Adult Faith Formation: Just Faith
Deb Marino and Cel Hope will be co-facilitating a program called
Just Faith starting Monday,
October 27 from 7:00-8:30PM.
Classes will take place in the youth room at the Pastoral Center.
Cost for participants will be $25 with the
remainder of the expense
for books and supplies being
covered by the church. Just Faith
is a study in the Catholic teachings of social justice. The
are updated annually and incorporate the writings of Pope
Francis as well as
earlier popes, ecumenical councils, and Catholic
authors such as Henri Nouwen.
This class will
of different books from a reading list as well as
Through his death and resurrection Christ
forgiveness and redemption to all. This kingdom of
justice and peace, breaking into
our world, invited all of us into a
right relationship with
our God, our neighbor and
Just Faith forms a small community of disciples who together
the Spirit of Jesus, especially in the lives of those who
are poor and vulnerable. Call
the Parish Office to sign up at
672-2848. Join us on this Journey!
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>> Videos from Teachers: Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Fr. Richard Rohr
POPE OPENS CATHOLIC CHARISMATIC INTERNATIONAL GATHERING
(>VaticanRadio) Evangelization, spiritual ecumenism, care of the poor and those in need, welcome for the marginalized: these are all founded upon the renewal of adoration of God. This was one of the central points made by Pope Francis on Sunday during his address to the 37th National Convocation of the “Renewal of the Spirit” which was held at Rome’s Olympic Stadium. More than 50,000 people had gathered for the event which, in addition to an encounter with the Holy Father, included praise and worship music, testimonies, and a flash mob.
During his main discourse, Pope Francis said members of the charismatic renewal had “received a great gift from the Lord.” He said that when he thinks of members of the charismatic movement, a particular image of the Church comes to mind. “I think also of a great orchestra, where every instrument is different from the other, and the voices are also different; but all are necessary for the harmony of the music.” The Pope then reminded them that, like in an orchestra, no one in the Renewal can think of themselves as being more important than another, or consider think of themselves as a leader. “You have only one leader, only one lord: the Lord Jesus.”
As disseminators of God’s grace, the Pope called on those present to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to go out onto the streets to announce the Gospel. Pope Francis also emphasized that adoration of God is fundamental. “Adore God. Seek sanctity in the New Life of the Spirit.”
The Holy Father concluded his discourse by inviting the charismatics of the world to celebrate their 2017 Jubilee at the Vatican. Earlier during the afternoon festivities, Pope Francis heard four testimonies, each one representing a different state in life: the priesthood, the youth, the sick and disabled, and the family.
Speaking to priests, the Pope gave them one word: Nearness. He charged priests to be near to God through Adoration, and near to the people.
To the young people: the Pope said not to keep youth locked in a safe, for otherwise it would become like a rag and serve no purpose. Youth, he said, is for giving oneself so that others might know the Lord.
Pope Francis then addressed the representatives of the family, warning that the devil seeks to destroy the family. He called on the Lord to bless families, giving them strength against these attacks from the devil.
Finally the Holy Father addressed the sick and disabled, represented at the event by a woman who suffered from blindness. He said that the sufferings of those who are sick and disabled are united to the sufferings of Christ. The Pope then thanked them for their willingness to except being united in the suffering of Christ, and for their hope.
JESUS' WOUNDS: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS
(>CNA).- Pope Francis focused his Angelus message today on the saving power of Jesus’ redemption, explaining that the risen Christ who ascends to heaven brings the scars of his crucifixion with him.
“And Jesus, when he goes to heaven, carries there a gift for the Father. Have you thought about this? What is the gift that Jesus brings to the Father? His wounds,” the Pope told the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square on June 1.
“And when he goes to the Father, he says to the Father, ‘look, Father: this is the price of forgiveness you give. And when the Father sees Jesus’ scars, he always forgives us.”
Pope Francis impressed upon his listeners the importance of Jesus’ redemptive work in his suffering, death and resurrection.
God forgives our sinfulness “not because we are good, no! Because he (Jesus) has paid for us.”
Jesus continues his saving work, interceding for every individual before the Father, noted the Pope. “This is the great work that Jesus does today in heaven - to make known to the Father in heaven the price of forgiveness: his wounds.”
Pope Francis explained that even though Jesus ascended to “the heights of Heaven to show us that the goal of our journey is the Father,” he “remains present and working in the events of human history with the power and the gifts of his Spirit.”
“Jesus is close to each one of us - even if we don’t see him with our eyes, He is here!”
The “risen Jesus is close to Christians who are persecuted and discriminated against; he is close to every man and woman who suffers. He is close to all of us. Even today he is here with us in the square. The Lord is with us. Do you believe this?” he queried the crowds.
“Let’s say it together,” he urged, “The Lord is with us!”
Christ’s presence through the Holy Spirit also works “through the Church, which he has invited to continue his mission,” Pope Francis explained.
Jesus’ final command to the disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” remains the mission of the Church.
The Church is a Christian community “in departure” or in “going out.” Even the cloistered communities are “in departure” through “prayer, with a heart opened to the world, to the horizons of God,” he stressed.
The same can be said for the elderly, or the sick, Pope Francis encouraged, for “they, too, with prayer and union with Jesus’ wounds” have a missionary calling.
It is not through human efforts that the Church can fulfill her mission, however. “Alone, without Jesus, we cannot do anything!” underscored the Pope. “In apostolic activity our strength, our resources, our structures, are not enough, even though they are necessary.”
“Without the presence of the Lord and the power of the Spirit, our work, even if well organized, turns out to be ineffective.”
The Pontiff added that along with Jesus, Mary accompanies us, for “she is already in the house of the Father; she is the Queen of Heaven.”
He then led the crowds in the Marian prayer of the Easter season, the Regina Coeli, and invoked Mary’s intercession as “Queen of Peace” in a special prayer for the Ukraine and the Central African Republic with their continued circumstances of political unrest and violence.
“I renew my heartfelt appeal to all the parties involved, so that they may overcome misunderstandings and seek dialogue and reconciliation with patience,” he implored.
Pope Francis also noted that today marks the World Day for Social Communications.
“Let us pray in order that communications, in every form, may be effective at the service of meetings between persons, communities, nations; a meeting founded upon respect and mutual listening,” he said.
The Pope took a moment to recall the newly beatified Madre Speranza, founder of the Italian religious communities Handmaids and Sons of Merciful Love. “Her testimony helps the Church to announce everywhere, with daily and concrete gestures, the infinite mercy of the heavenly Father for every person.”
He then greeted the various pilgrims present, closing with his customary wish for everyone to have a “good Sunday and a good lunch.” Today he added, “and pray for me!”
Pope Francis Mass at the Cenacle
Video: Birth of the Church
(CNA/EWTN News).- At the conclusion of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis focused his homily at Mass on the significance of the Upper Room, held to be the site of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus' apostles.
“It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist,” said Pope Francis on May 26 in Jerusalem.
“Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth,” he recalled.
In recognition of the significance of the holy site, Pope Francis celebrated the mass of the Holy Spirit along with the bishops of the Holy Land, noting that the Spirit’s presence is still with the Church today.
“The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.”
Pope Francis also spoke of how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples in the Upper Room at the last supper, offering an example of “welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another.”
He recounted how Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist with his disciples, and continues to be present in the Eucharist throughout the centuries.
“In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering God our lives, our joys, and our sorrows...offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.”
The Upper Room also offers a reminder of betrayal, the Pope noted, since the traitor Judas had been present with the others there.
Betrayal can happen “whenever we look at our brother and sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus,” he cautioned.
Yet the holy site is also a reminder of “sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace.”
“How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room! How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent,” he remarked.
“All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.”
The Pontiff went on to consider how the Church is like a family, “that has a mother, the Virgin Mary.”
“All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons daughters of the one Father in heaven,” he stressed.
Pope Francis concluded his final mass in the Holy Land by praying for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
“Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth!”
