We cannot let our hearts be closed, nor focus only on that which affects our personal world. During his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis stressed this, noting we are called to welcome love and mercy into our hearts, especially that which the Lord longs to give us, and to show our love to others, reported Vatican Radio. In his homily, the Pope reminded those present that we are in Lent and we should ask ourselves on what path we are traveling. “‘Am I on the road of life, or on the road of lies? How many ways is my heart still closed? Where is my joy: in doing, or in speaking? In going out of myself to meet others, to help them? The works of mercy, eh? “Or is my joy in having everything organized, closed in on myself?’ “Let us ask the Lord, while we’re thinking about it – no, throughout our life – for the grace of always seeing the Lazarus at our door, the Lazarus who knocks at our heart, and [the grace] to go out of ourselves with generosity, with the attitude of mercy, so that the mercy of God can enter into our hearts.” The Pontiff noted that this involves helping the poor, through whom Jesus channels us. ‘Religiosity’ doesn’t countFrancis drew inspiration from today’s Gospel in which Jesus tells the parable of the rich man “who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day,” and who did not notice that at his door was the poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores. The Holy Father said this exhorts us to ask ourselves: “Am I a Christian in name only, on the path of lies; or am I a Christian on the path of life, that is, of works, of actions.” The rich man of the parable, he said, “knew the commandments, surely went every Saturday to the synagogue, and once a year to the Temple.” He had “a certain religiosity” “But he was a closed man, closed in his own little world – the world of banquets, of clothes, of vanity, of friends – a closed man, truly in a bubble of vanity. He didn’t have the ability to see others, only his own world. And this man did not recognize the things that happened beyond his closed world,” Francis said. For example, the Pope noted, this man didn’t think of the needs of so many people, or of the necessity of accompanying the sick, rather “he thought only of himself, of his wealth, of his good life: he was given to the good life.” The rich man, Francis explained, had the appearance of being religious, but did not know the “peripheries,” for “he was completely ‘closed in on himself.’” “It is precisely the “peripheries” on his very doorstep that he could not see,” he said. Don’t be closed in on selfBecause he only “trusted in himself” and “in his things,” rather than trust in God, Francis said the man took “the way of falsehood. He was a man who wasn’t able to properly receive his inheritance, or live his life, because “he was closed in on himself.” “It is curious,” the Pope pointed out, “that the man had lost his name. It says only that he was a rich man, and when your name is only an adjective, it is because you have lost [something], you have lost substance, you have lost strength.” “This wealth, this power, this can accomplish anything, this is a priest with a career, a bishop with a career… How many times [do] we [do this]?… It amounts to naming people with adjectives, not with names, because they have no substance. “But I ask myself, ‘Did not God, who is a Father, have mercy on this man? Did He not knock on his heart to move him?” But yes, he was at the door, in the person of that man Lazarus, who had a name. And Lazarus, with his needs and his sorrows, his illnesses – it was the Lord Himself who was knocking at the door, so that this man would open his heart and mercy would be able to enter. But no, he did not see, he was simply closed: for him, outside the door there was nothing.”
Mercy can change history and heal wounds, so open your heart to it. And if you are in a position of power and have abused it, remember your social responsibility and start anew. During his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope stressed this as he reflected on the conversion of the corrupt king Ahab in the first book of Kings, and on powerful men who are ‘on top,’ and of their arrogance and abuses. The Pope acknowledged right away that wealth and power are realities that can be good and useful to the common good, as long as they are used to serve the poor and all, with justice and charity. However, he lamented, often they aren’t used in this way, but rather become instruments of corruption and death. Francis recalled how we see the story of Naboth, unjustly put to death so that King Ahab might take possession of his property. The Pontiff quoted from Matthew to show how the Lord’s logic is a bit counterintuitive: ‘Whoever wishes to be great among you Shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you Shall be your slave.” (Mt 20.25 to 27). Francis underscored that the great must be prepared to serve. Story of Today “And this is not a story of the past, it is a story of today, the powerful who have more money to exploit the poor; It is the story of human trafficking, slave labor, the poor people working ‘in black,'” he noted, adding it is “the story of corrupt politicians who want more and more and more and more!” The Jesuit Pope then recommended faithful read the book of St. Ambrose of Naboth because it is a topical book, and lamented when those with authority turn greedy and no longer respect life or justice. Isaiah Wasn’t a Communist The Jesuit Pope noted that a text of the prophet Isaiah is particularly illuminating in this respect. For when the Lord warns against the greed of the wealthy landowners, Isaiah says: ‘Ah! Those who join house to house, who connect field with field, Until no space remains, and you alone dwell in the midst of the land.”(Is 5,8). “And the prophet Isaiah was not a communist! But God is greater than evil and dirty games made by humans.” Francis explained that God in His mercy sends the prophet Elijah to help Ahab to convert. He sees his crime, knocks at the heart of Ahab, and accepts his repentence. “How nice it would be that the powerful exploiters today do the same,” the Pope said, stressing mercy is always the way. “Mercy can heal wounds and can change history,” the Pope said, adding, “But open your heart to mercy!” “The mercy of God is stronger than human sin,” he said, noting Ahab is a perfect illustration. Cross as Throne The Pope reflected how God’s innocent Son became man in order to destroy evil with his forgiveness. Jesus Christ is the real king, Francis said, noting that his power is completely different. “His throne is the Cross. He is not a king who kills, but on the contrary gives life.” The Pope noted how the Lord reaches out to all, especially the most vulnerable, lonely, and sinful. “Jesus Christ with his closeness and tenderness brings sinners into the space of grace and forgiveness,” he said, noting this is God’s mercy.
