Pope Francis promised the victims of Typhoon Yolanda today that the Lord and his Mother will never let them down, in a moving, improvised homily given in Tacloban, which was devastated by the November 2013 typhoon.
Before beginning his homily, the Pope paused at the microphone in silence for a brief moment, then asking the congregation, all clad in rain ponchos, as was the Pope himself, if he could speak in Spanish. "I have a translator, a good translator," he explained, as the crowd assented with applause.
He went on to reflect about Jesus the High Priest, who endured all of our sufferings from the cross, as some in the crowd were moved to tears.
The Pontiff said that when from Rome he saw the news of the typhoon, it was then that he decided to make the trip to the Philippines.
"I am here to be with you. …," he said. "I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord, that he never lets us down. 'Father,' you might say to me, 'I was let down because I’ve lost so many things, I lost my house, my livelihood, my family. I’ve illness.' It’s true if you would say that. And I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there nailed to the cross [indicating the crucifix]. And from there, he does not let us down."
The Pope spoke of Christ’s reign from the cross, saying that "he is capable of understanding us, as we heard in the first reading. In everything, the same as us."
He spoke of Jesus as "capable of crying with us, capable of walking with us in the most difficult moments of life."
"So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you," the Pope said to the vast crowd. "But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silence. And I walk with you all with my silent heart.
"Many of you have asked the Lord, 'Why Lord?' And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds from his heart upon the cross."
The Holy Father reiterated, "Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. And he understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, that you have experienced."
Then, speaking of the presence of Mary, he said that in moments of greatest difficulty, when there is temptation to rebel, that then as a child, we must hold her and say, "Mama."
"It is perhaps the only word that we can say in such difficult times: Mother, Mom."
The Pope then invited the congregation to hold a moment of silence, telling them, "Let us look to Christ on the cross. He understands us because he endured everything. And let us look to our mother … Say to the mother what you feel in your hearts."
After the congregation’s prayer, the Pope again stressed, "We are not alone. Let us know that we have a mother Mary and our great brother, Jesus."
He added that as well, those who came to support the typhoon victims are their brothers, and the victims themselves strengthened their fraternity, "because we helped each other."
"This is what comes from my heart and forgive me if I have no other words to express this," he concluded. "But please know Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down. And holding on to her mantle and with the power that comes from Jesus’ love on the cross, let us move forward, always forward. And walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord, forward."
After Communion, the Pope again improvised in Spanish, saying, "We have just celebrated the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Jesus preceded us. He went there before us on the journey. And he accompanies us every time we come together to pray and celebrate. Thank you Lord for being today with us. Thank you Lord for sharing in our pain. Thank you Lord for giving us hope. Thank you Lord for your great mercy. Thank you Lord because you wished to be like one of us. Thank you Lord because you are always near to us even in the moments of the cross. Thank you Lord for giving us hope. Lord, may hope never be robbed from us, taken away from us. Thank you Lord because in the moments of greatest darkness in your life, on the cross, you remembered us and you left us a mother, your mother. Thank you Lord for not leaving us as orphans."
Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos excitedly greeted Pope Francis as he arrived on the second leg of his Apostolic Trip to Asia. The Holy Father's plane landed in Manila's Villamor Air Base at 6:35 p.m.local time after a six plus-hour flight from Colombo International Airport.
Before departing Sri Lanka, the Pope sent a message to President Maithrapala Sirisena, thanking him and the people of the country for their welcome.
"As I depart from Sri Lanka, I extend to you, the government and your fellow citizens my heartfelt gratitude for your warm welcome and every kindness shown to me during my visit," he wrote. "I renew to your Excellency and the entire country the assurance of my prayers for peace, unity and prosperity."
After celebrating a private Mass this morning at the Apostolic Nunciature in Colombo, the Holy Father made his way to the airport. However, he made a quick stop at a Chapel dedicated to "Our Lady of Lanka," at the Benedict XVI Cultural Institute.
According to the Holy See Press Office, the Pope was received by 10 Jesuit priests at the institute and remained for a few minutes in silent prayer. Also present were local fisherman, many of whom helped in the building of the Center.
