From the Vatican

Pope at Audience: Glorifying and Trusting in the Father Amid Trials

Pope 041719By Robin Gomes

April 17, 2019 (Vatican Media) In his General Audience, Pope Francis delivered a catechesis on the “Our Father”, focusing on the Lord’s Prayer in the light of the Holy Week, when Catholics around the world commemorate the solemn mysteries of the passion, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus.  He picked out three prayers of Jesus to the Father during His passion.

Selfless glory

The first invocation is from the Last Supper, when the Lord, "raised His eyes to heaven and said: ‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son’ - and then – ‘glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’” (John 17.1-5). 

The Pope pointed to the paradox of Jesus’s prayer, asking for glory when His “passion is at the gates”. He explained that this Biblical glory is the revelation of God, the distinctive and definitive manifestation of His presence and salvation among men.  And Jesus is this manifestation, which He does at Easter, glorified as He is lifted up on the cross.

Thus God reveals His glory, removing the last veil and surprising us as never before. We discover that the glory of God is all love: pure, unbridled and unthinkable love, beyond all limits and measures.

The Pope urged Christians to pray like Jesus asking the Father that they be able to accept that “God is love”.  Many times, he said, we imagine God as master and not as Father, a severe judge and not as a merciful Savior.

At Easter, the Pope said, God closes distances, revealing Himself in the humility of a love that demands our love.  And when we live everything with love and from the heart, we give Him glory, because “true glory is the glory of love”.  Only love gives life to the world.

The Pope pointed out that this glory is the opposite of worldly glory, in which one is admired, praised, acclaimed and becomes the centre of attention.  Paradoxically, God’s glory is without applause, without an audience. At Easter, the Pope said, we see the Father glorifying the Son and the Son glorifying the Father – none of them glorifies Himself.  The Pope asked Christians to examine themselves whether they live God’s or their glory; whether they want to receive or also give.

Invoking “Abba” amid trials

The Pope then spoke about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane after His Last Supper.  While His disciples are asleep and Judas is coming with the soldiers, Jesus feels the "fear and anguish” of the betrayal, contempt, suffering and failure that await Him.  In the abyss of his sadness and desolation, He addresses the Father with the “most tender and sweet word: ‘Abba’”, that is, Father.

In His trials, Jesus teaches us to embrace the Father in prayer in order to find the strength to go through pain. “Amidst trials,” the Pope said, “prayer brings relief, trust and comfort.” In His abandonment and interior desolation, Jesus is not alone, He is with the Father.

On the other hand, in “our Gethsemane” we often choose to remain alone instead of crying out to the "Father" and entrusting ourselves to Him, like Jesus.  By remaining closed in ourselves we dig a tunnel within, a painful introverted path that only goes deeper and deeper into ourselves. 

The Pope noted that our biggest problem is not pain, but how to deal with it.  He said it is prayer and not solitude that offers a way out because prayer is relationship and trust.  Jesus entrusts everything to the Father, bringing Him His feelings and counting on Him totally in His struggle.  Recalling that each of us has his or her own Gethsemane, he urged Christians to pray to the Father.

Forgiveness

Finally, the Holy Father drew attention to the third prayer of Jesus: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23,34).   At the moment of His crucifixion, Jesus prays for those who were wicked to Him and His killers.  It is at that moment of most acute pain, when His wrists and feet are pierced with nails and when pain reaches its peak, love reaches its climax.  Forgiveness, the gift of immense power, then arrives breaking the circle of evil.

In conclusion, the Holy Father exhorted Christians to pray for the grace to live their days with love for the glory of God; to know how to entrust ourselves to the Father amid trials calling him “Father”, and in encountering Him to find forgiveness and the courage to forgive.  “The Father forgives us and He gives us the courage to be able to forgive,” the Pope added.

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Pope Palm Sunday: Jesus Destroys Triumphalism by His Passion

Pope 041419By Lydia O’Kane

April 14, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis during Mass on Palm Sunday tells the faithful, “there is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.”

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square for the celebration of Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week.  Palm Sunday also marks diocesan World Youth Day and young people could be seen waving palms and olive branches as the sun beamed down.

