Thursday, August 22, 2013

Following Jesus is not neutral...

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s liturgy we listen to these words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). We must give special emphasis to this affirmation in this Year of Faith. Let us too, throughout this Year, keep our gaze fixed on Jesus because faith, which is our “yes” to the filial relationship with God, comes from him, comes from Jesus. He is the only mediator of this relationship between us and our Father who is in heaven. Jesus is the Son and we are sons in him.
This Sunday, however, the word of God also contains a word of Jesus which alarms us and must be explained, for otherwise it could give rise to misunderstanding. Jesus says to his disciples: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Lk 12:51). What does this mean? It means that faith is not a decorative or ornamental element; living faith does not mean decorating life with a little religion, as if it were a cake and we were decorating it with cream. No, this is not faith. Faith means choosing God as the criterion and basis of life, and God is not empty, God is not neutral, God is always positive, God is love, and love is positive! After Jesus has come into the world it is impossible to act as if we do not know God, or as if he were something that is abstract, empty, a purely nominal reference. No, God has a real face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is faithfulness, he is life which is given to us all. For this reason Jesus says “I came to bring division”. It is not that Jesus wishes to split people up. On the contrary Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of the tomb, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus entails giving up evil and selfishness and choosing good, truth and justice, even when this demands sacrifice and the renunciation of our own interests. And this indeed divides; as we know, it even cuts the closest ties. However, be careful: it is not Jesus who creates division! He establishes the criterion: whether to live for ourselves or to live for God and for others; to be served or to serve; to obey one’s own ego or to obey God. It is in this sense that Jesus is a “sign that is spoken against” (Lk 2:34).
This word of the Gospel does not therefore authorize the use of force to spread the faith. It is exactly the opposite: the Christian’s real force is the force of truth and of love, which involves renouncing all forms of violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Instead, faith and strength go together. Christians are not violent; they are strong. And with what kind of strength? That of meekness, the strength of meekness, the strength of love.
Dear friends, even among Jesus’ relatives there were some who at a certain point did not share his way of life and preaching, as the Gospel tells us (cf. Mk 3:20-21). His Mother, however, always followed him faithfully, keeping the eyes of her heart fixed on Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and on his mystery. And in the end, thanks to Mary’s faith, Jesus’ relatives became part of the first Christian community (cf. Acts 1:14). Let us ask Mary to help us too to keep our gaze firmly fixed on Jesus and to follow him always, even when it costs what it may.

After the Angelus
Remember this: following Jesus is not neutral, following Jesus means being involved, because faith is not a superficial decoration, it is a strength of the soul!
Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all with affection, Romans and pilgrims: families, parish groups, young people....
I would like to ask you for a prayer for the victims of the ferry that sank in the Philippines, and also for the families... what great suffering!
Let us also continue to pray for peace in Egypt. All together: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us! Everyone (he repeats with the people): Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
I greet the Polish folk group who have come from Edmonton, Canada.
I address a special greeting to the youth from Brembilla — I see you! I can see you well! — near Bergamo, and I bless the torch that you will carry from Rome on foot to your town. And I also greet the young people from Altamura.
I wish you all a good Sunday and a good lunch! Goodbye!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Desire to encounter Christ - Believe in the victory of love

Angelus: August 11, 2013

In the Angelus message on August 11, 2013, Pope Francis emphasized the desire that all of us have, sometimes hidden deep within us, to encounter Christ.  The Gospel passage that prompted his reflections is Luke 12, 32-48, the key line being: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

"In this passage, Jesus is walking towards Jerusalem with his disciples.  The context is important, because Jesus is also walking towards his own Passion and Death on the cross.  During this journey, Jesus is teaching his disciples what his own interior thoughts are.  As he approaches his impending condemnation and death, he is emphasizing detachment from earthly good, trust in God's providence, and interior vigilance--the waiting and working that belongs to the Kingdom of God.  For Jesus, this waiting is his return to the Father...for us, it is waiting for Christ himself.  He will come to take us and bring us to the joy of heaven which never ends.

