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How to be salt of the earth and light of the world – Pope Francis’ Homily at Daily Mass – June 7, 2016

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Pope Francis has urged believers to be true Christians and give flavor to the life of others, not to be tempted to shine light upon themselves but to bring the light of faith to their neighbors and to mankind. The Pope was speaking on Tuesday morning during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Drawing inspiration from the Gospel reading of the day, Pope Francis spoke of when Jesus told his disciples “you are the salt of the earth”, “you are the light of the world”. Christians, he said, must be salt and light, but never self-serving: salt must add flavor and light must illuminate the other.

The Pope continued his homily with the question: “what must a Christian do in order for the salt not to run out, so that the oil to light the lamp does not come to an end?” The “battery” a Christian uses to generate light, the Pope explained, is simply prayer.

“There are many things one can do, many works of charity, many great things for the Church – a Catholic University, a college, a hospital – you may even be rewarded as a benefactor of the Church with a monument, but if you do not pray, it will be dark and dimly lit” he said.

Prayer, the Pope said, is what lights up Christian life, and he highlighted the fact that prayer is a “serious” matter: “a prayer of adoration to God the Father, a prayer of praise to the Holy Trinity, a prayer of thanksgiving, a prayer to request to God… prayer must come from the heart”.

As regards the salt that Christians are called to be: it becomes salt when it is given to others. This, Pope Francis explained, is another Christian attitude: “to give of oneself, to give flavor to the lives of others, to give flavor to many things with the message of the Gospel”.

Salt is something to be used, not to keep for oneself – Francis elaborated – but to give to others. “It’s curious – he continued – both salt and light are for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavor to itself; light does not illuminate itself”.

Of course, he noted, you may be wondering how long salt and light can last without running out if we continue to give of ourselves relentlessly. “That’s where the power of God comes in, the Pope explained, because the Christian is salt given to us by God during Baptism, it’s a gift that never ends”.

And reflecting on the reading from Kings in which Zarephath’s widow trusts the prophet Elijah and thus, her flour and her oil never run out, Pope Francis urged Christians to shine brightly and always overcome the temptation to shine light upon themselves. And calling it ‘mirror spirituality’ he said “it is a bad thing” to want to shine light onto oneself: “Be light to illuminate, be salt to give flavor and to preserve”.

“May your light shine before men, the Pope concluded, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven”.

Pope Francis’ Homily during Jubilee Mass for Deacons

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(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On Sunday, May 29, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated a Jubilee Mass for Deacons. Below you will find the full text of his homily:

“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10). We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself. At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 1:1). These two terms – apostle and servant – go together. They can never be separated. They are like the two sides of a medal. Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.

The Lord was the first to show us this. He, the Word of the Father, who brought us the good news (Is 61:1), indeed, who is the good news (cf. Lk 4:18), became our servant (Phil 2:7). He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45). “He became the servant (diakonos) of all”, wrote one of the Church Fathers (Saint Polycarp, Ad Phil. V, 2). We who proclaim him are called to act as he did, “merciful, zealous, walking according to the charity of the Lord who made himself the servant of all” (ibid.). A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master. If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him. Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant. In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out. It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus. His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.

How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)? As a first step, we are asked to be available. A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would. Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others. One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day. He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit. One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises. One who serves is open to surprises, to God’s constant surprises. A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest. One who serves is not worried about the timetable. It deeply troubles me when I see a timetable in a parish: “From such a time to such a time”. And then? There is no open door, no priest, no deacon, no layperson to receive people… This is not good. Don’t worry about the timetable: have the courage to look past the timetable. In this way, dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful

Today’s Gospel also speaks to us of service. It shows us two servants who have much to teach us: the servant of the centurion whom Jesus cures and the centurion himself, who serves the Emperor. The words used by the centurion to dissuade Jesus from coming to his house are remarkable, and often the very opposite of our own: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (7:6); I did not presume to come to you” (7:7); “I also am a man set under authority” (7:8). Jesus marvels at these words. He is struck by the centurion’s great humility, by his meekness. And meekness is one of the virtues of deacons. When a deacon is meek, then he is one who serves, who is not trying to “mimic” priests; no, he is meek. Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt. He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house. Instead, he was modest, unassuming and meek; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss. He acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us. He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve. These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26). And never shout, never. This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.

After the Apostle Paul and the centurion, today’s readings show us a third servant, the one whom Jesus heals. The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2). In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant. Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve. Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly. To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened. We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15). Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer. You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life. When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.

In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.

Pope Francis’ Homily for Corpus Christi

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On Thursday, May 26, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Below, find the full text of his homily:

« Do this in remembrance of me » (1 Cor 11 :24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus
in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and
share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to
him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus
says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat
yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in
remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to
break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for
recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the
bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the
breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre
and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous –
who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to
Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.


CNS photo/Paul Haring

Funeral Homily for Gaetano Gagliano (1917 – 2016)

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Funeral Homily for Gaetano Gagliano (1917 – 2016)
St. Clare of Assisi Church – Woodbridge, Ontario
April 18, 2016

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation

Your Eminence Cardinal Collins,
Brother Priests,
Dear Sisters, especially of the Pauline Family,
Carissima Giuseppina and my adopted Gagliano brothers and sisters,
Friends in Christ,

Gaetano Gagliano would be thrilled to see this crowd assembled in his beautiful parish church of St. Clare of Assisi today – not because you have come to honor him, but rather that you have come to adore the Lord and thank God for Gaetano’s life.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom describes so well what we now experience: “[Gaetano’s] passing away is thought an affliction and his going forth from us, utter destruction.”  But Solomon’s Wisdom also offers us this reassuring message: “the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them…. They are at peace.” We grieve and are sad, yet isn’t it consoling to know that Gaetano, whom we loved so much, is now in the hand of God and he will not experience any torment or suffering again?  

