From the Vatican
Pope Francis: Christian Unity is not Optional
By Linda Bordoni
January 18, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis has appealed to Christians across the world to pray and to work for full Christian Unity.
Pope Francis has reminded the faithful that “Ecumenism is not something optional”.
He noted that the annual “Week of Prayer”, January 18th -25th on the theme “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue”, kicked off with the celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls on Friday.
“Again, this year we are called to pray so that all Christians may once again be a single family, according to God’s will ‘so that they may all be one’” he said.
Pointing out that “ecumenism is not something optional,” he said it aims “to develop a common and consistent witness that promotes true justice and support for the weakest through responses that are concrete, appropriate and effective”.
The annual “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” is a time in which Christians are reminded of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17.21).
It is an occasion for Christians of different denominations to come together to pray for their unity and participate in special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services.
The theme in 2019, "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue ..." is inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20.
Pope: Word of God is Not Ideology, It is Life That Makes Us Grow
January 17, 2019 (Vatican Media) What does it mean for a Christian to have a “perverse heart,” a heart that can lead to faintheartedness, ideology, and compromise? That was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily Thursday morning at the Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
“Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.” This is the harsh “message”, the “warning” as Pope Francis calls it, that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews addresses to the Christian community in today’s liturgy. The Pope warns that the Christian community, in all its components - “priests, nuns, bishops” - runs this danger of “slipping towards a perverse heart”.
But what does this warning mean to us? The Pope focuses on three words, again taken from the First Reading, which can help us to understand: “hardness”, “obstinacy”, and “seduction”.
Fainthearted Christians, without the courage to live
A hard heart is a “closed” heart, “that does not want to grow, that defends itself; that is closed in on itself”. In life this can happen because of many factors; as, for example, a “great sorrow”, because, as the Pope explains, “blows harden the skin”. It happened, he said, to the disciples of Emmaus, as well as to St Thomas the Apostle. And whoever remains in this “bad attitude” is “fainthearted”; and a “cowardly heart is perverse”:
We can ask ourselves: Do I have a hard heart, do I have a closed heart? Do I let my heart grow? Am I afraid that it will grow? And we always grow with trials, with difficulties, we grow as we all grow as children: we learn to walk [by] falling. From crawling to walking, how many times we have fallen! But we grow through difficulties. Hardness. And, what amounts to the same thing, being closed. But who remains in this? “Who are they, father?” They are the fainthearted. Faintheartedness is an ugly attitude in a Christian, he lacks the courage to live. He is closed off...
Obstinate Christians, ideologues
The second word is “obstinacy”: In the Letter to the Hebrews we read, “Exhort each other every day, as long as this today lasts, so that none of you may be obstinate”; and this is “the accusation that Stephen makes to those who will stone him afterwards”. Obstinacy is “spiritual stubbornness”: an obstinate heart – explains Pope Francis - is “rebellious”, is “stubborn”, is closed in by its own thought, is not “open to the Holy Spirit”. This is the profile of “ideologues”, and of the proud and the arrogant:
Ideology is a [kind of] obstinacy. The Word of God, the grace of the Holy Spirit is not ideology: it is life that makes you grow, always, [that makes you] go forward, and also opens your heart to the signs of the Spirit, to the signs of the times. But obstinacy is also pride, it is arrogance. Stubbornness, that stubbornness that does so much harm: closed-hearted, hard – the first word – those are the fainthearted; the stubborn, the obstinate, as the text says the ideologues are. But do I have a stubborn heart? Each one should consider this. Am I able to listen to other people? And if I think differently, do I say, “But I think this...” Am I capable of dialogue? The obstinate don’t dialogue, they don’t know how, because they always defend themselves with ideas, they are ideologues. And how much harm do ideologues do to the people of God, how much harm! Because they close the way to the work of the Holy Spirit.
Compromising Christians, slaves to seduction
Finally, in order to help us understand how not to slip into the risk of having a perverse heart, the Pope reflects on the word “seduction”: the seduction of sin, used by the devil, the “great seducer”, “a great theologian but without faith, with hatred”, who wants to “enter and dominate” the heart and knows how to do it. So, concludes the Pope, a “perverse heart is one that lets itself be seduced; and seduction leads him to obstinacy, to closure, and to many other things”:
And with seduction, either you convert and change your life or you try to compromise: but a little here and a little there, a little here and a little there. “Yes, yes, I follow the Lord, but I like this seduction, but just a little...” And you’re starting to lead a double Christian life. To use the word of the great Elijah to the people of Israel at that moment: “You limp from both legs”. To limp from both legs, without having one set firmly. It is the life of compromise: “Yes, I am a Christian, I follow the Lord, yes, but I let this in...”. And this is what the lukewarm are like, those who always compromise: Christians of compromise. We, too, often do this: compromise. Even when the Lord lets us know the path, even with the commandments, also with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but I prefer something else, and I try to find a way to go down two tracks, limping on both legs.
The Pope concludes, “may the Holy Spirit, therefore, enlighten us so that no one may have a perverse heart: a hard heart, which will lead you to faintheartedness; a stubborn heart that will lead you to rebellion, (it) will lead you to ideology; a heart that is seduced, a slave to seduction”.
