In his homily in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican on Friday morning, the Holy Father reflected on the “newness” of the Gospel – as Good News, and as a bringer of New Things – that frees the person who believes it from slavery to automatic legalism, and opens the heart to the new commandment: love. The Gospel reading for Friday told the story of the Scribes, who badgered Jesus about the behavior of His disciples, by pointing out that they did not – as the disciples of John the Baptist regularly did – fast and offer prayers. The Lord would not let Himself be provoked, however: “New wine, new wineskins: the ‘novelty’ of the Gospel – and what does the Gospel bring us? Joy and renewal [It. novità]. These Doctors of the Law were hidebound by their commandments, their rules. St. Paul, speaking of them, tells us that, before faith came – that is, Jesus – we were all kept in custody, as prisoners under the Law. This Law, of this people, was not bad: they were cared for, but they were prisoners, awaiting the advent of faith – that faith, which would be revealed in Christ, itself.” Pope Francis went on to observe that the People had both the Mosaic Law and a host of customs and smaller legal requirements that the Doctors of the Law had codified. “The Law,” said Pope Francis, “cared for the people, albeit as prisoners are cared-for, and the people were awaiting liberty – that ultimate liberty that God would give to His people through His son.”: “One of you might say to me: ‘But Father, don’t Christians have laws?’ Yes. Jesus said: ‘I do not come to [abolish the Law], but to fulfil it.’ – and the Beatitudes, for example – the law of love – total love – as Jesus loved us, are the fullness of the Law. Jesus, when he reproves these Doctors of the Law, is taking them to task for not caring for the people with the Law, but making them slaves to so many little laws, so many little things that had to be done.” Pope Francis went on to explain that all these “little things” that had to be done, had to be done without the freedom that Jesus brings to us with the new law, which He promulgated with His blood. “This,” he said, “is precisely the ransom that the people were awaiting,” while they were, “under the guardianship of the Law, however as prisoners.” The Holy Father also explained that another central lesson of this reading is that the Lord wants us not to be afraid of changing things according to the law of the Gospel: “St. Paul clearly distinguishes the children of the law from the children of faith: new wine in new wineskins – and this is why the Church asks all of us to change certain things. She asks us to let go of decadent structures – they are useless – and to take up new wineskins, those of the Gospel. One sannot understand the mentality of these Doctors of the Law – for example – these Pharisaical ‘teachers’: the style of the Gospel is a different style, that brings the fullness of the Law – yes- but in a new way: it is the new wine in new wineskins.” Pope Francis concluded, saying once again that the Gospel is something new, something that brings joy, something that can only be lived fully by a heart that is joyful and renewed, and prayed that God give everyone the grace to keep the new commandment of love, and the joy of that freedom, which the Good News brings.
Pope Francis on Thursday reflected on the transforming grace of God’s Word and invited Christians to recognize their sins and let themselves be transformed by their encounter with Christ.The Pope was addressing the faithful gathered for morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta. During his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians which reads: “If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God”. Paul, he said, is telling us that it is the power of God’s Word that brings about a true change of heart, that has the strength to change the world, giving us hope, giving us life. He pointed out that this power is not to be found in human knowledge or in man’s intelligence. “Become fools”, Francis exhorted, don’t search for security in your knowledge or in the knowledge of the world”. And the Pope said that although Paul had studied with the most knowledgeable teachers of his time, he never boasted of his knowledge. In a “scandalous” way, Francis said, he boasted of his sins and of his encounter with Christ and the crucifix, because that encounter between his sins and the blood of Christ is the only salvific encounter there is. And when we forget that encounter – the Pope said – we lose the power of Christ’s strength and we speak of the things of God with a human language, And this, he said, is useless. Pope Francis also recalled the Gospel story of Peter and the miraculous catch of fish during which Peter said to Jesus: “Go away from me Lord for I am a sinful man”. In this moment of meeting between his sins and Christ, the Pope said Peter finds salvation. So, the Pope said: “the privileged place for an encounter with Christ are our sins. If a Christian is incapable of seeing his sins and his salvation in the blood of Christ, he has only gone half-way. He is a tepid Christian. And the Pope pointed to those decadent Churches, decadent parishes, decadent institutions where most certainly Christians have never really met Christ or else they have forgotten that encounter. Pope Francis concluded his homily inviting the faithful to ask themselves whether they are capable of telling the Lord they are sinners; whether they really believe the Lord has given them a new life; whether they trust in Christ. Because, he said, a Christian can be boastful of two things: of his sins and of Christ on the cross.