So, this Gospel is telling us that a Christian is someone who carries within himself a great and profound desire: to meet the Lord.  And where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.  Our heart is what desires, and all of us desire something.  For us Christians, our desire to meet the Lord is also a desire for life, for joy, and for happiness, because Christ is and always will be all those things.

Do you have a heart that desires?  Think about this and respond in silence, in your own heart.  Do you have a desiring heart, or is your heart closed, asleep, or anesthetized? The second question is: Where is your treasure?  What is the most important reality for you, the most precious thing, what attracts you more than anything else?  Is it the love of God, to do goodness, to live for the Lord and for your brothers and sisters?  Each of us must respond in his or her heart.

Someone may say to me, "But Father, I work all the time, I have a family--those are the most important things for me."  Of course, yes, it's true that our family is important.  But, what is it that keeps a family united?  Isn't it love?  And isn't God the one who sows love in our hearts?  And the love of God is precisely what gives meaning to the daily, little sacrifices we make...and helps us to face the big ones.

This is the true treasure.  But the "love of God"--what is it?  It is not something vague, some generic sentiment.  The love of God has a name and face: Jesus Christ.  Jesus.  The love of God is made manifest in Jesus.  Because we cannot love air, can we?  Do we love air?  Do we love everything?  No, you can't do it!  We love people, and the person we love is Jesus.  This love gives value and beauty to everything else; this is what makes our family strong, our work, our study, our friendships and art--all our human activities--it gives meaning to them.  Our love for Jesus also gives meaning to the negative experiences because it--this love--allows us to go beyond the experience and not remain a prisoner of evil.  The love of God opens us up to hope, to the final horizon of our pilgrimage.  So the hard times and our falls, our sins, also have a meaning.  God's love for us forgives us.  He loves us so much he always forgives us."

Castel Gandolfo, 15 August 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the end of its Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Council left us a very beautiful meditation on Mary Most Holy. Let me just recall the words referring to the mystery we celebrate today: “the immaculate Virgin preserved free from all stain of original sin, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, when her earthly life was over, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things” (no. 59). Then towards the end, there is: “the Mother of Jesus in the glory which she possesses in body and soul in heaven is the image and the beginning of the church as it is to be perfected in the world to come. Likewise, she shines forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come” (no. 68). In the light of this most beautiful image of our Mother, we are able to see the message of the biblical readings that we have just heard. We can focus on three key words: struggle, resurrection, hope.  

The passage from Revelation presents the vision of the struggle between the woman and the dragon. The figure of the woman, representing the Church, is, on the one hand, glorious and triumphant and yet, on the other, still in travail. And the Church is like that: if in heaven she is already associated in some way with the glory of her Lord, in history she continually lives through the trials and challenges which the conflict between God and the evil one, the perennial enemy, brings. And in the struggle which the disciples must confront – all of us, all the disciples of Jesus, we must face this struggle - Mary does not leave them alone: the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us. And in a way, Mary shares this dual condition. She has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory. But this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil. Prayer with Mary, especially the rosary – but listen carefully: the Rosary. Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do [the people shout “Yes!”]… Really? Well, prayer with Mary, especially the Rosary, has this “suffering” dimension, that is of struggle, a sustaining prayer in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. The Rosary also sustains us in the battle.  
The second reading speaks to us of resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, insists that being Christian means believing that Christ is truly risen from the dead. Our whole faith is based upon this fundamental truth which is not an idea but an event. Even the mystery of Mary’s Assumption body and soul is fully inscribed in the resurrection of Christ. The Mother’s humanity is “attracted” by the Son in his own passage from death to life….
Mary also experienced the martyrdom of the Cross: the martyrdom of her heart, the martyrdom of her soul. She lived her Son’s Passion to the depths of her soul. She was fully united to him in his death, and so she was given the gift of resurrection. Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of “those who are in Christ”. [...]