Gaetano was husband, father, grandfather, uncle, friend and business colleague to each of us because he was alive with God every day of his life. It was not only intelligence, savvy and success that made these things happen; it was also a humble, biblical wisdom that animated his life. Gaetano’s mantra was: “Never forget that money is useful, but it also dangerous. You have worked and received your reward. Many others cannot work or have not succeeded as we have. Do not be arrogant and selfish. Never close the door to those who ask for help.” It was from that storehouse of God-given wisdom that Gaetano nourished us. Gaetano was a clever man but also a very wise man because God was always at the centre of his life.

No one who knew Gaetano needed to ask what motivated and then sustained his profound familial, ecclesial, social and charitable concern. It was rooted in his belief that we are children of a good, just and loving God, and that every human life was sacred; each of us is our brother’s and sister’s keeper.  Many speak of the Gagliano family philanthropy to so many causes.  But this generosity finds its roots in the deepest meaning of the Greek word “philanthopia” which means hospitality, love of human beings and kindness.  These were the gifts and qualities that Gaetano passed on to his entire family.  

As we gathered around his deathbed in the family home in Woodbridge early last Thursday morning, the words of St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy were etched in our minds and hearts: “I have competed well; I have finished the race;I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance… . But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it.”

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But it is today’s Gospel reading that provides us with a penetrating, personal insight into Gaetano’s life among us.  This Easter Gospel story of Jesus and Peter is set against the incredibly beautiful backdrop of the Sea of Galilee. When Peter decides to go fishing, there is a certain feeling of resignation about it, alluding to the depression and discouragement he and the other disciples must have experienced after Jesus’ death. This simple narrative offers us one of the most personal and moving commissioning stories in the Bible.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?  Do you love me?  Are you my friend?” [Jn 21:15] Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus during the trial and crucifixion is now canceled out by the three-fold declaration of love. There are many other questions which we can imagine Jesus having asked Peter concerning his suitability for ministry.  For example, “Simon, son of John, are you aware of the responsibilities that you are undertaking? Do you realize your weakness?  Have you thought that it is difficult to bear others’ burdens?  “Simon, son of John, do you understand?  Are you aware of how many people about you are in need of help: the poor, the hungry, the sick, the needy, and the lonely?  Where will you find bread enough to give them something to eat?” But Jesus sums them all up in a single, basic question: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?  Are you really my friend?” 

Ten years ago, as Gaetano and I were preparing to film one of the more than 150 episodes of “In Conversazione”, he arrived in our Salt and Light studios all ready to go. For Gaetano, it was always “lights, camera, action” no matter what the theme or the program!  That particular episode was meant for the Easter season. Though his theological vocabulary was limited, Gaetano’s mind and heart were constantly on fire! I was planning to discuss with him today’s passage from John’s gospel.  When I read the story to Gaetano before the cameras started rolling, he said to me: “Padre Thomas, why did Jesus have to ask Peter three times if he loved him?  What’s wrong with Peter? You would think that Peter would have realized just who this man was and not need the question asked three times!” Gaetano told me: “If Peter were here now, I would let him know just who Jesus was!”  We enjoyed a good laugh together! I am sure that Gaetano has had a few good conversations with Peter by now to clear this matter up once and for all!

Simon, son of John, do you love me? “Follow me.” Those words were also addressed to Gaetano at so many moments of his long, fruitful life. As a young boy Gaetano heard the Lord’s voice speaking to him: “Gaetano, son of Francesco, mi ami tu? Do you love me? Then leave your home in that small farming town of Cattolica di Eraclea in Sicily and go to Padre Giacomo Alberione in Alba to begin your studies for the priesthood.” But very frail health prevented this poor, young country boy from pursuing that path. Twice he was sent back home from the seminary by Fr. Alberione, who told Gaetano that perhaps another vocation awaited him. Gaetano followed the Lord’s voice through the guidance of that wise, holy priest.

Gaetano would hear the Lord’s summons again at age 38. “Gaetano, son of Francesco e Giuseppina, mi ami tu? Do you love me? Then leave your homeland and travel to Canada, with Giuseppina your wife, five small children and forty dollars in your pocket. Some would consider this leap of faith to be pure folly.  For Gaetano, he had all that was necessary to begin a new life in a foreign land: faith, family and a desire to make a difference.  By day he laid tracks for the railroad and by night he printed wedding invitations and business cards in his basement. Laid off from the railroad, he became the sole employee, working day and night at what would later become St. Joseph Corporation.

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“Gaetano, son of Francesco e Giuseppina, mi ami tu? Do you love me? Let your family grow… five children would become ten.  Gaetano followed the Lord once again in building a deeply Catholic, Christian family. Together  with Giuseppina they would become grandparents to 35 beautiful grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Still another time Gaetano heard the Lord’s call, this time through a dream in which Fr. Alberione appeared to Gaetano in the late 1990’s.  “Gaetano, son of Francesco e Giuseppina, mi ami tu? Do you love me? Then do something for mass media. You must start a television network!”  What humor the Lord has when he invites people to follow him!  A man who knew nothing about television and technology finds a priest who knows even less and together we decided to follow the Lord in this great adventure now known as Salt and Light Television. Little did I ever imagine that I, too, would be used by the Lord to help fulfill a dream and a vision passed on to an old man of 86 years who was truly evergreen!  That dream, inspired by the Lord and mediated by Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family – five Religious Congregations, four Institutes of Consecrated Secular Life, and a Lay Association – was the wind beneath Gaetano’s wings these past 13 years.

