From the Vatican
Pope: ‘God’s Love is Like That of a Mother and Father’
By Linda Bordoni
March 22, 2018 (Vatican News) Addressing the faithful present for morning Mass on Thursday, Pope Francis said that to seek the Sacrament of Penance is not like going to the Laundromat to wash away the dirt, it is to receive God’s loving embrace.
As we approach Holy Week, the Pope reiterated that the Lord is ever faithful and that he never forgets us, and this, he said, gives us reason to rejoice and to hope.
Referring to the first liturgical reading of the day from the Book of Genesis, he recalled God’s promise to maintain his covenant with Abraham, a covenant, the Pope said, He will remember forever.
God’s love is as visceral as that of a mother and a father
God’s “visceral love”, Francis said, is such that He will never forget. And recalling the blue and purple “forget-me-not” flowers that are offered in Argentina for ‘Mothers’ Day’, he said that the purple ones are for those mothers who are deceased:
“God’s love is like the love of a mother. He never forgets us. Never. He is faithful to his covenant. This gives us security” and even in moments of difficulty we can be sure that He has not forgotten us, he said.
The Sacrament of Penance is not like going to the Laundromat
God’s faithfulness, Pope Francis continued, leads us to joy. Like Abraham our joy stems from being able to rejoice in hope because each of us knows that even if we are not faithful, God is, as illustrated in the episode of the Good Thief:
“God cannot disown himself, he cannot disown us, he cannot disown his love, and he cannot disown his people” the Pope said: “because He loves us and this is the faithfulness of God”.
Francis then reflected on the fact that when we seek the Sacrament of Penance we must not do so as if we were going to the Laundromat to wash away the dirt: “No. We go to Confession to receive the love of this faithful God who always awaits us. Always”.
Rejoicing in hope
Pope Francis concluded with a reference to the Gospel reading of the day in which the doctors of the Law picked up stones to throw at Jesus so as to “overshadow the truth of the Resurrection” and reminded the faithful to rejoice in hope because God will never leave them alone, he loves them like a mother or a father would.
Pope at Audience: ‘Mass Makes Us a Living Eucharist’
By Devin Watkins
Continuing his catechesis on the Mass, Pope Francis at the Wednesday General Audience invites Christians to make an examination of conscience and to be transformed into a living Eucharist. Pope Francis reflected on the rite of Holy Communion, which is the culmination of the Liturgy.
He recalled Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John (6:54-55): “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
Mass renews Lord ’s Supper
The Holy Father said Jesus’ gift of himself at the Last Supper is renewed during each Mass in the offering of his body and blood under the signs of bread and wine. This salvific action, he said, “continues still today through the ministry of the priest and the deacon”. After the breaking of the bread, Pope Francis said, the priest invites the faithful to acknowledge that the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world.
“This invitation,” he said, “calls us to taste intimate union with God, who is the source of joy and holiness.” It also pushes us to examine our conscience in the light of faith, he said. He said that acknowledging our sins helps us accept the “medicine” of the Blood of Christ, which unites us ever closer to him, according to St. Ambrose.
Lives transformed in Eucharist
Pope Francis then reflected on the moment the faithful receive the Eucharist. Our response of “Amen” to the words “The Body of Christ”, he said, signifies our openness to the transformative power of God’s grace.
“As we process to receive Communion, in reality it is Christ who comes to meet us and assimilate us to himself. To receive the Eucharist means letting oneself be transformed into that which we receive,” he said.
Nourished by the bread of life, the Pope said, we become a “living Eucharist”; that is, “we become what we receive.” Pope Francis said we pray silently after Communion in order “to watch over in our heart the gift we have received”.
This personal prayer, he concluded, is gathered up in the final prayer of the Mass. “In it,” he said, “the priest thanks God for having made us participants in this holy banquet”.
Pope Francis: “Looking at the Crucifix Heals Our Poisoned Hearts”
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
March 20, 2018 (Vatican News) During his homily on Tuesday at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis invites us to look at a Crucifix when we are depressed and tired out with life’s journey.
Pope Francis’ reflection was inspired by the first reading from the book of Numbers 21:4-9. The people were exasperated because of the long journey and were tired of eating the same food. They complained about the food saying they would die in the desert because of God and Moses.