The Gospel suggests to us the third word: hope. Hope is the virtue of those who, experiencing conflict – the struggle between life and death, good and evil – believe in the resurrection of Christ, in the victory of love. We heard the Song of Mary, the Magnificat: it is the song of hope, it is the song of the People of God walking through history. It is the song many saints, men and women, some famous, and very many others unknown to us but known to God: mums, dads, catechists, missionaries, priests, sisters, young people, even children and grandparents: these have faced the struggle of life while carrying in their heart the hope of the little and the humble. […] For us Christians, wherever the Cross is, there is hope, always. If there is no hope, we are not Christian. That is why I like to say: do not allow yourselves to be robbed of hope. […] And Mary is always there, near those communities, our brothers and sisters, she accompanies them, suffers with them, and sings the Magnificat of hope with them.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, with all our heart let us too unite ourselves to this song of patience and victory, of struggle and joy, that unites the triumphant Church with the pilgrim one, earth with heaven, and that joins our lives to the eternity towards which we journey. Amen.

(cited on August 20th, 2013 from

Monday, August 19, 2013

Confront the poison of emptiness with joy

Dear friends,
I have a little catch-up to do, so please see below for the first installment of the last few Sunday messages from Pope Francis.  Some of these are my own translations, so forgive me for any mistakes!  Thank you, and enjoy!

Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 4 August 2013

(video and text
available here)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Last Sunday I was in Rio de Janeiro. Holy Mass and the World Youth Day were drawing to a close. I think we must all thank the Lord together for the great gift which this event was, for Brazil, for Latin America and for the entire world. It was a new stage on the pilgrimage of youth crossing the continents bearing the Cross of Christ. We must never forget that World Youth Days are notPope John Paul II. He entrusted the cross to the young people and said: go out and I will come with you! And so it was; and this youth pilgrimage continued with Pope Benedict and, thanks be to God, I too have been able to experience this marvellous milestone in Brazil. Let us always remember: young people do not follow the Pope, they follow Jesus Christ, bearing his Cross. And the Pope guides them and accompanies them on this journey of faith and hope. I therefore thank all the young people who have taken part, even at the cost of sacrifices. I also thank the Lord for the other encounters I had with the Pastors and people of that vast country which Brazil is, and likewise the authorities and the volunteers. May the Lord reward all those who worked hard for the success of this great feast of faith. I also want to emphasize my gratitude; many thanks to the Brazilians. The people of Brazil are an excellent people, a people with a great heart! I shall not forget the warm welcome, the greetings, their gaze, all the joy. A generous people; I ask the Lord to shower his blessings upon them!
“firework displays”, flashes of enthusiasm that are an end in themselves; they are the stages of a long journey, begun in 1985, at the initiative of 

I would like to ask you to pray with me that the young people who took part in World Youth Day will be able to express this experience in their journey through daily life, in their everyday conduct; and that they can also express it in the important decisions of life, in response to the personal call of the Lord. Today in the liturgy, the provocative words of Ecclesiastes ring out: “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!” (1:2). Young people are particularly sensitive to the empty, meaningless values that often
surround them. Unfortunately, moreover, it is they who pay the consequences. Instead the encounter with the living Christ in his great family which is the Church fills hearts with joy, for it fills them with true life, with a profound goodness that endures, that does not tarnish. We saw it on the faces of the youth in Rio. But this experience must confront the daily vanity, that poison of emptiness which creeps into our society based on profit and possession and on consumerism which deceives young people. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us, precisely, of the absurdity of basing our own happiness on having. The rich say to themselves: my soul, you have many possessions at your disposal... rest, eat, drink and be merry! But God says to them: Fools! This very night your life will be required of you. And all the things you have accumulated, whose will they be? (cf. Lk 12:19-20).

Dear brothers and sisters, the true treasure is the love of God shared with our brethren. That love which comes from God and enables us to share it with one another and to help each other. Those who experience it do not fear death and their hearts are at peace. Let us entrust this intention, the intention of receiving God’s love and sharing it with our brothers and sisters, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam!