“Remain in the Love of God”
Video: Joy is the Seal of a Christian
(CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis has especially encouraged Christians to “remain in the love of God” in a Thursday reflection on the three “key words” of Jesus: peace, love and joy.
“The Christian vocation is this: to remain in the love of God, that is, to breathe, to live of that oxygen, to live of that air,” the Pope said May 22 in his homily to those gathered for Thursday Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
Jesus' love, he noted, is “a love that comes from the Father.”
“The loving relationship between Him and the Father is also a relationship of love between Him and us. He asks us to remain in this love, which comes from the Father,” the Pope said.
He focused on Jesus’ exhortation from the Gospel of John, “remain in my love.” The sign of remaining in this love is “keeping the commandments.”
“When we remain in love,” the pontiff said, “the Commandments follow on their own, out of love.”
Love “leads us to naturally fulfill the Commandments. The root of love blossoms in the Commandments.”
On the topic of peace, Pope Francis noted that Jesus said that he does not give peace “in the same way as the world gives it to us.” Rather, he gives it “forever.”
The Pope also emphasized that joy is “the sign of the Christian.”
“A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick. There's no other type!” he told the Casa Santa Marta congregation.
“A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian,” he said, repeating his previous criticisms of Christians with “faces like pickled peppers” and long faces.
“A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions,” he added.
He noted the joy of the early martyrs who were said to have gone to their martyrdoms “as if going to a wedding feast.”
Pope Francis stressed that the Holy Spirit gives Christians joy. Asking the congregation how many people prayed to the Holy Spirit, he characterized the Third Person of the Trinity as “the great forgotten in our lives.”
“He is the gift, the gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love and fills us with joy.”
Gift of Knowledge Attunes us with Vision of God
(CNA/EWTN News) - During his general audience address Pope Francis spoke on the Holy Spirit’s gift of knowledge, explaining that it enlightens our human perspective and helps us to see God in the whole of creation.
“The gift of knowledge puts us in tune with God’s gaze on things and on people” the Pope reflected in his May 21 weekly general audience, continuing his catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Through this spiritual gift, we are enabled to see every person, and the world around us, in the light of God’s loving plan.”
Addressing the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff noted that “This knowledge does not limit itself to the human knowledge of nature,” but instead “allows us to perceive the greatness of God and his love for his creatures” through creation.
“In a sense, we see the beauty, harmony and goodness of all creation with the eyes of God its maker” he continued, observing that “As is clear from the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi and so many other saints, the gift of knowledge gives rise to grateful contemplation of the world of nature and joyful praise of the Creator.”
Noting how “the beauty and immensity of creation speaks to us of the Creator and invites us to worship him,” the Pope drew attention to the bible’s account of creation in Genesis, saying that it “underscores that God himself was happy with his work: all was good and man was ‘very good.’”
This gift, he went on, teaches us to “exercise wise stewardship” over our resources “for the benefit of the whole human family.”
He then described how the gift of knowledge also “prevents us from restricting our vision to the persons and things of this world alone, forgetting that in their order, value and beauty they point beyond themselves to God,” who is “their source and ultimate end.”
Seeing with the vision of God, he explained, is “A kind and respectful gaze that warns us of the danger of believing we are the total owners of creation, disposing of it as we like and without limits.”
“Creation is not our property, and much less of just a few. It is rather a gift that God has given us so that we take care of it and use it with respect for the benefit of all.”
Bringing his reflections to a close, the Roman Pontiff encouraged those present to ask the Holy Spirit “to help us grow in the knowledge which enables us to perceive the love with which God guides the world, to respond with gratitude and to praise him for his infinite goodness and love.”
“May we see everything around us as God's work, and our fellow men as brothers and sisters.”
Speaking of his upcoming trip to the Holy Land, Pope Francis noted how "this Saturday, I will travel to the Holy Land, the Land of Jesus."
"It will be a strictly religious trip" he explained, stating that "in first place I will meet my brother Bartholomew the First, as a homage for the 50th anniversary of the encounter between Paul VI and Athenagoras I."
"Peter and Andrew will meet again and this is beautiful! The second reason for this trip is to pray for peace on this Land that suffers so much. I ask you to pray for this trip."
Following his address Pope Francis made a series of appeals, asking attendees to pray for victims of the floods ravishing the Balkans, for Catholics in China and for the first-ever Burmese native who be beatified Saturday, May 31, in Aversa, Italy...
Pope at Mass: Do not Let your Heart be Troubled
>> (5/20) Video: What is True Peace?
(>Vatican Radio) Those who welcome the Holy Spirit will have a solid and endless peace, unlike those who choose to “superficially” trust in the tranquility offered by money or power. This was Pope Francis’ message at Mass Tuesday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Emer McCarthy reports:
The peace offered by things - money, power, vanity – and peace in Person, the Holy Spirit. The first is always in danger of vanishing - Today you are rich and you are somebody, not tomorrow - instead no-one “can take away” the second because it is a "definitive" peace. The Pope’s homily, which centered on one of the greatest desires of mankind of all times, was inspired by a passage from the Gospel of John, in the liturgy of the day. Jesus is about to face the Passion and before he takes leave of the disciples, he announces, "My peace I give you". A peace , says the Pope, which differs completely from the "peace that the world gives us", because "it is somewhat superficial” it offers a “degree of calm, even a certain joy", but only "up to a certain point":
"For example, it offers us the peace of wealth: 'I am at peace because I have everything I need, everything organized for my whole life, I do not have to worry ... '. This is a peace that the world gives. Do not worry, you won’t have any problems because you have so much money ... the peace of wealth. And Jesus tells us not to trust this peace, because with great realism he tells us: 'Look, there are thieves ... thieves can steal your wealth!'. Money does not give you a definitive peace. Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace".
Pope Francis also examined two other types of worldly peace . The first, the peace of "power" does not work either – he pointed out – because “a coup can stake it away". Think , he added, what happened to the "peace of Herod" when the Magi "told him that the King of Israel was born: that peace vanished immediately". Or the peace of "vanity", which Pope Francis termed an "peace of conjecture", today you are greatly appreciated and tomorrow you will be insulted , "like Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Instead, the peace that Jesus gives is of a completely different substance:
"The peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit! On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: 'Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit'. This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift . And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts , no one can remove His peace. No one! It is a definitive peace! So what is our task? To custody this peace. Safeguard it! It is a great peace, a peace that is not mine, is belongs to another Person who gives it to me, another Person who is in my heart and accompanies me all the days of my life. The Lord has given it to me".
This peace is received at Baptism and Confirmation, but above all - says Pope Francis - "we receive it like a child who receives a gift" " without conditions , with an open heart". We must custody the Holy Spirit without “imprisoning Him”, asking for help from this "great gift " of God :
"If you have this peace of the Spirit, if you have the Holy Spirit within you, and you are aware of this, let not your heart be troubled. Be sure! Paul told us that we must first pass through many tribulations to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But we all, all of us, we have so many, everyone! Some bigger, some smaller ... ' But let not your heart be troubled' , and this is the peace of Jesus. The presence of the Spirit that makes our heart be at peace. Not anesthetized, no! At peace! Aware, but at peace with the peace that only God's presence gives"
Pope at Mass: Spirit of Firmness
(>Vatican Radio) A Christian should have their heart fixed on the Holy Spirit, not a fickle heart that dances from one place to another. This was Pope Francis’ message Monday morning at Mass in Casa Santa Marta. The Pope focused his homily on St. Paul, who was able to continuously evangelize because his heart was made firm by the Holy Spirit. Emer McCarthy reports:
What kind of heart do we have? That was the question at the certain of Pope Francis homily based on the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which speaks of St Paul’s commitment to evangelization “his firm heart in continuous motion”. The Apostle to the Gentiles is in Iconium, where they tried to kill him, but still he does not complain. He pushes ahead on to evangelize in the area of Lycaonia, and in the name of the Lord, heals a paralytic. On seeing this miracle, the pagans, think that Paul and Barnabas, who accompanies him are gods Zeus and Hermes descended upon the earth. The Pope noted, Paul "struggled to convince them that they were men." These, he said, “are the human trials that Paul experienced":
"We all have many of these, all of us; we are surrounded by many events that move us from one place to another. But we asked for the grace to have a fixed heart, like Paul: so as not to complain about the persecution he went in search to another city; he began to preach there; to heal the sick; realizing that that man had enough faith to be healed; then, calm this excited people who wanted to make a sacrifice to him; then, to proclaim that there is only one God, with their own cultural language. One thing after another ... And this can only come from a steady heart".
