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Spy Wednesday General Audience

  Jesus Humiliated: A Picture of God's Victory

(Vatican Radio) “Out of love for us,” wrote Pope Francis, “Jesus freely walked the path of humiliation and self-abandonment for our salvation.”

  Listen: RealAudioMP3

As Saint Paul says, “he emptied himself… and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). As we contemplate Jesus in his passion, we see reflected the sufferings of all humanity and we discover God’s answer to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. He gives us his Son, who dies humiliated, betrayed, abandoned and reviled. Yet God’s victory shines forth in what appears, in human terms, to be failure and defeat.

Video: Christ's Passion No Mistake      

The Holy Father’s English remarks went on to say that Jesus’ passion is the culmination of his revelation of the Father’s infinite love and his summons to faith in his word.

Christ takes upon himself the power of evil in order to set us free: “by his wounds we have been healed” (cf. 1 Pet 2:24). This week, as we follow Jesus along the way of the cross, may we imitate his loving obedience to the will of the Father, especially in times of difficulty and humiliation, and open our hearts to his gifts

of reconciliation, redemption and new life.

 

>>>LinkCatechesis of Pope Francis 2014<<<


 

 

 

 

Pope Francis Celebrates Palm Sunday Mass

   Video: Palm Sun. & Angelus
(Vatican Radio) Palm Sunday, which is the 6th Sunday of Lent, marks the official beginning of Holy Week during which Christians recall the passion and death of Christ.

Palm Sunday Mass is celebrated by the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square. The celebration begins with a procession followed by the blessing of palms – or olive branches, which are used in Italy – symbolizing Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem during which palm branches were laid at his feet, which was followed with the Gospel reading from Matthew.                 LISTEN:RealAudioMP3 

Because Palm Sunday is also diocesan World Youth Day (WYD), many of those invited to carry palms in the procession are young people from Italy and around the world.

At the conclusion of the Mass, a group of young people from Brazil will pass the WYD Cross to the youth of Poland in preparation for the 2016 WYD in Krakow. 

Link: >>"Who am I before the Lord" from CNA Article

 


 

Wisdom is Seeing with God's Eyes

 Video: Francis Wednesday Catechesis

(Vatican Radio) Today we begin a series of reflections on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the soul, the lifeblood of the Church and of every Christian: He is God’s Love, who makes our hearts his home and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit is always with us, always in us, in our hearts.  Listen:RealAudioMP3 

The Spirit himself is "God's gift" par excellence (cf. Jn 4:10) a gift from God, and in turn communicates different spiritual gifts to those who welcome him. The Church identifies seven, a number that symbolically speaks of fullness, completeness; we learn these when preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation and we invoke them in the ancient prayer called the "Sequence of the Holy Spirit" the gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of God.

1 . The first gift of the Holy Spirit , according to this traditional list, is wisdom. It is not merely human wisdom, no, the fruit of knowledge and experience. In the Bible we are told that, at the time of his coronation as king of Israel , God asked Solomon what gift he wanted to receive. Solomon did not ask for wealth, success, fame , or a long and happy life, instead he asked for “an understanding heart that knows how to distinguish good from evil" (1 Kings 3:9). This is wisdom: it is the grace of being able to see everything with the eyes of God. It is simply this: Seeing the world…situations, conjunctures, problems, everything with God’s eyes. This is wisdom. Often we see things as we want to see them or according to our heart, with love, with hate, with envy… no this is not God’s eyes. Wisdom is what the Holy Spirit does within us so that we can see everything with God’s eyes. This is the gift of wisdom.

2 . Obviously this gift comes from intimacy with God. For our intimate relationship with God. From our relationship as children with a Father. And the Holy Spirit – when we have this relationship – gives us the gift of wisdom. When we are in communion with the Lord , it is as if the Spirit transfigures our heart and helps it to perceive all his warmth and predilection.

3 . The Holy Spirit also makes the Christian "wise". This is, however , not in the sense that he or she has an answer for everything, or knows everything ...           >>>LINK: click here to read Transcript of Full Message

 

 


 

The Mystery of the Cross: Christ Makes Himself Nothing

    Video:Christianity is a Person

(Vatican Radio) “It is impossible for us to free ourselves from sin on our own. It’s impossible. These doctors of the law, these people who taught the law, didn’t have a clear idea on this. They believed, yes, in the forgiveness of God but considered themselves strong, self-sufficient and that they knew everything. And in the end they transformed religion, their adoration of God, into a culture with values, reflections, certain commandments of conduct to be polite and they believed, yes, that the Lord can pardon them, they knew this but they were far removed from all this.” Listen:RealAudioMP3 

Pope Francis said the serpent is the symbol of sin as seen in the bible. In the desert sin was lifted up but it is a sin that seeks salvation so that it heals. It is Jesus, the Son of Man, the true Savior, who is lifted up. 

“Christianity is not a philosophical doctrine, it’s not a program for life survival or education, or for peacemaking. These are consequences. Christianity is a person, a person raised on the Cross, a person who annihilated himself to save us, who became sin. Just as sin was raised up in the desert, here God who was made man and made sin for us was raised up. All our sins were there. You cannot understand Christianity without understanding this profound humiliation of the Son of God who humbled himself and became a servant unto death, even death on a cross, in order to serve us.”

This is why, the Pope went on, the apostle Paul said we do not have other things to boast about, apart from our sins, and this is our misery. But through the mercy of God, we rejoice in the crucified Christ. It’s for this reason that ‘there is no Christianity without the Cross and there’s no Cross without Jesus Christ. 

“The Cross is not an ornament that we must always put in the churches, there on the altar. It is not a symbol that distinguishes us from others. The Cross is mystery, the mystery of God who humbles himself, he becomes ‘nothing.’ He becomes sin. Where is your sin? ‘I don’t know, I have so many here.’ No, your sin is there, in the Cross. Go and find it there, in the wounds of the Lord and your sins will be healed, your wounds will be healed, your sins will be forgiven. The forgiveness that God gives us is not the same as cancelling a debt that we have with Him, the forgiveness that God gives us are the wounds of his Son on the Cross, raised up on the Cross. May he draw us towards Him and may we allow ourselves to be healed by him.”

God's Mercy Lovingly Heals the Wounds of Sin

       

(Vatican Radio) [T]he Pope explained the meaning of the words “he who is without sin, cast the first stone”. The reading is well known. It narrates the episode in which the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman to Jesus who had been caught in the act of adultery. They point out that in the law, Moses commands us to stone such women because adultery is considered a very grave sin.    Listen:   RealAudioMP3 

Marriage – Pope Francis said – is a human reality but it is also a symbol of a faithful relationship between God and his people. When the marriage is spoilt by adultery, he continued, it spoils the relationship with God.

But when the scribes and the Pharisees ask Jesus “what do you say?” they do so to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him.

“If Jesus had said: ‘Yes, go ahead and have her stoned’, they would have told the people ‘this is your good and merciful master… just look at what he has done to this poor woman!’ And if Jesus had said: ‘Poor woman! Forgive her!’ they would have said: ‘He does not observe the Law!’…”

The Pope pointed out that they cared nothing about the woman; “they did not care about adultery, perhaps amongst them there were some adulterers. All they cared about was catching Jesus in a trap”.

And to this – Pope Francis said - Jesus answered: ‘Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her’. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.

So one can imagine – the Pope observed – that their own records were not that straight.

“So Jesus was left alone with the woman before him and said to her: ‘woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ It is just you and I, alone before God, without accusations, without gossip. You and God! No one has condemned you. She replied: ‘No one, sir’”. But Pope Francis said: “she does not say it was a false accusation! She does not say‘I have not committed adultery’. She recognizes her sin. “Then Jesus said: ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin anymore,’ do not offend God again; do not spoil the beautiful relationship between God and his people”.

“Jesus forgives” – the Pope said – “but here there is something that goes beyond forgiveness.”

“Jesus goes beyond the law. He does not say: ‘adultery is not a sin!’ But he does not condemn it according to law”. This – the Pope said – “is the mystery of mercy. It is the mystery of the mercy of Jesus”.

And the Pope said that when he is asked whether mercy removes sins, he answers that it is God’s forgiveness that removes sins: “mercy is the way in which God forgives our sins”.

This biblical episode – Pope Francis said – shows us Jesus’s merciful attitude when he advises the woman not to sin again and to go in peace. “He defends the sinner from her enemies; he defends her against a just condemnation”.

“How many of us” – the Pope said – “should perhaps go to hell? And the condemnation would be just… but He forgives and goes beyond. How? With this mercy!”

“Mercy” – Pope Francis said – “goes beyond in such a way that sin is put to the side. It is like heaven”:

“We look at the sky, there are many, many stars; but when the sun rises in the morning, the light is such that we can’t see the stars. God’s mercy is like that: a great light of love and tenderness. God forgives us, not with a decree, but with his love, healing the wounds of sin. Because He is involved in forgiveness, He is involved in our salvation. So when Jesus acts as confessor to the woman he does not humiliate her, he does not say: ‘What have you done? When did you do it? How did you do it? With whom did you do it?’ No! He says: ‘Go and do not sin again!’. God’s mercy is great, Jesus’s mercy is great. Forgive us and heal us!”

