Pope Francis, Dec 2019 <https://zenit.org/articles/remember-to-make-life-a-love-story-with-god-pope-reminds/>
“when we let God bring us beyond ourselves”, life changes and we “attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 8). Because at that point the need to proclaim it arises spontaneously, it becomes irrepressible, even without words, with witness. This is how evangelization began, on Easter morning, with an apostle-woman, Mary Magdalene, who, after meeting the risen Jesus, the Living One, evangelized the Apostles. She was at the tomb of Jesus with many sad feelings in her heart: fear for the future and bewilderment at the apparent violation of the tomb were added to her pain for the loss of the Master. But her weeping transformed into joy, her loneliness into consolation after finding in Jesus the love that never disappoints, that never abandons even in the face of death, that gives the strength to find the best of oneself. It is true for everyone: “our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love” (ibid., 265).
The experience of so many people today is not far from that of Mary of Magdalene. Nostalgia for God, for an infinite and true love, is rooted in the heart of every man. We need someone to help revive it. We need angels who, as it was for Mary Magdalene, bring good news: angels in the flesh who come together to dry tears, to say in the name of Jesus: “Do not be afraid!” (cf. Mt 28: 5). The evangelizers are like angels, like guardian angels, messengers of good who do not deliver ready answers, but share the question of life, the same that Jesus addressed to Mary calling her by name: “Whom are you seeking?” (Jn 20: 15). Whom you seek, not what you seek, because things are not enough to live; to live you need the God of love. And if with this love of His we were able to look into the hearts of people who, because of the indifference we breathe and the consumerism that flattens us, often pass before us as if nothing were wrong, we would be able to see first of all the need for this Whom, the search for a love that lasts forever, the question of the meaning of life, of pain, of betrayal, of loneliness. They are anxieties in the face of which recipes and precepts are not enough; it is necessary to walk, to walk together, to become travelling companions.
Those who evangelize, in fact, can never forget that they are always on the road, searching together with others. Therefore, they cannot leave anyone behind, they cannot afford to keep those who struggle at a distance, they cannot close themselves off in their small group of comfortable relationships. Those who proclaim do not seek to flee from the world, because their Lord so loved the world that He gave Himself, not to condemn but to save the world (cf. Jn 3: 16-17). Those who proclaim make their own the desire for God, Who suffers for those who are distant. He knows no enemies, only travel companions. He does not stand as a teacher, he knows that the search for God is common and must be shared, that the closeness of Jesus is never denied to anyone.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us not hold back our fear of making mistakes and our fear of following new paths. In life we all make mistakes, all of us. It is normal. There are no priorities to be placed before the proclamation of the resurrection, before the kerygma of hope. Our poverties are not obstacles, but precious instruments, because God’s grace loves to manifest itself in weakness (cf. 2 Cor 12: 9). We need to confirm ourselves in an inner certainty, in the “conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks” (ibid., 279). We need to truly believe that God is love and that therefore no work done with love, no sincere concern for others, no act of love for God, no generous effort, no painful patience is lost (cf. ibid.). In order to spread the message, we need to be simple and succinct as in the Easter Gospels: like Mary, who cannot wait to say to her disciples: “I have seen the Lord! (Jn 20: 18); like the Apostles, who run to the tomb (cf. Jn 20: 4); like Peter, who dives from the boat to Jesus (cf. Jn 21:8). We need a free and simple Church, which does not think of returns in terms of image, of convenience and of income, but of being outbound. Someone said that the true Church of Jesus, to be faithful, must always have a budget deficit. This is good: deficit.
Think of the first Christians, who had everyone against them, who were persecuted and yet did not complain about the world. Reading the New Testament, one sees that they were not concerned to defend themselves from an empire that put them to death, but to proclaim Jesus, even at the cost of their lives. So let us not let ourselves be saddened by things that are not going well, by labours, by misunderstandings, by chatter, no: they are small things in the face of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (cf. Phil 3: 8). Let us not allow ourselves to be infected by the defeatism according to which everything goes wrong: it is not God’s way of thinking. And the sad are not Christians. The Christian suffers many times, but he does not fall into the deep sadness of the soul. Sadness is not a Christian virtue. Pain is. In order not to let ourselves be robbed of the enthusiasm of the Gospel, let us invoke its author every day, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of joy that keeps missionary ardour alive, that makes life a love story with God, that invites us to attract the world only with love, and to discover that life can only be possessed by giving it. One possesses in poverty to give it, to despoil oneself of oneself. And also with the surprise, the amazement of seeing that before we arrive, there is the Holy Spirit Who has already arrived and awaits us there.
