It is sad to see a Christian who wants both Jesus and worldly gain. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily this morning at Casa Santa Marta.
The Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel from St. Mark, in which Peter says to Jesus that he and the disciples "have given up everything and followed you.”
Regarding Christ's response, the Pope noted that He did not respond with promises of wealth, but rather of an inheritance that, however, comes "with persecution."
A Christian who is attached to material goods, he said, "gives a bad impression of a Christian who wants to have two things: heaven and earth."
"And the touchstone, precisely, is what Jesus says: the cross, persecution. This means to deny one's self, to endure the cross every day," he said. "The disciples had this temptation, to follow Jesus but then what will be the end of this good business? We think of the mother of James and John, when she asked Jesus for a place for her sons: 'Ah, this one he will make his Prime Minister, this one the Finance Minister…,' and took a worldly interest in following Jesus."
The Jesuit Pope went on to say that the heart of the disciples was slowly purified from this worldliness until Pentecost, where they understood that the love and salvation given to them freely must also be freely given by them.
"When you want to go both with Jesus and the world, with both poverty and wealth, this is a 'half-way' Christianity that wants material gain. It is the spirit of worldliness," the Pope said.
Taking the Last Place
Pope Francis continued his homily, saying that only through serving others can one truly follow Jesus. If one is given the opportunity of being first, he explained, he "should act like the last in service."
"And if the Lord gives you the opportunity to have goods, you should act in service, that is, for the others," he said. "There are three things, three steps that take us away from Jesus: riches, vanity and believing you are important. And if you believe you are important, it goes to your heard and you are lost."
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to pray in order to understand well this path: the science of service, humility, and "of being the last one to serve the brothers and sisters in the Church."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis warned the faithful of the "counter-witness" that draws people away from Christ.
"It is sad to see a Christian, whether a layperson, consecrated, priest, bishop; it is sad when you can see that they want two things: to follow Jesus and [material] goods, to follow Jesus and worldliness," he said.
"Let us continue now this celebration of the Eucharist, thinking on Peter's question. 'We have left everything: how will you pay us?', and thinking on Jesus' answer. The price that He will give us is the resemblance to Him. This will be the 'payment'. A great 'payment: that we resemble Jesus!"
Not sharing wealth generates corruption and leads to an unfulfilled life. Pope Francis explored this theme during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reminding the faithful that detaching one's self from possessions is required in order to not put your final destination in jeopardy.
In his homily, the Pontiff underscored that only one who is generous with his wealth will achieve true and permanent satisfaction. The Holy Father began by recalling today's reading from the Gospel of Mark, which tells of a young man approaching Jesus, asking how he can inherit eternal life. "Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor," Jesus tells him. "At that statement, his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions," the Gospel states.
"The attachment to riches," the Argentine Pontiff said, "is the beginning of all kinds of corruption, everywhere," including those in one's personal life, politics, business, and even education.
Francis went on to question why people are so attached to what they have. If they are are closed to giving, he warned, they have no hope and horizon. Living without a horizon and without hope is a sterile and sad life, the Pontiff said.
If they believe in Heaven, he also highlighted, they eventually have to leave everything.
"There is a mystery in the possession of wealth," said Francis. "Riches have the ability to seduce and make us believe that we are in a paradise on Earth." Instead, the Pope said, "That paradise is a place without horizon."
Wealth without generosity, insisted Pope Francis, "makes us believe That we are powerful as God." Rather than providing satisfaction, it leads to corruption and sadness, he said.
Jesus, in the Gospel, shows those with an abundance of goods how to live properly: detach yourself from the goods, use them for the common good.
"Open hands, open your heart, open the horizon," Pope Francis said. "But if you have a closed hand, you have a closed heart," and you will not find your way to God, he added.
To know what we must do to change our hearts, let Jesus gaze upon you. During Pope Francis' daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, he made this suggestion.
The Pontiff reflected on today's reading from the Gospel of John, and discussed the three different types of looks which Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter: those of choosing, forgiveness and mission.
Like the Apostles, each one of us, the Holy Father stressed, should consider whether Jesus looks at us with a call, with a pardon or with a mission.
Turning to the first look, the Pope recalled when the Apostle Andrew told his brother Peter that they had found the Messiah and took him to see Jesus. Christ looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Peter which means rock.” The Argentine Pontiff noted how enthusiastic Peter was after that first look and how he felt compelled to follow Jesus.
From this, the 78-year-old Pontiff, also noted how--the night before Jesus was crucified--the look by Jesus after Peter denied Him three times, "changed Peter's heart, more than before."
After that third denial, Jesus turned and looked directly at him and Peter wept. “The Gospel of Luke says: ‘He wept bitterly,'" Francis highlighted. "That earlier enthusiasm about following Jesus had turned to grief, because he had sinned: He denied that he knew Jesus."