 


 

Pope Francis: There is no Limit to Divine Mercy

  Video: Attachment to sin corrupts the heart

  (Vatican Radio) The Gospel of this fifth Sunday of Lent tells of the resurrection of Lazarus. It is the culmination of the wonderful “signs” performed by Jesus: an act too great, too clearly divine to be tolerated by the high priests, who, aware of the fact, make the decision to kill Jesus (cf. Jn 11:53).

Lazarus had already been dead for three days when Jesus arrived; and to the sisters Martha and Mary, Jesus spoke the words which are forever impressed upon the memory of the Christian community. Jesus said this: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25). On this Word of the Lord we believe that the life of one who believes in Jesus and follows His commandments, after death will be transformed in a new life, full and immortal. As Jesus rose with His own body, but did not return to an earthly life, so we will rise with our bodies that will be transfigured into glorious bodies. He waits for us next to the Father, and the strength of the Holy Spirit, Who raised Him, will also raise those who are united to Him.

Before the sealed tomb of His friend Lazarus, Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth” (vv. 43-44). This peremptory cry is addressed to every human person, because we are all marked by death, all of us; it is the voice of One Who is the master of life, one who will all “should have [life] more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Christ is not resigned to the sepulchres that we have constructed with our choices of evil and death, with our mistakes, with our sins. He is not resigned to this! He invites us, almost orders us, to come out from the tombs into which our sins have plunged us. He calls us insistently to come out of the darkness of the prison in which we are enclosed, contenting ourselves with a false, selfish, mediocre life. “Come forth!” He says. “Come forth!” It is a beautiful invitation to true freedom, to allow us to grab onto these words of Jesus that He repeats to each one of us today, an invitation that allows us to free ourselves from the “bands,” from the bands of pride. Because pride makes us slaves, slaves of ourselves, slaves of so many idols, slaves of so many things. Our resurrection begins here: when we decide to obey the commands of Jesus to come into the light, to life; when the masks fall from our faces — so many times we are masked by sin: the masks must fall! — and we rediscover the courage of our original faces, created in the image and likeness of God.

      

Video: Mercy of Confession     

The act of Jesus by which He raised Lazarus demonstrates the end to which the power of the Grace of God can arrive, and the end, therefore to which our conversion, our change can arrive. But listen well: there is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all! Remember this phrase. And we can all say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” Let us say it together: “There is no other limit to the divine mercy offered to all!” The Lord is always ready to take away the tombstone of our sins, which separate us from Him, the light of the living.



 

Pope Francis Interview:

“Believers and Non-believers, We’re All Brothers and Sisters”

      >>>Video: Youth Conversation

  (Vatican Radio) An interview showing Pope Francis answering questions from a group of Belgian young people has been broadcast on the nation’s public Flemish TV station, VRT. The young people, who were accompanied by Bishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent, put their questions to the Pope in English and he replied in Italian. Their meeting was filmed on March 31st inside the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

The group of Belgian young people included a non-believer who said she was inspired by the words of Pope Francis. When they began by asking the Pope why he accepted this interview, he replied that he considered it highly valuable to speak about the worries of the young. The Pope was then asked : “Are you happy? And why?”

“Absolutely, absolutely (laughing) I’m happy! And it’s a tranquil happiness because at this age one no longer has the same happiness of a young person, there’s a difference. There’s a certain interior peace, a strong sense of peace, of happiness, that comes with age. But it’s a road that has always had problems. Even now there are problems but this happiness doesn’t go away because of the problems. No, it sees the problems, suffers because of them and then goes forward, it does something to resolve them and goes ahead. But in the depth of my heart there is this peace and happiness. It’s truly a grace from God, for me. It’s a grace and it’s not through my own merit.”

When they asked for a reason for his great love for the poor, “Because it’s the heart of the Gospel,” Pope Francis replied:

“For me, the heart of the Gospel is about the poor. Two months ago, I heard a person who said (on hearing this): ‘But this Pope is a communist!’ But no! This is the banner of the Gospel, not of communism: of the Gospel! But it’s poverty without ideology…. And it’s for this reason that I believe that the poor are at the center of Jesus’ message. All you have to do is read it. The problem is that this attitude towards the poor has sometimes during history been made the subject of ideology.”

The question for Pope Francis from a girl from the group, a non-believer:

“We’re all brothers and sisters. Believers, non-believers or whether belonging to this or that religious confession, Jews, Moslems… we’re all brothers and sisters! Human beings are at the center of history and this for me is really important: humans are at the center (of society). In this moment of history, humans have been pushed away from the center, they have slid towards the margins and at the center --- at least right now --- there’s power, money and we must work on behalf of human beings, for men and women who are the image of God.”

The Pope continued: “Today, we’ve become part of a throw-away culture”: Children are discarded, people don’t want children, or less of them, small families: Old people are also discarded: many elderly people die because of a hidden euthanasia, because nobody takes care of them and they die. And now young people are being discarded.” The Pope noted that the unemployment rate among people below the age of 25 is almost 50 percent but said his meetings with some young Argentine politicians gave him hope and trust.

“And I’m pleased because these young politicians, be they of the left or of the right, they’re speaking a new language, with a new music, a new political style. And this gives me reason to hope. And I believe that nowadays young people must take the lamp and go ahead. They must be courageous! This gives me hope.”

Regarding the search for God, the Pope replied:

“When a person searches for his or herself, they find God. Maybe, they don’t succeed in finding him but they are going along the path of honesty, searching for the truth, for a road of goodness and a road of beauty… they’re on the right road and it’s certain they’ll find God! Sooner or later, they will find him. But the road is a long one and some people don’t find him in their lives. They don’t find him consciously. But they are very true and honest with themselves, very good and lovers of beauty, so that in the end they have a very mature personality, capable of an encounter with God, which is always a grace. Because an encounter with God is a grace.”

The young man asked the Pope what he learned from his own mistakes.

The Pope replied describing mistakes as “great teachers of life”:

"They’re great teachers, they teach you so much. They also humiliate you because somebody may feel a superman, a superwomen … but then you make a mistake and this humiliates you and puts you in your place. I would not say that I have learned from all my mistakes: No, I believe I haven’t learned from some of them because I’m stubborn (laughing) and it’s not easy to learn. But I have learned from many mistakes and that’s been good for me. It’s also a case of recognizing our mistakes. I make a mistake here, I made a mistake there…. And also being careful not to go back and make the same mistake."

A young woman asked him: “Do you have a concrete example of how you learned from a mistake?”

“One example, in the conducting of the Church’s life: I was named Superior (of the Jesuits in Argentina) when very young and I made so many mistakes because of my authoritarianism, for example. I was too authoritarian: at the age of 36… and then, I learned that one must dialogue, one must listen to how others think…. But I didn’t learn this for ever after! It’s a long road.”

The next question for the Pope is straight to the point: “What frightens you?”

“Well, of myself (laughing) Fear…. But look in the Gospel, ‘Jesus repeats it so often: “Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid!’ And he says it many times, doesn’t he? And why’s that? Because he knows that fear is a rather ‘normal’ feeling. We’re afraid of life, we’re afraid when faced with challenges, we’re afraid in front of God. We’re all afraid, all of us. You mustn’t worry about being afraid. You must feel that but then ask yourselves: ‘Why am I afraid?’ And in front of God and in front of yourselves, try to shed light on the situation or ask help from another. But fear is not a good advisor because it gives you bad advice.”

The Pope then goes on to explain that there is “bad fear and good fear.” Good fear is like caution: It helps us not to fall down. And then there is bad fear: This blocks you and doesn’t let you do anything. And you must reject it.

The final question from the young people to the Pope was an unusual one: “Do you have a question for us?”

“The question that I want to ask you is not an original one. I’m taking it from the Gospel. Where is your treasure? That’s my question. Where do you keep your treasure? On what treasure does your heart rest? Because your life will be where your treasure is kept…. This is the question that I’m asking you but you’ll need to reply to it yourselves, on your own (laughing) at home.”

 


 

The Power of Real Prayer

   >>Video: The Power of Prayer 4/3/14

(Vatican Radio) The dialogue between God on Moses Mount Sinai contained in the first reading of the daily liturgy was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at Thursday morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta. God wants to punish His people because they have created an idol, the golden calf. Emer McCarthy reports:

Moses prays to the Lord to think again. Pope Francis said, “This prayer is a real struggle with God. A struggle [on the part of ] the leader of a people to save his people, who are the people of God. Moses speaks freely in front of the Lord and in doing so teaches us how to pray without fear, freely, even with insistence. Moses insists. He is courageous. Prayer must also be a "negotiation with God," to which we bring our "arguments." Moses eventually convinces God and the reading says that "the Lord repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to His people." "But – the Pope asked - who changed here? Has the Lord changed? I think not."

"Moses is the one who has changed, because Moses believed that the Lord would do this, he believed that the Lord would have destroyed the people and he searches, he tries to remember, how good the Lord has been to His people, how he led them from slavery in Egypt and guided them with a promise. With these arguments, he tries to convince God, but in doing so, he rediscovers the memory of his people, and God's mercy. This Moses, who was afraid, afraid that God would do this thing, in the end comes down from the mountain with a something great in his heart: Our God is merciful. He knows how to forgive. He can go back on His decisions. He is a Father."

