On Thursday, April 10th, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger will be ordained and installed as the 10th Bishop of Albany in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. As the representative of Our Holy Father, Francis, Archbishop Vigano was instrumental in recommending candidates to serve as Bishop of our Diocese. Pope Francis selected Monsignor Edward Scharfenberger from these recommendations and this Thursday all of us celebrate the joyful occasion of his ordination/installation. Who is Archbishop Vigano? Listen to the insightful words he offered to our bishops as he encouraged them to be pastors in the manner of Pope Francis.
Through His divine mercy, God comes to caress and heal the wounds caused by sin. This was the theme of Pope Francis’ homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta.
The Holy Father reflected on today’s Gospel, which recalls the adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the Pharisees and scribes in order to trick Him and bring charges against Him.
“The scribes and Pharisees place this question to have a reason to accuse Him,” the Pope explained. “If Jesus said ‘Yes, yes, go ahead with the stoning,' they would have told the people: ‘But this is your master who is so good...Look what he has done to this poor woman!’ And if Jesus said: ‘No, poor woman! Forgive her!’ they would have said ‘he does not fulfill the law.’"
However, Christ’s response is very different from what they expected. “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus says in the Gospel. The reading goes on to mention that those present left one by one, “beginning with the elders.”
“We can see that in the bank of Heaven, these had a good ‘bank account’ against them,” the Pope observed.
Regarding Jesus’ words to the woman, the Pope said that they go beyond forgiveness. While not denying the grave sin that is adultery, Jesus does not condemn her with the law. “This is the mystery of the mercy of Jesus,” the Holy Father said. The forgiveness of God, he noted, is what blots out sins, but mercy is the way God forgives.
“Jesus could have said: ‘I forgive you. Go!’, like He said to the paralytic man that they brought to Him from the ceiling: ‘Your sins are forgiven!'"
Rather, the Pope explained, “Here He says: ‘Go in peace!’ Jesus goes beyond. He advises her to sin no more. Here the merciful attitude of Jesus can be seen: He defends the sinner from her enemies; He defends the sinner from a just condemnation. Also us, how many of us, maybe should be in hell, how many of us? And that is the just condemnation...and He forgives even more. How? With this mercy!”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis compared the mercy of God to the rising sun, that fills everything it touches with light: the light of love.
"God does not forgive with a decree, but with a caress, caressing our wounds from sin,” he said. “And thus Jesus becomes the confessor: he does not humiliate, he doesn’t say ‘What have you done, tell me! And when did you do it? How did you do it? And who did you do it with?’ No! ‘Go, go and from now on, sin no more!’ The mercy of God is great, and the mercy of Jesus is great. Forgiving us, caressing us!”
Prayer must be free, insistent and with arguments. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father spoke about the relationship between God and Moses, which mirrors the life of prayer that one should have with God. The first reading from the Book of Exodus recounts God’s wish to destroy the people for creating and worshipping the golden calf. Moses pleads with God to have mercy. The Holy Father said that Moses’ way of praying, fearlessly and freely, teaches us how to pray to God. Prayer, he noted, is “a negotiation with God.” After Moses prayed to God for mercy for His people, God relented. But, the Holy Father asked, “who changed here? Has the Lord changed? I think not.” "Moses is the one who has changed, because Moses believed that the Lord would do this. He believed that the Lord would have destroyed the people and he searches, he tries to remember, how good the Lord has be to His people, how he led them from slavery in Egypt and guided them with a promise,” the Pope said. “With these arguments, he tries to convince God, but in doing so, he rediscovers the memory of his people, and God's mercy. This Moses, who was afraid, afraid that God would do this thing, in the end comes down from the mountain with something great in his heart: Our God is merciful. He knows how to forgive. He can go back on His decisions. He is a Father.” The Pope went on to say that Moses rediscovers the mercy of God through prayer, thus changing his heart. This change allows us to understand God and to speak with him not with empty words but with our own personal reality. Moses knew all of this - Pope Francis observes - "but he vaguely knew it. Instead he rediscovers it in prayer. This is what prayer does to us: it changes our heart". “‘Look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that... What can you do? You cannot leave me like this!',” the Pope said. “This is prayer! Does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time.” The Holy Father also said that one’s prayer to God should be like that of Moses, who the Bible says prayed to God as a friend. Prayer, he said, must be “free, insistent, with arguments, even rebuking the Lord a little: 'You promised me this but you didn’t do it... ', just like talking with a friend. Open your heart to this prayer.” Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord would give all the invigorating grace of prayer. "Let us ask the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray, as Moses prayed, to negotiate with God, with freedom of spirit, with courage. And may the Holy Spirit, who is always present in our prayer, lead us on this path," he said.