One year ago, Gaetano heard the Lord’s call once again. “Gaetano, son of Francesco, mi ami tu? Follow me on the cross of physical suffering.” A debilitating stroke did not make him waver, even in his inability to speak and move freely. Gaetano reminded us that aging and suffering are a natural part of being human.  In a land where an insidious law of euthanasia seems to have the upper hand, and where the old and infirm are so easily put away in nursing homes and often forgotten, Gaetano was a timely and powerful reminder that our parents and grandparents, the sick, the handicapped and the dying have great value.  How blessed we all were to witness his stamina, courage, faith and love even under the guise of physical suffering over the past year! How blessed was Gaetano to receive a care that was palliative, loving, generous and compassionate! Increasingly Gaetano entered into the communion of Christ’s sufferings; he understood the truth of the words: “Someone else will fasten a belt around you.” And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, Gaetano proclaimed the Gospel with the acceptance of his suffering.

How many times have those of us close to Gaetano heard his deep regret in not fulfilling his initial dream of becoming a priest with Fr. Alberione! Several years ago Gaetano and I had a heart-to-heart talk and I told him that to some along the way, Jesus issues the invitation “Come, follow me,” but to Gaetano, he says “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” I assured Gaetano that his was one of the most priestly lives I have ever encountered. For our baptism marks us all as a priestly people.  A priestly person is one who spends himself gladly for others and lays down his life for his friends. The opposite of a priestly life is a consumer who merely buys, spends and amasses wealth and people for himself or herself.  I reminded Gaetano that Jesus never rejected his application for discipleship and ministry, but accepted it fully. For who better than Gaetano Gagliano would have enough clout and credibility to preach the Jesus story? Who better than Gaetano would be able to speak with such conviction and passion about marriage, fidelity, family life, love, charity, kindness, business ethics, hope and generosity?

Early last Thursday morning, Gaetano heard the Lord’s voice for the last time on earth. “Gaetano, son of Francesco e Giuseppina, mi ami tu? Do you love me?  Follow me.”  I am certain that Gaetano’s response was very much like Peter’s: “Lord, You know everything.  You know that I love you.”

The love of Christ was the dominant force in Gaetano’s life.  Gaetano always recognized himself as a sinner in need of God’s boundless mercy. Let us give thanks to God for the life and witness of Gaetano Gagliano. Let us thank God for the myriad of ways that we were touched by him and for the lessons we learned from him.  Let us commend him to God’s mercy and love, pray for the forgiveness of his sins, the repose of his soul, and beg the Lord to give Gaetano the crown of righteousness that awaits him because the Lord stood by him and gave him strength, so that through him, the proclamation of the Gospel was completed and many nations welcomed it because of him.

[L’amore di Cristo fu la forza dominante nella vita di Gaetano. Gaetano si è sempre riconosciuto come un peccatore bisognoso della misericordia infinita di Dio. Rendiamo grazie a Dio per la vita e la testimonianza di Gaetano Gagliano. Rendiamo grazie a Dio per la miriade di modi in cui siamo stati toccati da lui e per le lezioni che abbiamo imparato da lui. Affidiamo Gaetano alla misericordia e all’amore di Dio. Preghiamo per il perdono dei suoi peccati, il riposo della sua anima, e preghiamo il Signore di dare a Gaetano la corona di giustizia che lo attende, perché il Signore gli stava vicino e gli dava forza.  Potremo dire con fiducia che attraverso la vita e la vocazione di Gaetano Gagliano, l’annuncio del Vangelo è stato completato e molte nazioni lo hanno accolto a causa di lui.]

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Pope Francis’ Divine Mercy Mass Homily

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On Sunday, April 3, 2016, Pope Francis presided over Mass in celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday. Below you will find the full text of his address.

“Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book” (Jn 20:30). The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy. Not everything, however, was written down; the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples – concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy – continue to be written. We are all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women of today. We do this by practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which are the hallmarks of the Christian life. By means of these simple yet powerful gestures, even when unseen, we can accompany the needy, bringing God’s tenderness and consolation. Thus continues the great work of Jesus on Easter day, when he poured into the hearts of his fearful disciples the Father’s mercy, bringing them the Holy Spirit who forgives sins and bestows joy.

At the same time, the story we have just heard presents an evident contrast: there is the fear of the disciples, who gathered behind closed doors; and then there is the mission of Jesus, who sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness. This contrast may also be present in us, experienced as an interior struggle between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin. It is a call that frees us to go out of ourselves. Christ, who for love entered through doors barred by sin, death and the powers of hell, wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts. Jesus, who by his resurrection has overcome the fear and dread which imprison us, wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out. The path that the Risen Master shows us is a one way street, it goes in only one direction: this means that we must move beyond ourselves to witness to the healing power of love that has conquered us. We see before us a humanity that is often wounded and fearful, a humanity that bears the scars of pain and uncertainty. Before the anguished cry for mercy and peace, we hear Jesus’ inspiring invitation: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (Jn 20:21).