We forget the Lord’s strength
As they drew closer to the promised land, some of the Israelites became skeptical because the scouts sent by Moses reported a land rich in produce but inhabited by a people who would be impossible to defeat. “By looking only at their own strength, they forgot the Lord’s strength which had liberated them from 400 years of slavery,” Pope Francis notes.
A sick memory
Pope Francis then compares these Israelites who complain about the journey with those people who begin to follow the Lord but then abandon the journey when it gets too tough. It is at these moments that one says, “I’ve had enough! I quit. I’m going back.” Then one begins to reminisce about the past—about the meat, the onions, and other wonderful things…. Such are the illusions the devil proposes. Once we begin to feel the heat of the day on the journey of conversion, the devil makes us see everything we left behind in a beautiful light. The Pope invites us to understand how partial such a “sick memory” is. It is a distorted nostalgia because the Israelites had been eating from the table of slavery because they had been slaves in Egypt.
The serpents who bit the people and poisoned them are an external symbol of poisoned hearts. And so the Lord tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a pole. This serpent healed anyone who looked at it. “It was prophetic: it was the figure of Christ on the cross,” Pope Francis says.
By his wounds our wounds are healed
Pope Francis continues, “And here is the key to our salvation, the key for having patience on the journey of life, the key to overcome our deserts: looking at the Crucifix.” All we need to do is look at Jesus and his wounds, “for by those wounds we have been healed.” Many crucifixes are beautiful because they also want to express the glory of the cross and the glory of the resurrection Pope Francis explains.
Pope Francis concluded his homily with a memory of his own childhood. One Good Friday he was with his grandmother at a candlelight procession in the parish. When the life-size marble statue of the dead Christ came by, his grandmother made him kneel down. “Look at that,” she said, “but tomorrow he will rise!” And so, “my grandmother, when she heard the church bells pealing announcing the Resurrection, had tears in her eyes because she was then beholding Christ’s glory.”
Pope: Young People Must be Taken Seriously
By Seàn-Patrick Lovett
March 19, 2018 (Vatican News) Pope Francis opened the Pre-Synodal meeting in Rome on Monday with a provocation: “Too often we talk about young people without asking what they think”, he said. There are those, said the Pope, who tend to “idolize” youth, and others who prefer to keep young people “at a safe distance”, rather than allowing them to be the protagonists of their own futures.
The contribution of young people
The Pope cited examples of God speaking through young people in the Bible: Samuel, David and Daniel, for example. He told those present that the Church needs them: “You have been invited as representatives of the young people of the world because your contribution is indispensable”, he said. This is because the upcoming Synod is also, in the Pope’s words: “An appeal to the Church to rediscover a renewed youthful dynamism”.
Examples from the online questionnaire
Pope Francis said he had personally read some of the emails regarding the questionnaire posted online by the Synod Secretariat and had been struck by the responses of many of the young people. “One girl observed that young people lack points of reference and that no one encourages them to activate the resources they have”. The same unnamed respondent went on to highlight the dangers faced by young people today and concluded with the appeal: "Help our youthful world that is increasingly falling apart". The Pope described this girl's cry as sincere and requiring attention. “The Church”, he said, “must learn new ways of presence and closeness”.
Risking and daring
Pope Francis reminded young people that, along this journey, we need to “dare new paths, even if it involves risks”. “We must risk”, he said, “because love knows how to risk. Without risking, a young person ages, and the Church also ages. That is why we need you young people, living stones of a Church with a young face”. The Pope concluded by inviting young people to express themselves “frankly and freely”. “You are the protagonists”, he insisted, “and it is important that you speak openly. I assure you that your contribution will be taken seriously.”
Pope: To Know Jesus, One Must Gaze Upon the Cross
By Christopher Wells
March 18, 2018 (Vatican News) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis reflected on the death of Jesus as the supreme act of love, the font of salvation for humanity of every age.