Moses knew all of this - Pope Francis observes - "but he vaguely knew it. Instead he rediscovers it in prayer. This is what prayer does to us: it changes our heart."

"Prayer changes us our heart. It helps us better understand our God. This is why it is important to speak with the Lord, not with empty words - Jesus says: 'As pagans do'. No, no, talk with [Him about] reality: ‘Look , Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that ... What can you do? You cannot leave me like this!' This is prayer! Does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time."

It takes the time we need to get to know God better,[the same time we take] with a friend, because Moses - the Bible says - prays to the Lord like one friend speaking to another:

"The Bible says that Moses spoke to God face to face, as a friend. This is how our prayer must be: free, insistent, with arguments. Even rebuking the Lord a little': 'You promised me this but you didn’t do it... 'just like talking with a friend. Open your heart to this prayer. Moses came down from the Mount invigorated: 'I have known more of the Lord, 'and with that strength given him by prayer, he resumed the task of leading his people to the Promised Land. Because prayer invigorates: it is invigorating. May the Lord give us all this grace, because prayer is a grace."

"The Holy Spirit is in every prayer” - the Pope concluded. “You cannot pray without the Holy Spirit. It is He who prays in us, He makes us change our heart, it is He who teaches us to call God 'Father.' Let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, as Moses prayed, to negotiate with God, with freedom of spirit, with courage. And may the Holy Spirit, who is always present in our prayer, lead us on this path."

 

 

Marriage the Heart of God’s Loving Plan for Humanity

Video: The Married Couple is the Image of God (Apr 2)

(Vatican Radio) Married couples should never let the sun set on an argument; instead they must make peace by remembering to always say 'please,' 'thank you,' and 'sorry.' This was Pope Francis’ advice to husbands and wives Wednesday as he concluded his general audience catechesis on the Sacrament of Marriage. Emer McCarthy reports:

As has become tradition, the Pope toured among the cheering crowds in his open topped jeep, alighting to greet a group of children who were vigorously waving flags and banners in greeting. In his general comments in Italian, Pope Francis said: “When a man and a woman celebrate the sacrament of marriage, God, so to speak, is ‘mirrored’ in them, He marks them with His features and the indelible character of His love.”

Even God “is a communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who live forever and are forever in perfect unity. And this is the mystery of marriage: God makes one existence of the two spouses — the Bible says ‘one flesh’ — in the image of His love, in a communion which draws its origin and its strength from God.”

The Pope then asked those husbands and wives present if they are aware of this “great gift” that the Lord has given them: “The real ‘wedding gift’ is this: Your marriage is a reflection of the Holy Trinity, and with the grace of Christ, you are a living and credible icon God and His love.”

“The plan that is inherent in the Sacrament of Marriage is truly wonderful! It takes place in the simplicity and also the fragility of the human condition. We know the many trials and difficulties that the lives of a married couple encounter... The important thing is to keep alive the link with God, which is the basis of the marital bond.”

Joking, the Pope added: “You don’t need to call the United Nations to your home to make peace: a small gesture is enough, a caress, and tomorrow is a new day.”

Video: Peace in Family Government       

“The family that prays together stays together" (Servant of God Patrick Peyton). How much we need to go to pray in our families! At the beginning and at the end of the day, before meals, at such times and in the most delicate passages of life... We can rediscover the Rosary, which helps us feel the presence of Mary, Queen of the family and model, along with her husband Joseph, for every family... At the centre, then, can only be the celebration of the Eucharist, lived together, on Sunday: there, from the table of the Word and the Body of Christ, the bride and groom draw the strength to love each other, help each other, and forgive each other in everyday life. In this regard, a special thought should be reserved for married couples who find themselves in difficulty, so that God can help them with His love and fill them with His mercy. Dear friends, we thank the Lord for the many families who continue to animate our Christian communities, providing a precious service and a strong testimony of faith.”

                    Emer McCarthy reports: RealAudioMP3 

>>LINK: Full article with summary of the Holy Father's Catechesis

 

 

Pope Warns against Wandering of Existential Tourist

Video: Pope Francis goes to Conession

(CNA) In his homily Monday, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of having direction in our lives rather than turning in circles and never advancing, emphasizing that we move forward only through faith in God.

“They are wandering Christians: turning around and around, as if life was an existential tourism, without destination, without taking promises very seriously,” the Pope reflected in his March 31 Mass.

Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse chapel, the Roman Pontiff began his homily by returning to the day’s first reading, taken from the book of Isaiah, and the day’s Gospel, taken from John, in which the son of an official is healed because the man believed Jesus’ assurance that it would happen.

The Pope distinguished between different types of Christians and how they live their lives, explaining that before asking us anything, God promises us a life of joy; this allows us to journey in hope and trust the promises he had made.

However, “so many Christians are immobile” he lamented, adding that “we have so many behind us that have a weak hope.”


“Yes, they believe that there will be heaven and everything will go well,” the Pope continued, stating that “It's OK that they believe it, but they do not seek it! They fulfill the commandments, the precepts: everything, everything … but they are immobile.”

“The Lord cannot make leaven of them among his people, because they do not walk,” the Bishop of Rome emphasized, highlighting that “those who are stationary” are problematic.                >>Entire Article from CNA


 

Pope Angelus: Be Open to the Light of Christ

Video: Angelus March 30

(Vatican Radio) At the heart of the Pope’s message during his Angelus address on Sunday was not to remain blind in one’s soul. Pope Francis was referring to the day’s Gospel reading from John where it is written that Jesus gives sight to the blind man and thus sees the light of Christ. The Holy Father compared the man blind from birth and whose sight is restored, to "those who supposedly have sight but continue to remain blind in their soul."

The Pope went on to say that "While the blind man gradually approaches the light, on the contrary the doctors of the law slip ever deeper into inner blindness. Locked in their arrogance, he continued, they believe they already have the light, and so do not open themselves to the truth of Jesus. They do everything to deny the evidence.”

 

The Holy Father noted that “our life is sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened to the light of God and His grace. But, sometimes, unfortunately, he said, it is also like that of the doctors of law, in that, there is judgment of others. But Pope Francis stressed, we are invited to open ourselves to the light of Christ to bear fruit in our lives, to eliminate behavior that is not Christian, to walk firmly on the path of holiness.

In off the cuff remarks the Pope invited the faithful to read this chapter of the Gospel of John “so, he said, “we can see if our heart is open or closed toward God and neighbor?”

Following the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Holy Father greeted Italian soldiers who have made a pilgrimage on foot from Loreto to Rome praying for a peaceful and just resolution of conflicts". The Pope remarked, "This is very good. Jesus in the beatitudes says that “blessed are those who work for peace"

              Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report RealAudioMP3                         


 

Pope Francis General Audience

       Pope Francis General Audience Mar. 26

(Vatican Radio) Speaking to pilgrims and visitors huddled under umbrellas in a grey, wet St Peter’s Square, the Pope continued his reflections on the different sacraments, turning his attention this week to Holy Orders. Building on the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – Pope Francis said Matrimony and Holy Orders correspond to two specific vocations or ways of building up Christ’s Church.

Speaking of the three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, the Pope said those who are consecrated for this pastoral service continue the actions of the true Pastor and Teacher who is Christ himself. Reflecting on the necessary characteristics of those ordained to this ministry, the Pope said those called to lead a community must always be at the service of their people. A second distinguishing feature, he said, is that they must always be filled with a passion for the Church and love for their community, their family, without succumbing to the temptation of considering it as a personal possession.

Pope Francis reminded all those in ordained ministry that they must always nurture themselves through prayer, daily celebration of the Eucharist and regular Confession. . Without this, he said, ministers end up by losing sight of the true meaning of their service and of the joy which comes from profound communion with the Lord. Finally the Pope urged his listeners to pray for all ministers of the Church, especially those who are in difficulty or seeking to rediscover the value and freshness of their priestly vocation.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s words in English read by an assistant at the audience:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: in our catechesis on the sacraments, we now turn to the sacrament of Holy Orders. Building on the vocation received in the sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – the sacraments of Holy Orders and Matrimony correspond to two specific vocations and are two ways of following Christ and building up his Church. Holy Orders, in its three grades of bishop, priest and deacon, is the sacrament of pastoral ministry. Jesus entrusted his Apostles with the care of his flock and in every age the ordained make present in the Christian community the one Shepherd who is Christ. Following the Lord’s own example, they lead the community as its servants. Theirs must be lives of passionate love for the Church for whose purification and holiness the Lord gave himself completely, and they must constantly renew the grace and joy of their ordination through prayer, penance, and daily celebration of the Eucharist. Today, let us pray for all the Church’s ministers, especially those most in need of our prayers, and ask the Lord always to grant his Church holy, generous and merciful pastors after his own heart.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from the United Kingdom, England, Australia, Denmark, Malta, China, Japan and the United States. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Lord.

