The well-being of the people is the highest law,” is a maxim of ancient Roman Law that still holds a place of honor in the Code of Canon Law. Salus populi suprema lex, it reads in Latin. Pope Francis salus populi is the superscript over his pastoral theology: people, first; the spiritual welfare of people above all. Francis quotes the maxim in “Amoris Laetitia,” his apostolic exhortation on the family. Read this perspective on Pope Francis' as found in a recent article in AMERICA.
In a radical departure from recent pastoral practice, Pope Francis has asked the world's Catholic clergy to let their lives become "wonderfully complicated" by embracing God's grace at work in the difficult and sometimes unconventional situations families and marriages face -- even at risk of obscuring doctrinal norms. The pontiff has also called on bishops and priests globally to set aside fears of risking moral confusion, saying they must avoid a tendency to a "cold bureaucratic morality" and shift away from evaluating peoples' moral status based on rigid canonical regulations. Read about it below:
Only the Holy Spirit grants true harmony. Pope Francis highlighted this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles and observed that one word sums up the lifestyle and sentiments of the very first Christian community: harmony. The harmony which bound together the Church’s first Christians, Pope Francis pointed out, “came as a gift of the Holy Spirit,” and was not “man-made” nor a contrived form of tranquil coexistence.”“We can negotiate some sort of peace … but harmony is an inner grace that only the Holy Spirit can grant,” the Pope said, stressing the first Christian community illustrated this. When a community is united in Christ, the Pontiff underscored, it is courageous. One Heart When there is no one wanting, the Argentine Pope noted, this is a sign of harmony. “In what sense?” he asked. “They had one heart, one soul, and no one considered as his own any property that belonged to him, but everything was shared in common amongst them. None of them was ever in need. The true ‘harmony’ of the Holy Spirit has a very strong relationship with money: money is the enemy of harmony; money is selfish.” The fact that the first Christian community freely gave their own goods “so that others would not be in need” evidenced its harmony. Warning While drawing from the day’s reading of Barnabas’ virtuous example of selling his field and giving his proceeds to the Apostles, Francis offered a contrast by citing another passage from Acts which recounts the story of Ananias and Sapphira who after selling their field, pretended to give the proceeds to the Apostles while keeping it for themselves. The Pope pointed out how the lie cost them dearly as the both died on the spot. God and money, Francis stressed, are two “irreconcilable” masters. Warning against confusing “harmony” with “tranquility,” the Pope stressed that a community can seem tranquil, but it is not necessarily harmonious. Never ‘Negotiated Harmony’ “I once heard a wise thing from a bishop: ‘There is tranquility in the diocese. But if you touch on a certain problem – this problem or that problem – war breaks out.’ This is negotiated harmony, and this is not of the Spirit.” The Holy Father went on to encourage a re-reading of the Acts of the Apostles and their portrayal of the first Christians and their life together, noting we should look to them as examples of how to bear witness in our daily lives. “When there is harmony in the Church, in the community, there is courage, the courage to bear witness to the Risen Lord.”
When God calls on us, do we say ‘yes’ like Mary, no, or avoid responding? Pope Francis asked this during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, the first since a break for Easter, and exhorted faithful to say ‘yes’ like Mary did. In his homily, the Holy Father discussed those figures who trusted and said yes to the Lord, such as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah, before turning to the model of the Virgin Mary, whose “yes,” he said, “opened the door to the ‘yes’ of Jesus.” “The ‘yes’ of Mary,” the Pope said, “opens the ‘yes door’ of Jesus: ‘I have come to do your will’, the ‘yes’ that goes with Jesus throughout His life, even to the Cross.” Francis stressed that the ‘yes’ of Mary is the ‘yes’ of the whole history of salvation. Jesus was so obedient, the Pope pointed out, stressing that while He asked the Father to take the cup from Him the cup, He concludes: “Thy will be done.” “In Jesus Christ,” Francis exclaimed, “you have the ‘yes’ of God: He is the ‘yes.'” Francis urged those present to contemplate how they respond to the Lord: “All of us, throughout each day, we have to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and think if we always say ‘yes’ or many times we hide, with our heads down, like Adam and Eve?”“Today, is the celebration of ‘yes,'” Francis said. “In the ‘yes’ of Mary, there is the ‘yes’ of all the history of Creation,” and here begins the last ‘yes ‘ of man and God.” With Mary’s yes, he underscored, “God recreates, as [He did] in the beginning with a ‘yes’ that made the world and man, that beautiful Creation,” and now with this ‘yes,’ “recreates the world more marvelously, recreates all of us … It is the ‘yes’ of God that sanctifies us, that makes us go ahead in Jesus Christ.”
“It is a day,” the Pope encouraged, “to thank God and ask ourselves: Am I a man or woman of ‘yes’ or are a man or woman of ‘no’ or a woman or man that looks a bit away to not respond?'” May the Lord, the Pope prayed, “give us the grace to enter this road of men and women who were able to say yes.” After his homily, the Vincentian Sisters who serve Casa Santa Marta renewed their vows. “They do this every year,” Francis said, “because Saint Vincent was very smart and knew that the mission that was entrusted to them was very difficult and for this reason wanted that they renew their vows annually.”
Many of Jesus’ works and signs are not recorded in the Gospel, St. John explains. And Pope Francis is inviting the faithful to continue writing “those pages of the Gospel,” which recount God’s continuous mercy. “The Gospel is the book of God’s mercy, to be read and reread, because everything that Jesus said and did is an expression of the Father’s mercy. Not everything, however, was written down; the Gospel of mercy remains an open book, in which the signs of Christ’s disciples – concrete acts of love and the best witness to mercy – continue to be written,” the Pope said during his homily this morning at Mass on this Divine Mercy Sunday. The Holy Father added that we are “all called to become living writers of the Gospel, heralds of the Good News to all men and women of today.” We do this by practicing the works of mercy, he explained. Fear vs mission Pope Francis went on to note the “evident contrast” noted in today’s Gospel: “there is the fear of the disciples, who gathered behind closed doors; and then there is the mission of Jesus, who sends them into the world to proclaim the message of forgiveness.” The Pope said this contrast might be present in us, as we struggle “between a closed heart and the call of love to open doors closed by sin.” Christ “wants to enter into each one of us to break open the locked doors of our hearts,” Francis said. “Jesus, who by his resurrection has overcome the fear and dread which imprison us, wishes to throw open our closed doors and send us out.” The Pope said that in God’s mercy “all of our infirmities find healing” and that mercy “desires to reach the wounds of all, to heal them.” “Being apostles of mercy means touching and soothing the wounds that today afflict the bodies and souls of many of our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said. “Curing these wounds, we profess Jesus, we make him present and alive; we allow others, who touch his mercy with their own hands, to recognize him as ‘Lord and God.’”
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:
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