The Pope asked: "Where was Paul’s heart that he was able to make so many changes in such a short time and meet these situations in an appropriate way?" In the Gospel, the Pope said, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, "will teach us all things" and "remind us everything" that He had said. St. Paul’s heart "is fixed in the Holy Spirit," this "gift that Jesus has sent us." The Pope warned that “if we find stability in our lives” we must "go to Him. He is in our hearts, we received Him in Baptism." The Holy Spirit, "gives us strength, gives us this steadiness to be able to move forward in life in the midst of many events." Jesus says, "two things" of the Holy Spirit: "He will teach you all things and will remind you of everything." That is exactly what happens with St. Paul: "he teaches and reminds him" of the "message of salvation." It is the Holy Spirit who gives him firmness of heart:
"With this example, we can ask ourselves today: What kind of heart do we have? Is it a fickle heart which like a dancer, like a butterfly flits from one to another…always in motion; Is it a heart that is scared by the vicissitudes of life, and is hiding and afraid to give witness to Jesus Christ; is it a brave heart or a heart that has so much fear and is always trying to hide? What does our heart care for? What treasure does our heart custody? Is my heart fixed upon creatures, the problems that we all have? Is my heart fixed upon everyday gods or is it a heart fixed on the Holy Spirit?"
Pope Francis said that it would do us good to ask, "Where is the firmness of our hearts?" And also "remember the many every day events that we have: at home, at work, with our children, with people who live with us, with work colleagues, with everyone":
"Do I let myself get carried away by these things or face these events with a fixed heart that knows where it is? The only one that gives firmness to our hearts is the Holy Spirit. It would do us good to think that we have this great gift that Jesus left us, the Spirit of fortitude, of counsel, who helps us to move forward in the midst, surrounded by every day trials. We should do this exercise today, ask how our heart is: Firm or not? And if it is firm, where does it dwell? In things or in the Holy Spirit? It would do us good! "
Pope Prays for Flood Victims in Balcans
(>Vatican Radio) Speaking after the Regina Coeli prayer to some 50,000 people present in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that large areas in the Balkans have been devastated by flooding. He expressed his closeness to those who are living moments of anguish and adversity, and he urged those present to pray for our brothers and sisters who are in such difficulty. Listen: Report by Linda Bordoni:
The Pope’s appeal followed a discourse to the faithful in which he pointed out that conflict within the Church is to be resolved “with confrontation, discussion and prayer”. He said that problems must be faced openly and words must be based on certainties, as gossip and envy never lead to harmony and peace.
Pope Francis pointed out that the Holy Spirit is here to lead us on a path of serene dialogue. The Holy Spirit – he said – brings harmony, unity and respect for diverse gifts and talents.
And he recalled that even in the beginning, within the Church there existed tensions and dissent – just as they do today in our parishes.
There are conflicts in life – he said – the problem is in how we tackle them.
And he explained that when the faithful underwent the change from the Jewish culture to a more open culture and to Christianity – that Jesus, he said, destined to all peoples - the first difficulties arose. They included malcontent, complaints and gossip regarding favoritism and help for those most in need. That’s when the Apostles called a meeting with the disciples to talk “all together”.
Problems – Francis said – cannot be resolved by pretending they do not exist!
And the open confrontation between pastors and other faithful is a good and beautiful thing.
That meeting resulted in a “sharing out of duties”: the Apostles decided to dedicate themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. Seven deacons – “honest men with a good reputation, filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom” – dedicated themselves to aiding the poor.
After his appeal for the victims of flooding in the Balkans, Pope Francis greeted some 50,000 Romanian pilgrims in the Square and recalled the Beatification, on Saturday, in Romania of Bishop Anton Durcovic, a martyr of the faith who was persecuted by the Romanian Communist regime and who died in prison in 1951.
The Pope concluded with a special greeting and words of encouragement for the associations of volunteers on the Italian Day for cancer patients and their families for whom he had prayers and words of comfort.
Know Jesus; Pray to Him
Celebrate Him; Imitate Him.
Video: Pray to Jesus
(>Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says studying Jesus is not enough to get to know him, we must also pray to him, celebrate him and imitate him. This was the Pope’s core message at Mass on Friday in the Santa Marta residence. In his homily the Pope reflected on the best way for us to get to know Jesus, describing it as the most important work in our lives. At the same time he warned that studying or having ideas was not enough on its own to acquire that knowledge of Jesus.
“Ideas by themselves do not lead anywhere and those who pursue the path of their own ideas end up in a labyrinth from where they can’t get out again! It’s for this reason that heresies have existed from the very beginning of the Church. Heresies are this: trying to understand with our minds and with only our personal light who Jesus is. A great English writer wrote that a heresy is an idea that’s gone crazy. That’s right! When they are ideas by themselves they become crazy… This is not the right path!”
Pope Francis went on to explain that we need to open three doors in order to know Jesus.
“The first door is praying to Jesus. You must realize that studying without prayers is no use. We must pray to Jesus to get to know him better. The great theologians did their theology while kneeling. Pray to Jesus! By studying and praying we get a bit closer… But we’ll never know Jesus without praying. Never! Never! The second door is celebrating Jesus. Prayer on its own is not enough, we need the joy of celebration. We must celebrate Jesus through his Sacraments, because these give us life, they give us strength, they nourish us, they comfort us, they forge an alliance with us, they give us a mission. Without celebrating the Sacraments, we’ll never get to know Jesus. This is what the Church is all about: celebration. The third door is imitating Jesus. Take the Gospel, what did he do, how was his life, what did he tell us, what did he teach us and try to imitate him.”
“Entering via these three doors, the Pope went on, means entering into the mystery of Jesus and it’s only in this way that we can get to know him and we mustn’t be afraid to do this.
>>Video: Christians need Church
“During the day, today, we can think about how the door leading to prayer is proceeding in our life: but prayer from the heart is not like that of a parrot! How is prayer of the heart? How is the Christian celebration in my life proceeding? And how is the imitation of Jesus in my life proceeding? How must I imitate him? Do you really not remember! The reason is because the Book of the Gospel is full of dust as it’s never opened! Take the Book of the Gospel, open it and you will discover how to imitate Jesus! Let’s think about how these three doors are positioned in our life and this will be of benefit to everybody.”
I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me
>>Pope Audience 5/14 Gift: Fortitude
(>Vatican Radio) In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of fortitude. We have seen that the first three gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding and counsel – enable us to contemplate God’s loving plan and to know his will. Through the gift of fortitude, we receive the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations. In the parable of the sower and the seed, Jesus teaches us that the seed of God’s word sown in our hearts can encounter not only interior resistence, but also be choked by life’s sufferings and trials. Through the gift of fortitude, the Holy Spirit enables us to remain faithful amid every difficulty and – as the experience of so many Christians around the world shows – even amid persecution and martyrdom. For most of us, the gift of fortitude is exercised in our patient pursuit of holiness in the circumstances of our daily lives. Whenever we feel weary or discouraged along the journey of faith, let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, to refresh us and to guide our steps with renewed enthusiasm.