                      Listen:      RealAudioMP3                                 

 

 

News.VA Article:  >>Each Encounter
with Jesus Changes us Forever
                      >> Video: Angelus 3/ 23   

Pope Francis: Humility is the Path to Salvation

(Vatican Radio) Our salvation is not just in observing the Commandments, but in the humility to always feel the need to be healed by God. This was the message voiced by Pope Francis during Mass on Monday morning at the Casa Santa Marta.

Pope Francis’ homily on Monday found inspiration in these words that Jesus addressed to his fellow citizens in Nazareth: “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” It was a place where he never worked miracles because “they had no faith.” Jesus recalls two biblical episodes: the miracle of the healing of the leper Naaman, and the meeting of the prophet Elijah with the widow of Serapta who shared her last morsel of food and was saved from famine. “Lepers and widows – Pope Francis explained – in those days were the outcasts of society.” And yet, these two outcasts, welcomed the prophets and were saved, while the people of Nazareth did not accept Jesus because “they felt so strong in their faith,” so sure of their faithful observance of the Commandments, they felt they had no need for other salvation.”

 

“It is the tragedy of observing the Commandments without faith: ‘I save myself because I go to the Synagogue every Saturday, I try to obey the Commandments, I do not want to hear that the leper or the widow is better than me!’ They are outcasts! And Jesus tells us: ‘if you do not put yourself on the margins, if you don’t feel what it is to be an outcast, you will not obtain salvation.’ This is humility, the path of humility: to feel so marginalized that we need the Salvation of the Lord. He alone saves us, not our observance of the law. And they did not like this; they were angry and wanted to kill him.”

 

The Pope observed that this was the same anger initially felt by Naaman, because he felt that Elisha’s invitation to wash himself seven times in the Jordan was ridiculous and humiliating. “The Lord asked him for a gesture of humility, He asked him to obey like a child, to be ridiculous”. Namman turned and went off in a rage, but afterwards his servants convinced him to do what the prophet asked of him. That act of humility healed him. “This is the message for today – the Pope said - in this third week of Lent: if we want to be healed, we must choose the road of humility.”

 

"In her Canticle Mary does not say she is happy because God was looking to her virginity, to her kindness or to her sweetness – all of them virtues that she possessed – no: because the Lord was looking to her humility, the humility of His servant, her smallness. This is what the Lord looks for. And we must take heed of this wisdom and put ourselves on the margins so that the Lord may find us. He will not find us at the center of our certainties. That is not where the Lord looks. He will find us on the margins, in our sins, in our mistakes, in our need for spiritual healing, for salvation; that is where the Lord will find us.”

 

“This – Pope Francis highlighted – is the path of humility”:

 

“Christian humility is not within the virtue of saying: ‘I am not important’ and hiding our pride. No, Christian humility is telling the truth: ‘I am a sinner.’ Tell the truth: this is our truth. But there is another truth: God saves us. He saves us when we are on the margins; He does not save us in our certainties. Let us ask for the grace of having the wisdom to put ourselves on the margins, for the grace of humility so that we may receive the Lord’s Salvation.”

 

 

Pope Francis: Trust in the Lord Not in Yourself

Video: Do not trust in idols
  (Vatican Radio) “The one who trusts in himself, in his own richness or ideologies is destined for unhappiness. The one who trusts in the Lord, on the other hand, bears fruit even of time of drought.” That was the message of Pope Francis at Mass this morning in the chapel at Casa Santa Marta.

“Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,” “the man who trusts in himself:” He will be “like a barren bush in the desert,” condemned by the drought to remain without fruit and to die. Pope Francis began with the day’s First Reading, which also says that the one who trusts in the Lord will be blessed: “He is like a tree planted beside the waters,” who in times of drought “still bears fruit.” Only in the Lord, Pope Francis said, is our sure confidence. Trusting in others is useless; such confidences “don’t save, they don’t give us life, they don’t give us joy.” And even if we know this, “we like to trust ourselves, to trust in that friend or trust in that situation I have, or in that ideology” and “the Lord remains on the side.” Such a person is closed in on himself, “without horizons, without open doors, without windows” and “will not have salvation, he cannot save himself.” That’s what happens to the rich man in the Gospel, the Pope explained. “He had it all, he dressed in purple, he ate all day, great banquets.” He was so content, but he didn’t notice that there was a poor man “at his door . . . covered with sores.” The Pope said the Gospel gives the name of the poor man — he was called Lazarus — while the rich man has no name:

“This is the worst misfortune of those who trust in themselves or in [their own]strength; in the possibilities of men and not in God: they lose [their] name. What is your name? The amount in your account, in your bank. . . . What is your name? So many properties, so many villas, so many. . . . What is your name? The things we have, the idols. And you trust in that, and this man is cursed.”

 

“We all have this weakness, this fragility,” the Pope said, “ of putting our hopes in ourselves or in friends or in human possibilities alone, and we forget the Lord. And that takes us along the path . . . of unhappiness.”

 

“Today, in this day of Lent, we would do well to ask ourselves: where is my confidence? In the Lord? Or am I a pagan, who confides in things, in the idols that I have made? Do I still have a name or have I begun to lose my name and [begun] to call myself ‘I’? I, me, with me, for me, only ‘I’? For me, for me . . . always that self-centredness: ‘I.’ This will not give us salvation.”

 

But, “in the end,” the Pope said, “there is a door of hope” for those who trust in themselves and “have lost [their] name”:

 

“To the end, to the end, to the end there is always a possibility. And this man, when he realized that he had lost his name, he had lost everything, everything, looks up and says one word: ‘Father.’ And God's answer is one word: ‘Son!’ If one of us in life, having so much trust in man and in ourselves, we end up losing the name, losing this dignity, there is still a chance to say this word that is more than magic, it is more, it is strong: ‘Father.’ He always waits for us to open a door that we do not see and says to us: ‘Son.’ Let us ask the Lord for the grace that He would give to each of us the wisdom to have confidence only in Him — not in things, not in human powers; only in Him.”

 


 

Pope Francis: "Jesus Justifies Us"

         Video: Way to Peace

(Vatican Radio) Lent is a time to “adjust your life,” “to get closer to the Lord.” That was the message of Pope Francis at Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope warned against thinking of ourselves as “better than others.” The hypocrites, he warned, “disguise themselves as good people” and do not understand that no one is made just by his own efforts; we all need to undergo justification.

Pope Francis began his homily stressing “conversion” as the key word of Lent, a favorable time “to grow closer” to Jesus. Commenting on the First Reading, from the book of Isaiah, he said that the Lord calls two “sinful cities” like Sodom and Gomorrah to conversion. This shows us that we all “need to make a change of life,” to take a “good look into our soul” — where we always find something. The purpose of Lent, then, is precisely “to adjust my life,” to draw closer to the Lord. Jesus, the Pope said, wants to be close to us; He assures us the He is “waiting for us in order to forgive us.” However, he cautioned, the Lord wants “a sincere approach;” and warns us against being hypocrites:

“What makes people hypocrites? They disguise themselves, they disguise themselves as good people: they make themselves up like little holy cards, looking up at heaven as they pray, making sure they are seen—they believe they are more righteous than others, they despise others. ‘Mah,’ they say, “I’m very Catholic, because my uncle was a great benefactor, my family is this, I’m that… I’ve learned... I know this bishop, this Cardinal, this priest... I am this or that...’ They think they are better than others. This is hypocrisy. The Lord says, ‘No, not that.’ No one is justified by himself. We all need to be justified. And the only one who justifies us is Jesus Christ.”

For this reason, he said, we must approach the Lord…

>>Link: Entire Article on Vatican Radio Website

 

 

Pope Francis: Be Tuned and Attentive to the Word

   >>Video: Pope Angelus March 16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, the second Sunday of Lent. Speaking ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father focused on the Gospel reading of the day, which tells the story of the Transfiguration.

Three were the principal elements that Pope Francis identified in his reflection: the importance of listening, of being attuned and attentive to the Word of God; and the twofold movement of ascent and descent that characterizes the Gospel episode (Mt. 17:1-9), in which the Lord takes Peter, James and John to the top of Mt Tabor, reveals Himself in His glorified form, and returns down the mountain with them, with grave warnings to the disciples who accompanied Him not to speak of what they had seen.

“The mountain is the site of the encounter intimate closeness with God and with Him - the place of prayer, in which to stand in the presence of the Lord,” said Pope Francis. “We, the disciples of Jesus,” he continued, “are called to be people who listen to His voice and take seriously his words.” He added, “To listen to Jesus , we must follow Him.”

The Holy Father went on to say, “We need to go to [a place of] remove, to climb the mountain [and go to] a place of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord.” We cannot stay there, however. “The encounter with God in prayer again pushes us to ‘come down from the mountain’ and back down into the plain,” he said, “where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, injustice, and both material and spiritual poverty.” Pope Francis said that we are called to carry the fruits of the experience we have with God to our troubled brothers and sisters, sharing with them the treasures of grace received.


He concluded with an invitation: returning to the theme of attunement and attentiveness to God’s word, the Holy Father asked all the faithful to begin keeping a little book of the gospels with them and to read short passages from it throughout the day. “Don’t forget,” he said, “this week, listen to Jesus – and then, next week, you’ll tell me whether you’ve kept that little edition of the Gospels with you, in your pocket or your bag, in order to read a little bit every day.”