I thank you from the heart for the good that you give. I bless you and ask you to pray for me. Thank you. [Vatican-provided translation]
At 9:50 am Sunday, First Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration — at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica –, for the Congolese Catholic Community of Rome, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.
Here is a ZENIT working translation of the homily the Pope gave after the proclamation of the Gospel.
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Pope Francis: Boboto [Peace]
Assembly: Bondeko [Fraternity]
Pope Francis: Bondeko [Fraternity]
Assembly: Esengo [Joy]
In today’s Readings the verb come appears often, it’s presents thrice in the First Reading, while the Gospel ends saying that “the Son of Man is coming” (Mathew 24:44). Jesus comes: Advent reminds us of this certainty already by the name, because the word Advent means coming. The Lord comes: here is the root of our hope, the certainty that God’s consolation reaches us among the world’s tribulations, a consolation that is not made up of words, but of presence, of His presence who comes in our midst.
The Lord comes. Today, first day of the Liturgical Year, this proclamation marks our point of departure: we know that beyond every favourable or contrary event, the Lord doesn’t leave us alone. He came two thousand years ago and will come again at the end of time, but He also comes today in my life, in your life — yes, our life, with all its problems, its anguishes and its uncertainties, is visited by the Lord. See here the source of our joy: the Lord has not tired and won’t ever tire of us. In fact, in the First Reading Isaiah prophesizes: “many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’” (2:3). Whereas the evil on earth stems from the fact that each one follows his own path without the other, the prophet offers a wonderful vision: all come together to the mountain of the Lord. The Temple is on the mountain, the House of God. So, Isaiah transmits to us an invitation on behalf of God, to His House. We are God’s guests, and one who is invited is expected and desired. “Come — God says — because in my House there is a place for all. Come, because in my heart there isn’t one people, but all people.”
Dear brothers and sisters, you have come from far away. You have left your homes; you have left affections and dear things. Arriving here, you have found hospitality along with unforeseen difficulties. However, for God you are always pleasing guests. We are never strangers to Him but awaited children. And the Church is God’s House: here, therefore, always feel yourselves at home. We come here to walk together towards the Lord and fulfil the words with which the prophet Isaiah concludes: “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5).
However, the darkness of the world can be preferred to the light of the Lord. One can respond to the Lord who comes and to His invitation to go to Him, saying: ”No, I’m not going.” Often, it’s not a direct “no,” cheeky but sneaky. It’s the ‘no’ of which Jesus puts us on guard in the Gospel, exhorting us not to do as in the “days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37). What happened in Noah’s days? It happened that, while something new and overwhelming was about to arrive, no one paid any attention to it, because they all thought only of eating and drinking (Cf. v. 38). In other words, all reduced life to their needs; they were content with a flat, horizontal life, without enthusiasm. There was no waiting for someone, only the claim of having something for oneself, to consume. Waiting for the Lord who comes, and not the claim of having something for us to consume. This is consumerism.
Consumerism is a virus that corrodes faith at the root, because it makes one believe that life depends only on what one has, and so one forgets God who comes to encounter one and one next to you. The Lord comes, but one follows rather the appetites that come to one; your brother knocks on your door, but you are bothered because he disturbs your plans — and this is the egoistic attitude of consumerism. When Jesus points out in the Gospel the dangers for faith He is not concerned with powerful enemies, with hostilities and persecutions. All this has been, is and will be, but it doesn’t weaken faith. The real danger, instead, is what anesthetizes the heart: it’s to depend on consuming, to let oneself be weighed down and to dissipate the heart with needs (cf. Luke 21:34).
Then one lives of things and one no longer knows for what; there are so many goods but the good is no longer done; homes are filled with things but empty of children. This is today’s tragedy: homes filled with things but empty of children, the demographic winter that we are suffering. Time is thrown away in pastimes, but there is no time for God and for others. And when one lives for things, things are never enough, greed grows and others become obstacles in the race and thus one finishes by feeling threatened and, always dissatisfied and angry, the level of hatred rises. ‘I want more, I want more, I want more . . .” We see it today where consumerism reigns: how much violence, also only verbal, how much anger and the desire to seek an enemy at all costs! So, while the world is full of arms that cause deaths, we don’t realize that we continue to arm the heart with anger.