Pope Francis’ remarks at Sunday’s Angelus focused on the Gospel of the day, which tells how a group of Greek pilgrims in Jerusalem wanted “to see Jesus.” The Lord’s response to these religious minded Greeks is “surprising”, the Pope said, but ultimately reveals a deeper truth than a simple yes or no answer. Jesus answers their desire by pointing to His imminent Passion and Death: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
To know Jesus, look at the Cross
“One who wishes to know Jesus must gaze upon the Cross, where His glory is revealed,” Pope Francis said. The Cross is not simply a decoration, much less a fashion accessory, but is, instead, “a religious sign to contemplate and comprehend.” He continued, “In the image of Jesus Crucified is revealed the mystery of the death of the Son of God as supreme act of love, font of life and of salvation for the humanity of all time.”
Jesus' death an act of fruitfulness for many
Turning to the Gospel image of the grain of wheat which falls to the ground and dies, producing “much fruit,” Pope Francis said Jesus uses that imagery to help us understand His Death and Resurrection “is an act of fruitfulness which bears fruit for many.” Jesus’ coming to earth in the Incarnation is not enough, the Pope said. Jesus “must also die, to redeem human beings from the slavery of sin, and to give them new life reconciled in love.”
Called to be grains of wheat
The Holy Father goes on to say that this “dynamism of the grain of wheat,” which was perfectly accomplished by Jesus, must also “be realized in the life of His disciples.” We too, he said, are called to “lose our life in order to receive it back again, new and eternal.” This, he explained, means “thinking less of ourselves,” and going out to help our brothers and sisters in need. “Joyfully accomplishing works of charity for those who suffer in body and spirit is the most authentic way of living the Gospel,” Pope Francis concluded. “it is the necessary foundation so that our community might grow in fraternity and in reciprocal welcome.”
Pope Francis: "The Christian Life is not an 'I Like' but an 'I Give' "
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
March 17, 2018 (Vatican News) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday in the square outside of the Shrine of St Pio of Pietrelcina on the occasion of his pastoral visit to San Giovanni Rotondo.
Pope Francis chose three words from the biblical texts proclaimed during Saturday’s liturgy and expanded on them in his homily. These words are: prayer, littleness, and wisdom.
The Gospel text from Matthew 11:25 presents Jesus praying. “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” Pope Francis describes his prayer as one that flowed spontaneously and was not optional. The Lord regularly went off by himself in solitary places to pray because “dialogue with the Father was a priority.”
Jesus’ disciples asked the Lord to teach them how to pray (Lk 11:1) because they saw that his prayer was natural and important for him. The Pope tells us, “If we want to imitate Jesus, we can also begin where he began, that is, from prayer.”
This leads the Pope to ask a question: “Do we Christians pray enough?” Instead of making so many excuses and forgetting “the better part” (Lk 10:42), we should remember that without the Lord we can do nothing (cf Jn 15:5). Pope Francis reminds us that Padre Pio used to recommend: “Pray often, my children, pray always, never get tired of praying” (words from the Second International Congress of the Prayer Groups, 5 May 1966).
Jesus Teaches us how to Pray
Jesus “does not say ‘I need this and that,’ but ‘I praise you.’ The Father cannot be known unless we open ourselves to praise, unless time is dedicated to him alone, unless we adore.” In personal contact, in silence before the Lord, we can enter into communion with him, Pope Francis explains.
Prayer can begin with a request, but needs to move to praise, to adoration, to remaining with God in order to bring the world to him. Pope Francis asks us who will entrust people to the Lord unless we do? This is why Padre Pio founded the prayer groups to whom he said, “It is prayer, this united strength of all good souls, that moves the world, that renews consciences … that heals the sick, that sanctifies labor, that elevates health care, that gives moral strength… that spreads the smile and blessing of God on the fainthearted and the weak” (words from the Second International Congress of the Prayer Groups, 5 May, 1966).
It is those who are little, whose hearts are humble, open, poor and needy who feel the need to pray, Pope Francis says, moving on to the second word. “The heart of these little ones is like an antenna that captures God’s signal.” Referring to the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (the House for the Relief of Suffering), Padre Pio used to call it the “temple of prayer and science,” Pope Francis says. He continued saying that “Jesus is found in those who are sick. And the loving care of those who bend over the wounds of their neighbor is the way of encountering him.”