That look by Jesus, the Successor of Peter said, “changed Peter’s heart, more than before.”
Jesus’ third look toward Peter was that of mission, evidenced when he asked Peter three times if he loved him and urged him to feed his sheep. Peter was hurt and saddened that the Lord would ask him a third time if he loved Him. To this Peter responded, "'Lord, You know everything: You know I love you.' Jesus replied: ‘Feed my sheep.’ This was the third look, a look of mission."
This look comes with the Lord's exhortation to ‘Feed my lambs,’ ‘Look after my sheep,’ ‘Feed my sheep.’”
“We too can reflect: what look is Jesus giving me today? How is Jesus looking at me? With a call? With a pardon? With a mission?”
Reminding those gathered how Jesus is now coming on the altar, he invited them to feel the Lord's presence and to ask Him to "Fix your gaze on me and tell me what I must do: how I must repent for my mistakes, my sins; what courage do I need to go forward on the path that You first created.”
As we live our lives, the Pontiff stressed, we are to realize we are always under Jesus' gaze. "He always looks at us with love. He asks us something, forgives us something and it gives us a mission."
Jesus prays so that we may be one. And the Church has so much need of this prayer of unity."
These were the words said by Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on Jesus' prayer for unity among his followers in St. John's Gospel.
“I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me," Jesus says.
The Pope noted that in his prayer, Christ not only prays for his disciples, but those who will follow after 'through their word'.
"Maybe we are not that attentive to these words: Jesus has prayed for me!" he said. "This is precisely a source of trust: He prays for me, He prayed for me…I imagine – but it is an image – how Jesus is in front of the Father in Heaven. Like this: He prays for us, He prays for me. And what does the Father see? The wounds, the price. The price He paid for us. Jesus prays for me with his wounds; with his wounded heart He continues to do so."
The Spirit of Division
However, Pope Francis lamented that the greatest challenge for Christians today is to not give way "to divisions among us." This spirit of division, he said, allows "the father of lies to enter into us."
"Always look for unity," he stressed. "Each one is like they are, but always look to live in unity. Has Jesus forgiven you? He forgives everyone. Jesus prays so that we may be one […]. And the Church has so much need of this prayer of unity."
This unity that Jesus prays for, the Jesuit Pope went on to say, is not some mere 'glue' that bonds people but "a grace of God".
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis reminded the faithful of another piece of advice given by Christ: to remain in Him.
"He asks for this grace, that we all remain in Him. And here He tells us why, He says it clearly: 'Father […] I wish that where I am they also may be with me.' That is, that these remain there, with me. To remain in Jesus, in this world, ends in remaining with Him, so 'that they may see my glory.'"
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis remembered those forced to say 'goodbye' to their lives and homes, particularly Christians and religious minorities persecuted for the faith.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's readings, which recall the final goodbyes made by both Paul and Jesus.
"Jesus takes his leave, Paul takes his leave and this helps us to reflect on when we take our leave," he said.
"In our life there are many goodbyes, great and small and there is also much suffering, so many tears in some them."
The Pope remembered the Christian and Muslim minorities in Rohingya, Myanmar. Many have been forced to flee in the Buddhist majority country due to persecution by the government.
"In the moment that they left their land to flee persecution they did not know what would happen to them," he said. "For months, they were in a boat, there…They arrived in a city, where they were given water, food, and then told: 'Get out of here.' It is a goodbye."
The 78 year old Pontiff also recalled the persecution of Christians and Yazidis in the Middle East who have been forced to flee following attacks by the so-called 'Islamic State'.
The Last Goodbye
Continuing his homily, Pope Francis told those present that in life there are both small and great goodbyes. One example, is "of a mother who says goodbye, gives her final hug to her son who is going to war; and wakes up every morning with feat that someone will come and say: 'Thank you for the generosity of your son who gave his life for his homeland.'"
Today's readings – he noted – are two goodbyes in which Paul entrusts to God his followers and Jesus entrusts to God his disciples who remain in the world.
"Entrust to the Father, to entrust to God: this is the origin of the word 'goodbye'. We say 'goodbye' only in those great departures, be it those in life, or the last one," he said.
The Jesuit Pope went onto say that both readings call us to think of our departure from this world.
"When will it be, we don't know, but the time will come for us in which 'see you later', 'see you soon', 'until tomorrow', 'see you again' becomes 'goodbye,'" he said. "Am I prepared to entrust myself to God? To say that word that is the word of entrusting from the son to the Father."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to contemplate on their final goodbye from this earth."
"May Jesus, dead and risen – send us the Holy Spirit so that we may learn that word, that we may learn to say it, but existentially, with all our strength: the last word: 'goodbye.'"
"Fear is not a Christian attitude," but rather an attitude "of a caged animal without freedom."
