Pope Francis’ morning Mass homily at Casa Santa Marta was a hymn to Christian joy, which we cannot buy because it is a gift from God. The Pope likened this joy to that of a mother, embracing her baby after childbirth, because it is a joy “purified” by the suffering of labor. The joy of Christians, he said, is a "joy in hope". Pope Francis based his homily on the observation that St. Paul "was very brave", "because he had strength in the Lord”. Of course, he noted, sometimes even the Apostle to the Gentiles was afraid. "It happens to all of us in life, to have some ‘fear’ he added. So much so, that sometimes one wonders whether "it would be better to keep a lower profile, to not be a little less Christian and seek a compromise with the world". However, Paul knew that “neither the Jews, nor the Gentiles" liked what he did, but this didn’t stop him and in the end he endured hardship and persecution. The Pope said this should make us think about our fears. Even Jesus in Gethsemane felt fear and anguish. And in his farewell speech to his disciples, he clearly says that "the world will rejoice" for their suffering, as was the case with the first martyrs in the Coliseum: "We must tell the truth: Christian life is not just one big party. Not at all!,” he said. “We cry, we cry so many times: when we are sick; when we have a problem with our son, in the family, with our daughter, or wife, or husband; when we see that our salary does not reach the end of the month and we have a sick child; when we see that we cannot pay the mortgage on the house and we must somehow survive ... So many problems, we have so many. But Jesus tells us: 'Do not be afraid!'. 'Yes, you will be sad, cry and people will even rejoice, the people who are against you'". "But,” he continued, “there is another sadness: the sadness that comes to all of us when we take the wrong road". When , "to put it simply", "we try to buy happiness, joy, [the happiness and joy] of the world, of sin. In the end there is a void within us, there is sadness". And this, he reiterated , "is the sadness of the wrong sort of happiness". Christian joy, "is a joy in hope, which comes". But the Pope said in times of trial “we do not see this. It is a joy that is purified by trials, our everyday trials: 'Your sorrow will turn to joy'. But it's hard to go to a sick person who is suffering greatly and say: 'Come on! Come on! Tomorrow you will have joy!' No, you cannot say this! We have to help them feel what Jesus made us feel. When we are in the dark, we do not see anything , 'I know, Lord, that this sorrow will turn to joy. I do not know how, but I know it!'. An act of faith in the Lord. An act of faith!". To help us understand the sadness that turns to joy, Jesus takes the example of a woman in labor: "It’s true, women suffer a lot in childbirth,” the Pope said, “but then when she holds her child, she forgets". What remains is "the joy of Jesus, a purified joy". That is "the joy that remains". The Pope acknowledged that this joy is "hidden in some moments of life, we do not feel it in bad times, but it comes later: a joy in hope". This, then, "is the message of the Church today: Do not be afraid!". "Be courageous in suffering and remember that after, the Lord will come; after, joy will come, after the dark comes the sun. May the Lord give us all this joy in hope. And the sign that we have this joy in hope is peace. How many sick, who are at the end of life, in pain, have that peace of soul.
“This is the seed of joy, this is the joy of hope and peace,” the Pope said. “Do you have peace of soul in times of darkness, in times of trouble, in times of persecution, when everyone else rejoices at your suffering? Do you have peace? If you have peace, you have the seed of joy that will come later. May the Lord help us understand these things”.