The third word, wisdom, comes from the first reading taken from Jeremiah 9,22: “Let not the wise boast of his wisdom, nor the strong boast of his strength.” Pope Francis explains that “Charity animated by faith is the only wise and invincible arm because it has the power of disarming the strength of those who do evil.” Like Jesus, Padre Pio battled wisely against evil his entire life—“humbly, obediently, with the cross, offering the pain out of love.” Everyone knows this and admires Padre Pio for this, Pope Francis says, but how many imitate him in this way? “Many people are ready to click ‘like’ on the pages of the great saints, but who does what they do? Because the Christian life is not an ‘I like,’ but an ‘I give.’ ”
Padre Pio decided to give himself to others especially as a Confessor. It is in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we “begin to live a wise life … that is where the healing of the heart begins,” Pope Francis says. And it is to this Sacrament that Padre Pio invites us to return today. “Where are you going?” Padre Pio asks. “To Jesus or to your own sadness? Where are you going back to? To him who saves you or to your own dejection, your own regrets, your own sins? Come, the Lord is waiting for you. Take courage, there is no reason, no matter how grave, that would exclude you from his mercy” (Padre Pio quoted by Pope Francis).
Fr Cantalamessa: Obedience Holds the Christian Life Together
March 16, 2018 (Vatican News) In his fourth Lenten meditation on Friday, Fr. Cantalmessa focuses on the place of obedience in the Christian life. The theme of obedience is presented by Paul in the Letter to the Romans: reflecting on themes from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
Obedience to the Gospel
St Paul and the other disciples of Jesus were taking their first steps in society with an understanding that were following someone whose “kingdom was not of this world.” They began to understand that “obedience to the state is a result and an aspect of a much more important and comprehensive obedience that the apostle calls ‘obedience to the gospel,’ ” says Fr. Cantalamessa. Every type of Christian obedience must be rooted not in obedience to human beings, but to God.
Fr Cantalamessa uses the image of the main thread of a spider’s web. The spider used this main thread to construct its web and once done, “the center thread is what holds together all of the spider’s weaving; without it everything collapses.” If any other thread breaks, the spider can repair the web. But if the central thread breaks the spider abandons the web and begins work on another. Such is obedience in any human organism, including the Church.
The obedience of Christ
Fr Cantalamessa then turns our attention to Jesus who is defined in Scripture as “the Obedient one.” It is his obedience that St Paul says makes us righteous. Jesus “becomes obedient unto death” (cf Phil 2:8), and “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb 5:8). We too must understand the “nature of this act of obedience”, says Father Cantalamessa. It is the “exact antithesis of Adam’s disobedience…. At the origin of all disobedience is disobedience to God, and at the origin of all obedience is obedience to God.”
Christ, the “Obedient One” is the head of those who choose to be “obedient in opposition to Adam who was the head of the disobedient,” Father Cantalamessa continues. As Christians, Paul tells us that Christians have freely submitted ourselves to Christ on the day of baptism. Therefore, “with baptism there came a change of masters, a shift of kingdoms: from sin to righteousness, from disobedience to obedience, from Adam to Christ.”
Obedience in daily life
Obedience is an essential component in the Christian life. Concretely, we can approach each day as Psalm 40 indicates to us. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews puts this Psalm on the lips of Jesus: “As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God” (Heb 10:7). “Now it’s our turn,” concludes Fr Cantalamessa. “All of life can be lived day by day under the banner of these words, ‘Behold, I come to do your will, O God!’ In the morning, at the beginning of the new day, then going to an appointment or a meeting, at beginning of a new task, we can say, ‘Behold, I come to do your will, O God!"
Pope: ‘Prayer Requires Courage and Patience’
March 15, 2018 (Vatican News) In his homily at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis reflects on the power of prayer, starting with the dialogue between God and Moses.
“Courage and patience”, according to Pope Francis, are the two linchpins of prayer, which must be raised up to God “in freedom, like children”. The Holy Father made the comments in his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. He took as his starting point the first reading from the Book of Exodus, which tells of the conversation between the Lord and Moses regarding the apostasy of God’s people.
Moses refuses to be deviated
The prophet tries to dissuade the Lord from acting on his “blazing wrath” against His people, who “had forsaken the glory of the living God to worship a golden calf.” In Moses’ bold dialogue, he reminds God of all He had done for his people, bringing them out of slavery in Egypt, and of the faithfulness of Abraham and Isaac.