As the “Hosanna” rang out a solemn procession saw Cardinals, priests, and ordinary men and women making their way around the Square. Following the Gospel, which was read by three deacons and recounts Christ’s Passion, Pope Francis in his homily recalled how Jesus in his entry into Jerusalem shows us the way with his humility in the face of triumphalism.

Abandonment and obedience

With this entrance into Holy Week, the Pope explained, “Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy.”

“He shows us this kind of abandonment, Pope Francis said, “by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Father.”

Humility over triumphalism

Today, too, remarked the Pontiff, “by his entrance into Jerusalem, he shows us the way. For in that event, the evil one, the prince of this world, had a card up his sleeve: the card of triumphalism. Yet, the Lord responded by holding fast to his own way, the way of humility.”

The Pope emphasized that “triumphalism tries to make it to the goal by shortcuts and false compromises… It lives off gestures and words that are not forged in the crucible of the cross; Jesus destroyed triumphalism by his Passion.” "One subtle form of triumphalism is spiritual worldliness, which represents the greatest danger, the most treacherous temptation threatening the Church”, he said, quoting from French Cardinal and Theologian Henri De Lubac.

The power of silence

Pope Francis remarked, that Jesus “knows that true triumph involves making room for God and that the only way to do that is by stripping oneself, by self-emptying. “There is no negotiating with the cross: one either embraces it or rejects it,” said the Pope. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith and to precede us on that path.”

Addressing the young people present for this diocesan World Youth Day, the Pontiff told them not to be ashamed to show their enthusiasm for Jesus, to shout out that he is alive and that he is in their lives.

During his Homily, Pope Francis also noted the “profoundly impressive” silence of Jesus throughout his Passion.

The Pope added that, “he also overcomes the temptation to answer back, to act like a “superstar”. Pope Francis said that “in moments of darkness and great tribulation, we need to keep silent, to find the courage not to speak, as long as our silence is meek and not full of anger.” The Pope stressed that “at the hour that God comes forth to fight, we have to let him take over.  Our place of safety will be beneath the mantle of the holy Mother of God."

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Pope at Audience: We Are All Sinners, Who Need Forgiveness

Pope 041019By Christopher Wells

April 10, 2019 (Vatican Media)At Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Francis continues his catechesis on the “Our Father”, reflecting on the petition “Forgive us our debts”.

Pope Francis connected last week’s reflection to his catechesis for this week, saying that, we need forgiveness, every day, in the same way that we need our “daily bread.”

“But even if we were perfect, even if we were ‘crystalline saints’” who never went astray, “we would always remain children who owe everything to the Father”, the Pope said, explaining how we are “indebted” to God.

Pride: the most dangerous attitude

He warned against the sin of pride, “the most dangerous attitude for every Christian life.” Some sins, he said, are blatantly obvious, but some are insidious, “lurking in the heart without us even knowing”. Pride is the worst of these, the Pope said; it is a sin “which can infect even people who live an intense religious life”. Quoting the First Letter of St John, Pope Francis said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”.

But, the Pope continued, although we are indebted to God because of our sins, we are debtors first of all “because in this life we have received so much” from God. Even when life is difficult, he said, “we always have to remind ourselves that life is a grace, it is the miracle that God has extracted from nothing.

We can love because we were loved first

Pope Francis noted that we are also indebted to God because none of us is able to love without the grace of God. The Pope described this as the mysterium lunae, the “mystery of the moon”, which does not shine with its own light, but can only reflect the light of the sun. If we love, the Pope said, it is because we were loved first. If we forgive, it is because we have been forgiven.

“None of us loves God as He has loved us”, the Pope said. “It is enough to place yourself before a crucifix to grasp the disparity: He has loved us, and He always loves us first”.

Pope Francis concluded by inviting us all to pray, “Lord, even the most holy among us do not cease to be debtors to you. O Father, have mercy on us!”

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Pope at Mass: Christians Must Not Give in to Failure

Pope 040919By Linda Bordoni

April 9, 2019 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis celebrated morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta commenting on the “spirit of tiredness” that “takes away hope”.

Reflecting on the First Reading of the day, which is taken from the Book of Numbers, Pope Francis said that at times Christians “prefer failure”, leaving room for complaint and dissatisfaction, a perfect terrain, he said, for the devil in which to sow his seeds.