In God’s mercy, all of our infirmities find healing. His mercy, in fact, does not keep a distance: it seeks to encounter all forms of poverty and to free this world of so many types of slavery. Mercy desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them. Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters. Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as “Lord and God” (Jn 20:28), as did the Apostle Thomas. This is the mission that he entrusts to us. So many people ask to be listened to and to be understood. The Gospel of mercy, to be proclaimed and written in our daily lives, seeks people with patient and open hearts, “good Samaritans” who understand compassion and silence before the mystery of each brother and sister. The Gospel of mercy requires generous and joyful servants, people who love freely without expecting anything in return.

“Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:21) is the greeting of Jesus to his disciples; this same peace awaits men and women of our own day. It is not a negotiated peace, it is not the absence of conflict: it is his peace, the peace that comes from the heart of the Risen Lord, the peace that has defeated sin, fear and death. It is a peace that does not divide but unites; it is a peace that does not abandon us but makes us feel listened to and loved; it is a peace that persists even in pain and enables hope to blossom. This peace, as on the day of Easter, is born ever anew by the forgiveness of God which calms our anxious hearts. To be bearers of his peace: this is the mission entrusted to the Church on Easter day. In Christ, we are born to be instruments of reconciliation, to bring the Father’s forgiveness to everyone, to reveal his loving face through concrete gestures of mercy.

In the responsorial Psalm we heard these words: “His love endures forever” (Ps 117/118:2). Truly, God’s mercy is forever; it never ends, it never runs out, it never gives up when faced with closed doors, and it never tires. In this forever we find strength in moments of trial and weakness because we are sure that God does not abandon us. He remains with us forever. Let us give thanks for so great a love, which we find impossible to grasp; it is immense! Let us pray for the grace to never grow tired of drawing from the well of the Father’s mercy and bringing it to the world. Let us ask that we too may be merciful, to spread the power of the Gospel everywhere, and to write those pages of the Gospel which John the Apostle did not write.

Pope Francis’ Homily during Divine Mercy Prayer Vigil

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At 6:00 on Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis presides over the Prayer Vigil with those who follow the spirituality of Divine Mercy and take part in these days of the Jubilee of Mercy celebrations. At the end of the vigil, the Pope pronounces the homily which is found below:

With joy and thanksgiving we come together to share this time of prayer that begins Mercy Sunday. It is a liturgical feast which Saint John Paul II – he left us on this day in 2005 – ardently desired as a response to the request of Sister Faustina. The testimonies offered – for which we are grateful – and the readings we have just heard provide us the light and hope needed to enter the great ocean of God’s mercy. How many are the expressions of mercy with which God encounters us? They are numerous and it is impossible to describe them all, for the mercy of God continually increases. God never tires of showing us mercy and we should never take for granted the opportunity to receive, seek and desire this mercy. It is something always new, which inspires awe and wonder as we see God’s immense creativity in the ways he comes to meet us.

God has revealed himself, on many occasions, through his name which is “merciful” (cf. Ex 34:6). How great and infinite is the nature of God, so great and infinite his mercy, to the point that it is greatly challenging to describe it in all its entirety. Through Sacred Scriptures, we find that mercy is above all the closeness of God to his people. It is a closeness expressed essentially through help and protection. It is the closeness of a father or mother reflected in the beautiful words of the prophet Hosea: “I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (11:4). A father and mother’s embrace of their child. This image is extremely evocative: God picks each one of us up and holds us to his cheek. How much tenderness and love is expressed here! Tenderness: a word almost forgotten and one which the world today needs, all of us need. I had these words of the prophet in mind when I saw the image for the Jubilee. Jesus not only carries humanity on his shoulders, but his face is so closely joined to Adam’s face that it gives the impression they are one.

We do not have a God who is incapable of understanding and sharing our weaknesses (cf. Heb 4:15). Quite the contrary! Precisely because of his mercy God became one of us: “For by his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). In Jesus, therefore, we are able not only to touch the mercy of God with our hands, but we are inspired to become instruments of his mercy. It is easy to speak of mercy, yet more difficult to become its witness. This is a path that is lifelong and which should not be interrupted. Jesus has said to us that we must be “merciful as the Father” (cf. Lk 6:36). It is a lifelong endeavour.

How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy! This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness. The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognizing the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalized. Mercy does not remain still: it seeks out the lost sheep, and when one is found, a contagious joy overflows. Mercy knows how to look into the eyes of every person; each one is precious, for each one is unique. How much pain do we feel in our hearts when we hear: “These people… these people, these poor souls, let’s throw them out, let them sleep on the streets…”. Are these words from Jesus?

Dear brothers and sisters, mercy never allows us to feel satisfied. It is the love of Christ which makes us restless until we reach the goal; it impels us to embrace, welcome and include those who need mercy, so that all may be reconciled with the Father (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-20). We ought not to fear for it is a love which comes to us and involves us to such an extent that we go beyond ourselves, enabling us to see his face in our brothers and sisters. Let us allow ourselves to be humbly guided by this love; then we will become merciful as the Father is merciful.

We have heard the Gospel: Thomas was hard-headed. He did not believe. And he found his faith at precisely the moment he touched the wounds of the Lord. A faith that is not able to touch the Lord’s wounds, is not faith! A faith that cannot be merciful, as the Lord’s wounds were a sign of mercy, is not faith: it is an idea, an ideology. Our faith is incarnated in a God who was made man, who became sin, who was wounded for us. But if we really want to believe and have faith, we must draw near and touch those wounds, caress those wounds and even lower our head and allow others to sooth our wounds.