In this “face-to-face” encounter, the Pope said, Moses’ preoccupation and love for God’s people is evident. He is not afraid to tell the truth and does not enter into the “deviation game”.
“God appreciates this”, said Pope Francis. “When God sees a person who continually prays for something, He is moved.”
“No tangents. I am with the people, and I am with You. This is intercessory prayer: a prayer that argues and has the courage to speak directly to the face of the Lord, who is patient. Patience is needed in intercessory prayer. We cannot promise someone we will pray for them, pray only an Our Father and a Hail Mary, and then leave it at that. No. If you agree to pray for someone else, you must take this [other] path. And patience is needed.”
Patience and constancy in prayer
In daily life, the Holy Father said, unfortunately there are many cases of managers ready to sacrifice an organization in order to save their own interests and to make a profit. But Moses refused to go off on a “tangent”; he is with the people and fights for them. Scripture, Pope Francis said, is full of good examples of constancy and the capacity to be patient, such as the Canaanite woman and the blind Bartimaeus of Jericho.
“Two things are needed for intercessory prayer: courage, or parrhesia, and patience. If I want the Lord to listen to my requests, I must return, and return again, to knock at the door of God’s heart, since my own heart is committed to [this petition]! But if my heart is not concerned for this need, or the person for whom I am praying, neither will it be capable of courage and patience.”
To have a concerned heart
Finally, Pope Francis pointed out the “path of intercessory prayer”. He said it means being concerned for others and willing to fight, strive, and fast for them.
“May the Lord give us this grace: The grace to pray before God in freedom, like children; to pray with insistence; to pray with patience; but, above all, to pray in the knowledge that I am speaking with my Father, who will listen to me. May the Lord help us to advance in this form of intercessory prayer.”
Pope: Liturgy Prepares Us to Receive Christ in Holy Communion
By Christopher Wells
At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the various parts of the Mass, focusing this week on the Our Father and the “breaking of the Bread.” The Pope dedicated his catechesis on Wednesday to the liturgical rites following the Eucharistic Prayer, which help us “to dispose our souls to participate in the Eucharistic banquet.”
The Our Father
Immediately following the Great Amen, the assembly recites together the Our Father, which was taught us by Christ Himself. This, the Pope said, is not just one Christian prayer among many. Rather, it is “the prayer of the children of God,” in which, as Jesus teaches us, we call God Father. The Our Father, recited not only in the Mass, but also in the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church, gives a Christian character to the whole day, forming in us a filial attitude towards God, and a fraternal relationship with our neighbor.
In the Our Father, we ask God to give us “our daily bread,” a petition that has particular reference to the Eucharist. In remarks to Polish pilgrims following the catechesis, the Pope emphasized that it is necessary, if anyone has committed a grave sin, to receive absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving Holy Communion – and reminded us that Lent is a good time to make a good Confession in order to encounter Christ in the Eucharist.
The Lord’s Prayer also calls us to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters, when we pray for our sins to be forgiven, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” And so, the Pope said, “while we open our hearts to God, the Our Father disposes us also to fraternal love.”
The sign of peace and the breaking of the Bread
This reconciliation, with God and with our brothers and sisters, receives a kind of “seal” in the exchange of peace, which in the Roman Rite of the liturgy is “ordered” to Eucharistic Communion. We pray that Christ will give us His peace, “so different from that of the world.” We cannot approach Holy Communion, the Pope said, echoing Saint Paul, without first making peace with one another.
This part of the Mass culminates in the fraction rite, “the breaking of the Bread,” which from Apostolic times gave its name to the whole Eucharistic celebration. Pope Francis reminded the faithful that it was in the breaking of the Bread that the disciples recognized the Risen Lord at Emmaus. Likewise, at Mass, “in the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the life of the world, the praying assembly recognizes the true Lamb of God, that is, Christ the Redeemer, and prays to Him, ‘have mercy on us, grant us peace.”
These final invocations before Holy Communion, Pope Francis said, “help us to dispose our souls to participate in the Eucharistic banquet, the source of communion with God and with our brothers and sisters."