Christians cannot claim to be “very Catholic” and then not live in accordance with what Christ teaches, Pope Francis said today in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta. Drawing from the mention of the Pharisees in today’s readings, the Holy Father sought to explain once again the “evangelical dialectic between saying and doing,” Vatican Radio reported. He placed emphasis on the words of Jesus, which unmask the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, calling the disciples and crowds to do as they say, though not as they do: “The Lord teaches us the way of doing: and how many times we find people – ourselves included – so often in the Church, who say, ‘Oh, we are very Catholic.’ ‘But what do you do?’ How many parents say they are Catholics, but never have time to talk to their children, to play with their children, to listen to their children. Perhaps they have their parents in a nursing home, but always are busy and cannot go and visit them and so leave them there, abandoned. ‘But I am very Catholic: I belong to that association,’ [they say]. This is the religion of saying: I say it is so, but I do according to the ways of the world.” What God wants The way of “saying and not doing,” says the Pope, “is a deception.” “The mercy of the Lord goes out to meet those who dare to argue with Him, but to argue about the truth, about the things one does or does not do, [and He argues] in order to correct me. This, then, is the great love of the Lord, in this dialectic between saying and doing. To be a Christian means to do: to do the will of God – and on the last day – because all of us will have one – that day what shall the Lord ask us? Will He say: ‘What you have said about me?’ No. He shall ask us about the things we did.” The Holy Father pointed to the lines from Matthew’s Gospel, which foretell the Last Judgment, when God will call men to account for what they have done to the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, strangers. “This,” said the Holy Father, “is the Christian life: mere talk leads to vanity, to that empty pretense of being Christian – but no, that way one is not a Christian at all.”: “May the Lord give us this wisdom to understand well where lies the difference between saying and doing, and teach us the way of doing and help us to go down that way, because the way of saying brings us to the place where were these teachers of the law, these clerics, who liked dressing up and acting just like if they were so many Majesties – and this is not the reality of the Gospel. May the Lord teach us this way.”
A number of parishioners have asked about Pope Francis' recent comment on contraception and the Zika virus. Perhaps this article from America magazine might help to clarify the questions and the rationale
Pope Francis today called again for an end to the death penalty, noting a conference on this issue to be held this week in Rome by the Sant’Egidio Community. The Pope noted that public opinion is turning against the death penalty, a development that he said is a “sign of hope.” He affirmed the dignity of all people, even criminals, and said that a penal system that is increasingly conformed to God’s vision for humanity does not allow for depriving criminals of a chance to redeem themselves. The Holy Father said this Jubilee of Mercy is a good occasion to promote a growing maturity in respect for life and human dignity, and said that all Christians are called to work for the abolition of the death penalty. He encouraged governments to unite in this cause, and invited Catholics who govern to make of this holy year a time in which the death penalty is not carried out
Pope’s Press Conference on Return Flight From Mexico “The Mexican people cannot be explained: you cannot explain this wealth, this history, this joy, the capacity to celebrate amid tragedy. … A nation that nevertheless still has this vitality can be explained only by Guadalupe”. Read from the transcript:
Pope Francis says future priests have to reject the temptation of “normality”: the temptation to be a pastor “for whom a ‘normal’ life is enough.” “You are preparing to respond to that impulse from the Spirit, to be the ‘future of the Church,’ in accordance with God’s heart; not with individual preferences or passing fashions, but as the announcement of the Gospel requires,” said the Pope this morning as he received in audience the Pontifical Community of the Lombard Seminary in Rome, in the Clementine Hall. “To prepare oneself well requires not only extensive work, but also an inner conversion, basing daily ministry on the first call of Jesus, and reviving it in the personal relationship with Him, as did the apostle Paul, whose conversion we remember today.” A priest cannot be contented with attention or judge his ministry on his “successes,” gradually becoming lukewarm and “without true interest in others,” Francis warned. “The ‘normality’ for us is instead pastoral holiness, the giving of life. If a priest decides merely to become a normal person, he will be a mediocre priest, or worse.” The Pope also mentioned St. Charles Borromeo, whose life is presented as “a constant movement of conversion, reflecting the image of the Pastor.” Francis also emphasised that the Lombard Seminary representatives were the heirs of and witnesses to a great history of sainthood, “rooted in your patrons, the bishops Ambrose and Charles; and in more recent times your alumni have included three Blesseds and three Servants of God. This is the goal to strive for. ” The Pope said that the seminarians must be in constant dialogue with “the Word of God, or better, with God who speaks.” “In these years you have been entrusted with the mission of training in this dialogue of life: the knowledge of the various disciplines you study is not an end in itself, but must instead be made concrete in the conversation of prayer and in the real encounter with people. It is not beneficial to form oneself in a compartmentalised fashion, as prayer, cultural and pastoral ministry are the cornerstones of the same edifice: they must remain steadfast and united to support each other, well cemented together, so that the priests of today and tomorrow will be spiritual men and merciful pastors, unified within by the love of the Lord and able to spread the joy of the Gospel in the simplicity of life.” The Pope also remarked that to be a good priest, it is essential to maintain contact and closeness with the bishop. “The characteristic of the diocesan priest is precisely his diocesan nature, and the cornerstone of this is frequent contact with the bishop, in dialogue and discernment with him. A priest who does not maintain a close relationship with his bishop is slowly isolated from the diocesan group and his fruitfulness diminishes, precisely because he does not participate in dialogue with the Father of the Diocese.” He concluded by asking those present to “cultivate the beauty of friendship and the art of establishing relations, so as to create a priestly fraternity, made stronger by its particular diversities.”
