To be joyful is a grace that only comes from faith and not from doctrine or law that is detached from love. This was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's readings, both of which spoke on Abraham. In John's Gospels, Jesus tells the scribes and doctors of the law that "Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”
The Pope said that the doctors of the law did not understand what Jesus meant because they did not understand the joy of hope, of promise and of the covenant.
"They did not know how to rejoice, because they lost the meaning of joy that only comes from faith," he said. "Our father Abraham was able to rejoice because he had faith: he was made just in faith. These lost their faith. They were doctors of the law, but without faith! But more so: they lost the law! Because the center of the law is love, love for God and for neighbor."
The Holy Father went on to say that the doctors of the law were so attached to doctrine that their often times their questions dealt in abstract circumstances.
"Should taxes be paid to Cesar, or should they not? This woman, who was married seven times, when she goes to Heaven will she be the wife of those seven? […] This was their world, an abstract world, a world without love, a world without faith, a world without hope, a world without trust, a world without God," he noted. "And this is why they could not rejoice!"
The 78 year old Pontiff continued saying that it was sad to be a believer without joy. Without joy, he said, there is no faith, only "cold doctrine."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis said that the joy of faith and the Gospel is the touchstone of one's faith. Without it, one is not a "true believer."
"We return home, but first we make this celebration here with these words of Jesus: ' Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.' And ask the Lord for the grace to be joyful in hope, the grace to be able to see Jesus' day when we find ourselves with Him and the grace of joy," he concluded.
Pope Francis called on the faithful to join in prayers for the Synod of the Family in October Despite heavy rains in Rome this morning, thousands gathered in St. Peter to listen to the Holy Father. "Good morning but it is not a pretty day," the Pope said regarding the weather. He then asked the faithful to give a round of applause for the sick and disabled who were watching the audience from a big screen at the Paul VI audience hall.
The Pope said that he would "pause for prayer" from his catechesis on the family. The feast of the Annunciation, which the Church celebrates today, shows how "profound is the mystery of the Incarnation, as God wanted, which includes not only the conception in the womb of the mother, but also being welcomed in a true family."
After leading the faithful in praying the Hail Mary, the Pope also noted that today is the World Day for Life and the 20th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life).
"The words of my venerable Predecessor remind us that the human couple was blessed by God from the beginning to form a community of love and life, to which He entrusted the mission of procreation," the Pope said. "Christian spouses, celebrating the Sacrament of Matrimony, open themselves to honour this benediction, with the grace of God, for all of life."
The Jesuit Pope went on to say that the Church is committed to the care of the family, saying that the bond between the Church and the family is "sacred and inviolable."
"The Church, as a mother, never abandons the family, even when it is disheartened, wounded, and mortified in so many ways; it will always do everything to seek to cure and heal it, to invite it to conversion and to reconcile it with the Lord," he said.
'We Need Prayers, Not Gossip'
Pope Francis proposed that the Church once again renew prayers for the Synod of Bishops on the family, in order for the Church to "be animated by the compassion of the Good Shepherd."
The Holy Father continued his appeal saying that the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful are called to pray for the Synod.
"There is need of this, not of gossip!" he exclaimed. "I also invite those who feel far away, or who are not accustomed to do so, to pray. This prayer for the Synod on the Family is for the good of everyone."
Concluding his address, Pope Francis recited a prayer with the faithful, calling on them to recite it often for the Synod of Bishops.
Below is a translation of the prayer:
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, In you we contemplate The splendor of true love, We turn to you with confidence.
Holy Family of Nazareth, Make our families, also, Places of communion and cenacles of prayer, Authentic schools of the Gospel, And little domestic Churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth May our families never more experience Violence, isolation, and division: May anyone who was wounded or scandalized Rapidly experience consolation and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, May the upcoming Synod of Bishops Reawaken in all an awareness Of the sacred character and inviolability of the family, Its beauty in the project of God.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Hear and answer our prayer. Amen.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis called on Christians to pray in this Holy Week for the grace to accept difficult moments. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's first reading from the Book of Numbers in which God punished the people of Israel for their complaining by sending fiery serpents that bit and poisoned them.
Drawing comparison from the reading to daily life, the Pope said that many times, even Christians have this tendency to rebel against God or try to seek salvation on their own terms. Calling them, "'Yes, but…' Christians", the Pope said that they do not open their hearts to God's salvation, but rather place conditions.
