Pope Francis has said he wept at the news that some Christians were crucified recently in Syria. In his morning homily at Mass in Casa Santa Martha Friday, the Holy Father also lamented that in today’s world there are still "masters of conscience" – thought police - and in some countries you can still go to jail for possessing a Gospel or wearing a Crucifix. The Pope's homily drew from the Gospel of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ’s disciples are flogged by the Sanhedrin. Pope Francis proposed three icons: the first is Jesus’ love for people, his attention to peoples’ problems. He said the Lord is not concerned with how many people follow him, he would “never even think of taking a census" to see if "the Church has grown” “No!,” the Pope said. “He speaks, preaches, loves, accompanies, travels on the path with people, meek and humble". He speaks with authority, that is, with "the power of love". The second icon is the "jealousy" of the religious authorities of the time: "They couldn’t stand the fact that people followed Jesus! They couldn’t stand it! They were jealous,” the Pope said. “This is a really bad attitude to have. Jealousy and envy, and we know that the father of envy is the devil. It was through his envy that evil came into the world". Pope Francis continued: "These people knew who Jesus was, they knew! These people were the same who had paid the guard to say that the disciples had stolen Christ’s body!" "They had paid to silence the truth. People can be really evil sometimes! Because when we pay to hide the truth, we are [committing] a very great evil. And that's why people knew who they were. They would not follow them, but they had to tolerate them because they had authority: the authority of the cult, the authority of the ecclesiastical discipline at that time, the authority of the people ... and the people followed. Jesus said that they weighed people down with oppressive weights and made them carry them on their shoulders. These people cannot tolerate the meekness of Jesus, they cannot tolerate the meekness of the Gospel, they cannot tolerate love. And they pay out of envy, out of hate". During the gathering of the Sanhedrin there is a "wise man", Gamaliel, who asks the religious leaders to free the apostles. Thus, the Pope insists, there are these first two icons: Jesus who is moved to see people "without a shepherd" and the religious authorities ... "These, with their political maneuvering, with their ecclesiastical maneuvers to continue to dominate the people ... And so, they bring forth the apostles, after this wise man had spoken, they called the apostles and had them flogged and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus. Then they freed them. ‘We have to do something, we will give them a sound hiding and send them on their way! . Unjust! but they did it. They were the masters of conscience [thought police], and felt they had the power to do so. Masters of conscience ... Even in today's world , there are so many". Then Pope Francis confessed: “I cried when I saw reports on the news of Christians crucified in a certain country, that is not Christian. Still today,” he pointed out, “there are these people who kill and persecute, in the name of God”, those who, like the apostles, “rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor in Christ’s name". This is the “third icon today,” he said, “the Joy of witness". "First icon: Jesus with people, his love, the path that He has taught us, which we should follow. The second icon: the hypocrisy of these religious leaders of the people, who had people imprisoned with these many commandments, with this cold, hard legality, and who also paid to hide the truth. Third icon: the joy of the Christian martyrs, the joy of so many of our brothers and sisters who have felt this joy in history, this joy that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for Christ’s name. And today there are still so many! “Just think that in some countries, you can go to jail for just carrying a Gospel. You may not wear a crucifix or you will be fined,” the Pope said. “But the heart rejoices. The three icons: let us look at them today. This is part of our history of salvation".
