyclical Letter, dedicated to hope, he wrote, “Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history.” (Spe Salvi, no. 49)

Dear brothers and sisters: Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen, the Sun par excellence, accompanies us in this liturgical celebration. Let us allow the Risen Lord to take us by the hand. He is among us, just as he stood among his disciples on Easter evening, in the Upper Room, where they had gathered in fear and with the doors closed. We are today the Upper Room, the Cenacle. Jesus himself comes into our midst and says to us, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:26)

Let us ask: who were the people Jesus greeted when he said “Peace be with you.”? We know: they were his disciples, the apostles, who, at his arrest, fled and abandoned Jesus; one even came to deny him!

We are not so different from those disciples. We also – if we are honest – must acknowledge having denied and betrayed the love of God. We do this all those times when in our choices we are saying: “You do not interest me. I do not need your love, nor your commandments. I prefer to do what pleases me.”

What happens when Jesus appears to the disciples and shows them his hands and side marked by the wounds of the crucifixion? It is a moment of great commotion. The Gospel says, “The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” The gospel does not tell us the reason for this joy but we can easily guess. We can think that, in different ways, each disciple may have thought, “I abandoned him and he comes to look for me; I betrayed the friendship of my master and he comes again to call me friend; I thought it was all over and he tells me that everything can start again; we distanced ourselves from him and he reunites us to himself and to one another.” For the disciples it is a new experience of that love which is rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4), and which Jesus taught – let us think of the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-25) – which Jesus taught and especially by his life manifested, taking care of the poor, the sick, the sinners. The disciples discover that Jesus offers them the opportunity to rise up after the fall and that he is calling them to a new beginning.

“Peace be with you” Jesus says again and continues, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” As if to say, “I have shown you the love, forgiveness and mercy of the Father: now you have to be the witnesses of the love and mercy of the Father! Go and tell others that there is no tear that cannot be dried, no sin that cannot be forgiven…”

“Receive the Holy Spirit.” Precisely because it is not within our own strength that we can forgive, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who had made him exclaim on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) As we know, it is on the day of our baptism that each of us received the Holy Spirit. That day a love making us capable of loving as Jesus loves including forgiving, was given to us. Let this love flow forth from us. Let this love come alive in us. The Christian is a person forgiven who forgives; he is a child of God who, receiving the mercy of God becomes merciful.

After reminding that – in the journey of our life – Jesus is the true light, Pope Benedict XVI continues, “But to reach him we also need lights close by – people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.” Who are these “lights close by”? We know them. They are, firstly, the Virgin Mary whom with profound trust we call “Star of the Sea”, and the saints, these friends of God who are our friends, our treasures. In a particular way we can apply to the Blessed Virgin Mary and to the saints the saying: “Who finds a friend finds a treasure.”

Saint Pope John XXIII and Saint Pope John Paul II are two new treasures, two great friends that the Church gives us.

Pope John Paul II was a great apostle of mercy, by his teaching and above all, by the witness of his life. Permit me to recall with you what I consider to be the most significant example: his meeting with Ali Agca, the young Turk who had attempted to assassinate him. It was on December 27, 1983. Two years after the attempt on May 13, 1981. Pope John Paul II had gone to pay a visit to his would-be assassin in the Roman prison of Rebibbia. A personal meeting of 15 minutes took place. Leaning towards each other – the man who had used violence and the man who had suffered from violence – they looked and listened with love to each other. Once the meeting ended, the Pope went to visit some 200 women detained in the same prison and shared with them what he had experienced in the encounter with Ali Agca. He said: “We met as men and as brothers, because we are all brothers and all the events of our lives must lead us to fraternity.”

I have always been struck by this episode and witness. John Paul II teaches us that all life experiences, even the most painful, lead us to fraternity. It is not true – says the Pope now Saint – that discord and hatred can only generate more discord and more hatred. No! The evil that unfortunately lives within the human heart can be stopped. It’s enough to allow mercy to work within us: mercy which is the gift of the Crucified and Risen Lord, the gift that enables us to overcome evil with good, to transform enmity into friendship, and therefore to increase fraternity within the human family.

In particular, John Paul II has taught us that forgiveness and mercy are something more than pious intentions when they promote brotherhood: in other words when they lead us to see one another and treat one another as God sees and treats us: as his children. For this to happen it is necessary to constantly overcome all those emotional, temperamental, cultural and social obstacles that our personal or collective history may build. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” – the apostle Paul used to remind the Christian community of Galatia – “for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) In the context of the history of Canada these words may be translated in this way: there is neither English or French, Filipino or Chinese, Polish or Mexican… or rather… there are English and French, Filipinos and Chinese, Polish and Mexicans – because the Lord respects and promotes our own history and individuality – but above all, we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

A few words now on Saint Pope John XXIII. He was born in the region where I too was born: Bergamo. It is also for this reason that your Archbishop kindly did me the honor of asking me to speak to you today. Pope John XXIII. What can we say about him?

He who had been affectionately called il Papa buono, “the good Pope” had a secret. He was faithful to a resolution made as a young priest: to transform into an opportunity for goodness every situation of life, thanks to the power of prayer and charity. He pledged to keep himself from all bitterness, to avoid anger and personal outbursts, to have for all a happy and smiling patience. He made as his own, the aspiration taken from the Gospel, “Jesus, meek and humble of heart (Mt. 11:29), make my heart like unto thine.” Belonging to a family of humble and modest farmers, he knew that it was precisely the meek and gentle that Jesus promised would “inherit the earth.” (Mt. 5:5) Yes, in the end, it is neither violence nor arrogance but goodness, the spirit of kindness, gentleness and peace that conquers hearts. Of all these things, Saint Pope John XXIII is a living example.

Lord, help us to be instruments of peace and mercy. Help us to give and to receive pardon. Help us to see in others not strangers but brothers and sisters, perhaps different but always brothers and sisters, and to work together to build a civilization of love. Then we will rejoice. Then all of us, like the disciples when they saw the Lord, will experience joy. The true joy. Amen.

Who am I? Asks Pope during Palm Sunday homily

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On Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014, in an unscripted, extremely moving, Ignatian-style homily, Pope Francis invited the crowd of over 100,000 people to enter into today’s passion story from Matthew’s Gospel and ask some very personal questions of our own roles in the Gospel story.

Here is the Vatican’s official English translation:

CELEBRATION OF PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
St. Peter’s Square
29th World Youth Day
Sunday, 13 April 2014

This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing , praising Jesus.

But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’ death and his resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?

We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?

We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realize what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns love and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?

Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?

Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.

Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?

Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?

Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus….

Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?

Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?

Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the Tomb, weeping and praying?

Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!” and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?

Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.

After Communion, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address, during which he extended a special greeting to the participants of the World Youth Days (WYD) organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

He recalled that the next WYD will take place in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, under the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5,7).

The Pope recalled how 30 years ago John Paul II entrusted the WYD Cross to the youth, exhorting them to “carry it through all the world as a sign of Christ’s love for humanity.”

He also announced that St. John Paul II would be the patron of the next World Youth Day in Krakow. Then a delegation of young people from Brazil handed to a delegation of youth from Poland the WYD Cross, which had stood in Saint Peter’s Square throughout the Mass.

The Holy Father went on to announce he would be paying a visit to Daejeon, South Korea, on August 15 where he will meet with the youth of Asia.

Pope Francis concluded his address by calling us to turn to the Virgin Mother, “because she helps us always to follow the example of Jesus with faith.”

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CNS photo/Paul Haring