These were the words of Pope Francis today during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ calls on St. Paul to preach in Corinth without fear.
“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city," Jesus says to Paul in a vision.
The Pope said that Christ invites Paul to not be afraid because fear is an attitude that can harm, weaken, and diminish. “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus," he said.
“This is why Jesus says to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to speak.’ Fear is not a Christian attitude. It is an attitude, we could say, of a caged animal, without freedom, who does not have the freedom to look ahead, to create something, to do good… no, always: ‘No, but this is dangerous, there is something else, something else…’ And this is a vice. It is the fear of doing evil.”
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to ask for the grace of courage, so as not to become fearful.
“There are fearful communities that always go on the safe side: ‘No, no, we aren’t doing this… No, no, this can’t be done, this can’t be done.’ It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden.’ Everything is forbidden because of fear. And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick.”
The Pope went onto say that fear must not be confused with fear of the Lord, a grace that allows the faithful to "awe in adoration."
Turning to today's Gospel, Pope Francis said that the second word of the liturgy counter's fear: joy.
“Christian joy is not simply enjoyment, is not a fleeting cheerfulness," he explained. "Christian joy is a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And having a heart that is always joyful because the Lord has triumphed, the Lord reigns, the Lord is at the right hand of the Father, the Lord has looked upon me and called me and has given me His grace, and has made me a Son of the Father… That is Christian joy. A Christian lives in joy.”
The Jesuit Pope said that a lack of joy in Christian communities also cause it to become sick. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray to the Lord to "raise our spirit" and to "take away our every fear."
Pope Francis has given families some practical advice during this morning's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.
Continuing with his catecheses on the family, the Holy Father reminded the faithful of three words that "must be in the home": "May I, Thank You, Pardon Me [permesso, grazie, scusa]."
For happy family life, the Pontiff said, these phrases are required in our hearts, homes and communities, and mean more than just having good manners.
Speaking on asking 'May I?,' the Pontiff said we should not just assume we have the right to certain things. When we ask this permission, he said we establish trust and respect among our loved ones.
Proving his point, Francis recalled the words of Jesus in the book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me "(3:20).
"Even the Lord asks permission to enter! Do not forget that."
On saying 'Thank you,' the Pontiff said our society has a great need for gratitude, which makes us more sensitive to the dignity of the human person and the demands of social justice.
"Listen well to this: a Christian that doesn't know how to thank is one that has forgotten the language of God. This is ugly."
'Sorry,' the Pope acknowledged is the hardest of the three to say, yet he noted that when it's not used many bad things happen, especially in marriage. He asked those gathered to ponder how we can be pardoned if we are not willing to forgive. "Have you fought?" Francis asked. "The problem is not the fighting," he said as much as letting it last into the next day. "Never finish the day without making peace," even if it's not easy, the Pope said. "A little gesture, a caress, without words," he pointed out, can be enough, for it "stops the infection." The Holy Father invited all those gathered to repeat the three Italian words: 'permesso grazie, scusa.' After underscoring these "are the truly the words for entering into the love of the family," Francis called on them to say, "Never finish the day without making peace."
“If the Pope keeps going the way he’s going, I’ll come back to the Catholic Church.” According to Vatican Radio, President of Cuba, Raul Castro, made this statement in a press conference which followed his audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican this morning.
Speaking on the Pontiff’s upcoming September visit to Cuba prior to his Apostolic Visit to the United States, the Cuban president said he will be present at all the Masses Pope Francis will celebrate in his island nation.
This morning--according to a Vatican communique released by Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi--Pope Francis received the Cuban President in a private audience. The Cuban president arrived at the Vatican to meet the Pope at 9:30, reported Fr. Lombardi
Castro stayed with the Jesuit Pontiff a little over an hour in the Holy Father’s study inside the Paul VI Hall. The meeting, the communique stated, last more than 50 minutes and was said to be "very friendly."
Before leaving the Vatican, Castro told journalists that he had thanked the Holy Father for the active role he played in favor of improving relations between Cuba and the United States of America, and said he presented to the Pope the sentiments of the Cuban people, "those of expectation and preparation for the Holy Father’s visit the island in September."
The President of Cuba gave the Pope a precious commemorative medal of the Cathedral of Havana, and a framed work of contemporary art, which depicts a large Ccoss composed of the relics of wrecked barges, before which is present a migrant in prayer.
The statement noted that the Cuban artist Kcho was present and explained to the Pope that he was inspired by the Pope's commitment to bringing attention to the plight of migrants and refugees, especially visible through the Pope’s visit to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
Pope Francis gave the President a copy of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and a large medallion which represents St. Martin in the act of covering the poor with his cloak.
Francis noted that he was particularly happy to give this last gift because it recalls not only the duty to help and protect the poor, but also to actively promote dignity.
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