A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian, even in times of sorrow and tribulation. This was Pope Francis' reflection at Mass Thursday morning at Casa Santa Marta. During his homily the Pope returned to one of the recurrent themes of his pontificate to date - there is no such thing as a sad Christian – stressing that it is the Holy Spirit who teaches us to love and fills us with joy. Pope Francis began by noting that before going to Heaven Jesus spoke of many things, but always dwelt on three key words: "Peace, love and joy." Regarding peace "He told us that He does not give us peace, in the same way as the world gives it to us". Instead, He gives us a "peace forever”. Regarding love, Jesus frequently said “that the commandment was to love God and love your neighbor". The Pope noted that in Matthew 25, Jesus almost made a “protocol", “on which we will all be judged”. Then turning to the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis added that in it, "Jesus says something new about love: ‘Do not just love, but remain in my love'". "The Christian vocation is this: to remain in the love of God, that is, to breathe, to live of that oxygen, to live of that air. Remain in the love of God. And with this, He encapsulates the depth of His discourse on love and moves on. And what is His love like? 'As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you'. It is a love that comes from the Father. The loving relationship between Him and the Father is also a relationship of love between Him and us. He asks us to remain in this love, which comes from the Father". Pope Francis continued: "He gives us a peace that is not of the world. A love that is not of the world, that comes from the Father". Then the Pope focused on Christ’s exhortation: "Remain in my love". The sign that we "remain in the love of Jesus", he emphasized, "is keeping the commandments". It is not enough to just follow them. "When we remain in love", he said, "the Commandments follow on their own, out of love". Love, he reiterated, "leads us to naturally fulfil the Commandments. The root of love blossoms in the Commandments". And these are the common threads in a chain: "the Father, Jesus, and us". Francis then turned his attention to joy, which he describes as “the sign” of a Christian. “A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick,” the Pope said. “There's no other type! He is not doing well health-wise! A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. I once said that there are Christians with sour faces ... Always with these [long] faces! Some souls are also like this, this is bad! These are not Christians. A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions". The Pope recalled that people would say of the early martyrs that they went towards "martyrdom as if going to a wedding feast". This is the joy of a Christian, he said, " who safeguards peace and safeguards love”. Peace, love and joy , "three words that Jesus left us". Who gives us this peace, this love? Who, asked the Pope, "gives us joy? The Holy Spirit!". The Holy Spirit is “the great forgotten in our lives! I would like to ask you - but I will not, eh! - to ask you: how many of you pray to the Holy Spirit? Don't raise your hand ... He is the great forgotten, the great forgotten! And He is the gift, the gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love and fills us with joy. In prayer we asked the Lord: 'Guard your gift'. We asked for the grace that the Lord guard the Holy Spirit in us. May the Lord give us this grace to always guard the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit who teaches us to love, fills us with joy, and gives us peace".
Pope Francis has continued his catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit this week, discussing the fifth gift -- knowledge -- and how it allows Christians to discover their responsibility to Creation. “We are custodians of Creation, not masters of Creation, it is a gift that the Lord has given us, to us!” the Pope declared to the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square at Wednesday's General Audience. Beginning by asking what comes to mind when you hear the word “knowledge,” he said: “We immediately think of the human capacity to learn more about the reality that surrounds him and to discover the laws that govern nature and the universe.” Yet, he noted, the knowledge that comes from the Holy Spirit is different since “it’s not limited to human knowledge,” but is “a special gift which allows us to grasp, through Creation, the greatness and love of God and His profound relationship with every creature.” 3 aspects The Pontiff stressed three aspects of this gift: the first relates to contemplation, the second to attitudes, and the third to witness. Francis first showed that “when our eyes are enlightened by the Spirit, they open to the contemplation of God in the beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos," which, he said, “leads us to discover how everything speaks to us of Him and everything speaks to us of His love. All this arouses astonishment and a deep sense of gratitude in us!” It is the feeling we experience when “we admire a work of art or any marvel that is the result of the genius and creativity of man” and is also the ability to “recognize, in all that we have and are, a priceless gift from God and a sign of His infinite love for us,” he said. Turning to the second aspect, the Pope discussed Genesis, noting how its first chapter shows us that “God delights of His creation, by repeatedly emphasizing the beauty and goodness of all things.” But he said "if God sees that Creation is something good and beautiful, we too must have this attitude, we must see that Creation is something good and beautiful." Christians, he said, should thank God for not only beauty itself, but also for knowledge which allows us to recognize beauty. “The gift of knowledge places us in profound harmony with the Creator and allows us to participate in the brightness of His gaze and His judgment. And it is in this perspective that we can grasp in man and woman the summit of Creation, as the fulfillment of a plan of love that is imprinted in each of us and that makes us recognize each other as brothers and sisters,” he said. Noting the third aspect, Francis said: “All of this is a source of serenity and peace and renders the Christian a joyful witness of the God, in the wake of St. Francis of Assisi and many saints who were able to sing and praise His love through the contemplation of Creation.” The Pontiff, at the same time, stressed there are types of attitudes faithful should avoid, saying “knowledge helps us to avoid falling prey to excessive or incorrect attitudes.” The first lies in “the risk of considering ourselves masters of Creation," he said, adding: “Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few.” Rather, Creation is a gift, he said, “a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude.” “Custody of Creation is custody of God’s gift to us and it is also a way of saying thank you to God. I am the master of Creation but to carry it forward I will never destroy your gift. And this should be our attitude towards Creation. Safeguard Creation," he encouraged. “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!” Francis warned. “When we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: 'I don’t like it! This is not good!' 'So what do you like?' 'I like myself!' Here, this is sin! Do you see?" The second incorrect attitude, Francis said, is the” temptation to limit ourselves to creatures, but said,“with the gift of knowledge, the Holy Spirit helps us not to give in to all of this.” “Creation is for us to use well,” he said, adding it is “to nurture,” and “not to exploit.” Discussing God’s forgiveness when we destroy nature, he said: “Yes, it is true, God always forgives.” He added that men and women “sometimes, not always” forgive, but pointed out that “Father Creation never forgives!” “If you don’t provide custody for Creation, it will never forgive you,” he said.