“’I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’: The works of mercy on the Jubilee path” is the title of Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2016 (10 February to 20 March). Taking as a starting point this phrase from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Holy Father divides his message into three sections: “Mary, the image of a Church which evanglises because she is evangelised”, “God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy”, and “The works of mercy”. The document, signed on 4 October, feast of St. Francis of Assisi, concludes by encouraging the faithful not to waste this season of Lent, a favourable time for conversion, and by invoking the intercession of Our Lady who, “encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant”. Following is the full text of the Pope’s Message: “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee 1. Mary, the image of a Church which evangelizes because she is evangelized In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 17). By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God and encouraging the initiative “24 Hours for the Lord”, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness. After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat , prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was, and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related – even on the etymological level – to the maternal womb ( rahamim ) and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness ( hesed ) shown within marriage and family relationships. 2. God’s covenant with humanity: a history of mercy The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images – as in the case of Hosea (cf. Hos 1-2) – show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people. This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel; he embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema , which today too is the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” ( Dt 6:4-5). As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast. This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma , in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 36), that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment” ( ibid ., 164). Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 21), thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride. 3. The works of mercy God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” ( ibid. , 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” ( ibid. ). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith. In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” ( Gen 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor. For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy – counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer – we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the “proud”, the “powerful” and the “wealthy” spoken of in the Magnificat can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” ( Lk 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming. Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who, encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (cf. Lk 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (cf. Lk 1:38).
To proclaim the Gospel with words, but even more importantly, with one’s life, is what all Christians are called to do. During his Angelus address today at noon, Pope Francis stressed this to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, reminding them, “that to be a Christian and to be a missionary, is the same thing.” Different Approach, Worthy of Imitation Reflecting on today’s Gospel from Luke, the Pope observed how Jesus is different from the teachers of His time. “Jesus,” he said, “didn’t open a school for the study of the Law, but went about everywhere to preach and teach,” including in the synagogues, in the streets, in the houses, and differed from his cousin, John the Baptist, who proclaimed God’s imminent judgement, by instead proclaiming God’s forgiveness. Our Mission To evangelize the poor, Francis stressed, is Jesus’ mission–‘according to what He Himself says’–, but also is that of the Church and all baptized people. “To be Christian and to be a missionary is the same thing,” he said, stressing, “To proclaim the Gospel, with words, and, even before that, with one’s life, is the principle end of the Christian community and of each of its members.” The Holy Father reminded those gathered how Jesus addresses the Good News to everyone, without excluding anyone, and reaches out to those who are furthest away, the suffering, the sick, and those discarded by society. The Pontiff urged the faithful to consider what it means to evangelize the poor. “It means,” he responded, “above all, being close to them, having the joy of serving them, freeing them from oppression, and all this in the name of and with the Spirit of Christ.” Francis also encouraged those in the Square to think about the various aspects of their own lives, including in parish communities and associations, and ask themselves: “Are we faithful to the program of Christ?” “Is the evangelization of the poor, bringing to them the good news, the priority?” Don’t be confused “Be attentive,” the Pontiff warned, pointing out, “This isn’t about giving social assistance, much less about political activity.” Rather, he highlighted, “It has to do with the strength of the Gospel of God, Who converts hearts, heals the wounded, transforms human and social relationships according to the logic of love.” At the heart of center of the Gospel, Francis reaffirmed, are the poor. Pope Francis concluded, greeting the various groups present, wishing everyone a good lunch and Sunday, and asking them to pray for him.
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