Pope at Audience: Address God as a Child Would His Father
By Linda Bordoni
January 16, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the "Our Father" during the weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, telling those present always to trust in His love.
Elaborating on the concept of “Father”, Pope Francis assured the faithful that the Lord “will not hide his face from us” nor “will he close himself in silence” because, as our Father, He never loses sight of us and loves us unconditionally even when we think we are unworthy.
The Pope explained that there is also something maternal in the love of the Father, who accompanies and nurtures the development of our new life in Christ as his adoptive sons and daughters.
God, he said, is not only a father: he is like a mother who never ceases to love her children or to want to be part of their lives.
His love for us, he said, lasts forever, and generates an “an infinite circuit of love”. Thus when we pray we must do so with the trust of a child in his father.
The word "Father"
Pope Francis pointed out that even those who feel they have sinned, or taken the wrong path have a father who loves them. It is to the Father we must always turn, and He will always answer: “Never forget to say ‘Father’!”
Pope Francis explained that even the earliest Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit, prayed using the Aramaic word for “Father” – Abba - that Jesus himself had used.
The New Testament prayer, he continued, seems to want to "get to the essential”, to the point of concentrating precisely on the word: "Abba, Father": “at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, we hear an echo of the voice of Jesus himself” who teaches the Disciples that to pray is to share in his own intimate and trusting relationship with the Father.
In fact, after having known Jesus and listened to his preaching, the Pope said Christians no longer considered God as a tyrant to be feared, they were no longer afraid of him, but felt at ease in calling the Creator “Father”.
A child's relationship with his father
Pope Francis also reflected on how it is not only a question of using a symbol, the figure of the father “to be linked to the mystery of God”, but of having "Jesus’ world decanted into one's own heart". Saying "Abba," he explained, is something much more “intimate, more moving” than simply calling God “Father”.
And he invited the faithful to pray to the Father with the heart of a child: “a child who is completely wrapped in the embrace of a father who feels infinite tenderness for him or for her”.
Words that come to life
The Pope continued his reflection speaking about how the Lord’s prayer takes on “meaning and color” if we learn to pray after reading the passage of the merciful father, as told by Luke in the parable of the prodigal son.
The prodigal son, he explained was embraced by the father “who had waited a long time”, “who did not remember the offensive words” addressed to him, but who made it quite clear “how much he had missed him”.
God, the Father he said, knows no hatred, no revenge, no anger, he knows only love.
The Pope said that in that parable, the father expresses his love in a ‘maternal’ way, “like a mother who apologizes to her children, who covers up for them, who wants to be part of their lives” even when the child has distanced her or himself from her.
Even in the most difficult times in our lives, Pope Francis concluded, may we never be afraid to turn in trust and confidence to the Father, praying in the words that Jesus taught us: “Abba”, “Our Father”.
Pope to Academy for Life: Promote “Human Community”
By Christopher Wells
January 15, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis made the “human community” the focus of a letter addressed to the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life on the 25th anniversary of its foundation by Pope St John Paul II.
“The human community is God’s dream even from before the creation of the world,” the Pope said, emphasizing that we must “grow in the awareness of our common origin in God’s love and creative act.” He explained that “in our time, the Church is called once more to propose the humanism of the life that bursts forth from God’s passion for human beings.”
A state of emergency
After briefly reviewing the history of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis went on to outline the “serious obstacles” facing humanity today. In particular, he noted the “state of emergency existing in our relationship with the history of the earth and its peoples.” This emergency, rooted in concern for oneself at the expense of the common good, has led to a paradox: despite rapid economic and technological progress, humanity finds itself “creating our most bitter divisions and our worst nightmares.”
A difficult task for the Church
In response, the Pope said, the Church is called to react against the negativity that “foments division, indifference, and hostility.” This is a difficult task for the Church, which is in danger of failing to recognize the gravity of the contemporary emergency. “It’s time,” he said, “for a new vision aimed at promoting a humanism of fraternity and solidarity between individuals and peoples.”
Speaking of the future of the Academy, Pope Francis said, “We need to enter into the language of men and women today, making the Gospel message incarnate in their concrete experience.” He expressed his hope that the Pontifical Academy for Life might be “a place for courageous dialogue in the service of the common good.” In particular, the Pope spoke of the importance of seeking universal criteria for making decisions, as well as a deepening understanding of the relationship between rights and duties. He called, too, for continued study of “emergent” and “convergent” technologies, mentioning specifically information and communication technologies, biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, and robotics.
The unkept promise of modernity
Finally, Pope Francis said, “The kind of medicine, economy, technology, and politics that develop within the modern city of man must also, above all, remain subject to the judgment rendered by the peripheries of the earth.” We should remember, he said, “that fraternity remains the unkept promise of modernity.”
“The strengthening of fraternity,” he said in conclusion, “generated in the human family by the worship of God in spirit and truth, is the new frontier of Christianity.”