Those who welcome the Holy Spirit will have a solid and endless peace, unlike those who choose to “superficially” trust in the tranquility offered by money or power. This was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at Mass on Tuesday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Reflecting on the peace offered by things -- money , power , vanity -- and the peace in the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father warned that the first is always in danger of vanishing. “Today you are rich and you are somebody, not tomorrow,” he said, adding that “no-one can take away the second because it is a definitive peace.” The Pope’s homily, which centered on one of the greatest desires of mankind of all times, was inspired by a passage from the Gospel of John, in the liturgy of the day. Jesus is about to face the Passion and before he takes leave of the disciples, he announces: "My peace I give you". It is a peace, the Pope said, which differs completely from the "peace that the world gives us" which is “somewhat superficial”, offering a “degree of calm, even a certain joy", but only "up to a certain point. "For example, it offers us the peace of wealth: 'I am at peace because I have everything I need, everything organized for my whole life, I do not have to worry ... ',” the Pope reminded. “This is a peace that the world gives. Do not worry, you won’t have any problems because you have so much money ... the peace of wealth. “And Jesus tells us not to trust this peace because, with great realism, he tells us: 'Look, there are thieves ... thieves can steal your wealth!' Money does not give you a definitive peace,” the Pope continued. “Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace". Pope Francis also examined two other types of worldly peace. The first, the peace of "power", does not work either because “a coup can take it away". Think what happened to the "peace of Herod", the Pope said, when the Magi told him that the King of Israel was born. “That peace vanished immediately". Or the peace of "vanity", which Pope Francis termed an "peace of conjecture": today you are greatly appreciated and tomorrow you will be insulted, "like Jesus between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Instead, the peace that Jesus gives is of a completely different substance. "The peace of Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit!,” Francis said. “On the same day of the Resurrection, He comes to the Upper Room and His greeting is: 'Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit'. This is the peace of Jesus: it is a Person, it is a great gift. And when the Holy Spirit is in our hearts, no one can remove His peace. No one! It is a definitive peace! “So what is our task? To take custody of this peace. Safeguard it! It is a great peace, a peace that is not mine, it belongs to another Person who gives it to me, another Person who is in my heart and accompanies me all the days of my life. The Lord has given it to me".
This peace is received at Baptism and Confirmation, but above all "we receive it like a child who receives a gift", the Pope said, " without conditions, with an open heart". We must take custody of the Holy Spirit without “imprisoning Him”, asking for help from this "great gift" of God.
The Pope added: "If you have this peace of the Spirit, if you have the Holy Spirit within you, and you are aware of this, let not your heart be troubled. Be sure! Paul told us that we must first pass through many tribulations to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But we all, all of us, we have so many, everyone! Some bigger, some smaller ... 'But let not your heart be troubled', and this is the peace of Jesus. The presence of the Spirit that makes our heart be at peace. Not anesthetized, no! At peace! Aware, but at peace with the peace that only God's presence gives".