According to the Reading, the people of God, he explained, could not bear the journey: their enthusiasm and hope as they escaped slavery in Egypt gradually faded, their patience wore out, and they began muttering and complaining to God: “Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in this desert?”

“The spirit of tiredness takes away our hope,” the Pope remarked, adding that “tiredness is selective: it always causes us to see the negative in the moment we are living, and forget the good things we have received”.

“When we feel desolated and cannot bear the journey, we seek refuge either in idols or in complaint... (…) This spirit of fatigue leads us Christians to be dissatisfied (…) and everything goes wrong…  Jesus himself taught us this when he said we are like children playing games when we are overcome by this spirit of dissatisfaction.”

Fertile land for the devil

The Pope said some Christians give in to “failure” without realizing that this creates the “perfect terrain for the devil.”

They are “afraid of consolation”, “afraid of hope”, “afraid of the Lord’s caress” he said.

Pope Francis lamented the fact that this is the life of many Christians: “They live complaining, they live criticizing, they mutter and are unsatisfied”.

“The people of God could not bear the journey. We Christians often can't bear the journey. We prefer failure, that is to say desolation.”

He said it is the desolation of the serpent: the ancient serpent, that of the Garden of Eden. Here it is a symbol, he explained, of that same serpent that seduced Eve. It is a way, he continued, of showing the serpent inside that always bites in times of desolation.

Fear of hope

Those who spend their lives complaining, the Pope said, are those who “prefer failure”, “who bear to hope”, “of those who could not bear the resurrection of Jesus”.

Pope Francis concluded inviting Christians to ask the Lord to free us from this disease.

“May the Lord, he said, “always give us hope for the future and the strength to keep going.”

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Pope at Angelus: Every True Conversion is Directed to a New Future

Pope 040719By Christopher Wells

April 7, 2019 (Vatican Media) On the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Pope Francis reflects on the Gospel account of Jesus’ merciful response to the woman caught in adultery.  The Gospel of the day presents us with two conflicting attitudes, the Pope said: the attitude “of the scribes and Pharisees, on the one hand; and that of Jesus on the other”.

Jesus, the embodiment of God's mercy

The former, he explained wanted to condemn the woman caught in adultery, precisely because “they considered themselves the guardians of the law and of its faithful application”. Jesus, however, desired to save her, “because He incarnates the mercy of God who redeems by forgiving and renews by reconciling”.

Pope Francis said the Gospel makes it clear that the scribes and Pharisees had brought the woman to Jesus precisely in order to test him, and find something with which they could accuse Him. If Jesus said the woman should not be stoned, they could accuse Him of “disobedience” to the Law; but if He said she should be stoned, they could denounce Him to the Romans, who did not allow the Jews to exercise the death penalty.

Let stones of condemnation fall from our hands

“Jesus’ interlocutors were closed in by the narrowness of legalism”, the Pope said, “and they wanted to enclose the Son of God in their own perspective and condemnation”. Jesus, though, came into the world “not to judge and condemn, but to save, and to offer people a new life”. When Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin, cast the first stone,” He was appealing to the consciences of the men, reminding them that they, too, were sinful. “This scene invites each one of us, too, to realize that we are sinners,” the Pope said, and calls us “to let fall from our hands the stones of denigration and condemnation, of gossiping that at times we would hurl against others”. When we cast these stones at others, he said, we become like the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel.

Quoting St Augustine, Pope Francis said that after all her accusers left, only the woman and Jesus remain, “the miserable one, and Mercy”. Jesus does not condemn the woman, the Pope said, because “God ‘does not will the death of the sinner, but rather that he be converted and live’.”

Jesus offers us new life

But when He dismisses the woman, Jesus uses “these wonderful words: ‘Go, and sin no more’.” The Holy Father explains that Jesus, by acting mercifully, had opened “a new path” for the woman, a path that requires from her a commitment not to sin in the future. “It is an invitation that applies to all of us”, Pope Francis said. “In this time of Lent, we are called to recognize that we are sinners, and to ask for forgiveness from God”. And, he said in conclusion, that forgiveness helps us to begin our own story anew, because “every conversion is directed to a new future, to a new life, a beautiful life, a life free from sin, a generous life”.

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