In his first appearance in St. Peter’s Square since the canonization of two saints this weekend, Pope Francis used today's general audience to deliver his catechesis on the second gift of the Holy Spirit. After discussing the gift of wisdom in the first catechesis of this new series, this week he turned to the Spirit's gift of understanding. “So we can all understand things as God understands them, with God’s understanding,” is why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit, said Francis. “It is a beautiful gift that the Lord has given all of us. It is the gift with which the Holy Spirit introduces us into intimacy with God and renders us participants in his plan of love for us.” Turning to what the Holy Spirit does, the Pontiff said, “He opens our mind, he opens us to understand better, to understand better the things of God, human things, situations, everything.” Clarifying understanding’s meaning, he said: “It is not about human understanding, about an intellectual capacity with which we can be more or less gifted.” Rather, “it is a grace which only the Holy Spirit can infuse, and which arouses in the Christian the ability to go beyond the external aspect of reality and scrutinize the depth of God’s thought.” Discussing its effects, Pope Francis said that the community of Corinth knew well what this gift “does in us.” Paul had explained to them: “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).’” Francis said "obviously" this “does not mean that a Christian can understand everything and have full knowledge of God’s plans: all this remains to be manifested.” Noting that it’s “ok” to understand a situation with human understanding, with prudence, he stressed that to understand a situation in depth, how God does, is an effect of the grace of understanding, which is “closely connected to faith.” The Pope added, “When the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart and illumines our mind, He makes us grow day after day in understanding what the Lord has said and has fulfilled.” Addressing the English-speaking present, he invited them to implore the gift of understanding, as it will create a “new light, with fresh spiritual insight,” and through it “the Holy Spirit dispels the darkness of our minds and hearts, strengthens us in faith and enables us to savor the richness of God’s word and its promise of salvation.”
During the homily of his morning Mass at his residence today, Pope Francis proposed three marks of a "people reborn," which characterized the early Christian community. At Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father said the Christian community should be characterized by interior unity, witness of Christ, and care of its members. He spoke of the "rebirth from on high" in the Holy Spirit, who gave life to the first group of "new Christians" when "they still didn’t have that name." "They had one heart and mind," the Pope said. "Peace. A community in peace. This means that in this community there was no room for gossip, envy, calumnies, defamation. Peace. Forgiveness: 'Love covered everything.'" Francis stressed the importance of Christians' attitudes: "Are they meek, humble? Do they vie for power between each other in that community? Are there envious quarrels? Is there gossip? [Then] they are not on the path of Jesus Christ. This feature is so important, so important, because the devil always tries to divide us. He is the father of division." Pope Francis recognized that problems existed even for the first Christians. He recalled "the infighting, the doctrinal struggles, power struggles." As an example of this he pointed to the widows who complained of a lack of assistance so that the Apostles "had to create deacons." Pope Francis proposed a reflection for today's Christian communities: "Does this community give witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does this parish, this community, this diocese really believe that Jesus Christ is Risen?" The Bishop of Rome said the third characteristic from which we can measure the life of a Christian community is "the poor." "First, what's your attitude or the attitude of this community toward the poor?" he asked. "Second, is this community poor? Poor in heart, poor in spirit? Or does it place its trust in riches? In power?" "Harmony, witness, poverty and care for the poor. This is what Jesus explained to Nicodemus: This comes from above. Because the only one who can do this is the Holy Spirit," the Pope concluded. "This is the work of the Spirit. The Church is built up by the Spirit. The Spirit creates unity. The Spirit leads us to witness. The Spirit makes us poor, because He is our wealth and leads us to care for the poor."
On Divine Mercy Sunday, in the presence of Pope Francis, his living predecessor Benedict XVI, and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, the Church celebrated the canonization of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II. In the weeks leading up to Sunday's event, the faithful were invited to recall the examples of holiness demonstrated by these 20th century leaders of the Church, as well as their significant historical legacies. Fr. Robert Barron is the rector of the Chicago Archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary, and the founder of the online initiative Word On Fire Catholic Ministries. While he was in Rome for the canonizations, he sat down with ZENIT to speak about these two newly-declared saints. ZENIT: What can we learn from John XXIII and John Paul II about sainthood? Obviously, they had extraordinary lives insofar that they were both popes. At the same time, not all popes are saints… Fr. Barron: …and not all saints are popes. To be a saint is to be a person of heroic virtue. These are world historical figures, but if that was the qualification for sainthood, then the Little Flower [St. Therese] wouldn’t be a saint, for example. That’s a good point of meditation. What makes them saints is that they are people of heroic virtue. You’re looking at the cardinal virtues of justice, and prudence, and temperance and courage. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. The Church says these men exemplify those virtues in a heroic way. A couple of examples: think of John XXIII saving upwards of, they think, 24,000 or 25,000 Jews during the Nazi period, all at great risk to himself. Justice and courage are both on pretty strong display there. [Look at] John Paul’s commitment to justice: he’s one of the great spokespersons of the 20th century. He displayed extraordinary courage: as a young kid dealing with the Nazi occupation, as a young priest, dealing with the communists, going to Poland as Pope and speaking truth in the midst of this oppression. For John XXIII, too, hope is so important. I think calling the council was a great act of hope. He was a Church historian, which means he understood the dark side of the Church’s history very clearly, but he also knew it was guided by the Holy Spirit. He said Vatican II should be a "new Pentecost." I think his calling forth the Holy Spirit, with great confidence in 1962, was a sign of his tremendous virtue of hope. Think of John Paul II and love. I think in a thousand years they’ll tell the story of John Paul forgiving the man who tried to kill him. Can there be any more extraordinary act of love than that? You reach out in forgiveness to the man who tried to kill you. In all these ways, these Popes exemplify this heroic virtue. ZENIT: Do you think that it’s significant that they are being canonized together? Fr. Barron: I think it is significant, their being canonized together. I think it has a lot to do with Vatican II. John XXIII calls Vatican II. It’s the great event of the last century for the Catholic Church. John Paul is there as a young bishop, and then archbishop. He helps to write some of the documents. Then as Pope, gives clearly the definitive interpretation of Vatican II. I don’t know Pope Francis’ mind, but I’m guessing he’s seeing these two figures as the great conciliar figures. ZENIT: We have hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have come to Rome to witness the canonization of these two Popes. There have been some who have criticized what is the “celebrity” treatment of the Popes, and of John Paul II in particular. From what you’ve seen of these pilgrims here in Rome, would you say this is what’s happening? Are they reacting to him as a celebrity, or is there something deeper? Fr. Barron: I think it’s deeper. He was a celebrity, and so was John XXIII in his own time. That’s not necessarily bad in itself, being a celebrity. They were well known. They were charismatic – especially John Paul. He was a theatrical person. He knew how to galvanize a crowd. But I do think people are responding to much more than that. Sanctity is such a need in the world. The world is such a dark place in many ways, and the saints are just beams of light. I think people are drawn to that. It was neat to see the pictures [of John XXIII and John Paul II] with the halos on them. That’s what always strikes me about a halo: it’s light. It’s a beacon. It’s a sign. They are light in the darkness, and that’s what’s moving to people. ZENIT: A question that was often posed in the lead up to the canonization was the fact that the Church was declaring John Paul II a saint, even though he had committed certain errors during his pontificate – most notably with regard to his handling of the sex abuse crisis. How can we reconcile this declaration of sainthood within the context of these mistakes? Fr. Barron: To canonize someone is not to say that every particular judgment they made was the correct judgment. I think you can remark that there was a dark side of John Paul’s papacy, a certain inaction, let’s say, with regard to the sex abuse crisis – certainly in regard to Fr. Maciel and the slowness in responding to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that’s a negative feature of his papacy. But to say someone is a saint doesn’t mean that every move they made was correct, that they were flawless, or that every prudential judgment they made was [the right one]. It’s to look at an overall pattern of heroic virtue. That’s what we’re noticing. I think it’s kind of a red herring to say there was a mistake the Pope made, and therefore he shouldn’t be a saint. I can’t think of any saint, outside the Blessed Mother, who didn’t make some mistakes or have some shadow on their record. ZENIT: Turning now to John XXIII: In the years following Vatican II, there has been a lot of development, but also a lot of confusion. Where are we right now with regard to how the fruits of the council have developed? Fr. Barron: I think we’re at the point now of coming to a consolidated understanding of Vatican II. It took a long time, but that’s typical after a council. Especially a council as big as Vatican II – I mean, big in terms of the bishops who were there, but also the size of the documents. Compare Vatican II, for example, to Trent or Vatican I or Chalcedon or Nicea. The documentation is far more extensive. Then, of course, the implementation was accompanied by a certain cultural revolution, and that affected the way it was received. I think it took the long pontificate of John Paul II, and the eight-year pontificate of Benedict XVI, to get us to the point to