From the Vatican

Pope:  Jesus Heals and Saves Us from Death

Pope 1018172017-10-18 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday reminded Christians that Jesus came to heal us and to save us from death.

He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, during which he continued his catechesis on Christian Hope.

This is the English Summary of the Pope’s catechesis:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: this morning I wish to reflect on Christian hope and the reality of death, a reality which our modern world so often leaves us unprepared to face.  Past civilizations had the courage to face death, and older generations taught the younger to see that inescapable event as a call to live for something enduring, greater than themselves.  For our days, no matter how many they are, pass like a breath.  It is Jesus, however, that ultimately helps us to confront this mystery.  He shows us that it is natural to mourn the loss of a loved one.  For he too wept at Lazarus’ death.  But he did not only mourn; he also prayed to the Father and called Lazarus from the tomb.  Here is our Christian hope: Jesus has come to heal us, to save us from death. He says: “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25); if we believe in him, even if we die, we will live.  In the face of our sorrow, Jesus invites us to faith in him.  This is our hope: when we mourn, we know that Christ remains always close to us.  And one day, when we too face death, we will hear Jesus’s voice: “I say to you, arise” (Mk 5:41).  

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Pope Francis at Santa Marta: On the Folly of Hard-Hearted Christians

Pope 10171712017-10-17 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday – the Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr. Following the Readings of the Day, the Holy Father reflected on the “foolishness” of those, who are unable to hear the Word of God, preferring appearances, idols, or ideologies – like the people of Jerusalem, whose faithlessness caused Our Lord to weep nostalgic tears.

The folly of those who hear not the Word

Francis’ reflection took the word “fools”, which appears twice in the Readings, as his starting point: Jesus says it to the Pharisees (Lk 11: 37-41), while St. Paul refers to the Pagans (Rm 1: 16-25). St. Paul had also deployed the term to refer to the Christians of Galatia, whom he called “fools” because they let themselves be duped by “new ideas”. This word, “more than a condemnation,” explained Pope Francis, “is a signal,” for it shows the way of foolishness leading to corruption. “These three groups of fools are corrupt,” Pope Francis said.

Jesus told the Doctors of the Law that they resembled whitewashed sepulchres: they became corrupt because they worried only about the “outside of things” being beautiful, but not what is inside, where corruption exists. They were, therefore, “corrupted by vanity, by appearance, by external beauty, by outward justice.” The Pagans, on the other hand, have the corruption of idolatry: they became corrupt because they exchanged the glory of God – which they could have known through reason – for idols.

The folly of Christians today

There are also idolatries today, such as consumerism – the Pope noted – or such as practiced by those, who look for a comfortable god. Finally, those Christians who sell themselves to ideologies, and have ceased to be Christians, often having rather become, “ideologues of Christianity.” All three of these groups, because of their foolishness, “end up in corruption.” Francis then explains what this foolishness consists of:

“Folly is a form of ‘not listening’, one might literally say a nescio, ‘I do not know’, I do not listen. The inability to hearken to the Word: when the Word does not enter, I do not let it in because I do not listen. The fool does not listen. He believes he is listening, but he does not listen. He does his own thing, always – and for this reason the Word of God cannot enter into his heart, and there is no place for love. And if it enters, it enters distilled, transformed by my own conception of reality. The fools do not know how to listen, and this deafness leads to this corruption. The Word of God does not enter, there is no place for love and in the end there is no place for freedom.”

Thus, they become slaves, because they exchange “the truth of God with lies,” and worship creatures instead of the Creator:

“They are not free and do not listen: this deafness leaves room neither for love, nor for freedom; it always leads us to slavery. Do I listen to the Word of God? Do I let it in? This Word, of which we have heard in the singing of the Alleluia – the Word of God is alive, effective, revealing the feelings and thoughts of the heart. It cuts, it gets inside. Do I let this Word in, or am I deaf to it? Do I transform it into appearance, transform it into idolatry, into idolatrous habits, or into ideology? Thus, it does not enter: this is the folly of Christians.”

Concluding exhortation: do not be foolish

Pope Francis concludes with an exhortation: to look at the “icons of today's fools,” adding, “There are foolish Christians and even foolish shepherds,” in this day. “Saint Augustine,” he recalled, “takes the stick to them, with gusto,” because “the folly of the shepherds hurts the flock.”

“Let us look at the icon of foolish Christians,” urged Pope Francis, “and beside this folly let us look on the Lord who is always at the door,” he knocks and waits. His concluding invitation is therefore that we should consider the Lord’s nostalgia for us: “of the love He had for us first”:

“And if we fall into this stupidity, we move away from Him and He feels this nostalgia – nostalgia for us – and Jesus wept with this longing cry, weeping over Jerusalem: it was nostalgia for a people He had chosen, a people He loved, but who had gone away for foolishness, who preferred appearances, idols, or ideologies.”