"'Yes, but this!' 'Yes, yes, yes, I want to be saved but through this path.' Thus the heart becomes poisoned," the Pope said.
However, the 78 year old Pontiff noted, Christ took upon Himself this poison that enters the heart when He was crucified on the cross.
"This tepidness of the soul, this being half-way Christians, 'Yes, but…' Christians…This enthusiasm at the beginning of the way of the Lord and then becoming discontent, can only be healed by looking at the Cross, looking at God who takes our sins: my sin is there."
Saying that many "die in the desert of their sadness" and murmuring, the Pope called on Christians to contemplate on Christ Crucified and ask for the grace to accept the difficult moments in life.
"To accept the divine style of salvation, to accept even this 'light' food of which the Hebrew people complained about, to accept thins…To accept the path through which the Lord takes me forward. May this Holy Week, which begins on Sunday, help us to escape from this temptation to become 'Yes, but…Christians'", Pope Francis concluded.
The Word of God makes it clear that only through mercy can true justice can be delivered. This was the reflection given by Pope Francis during his morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta today. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father focused on today's readings as well as a different Gospel passage, which presented three different women in history. The first from the Book of Daniel is the wife of Joakim named Susanna, an innocent woman sentenced unjustly to death. The second, from the Gospel, was the adulterous woman sentenced to be stoned and the third, a poor widow in need.
The Pope said that all three are allegorical figures of the Church: the Holy Church, the Sinful Church and the Needy Church. Those who falsely accused, condemned or unjustly wronged them, he noted, were scribes or judges that Jesus denounced as 'hypocrites'.
"These weren't saints, they were corrupt, corrupt because such rigidity can only go forward in a double life and those that condemned these women would then look for her, in secret, to have some fun," he said. "The rigid ones are – I use the word that Jesus gave them – hypocrites: they live double lives. Those who judge, we think of the Church – all three women are allegorical figures of the Church – those who judge the Church with rigidity have double lives. With rigidity one can't even breathe."
Regarding the judges who unjustly sentenced Susanna rather than investigate the truth, the Pope said that their corruption brought them far from understanding the concept of mercy.
"The three women – the saint, the sinner and the needy, are allegorical figures of the Church – they suffer from this lack of mercy," he noted. "Also today, the people of God, when they find these judges, suffer a judgement without mercy, whether civil or ecclesiastical. And where there is no mercy there is no justice."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that this lack of mercy can clearly be seen with those willing to stone the adulterous woman as well. This rigidity, he said, "is called a lack of mercy."
Pope Francis concluding his homily by Jesus response to the lack of mercy shown to the adulterous woman.
"I only want to say one of the most beautiful words of the Gospel that moves me so much: 'Has no one condemned you?' – 'No, no one, Lord' – 'Neither do I condemn you.' Neither I do condemn you: one of the most beautiful words because it is full of mercy," he said.
Children are both a great gift to humanity and also the most excluded from society. Pope Francis said these words during his weekly General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father continued his catechesis on the family, focusing on the gift children are for society and humanity. He also said that next week he will reflect on the wounds that damage children in their youth.
Recalling his visit in January to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, the Pope recalled that while he saw children filled with enthusiasm and joy, he also saw many that lived in "undignified conditions."
"In fact, a society can be judged by how they treat children," he said.
The Pope said that children are a reminder that in the first moments of life, mankind is completely dependent on others. Reflecting on the Christmas season, the Holy Father said that the crèche is a reminder that even the Son of God was not spared this important step.
"It is the mystery that we contemplate every Christmas. The crèche is the icon that communicates this reality in the most simple and direct way."
Jesus, he continued, also sees the importance of returning to the simplicity of "the little ones"
"Therefore, children are themselves a richness for humanity and for the Church, because they constantly recall the necessary conditions to enter the Kingdom of God: that of not considering ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love, of forgiveness," he said.
'We Are All Sons and Daughters'
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis said that children are a reminder that we are all sons and daughters, no matter what age we reach.
This identity of sons and daughters serves as a reminder that the first gift received is the gift of life.
"At times we risk living our lives forgetting about this, as if we are the masters of our existence, and instead we are radically dependent," he said.
"In reality, it is a great cause for joy to feel that in every age of life, in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain sons [and daughters]."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that only through the presence of children can mankind be reminded of this fact.