Pope Francis has said Christians are not orphans but have the Church, with Mary as her model, a mother who welcomes, protects and nourishes us, especially through the Word of God.Speaking to the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square at this morning’s weekly General Audience, the Holy Father underscored that since “Looking to Mary...we Christians are not orphans. We have a mom, we have a mother and this is great. We are not orphans. The Church is mother, Mary and mother." After urging those gathered to welcome the protection Mary gives us, especially in God’s Word, Francis asked: "And who gives us the Word of God?” “Mary!” he said, adding “This is grand!” because this Word “changes us inside,” and “transforms us.” As our “true mother,” he said, she not only “gives us life in Christ,” but also communion of the Holy Spirit, which “brings us into a common life with all our brothers and sisters.” “If you look to Mary,” the Pontiff said, you will “find the most beautiful and tender face of the Church.” Her motherhood, he added, continues through the Church, who brings forth sons and daughters through baptism, whom she nourishes through the Word of God. "In fact," he continued, Jesus gave the Gospel to the Church to bring forth new life by generously "proclaiming his Word" and "winning other sons and daughters for God, our Father." By illuminating our path with the light of the Gospel and by sustaining us with the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, Francis said the Church nurtures us throughout life. This nourishment, he added, enables us to “choose the good,” to be "vigilant against evil and deceit,” and “overcome the difficult moments of life with courage and hope.” The force of the sacraments and Word of God, with the courage of a Mother, the Pope added, “defends us from evil.” Since we are "all under attack" by Satan, he exhorted faithful to be "on guard,""stand firm in the faith," and "not resist the advice of the mother." “This is the Church," he continued, "this is the Church that we all love, the Church that I love, a Church has that has at heart the welfare of her children.” As the Church, Pope Francis reminded the faithful, “we are called to live this same spiritual, maternal attitude towards our brothers and sisters,” which requires us “to accept,” “forgive” and “inspire confidence and hope.”
Pope Francis has responded to the question, "How to receive Jesus Christ?" by saying the answer may be something you can conceal in your pocket. Addressing those gathered this morning at his first daily Mass in Casa Santa Marta after a summer break, Pope Francis asked: “How do I receive Jesus Christ?”, to which he responded, "The Church tells us that Jesus is present in the Scriptures, in His Word," reported Vatican Radio. This is why, the Holy Father stressed, it is so important to "read a passage from the Gospel during the day." Recalling the readings of the day, the Pope explained what the Word of God is, and how we should receive it. St. Paul, he noted, reminds the Corinthians that does not proclaim the Gospel based on persuasive words of wisdom, rather those that are directly from the heart. Urging the faithful to proclaim the Gospel with humility, he said this requires having an open heart can receive Him. Francis reminded those gathered that God speaks to us in the Son, "that is, the Word of God is Jesus, Jesus Himself." Asking why Christians must have this meeting with Christ through the Gospel, he suggested: “Why, to learn?” responding, “No! To find Jesus! Because Jesus is right there in His Word, in His Gospel." "Every time I read the Gospel, I find Jesus," he continued, "Yet how do I receive this Word? Well, you should receive it like you receive Jesus, that is to say with an open heart, with a humble heart, with the spirit of the Beatitudes.” The reason for this, he added, is because this is how Jesus came into the world, in “humility,” in “poverty,” with “the anointing of the Holy Spirit.”
"He is power” he added, “He is the Word of God because He is anointed by the Holy Spirit. We, too, if we want to hear and receive the Word of God, we must pray and ask the Holy Spirit for this anointing of the heart," for a "heart like the heart of the Beatitudes."
