When society devalues the alliance between men and women, “It’s a loss for everybody,” Pope Francis said, noting that marriage and family must be reaffirmed. The Holy Father made this statement speaking to the thousands in a sunny St. Peter’s Square during his weekly General Audience, while continuing his catechesis on the family.
This week, the Pontiff discussed the second chapter of Genesis, where the Lord having created the heavens and the earth, creates 'the culmination of creation: man. Then, sensing something was not right and incomplete, God tried to fill this void, wanting to create 'a suitable partner' for him.
"The woman is not a replica of man," but comes directly from the creative act of God, the Pope stressed.
"When God finally presents woman, man is elated and recognizes that creature, and only that creature, is part of him; 'Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.'"
"Finally, there is a reflection, a reciprocity," Francis said.
He underscored the complementarity and reciprocity of man and woman, adding that woman is never subordinate or to be considered lesser.
"The image of the "rib” does not express inferiority or subordination, but, on the contrary, that man and woman are the same substance and are complementary."
“To find a woman, man first must dream her and then find her,” the Argentine Pope said.
The Pontiff condemned misogynist societies and treating women like commodities.
God's trust in man and woman, the Pope said, was generous, direct and full, but then evil introduces suspicion, disbelief, and distrust into their minds, which would turn into a vicious cycle.
"Sin creates mistrust and division between the man and the woman," Francis said, noting this is worsened by abuse, subjugation, seduction and arrogance as well as by other factors that are even more dramatic and violent.
"History bears the traces," he said. "Consider, for example, to the excesses of negative patriarchal cultures" and "hostility toward and distrust of women."
"The protection of this alliance between man and women--even if sinners and wounded, confused and humiliated, distrusted and uncertain--is for us believers a challenging and thrilling vocation," the Pontiff said.
He noted how the same was true of Adam and Eve, and how despite their betrayal, God welcomed and clothed them, ‘an image of tenderness toward the sinning couple that leaves us with our mouths open,” and of “fatherly protection of the human couple.”
“The same God,” Francis stressed, “cares and protects his masterpiece.”
"Today, the Church is a Church of Martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive a blessing from God for their witness." These were the words of Pope Francis during his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta today. According to Vatican Radio, the Pope reflected on today's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the martyrdom of St. Stephen.
"As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,'" the reading states.
The Pope commented on the reaction of those who stoned Stephen, which upon hearing the martyr "confess his vision of Jesus", covered their ears and promptly killed him.
"The Word of God always pains certain hearts. The Word of God bothers, when you have a hard heart, when you have a pagan heart, because the Word of God challenges you to move forward, to look for and nourish you with that bread of which Jesus spoke about. In the Book of Revelations, many martyrs were killed for their faithfulness to the Word of God, to the Truth of God."
The 78 year old Pontiff also took the occasion to remember today's martyrs who are killed today "by those who believe they have the 'truth.'"
"In these days, how many Stephens are there in the world!" he exclaimed.
"Let us think about our brothers who were slaughtered on the shores of Libya; let us think about that young boy burned alive by his companions because he was Christian; let us think about those migrants on the high seas who are thrown into the sea by others, because they are Christians; let us think about […] those Ethiopians, murdered because they were Christians…and so many others," the Pope lamented.
"And many others that we do not know about, who suffer in prisons, because they are Christians. Today, the Church is a Church of Martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive a blessing from God for their witness."
Concluding his homily, the Pope also prayed for the many "hidden martyrs" who suffer daily for the faith.
"Let us unite ourselves to Jesus in the Eucharist, and unite ourselves to so many brothers and sisters who suffer the martyrdom of persecution, of calumny and of murder for being faithful to the only bread that satisfies, that is, Jesus," he concluded.
In his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning, Pope Francis said that Christians are called to follow the example of the saints and martyrs, who did not give in to the temptation of seeking power.
According to Vatican Radio, the Holy Father reflected on today's Gospel of St. John, in which a crowd seeks Jesus "not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled."
This attitude of self-interests, the Pope said is often seen in the Gospels, even among Jesus' own disciples.