A Christian is one who keeps the memory of his people, of their Journey and of the Church alive. This was the central theme of Pope Francis’ homily today at Casa Santa Marta this morning. The Holy Father began his homily by reflecting on the first reading which recalls Paul’s exhortation at the synagogue. In proclaiming the Gospel, the Pope noted, the apostles do not begin solely with Christ, but rather by recalling the history of the people of God. Jesus, he said, “does not make sense without this history.” The Holy Father went on to say that a Christian without the Church is “purely idealistic.” "But you cannot understand a Christian alone, just like you cannot understand Jesus Christ alone. Jesus Christ did not fall from the sky like a superhero who comes to save us. No. Jesus Christ has a history,” he said. “And we can say, and it is true, that God has a history because He wanted to walk with us. And you cannot understand Jesus Christ without His history. So a Christian without history, without a Christian nation, a Christian without the Church is incomprehensible. It is a thing of the laboratory, an artificial thing, a thing that cannot give life". The 77 year old Pontiff emphasized the importance of this dimension of history, saying that a “Christian is one who keeps the memory of the history of his people, who keeps the memory of his people’s journey, who keeps the memory of his Church.” This memory, he said, is that of a journey towards the fulfillment of a promise. “And for this, a Christian in the Church is a man, a woman with hope: hope in the promise. It is not expectation: no, no! That’s something else: It is hope. Right, on we go! [Towards] that which does not disappoint,” he said. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask God for the grace of memory that allows us to look forward with hope. In doing so, one follows the path towards God and renews the covenant with Him. "It would do us good today,” he said, “to think about our Christian identity. Our Christian identity is belonging to a people: the Church. Without this, we are not Christians.” “We entered the Church through baptism: there we are Christians. And for this reason, we should be in the habit of asking for the grace of memory, the memory of the journey that the people of God has made; also of personal memory: What God did for me, in my life, how has he made me walk ... Ask for the grace of hope, which is not optimism: no, no! It 's something else. And ask for the grace to renew the covenant with the Lord who has called us every day. May the Lord give us these three graces, which are necessary for the Christian identity.”
Pope Francis has continued his catechesis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, this week discussing the fourth gift, fortitude. During today’s General audience, Francis explained that the gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding and counsel – “enable us to contemplate God’s loving plan and to know his will,” but through the gift of fortitude, “we receive the strength to do God’s will in spite of our own natural weakness and limitations.” “In our everyday life, in difficult times it would do us good to say this 'I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me,'” said the Pope. “The Lord always gives us strength, the Lord never gives us more than we can handle, 'I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.'" The Holy Father acknowledged that “sometimes we may be tempted to allow ourselves to be overtaken by laziness or despondency, especially when faced with the hardships and trials of life.” Yet, he said, “do not lose heart, but invoke the Holy Spirit.” In doing so, “He can lift our hearts and communicate new vigor and enthusiasm to our lives and our following Jesus.” 3 aspects The Pontiff stressed three aspects of this gift: the first helped faithful grasp its importance, the second showed its power to help us, and the third explained how often it’s needed. In the parable of the sower and the seed, the Pontiff first showed "Jesus teaching us that the seed of God’s word sown in our hearts can encounter not only interior resistance,” but also be “choked by life’s sufferings and trials.” Francis says this analogy proves that with fortitude the Holy Spirit “frees the soil of our heart from torpor, uncertainties and all the fears that can stop it, so that the Word of God can be put into practice, in an authentic and joyful way.” This is a “real help,” he said, as it “gives us strength and frees us from many obstacles.” Turning to the second aspect, the Pope said “there are numerous Christians who continue to celebrate and witness to their faith with deep conviction and serenity, and resist even when they know that this can result in them paying a very high price.” Fortitude gives them the power to do this, he said, noting in “difficult moments and extreme situations” the gift of fortitude is “manifested in an extraordinary, exemplary way.” He told Christians to open their eyes to the “every day saints! Hidden saints among us! They have the gift of fortitude in carrying on in their duty as people, mother, father, brother, sister, citizen.” Encouraging Christians to follow suit, he asked: “If they do this, then why not me?” Noting the third thing to realize, Francis said that “we must not think that the gift of fortitude is only necessary on some occasions or in certain situations,” but, rather it must be the “base note of our being Christians, in our ordinary everyday lives.” Recalling how the Apostle Paul was propelled, he quoted Paul’s words: "'I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.'" “Whenever we feel weary or discouraged along the journey of faith,” the Pontiff noted, “let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the gift of fortitude, to refresh us and to guide our steps with renewed enthusiasm.”