The Danger of a Hardened Heart
>Video: Faith is a Gift from God
(>Vatican Radio) We cannot understand the things of God only with our heads, we need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit too. This was Pope Francis’ message at morning Mass Tuesday at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also said that faith is a gift of God which we cannot receive if we live our lives “detached” from His people, the Church. Listen:
As usual, the Pope reflected on the readings offered by the liturgy of the day, which show us "two groups of people". In the First Reading, "there are those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose" following Stephen’s martyrdom. "They were dispersed with the seed of the Gospel - the Pope said – and they carried it everywhere". At first, they only spoke to the Jews. Then , "almost naturally, some of them" who had come to Antioch, "began to speak to the Greeks". And so, slowly, "they opened the doors to the Greeks, to the pagans”. Once the news arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to Antioch "to carry out an inspection." He noticed that everyone “was happy" because " a large number of people was added to the Lord".
Pope Francis noted that these people did not say “let's go to the Jews first, then the Greeks, then pagans, then everyone. No! They allowed themselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit! They were docile to the Holy Spirit." And then, he said, "one thing leads to another" and "they end up opening the doors to everyone: to the pagans, who were considered unclean in the mentality of the time,” "they opened the doors to everyone." This, he stressed , "is the first group of people, those who are docile to the Holy Spirit." "Sometimes - he added - the Holy Spirit prompts us to do bold things: like how he drove Philip to go and baptize" the Minister of Ethiopia, "like how he pushed Peter to go and baptize Cornelius."
"Other times, the Holy Spirit leads us gently and the virtue is in allowing ourselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit, in not resisting the Holy Spirit, in being docile to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit works in the Church today, is acting in our lives today. Some of you may say: ' I have never seen him!'. 'But, pay attention to what is happening, to what comes to your mind, to what comes in your heart. Good things? It is the Spirit that invites you to take that path. It takes docility! Docility to the Holy Spirit”.
The second group presented to us in the readings of the day is the "intellectuals, who came to Jesus in the temple: they are the doctors of the law." Jesus, the Pope noted, has always had problems with them, "because they never arrived at understanding: they always came back to the same point, because they believed that religion was a thing of the mind, of laws." They saw it as a question of "fulfilling the commandments and nothing more. They cannot even imagine the existence of the Holy Spirit". The questioned Jesus , "they wanted to argue. Everything was about the mind, the intellect". "These people had no heart - he added -there is no love or beauty, there is no harmony" these people “only want explanations:"
"And you give them their explanations and, not convinced, they return with more questions. This is their way: they spin round and round ... As they spun Jesus around throughout his life, until the time that they were able to take him and kill him! These people do not open their hearts to the Holy Spirit! They believe that the things of God can be understood only with the head, with ideas, with their own ideas. They are proud. They think they know everything. And what does not fit into their intelligence is not true. You can raise a dead man in front of them , but they do not believe."
Jesus "goes further" and says "something very strong:" "You do not believe because you are not part of my sheep! You do not believe because you are not of the people of Israel. You have left the people. You are in intellectual aristocracy." This attitude, he warned, "closes the heart. They have denied their own people".
"These people had become detached from the people of God and therefore could not believe. Faith is a gift from God! But faith comes if you are in His people. If you are - right now - in the Church, if you are helped by the sacraments, brothers and sisters, by the assembly. If you believe that this Church is the People of God. These people had distanced themselves, they did not believe in the people of God, they only believed in their own things, and thus built a whole system of commandments that chased the people away: they chased people away and would not let them come into the Church, the people. They could not believe! This is the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit".
Pope Francis concluded: "Two groups of people”, those who are "gentle, sweet people, humble, open to the Holy Spirit", and the others "proud, self-sufficient, detached from the people, intellectual aristocrats, who closed their doors and resist the Holy Spirit." "This is not just stubbornness," he said, "it is much more: it is having a hard heart! And this is more dangerous." "Let us ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit to move forward in life, to be creative, to be joyful, because the other people were not joyful." When "there is a lot of seriousness - he said - the Spirit of God is lacking." We ask, therefore, "for the grace of obedience and that the Holy Spirit will help us to defend ourselves from this other evil spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, closure of the heart to the Holy Spirit."
The Holy Spirit Makes the Unthinkable Possible
Video: Baptize Them!
(>Vatican Radio) "Who are we to close the doors" to the Holy Spirit? This was the question that Pope Francis repeated this morning during his homily at Mass at Casa Santa Marta, a homily dedicated to the conversion of the first pagans to Christianity. The Holy Spirit, he reiterated, is what makes the Church to go "beyond the limits, go ever forward."
The Spirit blows where it wills, but one of the most common temptations of those who have faith is to bar its path and drive it in one direction or another. A temptation that was not alien even in the early days of the Church, as the experience of Simon Peter in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows. A community of pagans welcomes the announcement of the Gospel and Peter is an eyewitness to the descent of the Holy Spirit on them. First hesitates to make contact with what he had always considered "unclean" and then he suffers harsh criticism from the Christians of Jerusalem, shocked by the fact that their leader had eaten with the "uncircumcised" and had even baptized them. A moment of internal crisis that Pope Francis recalls with a hint of irony :
"That was unthinkable. If – for example – tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them... And one says, 'But I want to be baptized!' What would happen?"
Peter understands his error when a vision enlightens him to a fundamental truth: that which has been purified by God cannot be called "profane" by anyone. And in narrating these facts to the crowd that criticized him, the Apostle calms them all with this statement: "If then God gave them the same gift He gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?"
"When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, 'No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, lets do it this way'... and Peter in that first diocese - the first diocese was Antioch - makes this decision: ‘Who am I to admit impediments?' A nice word for bishops, for priests and for Christians. Who are we to close doors? In the early Church, even today, there is the ministry of the ostiary [usher]. And what did the ostiary do? He opened the door, received the people, allowed them to pass. But it was never the ministry of the closed door, never."
Again Pope Francis repeated, God has left the guidance of the Church "in the hands of the Holy Spirit." "The Holy Spirit - he continued - as Jesus said, will teach us everything" and "remind us what Jesus taught us":
"The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church. He keeps the Church going, keeps the Church moving forward. More and more, beyond the limits, onwards. The Holy Spirit with His gifts guides the Church. You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete, whom the Lord sends us for this very reason. And He makes unthinkable choices, but unimaginable! To use a word of St. John XXIII: it is the Holy Spirit that updates the Church: Really, he really updates it and keeps it going. And we Christians must ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit. Docility in this Spirit, who speaks to us in our heart, who speaks to us in all of life’s circumstances, who speaks to us in the Church's life, in Christian communities, who is always speaking to us."
Pope Francis: Bother Your Pastors
Video: "Let us Pray for our Mothers"
(>Vatican Radio)“Bother your pastors, disturb your pastors, all of us pastors, so that we will give you the milk of grace, of doctrine, and of guidance.” Departing from his prepared remarks, Pope Francis on Sunday called on the faithful knock at the doors of their pastors “and on their hearts,” saying it would help Bishops and priests be good pastors.
The Holy Father made his remarks to the pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for the weekly Regina Caeli prayer. His remarks focused on the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, taken from the day’s Gospel reading. Many people are proposed to us as shepherds or pastors for our daily lives, he said. “But only the risen Christ is the true Shepherd, who gives us life in abundance.” Jesus not only guides us, but accompanies us on our journey “He walks with us.” Pope Francis called on us to “listen with open minds and hearts to His Word, in order to feed our faith, illuminate our consciences” and allow us “to follow the teachings of the Gospel.”
On Good Shepherd Sunday, the Pope said, we pray for all the pastors in the Church, especially Bishops and priests. He sent special greetings to the thirteen men he had ordained to the priesthood earlier in the day, and prayed that the Lord would help all pastors “to be wise and enlightened guides for the people of God entrusted” to them.
And he asked, too, for the help of the faithful. Taking an example from the works of St Caesarius of Arles (an early Church father), he talked about how calfs will nudge their mothers with their noses so the mother’s will give them milk. “A beautiful image,” he said. And that, he said, is how the people of God should be with their pastors, calling on them, disturbing them, even to the point of being troublesome or burdensome.
Pastors, on the other hand, should be imitators of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Every pastor, he said, quoting the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, “will sometimes go before his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant; the pastor should go ahead at times. At other times, he will simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind.” He expressed his wish that all pastors would follow that model… but then called on the faithful once again to “bother your pastors so that they will give us the guidance of doctrine and grace!”