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Pope Appeals for End to Conflicts, Climate Change and Hunger

Pope 1016172017-10-16 (Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday appealed to the international community not only to guarantee enough production and fair distribution of food for all but also to ensure the right of every human being to feed himself according to his needs without being forced to leave his home and loved ones.

He made the call at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, where he marked World Food Day, which this year has as its theme, “Change the future of migration. Invest in Food Security and rural development.”

Conflicts and climate-change

Addressing the UN’s specialized agency that leads the international community’s fight against hunger and malnutrition in the world, the Pope urged governments to work together to end the conflicts and climate-change related disasters that force people to leave their homes in search of their daily bread. Citing the 2016 Paris climate accord in which governments committed themselves to combatting global warming, the Pope who spoke in Spanish, regretted ‎that “unfortunately some are distancing themselves from it.”‎ 

He noted that negligence and greed over the world's limited resources are harming the planet and its most vulnerable people, forcing many to abandon their homes in search of work and food.  He called for a change in lifestyle and the use of resources, adding it cannot be left for others to do.

World hunger

A UN report in September pointed out that the number of chronically hungry people in the world was growing once more after a decade of decline because of ongoing conflicts and floods and droughts triggered by climate change.  While the 815 million chronically undernourished people last year is still below the 900 million registered in 2000, the UN warned that the increase is cause for great concern.

Love, fraternity, solidarity

Describing population control as a “false solution” to tackling hunger and malnutrition in the world, Pope Francis said what is needed instead is a better management of the earth’s abundant resources and prevention of waste in food and resources.  What is needed, he said, is a new model of international cooperation based on love, fraternity and solidarity that respond to the needs of the poorest.  Pity, he pointed out, is limited to emergency aid, but love inspires justice that is needed to bring about a just social order.

As a token of his visit and message, Pope Francis gifted to the UN food agency a marble sculpture of Aylan, the three-year-old Syrian toddler of Kurdish origin, whose image in the media made global headlines after his body washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015 after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. The Vatican explained that the sculpture featuring a weeping angel over the little boy's corpse, symbolized the tragedy of migration.

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Pope Francis Canonizes 35 New Saints

Pope 1015172017-10-15 (Vatican Radio) Inviting all faithful to practice Christian love every day, Pope Francis on Sunday canonized 35 new saints, nearly all of them martyrs, holding them up as models who “point the way”.

To the over 35,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Canonization Mass, he said “They did not say a fleeting ‘yes’ to love, they said ‘yes’ with their lives and to the very end”. 

Those canonized included thirty martyrs, both priests and lay persons, who suffered anti-Catholic persecution in 1645 at the hands of Dutch Calvinists in Brazil, while three indigenous children in 16th century Mexico were martyred for refusing to renounce their Catholic faith and return to their ancient traditions. The other two new saints are a 20th-century priest from Spain and an Italian priest who died in 1739.

This is the full text of the Pope’s homily for the Mass of Canonization:

The parable we have just heard describes the Kingdom of God as a wedding feast (cf. Mt 22:1-14).  The central character is the king’s son, the bridegroom, in whom we can easily see Jesus.  The parable makes no mention of the bride, but only of the guests who were invited and expected, and those who wore the wedding garments. We are those guests, because the Lord wants “to celebrate the wedding” with us.  The wedding inaugurates a lifelong fellowship, the communion God wants to enjoy with all of us.  Our relationship with him, then, has to be more than that of devoted subjects with their king, faithful servants with their master, or dedicated students with their teacher.  It is above all the relationship of a beloved bride with her bridegroom.  In other words, the Lord wants us, he goes out to seek us and he invites us.  For him, it is not enough that we should do our duty and obey his laws.  He desires a true communion of life with us, a relationship based on dialogue, trust and forgiveness.

Such is the Christian life, a love story with God.  The Lord freely takes the initiative and no one can claim to be the only one invited.  No one has a better seat than anyone else, for all enjoy God’s favor.  The Christian life is always born and reborn of this tender, special and privileged love.  We can ask ourselves if at least once a day we tell the Lord that we love him; if we remember, among everything else we say, to tell him daily, “Lord, I love you; you are my life”.  Because once love is lost, the Christian life becomes empty.  It becomes a body without a soul, an impossible ethic, a collection of rules and laws to obey for no good reason.  The God of life, however, awaits a response of life.  The Lord of love awaits a response of love.  Speaking to one of the Churches in the Book of Revelation, God makes an explicit reproach: “You have abandoned your first love” (cf. Rev 2:4).  This is the danger – a Christian life that becomes routine, content with “normality”, without drive or enthusiasm, and with a short memory.  Instead, let us fan into flame the memory of our first love.  We are the beloved, the guests at the wedding, and our life is a gift, because every day is a wonderful opportunity to respond to God’s invitation.