Arrival in Manila
Music, dancing and cheers from thousands of people welcomed the Holy Father as his plane reached the tarmac of Manila's air base. The Holy Father was greeted by President Benigno Aquino III as well as bishops and prelates of the country, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.
The Holy Father waved to the excited crowd, which included hundreds of youth performing a choreographed dance in the Pope's honor. After a few brief moments in the airport, the 78-year-old Pontiff made his way to the Popemobile.
Thousands of Filipinos lined the streets and waved banners in what seemed an endless throng of people leading up the nine kilometer (five and a half mile) stretch that lead to the Apostolic Nunciature of Manila. The Holy Father will conclude his day with a private dinner at the Nunciature.
Tomorrow morning, Pope Francis will travel to the Presidential Palace in Manila for an official welcoming ceremony, followed by a private meeting with the President and a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps.
Pope Francis today pointed to three lessons to be taken from the Church's newest canonized saint, Joseph Vaz, a missionary to Sri Lanka, and the island nation's first canonized saint.
The Pope spoke of St. Joseph Vaz during a Mass for canonization that he celebrated this morning (local time) in Colombo.
He spoke of the life of the saint (1651-1711), a priest of the Oratory in his native Goa, who because of religious persecution, "dressed as a beggar, performing his priestly duties in secret meetings of the faithful, often at night. His efforts provided spiritual and moral strength to the beleaguered Catholic population.”
The Pontiff noted particularly the saint’s desire to minister to the sick and to serve the suffering.
He then went on to speak of three reasons that the saint is an “example and a teacher.”
“First, he was an exemplary priest,” the Pope said. “[...] He teaches us how to go out to the peripheries, to make Jesus Christ everywhere known and loved. He is also an example of patient suffering in the cause of the Gospel, an example of obedience to our superiors, an example of loving care for the Church of God.”
The Holy Father said St. Joseph lived, as we do, in a “period of rapid and profound transformation; Catholics were a minority, and often divided within; there was occasional hostility, even persecution, from without. And yet, because he was constantly united with the crucified Lord in prayer, he could become for all people a living icon of God’s mercy and reconciling love.”
The second lesson the Pope drew from St. Joseph applies directly to the Sri Lankan society, on a path of reconciliation after decades of civil war.
The Church on the island, while a small minority, has a unique role to play given that both Sinhalese and Tamils form part of the Catholic community.
“Saint Joseph shows us the importance of transcending religious divisions in the service of peace,” the Pope said. “His undivided love for God opened him to love for his neighbour; he ministered to those in need, whoever and wherever they were.”
Francis said that the Church in Sri Lanka today is following the saint's example, making “no distinction of race, creed, tribe, status or religion in the service she provides through her schools, hospitals, clinics, and many other charitable works.”
“All she asks in return is the freedom to carry out this mission,” he stated. “Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion.
“As the life of Saint Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all.”
Reverence for others
Thirdly, the Pope spoke of St. Joseph Vaz as a zealous missionary, characterized by his respect for others.
“Saint Joseph knew how to offer the truth and the beauty of the Gospel in a multi-religious context, with respect, dedication, perseverance and humility,” he said. “This is also the way for the followers of Jesus today. We are called to go forth with the same zeal, the same courage, of Saint Joseph, but also with his sensitivity, his reverence for others, his desire to share with them that word of grace (cf. Acts 20:32) which has the power to build them up. We are called to be missionary disciples.”
The Pope concluded by expressing a prayer that the Christians of Sri Lanka might be “confirmed in faith and make an ever greater contribution to peace, justice and reconciliation in Sri Lankan society."
"This is what Christ asks of you," he said. "This is what Saint Joseph teaches you. This is what the Church needs of you.”
In an interview with Vatican journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi, Pope Francis said that concern for the poor is in the Gospel, and not an invention of communism.
Excerpts from the interview were released by the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, and is part of a new book titled “Papa Francesco - Questa Economia Uccide” (Pope Francis - This Economy Kills).
