The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred. Pope Francis joins the families of the victims and all of the injured in prayer and in compassion. Sharing in their indescribable suffering he entrusts them to the Lord so they may find comfort. We all hope that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.
To say ‘this or nothing’ is not Catholic, it is heretic. The Pope made this strong statement during his homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today. Criticizing this mentality, the Pope reminded those gathered that Jesus called for ‘healthy realism,’ which He taught to His disciples. Francis exhorted faithful to let go of this rigidity which prevents faithful from reconciling among themselves. He recalled how in Jesus’ time the people were divided among themselves since those that were teaching were not coherent in their life witness. “How many times do we in the Church hear these things: how many times! ‘But that priest, that man or that woman from the Catholic Action, that bishop, or that Pope tell us we must do this this way!’ and then they do the opposite. This is the scandal that wounds the people and prevents the people of God from growing and going forward. It doesn’t free them.” “In addition,” he continued, “these people had seen the rigidity of those scribes and Pharisees and when a prophet came to give them a bit of joy, they (the scribes and Pharisees) persecuted them and even murdered them; there was no place for prophets there. And Jesus said to them, to the Pharisees: ‘you have killed the prophets, you have persecuted the prophets: those who were bringing fresh air.’” Jesus, the Jesuit Pope stressed, wants us to let go of these non-Christian, extreme ideas and to remember and live out the Commandments by loving God and our neighbor. The Pontiff also warned against insulting others, noting when one insults one’s brother it is akin to giving ‘a slap to his spirit.’ Francis also decried when a man of the Church acts contrary to what he says, noting this is ‘a scandal.’ Before concluding, the Pope urged those gathered to always ‘following healthy realism,’ and never idealism nor rigidity.
Priests are to forget themselves, and their timetables, and ask themselves constantly whether their hearts are directed toward the Lord. Pope Francis stressed this during Holy Mass for the Sacred Heart of Jesus this morning in St. Peter’s Square, which also concluded the Jubilee for Priests, June 1-3. This Jubilee celebration on this solemn feast day, the Pope noted, invites us all to turn to the heart, the core of each person, contemplating two in particular: the Heart of the Good Shepherd and our own heart as priests. The Heart of the Good Shepherd, Francis explained is not only the Heart that shows us mercy, but is itself mercy. It is where the Father’s love shines forth and demonstrates that God loves us beyond our sins and limitations. In contemplating the Heart of Christ, the Jesuit Pope continued, clergy are faced with the fundamental question of their priestly life: Where is my heart directed? In the midst of the plans, projects, and activities filling priestly ministry, Francis stressed, “It’s a question that we priests must ask ourselves many times every day, every week: Where my heart is directed?” What’s distancing us … “There are weaknesses and sins in all of us,” the Pope also deviated from his script to say. “But let’s go deeper, to the roots: Where is the root of our weaknesses, our sins, that is to say what precisely is that ‘treasure’ that distances us from the Lord?” The great riches of the Heart of Jesus are two: the Father and ourselves, the Pope explained, noting Jesus’ days were divided between prayer to the Father and encountering people. Similarly, Francis compared, priests’ hearts are to embrace two “directions”: the Lord and His people. Since the priest’s heart is pierced by the Love of God, Francis underscored, “He should no longer look at himself.” “It is no longer ‘a fluttering heart,’ allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters.” The Pope then gave the priests three tools to help them imitate the Good Shepherd: seeking out, including and rejoicing. Seek out The Pope recalled that the prophet Ezekiel reminds us that God himself goes out in search of his sheep. “Without delaying, he leaves the pasture and his regular workday,” without worrying “about overtime,” Francis said. “He does not put off the search. He does not think: ‘I have done enough for today; I’ll worry about it tomorrow.’” “Instead,” Francis said, “he immediately sets to it; his heart is anxious until he finds that one lost sheep. Having found it, he forgets his weariness and puts the sheep on his shoulders, fully content.” Not an Accountant of the Spirit “A shepherd after the heart of God has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or how long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but a Good Samaritan who seeks out those in need.” The Pope stressed that priests are shepherds to their flock, not “inspectors,” and must not devote themselves “50 or 60 percent to the mission,” but instead, “with all they have.” “Woe to the shepherds who privatize their ministry!” he said, noting, “a heart that seeks out does not set aside times and spaces as private, a heart that is not jealous of its legitimate quiet time and never demands that it be left alone.” This heart takes risks to imitate the Lord, and doesn’t worry about protecting it’s comfort zone, Francis said. Include Christ loves and knows His sheep, Francis stressed, noting how He gives His life for them. “He is not a boss to be feared by his flock, but a shepherd who walks alongside them and calls them by name (cf. Jn 10:3-4). He wants to gather the sheep that are not yet of his fold (cf.Jn 10:16). So it is also with the priest of Christ. He is anointed for his people, not to choose his own projects but to be close to the real men and women whom God has entrusted to him.” A priest, the Argentine Pope said, must be ready to “dirty his hands,” without worrying about gloves. Rejoice God is “full of joy,” the Pope reminded the clergy gathered, which stems from forgiveness and mercy. “The joy of Jesus the Good Shepherd is not a joy for himself alone, but a joy for others and with others, the true joy of love. This is also the joy of the priest. He is changed by the mercy that he freelygives.” “In prayer he discovers God’s consolation and realizes that nothing is more powerful than his love. He thus experiences inner peace, and is happy to be a channel of mercy, to bring men and women closer to the Heart of God.” The Pope concluded, inviting the priests to rediscover their identity as shepherds each day.
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