"Fear is not a Christian attitude," but rather an attitude "of a caged animal without freedom."
These were the words of Pope Francis today during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Christ calls on St. Paul to preach in Corinth without fear.
“Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent, for I am with you. No one will attack and harm you, for I have many people in this city," Jesus says to Paul in a vision.
The Pope said that Christ invites Paul to not be afraid because fear is an attitude that can harm, weaken, and diminish. “A fearful Christian is a person who has not understood the message of Jesus," he said.
“This is why Jesus says to Paul: ‘Do not be afraid. Continue to speak.’ Fear is not a Christian attitude. It is an attitude, we could say, of a caged animal, without freedom, who does not have the freedom to look ahead, to create something, to do good… no, always: ‘No, but this is dangerous, there is something else, something else…’ And this is a vice. It is the fear of doing evil.”
The 78 year old Pontiff called on the faithful to ask for the grace of courage, so as not to become fearful.
“There are fearful communities that always go on the safe side: ‘No, no, we aren’t doing this… No, no, this can’t be done, this can’t be done.’ It seems they have written on the gateway: ‘Forbidden.’ Everything is forbidden because of fear. And you enter into this community and the air is stale, because it is a sick community. Fear makes a community sick. The lack of courage makes a community sick.”
The Pope went onto say that fear must not be confused with fear of the Lord, a grace that allows the faithful to "awe in adoration."
Turning to today's Gospel, Pope Francis said that the second word of the liturgy counter's fear: joy.
“Christian joy is not simply enjoyment, is not a fleeting cheerfulness," he explained. "Christian joy is a gift, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. And having a heart that is always joyful because the Lord has triumphed, the Lord reigns, the Lord is at the right hand of the Father, the Lord has looked upon me and called me and has given me His grace, and has made me a Son of the Father… That is Christian joy. A Christian lives in joy.”
The Jesuit Pope said that a lack of joy in Christian communities also cause it to become sick. Concluding his homily, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray to the Lord to "raise our spirit" and to "take away our every fear."
Pope Francis has given families some practical advice during this morning's General Audience in St. Peter's Square.
Continuing with his catecheses on the family, the Holy Father reminded the faithful of three words that "must be in the home": "May I, Thank You, Pardon Me [permesso, grazie, scusa]."
For happy family life, the Pontiff said, these phrases are required in our hearts, homes and communities, and mean more than just having good manners.
Speaking on asking 'May I?,' the Pontiff said we should not just assume we have the right to certain things. When we ask this permission, he said we establish trust and respect among our loved ones.
Proving his point, Francis recalled the words of Jesus in the book of Revelation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me "(3:20).
"Even the Lord asks permission to enter! Do not forget that."
On saying 'Thank you,' the Pontiff said our society has a great need for gratitude, which makes us more sensitive to the dignity of the human person and the demands of social justice.
"Listen well to this: a Christian that doesn't know how to thank is one that has forgotten the language of God. This is ugly."
'Sorry,' the Pope acknowledged is the hardest of the three to say, yet he noted that when it's not used many bad things happen, especially in marriage. He asked those gathered to ponder how we can be pardoned if we are not willing to forgive. "Have you fought?" Francis asked. "The problem is not the fighting," he said as much as letting it last into the next day. "Never finish the day without making peace," even if it's not easy, the Pope said. "A little gesture, a caress, without words," he pointed out, can be enough, for it "stops the infection." The Holy Father invited all those gathered to repeat the three Italian words: 'permesso grazie, scusa.' After underscoring these "are the truly the words for entering into the love of the family," Francis called on them to say, "Never finish the day without making peace."
“If the Pope keeps going the way he’s going, I’ll come back to the Catholic Church.” According to Vatican Radio, President of Cuba, Raul Castro, made this statement in a press conference which followed his audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican this morning.