The book, which profiles the social teaching of the Church “under the direction of Pope Francis”, was released today in Italian.
Among the issues discussed by the Holy Father was the current state of capitalism and globalization. While saying that globalization has helped many out of poverty, the Pope noted that inequalities have arisen.
“When money, instead of man, is at the center of the system, when money becomes an idol, men and women are reduced to simple instruments of a social and economic system, which is characterized, better yet dominated, by profound inequalities,” he said.
“So we discard whatever is not useful to this logic; it is this attitude that discards children and older people, and is now affecting the young.”
The Holy Father echoed his thoughts on youth unemployment, which he said is a consequence of “a culture of waste”. It is that same culture, he said, that “leads people to discard babies through abortion.”
“I am shocked by the low birth rates here in Italy; this is how we lose our link to the future,” he said. “The culture of waste also leads to a hidden euthanasia of older people, who are abandoned.”
The Pope went on to call for a society and an economy where “man and woman are at the center, instead of money.”
The Gospel, the Economy and the Poor
Pope Francis also stressed the need for an ethical approach to the economy and politics. Various leaders and heads of State who have visited him, he said, have called for religious leaders to help give them “ethical indications.”
Recalling Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate, the Pope said that the world is in need of “men and women with their arms raised in prayer to God” that “engender genuine development.”
“At the same time I am convinced that we need these men and women to commit themselves on every level, in society, politics, institutions and the economy, to work for the common good,” he said. “We cannot wait any longer to deal with the structural causes of poverty, in order to heal our society from an illness that can only lead to new crises.”
He also highlighted the Church’s tradition of concern for the poor, saying that it stems from the Gospel and the first centuries of Christianity. However, he said that today many misinterpret that same teaching.
“If I repeated some passages from the homilies of the Church Fathers, in the second or third century, about how we must treat the poor, some would accuse me of giving a Marxist homily,” he lamented.
Citing the teachings of St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom and Blessed Paul VI, the Pope said that the sharing of goods and care for the needy is rooted in the Gospel.
“As we can see, this concern for the poor is in the Gospel, it is within the tradition of the Church, it is not an invention of communism and it must not be turned into an ideology, as has sometimes happened before in the course of history,” he said.
The Church, when it invites us to overcome what I have called ‘the globalization of indifference’, is free from any political interest and any ideology.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that true peace and freedom can only be found through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father reflected on the Gospel of St. Mark, which recalled the Apostles being frightened upon seeing Jesus walking on water. The Holy Father said that despite seeing the miracles done by Christ, the Apostles were in fear because “their hearts were hardened.”
Among the reasons why one would have a “heart of stone,” the Pope said that it can easily happen to someone who has gone through a “painful experience.” The Apostle Thomas, who refused to believe in the Resurrection, was just such an example.
Another reason the Holy Father cited is to be closed in on one’s self. “To make a world in one’s self, closed. In himself, in his community or in his parish, but always closed,” he said.
“And being closed can turn into so many things: pride, sufficiency, to think myself better than others, also vanity, no? There are mirror-men and women, who are closed in on themselves and constantly looking at themselves. These religious narcissists, no? But, they have a hard heart, because they are closed, they are not open. And they look to defend themselves with these walls that they have around them.”
Pope Francis continued his homily explaining another reason for a hardened heart: that of “barricading” one’s self behind the letter of the law. The irony of this, he continued, is that those who seek security within the law end up becoming like a “man or a woman in the cell of a prison behind bars: a security without freedom.”
“The heart, when it is hardened, is not free and if it is not free it is because it does not love: that was how the Apostle John’s First Letter concluded. Perfect love chases away fear. In love there is no fear because fear presumes a punishment and he who fears is not perfect in love. He is not free,” the Pope said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the only one who can "teach love and free mankind from this hardened heart is the Holy Spirit.”
“You can do thousands of courses of catechesis, thousands of spiritual courses, thousands of yoga courses, zen and all those things. But all of that will never be capable of giving you the freedom of a son,” he said.
“It is only the Holy Spirit that can move your heart to say ‘Father.'"
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John