"The sons of Zebedee who wanted to be prime minister and the other the minister of the economy, to have power," he noted. "That unction to bring to the poor good news, the liberation to prisoners, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed and announce a year of grace, as it becomes dark, it is lost and transforms into something of power."
This temptation, the Pope continued, was also given to Jesus by the devil in the desert. The danger lies in passing from religious wonder to profiteering from it.
"This was also a proposal of the devil to Jesus in the temptations," he said.
"One on bread, precisely. The other on the spectacle: 'Let us make a beautiful spectacle so that all the people will believe in you.' And the third, apostasy: that is, the adoration of the idols. And this is a daily temptation of Christians, ours, of all of us who are in the Church: the temptation not of the power, of the strength of the Spirit, but the temptation of worldly power. Thus one falls in that religious tepidness which brings you to worldliness, that tepidness that ends, when it grows, grows, grows, in that attitude that Jesus calls hypocrisy."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that Jesus calls on all to awaken with the witness of martyrs and saints who remind us of our mission to follow in Jesus' footsteps.
"The people understand Jesus' reproach and tell him: 'But what should we fulfil to do the works of God? Jesus says to them: 'This is the work of God: that you believe in the One who He has sent', that is, faith in Him, only in Him, trust in Him and not in other things that bring us far from Him. This is the work of God: that you believe in the One who He has sent, in Him," the Pope said.
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis prayed that Christ may give the faithful the grace to not fall into a spirit of worldliness. It is a spirit, he said, "that behind or under a varnish of Christianity, brings us to become pagans."
The image of God is not only displayed in man and woman individually but also together as a couple.
These were the words of Pope Francis during his General Audience today in St. Peter's Square. The Holy Father said that today's catechesis and the following will reflect on the sacrament of marriage and the complementarity between man and woman.
The Pope began his catechesis by recalling the story of creation in which God, after creating the universe and all living things, created his masterpiece: mankind.
"As we all know, sexual difference is present in many forms of life, in the long ladder of the living," he noted. "But only man and woman carry within them the image and likeness of God."
Genesis, he explained, not only explains that man and woman individually bear this likeness to God, but also together as a couple.
"The difference between man and woman is not for opposition, or subordination, but for communion and creation, always in the image and likeness of God."
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that without the mutual enrichment in their relationship, neither can truly understand what it means to be man and woman. While modern culture has opened new ways and freedoms to understand these differences, the Pope noted that it also introduced "many doubts and much skepticism."
"I wonder, for example, if the so-called gender theory is also an expression of frustration and resignation, which aims to erase sexual difference because they can no longer deal with it. Yes, we risk taking a step back," he said.
"The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution. To solve their relationship problems, man and the woman should instead talk more, listen more, know more, [and] love each other more. They must treat each other with respect and cooperate with friendship."
The Pope went on to call on intellectuals to not abandon the importance of this theme, which he said has become secondary.
The Covenant Between Man and Woman
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis focused on two important aspects that were crucial in fostering the complementarity between man and woman.
The first, he said, was the need for women to not only be heard, but that "her voice has a real weight, a recognized authority, in society and in the Church." This, he noted, was the same way in which Jesus considered the role of women.
"Jesus considered [woman] in such a way that gives a strong light, that enlightens a path that takes us far, from which we've only covered a small piece," he said.
"We have not yet understood in depth what things the feminine genius can give us, that woman can give to society and also to us. Perhaps to see things with different eyes that complements the thoughts of men. It is a path that must be crossed with more creativity and more boldness."
The second reflection the Jesuit Pope offered regarded the theme of man and woman created in God's image. The collective mistrust in God, he said, gives way to incredulity and cynicism and connects to the crisis between man and woman. This division is exemplified in the creation story in which this covenant is broken once sin entered.
"In fact, the biblical story, with the grand symbolic fresco of the earthly paradise and original sin, precisely tells us that the communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and the loss of trust in the Heavenly Father generates division and conflict between man and woman," he said.
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis said that the Church has the responsibility of rediscovering the beauty of God's design in the covenant between man and woman.
"Jesus encourages us explicitly to give witness to this beauty, which is the image of God," he concluded.
Pope Francis has said the Church is not for accumulating riches, but managing them with generosity.