August 3, 2013.

Thanks for participating in our blog thus far in the Year of Faith.  I would like to inform our faithful readers that the Holy Father's schedule during the month of August will be greatly reduced.  He will not hold any Wednesday general audiences and he will say only one public Mass.  He will be praying the Angelus every Sunday, however, so we'll bring you the highlights of those messages.

One more thing... if you haven't seen much of the footage from World Youth Day, you may want to check out these two videos: Highlights of Pope Francis WYD and World's Largest Flash Mob!

On July 31, 2013, the feast of Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, Pope Francis celebrated Mass with his Jesuit brothers in Rome at the Church of the Gesù.  It was private, like the Mass celebrated each day at the Santa Marta guesthouse, attended only by priests of the Society of Jesus, friends, and collaborators. However, the Pope was received by hundreds of people who wished to greet him and who waited until the end of the celebration to do so.

Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas, concelebrated with the Pope, as well as members of the Council and more than two hundred Jesuits.

In this homily, the Pope proposed a reflection based on three concepts: putting Christ at the centre of the Church, allowing oneself to be conquered by Him to serve; and feeling the shame of our limits and sins in order to be humble before Him and before our brothers.

The symbol of the Jesuits is a monogram (IHS), the acronym of Iesus Hominum Salvator, spoke Francis.  It is also on the Pope Francis' coat of arms.

“It reminds us constantly of a fact we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us, and for the entire Society, that St. Ignatius chose to call 'the Society of Jesus' to indicate its point of reference. … And this leads us, Jesuits, to be 'decentred', to have 'Deus semper maior' before us … Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ also corresponds to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated. I cannot follow Christ other than in the Church and with the Church. And also in this case, we Jesuits and the entire Society are not in the centre; we are, so to say, removed; we are in the service of Christ and of the Church. … To be men rooted and grounded in the Church: this is what Jesus wants. We cannot walk in parallel or in isolation. Yes, there are paths of research, creative paths, yes: this is important; to go out to the peripheries … but always in community, in the Church, with this belonging that gives us the courage to go ahead”.

The path to live this dual centrality is found in “letting oneself be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus because he sought me first. … In Spanish there is a very descriptive phrase, which explains this well: 'El nos primerea', He is always first before us. … To be conquered by Christ to offer to this King our entire person, all our effort … to imitate Him also in withstanding injustice, contempt, poverty”. The Pope recalled the Jesuit Fr. Paolo dall'Oglio, missing in Syria for days, and added “being conquered by Christ means forever striving to reach what is before you, to reach Christ”.

Francis also recalled Jesus' words in the Gospel: “those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. Those who are ashamed of me … will be ashamed when He comes in His glory.  Jesus invites us not to be ashamed of Him, but to follow Him for ever with total dedication, trusting in and entrusting ourselves to Him”.

“Looking to Jesus, as St. Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, and especially looking at Christ crucified, we feel that sentiment, so human and so noble, that is the shame of not being able to measure up; … and this leads us always, as individuals and as a Society, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility makes us aware every day that it is not we who build the Kingdom of God, but rather it is always the grace of the Lord that acts in us; humility that urges us to give ourselves not in service to ourselves or our ideas, but in the service of Christ and the Church, like clay vases – fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but inside which there is an immense treasure we carry and communicate."

The Pope confessed that when he thinks of the twilight of a Jesuit's life, “when a Jesuit finishes his life”, two icons always come to mind: that of St. Francis Xavier looking to China, and that of Father Arrupe in his final conversation at the refugee camp. “It benefits us to look at these two icons, to return to them, and to ask that our twilight be like theirs”.

Finally, Francis encouraged those present to ask the Virgin “to let us feel the shame of our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, to live in humility before the Lord. May the paternal intercession of St. Ignatius accompany our path and that of all holy Jesuits, who continue to teach us to do everything with humility, ad maiorem Dei gloriam”.