where we could really reach a consolidated understanding of what Vatican II is about. When you read [the documents as examples of] left, or right, it’s a distorted sort of reading – the “left-wing” Vatican II, followed by an even more radical implementation, followed by a conservative pull-back. That, to me, is a superficial reading. I think it just took a long time to assess and interpret these documents properly. That’s where we are now. We’re just now taking it in. ZENIT: There was a period of time following Vatican II when there was a huge drop in vocations, but now we’re seeing an upsurge. How would you assess the decline and subsequent rise in vocations that took place in the post-conciliar period? Fr Barron: The fall-off in vocations, and priests and nuns leaving their ministry, was a phenomenon of what immediately followed the post-conciliar period. In the United States – in the late 60s to the late 70s, maybe – there was a time when a lot of people left the priesthood, left the convent. I would not subscribe that to Vatican II. I don’t think you can point to anything in the conciliar documents that would lead to that sort of fall-off. I think it was that whole cultural revolution after the council. Then you see John Paul II, this heroic figure who began to attract young people in a big way. World Youth Day had a huge impact on vocations worldwide. I think John Paul’s heroic example is what revived vocations. It’s still true that people in seminaries now would identify themselves as John Paul II people, even though a lot of them were quite young when he died. It’s his vision, his articulation of what the council meant, his charismatic embrace of evangelization, that really grabbed the attention of young people. I think this counts for this upswing in vocations. It’s not a huge upswing, but it’s there. It’s real. ZENIT: Would you say that we’ve been comparatively fortunate with regard to the popes we’ve had over the past century or so? Fr. Barron: If you look at the grand sweep of the Church for the first 2,000 years, we’re going through a “Golden Age” of the papacy. Go back to the middle of the 19th century with Pius IX who’s now beatified, followed by Leo XIII who’s a massively important figure. He’s followed by Pius X, who’s a saint. Benedict XV is a very important player. The two Pius – XI and XII – very important figures, spiritually. Then Saint John XXIII, Paul VI with all of his spiritual power, and Saint John Paul II. Then there’s Benedict [XVI] who’s at the level of a Church Father, it seems to me. I don’t think since the first century of the Church’s life have we seen such a concentration of really powerful, saintly figures in the papacy. So, even as we bemoan some of the dark things in the Church, I think we should celebrate the fact that this is a Golden Age of the papacy.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church celebrated the canonization John XXIII and John Paul II, two of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Two tapestries, each bearing the image of the newly-declared saints, hung from the façade of Saint Peter’s basilica, overlooking the hundreds of thousands of people who had filled Saint Peter’s Square for the occasion. Thousands more poured into the streets around the Vatican, took part in the Mass by watching it on giant screens. Most notable was the vast number of pilgrims from Poland who have travelled to Rome – by bus, plane, and even on foot – to witness the canonization of the first Polish pope. One of the special guests attending the Mass was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who himself had beatified John Paul II, his predecessor and friend. Opening his homily, Pope Francis noted that the canonizations coincide with Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast instituted by John Paul II. To mark this feast, the Holy Father reflected on “the glorious wounds of the risen Jesus”. In the Gospel reading for the day, he spoke of how Christ had already appeared to the Apostles, with the exception of Thomas, who said he would not believe Jesus had Risen until he placed his finger in His wounds. It was not until Jesus appeared to them again that he believed, proclaiming “My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28). “The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith,” the Holy Father said. “That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God’s love for us. They areessential for believing in God. Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness.” John XXIII and John Paul II, however, were men who “were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross,” seeing Jesus in all those who suffer and struggle. These courageous men, he said, were “filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit,” bearing “witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.” John XXIII and John Paul II, he said, were “priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century”: they “lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother”. In their willingness to look “upon the wounds of Christ” and bear “witness to his mercy,” there dwelt within them “a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy” (1 Pet 1:3,8). Pope Francis also recalled how “John XXIII and John Paul II cooperated with the Holy Spirit in renewing and updating the Church in keeping with her pristine features, those features which the saints have given her throughout the centuries”. “In convening the Council, John XXIII showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit. He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader. This was his great service to the Church”.