The Gospel, however, warns us that the invitation can be refused.  Many of the invited guests said no, because they were caught up in their own affairs.  “They made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business” (Mt 22:5).  Each was concerned with his own affairs; this is the key to understanding why they refused the invitation.  The guests did not think that the wedding feast would be dreary or boring; they simply “made light of it”.  They were caught up in their own affairs.  They were more interested in having something rather than in risking something, as love demands.  This is how love grows cold, not out of malice but out of a preference for what is our own: our security, our self-affirmation, our comfort…  We settle into the easy chair of profits, pleasures, or a hobby that brings us some happiness.  And we end up aging badly and quickly, because we grow old inside.  When our hearts do not expand, they become closed in on themselves.  When everything depends on me – on what I like, on what serves me best, on what I want – then I become harsh and unbending.  I lash out at people for no reason, like the guests in the Gospel, who treated shamefully and ultimately killed (cf. v. 6) those sent to deliver the invitation, simply because they were bothering them. 

The Gospel asks us, then, where we stand: with ourselves or with God?  Because God is the opposite of selfishness, of self-absorption.  The Gospel tells us that, even before constant rejection and indifference on the part of those whom he invites, God does not cancel the wedding feast. He does not give up, but continues to invite.  When he hears a “no”, he does not close the door, but broadens the invitation.  In the face of wrongs, he responds with an even greater love.  When we are hurt by the unfair treatment of others or their rejection, we frequently harbor grudges and resentment.  God on the other hand, while hurt by our “no”, tries again; he keeps doing good even for those who do evil.  Because this is what love does.  Because this is the only way that evil is defeated.  Today our God, who never abandons hope, tells us to do what he does, to live in true love, to overcome resignation and the whims of our peevish and lazy selves.

There is one last idea that the Gospel emphasizes: the mandatory garment of the invited guests.  It is not enough to respond just once to the invitation, simply to say “yes” and then do nothing else.  Day by day, we have to put on the wedding garment, the “habit” of practicing love.  We cannot say, “Lord, Lord”, without experiencing and putting into practice God’s will (cf. Mt 7:21).  We need to put on God’s love and to renew our choice for him daily.  The Saints who were canonized today, and especially the many martyrs, point the way.  They did not say a fleeting “yes” to love; they said they “yes” with their lives and to the very end.  The robe they wore daily was the love of Jesus, that “mad” love that loved us to the end and offered his forgiveness and his robe to those who crucified him.  At baptism we received a white robe, the wedding garment for God.  Let us ask him, through the intercession of the saints, our brothers and sisters, for the grace to decide daily to put on this garment and to keep it spotless.  How can we do this?  Above all, by approaching the Lord fearlessly in order to receive his forgiveness.  This is the one step that counts, for entering into the wedding hall to celebrate with him the feast of love.

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Pope Urges Christians to Watch Out Against Worldliness

Pope 1013172017-10-13 (Vatican Radio)  Only Christ crucified will save us from the demons that make us "slide slowly into worldliness", saving us also from the "stupidity" that St. Paul talks about to the Galatians, and from seduction.  This was central message of the homily of Pope Francis at his Mass, Friday morning, at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.  He was reflecting on the episode in Luke’s Gospel where Jesus casts out a demon, which some people interpret as through power of the devil.

Watchfulness against Devil's stealth

The Pope said the Lord asks us be watchful in order not to enter into temptation.  This is why a Christians have to be awake, watchful and careful like a sentinel.  Jesus was not narrating a parable but was stating a truth, i.e when the unclean spirit comes out of a man, he roams about in abandoned places looking for refuge and not finding any, decides to return to where he came from, where the freed man lives.  Hence the demon decides to bring in "seven other spirits worse than him.”  Pope Francis emphasized the word “worse”, saying it has much force in the passage because the demons enter quietly.

Worldliness

The demons thus start being part of the man's life. With their ideas and inspirations, they help the man to live better and entering his life and heart and start changing him from within, but quietly without making any noise.  This method is different from the earlier diabolic possession which was strong, the Pope explained, adding this time it a diabolic possession, something like in a “living room”.  The devil slowly changes our criteria to lead us to worldliness. It camouflages our way of acting, which we hardly notice. And so, the man, freed from the demon, becomes a bad man, a man burdened by worldliness. And that's exactly what the devil wants – worldliness, the Pope stressed.