During Francis' morning homily at his daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, he made this observation, and reflected on the first Christian community guided by the Apostles and how that ties to the Church today.
The Pope recalled the passage from the Acts of the Apostles describing the life of the first Christian community and went on to stress two elements are signs of a community being 'reborn': harmony and the common good.
These two elements bring the Holy Spirit to a community, he said, noting that only the Spirit can bring harmony, since he "is the harmony between the Father and son" and the gift that makes harmony in the first place.
He also pointed out that to those who suffer and endure trials will one day rejoice, as is promised in the Beatitudes.
Turning to the common good, the Pope noted that Christians are not to hold on to wealth, but to put it to the service of others in need. The Pope said it is good if someone rich uses their wealth to help others.
Another theme the Pontiff underscored was how difficult it is to have patience in times of difficulty.
To those suffering, the Pope noted, "Jesus promises you many beautiful things and peace in abundance." If you've been persecuted, Francis said, "You will have a hundred times more."
The Holy Father noted that in spite of all the problems in the first community of Christians, the community was still reborn, by the Holy Spirit who purified it "in the midst of difficulties."
Given this, the Pope said, those who have patience and "bear problems, endure hardship, endure slander, withstand diseases, bear the pain" of the loss of a loved one, will one day have peace and be rewarded.
The Holy Father closed inviting the faithful to bring harmony, not internal division, to their parishes, dioceses, and lives.
Francis also reminded them to be at the service of others, especially the poor, and never to accumulate wealth, but use it to help the needy.
In preaching, the Church's message must always be spoken with frankness and courage, without fear of announcing the truth.
These were the words of Pope Francis in his morning homily at Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father reflected on today's first reading in which Peter and John who continued to preach despite being jailed and threatened by the High Priests.
"And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal," the disciples prayed in the reading. That same courage, the Holy Father noted, is what the Church needs to announce the Good News.
"And today too, the Church's message is the message of the path of openness, the path of Christian courage,” he said.
“These two simple [men]- as the Bible says – with no education, had courage. A word that can be translated as 'courage,' 'straightforwardness,' 'freedom to speak,' ‘not being afraid to say things' ... It’s a word that has many meanings, in its original form. Parrésia, that frankness ... and their fear gave way to 'openness,’ to saying things with freedom."
The Holy Father's words on speaking out with openness and without fear come on the heels of criticism by the government of Turkey following the Pope's recognition of the events of 1915 as a genocide during his remarks to the Armenian faithful yesterday in St. Peter's Basilica.
"Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today?"
The Pontiff posed this question in his homily last night at St. Peter's Basilica, responding: "Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God's presence and closeness."
The Pope's remarks were intertwined with his having officially proclaimed a new Holy Year yesterday with the presentation of the official Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In his homily, Francis stressed that the Church is called to offer “more evident signs” of God’s presence and closeness.
"This is not the time to be distracted,” he said. “On the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential.”
This is a time, Francis said, for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on Easter Day, namely, "to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy."
This year we are to be transformed by His mercy, so that we too may become "witnesses to mercy,” the Pope said, noting, “Without the witness of pardon," he lamented, "life would be unfruitful and sterile.”
The Holy Year’s motto is, “Be merciful like your Father” which the Pope said, involves opening our hearts and witnessing mercy everywhere, for, "Pardon is a force that can give rise to new life and infuse courage to look with hope to the future.”
Fr. Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, read the Bull in a ceremony by the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica.
With the Bull of Indiction--the formal document explaining why the Pope called the Jubilee, his hopes for it and giving an outline of what will happen during the Holy Year--Francis formally convoked the Jubilee. Afterward, the 78-year-old Pontiff moved into the basilica to preside over Vespers for Divine Mercy Sunday.
Entitled “Misericordiae Vultus” or “The Face of Mercy,” the Bull begins by saying how Jesus is 'the face' of His Father's mercy. It also explains that the year's opening date Dec. 8 is to commemorate both the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, and that the closing date Nov. 20, 2016, is to commemorate the Feast of Christ the King.
The Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica will be open on Dec. 8, and Holy Doors of the other papal basilicas will similarly be opened in the days which follow. The Holy Father has also requested that every diocese around the world open similar doors of mercy as a sign of communion with the Church and as a way for the Jubilee to be celebrated locally.
The Pope gave a copy of this Bull to the archpriests of the four major Roman basilicas, at each of which there will be a Holy Door through which pilgrims will pass. He also distributed copies to other Church representatives during the brief ceremony in front of the Holy Door in the atrium of St Peter’s Basilica. The ceremony was attended by cardinals, bishops, clergy and lay people.
We complete today, in the catecheses on the family, the reflection on children, who are the most beautiful fruit of the blessing that the Creator has given man and woman. We have already talked about the great gift that children are; today, unfortunately, we must talk about the “stories of passion” that many of them live.
So many children are rejected from the beginning, abandoned, robbed of their childhood and their future. Some might dare to say, almost to justify themselves, that it was an error to make them come into the world. This is disgraceful! Please, let’s not unload our faults on children! Children are never “an error.” Their hunger isn’t an error, as their poverty isn’t, their fragility, their abandonment -- so many are abandoned on the streets; nor is it their ignorance or their incapacity -- there are so many children who don’t know what a school is. If anything, these are reasons to love them more, with greater generosity. What are we doing in our solemn declarations of the rights of man and the rights of children, if we then punish children for the errors of adults?
Those who have the task to govern, educate -- however I’d say all of us adults are responsible for children and for each of us to do what he/she can to change this situation. I am referring to the “passion” of children. Every marginalized, abandoned child who lives on the street begging and with all sorts of devices, without school, without medical care, is a cry that goes up to God and that accuses the system that we adults have built. And, unfortunately, these children are prey to criminals, who exploit them for unworthy traffic or commerce, or to train them for war and violence. However, in so-called rich countries so many children also live dramas that marked them in a heavy way, because of the crisis of the family, of education voids and of conditions of life that at times are inhuman. In every case they are children violated in body and soul. However, the Father who is in heaven does not forget a single one of these children! Not one of their tears is lost! Nor is our responsibility lost either, the social responsibility of persons, of each one of us, and of countries.
Once Jesus rebuked his disciples because they were sending the children away that the parents were bringing to him, to have him bless them. The Gospel narrative is moving: “Then the children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said: ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away” (Matthew 19:13-15). How lovely was this trust of the parents, and Jesus’ answer! How I would like this page to become the normal story of all children! It’s true that, thanks be to God, children with serious difficulties very often have extraordinary parents, ready for any sacrifice and every generosity. However, these parents should not be left alone! We must support their effort, but also offer them moments of shared joy and carefree happiness, so that they are not prey only to the therapeutic routine.
In any case, when it is a question of children, we should not hear those formulas of office legal defense such as: “after all, we are not a welfare entity”; or “In privacy, each one is free to do what he wishes”; or also “we don’t like it, we can’t do anything.” These words are not right when it is a question of children.
Too often the effects of a life strained by precarious or badly paid work, of unsustainable hours, of inefficient transport, fall on children ... But children also pay the price of immature unions and irresponsible separations: they are the first victims; they suffer the successes of the culture of exasperating subjective rights, and they then become the most precocious children. Often they absorb violence that they are unable to “digest,” and under the eyes of the grownups they are constrained to be inured to degradation.
In our time also, as in the past, the Church puts her maternity at the service of children and of their families. She brings to the parents and children of this our world God’s blessing, maternal tenderness, firm rebuke and decisive condemnation. One doesn’t joke with children!
Think what a society would be like that decided once and for all to establish this principle: “It’s true that we aren’t perfect and that we make many mistakes. However, when it is a question of children who come into the world, no sacrifice of the adults is deemed too costly or to great, in order to avoid a child thinking that he is a mistake, that he had no value and that he is abandoned to the wounds of life and to the arrogance of men.” How beautiful such a society would be! I say that much would be forgiven such a society, its innumerable errors -- much, truly.
The Lord judges our life by listening to what the angels tell him about the children, angels that “always behold the face of the Father who is in heaven” (Cf. Matthew 18:10). We must ask ourselves always: What will the children's angels tell God about us?
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