Concluding his reflections, Pope Francis recalled the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, commemorated on Sunday. Every vocation, he said, “always requires an exodus from oneself in order to centre one’s life on Christ and on His Gospel.” But the call of the Lord to a religious vocation is always in danger of being stifled by other voices and other calls. And so, the Pope said, we should pray for young people that they might hear and respond to the voice of the Lord calling them.
Following the recitation of the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims from Italy and around the world. He concluded his greetings with a special thought for mothers: “Today I invite you to dedicate a good memory and a prayer for all mothers,” he said, before leading the faithful in prayer “for our mothers and for all mothers.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
>>Link: Full Address Text
Saints are Humble Sinners Sanctified by Christ
Video: Mass at Santa Marta 3/9
(>Vatican Radio) Saints are not heroes, but are sinners who follow Jesus along the path of humility and of the Cross and thus allow themselves to be sanctified by Him – because no one is able to sanctify himself. This was the message of Pope Francis in his homily at daily Mass on Friday at the Casa Santa Marta. Listen to Christopher Wells' Report:
Beginning with the first Reading, which tells the story of the conversion of Paul from an enemy of the Church to a saint, Pope Francis explained what is meant when we say “the Church is holy”:
“But how can she be holy if we are all within [her]? We are all sinners here. Yet the Church is holy! We are sinners, but she is holy. She is the spouse of Jesus Christ, and He loves her, He sanctifies her, He sanctifies her every day with His Eucharistic sacrifice, because He loves her so much. And we are sinners, but in a holy Church. And we too are sanctified with this belonging to the Church: we are children of Church, and Mother Church sanctifies us, with her love, with the Sacraments of her Spouse.”
In his letters, the Pope said, “Saint Paul speaks to the saints, to us: sinners, but children of the holy Church, sanctified by the Body and the Blood of Jesus”:
“In this holy Church the Lord chooses certain people so that holiness can be better seen, to show that it is He who sanctifies, that no one sanctifies himself, that there’s no course to become a saint, that it’s not being a religious fraud or something of that sort… No! It’s not that! Holiness is a gift of Jesus to His Church and to show this He chooses people in whom His work of sanctifying is clearly seen.”
In the Gospel, the Pope said, there are many examples of saints: there is Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out seven demons; there’s Matthew “who was a traitor to his people and took money to give it to the Romans;” there’s Zacchaeus and so many others who show everyone “the first rule of sanctity: it is necessary that Christ increases and that we decrease. It is the rule of sanctity: we become humble, so that the Lord might increase.”
And so, Christ chooses Saul, who is a persecutor of the Church: “but the Lord awaits him. The Lord awaits him, and makes him feel His power.” Saul “becomes blind and obeys,” and from the old man that he was, “he becomes like a child: he obeys!” His heart is changed: “it is another life!” But Paul does not become a hero, the Pope explained, because he who had preached the Gospel throughout the world “ended his life with a little group of friends, here in Rome, a victim of his disciples.” “One morning, 3, 4, 5 soldiers came to him.. they took him away and cut off his head. Simply. The great man, who had gone out into the whole world, ended his life in this way.” He diminished, the Pope said. “The difference between heroes and saints,” Pope Francis affirmed, “is the witness, the imitation of Jesus Christ, going along the way of Jesus Christ,” [the way] of the Cross. And many saints “end their lives so humbly. The great saints! I think of the last days of Saint John Paul II,” the Pope recalled. “We all saw it:”
“He could not speak, the great athlete of God. This is how the great warrior of God ended his life, destroyed by disease, humiliated like Jesus. This is the path of sanctity of the great. And it is path of our sanctity. If we do not allow our hearts to be converted to this street of Jesus – bearing the cross every day, the ordinary cross, the simple cross – and allowing Jesus to increase; if we do not take this path, we will not be saints. But if we take this path, all of us will bear witness to Jesus Christ, who loves us so much. And we bear witness that, although we are sinners, the Church is holy. She is the spouse of Jesus.”
Pope Audience: the Gift of Good Counsel
Video: Pope's Catechesis (Rome 5-17-14)
(Vatican Radio) Summary: Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of counsel. Through this gift, God enlightens our hearts and directs our thoughts, words and actions in accordance with his saving will. By leading us to Jesus, and through him to the Father, the Holy Spirit guides us in our daily interaction with others and enables us to make right decisions in the light of faith. Through the gift of counsel, we also grow in the virtue of prudence, learning to overcome our self-centeredness and to see all things with the eyes of Christ. The gift of counsel, like all spiritual gifts, needs to be cultivated through prayer, by which we become attuned to the voice of the Spirit and conformed to the heart of Christ. Nor does this gift enrich us as individuals alone; the Spirit also counsels us through the lives and experiences of our brothers and sisters in the Church. Today, as we give thanks for the gift of counsel, let us seek to support one another along the path of faith, as we seek to be ever more docile to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
May is the month of Mary, and looking to her this Wednesday; Pope Francis raised a prayer of thanksgiving for her good counsel in times of difficulty. He also invited mothers world-wide to pray for this gift from the Holy Spirit to be able to counsel their children and announced that on Thursday the Vatican Secretary of State will travel to the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii.
Continuing his series of reflections at the General Audience on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, this week he focused on the Gift of Counsel. Emer McCarthy reports:
“We know how important it is, especially in the most delicate moments, to be able to count on the advice of wise people who love us. Now, through the gift of counsel, it is God himself, with his Spirit who enlightens our hearts, so as to help us understand the proper way to speak and behave and the path to follow. But how does this work? From the moment we welcome and host Him in our hearts, the Holy Spirit immediately begins to make us sensitive to His voice and to direct our thoughts, our feelings and our intentions according to God’s heart. At the same time, He increasingly brings us to turn our inward gaze upon Jesus as a model of how to act and relate with God the Father and our brothers and sisters. Counsel, then, is the gift by which the Holy Spirit makes our conscience capable of making a concrete choice in communion with God, according to the logic of Jesus and of his Gospel. In this way, the Spirit helps us grow inwardly, helps us grow positively, helps us grow in communion and helps us to avoid being at the mercy of selfishness and our own way of seeing things. This is how the Spirit helps us grow and also live in communion.”
The Holy Father went on to say that the essential condition to preserve this gift is prayer. “We always return to the same point: prayer. Prayer, praying is so important. Praying those prayers that we all know from childhood but also praying with our words, praying to the Lord: ‘Lord, help me, advise me, what should I do now?’. With prayer we make room for the Spirit to come and help us in that moment, he advises us all on what we must do. Prayer, never forget prayer, never. Nobody notices when we pray on the bus, on the streets, we pray in silence, with our hearts, take advantage of these moments to pray. Pray for the Spirit to give us this gift of counsel.”
“In intimacy with God and listening to His Word slowly we put aside our personal logic, dictated most of the time by our closure, our prejudices and our ambitions, and instead learn to ask the Lord, what is your wish? Seek advice from the Lord. And we do so with prayer.”
“In this way a profound harmony matures in us, almost innate in the Spirit and we experience how true the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew are: ‘When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say (Mt 10:19-20)’. It is the Spirit who counsels us but we have to make room for the Spirit to give us counsel and give space to prayer, prayer for Him to come and always help us.”
“Like all the other gifts of the Spirit, counsel is also a treasure for the entire Christian community. The Lord speaks to us not only in the intimacy of our heart, - He speaks to us, yes, but not only there - but also through the voice and the testimony of others. It really is a great gift to meet the men and women of faith who, especially in the most complicated and important moments of our lives, help us to shed light in our hearts and recognize the will of the Lord.”