Pope Francis: It is Impossible to Dialogue with Satan

Video: Angelus

(Vatican Radio) During his weekly Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the day’s Gospel reading, which focused on the temptation of Jesus in the desert.

Satan, the Pope said, tried “to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan” by tempting Him “to take an easy path,” a path “of success and power.” Jesus definitively rejects these temptations, reaffirming His “firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world.” This commitment to follow the plan of the Father is realized in Jesus actions; “His absolute fidelity to the Father's plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!”

The Holy Father encouraged all of us to take the opportunity afforded by Lent to renew our Baptismal promises, renouncing Satan and his seductions, “in order to walk the paths of God and ‘to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Spirit.’”

LINK: >> VR Full Remarks


 

Pope Francis: Lent a Time of Penance and Charity

Video: Lent reminds us that we are not God.

(Vatican Radio) In his General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of Lent as a time for each of us “to promote change and conversion” in our lives. Lent, the Pope said, should help us to get out of “the tired habits and lazy addictions to evil that deceive us.”

During this season, we are invited us to be more keenly aware “of the redemptive work of Christ,” and “to live out our Baptism with greater commitment.”

It was a theme taken up in the English-language summary of the Pope’s remarks:

“In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst.”

“Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted.”

Pope Francis concluded his remarks by re-iterating the “essential elements” of Lent: “giving thanks to God for the mystery of his crucified love” along with “true faith, conversion, and an opening of the heart” to our brothers.

Link: Summary of Remarks    Listen to Christopher Wells report: RealAudioMP3 

 

 

Pope Angelus Appeal for Ukraine and Christian Fraternity

Video: VR Angelus

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis asked for prayers for Ukraine on Sunday, which he said was living through a delicate situation. The Holy Father expressed the hope that all parts of the country “will endeavor to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation.” He also appealed to the international community “to support any initiative for dialogue and harmony;” and he underlined the need to trust in the Divine Providence of God stressing we should help our brothers and sisters who are in need.

Looking at society today where people live in precarious conditions such as poverty and the difficulties faced by many as a result of the economic crisis that offends dignity, the Pope said that in times like these the words of Jesus may seem abstract. But in reality these words are more present than ever because they remind us that we cannot serve two masters: God and money. As long as everyone tries to accumulate for themselves, Pope Francis added, there will never be justice. “A heart occupied by his own desire is an empty one “because Jesus has repeatedly warned the rich, a heart possessed by riches leaves little room for faith.

“Make sure that no one lacks bread, water, clothing, housing, work, health. We must all recognize that we are children of the Father who is in heaven, therefore brothers and sisters” and act accordingly. Looking towards Lent, realize it is a journey of conversion, to combat evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and mercy.

Humanity needs justice, reconciliation , and peace, and it will only have them by turning to God. We extend our hearts and hands to those who are tested by poverty and violent conflict.

           Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report RealAudioMP3        

 

Pope Francis: God Help us to be Consistent

Video: Pope Francis' Appeal for Church Unity

(Vatican Radio) “If you find yourself in front of – imagine! - in front of an atheist and he tells you he doesn’t believe in God, you can read him a whole library, where it says that God exists and even proving that God exists, and he will not have faith. But if in the presence of this atheist you bear coherent witness of Christian life, something will begin to work in his heart. It will be your witness that that he will bring this restlessness on which the Holy Spirit works. It’s a grace that we all, the whole Church must ask for: ‘Lord, [grant] that we might be coherent.’”

And so, the Pope concludes, we must pray, because to live in a coherent Christian way, prayer is necessary; because Christian coherency is a gift from God and we must ask for it. “Lord, grant that I might be consistent! Lord, grant that I might never cause scandal, that I might be a person who thinks like a Christian, who feels like a Christian, who acts like a Christian.” And when we fall because of our weakness, let us ask for forgiveness:

“We are all sinners, all of us, but we all have the ability to ask for forgiveness. And He never gets tired of forgiving! Have the humility to ask for forgiveness: ‘Lord, I have not been consistent here. Forgive me!’ Go forward in life with Christian coherence, with the witness of one who believes in Jesus Christ, who knows that he is a sinner, but who has the courage to ask for forgiveness when he makes mistakes and who so afraid of giving scandal. May the Lord give this grace to all of us.”           

Link: EntireArticle from VR

 

Jesus is Close to us

In the Sacrament of Annointing the Sick

Rome Reports: Annoint the Sick

(Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. This Sacrament, the Pope said, “allows us to ‘touch’ God’s compassion for man.”

         Listen to Christopher Wells' report: RealAudioMP3      

The Holy Father said the “profound mystery” of the Sacrament is expressed in a “biblical icon,” the parable of the Good Samaritan. “Every time we celebrated the Sacrament, the Lord Jesus, in the person of the priest, is close to the one who suffers and is gravely ill, or elderly.” When the good Samaritan tends to the victim of the robbers, the oil and wine he pours on his wounds represent the oil of the sick used in Sacrament, the love and grace of Jesus for those who are suffering. The good Samaritan then takes the man to an inn, and asks the innkeeper to care for him. The innkeeper, the Pope said, represents the Church, the Christian community, to whom, every day, Christ entrusts “those who are afflicted, whether in soul or in body, so that He can continue to bestow on them, without measure, all of His mercy and salvation.

The Pope reminded the crowds that the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick was specifically repeated in the New Testament, in the Letter of Saint James: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.”

But, Pope Francis said, too often people are afraid to call for the priest, because of a certain “taboo” around the whole topic of suffering and death. He encouraged Christians not to be afraid to request the Sacrament, but to remember that in the Sacrament Jesus is close to the sick and the aged.

“It is good to know that in the moment of suffering and of sickness that we are not alone,” he said. The priest, and those present for the Sacrament represent the whole Christian community, which embraces those who are suffering and their families, supporting them with their prayers and their fraternal care. But the greatest comfort comes from knowing that Jesus Himself is present in the Sacrament, and that nothing can ever separate us from Him.

Video: Wednesday General Audience from Vatican Youtube


 

Pope Francis: Friday Mass at Santa Marta

Video: We Know Jesus through the Spirit

(Vatican Radio) “A faith that does not bear fruit in works is not faith.” This was the affirmation with which Pope Francis opened his remarks at Mass on Friday, following the readings of the day. The Holy Father offered the Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, for the intention of Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli, emeritus Archbishop of Florence, on his 90th birthday. The Pope thanked Cardinal Piovanelli for “his work, his witness and his goodness.”

The world is full of Christians who often recite the words of the Creed, while very seldom putting them into practice – [and of] erudite [scholars] who reduce theology to a series of neat categories, neatly removed and shielded from having any influence on real life. It is a danger that St. James feared even two thousand years ago, and that Pope Francis made the subject of his remarks to the faithful after the day’s readings on Friday, “[St. James’ statement],” said Pope Francis, commenting on the passage from his Letter, which was read at Mass, “is clear: faith without fruit in life, a faith that does not bear fruit in works, is not faith.”     Listen: RealAudioMP3 


“Also, we often make the mistake of saying: ‘But I have a lot of faith’, [and] ‘I believe everything, everything ...’- and maybe this person who says [something like this] leads a lukewarm life, a weak [life]. His faith is as a theory, though it is not alive in his life. The Apostle James, when he speaks of faith, speaks precisely of doctrine, of that, which is what is the content of the faith. Nevertheless, one might learn all the commandments , all the prophecies , all the truths of faith, though if these are not put into practice, put to work, they are useless. We can recite the Creed theoretically, even without faith, and there are many people who do so – even the demons! The demons know very well what is said in the Creed and know that it is the Truth.”

The words of Pope Francis echo the assertion of St. James: “You believe that there is one God? You do well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The difference, the Pope added, is that the demons do not “have faith” insofar as authentic faith, “is not [merely] to possess knowledge.” Rather, “[to have faith means] receiving the message of God,” brought by Christ. The Holy Father went on to say that, in the Gospel, there are two telltale signs of those, who, “know what is to be believed, but do not have faith.” The first sign is a tendency to “casuistry”, represented by those who asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes, or which of the seven brothers of the husband would have to marry the widowed woman. The second sign is a commitment to “ideology”:

“Christians who think of faith as a system of ideas, ideologically: there were such as these even ing Jesus’ own day. The Apostle John says of them, that they were the antichrist, the ideologues of faith, of whatsoever [ideological] stamp they might have been. At that time there were the Gnostics, but there will [always] be many – and thus, those who fall into casuistry or those who fall into ideology are Christians who know the doctrine, but without faith, like demons. The difference is that the demons tremble, these Christians, no: they live peacefully.”

The Pope recalled how in the Gospels, there are also examples of “people who do not know the doctrine, but have so much faith.” He went on to mention the episode of the Canaanite woman, who, with her faith obtains healing for her daughter, who was the victim of possession, and the Samaritan woman who opens her heart because, he says, “she has not met with abstract truths,” but “Jesus Christ.” Then there is the blind man healed by Jesus, who then faces interrogation by the Pharisees and teachers of the law until he kneels with humility and adores the one who healed him. Three people, said Pope Francis, who show how faith and witness are inseparable:

“Faith is an encounter with Jesus Christ, with God, from which faith is born, and from there it brings you to witness. That is what the Apostle means: a faith without works, a faith that does not involve one’s [whole] self, that does not lead to witness, is not faith. It is words – and nothing more than words.”