For his part, the Holy Father continued, “John Paul II was the pope of the family,” recalling the upcoming Synod on the family. “From his place in heaven,” he said, “he guides and sustains” in the journey toward the Synod.
Pope Francis called on the faithful to look to these saints to learn how “not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves”.
In his short Regina Caeli address following Mass, the Pope greeted all those who had traveled to Rome for the event, and thanked all those who had contributed to its success. He made special mention of those pilgrims from Bergamo and Krakow – the cities where John XXIII and John Paul II came from, respectively. “You honor the memory of the two holy Popes, faithfully following their teachings”.
He also welcomed those representing the many countries around the world, who had come to “give tribute to the two pontiffs who had contributed in an indelible way to the development of peoples, and to peace.
Without Christian joy, there can be no foundation to the Church which needs an “apostolic joy” to irradiate and expand, Pope Francis said Thursday evening. Celebrating Mass in the Roman church of St. Ignatius of Loyola to give thanks for the canonisation of the 16th century Jesuit St. Jose de Anchieta, Francis referred in his homily to the Gospel story of the disciples of Emmaus. “The disciples cannot believe their joy,” the Pope said. “They cannot believe because of their joy” on meeting the risen Jesus after his death, he explained. “It is a moment of wonder, of encounter with Jesus Christ, in which there seems to be too much joy to be true. Indeed, to assume the joy and wonder of that moment seems risky to us and we are tempted to take refuge in scepticism, in 'not exaggerating'. “It is easier to believe in a spirit than in the living Christ!,” the Pope added. “It is easier to go to a necromancer who predicts the future, who reads cards, than to trust in the hope of a triumphant Christ, a Christ who vanquishes death! “An idea or imagination is easier to believe than the docility of this Lord who rises again from death, and what he invites us to!,” the Pope continued. “This process of relativising faith ends up distancing us from the encounter, distancing us from God's caress. It is as if we 'distilled' the reality of the encounter with Jesus Christ in the still of fear, in the still of excessive security, of wanting to control the encounter ourselves. The disciples were afraid of joy … and so are we”. The Holy Father went on to speak about the reading from the Acts of the Apostles which narrates the healing of the paralytic, prostrate at the door of the Temple, begging. Peter and John were unable to give him anything he sought: neither gold nor silver, but they cure him by offering him what they have: the name of Jesus. The crippled man's joy is contagious and, in the midst of the hubbub Peter announces the message. “The joy of the encounter with Jesus Christ, which it is so frightening for us to accept, is infectious and cries out the message: and this is how the Church grows!,” the Pope said. “The paralytic believes, because 'the Church does not grow by proselytism, but by attraction'; the testimonial attraction of this joy that proclaims Jesus Christ. “It is a witness born of joy, accepted and then transformed into proclamation. It is the foundational joy … without this joy, a Church cannot be founded! A Christian community cannot be established! It is an apostolic joy that irradiates and expands”. Known as the “Apostle of Brazil,” Father Jose was Brazil's third saint. Born on the Canary Islands, he came to Brazil from Portugal in 1553 as a missionary priest. Although he was a highly influential figure in Brazil’s history, as a founder of Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro, as well as proponent of education, promoter of human rights, and convertor of Indians to Catholicism, he is widely recognized for his Jesuit role and values. The Pope noted that St. Jose de Anchieta knew how to communicate what he had experienced with the Lord, what he had seen and heard from Him. St Jose was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, and Pope Francis extended his liturgical cult to the universal Church on 3 April, a process equivalent to canonisation. St. Jose, the Pope recalled, was one of the first Jesuits Ignatius sent to America, aged just nineteen. “He had so much joy that he was able to found a nation: he put in place the cultural foundations of a nation, in Jesus Christ,” Francis said. “He had not studied theology, and he had not studied philosophy; he was a boy! But he had felt the gaze of Jesus Christ, and he had let himself be filled with joy, and chose light. This was and is his holiness. He was not afraid of joy”. Pope Francis concluded by saying that St. Jose de Anchieta had a beautiful hymn to the Virgin Mary, to whom he compared the message of peace, that proclaims the joy of the Good News. “May she, who in that Sunday dawn, sleepless with hope, was not afraid of joy, accompany us on our pilgrimage, inviting us all to rise, to set our paralyses aside, to enter together into the peace and joy that Jesus, the Risen Lord, promises us,” he said.