The Pope moved from his prepared text to add: “I remember once, I was in the confessional, and there was a long queue in front of the Shrine of Lujan, the diocese of that bishop there, and there was a young man in the queue, all modern with tattoos And ... he came to tell me what was happening in his life. He had a big, difficult problem. ' And [he asked me] what would you do? So I told my mother about this and my mother said to me: ‘Go to the Virgin Mary and she will tell you what you must do.’ Here was a woman who had the gift of counsel. She did not know how to solve her son’s problems but she indicated the right way: ‘Go to Our Lady and she’ll tell you.’ This is the gift of counsel. Do not say, ‘Do this ...’. Let the Spirit speak. And that woman, humble, simple, gave her son the truest, most beautiful advice, because this young man said to me: ‘I looked upon Our Lady and I heard that I need to do this, this, this.’ I did not have to say a word. It all came from my mother, the Virgin Mary and the young man. This is the gift of counsel. You mothers who have this gift, ask for this gift for your children: the gift of being able to counsel your children. It is a gift from God.”
“Dear friends, Psalm 16 invites us to pray with these words:" I bless the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart exhorts me. I keep the LORD always before me; with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken" (vv. 7-8). The Spirit can always instill in our hearts [if we let Him] and fill us with the certainty of his consolation and peace! Always seek the gift of counsel. Thank you.”
At the end of the General Audience, the Pope recalled that tomorrow the Church raises the Prayer of “Petition” to Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii: “The Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin will travel to that famous shrine. I invite everyone to invoke the intercession of Mary, so that the Lord grant mercy, and peace to the Church and to the whole world. I commend in particular to our Mother the young, the sick and newlyweds who are present here today, and I urge everyone in this month of May, to pray the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”
Pope at Mass: Church is not Just a School of Religion
Vanity in the Church? NO!
(Vatican Radio) The Christian who does not witness to the faith becomes sterile. This was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope drew inspiration from the martyrdom of St. Stephen, narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The Church, he said, is "not a university of religion," but the people who follow Jesus. Only in this way, he added , is the Church both “fruitful and mother."
Emer McCarthy reports: In his homily Pope Francis traced the path that led to the death of the first martyr of the Church, a death that was the exact replica of Christ’s. He, too, like Jesus , he said, had encountered “the jealousy of the leaders who were trying" to eliminate him. He too had "false witnesses" , a "rushed judgment”. Stephen warns them that are resisting the Holy Spirit, as Jesus had said , but "these people - said the Pope – were uneasy, were not at peace in their hearts". These people , he added, had " hatred " in their heart . That is why, on hearing Stephen’s words, they were furious . "This hatred - said Pope Francis - was sown in their hearts by the devil," "this is the devil’s hatred of Christ.”
The devil "who did what he wanted with Jesus Christ in his Passion now does the same" with Stephen. This "struggle between God and the devil" is clearly seen in martyrdom. “On the other hand, Jesus had told his disciples that they had to rejoice to be persecuted in his name: "To be persecuted, to be a martyr, to gives ones’ life for Jesus is one of the Beatitudes". That is why, the Pope added , "the devil cannot stand seeing the sanctity of a church or the sanctity of a person, without trying to do something". This is what he does with Stephen, but "he died like Jesus forgiving."
"Martyrdom is the translation of a Greek word that also means witness. And so we can say that for a Christian the path follows in the footsteps of this witness, Christ’s footsteps, to bear witness to Him and, many times, this witness ends up in laying down one’s life . You cannot understand a Christian without witness. We are not a ' religion' of ideas, of pure theology, beautiful things, of commandments. No, we are a people who follow Jesus Christ and bear witness – who want to bear witness to Jesus Christ - and sometimes this witness leads to laying down our lives.”
On Stephen’s death, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, "a severe persecution began against the Church in Jerusalem". These people , the Pope observed , "felt strong and the devil provoked them to do this" and so "Christians scattered to the regions of Judea and Samaria". This persecution, the Pope noted, means that "the people spread far and wide" and wherever they went they explained the Gospel , gave testimony of Jesus , and so "mission of the Church" began. "So many - he recalled - converted, on hearing these people". One of the Fathers of the Church, explained this by saying : "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". With "their witness, they preach the faith" :
"Witness, be it in everyday life, in difficulties, and even in persecution and death, always bears fruit. The Church is fruitful and a mother when she witnesses to Jesus Christ. Instead , when the church closes in on itself , when it thinks of itself as a - so to speak - 'school of religion', with so many great ideas, with many beautiful temples, with many fine museums, with many beautiful things, but does not give witness, it becomes sterile. The Christian is the same. The Christian who does not bear witness, is sterile, without giving the life he has received from Jesus Christ."
The Pope continued, "Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit", and "we cannot bear witness without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us". Pope Francis advised those present: “In difficult times, where we have to choose the right path, where we have to say 'no' to a lot of things that maybe try to seduce us, there is prayer to the Holy Spirit, and He makes us strong enough to take this path of witness":
"Today thinking about these two icons - Stephen, who dies, and the people, the Christians, fleeing, scattering far and wide because of the violent persecution - let us ask: How is my witness? Am I a Christian who witnesses to Jesus or are a simple numerary in this sect ? Am I fruitful because I bear witness, or sterile because unable to let the Holy Spirit lead me forward in my Christian vocation?"
Jesus is the Risen Traveler who Goes with Us
(CNA) “We too can become risen travellers if his word inflames our hearts, and his Eucharist opens our eyes to the faith and nurtures hope and charity in us,” urged the pontiff.
Sunday’s Mass was held in celebration of John Paul II’s recent canonization on April 27. The Polish saint used to visit St. Stanislaus Church regularly throughout his time as Pope.
“You, brothers and sisters, make part of a people that has been very much tried in its history. The Polish people know well that in order to enter into glory it is necessary to pass through the Passion and the Cross,” acknowledged Pope Francis.
“And they know this not because they have studied it, but because they have seen it. St. John Paul II, like a worthy son of his earthly fatherland, followed this path. He followed it in an exemplary way.”
“Are we ready to follow this path?” asked the Pope.
True Christians are “travellers” rather than “vagabonds,” he explained, because they are “on a journey, but knowing where we are going!”
Jesus accompanies his followers on the path, and his presence allows the faithful to “walk alongside our brothers and sisters who are sad and despairing, and warm their hearts with the gospel, and break with them the bread of fraternity.”
>>Link: For Full CNA Article
Mass of Thanksgiving for Saint John Paul II
Video: Keep Christ at the Center
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis visited the central Roman church of St. Stanislaw on Sunday morning. St. Stanislaw’s is the Polish national church in Rome, and serves the significant Polish population in the city. The Holy Father made the visit in order to celebrate a Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of Pope St. John Paul II, who was a native of Poland and Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow before being elected to the See of Peter in October of 1978.
In his homily, Pope Francis praised the Polish nation as, “[A] people that have been greatly tried in their history.” He went on to say, “The Polish people know well that, in order to enter into glory, one must needs pass by way of the passion and the cross – and [the Polish people] know this, not because they have studied it, but because they have lived it.”
“St. John Paul II,” continued Pope Francis, “as a worthy son of his earthly homeland, followed this way – he followed it in an exemplary manner.” Pope Francis then asked, “And what of us? Are we prepared to follow [the way of the passion and the cross]?”
Video:Pope John Paul II Smiles
Reflecting on the Gospel reading of the day, which tells the story of Our Lord’s appearance to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Pope Francis recalled a saying of Pope St. John Paull II: “We are pilgrims, not vagabonds.” He went on to say that the disciples on the way to Emmaus were wandering – they knew not whither they were headed, nor what end they would make. “On the way back,” he said, “they were witnesses of the hope that is Christ, because they had met Him, the Risen Wayfarer: this Jesus, the Risen One walking with us. And Jesus is here today, He is here, among us, He is here, in His Word, He is here on the altar, He walks with us, the Wayfarer is Risen.”
The Holy Father concluded, praying, “May St. John Paul II help us be [such] resurrected wayfarers.”