It is good that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us: he is love, he is the mercy that is poured into our hearts. May we not place obstacles to his life-giving work but with docility follow the path he shows us. Let us open our hearts so that the Spirit can transform us; thus forgiven, reconciled, and sheltered in our Lord’s wounds, we will become witnesses to the joy that brims over on finding the risen Lord, alive among us.

[The Holy Father imparts his Apostolic Blessing].

The other day, speaking with the directors of a charitable agency, the following idea surfaced. I thought it would be good to share it with you this evening. How beautiful it would be to have as a reminder, a “memorial” as it were, in every diocese during this Year of Mercy, an institutional expression of mercy: a hospital, a home for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where none exists, a home for the recovery of addicts… There are so many things that could be done… It would be very good for each diocese to consider: what can we leave as a living memory, as a work of living mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let us reflect on this and speak to the Bishops about it. Thank you.

Pope Francis’ Easter “Urbi et Orbi” Adddress

PopeEaster

At 10 am today, Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of the Lord, the Holy Father Pope Francis presides in Saint Peter’s Square at the solemn celebration of the Mass of the day. At the celebration, which begins with the ritual of “Resurrexit,” faithful of Rome and pilgrims from all over the world particpate in this mass on the occasion of Easter. At this mass, the Pope does not give a homily.  At the end of mass, Pope Francis delivers his “Urbi et Orbi  blessing and Easter Message to the Church and the world.

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever” (Ps 135:1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!

Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead. That is why we proclaim today: Jesus is Lord!

His resurrection fulfils the prophecy of the Psalm: God’s mercy endures for ever; it never dies. We can trust him completely, and we thank him because for our sake he descended into the depths of the abyss.

Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, before the chasms that open up in hearts and provoke hatred and death, only an infinite mercy can bring us salvation. Only God can fill those chasms with his love, prevent us from falling into them and help us to continue our journey together towards the land of freedom and life.

The glorious Easter message, that Jesus, who was crucified is not here but risen (cf. Mt 28:5- 6), offers us the comforting assurance that the abyss of death has been bridged and, with it, all mourning, lamentation and pain (cf. Rev 21:4). The Lord, who suffered abandonment by his disciples, the burden of an unjust condemnation and shame of an ignominious death, now makes us sharers of his immortal life and enables us to see with his eyes of love and compassion those who hunger and thirst, strangers and prisoners, the marginalized and the outcast, the victims of oppression and violence. Our world is full of persons suffering in body and spirit, even as the daily news is full of stories of brutal crimes which often take place within homes, and large-scale armed conflicts which cause indescribable suffering to entire peoples.

The risen Christ points out paths of hope to beloved Syria, a country torn by a lengthy conflict, with its sad wake of destruction, death, contempt for humanitarian law and the breakdown of civil concord. To the power of the risen Lord we entrust the talks now in course, that good will and the cooperation of all will bear fruit in peace and initiate the building of a fraternal society respectful of the dignity and rights of each citizen. May the message of life, proclaimed by the Angel beside the overturned stone of the tomb, overcome hardened hearts and promote a fruitful encounter of peoples and cultures in other areas of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. May the image of the new man, shining on the face of Christ, favour concord between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land, as well as patience, openness and daily commitment to laying the foundations of a just and lasting peace through direct and sincere negotiations. May the Lord of life also accompany efforts to attain a definitive solution to the war in Ukraine, inspiring and sustaining initiatives of humanitarian aid, including the liberation of those who are detained.

The Lord Jesus, our peace (Eph 2:14), by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin. May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world, as in the recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Côte d’Ivoire. May he water the seeds of hope and prospects for peace in Africa; I think in particular of Burundi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, marked by political and social tensions.

With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death. His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all. May his Easter message be felt ever more powerfully by the beloved people of Venezuela in the difficult conditions which they are experiencing, and by those responsible for the country’s future, that everyone may work for the common good, seeking spaces of dialogue and cooperation with all. May efforts be made everywhere to promote the culture of counter, justice and reciprocal respect, which alone can guarantee the spiritual and material welfare of all people.

The Easter message of the risen Christ, a message of life for all humanity, echoes down the ages and invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees – including many children – fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice. All too often, these brothers and sisters of ours meet along the way with death or, in any event, rejection by those who could offer them welcome and assistance. May the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit not fail to be centred on the human person and his or her dignity, and to come up with policies capable of assisting and protecting the victims of conflicts and other emergencies, especially those who are most vulnerable and all those persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons.

On this glorious day, “let the earth rejoice, in shining splendour” (cf. Easter Proclamation), even though it is so often mistreated and greedily exploited, resulting in an alteration of natural equilibria. I think especially of those areas affected by climate change, which not infrequently causes drought or violent flooding, which then lead to food crises in different parts of the world.

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world! (Jn 16:33). Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot. By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light (cf. 2 Tim 1:10). “He has made us pass from enslavement to freedom, from sadness to joy, from mourning to jubilation, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption. Therefore let us acclaim in his presence: Alleluia!” (Melito of Sardis, Easter Homily).

To those in our society who have lost all hope and joy in life, to the elderly who struggle alone and feel their strength waning, to young people who seem to have no future, to all I once more address the words of the Risen One: “See, I am making all things new… To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life” (Rev 21:5-6). May this comforting message of Jesus help each of us to set out anew with greater courage to blaze trails of reconciliation with God and with all our brothers and sisters.