To Smile and To Cry
Pope Francis also said that children allow mankind to view humanity in a spontaneous, yet honest way. Their world view, he said, is still pure and not yet inclined to malice and duplicity.
"Children are not diplomatic!" he exclaimed" They say what they feel, they say what they see, directly! Many times it causes difficulty for parents."
"They might say: 'I don't like that one because he is ugly' in front of other people. But children say what they see. They are not duplicitous person, they have not leaned yet this science of duplicity that we, adults, have learned."
In a lighthearted moment, the Pope spoke on the reaction of children who he greets. Some smile, others "see me dressed in white, and think that I am a doctor that's about to give them a vaccine and they cry."
This ability to both smile and cry, he continued, are things that adults usually "block". Many times, our capacity to smile is artificial, whereas children can either spontaneously smile or cry.
"Children can teach us once again to smile and cry," he said. "But we must ask ourselves regularly: do I smile spontaneously with freshness, with love or is my smile artificial? Do I still cry or have I lost the capacity to cry? These are two very human questions that children teach us.
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis called on the faithful present to follow Christ's call to "become like children". He also said that a society becomes "sad and gray" without the presence of children.
"And when we see that the birth rate barely arrives to 1%, we can say that this society is gray because it has remained without children," he concluded.
"Jesus not only receives people into His house, the Church, but goes out searching for them." These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Santa Marta this morning. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the prophet Ezequiel, which recalled his vision of the temple and the river flowing near it.
"Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh," the angel says to Ezequiel.
That water, the Holy Father noted, is the same that flows in the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a man who was ill for 38 years. The criticism of the doctors of the law, who reproached Christ for healing on the Sabbath, is something that occurs many times.
"A man or a woman, who feel sick in their soul, sad, who have made many mistakes in life, at a certain moment feel the waters move, there is the Holy Spirit who moves something, or they hear a word. They take courage and go forward," he said.
"And how many times today in Christian communities, do they find the door shut: 'But you can't, no, you cannot enter. You have a mistake and you can't enter. If you want to come, go to the Sunday Mass, but stay there, you can't do anything else.' And that which the Holy Spirit does in the person is destroyed by Christians with the psychology of the doctors of the law."
The Holy Father went on to say that he is saddened by this attitude, stressing that the Church is the "house of Jesus" and Jesus not only receives those who enter, but "goes out searching for them."
"And if the people are wounded, what does Jesus do? Does he reproach them because they are wounded? No, He comes and carries them upon His shoulders. And this is called mercy. And when God reproaches His people – "I want mercy, not sacrifice!' – he speaks of this."
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful during the Lenten season to not commit the same mistake of denying Jesus' love towards those wounded solely because it is contrary to the law.
"Let us ask the Lord in the Mass for ourselves, for each one of us and for the whole Church, for a conversion towards Jesus, a conversion to Jesus, a conversion to the mercy of Jesus. And thus the Law will be fulfilled completely, because the Law is to love God and neighbor as ourselves."
God never forgets us; he thinks about us and wants us to be joyful. These were the words of Pope Francis during his morning homily at Santa Marta today. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. In it, God says that he "will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people. No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying."
The Pope said that God speaks with enthusiasm in saying what he will do, as if it were a "dream of the Lord."
"The Lord dreams, He has His dreams. His dreams about us," the Pope said. "To give an example that will help us [understand]: it's like a woman with her fiancé or what a man with a fiancé would think: 'But when will we be together, when will we be married…' It is God's 'dream'.
The Holy Father went on to say that "we are in the mind and in the heart of God" and that he "dreams of the joy with which He will enjoy with us."
God, he continued, wishes to recreate the hearts of the faithful in order for joy to triumph.
"It is here that the Lord shows that he is in love with his people. And when he says to his people: 'But I have not chosen because you are the strongest, the most powerful. I have chosen you because you are smallest of all," he noted.
"The love that God has for us cannot be explained by any theologian."
Commenting on the Gospel, which recalled Jesus healing of a royal official's son, the Pope emphasized the importance of believing that God can change the hearts of the faithful in order to accept God's love.
Faith, Pope Francis concluded, "is to make space for this love of God, to make space for strength, the power of God but not in the strength of one that is very powerful, but in the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and that wants to rejoice with me. This is faith. This is believing: to make space for the Lord so that he can come and change me."
God will forgive everything, always, and never tires of doing so.