 

 

Be Courageous. Go to Confession.

Video Pope Francis: "Go!"

(Vatican Radio) After having discussed the Sacraments of Christian initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist — Pope Francis moved on to the Sacraments of Healing, speaking on Wednesday about the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“When I go to Confession, it is to be healed,” he said. “To heal the soul, to heal the heart because of something I have done that is not going well.”

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Pope said, “flows directly from the Paschal Mystery.” He referred to Jesus' gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles when He appeared to them in the evening of the first Easter. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” This passage, the Pope Francis explained, “reveals the deeper dynamics contained in this Sacrament.”

First, he said, it shows that we cannot forgive ourselves. Forgiveness must be requested: “it is a gift, a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the washing of mercy and grace that flows from the opened heart of the crucified and risen Christ.”

Second, it reminds us that we can only truly be at peace if we are reconciled with the Father and with our brothers, in and through Jesus. “And we have heard this in the heart, when we go to make our Confession, with a weight on our soul, a little sadness... we hear the forgiveness of Jesus, we are at peace, with that peace of soul that is so beautiful, that only Jesus can give, only Him!”

Pope Francis noted that, over time, the Sacrament of Confession, which had been a more public celebration, took on a more private form that we are familiar with today. We must not, however, lose site of the Sacrament’s ecclesial aspect, “which constitutes it’s vital context.” In fact, the Pope said, “The Christian community is the place in which the Spirit is made present, who renews our hearts in the love of God and makes us all brothers in one thing, in Jesus Christ.” This is why one cannot simply “ask the Lord’s forgiveness in your own mind and in your heart, but it is to confidently and humbly confess your own sins to the ministry of the Church.” In the Sacrament, the priest represents not only God, but also the whole Church, “which recognizes the fragility of its members, listens to their heartfelt repentance, is reconciled with them, and heartens them and accompanies them along the path of conversion and human and Christian maturity.”

“Don’t be afraid of Confession,” Pope Francis said. When someone is in line for Confession, he might feel all sorts of things, even fear and shame. “But then, when you have finished your confession, you go out free, great, beautiful, forgiven, white, happy. And that’s the beauty of Confession.”

The Pope then asked the crowd when they had last been to Confession. “Don’t say it in a loud voice!” he said. “When was the last time you went to confession?... Two days? Two weeks? Two years? Twenty years? Forty years?... And if a lot of time has passed, don’t lose a day! Go ahead, the priest will be good! Jesus is there, right? And Jesus is better than the priest, it is Jesus who receives you. He receives you with great love. Be courageous, and go to Confession!”

Pope Francis concluded, “Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being wrapped in a warm embrace. It is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father.”

 

 

Pope Francis: Be Patient Even in the Midst of Trials

Video: Pope Francis meets John X

(Vatican Radio) The people of God endure the challenges of daily life with faith and patience. That – Pope Francis said – is what keeps the Church going.

Speaking at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Monday, the Pope commented on the Letter of St. James in which he says: “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Patience he explained – has nothing to do with resignation – “when we endure trials with faith they ripen our lives.” 

(Listen to the report... RealAudioMP3;)

He who wants everything immediately – the Pope said – he who does not know the wisdom of patience and perseverance is like a spoiled child. That kind of person – he added – is a person who does not grow, who is incapable of facing life as it presents itself. And another temptation for those who have no patience – the Pope said – is in the omnipotence of getting what you want immediately, as in the case of the Pharisees who asked Jesus for a sign form heaven: “they wanted God to perform a miracle to show that God approved of him.”

 

“They confuse God’s way of acting with that of a sorcerer. But God does not behave like a sorcerer, God has his own way of proceeding. And God is patient. Each time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we sing a hymn to God’s patience. And the Lord carries us on his shoulders with much patience! Christians must live their lives in time with the music of patience, because it is the music of our fathers, of the people of God, of those who believed in his Word, who followed the commandment that the Lord gave to our father Abraham: “Walk before me and be blameless.”


And quoting from the Letter to the Hebrews, Pope Francis said “God’s people has suffered and has been persecuted but it has had the joy of looking forward to God’s promises”. This is the kind of patience – he said - that we must have when we are faced with trials and challenges: the patience of a mature person, the patience of God that carries us on His shoulders. This – Pope Francis said – is “the patience of our people”.

And Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the many people he meets when he visits parishes who face problems and suffer. People with a disabled child or challenged by disease, but he said – “who go forward in their lives with patience”.

 

“They do not ask for signs – he said – they know how to read the signs of the times: they know that when the fig tree blossoms spring is on its way. Those who wanted a sign from heaven did not know how to read the signs of the times, that is why they did not recognize Jesus.”


Pope Francis concluded his homily praising those who “suffer but do not lose the smile of faith. Those who have the joy of faith”:

These are the people of God, in our parishes, in our institutions – so many of them – that keep the Church going with their everyday holiness. Brothers – he said: “consider it pure joy when you face trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

 

 

Faith in the Word of God Leads to Salvation

Gospel Speaks to People who Accept God

(Vatican Radio) In his Homily at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis, referring to Thursday’s readings recalled a courageous woman, a pagan, who asks Jesus to free her daughter from the devil. Jesus, recounted the pope, says to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replies, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”

The Holy Father explained that this woman was “not ashamed” of having faith in Jesus and, therefore, he grants her a miracle and drives the demon out of her daughter.

On the other hand, continued Pope Francis, there are people like Solomon from today’s reading that are wise and receive great blessings from God. But, said the Pope, he surrounds himself with pagan concubines and his faith is weakened and his heart is corrupted by the life he is living. The Holy Father noted that, yes, Solomon is able to recite the Creed, but one can do this and still have a lack of faith.

The bad seed of his passions led Solomon to idolatry, but the Pope underlined that we should follow the path of the pagan women who accepted the Word of God, the Word that leads us to salvation.

                                     Listen to Lydia O’Kane report: RealAudioMP3                               

 

 

Consecrated Life is an Encounter with Christ

Video: Pope Francis Sunday Angelus

(Vatican Radio) The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also known as the Feast of the Encounter: the encounter between Jesus and his people. The liturgy tells of when Mary and Joseph brought their child to the Temple in Jerusalem; it is when the first encounter between Jesus and his people took place. This day is also called the Feast of Encounter because on it the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna.

He points out it was also a meeting between the young and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their infant, and the elders were Simeon and Anna, two characters who always attended the Temple.

We observe what the evangelist Luke tells us of them, as he describes them. He says four times that Our Lady and St Joseph wanted to do what was required by the law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2, 22.23.24.27). One perceives that Jesus' parents have the joy of observing the precepts of God, the joy of walking according to the law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their baby, and they are motivated by the desire to do what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not just to feel right, no! It's a strong desire, a deep desire, full of joy. That’s what the Psalm says: "I rejoice in following your statutes…. Your law is my delight (119, 14.77)."

It is a meeting between young people who are full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord, and the elderly who are filled with joy for the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a unique encounter between observance and prophecy, where young people are the observers and the elderly are prophetic! In fact, if we think carefully, the desire to keep the Law is animated by the Spirit and the prophecy moves forward in the path traced by the Law. Who, more than Mary, is full of the Holy Spirit? Who better is docile than she to its action?

Read: Entire Transcript

 

A Church Without Nuns is Unthinkable

Pope Francis on Sunday highlighted the great value that nuns bring to the Church. “What would happen” – the Pope said – “if there were no nuns?    No it is unthinkable!” ... He said “they are a gift, the leaven that carries the message of Christ.” “These women – he said – are great!” ... [C]onsecrated persons in different sectors are “the leaven of a more just and fraternal society.”  He said that “Consecrated Life is a gift of God to the Church and to His people.”

The Pope said that the Church and the world needs the witness of religious and consecrated lay people to the love and the mercy of God, and he asked for prayers so that many young people may say “yes” to God who calls them “to consecrate their lives to Him and to be of service to their brothers and sisters.” 

Pope Francis recalled that the year 2015 will be dedicated to Consecrated Life and asked for prayers for this initiative.  After the recitation of the Angelus Prayer, Pope Francis reminded those present that in Italy “The Day for Life” is celebrated today with the theme “Generating the Future.” He sent his greetings and encouragement to those committed to the defense of life from its conception to its natural end.


 

Pope’s Santa Marta Homily:

Christian mediocrity leads to a ‘loss of sense of sin’

(Vatican Radio) All too often today, the Pope observes, grave sin such as adultery is declassified as simply a "problem to be solved." That’s what happens in today’s reading in which King David falls in love with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his generals. Taking up this story, Pope Francis says David took her for his own and sent her husband to the front lines of battle where the man was killed. In actual fact, the Pope stressed, David also committed murder. And yet, having committed both grave sins, the King is not moved. Despite committing a grave sin, the Pope observes, David does not feel pity and fails to ask forgiveness. He only considers how he can resolve a problem.