Good Friday Service – Homily by Fr. Cantalamessa

Cantalamessa

“BE RECONCILED TO GOD”

God . . . through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. . . . We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation! (2 Cor 5:18–6:2)

These words are from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. The apostle’s call to be reconciled to God does not refer to the historical reconciliation between God and humanity (which, as we just heard, already occurred “through Christ” on the cross); neither does it refer to the sacramental reconciliation that takes place in Baptism and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It refers to an existential and personal reconciliation that needs to be implemented in the present. The call is addressed to baptized Christians in Corinth who belonged to the Church for a while, so it is therefore also addressed to us here and now. “The acceptable time, the day of salvation” for us, is the Year of Mercy that we are now in.

But what does this reconciliation with God mean in its existential and psychological dimension? One of the causes, and perhaps the main one, for people’s alienation from religion and faith today is the distorted image they have of God. What is the “predefined” idea of God in the collective human unconscious? To find that out, we only need to ask this question: “What ideas, what words, what feelings spontaneously arise in you without thinking about it when you say the words in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘May your will be done’”?

People generally say it with their heads bent down in resignation inwardly, preparing themselves for the worst. People unconsciously link God’s will to everything that is unpleasant and painful, to what can be seen as somehow destroying individual freedom and development. It is somewhat as though God were the enemy of every celebration, joy, and pleasure—a severe inquisitor-God.

God is seen as the Supreme Being, the Omnipotent One, the Lord of time and history, that is, as an entity who asserts himself over an individual from the outside; no detail of human life escapes him. The transgression of his law inexorably introduces a disorder that requires a commensurate reparation that human beings know they are not able to make. This is the cause of fear and at times hidden resentment against God. It is a vestige of the pagan idea of God that has never been entirely eradicated, and perhaps cannot be eradicated, from the human heart. Greek tragedy is based on this concept: God is the one who intervenes with divine punishment to reestablish the order disrupted by evil.

Of course in Christianity the mercy of God has never been disregarded! But mercy’s task is only to moderate the necessary rigors of justice. It was the exception, not the rule. The Year of Mercy is a golden opportunity to restore the true image of the biblical God who not only has mercy but is mercy.

This bold assertion is based on the fact that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16). It is only in the Trinity, however, that God is love without being mercy. The Father loving the Son is not a grace or a concession, it is a necessity; the Father needs to love in order to exist as Father. The Son loving the Father is not a mercy or grace; it is a necessity even though it occurs with the utmost freedom; the Son needs to be loved and to love in order to be the Son. The same can be said about the Holy Spirit who is love as a person.

It is when God creates the world and free human beings in it that love ceases for God to be nature and becomes grace. This love is a free concession; it is hesed, grace and mercy. The sin of human beings does not change the nature of this love but causes it to make a qualitative leap: mercy as a gift now becomes mercy as forgiveness. Love goes from being a simple gift to become a suffering love because God suffers when his love is rejected. “The LORD has spoken: ‘Sons have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me’” (Is 1:2). Just ask the many fathers and mothers who have experienced their children’s rejection if it does not cause suffering—and one of the most intense sufferings in life.

* * *

But what about the justice of God? Has it been forgotten or underestimated? St. Paul answered this question once and for all. The apostle begins his explanation in the Letter to the Romans with this news: “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested” (Rom 3:21). We can ask, what kind of righteousness is this? Is it the righteousness that gives “unicuique suum,” each person his or her due, and distributes rewards and punishments according to people’s merits? There will of course come a time when this kind of divine righteous justice that gives people what they deserve will also be manifested. The apostle in fact wrote shortly before in Romans that

God will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (2:6- 8)

But Paul is not talking about this kind of justice when he writes, “Now the righteousness of God has been manifested.” The first kind of justice he talks about involves a future event, but this other event is occurring “now.” If that were not the case, Paul’s statement would be an absurd assertion that contradicts the facts. From the point of view of distributive justice, nothing changed in the world with the coming of Christ. We continue, said Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, to see the guilty often on the throne and the innocent on the scaffold. But lest we think there is some kind of justice and some fixed order in the world, although it is upside down, sometimes the reverse happens and the innocent are on the throne and the guilty on the scaffold.1 It is not, therefore, in this social and historical sense that the innovation brought by Christ consists. Let us hear what the apostle says:

Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:23-26)

God shows his righteousness and justice by having mercy! This is the great revelation. The apostle says God is “just and justifying,” that is, he is just to himself when he justifies human beings; he is in fact love and mercy, so for that reason he is just to himself—he truly demonstrates who he is— when he has mercy.

But we cannot understand any of this if we do not know exactly what the expression “the righteousness of God” means. There is a danger that people can hear about the righteousness of God but not understand its meaning, so instead of being encouraged they are frightened. St. Augustine had already clearly explained its meaning centuries ago: “The ‘righteousness of God’ is that by which we are made righteous, just as ‘the salvation of God’ [see Ps 3:8] means the salvation by which he saves us.”2 In other words, the righteousness of God is that by which God makes those who believe in his Son Jesus acceptable to him. It does not enact justice but makes people just.

Luther deserves the credit for bringing this truth back when its meaning had been lost over the centuries, at least in Christian preaching, and it is this above all for which Christianity is indebted to the Reformation, whose fifth centenary occurs next year. The reformer later wrote that when he discovered this, “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”3 But it was neither Augustine nor Luther who explained the concept of “the righteousness of God” this way; Scripture had done that before they did:

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy” (Titus 3:4-5). God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our own trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (see Eph 2:4-5).