Jesus wants to reawaken us from all this. He does so with a verb: “Watch” (Matthew 24:42). “Pay attention, watch.” To watch was the work of the watchman, who watched staying awake while all slept. To watch is not to yield to the sleep that envelops all. To be able to watch one must have a sure hope: that the night won’t last for ever, that soon the dawn will arrive. It is thus also for us: God comes and His light will also illuminate the densest darkness. However, it’s for us today to watch, to watch: to overcome the temptation that the meaning of life is to accumulate — this is a temptation. The meaning of life isn’t to accumulate –, it is for us to unmask the deceit that one is happy if one has many things, to resist the dazzling lights of consumption, which shine everywhere in this month, and to believe that prayer and charity are not wasted time, but the greatest treasures.
When we open the heart to the Lord and to brothers, the precious good comes, which things can never give us and which Isaiah proclaims in the First Reading, peace: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). They are words that make us think also of your homeland. Today we pray for peace, gravely threatened in the East of the country, especially in the territories of Beni and of Minembwe, where conflicts flare up, fueled also from outside, in the complicit silence of so many. Conflicts fueled by those that enrich themselves selling arms.
Today you remember a very beautiful figure, Blessed Marie-Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta, violently killed without first having said, as Jesus, to her executioner: “I forgive you, because you don’t know what you are doing!” Let us ask through her intercession that, in the name of God-Love and with the help of the neighboring populations, arms are given up for a future that is no longer one against others, but one with the others, and that there is a conversion from an economy that makes use of war to an economy that serves peace.
Pope Francis: Who has ears to hear
Assembly: Let him hear
Pope Francis: Who has a heart to consent
Assembly: Let him consent
The following is the full Vatican-provided English text of the sessage:
To Holiness Bartholomew
Archbishop of Constantinople
It is with great spiritual joy and in profound communion of faith and charity that I join the prayer of the Church of Constantinople in celebrating the feast of its holy patron, the Apostle Andrew, the first-called and brother of the Apostle Peter. My spiritual closeness is manifest once again this year with the presence of a delegation of the Church of Rome, to which I have entrusted the expression of my warmest greetings and best wishes to Your Holiness, to the members of the Holy Synod, to the clergy, monks and all the faithful gathered at the solemn Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George. Through the delegation, I convey the assurance of the unwavering intention of the Catholic Church, as well as my own, to continue in our commitment to working towards the re-establishment of full communion among the Christians of the East and the West.
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, jointly inaugurated by Patriarch Dimitrios I and Pope Saint John Paul II during the latter’s visit to the Phanar on the occasion of the feast of Saint Andrew. During these years the Joint International Commission has taken many significant steps forward. I convey, therefore, my heartfelt gratitude to all its past and current members for their dedicated commitment. In particular, I recall with gratitude Metropolitan Stylianos, who for many years was the Orthodox Co-Chair of the Commission, and who earlier this year died in the hope of the Resurrection promised to all those who have placed their trust in God. During his visit to the Phanar, Pope Saint John Paul II declared that “the question we should ask ourselves is not whether we can re-establish full communion, but rather whether we have the right to remain separated” (Address to His Holiness Dimitrios I, Saint George at the Phanar, 30 November 1979). This question, which is only seemingly rhetorical, continues to challenge our Churches and demands that all the faithful respond with a renewal of both attitude and conduct.
The search for the re-establishment of full communion among Catholics and Orthodox is certainly not confined to theological dialogue, but is also accomplished through other channels of ecclesial life. Our relations are nourished above all through authentic gestures of mutual respect and esteem (cf. Rom 12:9). Such actions show a shared fidelity to the word of our one Lord Jesus Christ, and the will to remain together in his love (cf. Jn 15:10). This charity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22) and a mark of genuine Christian life (cf. Jn 13:35). Moreover, mindful of the one baptism in which we have been regenerated, of the one faith that enlivens us, and of the one Holy Spirit who guides us (cf. Eph 4:4-5), our closeness grows and intensifies each time that we pray for one another (cf. Jas 5:16) and pray together as brothers (cf. Matt 18:19-20). Finally, our relationship is seen to be mature when, obedient to the Risen Christ’s mandate to take the Gospel to all creatures and to heal the sick (cf. Mk 16:15-18), Catholics and Orthodox work together in proclaiming the Good News and in serving the needy. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have already embarked upon this promising journey, as testified by our joint initiatives. I trust also that in local contexts all of us will increasingly strengthen the daily dialogue of love and life in shared spiritual, pastoral, cultural and charitable projects.
Beloved brother in Christ, to whom I am bound by a sincere and fraternal friendship, these are just some of the hopes and sentiments that fill my heart and that I wish to share with you on this joyous occasion. United in prayer to the Apostle Andrew, I renew to you and to all those present my warmest best wishes, and I exchange with you a holy embrace in Christ our Lord.
[Original text: English]© Libreria Editrice Vatican