This can happen to any of us, the Pope says, and observes “When the Kingdom of God diminishes, one of the signs is that you lose the sense of sin."

Conversely, you also lose the "sense of the Kingdom of God" and in its place, reflects the Pope,

there emerges an “all-powerful anthropological vision," that leads us to believe we “can do anything.”

The Pope confesses that even he himself can fall into the trap of losing a sense of sin. But a commitment to daily prayer, he stresses, can counter the injustices perpetrated out of human pride and stop so many from falling victim to “Christian mediocrity” and our “unrecognized sins.”

Video: 2015 Year of Consecrated Life

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Pope Francis: Confirmation Completes our Bond with Christ

 

(Vatican Radio) The Pope, bundled up in a white winter coat on this frigid and overcast day, continued his catechesis on the seven Sacraments, telling the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square that Confirmation is “linked inseparably to Baptism.” These two sacraments, together with the Eucharist, the Holy Father said, “form a unique salvific event: Christian initiation” in which we become living members of the Church.

Through our anointing with the sacred chrism, Confirmation strengthens and “confirms” us in the grace of our Baptism, uniting “us more firmly to Christ.” Confirmation “completes our bond with the Church,” he noted, and “grants us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith, to confess the name of Christ and to never be ashamed of his cross.”

The working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, he noted, is reflected in the seven spiritual gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis several times urged families to ensure their children receive the sacrament of Confirmation, without which, he stressed, they’ve only come “half-way.”

When we welcome the Holy Spirit in our hearts, Christ Himself becomes present in us and takes form in our lives, the Pope said. Through us and our actions, it will be He "who prays and forgives, gives hope and consolation, serves our brothers, helps those in need," and helps spread communion and peace.

In remarks following his catechesis, Pope Francis challenged authorities to make employment, “a source of dignity, everyone’s central concern.” He also condemned all forms of usury, saying that when families cannot eat because they have to pay off loan sharks, “it is not Christian; it is not human.”

Listen to Tracey McClure's report: RealAudioMP3 

 

 

Pope Francis: The Fruitfulness of Praise

Video: Holiness of Bishops, Priests, Laity

(Vatican Radio) Reflecting on the episode from the Second Book of Samuel, which was read at Mass, in which “David danced with all his might before the Lord,” Pope Francis recalled that the whole people of Israel were celebrating because the Ark of the Covenant was returning home. He went on to say that David’s prayer of praise, “led him to move beyond all composure,” adding, “this was precisely a prayer of praise.”

Explaining that the passage caused his thoughts to turn to Sarah, Abraham’s wife, who, after giving birth to her son, Isaac, said, “The Lord made me dance with joy.” He said that it is easy to understand a prayer of petition – asking something of the Lord – and prayer of thanksgiving, as well. Even prayer of adoration, he said, “is not so difficult,” to understand. Prayer of praise, however, “We leave aside – it does not come to us so easily [It. Non ci viene così spontanea].”:

“‘But, Father! This is for the Renewal in the Spirit folks, not for all Christians!’ No: prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us. In the Mass, every day, when we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy ... This is a prayer of praise: we praise God for his greatness, because He is great. We say beautiful things to Him, because we happy for His greatness [It. perché ci piace che sia così]. ‘But, Father! I am not able...I have to...’ Well, you’re able to shout when your team scores a goal, and you are not able to sing praises to the Lord? To come out of your shell ever so slightly to sing [His praise]? Praising God is completely gratis. [In it] we do not ask [Him to give us anything]: we do not express gratitude for anything [He has given]; we praise [Him]!”

We need to pray “whole-heartedly,” he said. “It is also an act of justice, because He is great! He is our God.” David, Pope Franics went on to observe, “was so happy, because the ark was returning, the Lord was returning: his body, too, prayed with that dance.”:

“[Here is] a good question for us to pose to ourselves today: ‘But how am I doing vis à vis prayer of praise? Do I know how to praise the Lord? Do I know how to praise the Lord when I pray the Gloria or the Sanctus? Is my whole heart really in it, or do I merely mouth [the words]. What does David dancing here say to me, and Sarah, dancing for joy? When David enters the city there begins another thing: a party!”

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Article: Pope Francis: Bishops, Priests, Ordained to Serve

 

Pope Francis: jealousy, envy and gossip divide and destroy Christian communities

(Vatican Radio) "Jealousy leads to murder. Envy leads to murder,” the Pope says. “It was this door, the door of envy, through which the devil entered the world.” “Jealousy and envy open the doors,” the Pope says, to “all evil things…They also divide the community.”

When some members of a Christian community suffer from envy and jealousy, the Pope reminds us, the community “ends up divided: one against the other.” And “this is a strong poison – a poison that we find on the first page of the Bible in Cain."

Pope Francis goes on to say that in the heart of a person affected by jealousy and envy " two things are very clear." The first thing is bitterness:

"The envious person, the jealous person, is a bitter person who doesn’t know how to sing, how to praise, (or) know what joy is.” This kind of person, reflects the Pope, always looks at what someone else has that he or she does not have . “And this leads to bitterness, a bitterness that spreads throughout the whole community.” These people, he says, are the “sowers of bitterness.”

The second approach, the Pope remarks, that “brings jealousy and envy, are rumors.” When someone cannot stand to see that someone else has something he wishes for himself, Pope Francis says often, the “solution is to put the other person down” so that “I am a bit higher up.” And the tool used to do this, the Pope points out, is “gossip.” Behind every rumor, says the Pope, “there is jealousy and envy. And gossip divides the community, destroys the community. Rumors are the weapons of the devil."

"How many beautiful Christian communities," the Pope exclaimed, “were getting along well,” but then were divided and destroyed because one member allowed the “worm of jealousy and envy” to enter his heart. And with it, come “sadness, resentment and gossip." A person under the influence of envy and jealousy, the Pope insists, “kills."

In concluding, Pope Francis called for prayer for “our Christian communities so that this seed of jealousy will not be sown between us, so that envy will not take root in our heart, in the heart of our communities, and so we can move forward with praise to the Lord, praising the Lord with joy. It is a great grace, the grace of not falling into sadness, being resentful, jealous and envious."

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Pope Francis at Weekly General Audience: the Scandal of Division

Video: Pope's General Audience 1/22

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis devoted the catechetical portion of his weekly General Audience on Wednesday to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which this year is dedicated to a question taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “Has Christ Been Divided?” The English-language synthesis, read out after the main reflection delivered by Pope Francis in Italian, said, “We know that Christ has not been divided; yet we must sincerely recognize that our communities continue to experience divisions which are a source of scandal and weaken our witness to the Gospel.”

 

In reproaching the Corinthians for their divisions, Paul reminds them to rejoice in the great spiritual gifts which they have received. His words encourage us to rejoice in the gifts God has given to other Christians, gifts which we can receive from them for our enrichment. To be able to do this calls for humility, discernment and constant conversion.

 

Pope Francis asked all Christian faithful to pray that, as we reflect on Paul’s teaching during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we may be confirmed, together with all Christ’s followers, in our pursuit of holiness and fidelity to the Lord’s will.

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God Always Chooses the Small and Least Powerful

Video: God Chooses the Gentle & Least...

(Vatican Radio) We need to safeguard our smallness in order to have a personal dialogue with God. In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the personal relationship between God and his people - the small and humble - saying God always speaks to us on a personal level, using our names. "It’s never a dialogue between the powerful and the masses."

The Pope noted how when God chooses people, "he always chooses those who are small "and less powerful than the others. We tend to look at the outer appearance or power of people but God has his own different criteria. "He chooses the weak and gentle to confuse the powerful people in our world." One example of this, said Pope Francis, was when God chose David who was the smallest son, who didn’t count for his father and who had been sent out of the house to tend the sheep.

Later David became king but he committed two serious sins. What did he do then? asked the Pope. David humbled himself, he returned to his smallness, confessed his sins to God, asked for pardon and did penance. In this way, said the Pope, "David safeguarded his smallness through his contrition, his prayer and his grief."

The Pope explained how our Christian loyalty is all about "safeguarding our smallness so that we can have a dialogue with God." That’s why, he continued, "humbleness, gentleness and daily habits are so important in the life of a Christian" because it safeguards our smallness and pleases God. The Pope concluded by imploring God to give us the grace to safeguard our smallness before Him.

 

Be Open to the Gospel and God's Surprises

Video: Be Docile to God's Word

(Vatican Radio) Christian freedom is to be found in being docile to God’s Word. We must always be ready to welcome the message of the Gospel and the surprises that God has in store for us. God’s word is alive and full of strength, it discerns the sentiments of the heart, but we must be open to receive it. Speaking to those present for morning Mass in the Vatican, the Pope highlighted the need to really welcome the message of the Gospel with an attitude of docility and openness.

The Gospel – the Pope said – doesn’t just tell us the things we want to hear. It is alive and strong and full of novelty; God’s Word – he continued - is “free” and full of surprises because “our God is the God of surprises, the God of the Revelation”.

And urging us to be malleable and docile, he said we must ask ourselves whether we adapt ourselves to the novelties of the Gospel? Or do we process the message until it becomes something different to what God wants it to be?