>>Link for full Article
Pope Francis at Mass: I weep for Christians still crucified today
(Vatican Radio) In his homily at morning Mass in Casa Santa Martha Friday, Pope Francis lamented that in today’s world there are still "masters of conscience" [thought police -ed] and in some countries you can still go to jail for possessing a Gospel or wearing a Crucifix. He also confessed to those present that he has wept at the news that some Christians were crucified, because still today there are people who kill others in God’s name. Emer McCarthy Reports:
The Pope's homily drew from the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ’s disciples are flogged by the Sanhedrin. Pope Francis proposed three icons: the first is Jesus’ love for people, his attention to peoples’ problems. He said the Lord is not concerned with how many people follow him, he would “never even thinks of taking a census" to see if "the Church has grown ... no! He speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble". He speaks with authority, that is, with "the power of love".
The second icon is the "jealousy" of the religious authorities of the time: "They couldn’t stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn’t stand it! They were jealous. This is a really bad attitude to have. Jealousy and envy, and we know that the father of envy" is "the devil." It was through his envy that evil came into the world." Pope Francis continued: "These people knew who Jesus was: they knew! These people were the same who had paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ’s body!"
"They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes! Because when we pay to hide the truth, we are [committing] a very great evil. And that's why people knew who they were. They would not follow them, but they had to tolerate them because they had authority: the authority of the cult, the authority of the ecclesiastical discipline at that time, the authority of the people ... and the people followed. Jesus said that they weighed people down with oppressive weights and made them carry them on their shoulders. These people cannot tolerate the meekness of Jesus, they cannot tolerate the meekness of the Gospel, they cannot tolerate love. And they pay out of envy, out of hate".
During the gathering of the Sanhedrin there is a "wise man," Gamaliel, who asks the religious leaders to free the apostles. Thus, the Pope insists, there are these first two icons: Jesus who is moved to see people "without a shepherd" and the religious authorities ...
"These, with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... And so, they bring forth the apostles, after this wise man had spoken, they called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them. ‘We have to do something, we will give them a sound hiding and send them on their way! Unjust! but they did it. They were the masters of conscience [thought police], and felt they had the power to do so. Masters of conscience ... Even in today's world , there are so many".
Then Pope Francis confessed: “I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian. Still today – he pointed out – there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God. Still today, "we see many who" like the apostles "rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in Christ’s name." This - he said - "is the third icon today. The Joy of witness."
"First icon: Jesus with people, his love, the path that He has taught us, which we should follow. The second icon: the hypocrisy of these religious leaders of the people, who had people imprisoned with these many commandments, with this cold, hard legality, and who also paid to hide the truth. Third icon: the joy of the Christian martyrs, the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name. And today there are still so many! Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined. But the heart rejoices. The three icons: let us look at them today. This is part of our history of salvation,
Pope Francis on Friday met members of the newly-formed Council for the Economy, telling them that their important mission will not be easy and requires courage and determination. The Council and the Secretariat for the Economy were set up by the Pope with a Motu Proprio in February and he reminded them that their responsibility was to oversee and manage the Church’s assets with transparency and efficiency in the light of the gospel and with special consideration for the needy.
Pope Francis said the Holy See feels called to put into practice this mission, especially in view of its responsibility towards the universal Church. These changes, he went on, reflect the desire to carry out a necessary reform of the Roman Curia in order to better serve the Church. Describing this as a significant challenge, the Pope warned the members that their mission will require courage and determination. He said a new mentality of evangelical service needs to take root in the various administrations of the Holy See.
Pope Francis had special words of encouragement for the work of Australian Cardinal George Pell who heads the new Secretariat for the Economy and praised him for his tenacity as a former rugby player. Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
The Gift of Understanding
(Vatican Radio) Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the gift of understanding. Born of our sharing in God’s life through faith and baptism, the gift of understanding enables us to see in all things the unfolding of his eternal plan of love. The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enlightens our minds, guiding us to an ever deeper understanding of Christ’s teaching and his saving mission. Like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we often fail to recognize the the Lord walking at our side and the working of God’s grace in our lives and the world around us. Yet thanks to the Spirit’s gift of understanding, our eyes are opened and our hearts burn within us (cf. Lk 24:13-27) as we recognize the Risen Lord’s presence and view all things in a new light, with fresh spiritual insight. How important it is to implore this gift of understanding! Through it the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savour the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation. Listen:
>>Link: For Full Address from VR
The Measure of a Christian Community
(Vatican Radio) The Christian community should be capable of full agreement within, able to bear witness to Christ to the outside world, to prevent any of its members from suffering and misery. These according to Pope Francis are the "three characteristics of a people reborn". In his homily at Mass Tuesday morning, the Pope focused on what the Church brought to light during the Octave of Easter: our "rebirth from on high”, in the Holy Spirit , who gave life to the first group of "new Christians" when "they still didn’t have that name".
"'They had one heart and mind'. Peace. A community in peace. This means that in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation. Peace. Forgiveness: 'Love covered everything' . To qualify a Christian community on this, we have to ask about the attitude of the Christians. Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip? They are not on the path of Jesus Christ. This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division".
Not that problems were lacking in the first community. Pope Francis recalled "the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles " which also overtook [the community] later. As an example of this he pointed to the widows who complained of a lack of assistance and the Apostles "had to create deacons". However, the "high point" of the community’s beginnings forever fixes the essence of a community that is born of the Holy Spirit . A harmonious community and, second, a community of witnesses of faith. Pope Francis invited today’s community to dwell on this:
"Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen? Or rather: ' Yes, He is Risen, but only here', because they only believer here, in their hearts far removed from this force. By how we bear witness that Jesus is alive, that He is among us: that is how we verify the life of a community".
The third characteristic from which we can measure the life of a Christian community are "the poor" . And here, Pope Francis distinguished two points of evaluation:
"First, what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor? Second, is this community poor? Poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power? Harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit . This is the work of the Spirit. The Church is built up by the Spirit. The Spirit creates unity. The Spirit leads us to witness. The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor”. Listen:
Pope Francis Urges us to Follow the Teachings of New Saints
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis issued a message of thanks on Sunday during his Regina Coeli address, following the canonization Mass of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II.
The Pope thanked all of the pilgrims and the official delegates who traveled to Rome for the occasion. He also thanked the Italian authorities for their generous work and collaboration in preparing for this event.
He greeted the pilgrims from the home dioceses of the new saints—Bergamo and Krakow—exhorting them to “honor the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully”.
He also issued a special greeting “for the sick and the aged, to whom the new saints were particularly close.”
Read the full text of the Pope’s address below:
Dear brothers and sisters, Before concluding this celebration of faith, I wish to greet and thank all of you!
I thank my brother cardinals and the many bishops and priests from every part of the world.
My appreciation goes to the official delegations from many countries, who came to pay tribute to two pontiffs, who contributed in an indelible way to the cause of human development and to peace. A special thank-you goes to the Italian authorities for their precious collaboration.
With great affection, I greet the pilgrims from the dioceses of Bergamo and Krakow! Dear ones, honour the memory of these two holy Popes by following their teachings faithfully.
I am grateful for all those who, with great generosity, prepared these memorable days: the Diocese of Rome with Cardinal Vallini, the City of Rome and its Mayor Ignazio Marino, the law enforcement officers and various organizations, the associations and the numerous volunteers. Thanks to all!
My greeting goes to all the pilgrims—here in St. Peter’s Square, in adjacent streets and in other locations in Rome—as well as to those who are united to us through radio and television; and thank you to the media directors and personnel, who have given many people the possibility to participate. For the sick and the aged, to whom the new saints were particularly close, I add a special greeting.
And now, we turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary, who Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II had loved as her true sons.
A Life of Faith: John Paul II
Video: St. Pope John Paul II Meetings
(Vatican Radio) One of the people who will be attending the canonization ceremony of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II is Kishore Jayabalan. His life of faith was strongly connected with the Blessed John Paul II. He was baptized by the Pope at the Easter Vigil in 1996. He then worked for the Holy See, both at the offices of the Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York and at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
“For me personally, it was incredible because John Paul II was someone I grew up admiring. Of course, he was more than an example and a personal hero of mine: He was also Peter, and he was also the leader of the Catholic Church,” he told Vatican Radio. “To be received into the Church by Peter over the tomb of Peter, you can’t really have a better way to start your Catholic life.”