Pope Francis decided, for the second year in a row, to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins the Easter Triduum, with the marginalized. This year he chose St. Mary of Providence of the Don Gnocchi Foundation in Rome, a center for the elderly and disabled. His choice shows continuity with last year's ceremony at a sister centre since again this year the Pontiff visited this Casal del Marmo area of Rome, where he celebrated Mass last Holy Thursday at a youth detention center, with its young inmates. Recalling the institution of the Eucharist and Christ’s words to the apostles to be at the service of God’s people, the Mass of our Lord’s Supper symbolizes service in washing the feet of twelve individuals. Director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, confirmed nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, an Ethiopian woman, and a young man from Cape Verde constituted the 12 whose feet will be washed. Each of the individuals suffer with some form of illness. A Vatican Radio interview in which Linda Bordoni, of Vatican Radio, spoke to expert physicist Dr. Furio Grammatica, chair of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CITT) at the Don Gnocchi Foundation, emphasized that the foundation, which has 30 centres throughout Italy dedicated to healthcare and research, epitomizes Pope Francis’ repeated message, namely that of “moving out to the margins” to find and help those who often are “forgotten” or “discarded.” During the interview, Dr. Furio Grammatica acknowledged that although she and the foundation, which has been providing help for more than 60 years, always realized Francis was a “supporter” of their cause, “Once they realized ‘the Pope really decided to visit us in a so important and symbolic occasion – we all thought ‘too fantastic to be true.’” Dr. Grammatica clarified that although some thought their guests “cannot fully catch the meaning of the visit,” this is “definitely not true.” She attributed this to a “clear ‘sixth sense’” guests have about “how much they are loved." She noted the sentiment of those guests for Pope Francis as “not only a Pope, but a icon of the tenderness and strength at the same time, so they are really excited in view of meeting the Pope.” The foundation spokeswoman noted that Lent “reminds us the meaning of solitude, weakness, doubts, being tired or confused. Let me say, to see the Pope coming at our workplace means anticipating a bit the Easter for us!” Legacy When Francis gave his homily at the foundation today, he spoke of the Lord and how, “although He is God,” he “became a servant, our servant.” This gesture, he said, left the faithful with an inheritance that we “ought to be servants of one another.” “He has made this road for love, you also ought to love and be servants and love. This is the legacy that Jesus leaves us," said the Pope. The Holy Father stated the Jesus wanted us to live in this way and emphasized that the act of washing the feet is a symbolic gesture. He explained the act was done by the slaves, the servants of those who came to dine, the people who came to lunch due to the fact that, at that time, walking on the streets of dirt and earth created this issue that when guests "entered into the house, it was necessary to wash their feet." The entire homily focused on the reflection of Jesus doing the "service of a slave" and the legacy he left. Emphasizing how Jesus’ example then ties into our present Eucharistic tradition Francis said: "And for this reason, the Church, today, we commemorate the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, is also in the ceremony, this act of washing the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants to each other." Inviting the faithful to think of others and to remember the love that Jesus tells us to have for others, he urged the faithful to think of how they can serve others better, for this is what Jesus wanted us to do. Pope Francis, during the rite this evening, knelt in front of the 12 disabled. Just as Jesus did for his disciples, Francis washed, dried, and kissed their feet.