Therefore, to say “the righteousness of God has been manifested” is like saying that God’s goodness, his love, his mercy, has been revealed. God’s justice not only does not contradict his mercy but consists precisely in mercy!

* * *

What happened on the cross that was so important as to explain this radical change in the fate of humanity? In his book on Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI wrote, “That which is wrong, the reality of evil, cannot simply be ignored; it cannot just be left to stand. It must be dealt with; it must be overcome. Only this counts as a true mercy. And the fact that God now confronts evil himself because men are incapable of doing so—therein lies the ‘unconditional’ goodness of God.”4

God was not satisfied with merely forgiving people’s sins; he did infinitely more than that: he took those sins upon himself, he shouldered them himself. The Son of God, says Paul, “became sin for us.” What a shocking statement! In the Middle Ages some people found it difficult to believe that God would require the death of his Son in order to reconcile the world to himself. St. Bernard responded to this by saying, “What pleased God was not Christ’s death but his will in dying of his own accord”: “Non mors placuit sed voluntas sponte morientis.”5 It was not death, then, but love that saved us!

The love of God reached human beings at the farthest point to which they were driven in their flight from him, death itself. The death of Christ needed to demonstrate to everyone the supreme proof of God’s mercy toward sinners. That is why his death does not even have the dignity of a certain privacy but is framed between the death of two thieves. He wants to remain a friend to sinners right up to the end, so he dies like them and with them.

* * *

It is time for us to realize that the opposite of mercy is not justice but vengeance. Jesus did not oppose mercy to justice but to the law of retaliation: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Ex 21:24). In forgiving sinners God is renouncing not justice but vengeance; he does not desire the death of a sinner but wants the sinner to convert and live (see Ez 18:23). On the cross Jesus did not ask his Father for vengeance.

The hate and the brutality of the terrorist attacks this week in Brussels help us to understand the divine power of Christ’s last words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:24). No matter how far the hate of human beings can go, the love of God always has been, and will be, greater. In these current circumstances Paul’s exhortation is addressed to us: “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

We need to demythologize vengeance! It has become a pervasive mythic theme that infects everything and everybody, starting with children. A large number of the stories we see on the screen and in video games are stories of revenge, passed off at times as the victory of a good hero. Half, if not more, of the suffering in the world (apart from natural disasters and illnesses) come from the desire for revenge, whether in personal relationships or between states and nations.

It has been said that “Beauty will save the world.”6 But beauty, as we know very well, can also lead to ruin. There is only one thing that can truly save the world, mercy! The mercy of God for human beings and the mercy of human beings for each other. In particular, it can save the most precious and fragile thing in the world at this time, marriage and the family.

Something similar happens in marriage to what happened in God’s relationship with humanity that the Bible in fact describes with the image of a wedding. In the very beginning, as I said, there was love, not mercy. Mercy comes in only after humanity’s sin. So too in marriage, in the beginning there is not mercy but love. People do not get married because of mercy but because of love. But then after years or even months of life together, the limitations of each spouse emerge, and problems with health, finance, and the children arise. A routine sets in that quenches all joy.

What can save a marriage from going downhill without any hope of coming back up again is mercy, understood in the biblical sense, that is, not just reciprocal forgiveness but spouses acting with “compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” (Col 3:12). Mercy adds agape to eros, it adds the love that gives of oneself and has compassion to the love of need and desire. God “takes pity” on human beings (see Ps 102:13). Shouldn’t a husband and wife, then, take pity on each other? And those of us who live in community, shouldn’t we take pity on one another instead of judging one another?

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, by the merits of your Son on the cross who “became sin for us” (see 2 Cor 5:21), remove any desire for vengeance from the hearts of individuals, families, and nations, and make us fall in love with mercy. Let the Holy Father’s intention in proclaiming this Year of Mercy be met with a concrete response in our lives, and let everyone experience the joy of being reconciled with you in the depth of the heart. Amen!

Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass of the Lord’s Supper in Refugee Centre

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Pope Francis celebrated the Missa in coena Domini – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – on Thursday, leading the Church of Rome into the sacred Paschal Triduum that culminates in the great Easter Vigil in the night between Holy Saturday and Resurrection Sunday. This year, the Holy Father celebrated the Lord’s Supper at a temporary welcome and living facility for refugees and asylum-seekers located on the outskirts of Rome.

English language working translation by Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

The gestures speak louder than pictures and words. The gestures… There are, in the Word of God that we read, two gestures: Jesus serving, washing the feet… He, who was the “head”, washing the feet of others, they were his own, even the smallest of them all. A gesture. The second gesture: Judas who goes with the enemies of Jesus, to those who do not want peace with Jesus, to take the money with which they betrayed him, the 30 pieces of silver. Two gestures. Even today, here, there are two gestures: the first – all of us together: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals but all brothers and children of the same God: we want to live together in peace. One gesture. Three days ago, an act of war, of destruction in a European city, by people who do not want to live in peace. But behind that gesture, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave the money so that Jesus would be handed over. Behind “that” gesture, there are manufacturers, arms dealers who want blood, not peace; they want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures, the same: Jesus washes the feet;  Judas sold Jesus for money. You, we, all together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers. And there, those poor people who buy weapons to destroy brotherhood. Today, at this moment when I will perform the same action of Jesus washing the feet of twelve of you, all of us are performing a gesture of brotherhood, and we all say: “We are different, we are different, we have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace”. And this is the gesture that I perform with you. Each of us has a story within us. So many crosses, so many sorrows, but we also have a heart open to brotherhood. May each one of us in our own religious language, beg the Lord that this brotherhood be contagious in the world, so that there are not 30 coins to kill our brother, so that there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.