And Francis reflected on the first reading of the day in which the prophet Samuel reprimands King Saul for not obeying the voice of the Lord and for attempting to justify his disobedience by masking his greed with generosity. The Pope said it is important is to have a docile and obedient heart, listening to the voice of the Lord and doing what He commands us to do so that in obeying Him, we share in His life and love. And this he – continued – leads us to reflect on the true meaning of Christian “freedom” and of Christian “obedience”, both of which – he said - are to be found in the Word of God and in the courage to really be open to his message.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni... RealAudioMP3 


 

Pope Francis: Don't Forsade the Gift of Being God's Children

Video: Christians Not Slaves to Trends

(Vatican Radio) We must not sell out the gift of being God’s children for a distorted sense of normality. These were the words of Pope Francis at Mass on Friday morning in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta. As Christians, Pope Francis said, we must actively strive against the normality of our everyday lives to remain faithful to God’s choosing. We must not sell out to the temptation of worldliness, of living as if God didn’t exist.

We often forget the Word of God, Pope Francis continued, we forget what the Lord says, and we listen instead to whatever word is more fashionable, more fun. This temptation, the Pope said, is more dangerous than an outright renouncing of faith, because it is more subtle, and less clear. It is true, he recognised, that Christians must be normal people, but they must also bear in mind the Word of God which says to them ‘You are my people, I have chosen you, I am by your side’.

We must resist the temptation of feeling inferior to normality, Pope Francis explained, because this temptation hardens the heart, and when the heart is hardened, the Word of God cannot enter. This was the temptation of the Jewish people in the Old Testament, he added, referring to the daily reading taken from the First Book of Samuel. Neither must we allow our hearts to be softened by worldliness, the Pope said: our hearts must simply be open to the Word of God, open to receiving it, in order not to move away from being chosen by God.

Let us ask, Pope Francis concluded, for the grace to overcome our own selfishness, our own desire to do as we please: let us listen instead to the Word of God, which will lead us on the path of truth.

Listen to Giulia Cirillo’s report: RealAudioMP3 

 

Pope Francis: We are all called to be Witnesses of the Gospel before the world

Video: January 15 Audience

(Vatican Radio) Through Baptism we are reborn to a new life of grace and we are called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Also we become members of Christ’s mystical body, the Church. “In every generation” – he said – “through baptism, we are reborn to the new life of grace and called to be witnesses of the Gospel before the world. Baptism makes us “missionary disciples” within the communion of the Church.”

The Pope said there is a close bond, then, “between our rebirth in water and the Holy Spirit, our responsibility to live this new life within the Church, in our families and our parishes, and our mission to bring the Gospel to others as channels of God’s grace”.

The Pope invites us to look to the remarkable history of the Church in Japan “where small communities of the faithful survived clandestinely for over two centuries thanks to the grace of baptism to help us to appreciate more fully the profound mystical, communitarian and missionary dimensions of our baptism.”

                                        Listen: Full Article   Report by Linda Bordoni: RealAudioMP3  

 

Pope Francis: Let us ask God for Grace

to Love the People like He Does

Video: Let the People Come and Pray

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis spoke of Jesus, the scribes, Eli the priest, and his two priestly sons, who were priests as well. He said that the Gospel offers an example of Jesus’ own catechetical attitude: the Lord taught as one who had authority – and not as the scribes, who, in their teaching and preaching, tended to bind people with many heavy burdens, and the poor people could not go on:

“It is Jesus himself who says that [the scribes] did not move these things even with a finger, right? And then He will say say to people: ‘Do what they say but not what they do!’ [They are] incoherent people. It always seems – doesn’t it? – that these scribes and Pharisees are always beating on the [regular folks]. ‘You must do this, this and this…’ to the poor people. Jesus told them – told the scribes and Pharisees – that in this way, they closed the door to the Kingdom of Heaven, [as if to say], ‘You don’t let others enter, and so neither will you yourselves gain entrance.’ This is how some people teach, preach and witness the faith…and how many people out there think that the faith really is as they present it.”

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Pope to Diplomats:

Create a Culture of Dialogue and Encounter

Wider Vision of New Cardinals' Service

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reiterated that a spirit of fraternity, as the foundation for peace, should be learned first within the family. The message of the Christmas Crib, he said, shows the Holy Family, “not alone and isolated….but surrounded by shepherds and the Magi, that is by an open community in which there is room for everyone, poor and rich alike”.


Sadly he noted there is a rise in broken and troubled families, not just because of a “weakening sense of belonging….but also because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live”. The Pope stressed there is a need for suitable policies aimed at supporting, assisting and strengthening the family. In particular, he said, it’s important to invest in the elderly and the young, favoring a culture of encounter, communion and peacemaking.

Looking at particular areas of crisis in the world, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the conflict in Syria will finally come to an end and that the Geneva conference will mark the beginning of the desired peace process. It is unacceptable, he said, that unarmed civilians, especially children, become targets and he praised efforts of neighboring countries which have welcomed numerous refugees from Syria.

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Pope Francis: A True Priest and his Relation to Christ

Video: Priests Pay Attention

(Vatican Radio) Saturday Pope Francis spoke about the priesthood. A true priest, he said, anointed by God for His people, has a close relationship with Jesus. When that relationship is missing, the priest becomes “smarmy,” [unctuous, It: unctuoso] an idolater, a worshiper of the “god Narcissus.”

Pope Francis’ homily was entirely dedicated to the priesthood. Commenting on the passage from first letter of St. John, where the Apostle says that we have eternal life because we believe in the name of Jesus, the Pope asks about the relationship of priests with Jesus, because “the strength of a priest is in this relationship.” When Jesus was growing in popularity, the Pope said, “He went to the Father,” He retreated “to a deserted place to pray.” This is a kind of “touchstone for priests” he said: whether or not we seek to find Jesus. “What is the place of Jesus Christ in my priestly life? Is it a living relationship, from the disciple to the Master, from brother to brother, from the poor man to God, or is it a somewhat artificial relationship... that does not come from the heart?”

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Pope Francis: Christian Love is Concrete

Video: Christ's Love Compels Us

(Vatican Radio) “We are in God and God is in us: this is the Christian life. Not remaining in the spirit of the world, not remaining in superficiality, not remaining in idolatry, not remaining in vanity. No, no, remaining in the Lord. And He reciprocates: He abides in us. But He remains in us first. Many times we push Him out and we cannot remain in Him. It is the Spirit that remains.”

Having clarified the dynamics of the spirit that prompts the love of Christians, Pope Francis goes on to examine the application. “Remaining in the love of God,” he says, is not so much an ecstasy of the heart, a nice thing to feel:

“You see that the love John speaks of is not the love of soap operas! No, it is something else. Christian love has a particular quality: concreteness. Christian love is concrete. Jesus Himself, when He speaks of love, speaks to us about concrete things: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and many concrete things. Love is concrete. . . . And when this concreteness is not there, you can live a Christianity of illusions, because you don’t understand where the centre of Jesus' message is. This love does not arrive at concrete being: it is a love of illusions, like the illusions the disciples had when, looking at Jesus, they thought He was a ghost.” 

The “ghost,” in fact, (from the story in today's Gospel) is what the disciples, astonished and fearful, see coming toward them, walking on the sea. But their astonishment arises from a hardness of heart, because, as the Gospel says, “they had not understood” the multiplication of the loaves which had taken place shortly before. “If you have a hardened heart,” Pope Francis said, you cannot love, and you think that love is to imagine things. No, love is concrete.” And this concreteness, he adds, is based on two criteria:

“The first criterion: to love with deeds, not words. Words are taken away by the wind! They are here today, tomorrow they are not. The second criterion of concreteness is: in love it is more important to give than to receive. The one who loves, gives. . . . Gives things, gives life, gives oneself to God and to others. On the other hand, [is] the one who does not love, who is selfish, always seeks to receive, always seeks to have things, to have advantages. Stay with an open heart, not like that of the disciples, which was closed, which did not understand anything: remaining in God and God remaining in us; remaining in love.”

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Pope Francis: Our Baptism Gives Us a New and Glorious Hope

Pope Francis to Sick Children:
Jesus is Always Close to You

(Vatican Radio) The Second Vatican Council tells us that the Church herself is a “Sacrament,” a grace-filled sign which makes Christ’s saving work present in history, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking of Baptism, the first of the Church’s seven Sacraments, Pope Francis said “it gives us new birth in Christ, makes us sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, grants the forgiveness of sin and brings us new freedom as God’s children and members of his Church.  ...  [W]e have all become new creatures in Christ, temples of the Spirit, adoptive children of the Father, members of the Church, brothers in faith and announcers of the Gospel, capable of forgiving and loving all, even our enemies.”

He urged us not to forget the great gift we have received. “Our baptism has changed us, given us a new and glorious hope, and empowered us to bring God’s redeeming love to all, particularly the poor, in whom we see the face of Christ. Our baptism has also given us a share in the Church’s mission of evangelization; as disciples, we are also missionaries.”

The Pope said “as we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday, let us ask him to renew in us the grace of our Baptism and to make us, with all our brothers and sisters, true children of God and living members of his body, the Church.”

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