Pope Francis began his catechesis at this Wednesday’s general audience discussing the liturgy of the day, which recounts Judas' betrayal of Jesus. Reflecting on the sad episode, Francis underscored themes of how Jesus was killed, the seemingly contradictory nature of God's actions, and how faithful should express their gratitude to Jesus daily. Emphasizing that Jesus was completely selfless, Francis reiterated Jesus’ words: “‘I lay down my life … No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.’” Recalling the common death that the Son of Man would take on for our sins, Francis added that death on a cross is “the worst death -- that reserved for slaves and criminals.” He continued, “Jesus was considered a prophet, but he died as a criminal.” For this, Francis highlighted several times during his address how and why faithful should express gratitude to Jesus: “We think so much of Jesus’ grief this week and we say to ourselves: this is for me. Even if I were the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me. We kiss the crucifix and we say: for me, thank you Jesus, for me.” Highlighting later a characteristic of God which seems almost to be a contradiction, the Pontiff said, “God shows us a humble victory which humanly seems a failure. We can say that God conquers in failure!” “When all seems lost,” said Francis, “it is then that God intervenes with the power of the Resurrection." Pope Francis stressed that the Resurrection was not "the happy ending of a beautiful fable" nor was it "the happy end of a film." He stated, it was "the intervention of God the Father when human hope is shattered. In the moment in which everything seems to be lost.” He added, “The night becomes darker in fact, before the morning begins, before the light begins. God intervenes in the darkest moment and resuscitates.” Turning to how we can relate to this truth, he said: “In certain moments of life, we find some way to come out of our difficulties, when we sink into the thickest darkness ... the moment of our humiliation and total stripping, the hour in which we experience that we are fragile and sinners." Noting how faithful should react to this condition, he continued, "It is in fact then, in that moment, that we must not mask our failure, but open ourselves confidently to hope in God, as Jesus did.” Francis closed directing those in St. Peter's Square, during this Holy Week, to “take the cross in hand and kiss it a lot, a lot and to say: thank you, Jesus, thank you, Lord.”
The “dictatorship of a narrow line of thought” kills “people’s freedom, their freedom of conscience." This was the central point of Pope Francis’ homily during today's morning Mass at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.
The Holy Father’s homily recalled the first reading of the day, explaining the end of Christ’s words to the Pharisees. Their mistake was detaching “the commandments from the heart of God", believing it was enough to keep the commandments. These commandments, said the Pope, “are not just a cold law,” but stem from a relationship of love, helping the faithful in their journey toward Christ. The Pharisees, he continued, do not understand “the path of hope”.
"This is the drama of the closed heart, the drama of the closed mind,” Pope Francis said, “and when the heart is closed, this heart closes the mind, and when the heart and mind are closed there is no place for God", but only a place for what we believe ought to be done.
"It is a closed way of thinking that is not open to dialogue,” the Pope continued, “to the possibility that there is something else, the possibility that God speaks to us, tells us about His journey, as he did to the prophets. These people did not listen to the prophets and did not listen to Jesus. It is something greater than a mere stubbornness. No, it is more: it is the idolatry of their own way of thinking. 'I think this, it has to be this way, and nothing more'. These people had a narrow line of thought and wanted to impose this way of thinking on the people of God, Jesus rebukes them for this: 'You burden the people with many commandments and you do not touch them with your finger'".
The theology of such people, the Pope continued, “becomes a slave to this pattern, this pattern of thought: a narrow line of thought".
"There is no possibility of dialogue, there is no possibility to open up to new things which God brings with the prophets. They killed the prophets, these people; they close the door to the promise of God. When this phenomenon of narrow thinking enters human history, how many misfortunes. We all saw in the last century, the dictatorships of narrow thought , which ended up killing a lot of people, but when they believed they were the overlords, no other form of though was allowed. This is the way they think”.
"Even today,” he said, “there is the idolatry of a narrow line of thought".
"Today we have to think in this way and if you do not think in this way, you are not modern, you're not open or worse. Often rulers say : 'I have asked for aid, financial support for this' , ' But if you want this help, you have to think in this way and you have to pass this law, and this other law and this other law…' Even today there is a dictatorship of a narrow line of thought and this dictatorship is the same as these people: it takes up stones to stone the freedom of the people, the freedom of the people, their freedom of conscience, the relationship of the people with God. Today Jesus is Crucified once again”.
"Faced with this dictatorship,” said the Pope, the Lord’s exhortation “is always the same: be vigilant and pray.” He says not to be buy things that are not needed, but rather: “be humble and pray, that the Lord always gives us the freedom of an open heart, to receive his Word which is joy and promise and covenant! And with this covenant move forward!"
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