During his homily at the Penitential Liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, the Holy Father told the faithful there's only one we need to forgive our sins: God, who will pardon our every sin if we turn to Him.
"To be touched with tenderness from His hand and shaped by His grace allows us, therefore, to approach the priest without fear for our sins, but with the certainty of being received by him in the name of God, and understood in spite of our miseries."
"Coming out of the confessional, we will feel its strength that restores life and returns us to enthusiasm of faith.We have one real confessor, and He defends us always!"
The Sacrament of Reconciliation, he said, allows the faithful to draw near to God and be certain of his forgiveness. "He really is rich in mercy," he stressed. "He extends it abundantly to those who turn to Him with a sincere heart."
Recalling St. Paul's words, the Pope said the Apostle reminds us, "God never ceases to show the richness of his mercy throughout the ages. The transformation of the heart that leads us to confess our sins is 'God's gift.' It is 'His work.'"
Recalling how Jesus washed away the sins of the sinful woman in today's Gospel, the Pope said despite her being a public sinner, she was forgiven.
"He forgives all! When God forgives, He forgets," the Pontiff said. "It’s a great gift."
Francis said this woman really met the Lord. "For her," he pointed out, "there will be no judgment except that which comes from God, and this is the judgment of mercy."
"The call of Jesus pushes each of us to never stop at the surface of things, especially when we are dealing with a person," he said. "We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable."
"No one can be excluded from the mercy of God; everyone knows the way to access it and the Church is the house that welcomes all and no one refuses," he said. "No one can be excluded from the mercy of God."
The larger and greater the sin, the Holy Father stressed, the larger and greater the love that the Church expresses to those who turn to it, seeking conversion.
"He is never scared of our sins!"
The Holy Father reminded those gathered of the prodigal son and how the father welcomes his son. "He will hug you with great love. Don’t be afraid!"
Pope Francis also announced that starting December 8, the Immaculate Conception, and ending Nov. 20, 2016, there will be an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
"I am convinced that the whole Church, because we all are sinners, will find in this Jubilee joy to rediscover and make fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time."
The Holy Father concluded, reminding those gathered how God always forgives all, and how we are to "walk with open hearts."
"In a society which overlooks and discards the elderly, may the Church acknowledge their contributions and gifts, and help them to foster a fruitful dialogue between the generations."
During his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis conveyed this hope while continuing his catechesis on the family, and his second week focusing on the elderly.
At the start of his remarks, the Holy Father immediately acknowledged he falls into this age category, and reminisced how during his visit to the Philippines this January, they called him 'Lolo,' meaning "Grandpa Francesco."
While last week’s address focused on the elderly's problematic current condition, the Holy Father this week spoke on their value and importance.
Purifying power of prayer and faith, he said, helps us show the young that the true meaning of life is found in self-sacrificing love and concern for others.
“We look at Benedict XVI, who has chosen to spend the last part of his life in prayer and in listening to God!"
While stressing incessant prayer purifies the heart, Francis underscored, “Praise and supplication to God prevent the hardening of the heart in resentment and selfishness. “
“How bad it is to see the cynicism of a senior who has lost the sense of his testimony, despises the young and does not communicate wisdom of life!” he said.
“Instead,” he stressed, “how beautiful is it to see the elderly encourage and manage to convey to the young people the meaning of faith and life!”
This, he said, is really the mission of the grandparents, the vocation of the elderly.
“The words of grandparents have something special for the young. And they know it,” he said. “The words that my grandmother gave me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination, I still carry with me, always in the breviary.”
“I would like a Church that challenges 'the culture of the gap' with the overflowing joy of a new embrace between the young and the elderly!”
The Holy Father outlined various ways in which this can be achieved.
“We can intercede for the expectations of the younger generation and give dignity to the memory and sacrifices of those who are older. We can remind ambitious young that a life without love is arid.”
Moreover, he stressed, those with old age--the age to which the Pope belongs, he said--can encourage fearful young people to not be afraid of the future.
“We also can teach young people who are in love with themselves, that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. “
The grandfathers and grandmothers form “a great spiritual sanctuary,” he noted, where their prayers and supplication help support the community through daily life and struggle.
The Holy Father also said he was very impressed by the "Day for the Elderly" held in St. Peter's Square in September last year. Recalling how many he met who were celebrating their 50 or 60-year anniversaries, he encouraged those couples to pass on their example of fidelity to the young people.
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