Continuing with his catecheses on the sacraments, Pope Francis today turned to the sacrament of marriage, saying the married couple is itself the image of God Marriage, he said, is the sacrament that “leads us to the heart of the design of God, that is a design of covenant with his people, with all of us, a design of communion.” Citing the affirmation from Genesis, "God created man in His image ... man and woman He created them," the Pope explained that "the image of God is the married couple." "The man and the woman, not only the man, not only the woman, but both. This is the image of God: the love, the covenant of God with us is represented in that covenant between man and woman. And this is very beautiful! We are created to love, as reflection of God and of His love," the Holy Father said. Francis added that in the conjugal union of man and woman, this vocation is realized, "as a sign of reciprocity and of the communion of a full and definite life.” “Matrimony is the icon of the love of God with us. How beautiful," he exclaimed. "The three persons of Father, of Son, and of the Holy Spirit live from always and for always in a perfect unity and the mystery of matrimony is just this: God makes the two spouses a single existence. And the Bible uses a strong expression and says: ‘One flesh.' So intimate is the union of man and woman in matrimony." The true bond is always with God, said the Pope. When a family prays and the spouses pray for each other, the bond remains and it becomes stronger, he added. Simple wisdom Francis not only reflected on the theological depth of the marriage sacrament, but also gave some practical advice for married couples. “It is true that in married life there are many difficulties, many, no?" he asked, noting some examples of the struggles that might arise: "work, there is not enough money, that the children have many problems … many difficulties.” The Pope acknowledged that many times this causes the husband and the wife to become "a bit nervous and to quarrel." "They quarrel -- it is always so in marriage -- sometimes even plates fly. However, we must not become sad because of this; the human condition is like this. And the secret is that love is stronger from the moment there is quarreling, so I always advise spouses: Never end a day when you quarreled without making peace. Always! And it is not necessary to call the United Nations to come to one’s home to make peace. A small gesture, a caress, a hello is sufficient! And until tomorrow -– and tomorrow one begins again. And this is life; it must be carried forward thus, carried forward with the courage of wanting to live it together. And this is great, it is beautiful! Married life is a most beautiful thing and we must guard it always, protect the children." Pope Francis also reiterated advice he gave during an address to engaged couples for St. Valentine's Day. He recommended three "magic words" that "must be in the home": "please, thank you, sorry [permesso, grazie, scusa] -- three magical words." He invited married couples to say these words and acknowledged that sorry is the most difficult one to say. “We repeat them all together!” the Holy Father said enthusiastically. He elaborated: "Please, so as not to be invasive in the life of the spouse. Please, but what does this seem to you? Please, allow me. "Thank you: to thank one’s spouse: thank you for what you did for me, thank you for this. The beauty of rendering thanks! "And as we all make mistakes, the other word which is a bit difficult to say, but which must be said: sorry. "Please, thank you, sorry. With these three words, with the prayer of the husband for his wife and vice versa, with making peace always before the day ends, the marriage will go forward -- the three magical words, prayer and always making peace." The Holy Father underscored how prayer and looking to Mary and Joseph as models will help married couples to help and forgive each other in everyday life. He added, “We thank the Lord for the many families who continue to animate our Christian communities, providing a precious service and a strong testimony of faith.”
In his homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis warned of the damage that can be done by “anesthetized Christians” who have no apostolic zeal for the Gospel. The Pope reflected on the Gospel of St. John, which recalled Jesus’ healing of a crippled man on the Sabbath. The Holy Father noted that the attitude of crippled man, resigned to his illness, and the Pharisees who criticized the healing on a Sabbath day, manifest two “spiritual illnesses”. Regarding the first spiritual illness, the Pope said that today there are many Christians, as well as Catholics, who live their faith without enthusiasm, and at times, embittered. “It is the sickness of sloth, of the laziness of Christians,” he said. “This attitude is paralyzing to apostolic zeal, makes Christians a people at a standstill, but not in the good sense of the word. They do not worry to go out to give the proclamation of the Gospel! Anesthetized people.” Spiritual sloth, he went on to say, is sad since it causes Christians to have a negative outlook on life. These Christians who have no apostolic zeal, are useless and are not good for the Church. “This is the sin of sloth, which is against the apostolic zeal, against the desire to give the news of Jesus to others, that news that has been given freely,” he said. The second spiritual illness, the Holy Father continued, is the sin of formality. This illness leaves no space for the grace of God to act. Those who live in this formality, he said, are “hypocritical Christians.” “It was the Sabbath? No, you cannot do miracles on the Sabbath, the grace of God does not work on the Sabbath. They close the door to the grace of God. We have so many [like this] in the Church: we have so many! It is another sin,” he said. These two attitudes must be known in order to defend ourselves from falling into that mentality. In front of these spiritual illnesses, he said, Jesus only asks if we wish to be healed. “The two Christian words: “vuoi guarire?” (Do you want to be healed?),” the Pope said. “First He heals him, then says ‘sin no more.’ Words that are said with tenderness, with love.” Pope Francis, concluding his homily, invited the faithful present to continue along the Christian path. This path of Apostolic zeal, he said, allows us “to be close to many people, wounded in this field hospital, and also many times wounded by men and women of the Church.”
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