We cannot understand the things of God only with our heads, we need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit too. This was Pope Francis’ message at morning Mass Tuesday at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also said that faith is a gift of God which we cannot receive if we live our lives “detached” from His people, the Church. As usual, the Pope reflected on the readings offered by the liturgy of the day, which show us "two groups of people". In the First Reading, "there are those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose" following Stephen’s martyrdom. "They were dispersed with the seed of the Gospel," the Pope said, "and they carried it everywhere". At first, they only spoke to the Jews. Then, "almost naturally, some of them" who had come to Antioch, "began to speak to the Greeks". And so, slowly, "they opened the doors to the Greeks, to the pagans”. Once the news arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas was sent to Antioch "to carry out an inspection". He noticed that everyone “was happy" because "a large number of people was added to the Lord". Pope Francis noted that these people did not say: “Let's go to the Jews first, then the Greeks, then pagans, then everyone. No! They allowed themselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit! They were docile to the Holy Spirit". And then, he said, "one thing leads to another" and "they end up opening the doors to everyone: to the pagans, who were considered unclean in the mentality of the time ... they opened the doors to everyone." This, he stressed , "is the first group of people, those who are docile to the Holy Spirit". Sometimes, he added, "the Holy Spirit prompts us to do bold things, such as driving Philip to go and baptize" the Minister of Ethiopia, or "how he pushed Peter to go and baptize Cornelius". "Other times, the Holy Spirit leads us gently and the virtue is in allowing ourselves to be carried by the Holy Spirit, in not resisting the Holy Spirit, in being docile to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit works in the Church today, is acting in our lives today. Some of you may say: 'I have never seen him!'. But pay attention to what is happening, to what comes to your mind, to what comes in your heart. Good things? It is the Spirit that invites you to take that path. It takes docility! Docility to the Holy Spirit”. The second group presented to us in the readings of the day is the "intellectuals, who came to Jesus in the temple: they are the doctors of the law." Jesus, the Pope noted, has always had problems with them, "because they never arrived at understanding: they always came back to the same point, because they believed that religion was a thing of the mind, of laws". They saw it as a question of "fulfilling the commandments and nothing more. They cannot even imagine the existence of the Holy Spirit". The questioned Jesus , "they wanted to argue. Everything was about the mind, the intellect". "These people had no heart - he added -there is no love or beauty, there is no harmony" these people “only want explanations": "And you give them their explanations and, not convinced, they return with more questions. This is their way: they spin round and round ... As they spun Jesus around throughout his life, until the time that they were able to take him and kill him! These people do not open their hearts to the Holy Spirit! They believe that the things of God can be understood only with the head, with ideas, with their own ideas. They are proud. They think they know everything. And what does not fit into their intelligence is not true. You can raise a dead man in front of them , but they do not believe". Jesus "goes further" and says "something very strong": "You do not believe because you are not part of my sheep! You do not believe because you are not of the people of Israel. You have left the people. You are in intellectual aristocracy". This attitude, he warned, "closes the heart. They have denied their own people". "These people had become detached from the people of God and therefore could not believe. Faith is a gift from God! But faith comes if you are in His people, if you are, right now, in the Church, if you are helped by the sacraments, brothers and sisters, by the assembly, if you believe that this Church is the People of God. These people had distanced themselves, they did not believe in the people of God, they only believed in their own things, and thus built a whole system of commandments that chased the people away: they chased people away and would not let them come into the Church, the people. They could not believe! This is the sin of resisting the Holy Spirit". Pope Francis concluded by saying there are "two groups of people": those who are "gentle, sweet people, humble, open to the Holy Spirit", and the others "proud, self-sufficient, detached from the people, intellectual aristocrats, who closed their doors and resist the Holy Spirit". "This is not just stubbornness", he said , "it is much more: it is having a hard heart! And this is more dangerous". "Let us ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit to move forward in life, to be creative, to be joyful, because the other people were not joyful". When "there is a lot of seriousness, the Spirit of God is lacking," he said. We ask, therefore, "for the grace of obedience and that the Holy Spirit will help us to defend ourselves from this other evil spirit of self-sufficiency, pride, arrogance, closure of the heart to the Holy Spirit".
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