Pope at Angelus: ‘Remember date of your Baptism’
By Devin Watkins
January 14, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis had a seemingly simple question for everyone present at the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square: “Which of you knows the date of your Baptism?”
He invited everyone who doesn’t to find out from their parents, grandparents, or godparents and to celebrate that date every year.
The Pope’s invitation came as the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord.
Reflecting on the readings at Mass, Pope Francis said Jesus underwent a two-fold immersion at his Baptism.
In human condition
First, Jesus was immersed in the crowd, he said. “He unites himself to them, thus completely assuming the human condition, sharing everything with them, except sin.”
The Pope said Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan is also an epiphany, because it takes place “in the midst of the penitent people”, where Jesus “manifests the logic and the sense of his mission.”
He said Jesus shared the people’s “profound desire for interior renewal.”
After being immersed in the water of the Jordan, the Pope said, Jesus was “immersed in prayer, that is, in communion with the Father.”
Jesus begins his mission of manifesting God’s love for humanity with his Baptism. “Such a mission is accomplished through constant and perfect union with the Father and with the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis said this means “being continually regenerated in prayer, evangelization and apostolic works so as to give clear Christian witness”.
Renew baptismal promises
Finally, the Pope said the Baptism of the Lord is an opportunity to renew our own baptismal promises, “committing ourselves to live daily in a manner consistent with it.”
“May Jesus, who saved us not through any merit of our own but in order to demonstrate the immense goodness of the Father, make us merciful toward everyone.”
Pope Francis at Baptism Mass: ‘Faith is Transmitted in the Home’
By Devin Watkins
January 13 ,2019 (Vatican Media) During Mass on the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord, Pope Francis baptizes 27 newborn babies, and invites parents to transmit the faith to their children within the home.
“You have asked the Church for faith for your children, and today they will receive the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith in each one’s heart and soul.”
But, Pope Francis said, “this faith must be developed; it must grow.”
Transmit faith at home
Before children study the faith in catechism classes, he said, their parents must transmit it at home, “because the faith is always transmitted ‘in dialect’,” that is, the native language spoken in the environs of the home.
The Pope said parents transmit the faith through their example and words, and by teaching their children to make the Sign of the Cross.
He said the faith must be transmitted “with your faith-filled lives”, so children see married love and peace within the family home. “May they see Jesus there.”
Don’t fight in front of children
Then Pope Francis gave parents a word of advice.
“Never fight in front of your children,” he said. “It’s normal that parents should argue; the opposite would be strange. Do it, but without letting them hear or see.”
“You have no idea the anguish it causes a child to see his or her parents fight.”
He said this was a word of advice “that will help you to transmit the faith.”
Finally, Pope Francis invited the parents present at the ceremony to make their children comfortable, and to breastfeed them if they were hungry.
“To you mothers I say: Breastfeed your children, don't worry. The Lord wants this.”
Pope at Mass: Whoever Loves God Must Also Love His Brother
By Linda Bordoni
January 10, 2019 (Vatican Media) Speaking during his homily at Mass on Thursday morning, Pope Francis said that in order to love God concretely, one must also love one's brothers and sisters – all of them: both those we like and those we don’t like.
The Pope also said good Christians must not neglect to pray even for “the enemy”, nor give way to feelings of jealousy or engage in harmful gossip.
At the heart of his message was an encouragement to overcome a deceitful and divisive “worldly” spirit with the strength of faith.
The spirit of the world is deceitful
Taking his cue from the First Reading of the Day, the Pope noted that St. John the Apostle speaks of “worldliness” when he says that “whoever is begotten by God conquers the world”.
He explained that this refers to our everyday struggle against a worldly spirit that is deceitful and lacks in consistency while “God’s spirit is truthful”.
“The spirit of the world is a spirit of vanity, of things that have no strength, no foundation and that are destined to fall” he said.
The spirit of the world divides families, communities, society
The Pope said the Apostle shows us the way reminding us that if we go by God’s spirit, we will do good things.
Concretely, he says that “If anyone says, ‘I love God’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen”.
“If you are unable to love something you see” the Pope explained, “why would you love something you do not see?” Describing this as fantasy, he urged us to love “what you see, what you can touch, what is real. Not the fantasies that you do not see”.
Francis also said that if one does not show his love for God in a concrete manner, it is not true love.
He then spoke of the spirit of the world which he said can be divisive and create splits in families, communities and society.
“When divisions multiply they bring hatred and war” he said.
Pope Francis went on to dwell on three signs that indicate that one does not love one's brother.
The first, he said, is actually a question we must all ask ourselves: “Do I pray for others? For those whom I like and for those whom I dislike?”.
The second pertains to feelings of envy and jealousy and wishing someone ill: “Don’t let these feelings grow” he said, “They are dangerous”.
The third, he said, has to do with engaging in chatter - or gossip – that is harmful to others: “If I do this” he said, “I do not love God because with my words I am destroying another person”.
Faith is victorious in the fight against the spirit of the world
Pope Francis concluded saying that the spirit of the world is conquered with the spirit of faith: believing that God is really in the brother and sister who are close to me.
Only faith, he said, gives us the strength to tread the path of true love.