Worldliness, Pope Francis explained, is a spell, a seduction, because the devil is the "father of seduction". When the devil enters "so sweetly, politely and takes possession of our attitudes," the Pope said, our values pass from the service of God to worldliness. Thus we become "lukewarm Christians, worldly Christians", a mixture, something that the Pope described as a “fruit salad” of the spirit of the world and the spirit of God.  All this distances us from the Lord, the Pope said and stressed that the way to avoid it by being vigilant and calm without alarm.

Christ crucified who saves

Watchful means understanding what goes on in my heart, the Pope said, adding, “ It means stopping for a while to examine my life, whether I a Christian, whether I educate my children, whether my life is Christian or worldly?” And one understands this, as Paul points out, by looking at Christ crucified.  One understands where worldliness lies and is destroyed before the Lord's cross.  The Crucifix saves us from the charms and seductions that lead us to worldliness.

The Holy Father exhorted Christians to examine themselves whether they look up to Christ crucified, whether they pray the Way of the Cross in order to understand the price of salvation, not just from sins but also from worldliness.  The examination of conscience, the Pope said, is done always before Christ crucified, with prayer, after which one has to break loose from one’s comfortable attitudes, through works of charity, visiting the sick, helping someone in need and so on.  This breaks the harmony and the spiritual worldliness that the demon together with seven others tries to create in us, the Pope added.

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Pope Francis: Attentively Await Jesus

Pope 1011172017-10-11 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his catechesis on hope at his General Audience in St Peter’s Square.  This is the full English summary of his words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today I wish to speak about that dimension of hope which we can call attentive waiting.  Jesus tells his disciples to be like those who await the return of their master, with lamps alight (cf. Lk 12:35-36).  As Christians, therefore, we are always attentive, awaiting the Lord’s return, when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).  Every day is a new opportunity to be attentive to God, to welcome the day as his gift, and to live that day by offering our good works to him.  Such attentiveness requires patience, however, if we are not to lose sight of God’s grace when our days are monotonous, or our difficulties many.  For no night is so long, as to make us forget the joy that comes with dawn.

As Christians, we know that Christ will return; that no matter what we may suffer, life has its purpose and deeper meaning, and that the merciful Lord will greet us at its end.  Thus we can look upon history and our own lives with confidence and hope, knowing that the future is not guided solely by the work of our hands but by God’s providence.  May we repeat everyday the words of the first disciples: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).  And in our most difficult moments, may we hear the consoling response of Jesus: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7).

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Demark, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America.  In particular I greet those who will be celebrating World Sight Day tomorrow, and I assure all who are blind and visually impaired of my closeness and prayers.  Upon you and your families, I invoke the grace of the Lord Jesus that you may be steadfast in hope and trust in God’s providence in your lives.  May God bless you all!

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Pope Francis: The Good Samaritan Manifests the Mystery of Christ ‎

Pope 1009172017-10-09 (Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday urged Christians to emulate the figure of the Good Samaritan and help those in need to get up, like Christ who “continues to pay” for us.   Delivering a homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he reflected on the attitude of the various actors in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel, which, he said, was an answer to the doctor of the Law on who his neighbor was.

Actors in the parable

Commenting on the robbers, the priest who is “a man of God”, and the Levite who is “close to the law”, all of whom passed by the wounded and half-dead man, the Pope said this is a very common habit among us.  We see an ugly calamity and pass by and later read about it, painted with a bit of “scandal and sensation’, in the newspapers.  Instead the Samaritan, a pagan and sinner “saw and did not pass by”, the Pope said, drawing attention to the words of Luke - “he had compassion.”  Making the wounded man his neighbor, the Samaritan approached him, bandaged his wounds pouring in oil and wine.  Neither did he leave him there and go his way.  He carried him on his animal to the innkeeper, whom he paid to look after him and promised to pay the extra expenses on his return.

Mystery of Christ

“This,” the Pope said “is the mystery of Christ who became a servant, humbled and annihilated himself and died for us.”  Jesus, the Pope said, is the Good Samaritan who invited the doctor of the law to do the same.  The mystery of Jesus Christ is not a children’s tale, the Pope pointed out adding, the parable reveals the depth and breadth of the mystery of Jesus Christ.  The doctor of the law did not understand the mystery of Christ but he surely understood the human principle behind it - that every man who looks from above at another man down below, does so only to help him get up.  One who does this, the Pope stressed, is on the right path to Jesus.

Self examination

Pope Francis said the innkeeper understood nothing of this, bewildered at meeting someone who did things he never heard before.  This, the Pope said is what happens when one meets Jesus.  The Holy Father urged Christians to re-read this parable and examine themselves on their attitude – a robber, a cheater, a corrupt man, a priest, a Catholic manager, or a sinner.  "Do I approach and make myself a neighbor and servant to those in need like Jesus," the Pope asked, concluding his homily.

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