Jayabalan currently works for the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which tries to apply the social teachings of the JP2 Encyclical Centesimus Annus to economic teaching. He said the presence of John Paul II is still with him, and inspires him.
“There is a way human beings look at the world in terms of good and evil, in terms of saints and sinners,” he said. “You start to realize as you grow in your faith that that is a really superficial way of looking at it. All saints are sinners at some point in their lives, and with God’s grace and the individual’s cooperation, you can grow in holiness and you can grow in faith and you can really start to live the life that God has in store for each and every one of us in the Catholic Church. Those are the impressions that you have starting out with someone like John Paul II.”
Listen to the interview by Charles Collins with Kishore Jayabalan:
>>Link Video: Key Gestures in the Life of St. Pope John Paul II
Pope Francis Feast Day: St. George
(Vatican Radio) "The dragon is a symbol of the power evil people can wield in this world. They can force good people into submission and either damage them or humiliate them or lead them astray. This is a frightening reality, and it is a reminder that sometimes goodness and holiness mean bravery in the face of wickedness. At a baptism, the new Christian is exorcised, not because she or he is possessed, but because the Christian Church recognizes where human power runs out and we simply have to rely on God. Saint George is a reminder that we need help to survive when evil is about. It may be a naive symbolism, but the pictures and statues of Saint George are all about the battle between good and evil. They also hearken back to what Jesus said about his sheep. He was there to protect them, because they needed protection. Saint George is a reminder that sometimes good people are called upon to bother to be brave and offer that protection in place of Jesus." >>Listen: MP3
Why do you Seek the Living One Among the Dead? >(Lk 24,5 )
(Vatican Radio) We need [these words] when we close ourselves within many forms of selfishness or self-complacency; when we allow ourselves to be seduced by the earthly powers and the things of this world, forgetting God and neighbor; when we place our trust in worldly vanities, in money, in success. Then the Word of God tells us: "Why do you seek the living one among the dead?”' Why are you looking there, it can’t give you life it will give you joy for a day a week a month a year and then? Why do you seek the living one among the dead? This sentence needs to enter into our heart….. Why do you seek the living one among the dead? Out loud! Why do you seek the living one among the dead? And today when you go home say it in your heart, in silence ask why do I look in life among dead things for life? It will do us good!
But it is not easy, it is not obvious to accept the life of the Risen Christ and His presence among us. The Gospel shows us the reactions of the Apostle Thomas, Mary Magdalene and the two disciples of Emmaus: it does us good to confront them. Thomas puts a condition on his faith, he asks to touch the evidence, the wounds; Mary Magdalene weeps; she sees him but does not recognize him; she only realizes that it is Jesus when He calls her by name; the disciples of Emmaus, depressed and feeling defeated, encounter Jesus by allowing themselves to be accompanied by the mysterious traveler. Each by different paths! They were looking among the dead for One who is alive, and it was the same Lord to correct their course. And what do I do? Which route do I follow to meet the risen and living Christ? He will always be close to us to correct our course if we have gone wrong.
"Why do you seek the living one among the dead?" (Lk 24,5). This question helps us resist the temptation to look back, to what was yesterday, and pushes us forward into the future. Jesus is not in the tomb, he is the Risen Lord, the Living, the One who always renews his body which is the Church and helps her walk, pulling her towards him. "Yesterday " is the tomb of Jesus and the Church, the tomb of truth and justice. "Today" is the perennial resurrection to which the Holy Spirit impels us, gifting us full freedom.
Today this question is also addressed to us. You, why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? you who close in on yourself after a failure or you who no longer have the strength to pray? Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive, you who feel alone, abandoned by friends, and perhaps even by God? Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive you who have lost hope or you who feel imprisoned by your sins? Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive you who aspire to beauty, spiritual perfection, justice, peace?
We need to hear ourselves repeat and remind each other of the angel’s admonition! This admonition, "Why do you seek the living one among the dead" helps us emerge from our spaces of sadness and opens up for us horizons of joy and hope. That hope that removes stones from graves and encourages us to proclaim the Good News, capable of generating new life for others.
Let us repeat the Angels question to have it in our heart and mind and let each of us answer in silence Why do you seek the living one among the dead? Look dear brothers and sisters let’s not look among those many tombs that promise everything and give nothing let’s look for Him, Jesus isn't in the tomb. He is risen! He is alive and gifts life!
>>Link: For Full VR Article
Let the Joy of the Risen Lord be Imprinted in our Hearts and Lives
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis began his Regina Coeli address on Monday by saying Happy Easter! Christ is risen! He is truly risen ." Listen:
The Holy Father told the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that the dominant feeling that shines in the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection is one of joy and wonder, and he went on to say that in the liturgy we relive the mood of the disciples with the news that the women had brought, Jesus is risen!
The Pope said, “Let this experience imprinted in the Gospel, be imprinted in our hearts and in our lives. Let the joyous wonder of Easter Sunday radiate through our thoughts , looks, attitudes , gestures and words ..." But, he stressed, let this come from within us.
When it comes from within, Pope Francis added , from a heart immersed in the source of this joy, it is like that of Mary Magdalene, who wept for the loss of her Lord and could not believe her eyes seeing him risen.
The person who does this, said the Pope becomes a witness to the resurrection and is then able to bring the "ray " of light of the Risen Lord to various human situations such as spreading happiness , helping those in pain and bringing serenity and hope.
Focusing on the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s resurrection Pope Francis urged the faithful to read these particular chapters stressing it does us good to do this.
Recalling the Mother of Jesus, the Holy Father said, we would do well this week to think about Mary, as her pain was strong enough to pierce her soul.
In going through the experience of the death and resurrection of her Son, her heart became a source of peace, comfort , hope , and mercy. Mary, underlined the Pope is the Mother full of hope, the Mother of all the disciples, the Mother of the Church.
Pope Francis: "Return to Galilee and Rediscover God's Grace"
(Vatican Radio) Jesus’ call to his Apostles, after his Resurrection, to “return to Galilee”, is the call to re-read everything in the life of Christ “on the basis of the cross and its victory.. from this supreme act of love,” said Pope Francis in his homily during the Easter Vigil celebration on Saturday evening.
It is also a call to every Christian to rediscover their baptism “as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience,” he said. “To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me at the start of the journey."
To “return to Galilee” also means renewing “the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who called me to follow him and to share in his mission. … It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me,” he added.
During the celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Pope also baptised 10 catechumens, the youngest of whom is a seven-year-old Italian and the eldest is a 58-year-old from Vietnam. These 10 newly baptized Christians come from different countries, including France, Belarus, Lebanon and Senegal.
>>Link: Full Text of Easter Vigil Homily<<
Spy Wednesday General Audience
(Vatican Radio) “Out of love for us,” wrote Pope Francis, “Jesus freely walked the path of humiliation and self-abandonment for our salvation.” Listen:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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
(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
(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:
>>LINK: Full article with summary of the Holy Father's Catechesis
Pope Warns against Wandering of Existential Tourist
(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
(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
Pope Francis General Audience
(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.
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"
(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: Full 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
(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
(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:
Pope Angelus Appeal for Ukraine and Christian Fraternity
(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
Pope Francis: God Help us to be Consistent
(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
(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:
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
(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:
“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.
(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
(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... ;)
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
(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:
Consecrated Life is an Encounter with Christ
(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, 126.96.36.199). 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?
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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.”
Listen to Tracey McClure’s report:
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:
Pope Francis: The Fruitfulness of Praise
(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."
Link: Full Article Listen to Tracey McClure's report:
Pope Francis at Weekly General Audience: the Scandal of Division
(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.
God Always Chooses the Small and Least Powerful
(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
(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...
Don't Forsake the Gift of Being God's Children
(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:
Pope Francis: We are all called to be Witnesses of the Gospel before the world
(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:
Pope Francis: Let us ask God for Grace
to Love the People like He Does
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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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