Speaking on the Pontiff’s upcoming September visit to Cuba prior to his Apostolic Visit to the United States, the Cuban president said he will be present at all the Masses Pope Francis will celebrate in his island nation.
This morning--according to a Vatican communique released by Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi--Pope Francis received the Cuban President in a private audience. The Cuban president arrived at the Vatican to meet the Pope at 9:30, reported Fr. Lombardi
Castro stayed with the Jesuit Pontiff a little over an hour in the Holy Father’s study inside the Paul VI Hall. The meeting, the communique stated, last more than 50 minutes and was said to be "very friendly."
Before leaving the Vatican, Castro told journalists that he had thanked the Holy Father for the active role he played in favor of improving relations between Cuba and the United States of America, and said he presented to the Pope the sentiments of the Cuban people, "those of expectation and preparation for the Holy Father’s visit the island in September."
The President of Cuba gave the Pope a precious commemorative medal of the Cathedral of Havana, and a framed work of contemporary art, which depicts a large Ccoss composed of the relics of wrecked barges, before which is present a migrant in prayer.
The statement noted that the Cuban artist Kcho was present and explained to the Pope that he was inspired by the Pope's commitment to bringing attention to the plight of migrants and refugees, especially visible through the Pope’s visit to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
Pope Francis gave the President a copy of his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and a large medallion which represents St. Martin in the act of covering the poor with his cloak.
Francis noted that he was particularly happy to give this last gift because it recalls not only the duty to help and protect the poor, but also to actively promote dignity.
How can you tell it is true love? Pope Francis explored this topic during his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
Reflecting on today’s Gospel when Jesus 'asks us to remain in his love,' the Argentine Pontiff said, "There are two criteria that will help us to distinguish the true from the not-true love."
The first criterion is that love is "more in deeds than in words," he said, noting it is not "a saga of love", "a fantasy," or that which "make our hearts beat a little, but nothing more."
"In other words, true love is real," Francis said. "It is in the works, and is a constant love. It is not a simple enthusiasm. Also, many times it is a painful love: the love we think of in Jesus carrying the cross."
Works of love, the Jesuit Pope went on to stress, must be concrete, as Jesus taught us in the Chapter 25 of St. Matthew. "I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and so on. Concreteness.”
The second criterion of love, the Pope said, is that it "communicates" and "does not remain isolated." He pointed out the love and selfless giving and receiving between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
"There is no love without communicating," he said, "There is no isolated love."
"For those who may wonder, 'But Father, monks and nuns are isolated,'" he said, it is different because they do communicate, especially with the Lord, and they are not selfish, closed in on themselves, seeking their own profit.
To remain in the love of Jesus, the Pope said, requires deeds and communication. Though it is simple, he said, it is not easy because "selfishness, self-interest attracts us.”
Christian marriage is not merely a ceremony that is done in a church, with flowers, dress, and photos, but "is a sacrament that takes place in the Church and makes the Church."
During his weekly General Audience this morning in a sunny St. Peter’s Square, the Pope made this observation, stressing that Christian marriage should never be reduced to material things.
Continuing his catechesis series on the family, and reflecting specifically on marriage, Francis called to mind how Saint Paul introduced the analogy between the couple, husband and wife, and Christ and the Church.
"It's clear that this is an imperfect analogy, but we have to grasp the spiritual meaning that is very high and revolutionary," Francis said, noting Paul says the love between husband and wife is the image of the love between Christ and the Church.
"Unthinkable dignity!" he said. "But in reality, it is inscribed in God's creative design, and with the grace of Christ, innumerable Christian couples, despite their sins and limitations, have achieved this!"
Francis reminded those gathered of Paul's words that a husband must love his wife as himself, just as "Christ 'loved the Church and gave himself up for her.'"
The sacrament of marriage, the Pontiff noted, is a great act of faith and love, and requires courage to step beyond one's self.
"The Christian vocation to love unconditionally and without limit is what, with the grace of Christ, is the basis of the free consent which makes marriage," he said.