Even at the height of his annihilation, Jesus reveals the true face of God, which is mercy

Francis Palm Sunday 2016

Pope Francis’ Homily on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square

At 9:30 this morning, Pope Francis presided at the solemn liturgical celebration of Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord in St. Peter’s Square. At the center of the square, near the obelisk, the Pope blessed the palms and olive branches and at the end of the procession through the square arrived at the altar where celebrated Holy Mass of the Lord’s Passion. As a prelude to the World Youth Day in 2016 that will take place from July 26 to 31 in Krakow, Poland, young people of Rome and other dioceses took part in the celebration on the occasion of the diocesan celebration of the XXXI World Youth Day on the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5,7).  Following the proclamation of the Passion of Luke’s Gospel Pope Francis gave the following homily:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (cf. Lk 19:38), the crowd of Jerusalem exclaimed joyfully as they welcomed Jesus. We have made that enthusiasm our own: by waving our olive and palm branches we have expressed our praise and our joy, our desire to receive Jesus who comes to us. Just as he entered Jerusalem, so he desires to enter our cities and our lives. As he did in the Gospel, riding on a donkey, so too he comes to us in humility; he comes “in the name of the Lord”.

Through the power of his divine love he forgives our sins and reconciles us to the Father and with ourselves. Jesus is pleased with the crowd’s showing their affection for him. When the Pharisees ask him to silence the children and the others who are acclaiming him, he responds: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40). Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm for Jesus’ entry. May nothing prevent us from finding in him the source of our joy, true joy, which abides and brings peace; for it is Jesus alone who saves us from the snares of sin, death, fear and sadness.

Today’s liturgy teaches us that the Lord has not saved us by his triumphal entry or by means of powerful miracles. The Apostle Paul, in the second reading, epitomizes in two verbs the path of redemption: Jesus “emptied” and “humbled” himself (Phil 2:7-8). These two verbs show the boundlessness of God’s love for us. Jesus emptied himself: he did not cling to the glory that was his as the Son of God, but became the Son of man in order to be in solidarity with us sinners in all things; yet he was without sin. Even more, he lived among us in “the condition of a servant” (v. 7); not of a king or a prince, but of a servant. Therefore he humbled himself, and the abyss of his humiliation, as Holy Week shows us, seems to be bottomless.

Entry into Jerusalem 1 (1)

The first sign of this love “without end” (Jn 13:1) is the washing of the feet. “The Lord and Master” (Jn 13:14) stoops to his disciples’ feet, as only servants would have done. He shows us by example that we need to allow his love to reach us, a love which bends down to us; we cannot do any less, we cannot love without letting ourselves be loved by him first, without experiencing his surprising tenderness and without accepting that true love consists in concrete service. But this is only the beginning. The humiliation of Jesus reaches its utmost in the Passion: he is sold for thirty pieces of silver and betrayed by the kiss of a disciple whom he had chosen and called his friend. Nearly all the others flee and abandon him; Peter denies him three times in the courtyard of the temple. Humiliated in his spirit by mockery, insults and spitting, he suffers in his body terrible brutality: the blows, the scourging and the crown of thorns make his face unrecognizable.

He also experiences shame and disgraceful condemnation by religious and political authorities: he is made into sin and considered to be unjust. Pilate then sends him to Herod, who in turn sends him to the Roman governor. Even as every form of justice is denied to him, Jesus also experiences in his own flesh indifference, since no one wishes to take responsibility for his fate. The crowd, who just a little earlier had acclaimed him, now changes their praise into a cry of accusation, even to the point of preferring that a murderer be released in his place. And so the hour of death on the cross arrives, that most painful form of shame reserved for traitors, slaves and the worst kind of criminals. But isolation, defamation and pain are not yet the full extent of his deprivation.

To be totally in solidarity with us, he also experiences on the Cross the mysterious abandonment of the Father. In his abandonment, however, he prays and entrusts himself: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk 23:47). Hanging from the wood of the cross, beside derision he now confronts the last temptation: to come down from the Cross, to conquer evil by might and to show the face of a powerful and invincible God. Jesus, however, even here at the height of his annihilation, reveals the true face of God, which is mercy.

Man of sorrows

He forgives those who are crucifying him, he opens the gates of paradise to the repentant thief and he touches the heart of the centurion. If the mystery of evil is unfathomable, then the reality of Love poured out through him is infinite, reaching even to the tomb and to hell. He takes upon himself all our pain that he may redeem it, bringing light to darkness, life to death, love to hatred. God’s way of acting may seem so far removed from our own, that he was annihilated for our sake, while it seems difficult for us to even forget ourselves a little. He comes to save us; we are called to choose his way: the way of service, of giving, of forgetfulness of ourselves.

Let us walk this path, pausing in these days to gaze upon the Crucifix, the “royal seat of God”, to learn about the humble love which saves and gives life, so that we may give up all selfishness, and the seeking of power and fame. By humbling himself, Jesus invites us to walk on his path. Let us turn our faces to him, let us ask for the grace to understand something of the mystery of his obliteration for our sake; and then, in silence, let us contemplate the mystery of this Week.