Pope Francis invited those gathered to ask themselves today, "How do I receive the Word of God?” and to consider why they do so.
The Holy Father concluded, urging them to buy a “cheap” pocket-Gospel, to consult often, if they hadn’t done so already.
I have been fascinated by the discussions occurring on the internet today - many of them focused on Pope Francis' compassionate comments to the family of James Foley. While I don't profess to have the answer to the question - "a martyr?", I am gratified by the quality of so many observations - and inspired by Our Holy Father's compassion. Let me share one recent item:
" By RYAN GORMAN Many people - including Pope Francis - are now arguing that slain American journalist James Foley is a martyr, and some believe he should be considered for sainthood. Foley's devout Catholic faith was discussed in the days after his grim execution by many who knew the American journalist, and reports have suggested his life could have been spared if he had converted to Islam. The horrific video showing Foley kneeling in the desert next to whom many believe is British rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary as the journalist makes a statement denouncing America does not give any inkling of his faith. Foley condemns U.S. airstrikes on ISIS positions and humanitarian drops to refugees. He blames President Barack Obama and pleads with his family to not take government compensation. A conversion to Islam could reportedly have helped him avoid a gruesome beheading, the image of his lifeless body lying in an empty desert burned into the collective memory of all who have seen it. James Foley does not mention Jesus Christ, Christianity or anything resembling religion at any point in the video. But those who know him told anyone who would listen about his unwavering faith. "[Jim] reminds us of Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love -- and Jim was becoming more and more that,' his grieving mother Diane Foley told reporters gathered outside her New Hampshire home, according to the National Catholic Reporter. James Foley's younger brother, Michael Foley, told Katie Couric in a recent interview that Pope Francis "referred to Jim's act as, really, martyrdom" in an unprecedented phone call to the family. Many cable news pundits and religious bloggers agree with the Pope. Other accounts of James Foley's life have detailed his humility, faith and generosity. They refer to a letter published in Marquette Magazine, the college publication of his alma mater. In the letter, James Foley wrote of how he survived his initial kidnapping in 2011 in Libya. "I began to pray the rosary. It was what my mother and grandmother would have prayed," the letter reads. "I said 10 Hail Marys between each Our Father. It took a long time, almost an hour to count 100 Hail Marys off on my knuckles. And it helped to keep my mind focused. He recalls a phone call to his mother. "I told her. 'I've been praying for you to know that I'm OK,' I said. 'Haven't you felt my prayers?'" He then writes: "Prayer was the glue that enabled my freedom, an inner freedom first and later the miracle of being released during a war in which the regime had no real incentive to free us. "It didn't make sense, but faith did." The Catholic Church does not require that people live a saintly or pious life to be considered for sainthood. But if there is proof their religious beliefs directly contributed to their death, they can be considered martyrs. Not all martyrs become saints. Not all saints were martyrs. By all accounts, James Foley was a devout Catholic. He did not mention faith in his final taped statement, but that does not appear to be a choice he had. Those who know James Foley say his unwavering faith gave him the strength to stand tall in his final moments, even if only from his knees. Pope Francis thinks James Foley is a martyr. Is he? "
With Dignity As students head back to school, some Catholic schools are taking the lead in ensuring that the challenge continues to raise awareness of ALS, but also that the donations from the challenge are well used. On Friday, Superintendent Richard Thompson launched the Archdiocese of Denver's Catholic Schools Ice Bucket Challenge in which he dared three school principals to take the challenge. Thompson explained in a YouTube video on Friday that a worthy charity for the challenge funds would be the John Paul II Medical Research Institute. The John Paul II Medical Research Institute, he states, focuses on the most ethical and cost-effective way of conducting medical research to help develop therapies and cures for a variety of diseases, including ALS, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. The institute's Web site notes that its research is done "with an emphasis on medical bioethics that is consistent with the dignity of human life." Archdiocese of Cincinnati Superintendent of Catholic School Jim Rigg took part in the ice bucket challenge Thursday morning. With the principal of Elder High School, Tom Otten, Rigg was soaked with a large bucket of icy water, as the students cheered. Both Otten and Rigg made a donation to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.
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