The Church itself, the Pope said, "is fully involved in the history of every Christian marriage and is built in its successes and failures, and suffering."
"But we must ask ourselves seriously: Do we ourselves accept, as believers and also pastors, this unbreakable bond of the history of Christ and the Church with the history of marriage and of the human family? Are we prepared to take this responsibility seriously, that is that every marriage goes on the road of love that Christ has with the Church?
"This is great!" Francis said.
The life of the Church, he added, "is enriched each time by the beauty of this spousal covenant, and deteriorates whenever it is disfigured."
The courageous faithfulness of spouses, the Pope said, is required for the Church to give all the gifts of faith, love and hope. "God's people need their daily walk in faith, love and hope, with all the joys and hardships that this path entails in a marriage and in a family."
Before concluding, Francis remind those gathered, "Christ does not cease to care for the Church," for God transmits His tenderness from couple to couple and from family to family.
God does not get deterred, Pope Francis noted, for the Lord is ready "to remove from its human face wrinkles and stains of all kinds."
Toward the conclusion of the General Audience, Pope Francis recalled that in the coming days, some will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.
“On this occasion," Francis said, "I entrust to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, the hope that human society learns from past mistakes and that in front of the current conflicts that are tearing apart some regions of the world, all civil leaders commit themselves to seeking the common good and promoting a culture of peace.”
Thanks to the surprises of the Holy Spirit, the Church moves forward. During his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis reminded the faithful that God surprises us and that we must not be afraid of change and leaving old habits behind.
The Holy Spirit, Francis underscored, not only makes us understand, but makes the Church move forward.
"We can study the whole history of salvation and all theology, but without the Spirit we cannot understand," he said.
The Holy Father stressed it is the Spirit that makes us realize the truth or know Jesus' voice: 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. '
The Church's going forward, Francis highlighted, is the work of the Holy Spirit.
"And how do I do this - you ask the Pope - make sure that voice I hear is the voice of Jesus, that what I feel I have to do is done by the Holy Spirit?"
Responding, Francis said: "Praying.”
"Without prayer, there is no place for the Spirit.
He invited those gathered to ask God to send them the Holy Spirit so that we may discern at all times what we have to do.
We must discern, the Pope stressed, and to discern, he said we must pray and ask for grace.
Francis warned against the mentality that if we do things the way we have always done, that we are safer, stressing, "The Christian life is not a museum of memories."
"But to do as you've always done," he warned, "is an 'alternative death.'"
The Holy Father concluded urging the faithful to "risk, with prayer, and then, with the humility, accepting what the Spirit asks us to change.
The foundation of our faith rest on that first encounter with Jesus Christ. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Casa Santa Marta. According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on the impact an encounter with Christ has on one’s life. He drew from today’s first reading, which recounted St. Paul’s conversion from one who persecuted the early Christians to one chosen by God “to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel.”
The Pope noted that this first encounter, like many others in the Bible, is the one that changes one’s life. He called on the faithful to never forget their first encounter with Christ.
“He never forgets, but we forget the encounter with Christ,” he said. “And this would be a good assignment to do at home, to consider: ‘When have I really felt that the Lord was close to me? When have I felt the need to change my life, or to become better, or to forgive someone? When have I felt the Lord asking something of me? When have I encountered the Lord?’”
Our faith, the Holy Father continued, “is an encounter with Jesus.”
“This is the foundation of our faith: I have encountered Jesus, as Saul did.”
‘A Memory of Love’
Continuing his homily, the 78 year old Pontiff invited the faithful to pray daily, in order to remember that first encounter with Christ. He also said that by reading the Gospels daily, one can see the work of God in Jesus’ encounters with others.
So many encounters with Jesus are there. Maybe one of them is similar to mine. Each one of us has his own,” he said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for the “grace of memory...so that we might not hear the complaint the Lord makes in Revelation: ‘I have this against you, that you have forgotten your first love’.”
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